1. Mike Dean capable of a big performance
The referee will inevitably receive some stick from both sets of fans for his display in the Arsenal-City game today, but his decision-making for the big calls was spot on.
For the game’s first major incident, Koscielny blatantly dragged back Dzeko, who would otherwise have been through on goal.
The fact that the Bosnian was denied a clear goalscoring opportunity means that, according to the letter of the law, Dean had no option but to send the defender off.
Similarly, the Kompany decision may have seemed harsh, but again the official was simply enforcing pre-existing rules, which decree that two-footed tackles should be punished with a red card.
Of course, in the latter instance, the Belgian’s challenge barely seemed dangerous at all, as he made little contact with his opponent and won possession cleanly.
Perhaps therefore, there should be scope to apply the rules less rigidly in future, as common sense suggests Kompany did not deserve to walk.
2. Jonathan Walters is the possibly unluckiest player in the Premier League and does not deserve undue scorn for his errors
The Irish international is often commended for the immense effort he invariably puts into the games, and his defensive instincts are generally roundly acclaimed, particularly given that he is an attack-minded player first and foremost.
Indeed, until recently at least, Stoke had one of the best defensive records in Europe, and Walters’ tireless work ethic was vital to their success.
Ironically though, it was these very attributes that were partially responsible for his slip-ups in Stoke’s encounter with Chelsea on Saturday.
Had Walters not had the willingness to get himself into defensive positions in the first place, Stoke would surely have avoided conceding a goal or two.
That said, while the incidents were avoidable, it was a highly freakish 90 minutes for the beleaguered Merseyside-born player.
Consequently, he should be quickly forgiven for his bad day at the office, owing to the effective manner in which he’s played for the majority of the season.
3. Villa are now prime candidates for relegation
(Aston Villa’s Nathan Baker and Andreas Weimann show their frustration during the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park yesterday – David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
Yesterday was far from the first highly inept performance Villa have produced in recent years, but it’s difficult to recall a period when morale at the club seemed as low as it does now.
Paul Lambert used referee Mark Halsey as a scapegoat for the 1-0 loss to Southampton after he awarded a controversial penalty in the Saints’ favour, but in truth, he would be better off focusing on his own players’ conspicuous failings.
Moreover, of the teams they are competing against to avoid the drop, sides such as QPR, Reading and Sunderland have all shown signs of life recently.
Villa, however, based on recent evidence, appear to lack not only the talent but the stomach for the battle.
4. Tottenham still lack creativity
With both Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon having rare quiet days, and QPR defending manfully throughout, Tottenham looked a little short of ideas at Loftus Road yesterday.
Ugly as they may have been to watch, QPR’s tactics were highly effective in combating Spurs’ threat.
However, disciplined though the hosts were, drawing against the league’s bottom side will not be considered good enough for a club with Champions League aspirations.
Their misfiring strikers don’t help, but the central problem lies in the team’s levels of creativity, which have dipped since the departures of Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart in the summer.
For all the energy, skill and solidity that Scott Parker, Mousa Dembele and Sandro bring to proceedings, they could still do with a Santi Cazorla or Juan Mata-type player, capable of consistently unlocking defences with a killer pass.
This flaw has been evident on occasion already this season, with AVB’s men failing to break down other inferior teams such as Wigan and Stoke, who also intelligently opted to defend in numbers for their respective contests.
5. United do just enough against great rivals
The meeting of Manchester United and Liverpool ended in an identical scoreline to the reverse fixture in Anfield last September, but the league leaders could very easily have dropped two points after allowing the visitors back into the game in the second half.
They dominated during the opening 45 minutes and deservedly took a 1-0 lead into the break. Robin van Persie’s goalscoring has become almost predictable at this stage – another first-time finish made it nine goals in his last nine Premier League appearances.
Much was made of Howard Webb’s appointment in the build-up but during a fixture which has been marred by controversy and ill-temper in recent meetings, he handled the occasion well – although Glen Johnson could arguably have been sent off for a second bookable offence.
Liverpool can feel aggrieved about United’s second, though. First time around, Patrice Evra appeared to head past Pepe Reina but replays show it struck Nemanja Vidic, who seemed to be in an offside position, en route to goal.
Nonetheless, Brendan Rodgers’ side rallied and were buoyed by the introduction of Daniel Sturridge and the fact that their opponents sat back on their lead. The new signing undoubtedly gave his team-mates an additional outlet after Luis Suarez had cut a frustrated figure on his own up front but, as has often been the case, was guilty of some poor decision-making in front of goal. If Rodgers manages to cut that out of his game, he could turn out to be a great buy.
As it stands, United did just enough and maintain their seven-point lead over their city rivals. Liverpool, meanwhile, should take some solace from their display in the final half hour.
Additional writing by Ben Blake
Alex Ferguson takes time out of watching United-Liverpool to make small talk with Angus ‘Statto’ Loughran>