Premier League winners and losers: Balotelli, Van Gaal and more
Mario Balotelli finally ends his 13-game drought in the league, while QPR win on the road for the first time this season
Chris Ramsey. When Tony Fernandes tweeted that he had found his dream manager on Tuesday evening, Michael Laudrup was hotly tipped to take over the reins at Queens Park Rangers. But the Hoops owner has kept fans guessing over Harry Redknapp’s successor, but it proved to be Chris Ramsey after all of the hullabaloo. The former Spurs coach has already beaten Redknapp’s away record in the Premier League this season, masterminding a 2-0 victory at Sunderland. Remarkably, it was QPR’s first win on the road in 12 attempts. Considering their next away games are against fellow strugglers Hull City, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion, the Ramsey-Kevin Bond combination will suit the west London side for the remainder of the season. With Les Ferdinand occupying a director of football role, there is plenty of experience. Ramsey has lifted morale in the squad on the evidence of a flurry of chirpy Instagram and Twitter posts following the win.
Why always Mario? When Mario Balotelli was introduced with 10 minutes to go at Anfield on Tuesday night, the prospect of Liverpool scoring a late winner appeared remote. But the Italy international ended his Premier League goal drought for Liverpool at the 13th attempt. Balotelli’s 86th-minute strike sealed a 3-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur and kept Liverpool on course for a top-four challenge in the coming months. Brendan Rodgers’ side are unbeaten in nine Premier League games, collecting 21 points from a possible 27. Considering their form in the second half of the 2013/14 campaign, Manchester United and Southampton will be anxiously glancing over their shoulders at the approaching Red express. Next up in the Premier League is a trip to St Mary’s, too.
Paul Lambert. Remarkably, the Premier League’s dugouts are now Scot free for the first time since its inception. Aston Villa dropped into the bottom three following a 2-0 defeat by fellow relegation candidates Hull City on Tuesday night. Is it a surprise? Not really. The Birmingham side have scored just 12 goals in 25 top-flight games, and Lambert failed to rekindle Christian Benteke’s prolific form. For Lambert’s successor, restoring the Belgium international’s confidence in front of goal will be key to survival.
Louis van Gaal. It hasn’t been a great week for Louis van Gaal. The United manager went on a long-ball rant on Monday afternoon after Sam Allardyce had the audacity to questions his tactics. In particular, Van Gaal’s presentation of a sheet of stats bore similarities to Rafael Benitez’s famous “facts rant” after the Spaniard was baited by Sir Alex Ferguson. There was further humiliation for Van Gaal after the West Ham manager was caught joking about the incident with the Dutch coach’s nemesis Ronald Koeman before a stalemate at St Mary’s on Wednesday night. Meanwhile at Old Trafford, United edged to an unconvincing 3-1 win against Sean Dyche’s Burnley, prompting more scrutiny of the 63-year-old’s tactics. Van Gaal will be hoping the Red Devils can get past Preston North End and progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals without any hiccups, otherwise pressure could really start to build on the United boss.