Three things we learnt from the Premier League this weekend
Newcastle fail to fire at home, Arsenal might be good but not good enough and the scourge of diving hits the headlines again.
Not a happy Toon
It’s only a week since Newcastle offered their manager Alan Pardew an unprecedented eight-year contract and already it’s looking like a dubious decision.
Last year Newcastle impressed everyone with their structured, yet stylish play, catching everyone on the hop, avoiding a relegation battle and propelling themselves into European competition.
This year though, everyone knows their gameplan and though they beat Man United 3-0 in this fixture last year, there was a six-goal reversal of fortunes yesterday as Man United spanked the Geordies 3-0.
Granted, you may say it was the mighty Manchester United that thumped Newcastle, but look closer and the malaise may be deeper. Newcastle’s defence looked like it lacked sharpness and the inventive Yohan Cabaye looks strained from 18 months of non-stop football.
It was a good win for Man United, but Newcastle should have made things more difficult for them. The Toon's shaky start to the season looks set to continue.
Far too often in the past Arsenal have wilted in the face of a Sam Allardyce-powered steam roller of a team. This past weekend, though, West Ham looked like a bull being deftly pierced and bleeded by an assured matador with unbreakable focus.
Santi Cazorla yet again looked masterful in midfield, though it would be interesting to see how Arsenal fare without the Spaniard, who is looking indispensable to Arsene Wenger's plans. An injury to the main man could be a big problem.
Oliver Giroud, who has been positioning himself well in recent weeks only to shoot with all the accuracy of Dick Cheney on a quail hunt, finally got on the scoresheet. The rambunctious Theo Walcott also found the net, which will hopefully settle and focus him. Desite his flaws Walcott can be a potent weapon when he is focused on the task at hand.
So what did we learn from Arsenal this weekend? Well, that they have all the ingredients to beat the best of the rest of the teams in the Premier League, while maybe not being good enough to beat the likes of City, United and Chelsea consistently.
Some seasons that’s enough though.
Players dive? Say it isn’t so Tony?
But you already knew that didn’t you? Well apparently no one told Tony Pulis... so maybe we should rename this section “What did an experienced Premier League manager learn this weekend?”
Pulis has pulled this old chestnut before and usually it smacks of the jingoistic nonsense line that only foreigners dive, which quite frankly, is tripe. Does that mean what Luis Suarez did was excusable? No, but it does show that as long as managers and pundits like Alan Hansen focus the discussion on individual incidents and players it will retard the progression of the game.
Diving is at an epidemic level in the game, from both British and foreign players, and unreasoned, inane arguments that focus on single players isn’t going to stop that.
Pulis was jockeying for higher ground this weekend and last week Fergie had a pop at foreign players diving while defending Nani’s egregious theatrics. It’s all a powerplay to influence referees.
A mature discussion where everybody resolves to stop diving by agreeing to retrospective punishment looks like the only way forward. Gary Neville had some interesting things to say recently on the subject that Pulis and Fergie should listen to: