Premier League winners and losers: AVB, Suarez & more
Premier League winners and losers: Kieran Beckles takes a look at how Andre Villas-Boas and Luis Suárez fared this weekend
Super Suarez Liverpool have responded in stylish fashion since their slip-up at Hull City, reaffirming their status as top-four contenders. Brendan Rodgers rewarded Luis Suarez for six goals in two Premier League games by handing the controversial Uruguayan the captaincy for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur. It marks a huge turnaround for Suarez, who wanted out in the summer amid an offer from Premier League leaders Arsenal. As we have known all along, goals remain the most powerful currency when it comes to winning over the affections of supporters – and 17 strikes this season means Suarez is a firm Reds favourite. He scored twice in a 5-0 rout at White Hart Lane before picking up the player of the year award at Monday night’s Football Supporters’ Federation Awards. With Liverpool in second place and two points behind the Gunners, even Suarez is turning his thoughts to a potential title bid – but placing such talk in the premature or realistic category will hinge on whether the 26-year-old can sparkle away at Chelsea and Manchester City, too.
Man United’s England stars Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck have received their fair share of criticism in recent months as Manchester United continued to toil in the Premier League. In particular, Cleverley has been under the spotlight in the absence of the injured Michael Carrick as the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Gareth Barry and Ross Barkley produced impressive performances at Old Trafford. Cleverley has failed to kick-on over the past 18 months after being heralded as one of England’s next big midfield prospects alongside Jack Wilshere. However, Cleverly managed to alleviate some of the pressure on his shoulders with the third goal in United’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa. It ended his year-long goal drought Cleverley said post-match: “We played as a three which gave us more licence. A year of not scoring came out in my celebration”. Welbeck, too, ended a barren run with two clinically taken strikes.
Andre Villas-Boas Despite Christmas being a mere eight days away, Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis and chairman Daniel Levy showed Scrooge-like charity as Andre Villas-Boas was sent packing following a dismal 5-0 loss to Liverpool on Sunday. The Portuguese coach had swatted away his critics following a 6-0 drubbing at Manchester City thanks to back-to-back wins at Fulham and Sunderland. But Villas-Boas’s reprieve was only temporary as Tottenham’s Jekyll and Hyde season continued last weekend. The 36-year-old is the Premier League Marmite; many find his prickly nature, overly analytic mind and sheer inexperience irritating, whilst others prefer to see him as a victim after being axed by two London clubs which unrealistically demanded instant success. It’s doubtful that we will see Villas-Boas seal a return to Premier League management in the near future – and the former Chelsea and Spurs boss must rebuild his career abroad.
West Brom Whilst Villas-Boas’ sacking may have been inevitable, West Bromwich Albion’s decision to axe Steve Clarke was a complete shock. The Scot, quiet and unassuming – even after victory at Old Trafford, lasted a mere 18 months at the Hawthorns despite securing the club’s highest-ever finish in its history last season. And the current campaign has hardly been a disaster either. The Baggies were famous 2-1 winners against Manchester United and were denied another away win at Chelsea due to a dubious refereeing decision, as well as securing a credible 1-1 draw with leaders Arsenal. Upon reflection, Clarke may view West Brom’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa as the game which sealed his fate. Leading 2-0 at half-time, the Baggies failed to see out three points at the Hawthorns. Four successive losses followed, leaving West Brom a point above the relegation zone. But with the quality in his squad, Clarke had the necessary tools at his disposal to revert their fortunes. It amounts to another good manager out of a job – and a decision which West Brom could rue come May.