Seven things we learnt this weekend: Arsenal can't rely on Olivier Giroud, Liverpool lost before Steven Gerrard walked out at Anfield

Sunderland must capitalise against Gunners, Pearson takes the plaudits, where do Newcastle draw the line, Sherwood has problems at the back and Livermore lets down Hull

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The Independent Online

SUNDERLAND MUST TAKE CHANCE EARLY AGAINST SLOW-STARTING ARSENAL

Arsenal didn’t have a shot on target in the first half against Swansea last week, but that’s more that can be said of their 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday.

The Gunners didn’t manage a single shot in the opening 45 minutes, let alone one that was heading in the direction of David De Gea’s net, and their recent slow starts have to be cause for concern for Arsene Wenger for their remaining games this season – which includes the FA Cup final.

Before the Wembley showcase comes around though, Arsenal face a Sunderland side needing a point to stay in the Premier League next season. If the Black Cats are to gain any success, they will have to storm out of the blocks and catch the Gunners cold. Arsene Wenger has named an unchanged line-up for their last six games and fatigue does look to be a factor, and if Sunderland can convert their chances early on, the Mackems can prepare for another season in the top flight with a game to spare.

 

GIROUD HAS HIS TALENTS, BUT HE SIMPLY DOESN’T OFFER ENOUGH

Olivier Giroud has done well to answer his critics who said he wasn’t good enough for Arsenal, but the time has come for the club to reassess where they’re aiming for and the simple matter is Giroud doesn’t have the skill set to lead a Premier League title challenge. Giroud missed a glaring opportunity when one-on-one with De Gea, and he lacks the yard of pace that would make him a dangerous striker rather than just a talented one.

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Giroud can't lead Arsenal to the Premier League trophy

With Mesut Özil filling the attacking midfield role, Arsenal need a striker who is just as good as finishing as he is blessed with pace, given that the German rarely accelerates into top gear. The Walcott certainly has the pace but he is yet to display the natural finishing ability, and Giroud simply doesn’t meet that criteria, so who does? The answer is in the transfer market.

LIVERPOOL LOST TO PALACE BEFORE GERRARD HAD WALKED OUT AT ANFIELD

Take a second to think about what was going through Jordan Henderson’s mind ahead of Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. Or Raheem Sterling’s, or even Simon Mignolet’s. The way that Steven Gerrard’s final game at Anfield was built up, both by Liverpool and by Sky Sports, meant that every other player in Red was rendered obsolete from the word go.

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Every Liverpool player waited to welcome Gerrard out

The whole thing was billed as Gerrard’s special day, only no one had told Placae the script, and their players turned up with their heads screwed on in the hope of an upset. The performance echoed that of Pardew’s arrival at the club, where eight victories in 12 matches secured their Premier League status, and the problem for Liverpool is this wasn’t even Gerrard’s final farewell – we’ll have to sit through the same against next Sunday.

PEARSON IS LIKE MARMITE, BUT YOU HAVE TO RECOGNISED HIS ACHIEVEMENT

Like him or love him, Leicester have performed a miracle to remain in the Premier League given their start to the season. A glance at the form table says everything you need to know about their turnaround, having taken as many points in their last eight games as they did in their first 29. The draw with Sunderland confirmed their status in the Premier League for a second season, and a glance at the Pearson highlight reel makes that accolade even more impressive.

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Pearson celebrates after Leicester secure survival

An on-field spat with Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur, an X-rated rant at a Leicester fan and a bizarre back-and-forth with a journalist regarding ostriches have all put Pearson in the headlines for the wrong reasons, but the survival with a game to spare has overshadowed all of those incidents for the right ones. Premier League manager of the season? Perhaps not, but if it was judged on pre-season expectations alone then he’d be a shoe-in.

WHEN WILL IT BECOME TOO MUCH FOR NEWCASTLE?

You have to credit Newcastle fans, but where do they draw the line? They’ve protested relentlessly against the club’s owner Mike Ashley, shown their distinct disapproval at manager Alan Pardew and are now facing a second possible relegation in six years. They got their wish with Pardew – who must be looking at the table with half a smile on his face despite wishing his old club the best – but in John Carver they’ve slipped relentlessly down the table and with just one game remaining are far from safe.

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Newcastle pictured during their 2-1 defeat to QPR

Yet the fans refuse to give up wholeheartedly. They still travel to St James’ Park on the weekend in the hope of a rare victory, some of them even travel up and down the country to follow the Magpies, and with ever-increasing ticket prices not doing them any favours the question must be asked of where do they draw the line? The 2-1 defeat to already relegated Queens Park Rangers could be the reason they needed to boycott the final game.

SHERWOOD NEEDS TO ADDRESS VILLA’S WOES AT THE BACK AS WELL AS ATTACK

Christian Benteke has already been sounded out by Liverpool ahead of a proposed summer move, and he showed his hunters instinct once again to score a header against Southampton on Saturday. The problem was though that Aston Villa had already conceded five times in the first half, and allowed one more past goalkeeper Shay Given before the one-sided fight was officially called off.

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Sherwood watches on as his side crash to a 6-1 defeat

If Tim Sherwood could have thrown in the towel he may well have done in order to save any little bit of confidence for the FA Cup final in two weeks’ time. Villa’s defence, having been cut open so easily by Sadio Mane, Shane Long and Graziano Pelle, will need rebuilding mentally before they can take to the pitch again and be confident that they can keep a clean sheet. Sherwood has a mountainous task on his hands.

BRUCE COMPLETELY LET DOWN BY LIVERMORE

The post-game interview with Steve Bruce following the 2-0 defeat to Spurs was almost heart-breaking. The manager has to contend with the fact that barring a miracle on Sunday, his side will be playing in the Championship next season having just witnessed a number of chances spurned by the Tigers in a game they realistically could have won.

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Steve Bruce grimaces during the defeat to Spurs

But the killer blow was the news that emerged on Friday afternoon that Jake Livermore has failed a drugs test after testing positive for cocaine. Having spent £40m in the summer in the hope of Premier League survival, £8m of which was spent on bringing in Livermore on a permanent deal from Spurs after a successful loan spell, Hull could ill-afford to lose one of their key players in such circumstances. Bruce admitted his feelings were ranging from upset, angry and let down, and you got the idea that he represented not just the club, but every single person that calls themselves a Hull fan.

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