Opening day results can be misleading – look at Villa
When Aston Villa won 3-1 at the Emirates on the opening day, Arsène Wenger was castigated, Arsenal written off, and Villa talked of as top 10 material. Three games later, Arsenal are top and Villa loiter nervously above the relegation zone.
A trio of successive defeats has sapped Villa’s confidence and, while losing at Chelsea and to Liverpool was hardly damning, a home defeat to Newcastle United is cause for concern. In manager Paul Lambert’s in tray are the need to defray the suspicion that Villa’s attack is more suited to playing away from home and his team’s failure to keep a clean sheet in 2013.
Combative Jol takes criticism personally
Fulham were booed off after conceding an injury-time equaliser to West Bromwich Albion, with Martin Jol subjected to chants of “Jol out”. The manager did not like it. In an ideal world, he intimated, he would ask the fans responsible “outside” to discuss their complaints and once, it seems, he did take direct action. “I’m proud,” he said. “When people start yelling at you... I would like people to be a bit more appreciative. I can’t tell them to come outside of the stadium after the game so I have to put up with it. Sometimes you make mistakes in life: last year, I did something, but luckily nobody saw it.”
If Ben Arfa stays fit he can be Newcastle’s ‘new signing’
Bill Shankly used to ignore injured players, reasoning they were no use to him. Managers now adopt a more pastoral attitude to their lame, but Shankly’s reasoning remains accurate, which is why managers often say that when a long-term injury victim returns to fitness it is like having a new player.
Hatem Ben Arfa started only 35 games in his first three seasons at Newcastle United. If Alan Pardew and his medical team can keep the Frenchman fit he will be the “new signing” Joe Kinnear failed to land. As Aston Villa found, a fit Ben Arfa, running at defenders and unleashing shots, is a handful.
Danny Graham needs a break
It does not matter whether it goes on off his backside, his knee of the back of his head while he’s not looking, but Danny Graham needs a goal from somewhere. He last scored on New Year’s Day, shortly before the Newcastle-fan made his ill-fated £5m move to Sunderland.
He has since played nearly 20 hours football without a goal in any competition and his lack of confidence showed when he missed two excellent chances against Cardiff on Saturday. In the old days Steve Bruce would have put him in the reserves against weak opposition to bag a few and boost his belief. That option is no longer available. Instead Bruce can field Graham against Huddersfield in the Capital One Cup – having omitted the striker in the last round against League One Leyton Orient, or call in a sports psychologist, that still undervalued discipline.
Great Dane Eriksen is a real steal for Spurs
Christian Eriksen has been on the radar of Premier League clubs since he was at school – Chelsea invited him for a trial at 14 – but he first came to wider attention here when he shone for Denmark against England shortly before his 19th birthday.
The surprise is that it has taken so long for him to leave Ajax. Manchester City did try to sign him last year but Eriksen felt he could spend too long on the bench. Tottenham Hotspur were the right club at the right time and, at £11m, Eriksen, now 21, is an absolute steal, as he showed with his performance against Norwich City on Saturday.