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TT's Premier Picks: Rodgers struggling

Sunday 2nd September 2012 21:49

Brendan Rodgers: Plenty to think about

Brendan Rodgers: Plenty to think about

Liverpool and Tottenham's struggles, Manchester United's comeback and Andy Carroll's debut feature in TEAMtalk's look at the weekend action.

TEAMtalk picks out some of the key points from around the grounds on the third weekend of the Premier League season.

Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2

Having overseen Liverpool's worst start to a season for half a century, Brendan Rodgers must be wondering what he has let himself in for at Anfield.

The Northern Irishman, who worked wonders at Swansea, was supposed to be the man that would get the Reds winning games while producing a brand of football which is pleasing on the eye - he is yet to achieve either.

Rodgers, however, need look no further than the opposition dugout on Sunday to see how one result can see emotions swing dramatically from one end of the scale to the other.

Back-to-back goalless draws had Arsene Wenger fending off constant questions regarding his firepower and summer transfer business.

The Frenchman had the last laugh on Merseyside, though, as two of those he drafted in to provide creativity and a greater goal threat helped the Gunners to break their scoring duck, with Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla on target in a game which also saw Abou Diaby offer a timely reminder of what he is capable of when fully fit.

Chris Burton

Newcastle 1 Aston Villa 1

Such is the optimism around St James' Park nowadays that a draw against Aston Villa may feel like two points dropped to Newcastle fans. Their Europa League excursion midweek certainly seemed to take a toll, but credit must go to Paul Lambert's side who improved greatly from their mauling against Everton.

In fact, it will be the Villa fans who feel like two points were dropped, and it was only a sensation goal from Hatem Ben Arfa that denied Villa the win in what was their finest performance under Lambert so far.

It was an off-day to say the least for Newcastle, who carved out plenty of chances but through Villa keeper Brad Guzan and a lack of penetration in the final third, they were unable to breach Villa's goal more than once.

Villa fans will have reason to be cheerful after getting off the mark in the Premier League but Alan Pardew will certainly be wary of potential Europa League hangovers in the future from this evidence.

Jack Woodfield

Southampton 2 Manchester United 3

Southampton troubled Manchester United for long periods with their intense pressing of Sir Alex Ferguson's side. With Rickie Lambert the focal point for the attack, their young midfielders - led by the impressive Adam Lallana - buzzed around and caused real problems for United. Twice they crossed to the far post to punish the visitors and seemingly had the game won.

But United showed why they can never be written off and the strength of their squad was highlighted by the pivotal role played by their substitutes. While Adkins withdrew his three best players as their energy levels dropped, Ferguson called upon Nani, Javier Hernandez and Paul Scholes. Chicharito stretched the game, Scholes took advantage of the space that provided in the middle and Nani crossed for the winner.

That goal was scored by Robin van Persie who had a remarkable match. The Dutchman looked set to be the villain after his woeful penalty but showed real character to redeem himself and seize a late, late hat-trick. It seems trite to point out that his goals were the difference but it seems clear United could be a different animal this season with Van Persie leading the line.

Adam Bate

Manchester City 3 Queens Park Rangers 1

After dabbling with a back three in the opening two Premier League fixtures, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini restored Joleon Lescott to the team and returned to a back four for the visit of QPR. While it didn't bring a clean sheet, the champions did claim all three points in a nervy display at the Etihad Stadium. That looked inevitable in the early stages as City's domination was total. But Saturday's opener from the ever-impressive Yaya Toure seemed to drain the energy from Mancini's men and first-team coach David Platt later admitted it was almost 'too easy' for them.

Perhaps the confidence gained from the dramatic final day win over the same opponents in May could be a double-edged sword for City. They have shown great belief to come back from behind against both Southampton and Liverpool, and quickly eclipsing QPR's equaliser here through Edin Dzeko after good work from Carlos Tevez. But with a tough UEFA Champions League group ahead, Mancini will know that any kind of complacency could be punished before long.

For Mark Hughes' side this was not the best game in which to judge their progress given the strength of the opposition and the fact that several deadline-day signings remained unavailable. But there were positives. Esteban Granero looked a classy presence in the centre of the park, while goalscorer Bobby Zamora and fellow forward Andy Johnson look to have retained the understanding they developed at Fulham. How the QPR boss assimilates the new boys to get the best out of the talent now at his disposal will be the key question in the coming months.

Adam Bate

Swansea 2 Sunderland 2

A serious injury, a debut brace from a £12million striker, a fourth goal of the season from one of the summer's best buys and a red card for a man who likes to be known as Chico¬† - Saturday's fixture at the Liberty Stadium had a bit of everything.

Neil Taylor's injury put an early dampener on proceedings, as he was stretchered from the field, but the game burst into life as half-time approached.

Steven Fletcher was drafted in by Sunderland to get goals, and he bagged two on his Premier League debut to suggest that a price tag many considered to be overly inflated may in fact be about fair.

