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5 talking points from Saturday's Premier League action

Mario Balotelli’s woe continues and more issues from this afternoon’s action.

It was another miserable afternoon for Mario Balotelli and Newcastle.
It was another miserable afternoon for Mario Balotelli and Newcastle.

Updated at 21.01

1. Too convenient to single out Balotelli as a scapegoat for Liverpool’s slump

MARIO BALOTELLI CERTAINLY doesn’t make things easy for himself. Just as the second half of Newcastle v Liverpool was kicking off today, the Italian international was seen belatedly emerging from the dressing room tunnel.

While this was nothing more than a minor issue, it comes at a time when Balotelli is under severe pressure as a result of his part in Liverpool’s slump, and a more PR savvy footballer might make a greater effort to refrain from drawing attention to himself in a negative way on such a regular basis.

Yet while the 24-year-old has plainly failed to catch fire since joining Liverpool — registering just two goals and zero assists in all competitions this season — the level of scorn aimed at him in recent times is undeserved.

The Italian will never be at Luis Suarez’s level, but the same can be said about more or less every other striker in the world.

Moreover, while Liverpool have been below-par up front this season, the midfield and defensive areas have hardly looked considerably healthier by comparison.

2. Are Southampton even stronger now than they were last season?

Southampton looked so depleted during the summer — losing key players such as Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw — that some pundits went as far as to tip them for relegation.

Not only have the Saints added the excellent likes of Dušan Tadić and Graziano Pellè to their squad since then though, others have been given a chance to step up and duly obliged.

Victor Wanyama was by no means a first-team regular for Southampton last year in his first season at the club, yet he has featured in all 10 of their league matches this term, and showed admirable composure to score the only goal of the game against Hull today.

It was also another clean sheet for a side that has conceded just five goals this season — the next best defensive teams have let in twice as many.

The victory means Ronald Koeman’s side will stay second even if City win tomorrow’s Manchester Derby — not bad for a club who were 22nd in League One just over five years ago.

3. Does Mourinho ALWAYS need something to complain about?

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Chelsea v Queens Park Rangers - Stamford Bridge Source: Stephen Pond

(Jose Mourinho was not totally happy despite his side’s win today)

Sometimes, you can’t help but feel that Jose Mourinho is his own worst enemy.

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Even at this early stage, Chelsea are looking like title winners in waiting, owing to their incredibly impressive start to the season, replete with Cesc Fabregas registering his ninth assist of the campaign this afternoon.

Yet the Perpetually Dissatisfied One took a dig at the Chelsea fans following their 2-1 win over QPR today.

“Everyone knows how much I feel connected to this club and the fans,” he told talkSPORT. “At this moment it’s difficult for us to play at home though, because playing here is like playing in an empty stadium.

“The team then starts playing like it’s a quiet, soft game at home. It’s difficult to get that strong start where the players, team and fans at Stamford Bridge [are all together].”

Mourinho’s perfectionist nature is ostensibly what makes him a great manager, but conversely, it is also seemingly what prompts his self-destructive tendencies at the best of times.

4. Alexis Sanchez proving his worth at Arsenal

For £35 million, Arsenal would have expected a world-class player, and there is no doubt Alexis Sanchez is currently living up to his price tag.

The Chilean international has 10 goals and three assists in all competitions for the Gunners this season, including a brace in their defeat of Burnley today, thereby emphasising his impact since arriving in England.

Sanchez’s standout performance was a much-needed boost for Arsene Wenger, who saw his side register back-to-back victories for the first-time this season.

When TheScore.ie interviewed journalist and long-time Arsenal watcher Amy Lawrence about her new book on the Invincibles recently, the question was posed as to whether many of the current side could get a place in that famous team. Unsurprisingly, Sanchez’s name was one of the few that cropped up.

5. Swansea’s defence proves resolute once again

Anyone watching today’s Everton-Swansea game will not be surprised to hear that the Welsh side have the joint-second best defensive record in the Premier League.

Even when they were reduced to 10 men once Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for a second bookable offence, the Swans looked relatively comfortable and assured at the back, with Ashley Williams once again showing why he is one of the Premier League’s most underrated centre-halfs.

For Everton meanwhile, a frustrating start to the season continued, as Roberto Martinez was left to rue his decision not to pick star striker Romelu Lukaku from the start.

The Toffees have been especially poor at home this term, and now have won just one of their five league games at Goodison Park since the beginning of the campaign.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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