Sport

Premier League naphand: five talking points, week 8

By Antoinette Muller 21 October 2013

Arsenal remain steadfast at the top of the Premier League, while Manchester United continue to bobble along in unpredictable directions. This season’s Premier League continues to enchant and enthrall in more ways than one. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from match week eight.

A thumping win over Norwich ensured Arsenal remained on top of the Premier League table, still unbeaten in their last seven games. Samuel Eto’o has finally scored, Jose Mourinho was exiled to the stands, a linesman was hit by a smoke canister at Villa Park, and Liverpool remain in the top four thanks mostly to the ineptitude of the other teams challenging for a place. It’s said almost every season, but this season’s Premier League remains one of the most open in recent memory. With Manchester United seemingly bereft of an identity, every other team seems to be giving it their all week in, week out.

It was quite a weekend in the league, and picking just five talking points is almost doing it a disservice.

“We have our Arsenal back”

That’s what Arsenal fans were chanting by the time the full-time whistle had blown, and the Gunners cemented their spot at the top of the table with a 4-1 thrashing of Norwich. They’re quite right, too. Although Arsenal were shaky in stages against Norwich, the Arsenal of a season or so ago would have most likely stumbled at some of the hurdles presented to them. The old Arsenal would have thrown a strop when some chances went missing and the old Arsenal would have probably ended up drawing the match. There is definitely a new aura surrounding the team. On Saturday, the team left the pitch together, instead of dwindling off on their own. That kind of unity is seemingly translating into on-field chemistry and telepathy, which is something you can’t teach. Winning does make it easier, of course, but remember that this is the same team who suffered a 3-1 home defeat on the first day of the season. It would be foolish to suggest that it’s just Mesut Ozil’s arrival that has made the change, but Arsenal are tika taka-ing circles around everyone else both in their off-field spirit and on the pitch itself. Their bigger tests are yet to come: playing teams like Liverpool, Chelsea, United and Everton will all be the moments which define their season.

Everton’s changing style

Everton were a good side under David Moyes, but they always seemed like a team who simply didn’t fulfil their actual potential. That is all slowly changing and it’s starting with their style of play. The Toffees are slowly, but surely, adapting a more fluent style of passing play. In Saturday’s win over Hull City, they completed 630 passes, the most so far this season, and 93 passes more than their highest last year. Gareth Barry is instrumental in the passing game, he contributed 97 of those nudges himself, with 87 of them finding their target. It is true, of course, that passing doesn’t always mean a team is successful; however, it does show a side who wants to control the game at their pace – and while Everton are managing that just about, work still needs to be done in the final third. They’re not opting for the pass-it-into-the-box approach and they are still struggling to get into that killer zone. However, as a whole, Everton are a team in transition and a seemingly smooth one at that.

David Moyes needs a little bit of TLC

In eight games, Manchester United have already used 24 different players, more than any other side in the Premier League. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were the Australian cricket team. David Moyes has constantly tinkered with combinations and squad members, clearly still trying to understand what everyone is capable of. Against Southampton, the width tactic worked for a while, and both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie managed to get on the right side of crosses, but failed to put them away quite a few times. Moyes’ United is clearly short on a killer instinct, and for a manger who has tried almost everything in terms of team line-ups, why Moyes has not turned to Shinji Kagawa or Wilfried Zaha yet is confusing. Add to the above-mentioned issues the fact that there are players who just aren’t clicking and Marouane Fellaini being played in a position he wasn’t overly familiar with, and Moyes is left with a conundrum. There’s no doubt the Scotsman will make good soon enough, but perhaps he just needs some TLC from Sir Alex Ferguson to get things going in the right direction.

Flamini’s worth so much more than he’s being given credit for

When Mathieu Flamini resigned for Arsenal, Arsene Wenger copped a lot of flak, but his return has proved to be a genius move. Flamini bossed the midfield and held it together for most of the game against Norwich, until he suffered a slight knock on the head and had to be subbed off. Once he left, it was clear that Arsenal struggled to gel a little bit and suddenly Norwich were making it into the Arsenal half with ease. Of course, Aaron Ramsey made an apt replacement and the Welshman’s season continued with aplomb. So much so that Arsenal fans were chanting: “Aaron Ramsey, he’s better than Bale.”

Yohan Cabaye won’t be staying at Newcastle

Liverpool failed to beat a ten-man Newcastle on Saturday, with Yohan Cabaye putting in a captain’s performance. He’s had a pretty good season, but the bad news for Newcastle is that he won’t be staying in the club for much longer. Cabaye was desperate to move to Arsenal, but it never happened, and instead of sucking it up, he threw a strop and refused to play for the first two games of the season. He was slapped with a fine and upon his return, he was greeted with both boos and applause. He’s already said that he wants to “think about his future”, play well with the Toon and get the best results he can manage. He’s also said he has learnt a lesson or two from his on-again, off-again transfer saga. If he continues to perform as he does, chances are pretty good that he could very well be packing for somewhere come the January transfer window. Newcastle need the money and have become known as something of a selling club. Cabaye probably won’t be going to North London; the midfield is hardly an issue for Arsene Wenger, but he might be eyeing a move to somewhere he can get a little bit more glory than at St. James’ Park. For now, though, it’s best for him to suck it up.

Special mention: Tokelo Rantie at Bournemouth

Tokelo Rantie’s move to AFC Bournemouth has been watched with beady eyes from all corners of the world. He smashed the club record when he signed out, and with such a hefty fee being dished out, big expectations come standard. He’s yet to score for the Cherries, but against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, he played a crucial role. He was a real menace to the defenders and although he is still struggling to finish, he is constantly pushing forward and irking defenders just when they think they’ve seen the last of him. DM

Premier League week 8 results:

  • Newcastle 2-2 Liverpool

  • Arsenal 4-1 Norwich

  • Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff

  • Everton 2-1 Hull

  • Manchester United 1-1 Southampton

  • Stoke 0-0 West Brom

  • Swansea 4-0 Sunderland

  • West Ham 1-3 Manchester City

  • Aston Villa 0-2 Tottenham

Photo: Manchester United manager David Moyes (L) talks to Adnan Januzaj during their English Premier League soccer match against Southampton at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England October 19, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble

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