TEAMtalk's Premier Picks

TT's Prem Picks: Harry must take blame

Saturday 21st April 2012 21:58

Redknapp: Must take blame for slump

Redknapp: Must take blame for slump

Harry Redknapp is questioned, Newcastle are hailed and Bolton are tipped to go down in TEAMtalk's review of Saturday's Premier League action.

On Saturday evenings throughout the 2011/12 season, TEAMtalk's writers are presenting their Premier League Picks - the special moments, star performers, stunning matches or shocking incidents from the day's action which we expect to dominate the headlines.

We'll be watching all the action unfold on the live TV feeds which are piped into TEAMtalk Towers from grounds up and down the country.

Once you've read through our choices for April 21, let us know your opinions by adding a Comment below.

Harry has to answer some questions

I've defended Harry Redknapp recently and wish I could do again, but Tottenham's bad run can no longer be described as a blip in an otherwise-decent season; their form is now so bad it is threatening to render their entire campaign a failure.

What's more, the complaints from Spurs fans are not about the poor form of their players but almost solely the poor decision making of their manager.

As much as I like Redknapp, it's easy to manage a set of players that is playing well and full of confidence. A real test of a manager comes when things are not going so well and changes need to be made but Redknapp, worrying, looks to have no clue about how to arrest the slump.

Spurs lacked any width whatsoever against QPR on Saturday evening, and Mark Hughes' men must have been staggered at how easily they were able to claim three points. Adel Taarabt's late sending-off made things slightly nervy for the hosts but this was no smash-and-grab win - it would have been a travesty had the visitors taken anything from the game. Mark Holmes

Attacking understudies underwhelming for Chelsea

Rock-solid again at the back, but disjointed in attack - Chelsea's display in the stalemate at Arsenal was a real mixed bag for Roberto Di Matteo ahead of Tuesday's return leg in Barcelona.

With Cech alert in goal and the Terry-Cahill partnership retained in front of him, the Blues had a now familiar, resolute core to their side and try as they might, the Gunners couldn't get the better of this trio - just as Barca had failed to do so in the week. The full-back choices at the Emirates were Bosingwa and Bertrand, with the latter impressing and looking on course to inherit the position full-time from Ashley Cole in the coming years (sooner rather than later, if you believe Abramovich wants a big clear-out of the old guard this summer).

However, up front, the understudies fluffed their lines. Daniel Sturridge is all show but very little substance at the moment (how frustrating must he be to play with), while Salomon Kalou and Fernando Torres - who linked up so well in the recent win at Benfica - barely connected at all on the pristine pitch. This weekend, the Blues physios will be hard at work patching up Didier Drogba for another Barca battle but they'll probably need him to do the business in the Premier League as well if they are to have any chance of reaching the top four. Jon Holmes

Magpies showing no signs of tiredness

If I had a pound for every time I'd heard someone say the wheels would come off for Newcastle...well, I'd have enough for a decent night out. However, their performance against Stoke on Saturday proves their is plenty of life left in Alan Pardew's squad.

Stoke had the first chance at St James' Park but it was virtually one-way traffic after that, with only a couple of good saves from Asmir Begovic denying the Magpies a cricket score.

What was more impressive, however, was the manner of victory. There was a brief period a while back when Newcastle appeared to have reverted to long-ball tactics but the difference in style between them and Stoke was quite extraodinary.

While the visitors huffed and puffed to little effect, Pardew's men passed the ball superbly in midfield, used the width of the pitch to great effect and generally looked a threat whenever they got the ball.

Four more performances like that and a Champions League spot is a certainty. MH

Draws dragging Villa into dropzone

I'm not just saying this because I've had an Ayrton Senna on Villa to go down, but Alex McLeish and co are now nervously looking over their shoulders.

Three defeats and three draws in their last six Premier League games have seen the pack hunting top-tier survival slowly drag the Midlanders into the fight.

Saturday's clash with Sunderland was their big chance to end any lingering fears of relegation - but not only did they fail to see off a lacklustre Black Cats outfit, they saw key men James Collins and Gabby Agbonlahor pick up injuries.

The bossed possession for large periods of the game - but former boss Martin O'Neill, roundly booed on his return to the stadium, ended up feeling aggrieved not to have banked all three points after Nicklas Bendtner's second-half goal was ruled out for a harsh offside decision.

Saturday wins for Blackburn and QPR really turned up the heat on McLeish's men, who next face Bolton on home turf before making the short trip across Birmingham to face West Brom in a West Midlands Battle Royale.

There is hope as out-of-form Tottenham visit Villa Park before McLeish takes his troops all the way down to Carrow Road on the last day of the season.

McLeish said after the Sunderland that he didn't think he had "made a negative decision in taking the job".

One thing that is certain, however, is that he has made a negative team, meaning it really is squeaky bum time for Villa fans and players alike. Simon Wilkes

Still bleak for Blackburn and Bolton

It was similar assignments for relegation-threatened near-neighbours Bolton and Blackburn on Saturday - chase home wins over promoted clubs who appeared safe in mid-table but certainly wouldn't roll over.

At Ewood Park, where a patched-up Rovers side entertained Norwich, the atmosphere was again uncomfortable, with gloom having set in after recent poor results and another anti-Venky's and Kean protest taking place. The Canaries have been great value in the Premier League this season, but their concentration here was lacking - they should have conceded a penalty early on but Russell Martin's handball was missed by referee Kevin Friend, and then their defending was woeful as Morten Gamst Pedersen's cross came through to Mauro Formica.

The clinching goal - a classy strike from the top of the box by Junior Hoilett to make it 2-0 - was very similar to one scored earlier in the afternoon over at the Reebok by Scott Sinclair. That was soon cancelled out by Chris Eagles (far and away Bolton's best player) and it eventually finished 1-1. Whereas Norwich lacked nous, Swansea gave a better showing and will feel they should have beaten Bolton on the day. Gylfi Sigurdsson was again outstanding for the visitors, who enjoyed 62% possession and had 26 shots to Bolton's 10 - although only four of Swansea's were on target.

Rovers go to Tottenham next Sunday, before hosting Wigan and ending the campaign at Chelsea. Even if they were able to beat the Latics in what promises to be a nerve-jangling night at Ewood on Bank Holiday Monday, it surely won't be enough unless they bring a point or two back from the capital.

Bolton have away games at Aston Villa and Sunderland next week, with home games following against Spurs and West Brom before a final-day assignment at Stoke. The Trotters will probably have to win three of those games to have any chance of staying up, and on Saturday's evidence (Eagles aside) they won't have invention in their side to engineer an escape route. JH



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