1. Nasri still has tendency to let teammates down
Some critics feel Samir Nasri was a little harshly dealt with following his red card against Norwich yesterday for his tame headbutt on Sebastian Bassong.
Yet surely the player who ex-France coach Raymond Domenech once referred to as a “symbol of selfishness” gave the officials little option but to send him off at a pivotal moment in the game.
By the letter of the law, whether people agree with it or not, the Frenchman had to go for making contact with his opponent’s face.
And while the incident itself was quite innocuous, Nasri’s act was ultimately one of petulant stupidity that was worthy of ridicule. Moreover, he produced a clearly exaggerated reaction following Bassong’s initial tackle before abruptly getting up to confront the Norwich player, thus exacerbating how poorly the incident reflected on him.
The French international is one of the most gifted midfielders in the Premier League, yet incidents such as the one yesterday, and his obvious reluctance to put his body on the line and block a Van Persie free-kick during City’s last-minute concession of a decisive goal in the most recent Manchester derby, mean critics will question whether he is suitable for a club with such lofty ambitions as City.
2. Walcott beginning to silence critics
Many have suggested Theo Walcott will never have the attributes to lead Arsenal’s attack on a regular basis, due largely to his lack of physical stature.
However, the player is certainly doing his utmost to prove the doubters wrong at the moment, performing with a renewed level of confidence ever since Arsene Wenger gave him an extra degree of responsibility in the side.
He was particularly influential during Arsenal’s defeat of Reading when handed a rare start in the central striker role, and he stood out once again in the same position yesterday, scoring a hat-trick as the Gunners beat Newcastle, and impressing the watching Thierry Henry in the process.
Meanwhile, an additional saga of interest relates to whether the winger-cum-striker will commit to the club, with his current contract due to run out at the end of the season.
“Theo loves the club,” claimed Wenger yesterday. Nonetheless, whether these words ring true remains to be seen. In the past, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri often gave similarly positive signals when their futures at Arsenal were in doubt, but then barely hesitated to choose a more lucrative destination when such an opportunity arose.
3. Van Persie the clear favourite for Player of the Season gong
YouTube credit: MegaYouranoob
The Dutchman once again demonstrated his class as United beat West Brom at Old Trafford yesterday.
Even after only being introduced as a substitute, Van Persie had a clear influence on proceedings, curling in a sublime effort to seal the hosts’ 2-0 win.
And the ability of the striker to perform to such an exquisite level on a regular basis means even at this early stage, he seems a viable candidate for the Player of the Year accolade.
But that is not to suggest this year’s league has lacked individuals capable of emulating Van Persie’s audacious feats.
Both Gareth Bale and Santi Cazorla were similarly outstanding yesterday, while Luis Suarez was at his formidable best today, as they all have been for large portions of the season so far.
4. Lampard shows he’s still got it
Even without the bounteous cheerleading of Jamie Redknapp and Ray Wilkins in the Sky studios, Frank Lampard’s match-winning double was the standout contribution in an entertaining and engaging duel against Everton.
Chelsea’s midfield general has long been in the habit of popping up in the right place at the right time and, with his 190th and 191st goals for the club, he showed that he hasn’t lost that priceless talent even as he is gently ushered towards the Stamford Bridge exit.
Lampard’s first, drawing Chelsea level just before the break, was a technically excellent header: the jump timed to perfection and the ball steered just inside the left frame of the goal so as to give Tim Howard no chance. The second was sheer opportunism, an instinctive finish when the ball fell at his feet six yards out.
His current deal is worth a reported £160,000 a week and at 34, the price of keeping Lampard is high, particularly if others come knocking in January. But as he showed today, cutting him loose without a second’s hesitation could come at a damaging cost as well.
5. QPR need an archetypal Harry Redknapp miracle to get out of trouble
Redknapp insists he still thinks QPR will get out of trouble, however the evidence at Loftus Road today suggested otherwise, as the home side were comprehensively beaten by Liverpool.
There was a distinct lack of energy evident in the hosts’ play, as they were both overrun and outclassed in midfield throughout the first half, as an impressive Liverpool outfit ran riot.
Redknapp has been critical of some players’ attitudes recently, and the anonymity of Djibril Cissé among others this afternoon was telling.
If QPR are to pull off an unlikely miracle and avoid relegation, their boss will need to do two things in January – invest wisely in players with the requisite levels of quality and commitment, while also praying for some good fortune.
Additional writing by Niall Kelly