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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 18 December, 2014

5 things we learned from this weekend’s Premier League action

The final set of games before Christmas brought a classic rant from Alex Ferguson after United dropped points while Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea hit Villa for eight.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (right) speaks with fourth official Lee Probert (left) on the touchline.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (right) speaks with fourth official Lee Probert (left) on the touchline.

1. Ferguson still showing no signs of mellowing in his old age

Not for the first time, the United manager was raging after his team suffered a disappointing result.

The main subject of Fergie’s ire was Swansea defender Ashley Williams, who booted the ball at Robin van Persie’s head during the game.

The defender claims the incident was an unfortunate accident rather than a malicious act, and we have no reason not to believe him.

Moreover, Williams has no real history of violent behaviour on the football field, thus giving credence to his claims.

So for the United manager to make such a sweeping statement in suggesting there was deliberate intent seems extremely unfair, especially when his players have a history of committing acts that were arguably far more violent (Cantona, Keane et al).

Therefore, perhaps it is Ferguson rather than Williams who deserves the ban.

2. Liverpool players need to perform every week

Liverpool were in virtually flawless form yesterday, with Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and even Stewart Downing contributing to their 4-0 destruction of Fulham.

The side were practically unrecognisable from the one that lost unceremoniously to Villa the previous week.

The question the game’s outcome invited was whether Liverpool’s victory was down to the hosts’ excellence or the visitors’ ineptitude.

Regardless, if Downing and co can continue to play with such confidence on a consistent basis, the Anfield club will surely be in line for a European spot come the end of the season.

3. City not playing like champions

There are reports of an imminent mass exodus of Manchester City players in the near future, with the likes of Gareth Barry, James Milner, Joleon Lescott, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli all rumoured to be considered expendable by the club.

And yesterday, against Reading – ostensibly the Premier League’s worst team – the champions played like a side in need of a morale boost.

Though they eventually won 1-0, the crowd’s constant audible frustration gave an indication of the undercurrent of discontent currently affecting the club.

Moreover, the victory occurred in extremely fortuitous circumstances.

Reading were denied what looked a legitimate penalty, when Jay Tabb was shoulder-charged in the box by inexperienced defender Karim Rekik.

In addition, City’s goal in the last minute was characterised by both the defender’s and the referee’s passiveness, as Gareth Barry climbed all over the former while heading the ball into the net.

4. Arsenal still have scope to rescue their season

As the cliche-prone British football pundits would say, what a difference a few weeks makes.

Some Arsenal fans were calling for Wenger’s head after the club’s embarrassing League Cup loss to Bradford.

Now, however, following a couple of morale-boosting wins, the latest of which was against Wigan yesterday, the club are riding high in the top four, not to mention looking forward to the prospect of a glamour tie against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

So what’s changed? The fact that Wenger appears willing to play his best team on a regular basis helps, as does the likes of Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta raising their games at the right time.

And having seemingly belatedly agreed with most supporters’ beliefs that the club’s coterie of forwards look out of their depth, the decision to play Theo Walcott in a more attack-minded role has been a partial success so far.

5. The Rafalution beginning to take shape

After Rafael Benitez’s first two games in charge of Chelsea ended in 0-0 draws, many saw it as the beginning of the end for the entertaining side Chelsea had become under Roberto Di Matteo.

Since then, however, Chelsea have scored three goals or more (a total of 28 in seven matches) in all but one game – the Club World Cup final defeat to Corinthians.

At Stamford Bridge this afternoon, they ripped an inexperienced Aston Villa side apart from the word go. Fernando Torres, a man with seven goals since his former Liverpool boss arrived in London, scored the first of eight after just three minutes and it could’ve been even more as they wasted a couple of chances and Premier League debutante Lucas Piazon had his penalty saved by Brad Guzan.

Benitez has gone some way to shoring up their defence and moving David Luiz from centre-half to midfield looks an inspired decision.

Sure, a Villa team who came into the fixture on the back of two league wins were awful on the day but more performances like that one and he might just silence the Chelsea boo-boys.

Additional writing by Ben Blake

As it happened: Chelsea v Aston Villa, Premier League>

As it happened: Swansea v Manchester United, Premier League>

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