Swansea, though, can point to the fact that they spent around a sixth of that fee on Michu, and he was on target again to secure a share of the spoils with a bullet header.

Chico will point to the fact that he barely touched Louis Saha in any attempt to defend his second-half dismissal, but his boot was ludicrously high and he can have few complaints given that his studs brushed the French striker's forehead.

Chris Burton

Tottenham 1 Norwich 1

This was expected to be the day that Tottenham finally got their campaign up and running and there will be understandable disappointment that they conceded a late equaliser for the second time in as many home games, but the worry is that for long periods they were second best against a hungry, organised Norwich side.

Boos greeted the final whistle after another lacklustre display when Tottenham seemed devoid of creativity following the departures of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, while wingers Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon appeared strangely subdued and the defending from set-pieces is an issue that needs addressing immediately.

There were positives, though, not least in the performance of debutant Moussa Dembele, whose classy goal suggested he could be an inspirational figure this season, while Brad Friedel's remarkable agility in goal raised further questions about why Spurs felt the need to sign Hugo Lloris on deadline day.

For Norwich this was a game that will have many pundits hastily revisiting their predictions from a couple of weeks ago regarding possible relegation.

Chris Hughton has clearly worked hard to iron out the problems that were evident in an opening-day 5-0 defeat by Fulham and the resilience that characterised their successful campaign last season was back on show.

Hughton also selected a bold line-up away from home and it was fitting that Robert Snodgrass grabbed the late leveller to cap an impressive showing from the former Leeds man.

Lewis RutledgeWest Brom 2 Everton 0

Referee Jon Moss will have been the source of some Evertonian frustration after this game. The Leeds official was rather fussy, with Marouane Fellaini the victim of several decisions which went against the visitors.

In truth, the Belgian's overly physical style often works against him on such occasions - but with the game not going his way, it's little wonder that he failed to keep a cool head when Kevin Mirallas' right-wing cross came to him in space in the box in the second half. He skied the shot badly.

Within two minutes, West Brom went down the other end and scored through Shane Long. Everton had had to change their personnel and shape after 20 minutes when Darron Gibson went off injured - Phil Neville was moved into central midfield, with Tony Hibbert at right-back. Hibbert looked more effective when attacking than defending, and Odemwingie took advantage.

Albion's solid centre - Yacob and Mulumbu screening Olsson and McAuley - never looked likely to break down after that, and David Moyes had no real complaints at the final whistle, even if he could have criticised Moss with some justification. That's not to take anything away from West Brom, who were still able to bring on dead-ball expert Chris Brunt to swing in an almost undefendable corner, flicked in by McAuley.

Jon Holmes

West Ham 3 Fulham 0

Andy Carroll may have been deemed surplus to requirements at Liverpool, but they are happy to have him at Upton Park.

The England international was handed his West Ham debut against the Cottagers and put in an eye-catching display which included having a hand in two goals, as Sam Allardyce's side raced into a 3-0 lead.

Fulham struggled to cope with Carroll's strength and aerial ability, prior to him picking up an unfortunate hamstring injury which is likely to keep him out of 2014 World Cup qualification duty with England, and appeared to have been shaken by a summer transfer window which saw them part with the services of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey.

Martin Jol has, however, been able to bring the mercurial talent of Dimitar Berbatov on board and he offered enough after being introduced at half-time against the Hammers to suggest there is still plenty of sparkle left in him.

Chris Burton

Wigan 2 Stoke 2

Wigan Athletic against Stoke City would not normally be a game that one would be too excited about, but Saturday's clash at the DW Stadium was a bit special. A four-goal thriller, the 2-2 draw in the end was a fair reflection of the game.

Wigan will be disappointed that they failed to hold on to their lead twice and manager Roberto Martinez will need to work on their defence over the week. However, the performance of his two strikers, Arouna Kone and Franco Di Santo, will have largely lifted his mood and given him hope of a successful goalscoring campaign.

Kone was the star in attack for the Latics and kept the Stoke defenders on tenterhooks. His understanding with Di Santo grew as the minutes passed by, and this is a very positive sign for Wigan.

Di Santo himself was very lively and scored a good goal with a neat finish, and his confidence must have increased after his performance.

The loss of Victor Moses is a big one for Wigan, but there is still life after him at the DW Stadium as was evident on Saturday.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis said after the game that his team should have won it, but he should be pleased with a point, especially as it came away from home. Pulis' introduction of new signing Charlie Adam in the first half proved to be crucial, as the midfielder's deliveries from set-pieces and overall display largely improved the Potters' game.

Like Wigan, Stoke too need to polish out a few details at the back and must also be careful not to expose themselves to counter-attacks. Often criticised for their long ball, direct route football, Stoke's performance at Wigan was quite entertaining and one to behold.

Subhankar Mondal



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