It was another good weekend for the top two, with Manchester United and City both coming from behind to claim three points. Third place Chelsea continue to endure their now standard difficult November, dropping two points at home to Liverpool, while of the chasing pack Arsenal do not have the same aura about them as in previous season. Here are five things we learned this weekend’s action
The super-sub is back
On Friday in our five things to look out for the weekend we spoke about Manchester City’s never say die attitude which has become a large part of their game this season. This was in evidence once again on Saturday when Roberto Mancini’s side came 1-0 down to beat Spurs 2-1 with the winner coming from Edin Dzeko with just three minutes to go.
Dzeko has made a habit of scoring late winners and Saturday’s goal was his sixth of the season with five of those coming from the bench.
Dzeko has been keen to play down the super-sub tag but the fact is that the Bosnian is not the club’s first striker and his match winning strikes are papering over the cracks at City. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs would all love to a player of the talents of Dzeko to come off the bench while of course those masters of comebacks and late winners Manchester United have one of their own in Javier Hernandez.
The Mexican came off the bench to rescue an unlikely three points with two goals and a deflected effort that sealed a 3-2 win from 2-0 down.
Hernandez has struggled for game time since the arrival of Robin van Persie however he reminded Sir Alex Ferguson of his talents with his match winning introduction.
The goal scoring impacts of Dzeko and Hernandez means they became the 16 and 17th players to score 10 goals or more from the bench. Guesses of the other 15 in the comments below
Brendan Rodgers is not afraid to make big tactical decisions
The last minute withdrawal of Martin Skrtel with a virus on Sunday left Rodgers with a potential dilemma ahead of the clash with Chelsea. The solution was to move to a 3-5-2 system with Andre Wisdom, Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger making up the back three.
The move worked out for the large part with the five man midfielder and three defenders affording the attacking quartet of Oscar, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres little space in the final third.
Mata did manage to create some space for himself towards the end of the first half but fired over when he should have hit the target while Brad Jones had to be at his best to keep out a Torres’ header after half time, however by and large Liverpool kept their hosts at bay.
With Chelsea becoming frustrated Rodgers reverted to a 4-4-2/4-3-3 formation with Johnson, who started as a right wing back, moving to left back and Wisdom going to right back. Jose Enrique became a left midfielder with Suso, on for Sahin, becoming very influential in a roaming role in the middle of the field.
The move worked with Suso’s corner flicked on by Carragher for Luis Suarez to nod home and the visitors could have won it late on with Suarez and man of the match Enrique both going close. The result made it 6 games unbeaten for the Reds and all the signs point to a team on the up.
Wayne Rooney is becoming a deep lying playmaker
With Javier Hernandez grabbing the headlines against Villa and Robin van Persie continuing where he left off last season with eight goals so far this season the pressure on Rooney to score has been less than in the past.
Rooney has only scored two goals so far this season but he created five goals to sit second in the assists charts one behind Juan Mata. Last season Rooney scored 27 goals and assisted in four however with RVP now the lead striker Rooney has been forced deeper, as witnessed by his performance against Newcastle in October.
Rooney is an all action player and the deep lying forward role suits him as he has a tendency to come deep for the ball. With Danny Welbeck, Hernandez and RVP all out and out strikers, the flexibility of Rooney will be key to United’s success this season.
Arsenal will struggle to win a trophy under Wenger’s new regime
Arsenal’s defence has been a shining light this season however on Saturday the old worries resurfaced with a Dimitar Berbatov inspired Fulham managing to breach the rearguard on three occasions.
While the Gunners showed their metal to come back after the shock of surrendering a two goal lead and could have it won but for Mikel Arteta’s injury time penalty miss all the signs point to another season of frustration for the Arsene Wenger’s men.
The club are currently in the midst of their worst ever start to a Premier League campaign, you have to go back to 1982/83 for a worse start, and they look very much a club short of belief. The players don’t seem to have the mental strength to believe they are good enough and much of that must fall on the Wenger.
Wenger is rightly regarded as a club legend for the work he has done since his arrival in London however maybe the time is coming for someone with fresh idea’s to come into the club and take them up a level. Relationships often become stale over time and while Arsenal have the bones of a good squad perhaps a new breath of fresh around the club could galvanise the team and push them onto success.
No need for a fancy tag line here, every football lover in England is well aware of the Derry man by now following his decision not to wear a poppy on his jersey on Saturday.
The youngster has come in for much criticism and reported death threats following his decision however regardless of your stance on the matter we do live in a world of free speech, a right those that died fought for, and if he chooses not to support a particular cause then let that be the case.
The situation should have been managed by his club boss and fellow Northern Irishman Martin O’Neill rather than the let the 23 year old be put in a situation that has put him a negative light in the English media.
The winger has courted controversy on occasions this season but he is more than willing to support causes as witnessed by his decision to donate a jersey, ironically the one from Saturday’s game with Everton, to raise money for the Children’s unit in Crumlin.