5 talking points from this weekend's Premier League action

We assess Man United’s continual failure to convince and other big issues from the past two days.

Manchester United's Danny Welbeck, Ryan Giggs, Robin van Persie and Phil Jones appear dejected after Southampton's Adam Lallana scores
Manchester United's Danny Welbeck, Ryan Giggs, Robin van Persie and Phil Jones appear dejected after Southampton's Adam Lallana scores

1. Januzaj the one bright spark amid United’s worrying form

News yesterday that Adnan Januzaj has signed a new five-year contract at Manchester United will come as welcome relief to fans concerned that this highly promising youngster would be snapped up by a rival club.

Following this news, Januzaj once again illustrated why he has been attracting such acclaim of late with his consummate performance against Southampton.

And though the 18-year-old impressed, the same can’t be said for some of his teammates.

The 1-1 result leaves United eight points off leaders Arsenal, though it’s early in the season and the Old Trafford outfit have recovered greater deficits before, so perhaps it’s not time for them to panic yet.

Yet the manner of the performance rather than the result will surely be the biggest concern for manager David Moyes. Southampton had an incredible 54% possession yesterday and are arguably the second successive team to come to Old Trafford and look the better side, following West Brom’s equally authoritative display in the Red Devils’ previous home match.

2. Cardiff have every right to be upset following contentious decision

With Cardiff leading 1-0, an extraordinary moment occurred to get Chelsea back in the game at Stamford Bridge yesterday.

Samuel Eto’o nicked the ball away from goalkeeper David Marshall as he bounced it in an incident that lead directly to Eden Hazard’s equaliser.

Chelsea went on to win 4-1, so perhaps Malky Mackay, who expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the decision, should have reserved some criticism for his players for performing so tamely thereafter, though he has cause to feel aggrieved about the incident in question too.

Fifa’s rulebook clearly states that Eto’o's action is illegal, yet the referee and his fellow officials’ patent lack of familiarity with this law was obvious as a result of their blunder.

3. Townsend ends big week on a high

Between making his England debut, scoring a first senior international goal and the media coverage which followed Roy Hodgson’s ill-advised space monkey joke, Andros Townsend has had a pretty eventful couple of weeks.

The 22-year-old has taken it all in his stride during what has been a breakthrough season so far and, after a quiet first half hour, he was once again Spurs’ main threat in their 2-0 win over Aston Villa.

His opener may have been quite fortuitous, a left-footed cross evaded everyone before finding the back of the net, but Townsend came close on the stroke of half-time and again in the second half. The longer the game went on the more dangerous he looked.

While AVB will have been glad to see his team return to winning ways after the West Ham defeat, Paulinho continued to prove his worth in midfield while those sceptical about Roberto Soldado were shown just how classy a finisher he is for the second.

4. Bigger tests yet to come for Arsenal

There is no doubt that Arsenal have been extremely impressive in the manner in which they’ve climbed to the top of the table this season.

Their win over Norwich yesterday highlighted all their best traits, which have put them in such a healthy position with eight games played, with Jack Wilshere’s goal, in particular, showcasing the immense talent at Arsene Wenger’s disposal.

However, talk of the Gunners being strong favourites for the title is premature and they’ll certainly face bigger tests in the future, rather than the limp performance offered by Norwich yesterday.

In the past, many of Arsene Wenger’s teams have tended to be bullied out of the game when confronted by the better Premier League sides, and of the clubs they’ve faced so far, only Tottenham can be considered genuine top-four contenders.

However, that is not to detract from their performances thus far, nor is it unreasonable to think that this side is more equipped to deal with such challenges in comparison to previous incarnations of the team.

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5. Newcastle game exposes Liverpool’s flaws

Both the good and the bad aspects of this Liverpool side were evident in their 2-2 draw with Newcastle yesterday.

Rooney and Van Persie is perhaps the only strike partnership in the Premier League that can be said to rival Suarez and Sturridge, and the latter duo’s influence was again obvious on Saturday.

Nevertheless, their flaws are more conspicuous elsewhere — in midfield, Jordan Henderson is improving but far from the finished product, while Steven Gerrard is not quite the force he once was.

And Brendan Rodgers’ side’s defensive vulnerability was also clear, if not for Yohan Cabaye’s near-unstoppable stunning first goal, certainly for Paul Dummett’s all-too-easy second.

While they currently sit in joint-second place, the more Liverpool play this season, the more a top-four finish looks a big ask.

Additional reporting by Ben Blake

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Paul Fennessy

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