Six things we learnt: Arsenal and Liverpool show how the mighty have fallen, Manchester United won't win the title, West Ham reap the rewards

Manchester City aren’t a one man team, One defeat puts Alan Pardew back under pressure, QPR need to tie down Charlie Austin sooner rather than later

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The Independent Online

Manchester City aren’t a one man team

The fear when Sergio Aguero limped out of Manchester City’s win over Everton after just two minutes was that their reputation as a ‘one-man team’ was about to be horribly exposed. Things only got worse when Edin Dzeko suffered a fresh calf injury and Stevan Jovetic picked up the latest injury in a never-ending visit to the physio room.

So it wasn’t a surprise when Manuel Pellegrini named the versatile James Milner as a false-nine against Crystal Palace on Saturday. No, the surprise came in the scoreline – striker-less City managed to score three times through David Silva and Yaya Toure, and put pressure on league leaders Chelsea as they drew level with the Blues (who play Stoke tonight). From despairing that their season could unravel without the mercurial Argentinian, suddenly City look brilliantly placed to push on when he returns.

West Ham reap rewards for giving players a second chance

When Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing left Liverpool having failed to make any impression whatsoever, few would have tipped them to not only return to form in the Premier League but resurrect their international careers. But West Ham must have seen something, and they are being duly rewarded for it.

 

Downing has been one of the form midfielders this season that led to an England recall against Scotland last time out, while Carroll has returned from a long-term ankle injury to bag three goals and put himself firmly in the international picture. If Carroll can maintain this form through to March, he must surely be included by Roy Hodgson in his next squad, having scored the opener in the 2-0 weekend victory over Leicester.

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West Ham striker Andy Carroll

However, we shouldn’t be surprised that a second chance has worked out for the Hammers. They refused to bow to pressure to sack Sam Allardyce, and look how that’s working out.

One defeat puts Alan Pardew back under pressure

Alan Pardew was another manager who needed to turn around results immediately or risk losing his job. He achieved that, and even manager to halt the Chelsea juggernaut to end their unbeaten start to the season. However, back to back defeats to Arsenal and Tottenham brought them back to earth, and suddenly Pardew found himself in the crosshairs once again when he lost the one game you simply cannot lose – the Tyne-Wear derby.

Sunderland celebrated at St James’ Park as if they’d won the league, but for Pardew it represented a fourth consecutive defeat to the Black Cats. A glance at social media in the immediate aftermath to Adam Johnson’s late winner told you all you needed to know about the rivalry in the north-east – the #PardewOut hash-tag was back.

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Newcastle manager Alan Pardew

Manchester United won’t win the title, unless…

Even Louis van Gaal afforded himself a split-second to consider that the title may be on this season, only for United to slip-up against 10-man Aston Villa. It took a Radamel Falcao header to secure a point against a side Manchester United should really be beating if their title aspirations are to be realised, and the match demonstrated everything Van Gaal needs to know about his current side.

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Manchester United players embrace striker Radamel Falcao after his goal

Simply put, the defence isn’t strong enough. It’s handy having one of the in-form goalkeepers at the back to bail you out time and time again, but the likes of Jonny Evans and Marcus Rojo are getting found out as demonstrated on Saturday. Yes they’ve had their injury troubles, but Evans is now one of the elder statesmen of the team and his experience should tell him to close down a striker of Christian Benteke’s calibre quicker than he did. January could see Van Gaal change that depending on what Van Gaal does in the transfer window, but a Mats Hummels-type addition could see this entry hastily re-written.

Liverpool and Arsenal show how the mighty have fallen

It was billed as the shootout for the top-four given both clubs’ difficult starts to the season, but even that appeared to be a generous tagline to stick to a game that lacked anything close to quality football. Liverpool managed to put in a display of how not to shoot, having just 10 of their 27 shots on target and managing to somehow find a way to fall behind. Yet they can be pleased with their performance when you compare it to the Gunners.

Not since history began (or rather stat gurus Opta were founded) have Arsenal had so little possession, while a return of two goals from three shots on target showed how little they managed to create. All of this is even more surprising given that Arsene Wenger deployed five attack-minded players in front of Mathieu Flamini. If Arsenal don’t strengthen in January, then they face the very realistic prospect of missing out on the top four.

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Mathieu Debuchy heads in the equaliser for Arsenal

QPR need to tie down Charlie Austin sooner rather than later

When the second goal went in to bring Queens Park Rangers level with West Brom, you just knew there was something more to come from the match. It was also pretty clear that if QPR were going to win, it had to come through Austin. The striker was suspended for the 3-1 defeat to Everton last weekend, but his return injected Rangers with a new impetus and desire that saw them commendably battle back from going 2-0 down early on.

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Charlie Austin heads in his third goal to win the game for QPR

Reports on Monday suggest that QPR have begun talks about extending his contract, and with the Englishman attracting significant interest thanks to his nine goals and two assists in his last 11 outings, it’s understandable why. But if negotiations drag on, QPR would be in real danger of either losing the star striker or forcing themselves to cash in as he only has 18 months left on his current deal.

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