Premier League winners and losers: Arsenal, Liverpool, Martin Jol & more
Kieran Beckles looks at the winners and losers of the weekend as Arsenal beat rivals Liverpool and Man City rout Norwich
Arsenal Arsene Wenger’s men continue their permanent residence in the winners’ column after a 2-0 win against Liverpool at The Emirates on Saturday. With Chelsea losing at Newcastle United in the early kick-off, the Gunners took their chance to stretch their lead at the top to five points – and proved they are the REAL deal in the Premier League title race. Following hiccups against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea in their two previous Emirates outings, Arsenal were facing inevitable questions about their credibility as potential top-flight winners. But it was their new-found talisman Aaron Ramsey who excelled in a central role as he covered the most distance at Emirates Stadium – and still found the strength to arrow a ferocious long-range strike past Simon Mignolet after Santi Cazorla’s opener. While Brendan Rodgers felt the Gunners proved their worth against his side, Arsenal supporters and their cynics won’t be convinced until after a trip to Old Trafford this Sunday; beat the defending champions and this could be their year – particularly with their recent history of excelling in the second half of the season.
Manchester City supporters There will be conflicting memories of Roberto Mancini’s reign at The Etihad. Whilst the Italian did deliver the club’s first-ever Premier League title, the Citizens failed to turn on the style far too often considering the plethora of attacking talents at the manager’s disposal. Fans of La Liga will know Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga and Villarreal sides played entertaining football, and the Chilean’s City men shifted into top gear against a Norwich City outfit bereft of confidence. Sergio Aguero continued to show his world-class form with magician David Silva pulling the strings behind the Argentine and Yaya Toure’s engine humming delightfully. It culminated in a 7-0 rout against the Canaries. However, there are still issues to be resolved. Joe Hart’s wavering form and Pellegrini’s diminishing faith in the England No1 is a cause for concern, whilst the Citizens must improve on the road to avoid losing further ground on Arsenal.
Saido Berahino It’s been a breathtaking start to life in the Premier League for Saido Berahino. The 20-year-old introduced himself to the English top-flight with the winner in a 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford last month. And the Baggies youngster netted his second strike of the season as West Brom eased past Crystal Palace at The Hawthorns. Berahinho is set to earn more than his current £850-a-week deal – but whether that’s at West Brom or elsewhere remains to be seen. Baggies boss Steve Clarke is desperate to secure the striker’s future but with Ligue 1’s Monaco reported to be interested, the England Under-21 international could be lured by Claudio Ranieri’s riches.
Liverpool’s 3-5-2 system Rodgers has worked hard to accommodate his most influential stars since the start of the season. The Northern Irishman showed flexibility to switch to an unfashionable 3-5-2 formation which Liverpool have rarely put into use since Roy Evans’ spell in charge. The Reds have experienced some joy facing the Premier League’s lesser sides; a 4-1 victory over Norwich City, a 3-1 win against Crystal Palace and a 3-1 triumph at Sunderland. But the tactic failed its first serious test of the season as Arsenal’s full-backs and wide players exploited the space behind wing-backs Jon Flanagan and Aly Cissokho in the first half at The Emirates. Whilst it provides vital width against sides that attempt to congest midfield areas and prevent Liverpool’s attacking-minded players weaving their magic, efficient counter-attacking teams, such as Arsenal, can cause the three centre-halves a real headache. With Liverpool still to face Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton in the next month or so before the season’s halfway point, Rodgers needs to come up with a plan B when the Premier League’s top sides come to town.
Lee Cattermole A new manager meant a fresh start for Lee Cattermole. The Sunderland midfielder was angling for a move away from the Black Cats in the summer after falling out of favour under the tempestuous Paolo Di Canio. But the Italian’s departure and Guy Poyet’s subsequent appointment signalled an apparent transformation in Cattermole’s fortunes. However, while the former Middlesbrough youth graduate may be back in favour at Sunderland, he’s certainly learned few lessons from his chequered past on the pitch. While determination and tenacity are qualities that deserve to be applauded, Cattermole has too often pushed the boundaries in the past. And the Black Cats skipper lasted 45 minutes before being issued with his marching orders for an overzealous tackle on Ahmed Elmohamady. If Cattermole is to help Sunderland get out of their current predicament, the 25-year-old must show more control on the pitch.
Martin Jol The Fulham manager is edging perilously close to the chop after another defeat on Saturday. Whilst losing to Manchester United is perhaps not the disaster that it may first seem, the Cottagers’ abject first-half performance raises the question of whether Jol still has the faith of the dressing room. The darkness which has enveloped Fulham in recent months appeared to be lifting after their 4-1 win at Crystal Palace. But the Cottagers have conceded seven goals in successive defeats and are hovering a point above the relegation zone. Jol is paying the price for trusting in too many talented individuals, like Dimitar Berbatov, Adel Taarabt and Bryan Ruiz.