Suarez rescuing Liverpool, Norwich’s rise, Mark Hughes failing to inspire QPR and Roberto Mancini’s increasing agitation were just some of the weekend Premier League talking points according to Ger McCarthy.
Suarez already a candidate for player of the year
Described as ‘unplayable’ by a relieved Brendan Rodgers, Luis Suarez underlined his importance to Liverpool’s stuttering campaign with yet another crucial goal and virtuoso display at Anfield on Sunday.
Nine League strikes doesn’t tell the full story however, as the Uruguayan’s goals have been responsible for 7 of the 11 points accrued by Liverpool.
Late goals against Manchester City, Sunderland, Everton and Newcastle rescued draws from the jaws of defeat along with an unforgettable hat-trick at Carrow Road which has prevented Rodgers’ managerial debut season from derailing.
Liverpool’s hopes of even a moderately successful season now rest squarely on the South American’s shoulders but another striker must be brought in during the January transfer window to ease the burden on Suarez and make up for the absence of the injured Borini and on-loan Carroll. Rodgers can ill afford an injury to his star player who now looks a certain Premier League Player of the Year nominee at the end of the season.
Hughes on borrowed time
Wasn’t Sunday’s home fixture against Reading to be the afternoon Mark Hughes’ QPR finally kick-started an otherwise dreadful Premier League campaign? Instead, Rangers supporters were subjected to a dreadful opening 45 minutes and fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw despite a much improved second half showing. While the sense of relief was palpable around Loftus Road at the final whistle, the time has come for a change of a manager.
Mark Hughes talks a good game but appears incapable of inspiring his expensively assembled QPR squad into a winning run. The fact four Championship clubs introduced a new manager during the past week and each achieved victories will not have gone unnoticed in the QPR boardroom. If only there was an out-of-work manager who could come in and inspire a bunch of ‘top, top players’ and turn relegation fodder into Europa League contenders...
Hughton, Hoolahan and Norwich on the rise
An unexpected 1-0 win at home to Arsenal, a battling 1-1 draw with Aston Villa and a weekend victory over Stoke City has transformed Norwich City from relegation candidates into potential mid-table Premier League residents. Chris Hughton’s calm and composed demeanour has helped steady the Carrow Road ship and rubbed off on his players who have rebounded from 7 straight league games without a win to take 7 points in their last three outings. Central to the resurgence has been midfield dynamo Wes Hoolahan who has finally been rewarded for his consistent performances with a long overdue international call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad. All of a sudden life is looking much rosier for Hughton and his Norwich side who go to struggling Reading on Saturday expecting to pick up another 3 points.
Light at the end of the Arsenal tunnel
Arsenal’s weekend was already going pear shaped long before former Highbury legend Tony Adams openly questioned the club’s transfer policy and left-back Andre Santos was lambasted by his own fans for requesting Robin Van Persie’s shirt at half time in the Old Trafford defeat. Another acrimonious AGM has gone by, Thomas Vermaelen looks a pale shadow of his former self, Theo Walcott is stalling on contract talks and Jack Wilshere could take an age to rediscover his devastating form having only returned from a long-term injury.
It’s not so long ago that Arsenal were kings of the Premier League and rightly lauded for their prudent off-field business ventures but even the most ardent Gooner has to admit that a Capital One Cup success would fail to paper over the long-term cracks at the Emirates Stadium. And yet there is hope. Santi Cazorla looks the Premier League’s best piece of summer transfer business, the criminally underused Carl Jenkinson deserves a longer run in the first team and although still rough around the edges, Olivier Giroud has the makings of an effective striker. A top four finish is attainable despite Saturday’s humiliating defeat.
Mancini needs to rediscover last season’s magic
Roberto Mancini’s mood is unlikely to have improved following Saturday evening’s goalless draw at Upton Park and revelations of extensive contract negotiations with French side Monaco during last season’s charge to the Premier League title will hardly have endeared the Italian to City’s hardcore support. Another tepid display at West Ham — including a cold stare down with enigmatic substituted striker Mario Balotelli — underlined the reigning champions’ continuing struggle to reproduce the sparkling form and goals of their previous campaign. Worse still for Mancini, the recent arrival of Txiki Begiristain as Manchester City’s new director of football will only heighten speculation of the possible arrival of the Spaniards’ great friend and former Barcelona Coach, Pep Guardiola, every time City falter between now and the end of the season.
Chelsea’s referee issues unlikely to go away
Roberto Di Matteo shifted uncomfortably in his after match TV interview when asked about the performance of match referee Kevin Friend following Saturday’s draw away to Swansea. The Chelsea manager better get used to that line of questioning. Since the London club’s decision to pursue Mark Clattenburg for his alleged comments during the 3-2 defeat at home to Manchester United, the performance of match officials in Chelsea’s fixtures will continue to act as a side-show until the Clattenburg issue is settled either inside or outside the courts.
Of more immediate concern to Chelsea should be the fact the previously undefeated league leaders have now dropped 5 points in their last two outings and surrendered top spot to a resurgent Manchester United. The decision to rest the influential Juan Mata stymied Di Matteo’s attacking options at the Liberty Stadium despite an encouraging display from Victor Moses. A crucial Champions League meeting with Shakhtar Donetsk looms large on the horizon but much more importantly for Di Matteo will be the Italian Coach’s ability to prevent the Clattenburg issue from interfering with Chelsea’s pursuit of the Premier League title.
Follow Ger on Twitter: @germccarthy74