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TT's Premier Picks: Santi earns his Spurs

Sunday 18th November 2012 19:50

Arsenal: Ran riot against 10-man Tottenham on Saturday

Arsenal: Ran riot against 10-man Tottenham on Saturday

Santi Cazorla's masterclass against Tottenham, Manchester City's consistency and gutsy West Brom all feature in our review of the weekend.

Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2

Santi Cazorla delivered a masterclass in how to play against a side who have had a man sent off.

Passing is the key and the midfielder's performance in the centre of the pitch was brilliant to watch. Arsene Wenger arguably produced the signing of the season when taking advantage of Malaga's financial problems.

It is now three defeats in four Premier League games for Andre Villas-Boas and the pressure is mounting at Tottenham. It would be interesting to know if he regrets selecting Emmanuel Adebayor, whose emotions clearly got the better of him.

The win should not be allowed to paper over the cracks at Arsenal. Their confidence and defending both still look very fragile and they had a bit of a wobble when Gareth Bale scored at 4-2.

Reece Killworth

Liverpool 3 Wigan 0

Has Brendan Rodgers found Jose Enrique's best position for Liverpool after another impressive showing from the Spaniard in the 3-0 win over Wigan?

Enrique followed up his Man-of-the-Match performance against Chelsea last week with another all-action display in an unfamiliar midfield role.

Luis Suarez will hog all the headlines for scoring another two goals to take his tally for the season to 13, but Enrique deserves a lot of the credit for an impressive attacking performance.

Rodgers has used the full-back in a more advanced role ahead of Glen Johnson and Enrique has thrived in his more attacking position.

Enrique was a handful for the Wigan defence throughout the game and he played a superb pass for Suarez's second goal before going on to score the third goal and his first for the club since his arrival from Newcastle.

Enrique linked up with Suarez very well and it seems the Spaniard has found a role where he can be best utilised in Brendan Rodgers' blueprint after finding himself out of favour under the Liverpool boss at the start of the season.

For Wigan it was a game to forget as they collapsed after Liverpool broke the deadlock early in the second half.

In the first half Wigan kept Liverpool at bay, but throughout the 90 minutes they struggled to create an impression in the final third and that will be a major worry for Roberto Martinez as they look to avoid being involved another relegation scrap.

Peter O'Rourke

Man City 5 Aston Villa 0

Manchester City surged to the top of the table with a dominant display at home to Aston Villa and they remain unbeaten in the Premier League, apparently immune to the shock defeats that have afflicted Manchester United and Chelsea this weekend.

It was another fine performance in stark contrast to the way they have played in the Champions League this term, and Roberto Mancini paid tribute to the attitude of his players after the game.

He will have been particularly delighted to see Argentine duo Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez grab two goals apiece, while David Silva was back to his old self with a skilful showing that made City tick.

Aston Villa will feel the decision to award a penalty for handball against Andreas Weimann was harsh, with the match still delicately poised at 1-0 early in the second half.

There will be a sense among Villa supporters, though, that after taking a step forward against Manchester United last time out they have now gone backwards again, and it will be a challenge for Paul Lambert to keep his young squad calm after they slipped into the relegation zone.

Chris Burton

Newcastle 1 Swansea 2

Alan Pardew felt Newcastle owed their supporters a result and a performance, but the fans were streaming out of St James' Park before the final whistle after another below-par display which left them in the bottom half of the table.

Preparations for the game were disrupted by a dispute with Senegal which left Papiss Cisse watching from the sidelines, and with several other key men absent through injury it appears Newcastle do not yet have the strength in depth to challenge consistently for Europe.

Hatem Ben Arfa is the only shining light at the moment and the Frenchman was at his dazzling best with a series of skilful runs and clever passes, but it must be a concern that he will be coveted by some of Europe's finest if the Magpies cannot offer him the opportunity to showcase his talents to the fullest.

For Swansea, this was not a typical performance as they did not dominate possession and their greatest threat came on the counter-attack, when Newcastle were carved open time and time again.

Pablo Hernandez appears to be getting to grips with English football after a slow start and has struck up a good understanding with the likes of Michu and Jonathan de Guzman.

Gerhard Tremmel also impressed in goal with his shot-stopping and also the command of his area, but Itay Shechter did not quite grab his chance up front and Danny Graham will hope for a recall next weekend after a lively cameo appearance off the bench.

Lewis Rutledge

QPR 1 Southampton 3

In the clash that was dubbed 'El Sackico' before kick-off, the conclusions could not be clearer: Nigel Adkins' team are playing for their manager, who has imposed on them his philosophy and a desire to graft for the shirt. Mark Hughes' players give the polar opposite impression as they remain winless and bottom of the table.

QPR appeared frightened from the start, which is perhaps understandable, but the Southampton players arrived at Loftus Road only a point and a place better off. They pressed, passed and attacked from kick-off, while the hosts stood startled and deservedly trailed at half-time.

Even after Junior Hoilett gave them a lifeline, they failed to seize any of the initiative. Instead, it was Southampton who continued to show courage, choosing to use attack as the most effective way of protecting their defence, which the table shows is the worst in the Premier League. Not that QPR made them sweat.

The lack of a plan at Loftus Road - long term or more immediately - has to be a concern. Hughes seems to have thrown a group of players together, with little thought of how they might gel. Perhaps, given the number of changes he has implemented, he deserves more time to mould them into a cohesive unit. But even if he can make that happen - the signs suggest not - by then, it might already be too late.

