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How Man United must rue Eden Hazard snub and other Premier League talking points

Also, Tottenham’s title credentials will only grow if they keep Mauricio Pochettino and how did it come to this for David Moyes?

Image: Nick Potts

Chelsea’s cutting edge in attack is something Jose Mourinho badly lacks

BACK IN 2012, Alex Ferguson wanted to sign Eden Hazard from Lille. But Chelsea did too. And they were willing to pay £34m for him. Ferguson scoffed at the price, deemed it too high and went for cut-price deals for Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell instead.

Of course, United won the title in 2013, largely thanks to Robin van Persie’s goals. But, just like that transfer, it was short-term. Ferguson left, so did everyone else it seemed and ever since, they’ve badly lacked a cutting edge up front – a player who can get on the ball and make something happen.

They’ve badly lacked an Hazard.

His time at Chelsea has had plenty more positives than negatives. There has been a litany of personal accolades and winners’ medals too. Yes, there was a slump in 2015/2016. But, then again, it wasn’t just Hazard who was affected by it.

French First League, Montpellier HSC Vs Lille OSC Hazard in action for Lille in 2012. Source: Szwarc Henri

He’s set to enjoy his best ever season since arriving at Stamford Bridge and rack up a second championship.

In many ways, he perfectly illustrates the current gulf between Chelsea and United. He’s the creator, the architect, the brains. The perfect foil for the the brawn of Diego Costa. He has the ability to beat defenders and open things up. In the big games, he turns up – like against Manchester City and Arsenal.

Chelsea have options in attack. They have variations. A player like Hazard affords you different opportunities.

As United were left frustrated again on Thursday – with Mourinho referring to his attackers as ‘sloppy’ – how they could do with the ingenuity and cleverness of Hazard.

And how the club’s top-brass must regret their decision from five years ago.

Tottenham are the most in-form team in the league and are waiting in the long grass

It doesn’t seem that long ago since Tim Sherwood prowled the Tottenham touchline in a fetching gilet. It was an uncertain period for the club following the difficult Andre Villas Boas’ regime and when Louis van Gaal turned down White Hart Lane in favour of Old Trafford, the future didn’t look too bright.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Cardiff City - White Hart Lane Source: Stephen Pond

But Mauricio Pochettino has shone, piecing together a remarkable squad over a short space of time and immersing the team in successive title challenges.

Right now, they’re the most in-form side in the top-flight. From their last six games, they’ve won them all. In that time period, they’ve scored more than Chelsea and conceded less. And they’re perfectly placed if Antonio Conte’s side stumble.

Their support cast has stepped up and delivered when they’ve been needed the most. Harry Kane’s absence wasn’t even felt due to the performances of Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen while Dele Alli may well finish the campaign as the club’s top scorer.

But Pochettino is the key. Keep hold of him and Tottenham’s title credentials will continue to grow.

Arsenal will go down in the River to pray for a miracle turnaround

It was 11 years ago when Arsenal thumped seven past Middlesbrough at Highbury as Thierry Henry equalled Cliff Bastin’s club record of 150 league goals with a magnificent hat-trick.

It was one of those electric, devastating performances of attacking football. When Robert Pires curled in the fourth before half-time, he and his team-mates just shared an embarrassed smile as they celebrated. They were that good.

Source: Arsenal Retro TV/YouTube

Now, things are slightly different. A trip to the second-worst team in the league brings with it absolutely zero guarantees. The club is in a funk, the loss to Crystal Palace on Monday a reminder of just how bad the entire mess has gotten.

The club are in sixth place and seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City having played a game less. Arsene Wenger has admitted a Champions League place next season will be a ‘massive’ challenge.

The thing is, Everton are right on their shoulders having played two games more. There isn’t even a guarantee right now that Arsenal will finish in the top-six.

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To put it in context, Arsenal are limping over the finish line. All around them, teams are building up steam and they’re being left behind. Based on the last 10 games, even the likes of Hull and Watford are in better form.

As doomed Sunderland prepare for life in the Championship, how did it come to this for David Moyes?

It’s coming up on three years since David Moyes headed to Manchester United’s Carrington training ground and went for a jog. It was 4am and pitch black. But it was his way of dealing with what was about to happen to him.

In many ways, you wonder if he has ever properly got over it. Sacked by Manchester United after just ten months, in spite of being The Chosen One. It sent everything into a tailspin.

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League - Stadium of Light Source: Owen Humphreys

There was a strange, brief and inevitably difficult spell with Real Sociedad before he returned to England and stepped into the dysfunctional, chaotic environment of Sunderland.

The club is rooted to the foot of the table with just five wins from 31 games. With seven fixtures left, they’re 10 points from safety and are doomed.

Meanwhile, their former manager Sam Allardyce has had time to humiliate himself as England boss, lose that job, take another with Crystal Palace and navigate them away from the drop-zone.

It’s a fickle world.

Sunderland are already planning for life in the Championship and maybe that’s what they need to kickstart things. It’s been nine consecutive seasons in the top-flight and the drop seems to have whipped up some energy back in Newcastle – perhaps it could do something similar on Wearside?

For Moyes, he badly needs consistency and to win again. Perhaps the Championship can restore some confidence in him too.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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