5 talking points from Saturday's Premier League action

Our thoughts on Ryan Giggs’ managerial debut, Everton’s Champions League setback and more.

Juan Mata scored a brace as United earned a comfortable victory.
Juan Mata scored a brace as United earned a comfortable victory.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. Giggs passes first test but encouraging display unlikely to sway owners

AFTER A SLOW and nervous start for Man United today, some dreadful Norwich defending enabled the hosts to secure the lead towards the end of the first half in today’s evening kick-off, and they barely looked back from there, earning a comfortable 4-0 win.

Having dominated the play in the first period without really threatening to find a breakthrough, Steven Whittaker’s sudden decision to pull back Danny Welbeck and give away a penalty ultimately proved costly.

The second half was a different story to the first, with United noticeably more confident and slick in their attack play, while Norwich looked increasingly tame and hapless as their opponents grew into the game. The rookie Welsh manager consequently passed his first test with a level of conviction, yet for anyone to suggest he should get the job on the basis of a 4-0 win over Norwich seems ridiculous.

Moyes often beat weaker teams comprehensively — it has only been a few weeks since United swept aside Aston Villa 4-1, for instance.

Consequently, considering Giggs for such a large a seismic task as United boss — even if he wins all his remaining games — seems more than a little naive when it’s someone with no managerial experience who is under the spotlight.

2. Everton’s Champions League dreams appear over

Arsenal host Newcastle on Monday knowing a win could take them four points clear of top-four rivals Everton.

Knowing the Gunners’ record against the smaller sides, it seems highly improbable now that they’d let Champions League football escape from their grasp.

The Toffees’ 2-0 loss at Southampton today looks to have sealed their fate, with two uncharacteristic defensive errors proving the catalyst for their downfall.

Roberto Martinez’s team have struggled for consistency in recent weeks, losing to Crystal Palace and the Saints, while beating Arsenal and United.

Perhaps tiredness, prompted by a lack of squad depth, has kicked in, as they were plainly nowhere near their peak level today. Nonetheless, while they probably don’t deserve Champions League football on that basis, their recent disappointments still shouldn’t detract unduly from what has been a fantastic season for Everton, in which they have been able to sustain and build on the achievements of the Moyes era.

3. Lies, damned lies and Tottenham-related statistics

If statistics were to be trusted entirely, then Tim Sherwood would be the best manager in Tottenham’s recent history.

The young manager has a better win ratio than any of his predecessors, and Spurs are in a similar position points-wise to where they ended up last year.

For a side that lost a highly influential and world-class player in Gareth Bale last summer, you could even argue that that’s not a bad return overall.

However, despite this decent record, it also cannot be ignored that whenever Sherwood’s Tottenham have faced top sides such as Chelsea and Liverpool this year, they have invariably crumbled.

Even leading 1-0 against 10-man Stoke, they still looked in danger of throwing the game away, as they sat back and allowed their numerically inferior opponents to gain a level of momentum, with Hugo Lloris having to pull off a number of good saves to rescue his side.

Therefore, no matter how many statistics Sherwood may reference, there still appears to be a certain flimsiness to this Tottenham side that is undermining their extravagant ambitions.

4. Fulham rejuvenation cut short by Long header

For the first time in months, Fulham had an opportunity to move out of the relegation zone today.

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And indeed, it seemed a sort of now-or-never situation, as they were playing at home against a Hull side that had all but ensured their Premier League survival already.

Felix Magath has done a superb job in rejuvenating a club in such a quick time, with confidence levels ostensibly at an all-time low when René Meulensteen’s ludicrously brief tenure came to an end.

Yet the Londoners may look back on today as the game that ultimately cost them their Premier League status. All appeared to be going to plan, as Magath’s side established a 2-0 lead inside the opening hour, nevertheless two goals in last 15 minutes, from Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, silenced the Craven Cottage faithful.

5. Are fans asking too much of Sam Allardyce?

Sam Allardyce, it could be argued, is the perfect example of an underappreciated manager.

Wherever he goes, he seems to acquire relative success, yet fans respond by jeering his teams and complaining of negative tactics.

For a side who were in the Championship only two seasons ago, West Ham’s current position of 14th, ensuring they will avoid relegation for another season, is not bad going by any means.

Yet supporters have persistently expressed their frustration with the Hammers’ performances under Big Sam, and their 1-0 loss to West Brom (another club who are now effectively safe from relegation) today was no exception.

Allardyce’s methods are unquestionably successful to a point — however, it would be typical if West Ham decided to dispense with his services ultimately, as they make another questionable attempt to become a more successful club.

Accordingly, the powers that be at Upton Park might do well to remember what subsequently happened to the last two clubs that sacked Allardyce — Newcastle and Blackburn — before they make any rash decisions owing to fan pressure.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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