10 talking points from the weekend’s action



The 96 – gone but never forgotten

Much of the talk after Liverpool’s goalless draw with Reading on Saturday was how the visiting supporters had made clear their delight at the recent passing of Margaret Thatcher but it should be remembered that prior to the fireworks, flares, dancing and chanting had been an impeccably observed minute’s silence from both sets of fans in tribute to the 96 people who died from the Hillsborough disaster, the 24th anniversary of which is on Monday. The service at Anfield will be politically charged, given it is the first to be held since last September’s report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which outlined the true causes for the tragedy as well as revealing the full scale of the establishment cover-up that was instigated in the aftermath of what took place in Sheffield on 15 April 1989….

Strong finish makes case for Mancini

The way Manchester City are finishing the season is the best advert for Roberto Mancini’s managerial abilities as he heads towards an end-of-season review of his position….

Where does Rooney’s future lie?

For once this question relates to Wayne Rooney’s position in the team rather than away from team. For the dishwater-dull win over Stoke on Sunday afternoon he was dropped into the centre of midfield to partner Michael Carrick and his performance merited his man-of-the-match award. His passing, if not of Xavi quality, was crisp and accurate; he drove his side forward; and he was involved in the move that led to Robin van Persie’s penalty. But this performance was more solid than spectacular and it came against a poor imitation of the Stoke side who used to bully their way through the table….

Arsenal sense a repeat of history

Arsène Wenger said in his programme notes that Arsenal had “developed a way to play that makes us stronger throughout the season” and, whatever the secret methods, there is little doubt that things are coming together at the right time once again. The latest evidence came in the refusal to accept defeat, or even settle for the draw, in the dramatic fightback victory over Norwich City on Saturday. Belief is once more coursing through the veins of Arsenal’s players and they can take further confidence from the manner in which they roused themselves to qualify for the Champions League in the final months of last season.David Hytner

Time for Pulis to target all three points

The suspicion is that Tony Pulis will call time on life as Stoke City manager at the end of the season, after seven years in charge at the Britannia Stadium, although the bigger issue at the moment is what division the Midlands club will be in when the final whistle blows on 19 May…

Will the real Stéphane Sessègnon please step forward

One can only hope that Martin O’Neill has taken himself away on holiday and was not watching his former charges storm St James’ Park in such spectacular fashion to win Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby. The transformation was almost total from the shambolic performances towards the end of O’Neill’s reign, and nowhere better was that personified than in the display of Stéphane Sessègnon. The Benin international’s indifferent, lethargic season was a microcosm of the club’s own but, after providing a superb opening goal against Newcastle, he was an inspirational presence throughout for Paolo Di Canio’s new side….

Flip flop time for Southampton and West Ham

That’s it for Southampton and West Ham. Feel feel, boys, to blow the dust off the sunglasses and rummage through the closet for your summer clothes because safety is yours for this season. “I am happy with a point in the end. I thought we were more than comfortable,” said the West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, after the draw against Southampton…

Time wasting players wasting fans’ time and money

Arsenal fans took great pleasure in taunting the Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn as he ran to collect the ball in the closing minutes of their 3-1 victory. They had spent the previous 85 jeering as they watched him walk ever more slowly to place the ball methodically for every goal-kick. All in good fun, to be sure, but it speaks to a frustration for which one cannot lay the blame at players’ feet. It is no surprise to see a side try to waste time away at stronger opposition – it is entirely understandable and certainly not their job to enact any change. That responsibility lies with the referee – is it not time they focused on enforcing the rules more consistently to prevent this? In 2010-11 the average time the ball was in play was 62min 39sec; that is nearly a third of the playing time wasted. Put another way, it is £20 of an overpriced £60 ticket to the Emirates or half an hour listening to the inane filler of any number of radio and TV experts. The rules do not need changing, players should be booked and an appropriate amount of time added at the end. If they found themselves playing an interminable 10 minutes of injury time every half, the practice would soon decline. As it is, they are not just wasting their time; they are wasting ours. Toby Moses

The QPR fans’ favourite

Normally the sight of a young player with a precocious ability to dart past defenders should provide a club, even one doomed to relegation, with cheer, especially when he has fast become a crowd favourite. But there was something damning about the fact that Andros Townsend’s name was sung first and loudest by the QPR supporters at Goodison Park. He is only on loan from Tottenham and will not be at Loftus Road next season. The players on lucrative, long-term contracts, less loved but more costly, probably will be. Had more of their ageing, overpaid underachievers shown Townsend’s dynamism this season, perhaps QPR would be in the Premier League again next year. Richard Jolly

Agbonlahor absence felt by Villa

It is only when some players are missing that the full extent of their contribution becomes apparent and such was the case with Gabriel Agbonlahor for Aston Villa on Saturday….

Read the entire article: Premier League and FA Cup: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action




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