Gerrard could miss Liverpool’s critical month
The hamstring injury that forced Steven Gerrard off against West Ham could not have come at a worse time for Liverpool. The indications are it could keep the England captain out for up to six weeks. Since Daniel Sturridge’s ankle injury will prevent him playing again until the end of January, Liverpool could face away fixtures at Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea without two pivotal players. More than ever they will seem a one-man team. Fortunately for them, that man is Luis Suarez.
Some academies are not just for show
When Abu Dhabi United took over Manchester City five years ago, it was said the club’s academy, which had produced Micah Richards and Michael Johnson, was at the centre of their plans. The team Manuel Pellegrini fielded at Southampton on Saturday was all bought in and, James Milner aside, entirely foreign. Southampton, by contrast, may be the club around which England’s World Cup challenge of 2018 is based. The academy that produced Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain now has Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse and Adam Lallana showing what can be done by growing your own.
Hughton has true bouncebackability
It was Iain Dowie who invented the word bouncebackability but it is Chris Hughton who has turned theory into practice. Wednesday night’s 5-1 humbling at Anfield was the sixth time Norwich have lost a Premier League game by four goals or more under Hughton. However, only once have they lost the next match. They followed up their 7-0 annihilation at the Etihad last month with a 3-1 win against West Ham and on Saturday they washed away the too familiar taste of Suarez with a 2-0 win at West Bromwich.
Crystal Palace are beating the teams they have to
In 1997 Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League at Selhurst Park after a campaign in which they beat Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea at Roker Park. Unfortunately for Peter Reid, Sunderland took three points from eight games against Leicester, Southampton, West Ham and Wimbledon. Crystal Palace have produced no kind of heroics against the big clubs this season. However, their three wins under three different managers are against the teams they need to keep down if they are to survive – Hull City, Sunderland and now Cardiff City.
Poyet is playing a very dangerous game
Having lost narrowly to Chelsea and Tottenham, you might have expected Gus Poyet to produce the “I couldn’t have asked any more of the lads” cliché (copyright Tony Pulis). Instead, he laid into his players for not having the heart to compete with Spurs and said that if Sunderland did not win three games over Christmas they would probably be relegated. Poyet is banking a lot on replacing some of those players in January; if he can’t and their form doesn’t pick up, he is left with footballers whose spirit he does not trust and whom he publicly believes will go down.