Great goals, entertaining games, movement at both ends of the table – this was a vintage weekend of Premier League action. Shaun Curran looks at the fall-out from the ten fixtures and picks out the main talking points, with the spotlight shone brightly on Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle United and Wigan Athletic.
They think it’s all over… and it probably is, even at the start of February
It would be foolish of anybody to write off Manchester City’s chances of retaining their Premier League crown: a squad packed with the kind of quality that the champions possess can never be written off, especially when the league – and to a lesser extent the FA Cup – remain the priority for Roberto Mancini.
But sitting nine points behind neighbours Manchester United at the start of February, it would take an even more foolish man to say that the title won’t be returning to Old Trafford in May. Not since Arsenal in 2002/03 has a team blown such a commanding lead at this stage of the season and failed to win the title when it looked like a shoo-in, and even if Champions League commitments could yet complicate matters for Sir Alex Ferguson, his team don’t look likely to surrender the initiative in the manner they did last season.
With 60 goals plundered in 25 games, United have outscored City by 13 and how Mancini will curse the day over the summer when a certain Dutchman chose the red half of Manchester over Blue.
Has ‘Arry spent his January war chest wisely enough?
He might not like being called a wheeler dealer, but Harry Redknapp’s reputation as a manager who can utilise the transfer market to good effect no matter what the budget precedes him. But has he got his priorities wrong after his latest foray into the transfer market?
With Ryan Nelson off to Toronto, it is true that Queens Park Rangers needed a centre-half, and Chris Samba is a sensible addition. But £12.5 million and £100k a week for the former Blackburn man seem particularly excessive, especially when Rangers’ real troubles are at the other end of the pitch.
Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Norwich was the Rs’ fourth clean sheet in five Premier League games: impressive, but they have scored just two goals in that run and are currently the lowest scorers in the Premier League with just 18 goals from 25 matches.
Loic Remy has been purchased to address that, but as failed bids to sign Peter Crouch and, farcically, Peter Odemwingie show, Redknapp knows he is short of firepower and if you can’t score goals, you aren’t going to win many games.
Newcastle’s French Connection makes a mockery of January window myth
Who says there is no value in the January transfer window? That is the myth that is often peddled by many in the game, particularly those managers who seem to hide behind that convenient excuse when fans’ pleas for winter spending falls on deaf ears.
Ask Alan Pardew about the January window and I’m sure he will offer a different take on it. Newcastle have been incredibly disappointing this season for a number of reasons but, aided by the recent acquisitions of their French contingent, the Magpies have seemingly turned the corner. Two wins in two, away to Aston Villa and, thrillingly, at home to Chelsea on Saturday, have United upwardly mobile and there is no doubt the singings of Massadio Haidara, Yoan Gouffran, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Mathieu Debuchy and, in particular, Moussa Sissoko have had the desired effect.
Papiss Cisse had a similar impact last January, and you only have to look at Daniel Sturridge and Loic Remy, to name but two, to see how shopping in the January window isn’t always the minefield some would have you believe.
Somebody should tell Wigan it is March right now
It has become something of a cliché that Wigan Athletic only seem to start their season with ten games left, so in many ways the Latics’ campaign is reverting to type: here we are in February and Roberto Martinez’s side are in the bottom three on a run of just one win in 12 games, and failure to beat Southampton on Saturday will go down as another missed opportunity.
But you would think that Wigan cannot keep relying on late-season acts of escapology year in, year out. Somewhere along the way, they are going to come unstuck and if they don’t get their act together sharpish, it could well be this year. The fixture list doesn’t bode well: as well as trips to Chelsea and Arsenal, home games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham must be negotiated, along with relegation six-pointers against Reading, QPR and, on the final day, Aston Villa. Martinez will need a repeat of last year’s run to safety if he wants to avoid falling through the trap door.
A weekend of great goals lights up the Premier League
When was the last time so many good goals were scored over one weekend of Premier League action? Any one of the strikes from Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, Steven Gerrrad, Daniel Sturridge, Sergio Aguero, Gareth Bale or Christian Benteke would make a genuine Goal of the Month contender and it made for as enjoyable a round of matches as there has been this season. It just goes to show that while it may be lacking technically compared to some of the other major European leagues, the entertainment value remains as high as you’ll find anywhere.