TEAMtalk's Premier Picks

TT's Premier Picks: Pards propelling Toon

Monday 9th April 2012 16:44

Pardew: Praised by Wilkes

Pardew: Praised by Wilkes

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Newcastle's 'Mr Motivator' Alan Pardew, tiring Chelsea and effervescent Everton all feature in TEAMtalk's Easter Monday Premier League review.

TEAMtalk's writers have taken a break from stuffing their faces with chocolate to present their Premier League Picks - the special moments, star performers, stunning matches or shocking incidents from Easter Monday's action which we expect to dominate the headlines.

Once you've read through our choices for April 9, let us know your opinions by adding a Comment below.

Pardew pushing Fergie for Manager of Year gong

As we enter the final straight in the 2011/12 Premier League campaign, thoughts are starting to turn to who has been Manager of the Year.

Sir Alex Ferguson is the obvious choice and leading contender having dragged Manchester United from the duldrums of a 6-2 drubbing by moneybags City on home soil to lead them into a virtually unassailable eight-point lead at the top.

The Red Devils gaffer has had to use all his managerial nous and easily won the mind games battle with his Manchester neighbours - but I believe Pardew is neck and neck with him in the running for the gong.

My reasoning is that ahead of the new season, United's hierarchy will have laid out expectations of winning a 20th title to Ferguson, despite more heavy investment in the City squad by Mancini, so he has simply hit that target.

Mike Ashley, however, would never in his wildest dreams have believed that the Magpies would be flying so high in the top tier with five games to go.

Pardew's troops are currently level on points with Harry Redknapp's Spurs - and are only two points behind third-placed and in-form Arsenal, who have a game in hand.

The Toon boss came in for high praise in a recent interview I did with sports mind coach Mark Sheasby, who labelled him the master of motivation when it comes to the language he uses with the media and his players.

I was among a host of pundits who scoffed at the appointment of Pardew following the harsh sacking of Chris Hughton - but the Londoner has had the last laugh on Tyneside, showing tactical guile, an eye for a player and ability to react to both victories and defeats with dignity and grace.

The Magpies face Stoke and Wigan before three tough league games with Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton - but with Papiss Cisse in the goal-scoring form of his life and Hatem Ben Arfa growing in confidence with each passing week, they might just gatecrash the top-four party this season. Simon Wilkes

Blues' batteries could be running out

Tottenham at Wembley, Barcelona at the Bridge, Arsenal at the Emirates and then Barca again at the Nou Camp - Chelsea's next four fixtures in their quest for silverware and a top-four finish appear to get gradually more difficult.

You might say the Blues have done well to remain in contention after such a turbulent season, but their performance in Monday night's derby at Fulham didn't bode well for the coming weeks.

Petr Cech apart, none of Roberto Di Matteo's players can say they were on their game, and they were fortunate to come away with a point. A confused penalty call by Mark Clattenburg (did he really give that spot-kick for Stephen Kelly's 'challenge' on Salomon Kalou, not Danny Murphy's?!) helped give them the advantage just before half-time, but Fulham looked the fitter side in the second half.

As Gary Neville mentioned, the energy-sapping wide-open field of Wembley will take even more out of those Chelsea legs on Sunday evening, and then next Wednesday they are certain to be given a tiki-taka runaround by Messi and co. The Gunners are no slouches either (Arsene Wenger would be wise to field catch-me-if-you-can duo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain in that one) and by the time of the Champions League assignment in Catalonia, Chelsea could be all but exhausted. Di Matteo has wisely been rotating his side recently but he will surely need his best players on the pitch to beat any of their next four opponents. Jon Holmes

Four-star Toffees on course for cup final

Anyone who witnessed Everton's 4-0 demoltion of Sunderland on Easter Monday will quite rightly have the Toffees favourites to win Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool.

While the Reds will go into the game in indifferent form (just one win from five ahead of Tuesday's clash at Blackburn), the Blues have lost just once in 18 games - ironically the Merseyside derby at Anfield last month.

What makes Monday's victory even sweeter for the Toffees was that it was achieved with a much-changed side that saw regulars Nikica Jelavic and Leighton Baines rested.

From first minute to last, the Toffees looked organised, disciplined and extremely hard to break down; their 4-4-1-1 line-up offering few openings to a Sunderland side who are among the harder workers in the Premier League.

At the time of writing, Liverpool are big favourites to reach the final, but with the Reds still not settled on their strongest line-up, my money would be on the Toffees to reach the Wembley showpiece on May 5. James Marshment

Canaries overcome referee's ricket

Norwich battled to a superb 2-1 victory at Tottenham, but they had to overcome some poor decision-making from referee Michael Oliver.

Jermain Defoe equalised for the hosts moments after Norwich striker Grant Holt was brought down in the box by Spurs defender Ledley King. Oliver ignored Holt's appeal, and Spurs promptly equalised. Canaries boss Paul Lambert was fuming on the sidelines - and rightly so.

That was a game-changing decision. Had Oliver pointed to the spot, Norwich may have gone 2-0 up, while King could have been shown a red card. Do the big clubs receive favouritism? On that occasion, the ref definitely made the wrong call.

Luckily for Lambert and Norwich, and unlike Wigan and QPR at the weekend, the decision did not ultimately prove costly as the Canaries fought back to earn all three points.

As for Spurs, the defeat damages their Champions League hopes, with Newcastle now level on points with Harry Redknapp's side. Sam Nightingale

What were your thoughts on the Easter Monday action? Let us know by posting a Comment below.

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