Hughes promised after last season's final-day escape that QPR would not find themselves in that position again. True. They look nowhere near good enough for 17th.

The Southampton players and supporters are clearly behind Adkins, and on this display alone, he deserves to be given the chance to follow through with his planning. The defence is a concern, with the goalkeeping situation requiring immediate attention, but the manager's achievements at St Mary's so far should mean he gets at least the January window to make the tweaks he sees fit.

Ian Watson

Reading 2 Everton 1

Adam Le Fondre was an inspired selection for Brian McDermott, opting to pick the 25-year-old ahead of Noel Hunt and what a choice that was with the match-winner in fine fettle during Reading's second half. Looking at the way in which the hosts applied themselves in the first 45, you may have felt they were in for a bit of a pasting with chances falling to Everton on a number of occasions.

Nikica Jelavic, for me, should have shown more composure when he attempted an audacious scissor kick as he was unmarked at the back post - but in hindsight could have, and more likely should have, kept a cool head and tapped into some of that natural instinct he showed last season which punished top-flight teams including Manchester United.

But back to Le Fondre. The striker has a goalscoring brain, one which Reading need to come out more often this season. He seems to link up well with the robust Jason Roberts covering all the work-horse chores and Le Fondre picking out the runs to damage defences - which he did many a time against Everton and got his rewards with a well-deserved double.

As mentioned, that first half left a lot to be desired for Reading and one of which if I was a fan, I'd be slightly worried.

You can't fault the determination and grit of the Royals - that, and cool Le Fondre finishing - led to their comeback. However, in the run-up to that there were defensive errors across the board - all of which went unpunished by Everton, barring Steven Naismith's goal.

Chris Gunter was a slight concern for me, he often hesitated on the ball and was nearly guilty of offering Everton a glorious opportunity but again David Moyes' men failed to convert.

Reading's Hal Robson-Kanu is a clever player, and one which the fans obviously enjoyed watching as his pacy runs and positive play earned the adulation of the crowd, who before those attacks were frustrated and fraught with their side's poor defending.

Toffees fans must see this one as three points lost. The chances were there but failure to convert sees me wondering if Moyes should make a last-ditch effort in the January transfer market, despite their knowing lack of funds, and pick out a bargain striker on loan - just to see them over the finishing line into Europe. They need another Landon Donovan to complement Jelavic up front in my eyes.

Hayley PatersonWest Brom 2 Chelsea 1

Almost against the run of play, Shane Long dived brilliantly to get on the end of a delightful cross from James Morrison out on the left to give the Baggies the lead in the tenth minute.

Long was a constant threat for the hosts, making several runs and chasing hard throughout the match, as well as having made the assist for Albion's winner.

After going a goal behind despite his side having had the ascendency, Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo made a tactical change switching Eden Hazard out to the left flank.

The move finally paid off close to the break with the Belgian playmaker having headed the visitors level at the far post after Cesar Azpilicueta found his team-mate with a good ball from the right.

But a great cross from Long out on the right saw Peter Odemwingie head the Baggies back into the lead with a fine finish at the near post six minutes after the restart.

With Chelsea throwing everything at Albion for much of the encounter, Steve Clarke's men really showed why they're this season's surprise package as they put in a sterling all-round performance.

Albion's unsung hero on the day was definitely goalkeeper Boaz Myhill, who made several fine stops and marshalled his defence superbly.

Adam Bate

Norwich 1 Man Utd 0

Manchester United's inability to spring to life until they fall behind finally caught up with them at Carrow Road on Saturday evening. Anthony Pilkington headed Norwich ahead on the hour mark and the Red Devils could not find an equaliser let alone the three points they needed to remain top of the Premier League.

It was the 11th time this season that Sir Alex Ferguson's side have fallen behind. Remarkably, on eight of the previous 10 occasions United have come back to win the match. While that is a tribute to the resolve of the players, it does suggest a problem at the heart of this team - and one that needs to be corrected if they are to win the trophies that are demanded of the club by May.

Perhaps that will require more drive from midfield. Michael Carrick is a consummate passer of the ball but with the veteran Ryan Giggs alongside him there was little penetration in the centre of the park for the visitors. With the likes of Anderson and Darren Fletcher on the bench, as well as Paul Scholes, this might be a decision that Ferguson already rues.

Of course, much credit must go to Norwich. Although Wes Hoolahan caught the eye with his classy use of the ball, it was the Canaries' gutsy defending that was the most memorable aspect of their performance. John Ruddy was excellent in goal but he was also protected well by a committed back four, who were in turn given great support by a midfield full of endeavour. Quite simply, they never looked like becoming the ninth victims of the United turnaround triumph.

Adam Bate

Fulham 1 Sunderland 3

Not for the first time this season, the major talking point in a Premier League match is a decision made by a referee.

Lee Probert opted to show Fulham defender Brede Hangeland a straight red card after 31 minutes after a 50/50 challenge with Lee Cattermole.

By the letter of the law, then maybe Mr Probert was correct. But surely common sense can be applied in these situations?

It was not a malicious challenge, it was a genuine attempt to win the ball so surely a yellow would have sufficed.

As it was, the decision had a major bearing on the game and Fulham will feel quite rightly aggrieved after going down 3-1.

Simon Crawford



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