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Dublin: 16 °C Thursday 31 July, 2014

5 things we learned from last night’s Premier League action

We assess the absence of Shane Long from West Brom’s starting team, and United’s unconvincing win over West Ham.

Manchester United's Robin van Persie celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game.
Manchester United's Robin van Persie celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game.

1. Familiar flaws characterise Tottenham-Liverpool game

It was a case of the good, the bad and the ugly at White Hart Lane last night, with the latter quality appearing in the form of Gareth Bale’s own goal.

The game was played in a fervent and always entertaining manner, yet both sides provided a snapshot of why they have struggled at times this season.

Tottenham – as has often been the case (see also: their games against Arsenal and Southampton) – started extremely well, but simply could not maintain the intensity of this performance for the duration of the first half, let alone the entire contest.

Liverpool, by contrast, were the better side for two-thirds of the match.

Nonetheless, with Tottenham paying close attention to Luis Suarez, the visitors struggled in the final third, and for all their possession and territory, it took Bale’s freakish, unwitting intervention to give them hope, which they failed to capitalise on thereafter.

2. Man United receive hope in the form of Jones

Aside from picking up the three points and Robin van Persie showing yet again why United paid so much money for him, there wasn’t too much for United to be positive about after last night’s game with West Ham.

Yet the one conspicuous bright spot was the re-emergence of Phil Jones after a lengthy lay-off.

Jones replaced Anderson for the final few minutes, helping his side to see out the game in comfortable fashion.

Moreover, United’s defence has looked decidedly suspect at times this season, with Rio Ferdinand’s lack of pace and declining physical attributes being exposed on occasion.

In Jones, they have a player with the potential to replace Ferdinand at the heart of their defence.

Alex Ferguson will thus be hoping the youngster can achieve similar things to his elder counterpart over the course of his career, though he will no doubt hope he has better luck with injuries.

3. Nastasic beginning to show form for City

(Matija Nastasic has looked impressive for City of late – Jon Super/AP/Press Association Images)

Any reference to a coming of age as Man City beat Wigan last night would cause most people to assume the identity of the person in question to be Mario Balotelli.

Granted, Balotelli, having proved unreliable in the past, paid back the faith shown in him by Roberto Mancini last night, getting the all-important first goal in their triumph.

But City’s Serbian international defender, Matija Nastasic, was equally integral to their success.

The player, at 19,  is somewhat of a rough diamond, and began his City career in less-than-assured fashion.

However, he is constantly improving, having made seven Premier League appearances for City now.

And if he continues to look as composed and solid as he did last night, he’ll eventually start to justify comparisons to his more venerated international teammate, Nemanja Vidic.

4. West Brom need Shane Long playing regularly

Steve Clarke has tended to rotate his strikers this season, and so far, it has worked for the most part.

Yet eventually, refraining from playing your best players does tell.

Peter Odemwingie, who started ahead of the Ireland striker last night, may be similarly prolific to Long, but he is vastly inferior in terms of general contribution to the play.

Long’s immense work-rate and tendency to be the first line of defence was missed enormously by the Baggies last night, as they showed several atypical qualities amid their surprise 3-1 loss to Swansea.

5. Chelsea lack the resolve to be title contenders

After a hugely promising start to their campaign, Chelsea’s hopes of challenging for the title are fading fast.

Some of their attacking players, such as Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, would be good enough to feature in any Premier League side.

However, the primary reason as to why they have only won one out of a possible seven games this month is due to a lack of balance in their side.

The team’s backbone of years gone by – comprising of John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba – is no longer in place, with Drogba departing and Terry and Lampard past their best.

They thus lack the necessary grit to to win ugly – something the likes of City and United have done consistently of late.

As it happened: Wednesday’s Premier League action>

Premier League wrap: United and City win to keep pack at bay>

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