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5 talking points from today's Premier League action

Irish defenders’ worrying lack of form and other topics from Saturday’s games.

Manchester City's Yaya Toure celebrates a goal.
Manchester City's Yaya Toure celebrates a goal.

1. Irish defenders are in worrying form

John O’Shea produced a disappointing performance as Sunderland were beaten by Crystal Palace today.

The Irish defender was rightly red carded for an ill-advised last-man foul, with Palace scoring the resulting penalty.

And O’Shea isn’t the only one of Trap’s players who seems to be having a torrid time.

Ciaran Clark, ostensibly Ireland’s other first-choice centre-back, has yet to play a full 90 minutes for Villa, and didn’t feature at all in their most recent match against Liverpool.

And ironically, the Irish Premier League defender who is arguably in the best form out of anyone at the moment — Damien Delaney — has been left out of Trapattoni’s 23-man squad to face Sweden and Austria.

2. An air of caution permeates the Premier League

Somewhat incredibly, all of this afternoon’s 3pm Premier League games were 0-0 at half-time, with just three goals being scored in total between them.

The number of goals per game in the Premier League has increased substantially since the competition’s inception, and while it is justifiably described as the most entertaining league in the world on this basis, it also is one in which the defending evidently leaves much to be desired.

Yet today’s scenario, coupled with last week’s Man United-Chelsea 0-0 draw, suggests English clubs are finally embracing a more sophisticated, continental style of football.

And with just under half the managers in the league currently not of British origin, this change in emphasis seems to be a natural development.

3. Is Hatem Ben Arfa the most frustrating player in the Premier League?

YouTube credit: AllGoalsVideoHD

Some readers may remember Derby County’s Costa Rica-born former striker Paolo Wanchope.


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Wanchope was capable of occasional brilliance but also frequently looked maddeningly ineffectual.

Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa is a similar type of player, who has an ability to demonstrate sporadic moments of genius, as he showed today.

However, all too often, he shows a lack of footballing intelligence, choosing to play the wrong pass, or overrunning the ball when better options are available.

In their current dire state at least, Newcastle will surely feel that the erratic French international is ultimately worth the hassle.

4. Man City still not totally convincing

While they won 2-0 today, there are signs that Man City remain a troubled club.

Their unconvincing victory over Hull was in stark contrast to the relative ease with which fellow title contenders Chelsea disposed of the same team in their first game of the season.

Manuel Pellegrini, of course, took over a side with well-documented dressing room problems and talk of cliques involving various subsets of players.

As both today’s game and especially last week’s loss to Cardiff illustrated, the Chilean coach has a mammoth task on his hands if he is to emulate Roberto Mancini’s achievement of bringing Premier League silverware to Eastlands.

5. Who are you and what have you done with Stoke?

Despite Mark Hughes only being coach of Stoke for a short period period of time, he has managed to transform the side with remarkable alacrity.

Against West Ham today, they secured a deserved 1-0 victory, and were virtually unrecognisable at times from the individuals that played under Tony Pulis.

It was obvious that the Welshman had encouraged his side to play passing football, and the emphasis on creative play was epitomised by his decision to select Charlie Adam ahead of Glenn Whelan.

Changing a formula that has been relatively successful for Stoke for many years seems a considerable risk, but with the Potters currently lying fifth in the table, it seems to be working extremely well for now.

Negredo and Toure combine to give City the spoils against Hull

John O’Shea: Ireland fans will miss Robbie Keane when he’s gone

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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