Premier League: Five things we learnt: The same problems for Manchester United; don't question Arsene Wenger; Eagles continue to soar

Liverpool have genuine top-four concerns and Alan Pardew remains on borrowed time

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The Independent Football

£150m later, it’s same-old, same-old for Manchester United

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but anyone could see Manchester United’ biggest problems lay with their defence. The failure to sign a recognised world-class centre-back in the summer – United had pursued Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund to no avail – and Sunday’s incredible 5-3 defeat at Leicester highlighted their mounting issues.

The red card to Tyler Blackett was compounded by the sight of Jonny Evans being forced off early and leaving the King Power Stadium in a protective boot, and the Northern Irishman joins fellow-centre-back Phil Jones on the injury list. That leaves Louis van Gaal without his preferred defensive pairing, meaning a re-jig will have to take place ahead of next weekend’s visit of West Ham.

Rafael will likely remain on the right despite giving away a penalty in the defeat to the Foxes, with Chris Smalling likely to partner either Marcus Rojo or Daley Blind in the centre. Should the Argentinian switch to the middle, 19-year-old Luke Shaw could be handed his debut on the left. Needless to say, United made a huge error in not moving swiftly in the summer to add real talent to their back-line.

Stop questioning Arsene Wenger

The Arsenal manager continues to be questioned on anything and everything – was Mesut Özil worth it, why won’t he go out and buy a striker and so on – yet Wenger keeps on coming out the other side smiling. His latest justification came when both the German midfielder and deadline day signing Danny Welbeck led a three minute 12 second period of complete domination that took Saturday’s fixture against Aston Villa out of reach.


The build-up to the 3-0 victory had been dominated by talk of Özil underperforming this season, while Welbeck’s three misses against Borussia Dortmund in midweek had led to concerns of his composure in front of goal. Özil even laid on the assist for Welbeck’s first goal in Arsenal colours, but the latest question for Wenger is can he draw that type of performance out of Özil every week?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Liverpool have genuine concerns of missing out on the top four

The absence of Luis Suarez, the leaking defence at the back, defeat to Aston Villa and West Ham. Things are far from rosy at Liverpool, and even Brendan Rodgers has conceded that their early-season form is not good enough. The Northern Irishman put it partly down to their return to the Champions League, but the return to Europe in midweek certainly affected the Reds’ lacklustre performance against the Hammers.

However, beyond the emotional ties that came with the midweek 2-1 was a clear problem among Liverpool’s defence. Mamadou Sakho looks to be a shell of the player he had been tipped to develop into, and the strange decision to introduce the Frenchman after 20 minutes for Javier Manquillo was a strange one to say the least. Until Rodgers can introduce a more defensively sound style of play that the Reds can utilise, Liverpool’s concerns will continue.

The Eagles can soar under Neil Warnock

Nobody gave Crystal Palace a chance of Premier League survival when Tony Pulis left the club on the eve of the Premier League season, and there was even less hope at Selhurst Park when Neil Warnock returned to the helm. But credit to Warnock, he has implemented a similar playing style that Pulis applied, and he reaped the rewards with a fantastic 3-2 comeback victory over top-four hopefuls Everton.

Brendan Rodgers looks on unhappily during the 3-1 defeat to West Ham

Palace were expected to scrap against those teams surrounding them in the table for the points that will help them to survival, but if they can continue to pick up positive results such as Sunday’s fight-back then they could very well find themselves ahead of the relegation dogfight.

Alan Pardew survives, but for how long?

At 2-0 down to Hull, Alan Pardew must have feared the worst. The Newcastle fans had turned their support for the team to anger towards the man in the dugout, who responded by throwing on striker Papiss Cisse despite the Senegalese only just returning to fitness. He didn’t disappoint, and his two goals to draw Newcastle level surely brought Pardew an extra week at St James’ Park. In fact, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley came out immediately in support of Pardew, revealing that he won’t be sacked.

Alan Pardew was relieved to salvage a 2-2 draw with Hull

But with Newcastle remaining bottom of the Premier League and a tricky trip to Stoke next Monday, the situation on Tyneside could quickly change – and not in Pardew’s favour.