Premier Picks: Dean steals the headlines

Sunday 13th January 2013 22:10

Mike Dean's decision to send off two players, a game of two halves at Old Trafford and Chelsea's statement win feature in our weekend review.

Arsenal 0 Man City 2

We should be giving credit to Manchester City for a fine 2-0 away victory at Arsenal, one that was vital after leaders Manchester United had beaten Liverpool earlier in the day to extend their lead at the summit to 10 points.

But not for the first time this season, the main post-match talking points surround the referee and in the case of Mike Dean the two red cards he felt necessary at the Emirates Stadium - along with six yellow cards.

The first red came after just 10 minutes when Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny was dismissed for pulling down Edin Dzeko. It was a foul and a penalty was rightly awarded, but the double whammy of a red card seemed very harsh.

By the letter of the law, Mr Dean was right, but similar incident have gone completely unpunished this season and I'm sure players and fans alike would welcome more consistency from officials.

Even though Dzeko missed the spot-kick, to be reduced to 10 men so early in the game against a quality side was a blow Arsenal never recovered from.

The second red card was given to City defender Vincent Kompany for what was perceived as a two-footed tackle on Jack Wilshere.

Again, by the letter of the law then maybe it was a red card offence - but how can it be when he clearly plays the ball and replays clearly show he looks at the ball, waits and then times his tackle to perfection when he knows it is there to be won.

Similar tackles will be made this season and there will not be a red card so once again it's a lack of consistency that causes the bulk of the confusion and frustration.

It overshadowed what was a hugely entertaining encounter - one that could have been even better had it been 11 versus 11.

Simon Crawford

Man United 2 Liverpool 1

With Wayne Rooney injured, Sir Alex Ferguson chose Danny Welbeck ahead of Javier Hernandez to partner Robin van Persie and the Manchester United manager was rewarded with a hard-working performance. Welbeck's control, decision-making and finishing let him down a few times, but his movement created space for others and ensured Liverpool's centre-halves couldn't settle for a minute.

There was also a show of faith from Ferguson in Tom Cleverley as, in the past, the United boss would have turned to old heads like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes for this type of game. Instead, Cleverley combined well with Michael Carrick and he looks at his best when the ball is being moved about quickly.

Liverpool's first-half performance was as bad as I've seen from any team this season as Luis Suarez lacked support, Steven Gerrard was too deep and Joe Allen had 45 minutes to forget. That they only mustered one shot in the first half and never looked a threat summed up their impotence.

But the second half was a different story and the introduction of Daniel Sturridge, and change to a 4-4-2 formation, made Liverpool far more dangerous and injected greater tempo into their play. Sturridge has many similarities to Welbeck in terms of the need to improve his decision-making and finishing, but there were plenty of promising signs that he can form a fruitful partnership with Suarez in the second half of the season.

Mark Buckingham

Reading 3 West Brom 2

Reading secured their third win of the season and climbed off the foot of the table thanks to Pavel Pogrebnyak's late winner.

The sides came into the game having contrasting fortunes in the Premier League. Steve Clarke was looking for his eleventh win of the season while Reading were looking to leapfrog QPR in the relegation zone.

For 80 minutes West Brom were in complete control and attacked as well as they defended. James Morrison and Romelu Lukaku combined not only to put the visitors two goals up but also on numerous other occasions, and at times, a rout looked likely.

But, just as the three points looked like they were heading back to the Hawthorns, Jimmy Kebe pulled one back. And, when Jonas Olsson made a rare mistake and conceded a penalty, the home fans sighs turned into cheers of excitement. Adam Le Fondre converted from the spot to turn what appeared to be a certain loss into a possible victory.

Pavel Pogrebnyak's heroics in the dying moments provided Reading fans with hope for the remainder of the season and sent Steve Clarke's men away without any points when ten minutes earlier it looked certain they would leave with three.

Tom McDermott

Stoke 0 Chelsea 4

This result should really make people sit up and take notice.

Winning at Stoke is rare, but Chelsea put four past Stoke - the heaviest top-flight defeat they have suffered at home in a quarter of a century.

Chelsea were good; they battled and were a true match for Stoke on their own soil.

Rafa Benitez is slowly turning this Chelsea into one which could very well join the title race.

Graeme Bailey

QPR 0 Tottenham 0

For Harry Redknapp, frustrating his former employers will surely have been satisfying, especially as his QPR side produced one of their best defensive performances of the season in the process.

Rangers were outstanding at the back for 90 minutes, and performances from Julio Cesar in goal and Shaun Derry in a holding midfield position will give Redknapp's side a defensive platform on which to build the rest of their season.

In a game of few chances, Jermain Defoe came closest to breaking the deadlock for Tottenham after just five minutes, his rasping strike coming back off the crossbar before the inspired Cesar denied Emmanuel Adebayor from the rebound.

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas will not be too unhappy with his side's display, but he would have surely wanted to have seen more chances created at Loftus Road given the array of attacking talent in his squad.

