Problems for Moyes
Are United's slow starts costing Moyes? Why is the pressure on Allardyce? What is going wrong for Villa and Southampton? Will Everton struggle? We analyse the weekend's big talking points
By Daniel Storey - @danielstorey85
Last Updated: 10/01/14 10:48am
Worst start to a new year in 82 years. Four defeats in six home games for the first time in 27 years. Four home league defeats in three months. Manchester United had suffered five in the previous three-and-a-half years. First Everton win at Old Trafford for 21 years. First Newcastle United win at Old Trafford for 41 years. First West Bromwich Albion win at Old Trafford for 35 years. Worst start to a season since 1989/1990.
After four months of first and worsts, David Moyes could sure do with a win against Swansea City on Saturday Night Football, live on Sky Sports 1HD, to try and get things slightly back on track. Interestingly, though, one of United's biggest failings this season has been their lack of resilience when falling behind. This was an issue that Sir Alex Ferguson managed to neatly sidestep last season, with United conceding the first goal of the game on a rather worrying 22 occasions in all competitions. However, more often than not, United responded, going on to take 38 points from those 22 games. In the Premier League last season they took 29 points from the 16 games they went 1-0 down in (1.81 points per game), by far the best in the division.
Under Moyes, this has changed dramatically. United have conceded first 12 times, but have gone on to win only three of those games (drawing one), gaining just 0.83 points per game. The shift from 1.81 to 0.83 is significant enough that if United had matched their resilience from last season, they would be sitting second in the Premier League, one point behind Arsenal.
Whether or not the pro-Moyes chants on Tuesday were genuine or a thin facade by fans desperate to convince themselves that this is not a crisis, it is evident that belief is low at Old Trafford - it has been more funfair than fortress for opposing sides this season. A fast start, an early goal and a confident performance will be tiny steps on the road to recovery, but anything else takes Moyes and United even closer to the mire. Concede first, and United look beaten.
One answer to this particular problem is obviously to score first, and Moyes' side have taken 23 points from a possible 27 when they have taken the lead. That is easier said than done, but underlines emphatically the need for a positive start against Swansea on Saturday.
Paul Merson is backing Manchester United to beat Swansea. Find out why.
Play it again, Sam
"We are not the first team to get beaten here by many, many goals and we will not be the last having seen Manchester City through this season."
Whilst West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce is indeed correct with his quotes following Wednesday's first-leg thrashing in the Capital One Cup, the fact that particular shambles came after the manager effectively sacrificed West Ham's participation in the other cup competition will have only further served to alienate him to the club's support.
Ignoring the Capital One Cup, Allardyce's side have now won one of their last 14 games, losing nine. No Premier League team has taken fewer points over this time period and they sit one point from the bottom of the table.
Sacking Sam Allardyce will only result in West Ham's weak squad being relegated, says Jeff Stelling.
Despite being 11th in the table, Paul Lambert is a man whose employment seems to be under sustained pressure. Last weekend's FA Cup defeat by Sheffield United (after Lambert himself demeaned the importance of the competition) ended with a quarter-full Villa Park voicing its evident displeasure at the fare served up.
It is a sound which Lambert is getting rather used to. Villa may sit in mid-table, but that place is anything but comfortable. They are just six points above the bottom three and have won three of their last 15 Premier League matches, taking two points from five matches against Stoke City, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and West Ham.
Pochettino's defensive selections
The pressure piled on Lambert clashes slightly when it is considered that Pochettino's Southampton are actually just four points ahead of Villa in the table, and after receiving deserved eulogies for their wonderful start to the season it is now one win in nine league games. Whilst defeats by Arsenal and Chelsea (twice) are nothing to be ashamed about, home performance has certainly regressed worryingly since the 4-1 win over Hull City in early November - one point in four games and 10 goals conceded.
A game at home to West Bromwich Albion, who have appointed Pepe Mel but will still be under the caretaker charge of Keith Downing, should provide an opportunity to get things back on track at St Mary's, but after conceding three goals to Championship Burnley last weekend, surely the time has come for Pochettino to stop tinkering with his centre-back pairing?
Roberto Martinez has not been forced to deal with too many headaches since taking over at Goodison Park, but injury concerns will have caused him some concern this week.
The first possible casualty is Leighton Baines, who missed the FA Cup cruise over Queens Park Ranger with a back spasm. "Leighton is recovering as we expected so I do not think he is going to be too far from being able to train," were the Spaniard's words over his left back. "Any player needs to be 100 per cent to be able to play and to be considered to play, so we will assess him on Thursday."
In addition to Baines, both of Everton's first choice central defenders (Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin) have already been ruled out with hamstring injuries, meaning Martinez will be forced to again name a pairing of Antonin Alcaraz and John Stones. It worked against QPR, but Norwich (and a relatively in-form Gary Hooper) will provide a sterner test. After the draw against Stoke and defeat at home by Sunderland, Martinez will hope that his new look defence can hold firm.