Is Roberto Soldado the main problem for goal-shy Spurs? What will England do about Joe Hart? Can Chelsea continue to struggle away from home? We review the weekend's major talking points in the Premier League and select our Team of the Week
By Peter Fraser, Daniel Storey & Matt Stanger
Last Updated: 04/11/13 11:31am
Team of the Week
Following his freak, early goal against Southampton, it is impossible to ignore Stoke City's Asmir Begovic. The shot-stopper would be behind a back four of Tottenham Hotspur pair Jan Vertonghen, playing out of position at left-back as he did against Everton, and Michael Dawson while Hull City centre-back Curtis Davies and Newcastle United right-back Mathieu Debuchy complete the defence.
Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj continued his excellent season to take his place on the left of midfield as Cardiff City's Gary Medel, who had a pass completion rate of 96.5 per cent against Swansea City, and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey fill the central positions. David Silva has to play a little bit out of position on the right but cannot be ignored after helping to demolish Norwich City.
In attack, Sergio Aguero has now scored six goals in four starts against Norwich. His strike partner would be Robin van Persie, who became the highest scoring Dutchman in the Premier League, after his goal and assist for Wayne Rooney added to their deadly partnership in Manchester United's win over Fulham.
One of the principal weapons in a race for the top four is the possession of a striker who can make something happen out of nothing, can take a dreary 0-0 and turn it into a victory. In Roberto Soldado, Tottenham Hotspur currently have a striker who seems at best quiet and at worst wilfully ineffective and disinterested. At Everton on Sunday, an interesting comparison could be drawn. Neither side's most obvious goalscoring threat, Soldado or Romelu Lukaku, performed particularly impressively. Lukaku was dispossessed more times (20) than any other player in a display that brought just one shot, off target.
However, Lukaku provided in other ways, and during a first half in which Everton were poor for large periods, often pinned back through their own sloppiness, he acted as a defensive presence - no other player on the pitch made more clearances. Furthermore, with his five goals so far this season, Lukaku has already displayed his effectiveness. Finally, this is a striker still six months short of his 21st birthday, and is on loan. In contrast, Soldado did not even evidently attempt to get involved. No other player who lasted the duration had fewer touches of the ball, and the Spaniard's afternoon comprised of two shots, both off target. The forward was also involved in four duels for the ball, all of which he lost. Soldado's form is a major factor in Spurs having scored only nine league goals so far this season.
As expected following a series of high-profile errors, Joe Hart was dropped from Manchester City's team for Saturday's game against Norwich. And, hey, Joe, what do you know, Manuel Pellegrini's team went on to win 7-0. Hart is in one of those quirks of fate in football which sees the game really kick you when you are down. As a side note, Manchester City have now scored 28 goals in the league, more than any other team.
Ominously for Hart, though, Pellegrini has also said: "I do not know when he will be back in the team but he knows he must work very hard." This suggests he will not return to City's starting XI any time soon unless Costel Pantilimon suffers a massive implosion in form. But what does this mean for England?
International boss Roy Hodgson need only look at the other end of the Etihad Stadium pitch on Saturday to have seen one of Hart's understudies, John Ruddy, conceding seven goals. That is the reason why Hart is likely to continue to enjoy the full backing of Hodgson when he names his squad on Thursday for the forthcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany. In terms of experience and ability, Hart is by far and away England's best goalkeeper. Even if he remains on the sidelines for City, expect Hodgson to continue with the 26-year-old as the No.1 up to and including the World Cup.
There appears to be three managers who are hanging onto their jobs in the Premier League by their absolute finger tips. The thumping at the hands of Manchester City has left Norwich's Chris Hughton further in trouble while Fulham's ragged defending in the defeat by Manchester United caused more problems for Martin Jol. Elsewhere, despite the derby win over Swansea, the tension between Malky Mackay and Cardiff owner Vincent Tan seems set to only end in one messy conclusion.
As it turned out, even with three men in the centre Liverpool failed to get to grips with Arsenal's rampant midfield - led by the superb Mikel Arteta - in Saturday evening's 2-0 defeat and it was only in the last quarter of the game that they enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure.
Had Philippe Coutinho been fit to start, boss Brendan Rodgers would likely have played Jordan Henderson on the right and brought the Brazilian into the middle. However, Coutinho's erratic performance in the second half proved that it will take him time to reach full speed following the shoulder injury that ruled him out for six matches.
As an aside, why was Joe Allen not deemed worthy of a starting spot in the middle to allow Henderson to play ahead of Jon Flanagan on the right? Rodgers has made several shrewd acquisitions during his short reign as Liverpool manager but the £32million spent on Allen, Fabio Borini and Iago Aspas has been as useful as Kenny Dalglish's £35m outlay on Andy Carroll.
Goalscorer Steven Caulker took the headlines in Cardiff win over Swansea. However, Chilean Gary Medel produced an almost faultless performance for his team. It was in his passing where the midfielder truly excelled and he attempted 85 passes at an incredible success rate of 96.5%. Both of those statistics were highs for the match. Not only that but 30 of Medel's passes were in Swansea's half at a success rate of 93.3%. It was also Medel's arcing, long pass to Kevin Theophile-Catherine which led to the corner from which Cardiff scored. Comparing Medel's general overall statistics to the opposing central midfielders of Swansea, Jonjo Shelvey and Leon Britton, epitomises where the game was won and lost. Medel came out on top in every area, apart from aerial duels.
Chelsea's away form needs serious attention. From five games on their travels this season, Jose Mourinho's team have taken just five points. Their defeat at Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime was the most recent setback. Fernando Torres was previously earning rave reviews and suggestions he was back to his best. But the Spaniard touched the ball just 17 times, a lower number than any player on the pitch, before he was substituted.