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5 talking points from Sunday's Premier League action

Liverpool’s unconvincing win, David Moyes’ protestations and much more.

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his side's first goal.
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring his side's first goal.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

1. Liverpool-Saints clash a tale of two substitutions

WITH THE GAME finely balanced at 1-1 in the second half of today’s earlier fixture between Southampton and Liverpool, two substitutions were made that ultimately changed the course of the match.

Liverpool introduced Rickie Lambert for the ineffectual Philippe Coutinho, meaning the Anfield outfit reverted to a decidedly more direct and attacking approach.

Southampton, by contrast, took off their best player, Dusan Tadic, and brought on Shane Long for the final few minutes.

The Irish striker was deployed mainly on the right wing in an ostensibly defensive move, as Ronald Koeman’s side looked to hold on for a draw.

However, Liverpool were ultimately rewarded for being the more adventurous of the two sides — Lambert’s mere presence in the Saints box caused palpable nervousness among the defenders and provided the Reds with greater attacking impetus.

Hence, it was no surprise when Liverpool ultimately grabbed the winner through Daniel Sturridge on 79 minutes, as fortune favoured the brave on this occasion.

2. Rodgers still looking for balance between defence and attack

One of the big problems for Liverpool last year was finding the right balance between defence and attack.

As potent as they were going forward, playing with Suarez and Sturridge up front left the club exposed defensively, with Steven Gerrard lacking the legs to comprehensively protect the back four and centre-backs such as Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho looking increasingly unsure of themselves as the season progressed.

Today, Brendan Rodgers opted for a five-man midfield, with Sturridge as the main attacker, yet it wasn’t until Rickie Lambert’s introduction and the change to two up front that they began to look consistently dangerous.

Inevitably though, the Reds simultaneously looked vulnerable on the counter following this formation change, and they were fortunate not to concede late on when Shane Long headed just wide.

So naturally, Liverpool remain very much a work in progress for now, with Rodgers still clearly unsure of the best approach for his team to adopt.

3. Timing of Moyes’ comments curious

Moyes assault investigation Source: Martin Rickett

David Moyes’ comments today that he felt he hadn’t been given enough time at Manchester United were hardly a shock.

On the one hand, it’s easy to sympathise with Moyes given the enormity of the challenge he faced, yet conversely, the Scot was surely more than a little naive if he genuinely thought he’d be afforded the type of patience that Alex Ferguson was given in the early days of his tenure at United.

The world of modern-day football management is a harsh one and like any other high-profile business, Man United won’t hesitate to sack a manager if he is not performing to expectations on a regular enough basis.

But what was particularly interesting was the timing of the comments — would that interview have appeared for instance, if Louis van Gaal’s side had beaten Swansea 4-1 yesterday, as Moyes’ team did during his first Premier League game as Man United manager this time last year? Certainly, his words would have had nowhere near the same potency if that had been the case.

4. Has Dzeko’s time finally come?

Edin Dzeko is one of those strikers that is invariably described as ‘frustrating’.

The Bosnian international is undoubtedly talented — at times in his City career, he has looked well worth the £27 million (€32m) that was paid to prise him from Wolfsburg.

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Yet on other occasions, he has looked inept and worse, disinterested, which is why the 28-year-old has struggled to maintain a place in the first XI throughout his City career.

Nevertheless, all hope is not lost. Dzeko ended last season in excellent form, and set up David Silva’s opening goal against Newcastle today in outrageous fashion.

If the enigmatic attacker continues in this manner, 2014-15 could well be the campaign in which he unequivocally claims his place among the world’s top strikers and finally achieves consistency in his game.

5. Man City as unconvincing as everyone else

Just like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal — effectively all the top-four contenders who have played so far — Man City were a little underwhelming this afternoon.

Newcastle had chances and ultimately could have taken at least a point from the game with a little more luck or ruthlessness in front of goal.

However, when you consider that Liverpool and Chelsea among others dropped points at St James’ Park last year, today’s result surely represents a good win for Manuel Pellegrini’s side, irrespective of the circumstances in which it was obtained.

Post-World Cup hangovers and a lack of peak fitness throughout the team would, of course, also have contributed to their less-than-vintage display in the 4pm kick-off.

Consequently, tomorrow Chelsea have an opportunity to make the first real statement of the 2014-15 campaign by thrashing newly promoted Burnley, but don’t be surprised if they also find life trickier than expected for the reasons outlined above.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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