For Redknapp, some redemption is perhaps achieved, but given QPR's struggles going forward against Tottenham, securing the services of a top class striker is arguably a priority for QPR during January.

Jack Woodfield

Norwich 0 Newcastle 0

For Alan Pardew and Chris Hughton they will be happy to end poor runs of form with a point apiece, but the game showed why these two sides are struggling at the moment.

Norwich went into the game having lost their last four Premier League games, while Newcastle had lost their last three games in the league.

Newcastle badly missed Demba Ba as Papiss Cisse cut a frustrated figure up front, with the striker failing to have a single effort in the game.

Pardew is desperate to bring in a replacement for Ba and if he does not get in the right player it could be a tough second half of the season for Newcastle as it is difficult to see where the goals will come from for his side.

Norwich will be happy to keep a rare clean sheet, but like Newcastle their problems appear to be in the final third as they struggled to create too many goalscoring opportunities in a game that will not live long in the memory.

Pete O'Rourke

Fulham 1 Wigan 1

Fulham laboured to a draw against Wigan after a lacklustre second half, which caused unrest and booing at the full time whistle.

It was a game of little quality that was punctured by three moments of brilliance. The first was from Giorgos Karagounis, who dropped his shoulder to beat James McArthur in midfield and then fired a shot from 25 yards that flew in off the left hand post. It was sweet strike from the 35-year-old, and gave Ali Al-Habsi no chance.

The second was from Mark Schwarzer, who produced a save of genuine world class, diving full-length to tip a deflected Shaun Maloney effort onto the bar.

The third was from Franco Di Santo, so often guilty of wastefulness in front of goal. He picked the ball up and forced back defenders before unleashing a shot that arrowed past Schwarzer.

Daniel Storey

Everton 0 Swansea 0

With the transfer window open, managers and supporters will look at each passing performance and contemplate what is needed to take their club forward.

After a toothless showing at Goodison Park, Everton boss David Moyes must be thinking that he needs a lethal finisher.

Nikica Jelavic knows the way to goal, he has shown that on enough occasions in the past, but the Croatian is short on confidence right now and the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Victor Anichebe are never going to weigh in heavily from support roles.

If the Toffees had a finisher on show on Saturday, they would surely have taken all three points.

Swansea looked like a side that has come through one gruelling programme over Christmas and is gearing itself up for another at the start of the New Year.

That looked like a side happy to take a point from the off, with Michael Laudrup prepared to set his side up to sit deep and play counter-attacking football.

The fact that Spain coach Vicente del Bosque - who was in attendance - will have headed home giving greater thought to drafting Chico Flores into his ranks than the in-form Michu tells you everything you need to know about the Swans and the approach they took.

It is difficult to argue against such tactics though, especially on the road, and while Laudrup's side may have won only one of their last seven in the league, they are unbeaten in five and are still handily-placed inside the top-half of the table.

Chris Burton

Sunderland 3 West Ham 0

Sunderland set the benchmark for the rest of their season with an energetic and creative first 30 minutes that put West Ham United on the back foot and laid the foundations for a comfortable win.

They passed quickly, were lively off the ball, quick into the tackle and attacked in numbers - leaving a bamboozled visiting defence and midfield chasing shadows.

Although Sunderland struggled to maintain that level and subsequently allowed West Ham to get a minor foothold in the game, they were effective enough in both boxes for it not to matter.

If they can maintain that standard in the remainder of the season, relegation fears will soon melt away and a mid-table finish beckons.

West Ham should also end the campaign in that part of the Premier League table, but only because inconsistency and an inability to score goals away from home has hamstrung their ambitions of climbing higher.

This match summed up both problems, with an under-par first-half performance being compounded by the spurning of several golden second-half opportunities that could have triggered a fightback.

Matthew Westby

Aston Villa 0 Southampton 1

Rickie Lambert was the star of the show for Saints as he produced a superb individual performance at Villa Park to inflict more misery on Paul Lambert.

The hosts were unable to keep up with the striker, who very intelligently dropped deep to unselfishly allow his team-mates into the space provided, which was usually on the right-hand side - the heart of Villa's vulnerability in recent weeks.

Both managers agreed that the penalty decision awarded by referee Mark Halsey was harsh as replays showed Enda Stevens made no contact on Jay Rodriguez, but the attacker did deserve a 10 out of 10 for conning the man in the middle.

Despite that, Lambert was spot on again from 12-yards and he's now scored in four out of the last five Premier League away games.

The experienced 30-year-old is inching ever closer to an England call-up after a string of fine displays this season and certainly deserves some recognition.

Another player who caught the eye was highly rated left-back Luke Shaw. The 17-year-old from Kingston upon Thames is one for the future and seems very much at ease in the top flight.

As for Villa - they have now gone a record four home league games without a goal and they dropped into the relegation zone in a week where they were humiliated by Bradford in the League Cup semi-finals.

Can things get any worse for Lambos' bambinos this January? Well, they have a derby date with West Brom at The Hawthorns next week.

Raz Mirza



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