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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Poor work of Art

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Artet-a-tet

Is there a single person inside the Emirates who thought it was a good idea to let Mikel Arteta take an injury time penalty to try and procure a desperately needed three points for Arsenal? The Spaniard had endured such a miserable second half for the Gunners, and was lacking such composure and poise, that even ex-BBC chief George Entwistle would have been a better bet from 12 yards.

Arteta had already given away possession and a needless penalty to hand Fulham the lead, and very nearly gifted them another goal for good measure. When lazy pundits trotted out the preposterous line after the match that "2-0 is a dangerous score" surely they only mean if Arteta is having a footballing breakdown in the middle of their midfield?

The truth is when Arsenal defend like this 6-0 is a dangerous score. Despite this latest crisis, Arsene Wenger insisted post-match his team can still win the title. One high profile figure left his job this weekend after a painful interview in which he proved he'd lost his grip on his organisation, which was left floundering and unable to inspire any confidence. Perhaps it should have been Wenger who finally blew his own full time Entwistle.

Why oh Wiemann?

Arsenal may be in ruins, but the team that has done most to give rise to this "2-0 is a dangerous scoreline" nonsense are Manchester United, who appear incapable of operating to a sufficient level in the Premier League unless they find themselves behind. The latest unfortunates to be lulled into a false sense of security were Aston Villa and their collection of grumpy teenagers.

Fergie's lot have fallen behind in seven of their 11 matches this season, coming back to win five of them. All of which meant that when Andres Wiemann notched his second goal just after half time to put Villa 2-0 up, Paul Lambert turned to his bench and whispered: "We're in trouble now."

The Scot has tried to inject some steel into his squad, even banning gloves and hats from the training ground, but his side melted like an ice sculpture on a radiator once their opponents got one back.

The turning point, of course, was the half-time introduction of Javier Hernandez and his brace. I say that, because despite an odious charm offensive from the striker and his manager, there's no way Chicarito can claim the second goal and thus a hat-trick. Referee Kevin Friend showed his lack of judgement handing the Mexican the match ball, which may well be in Tijuana by now for all we know.

The popularity-o-meter

There was one way for Luis Suarez to boost his deep unpopularity in the Premier League, by crocking Chelsea's captain - you know the one: leader, legend - returning after serving a four-match ban on a racism charge. Of course, Suarez's similar sentence last year means the pair are not only united in their pariah status, but also by the noise that emits from any gathered crowd every time either of them touches the ball.

Suarez won the battle with Terry's knee, and also the duel with former Reds striker Fernando Torres, yet another flammable presence in a fixture that could only become tastier if you dropped a snarling Roy Keane into the middle of it, naked except for a pair of boots, and told him to play as an independent. Suarez scored, with the help of a blatant push, while Torres departed to less than complimentary hand gestures from the travelling support.

It was scant reward for a Liverpool side who were in danger of being swallowed by a black hole in their own philosophy in a first half in which even their manager said they passed the ball too much. But what does it say for Chelsea's title ambitions when they can't dispose of a mid-table side that by their own manager's admission, are way off challenging at the top? Discuss.

Dancing to a familiar Toon

Lord only knows what state Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan left the Toon in on Sunday night after the most successful comeback in the north east since Joe Kinnear embarked on an after dinner speaking tour. The gruesome twosome - soul mates, party bros and roomies - took a walk down Wonga Way for old times' sake and pulled down the pants of the gaffer who flogged them on.

The grateful recipient of Newcastle's decision to hawk the titans of their Championship season on the open market is that unique human being Sam Allardyce, who will no doubt build his Real Madrid team around Nolan and Carroll just as soon as he gets that long overdue call from the Bernabeu. Twice Big Sham has been back to Tyneside since being sacked by Mike Ashley, and twice he has won.

Not only did Sam triumph, his compact unit drugged Newcastle into aping the style he so loves as they repeatedly hoofed long balls up to Ba, Cisse and Ameobi - the latter pair playing so poorly it became clear the only way they'd be able to make the ball stick was if they had been smeared pre-match in Loctite. Once again Sam induced boos at the final whistle, but this time he devoured them as if they were a pint of chip fat. Revenge is a dish best served cold, to a former West Ham gaffer, with an equally large fondness for himself.

Edin Shoulders

Perhaps if Edin Dzeko is so keen to rid himself of this 'supersub' status he should try not to find the net when emerging from the bench. The reason he seems to prosper as a replacement is due to the acute anger he has channelled at not starting the game. If he just needs a bit of rage in him to produce the goods perhaps Roberto Mancini would be wise to employ me to slap the Bosnian about a bit before the next game. I'd happily oblige.

He's scored six Premier League goals, five of which have come from the bench, and three of those have been winners, or as David Platt/Isaac Newton put it "heavy goals". Basically, Dzeko is mustard from the bench. The trouble is, whenever he gets a start, he plays like Bob the Builder.

Tottenham's bench was also attracting a decent slice of attention, largely because their top scorer Jermain Defoe was on it - his reward for scoring a hat-trick on Thursday night. Emmanuel Adebayor played instead and though he did next to nothing, and looked as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike he did at least have "a positive impact regarding the structure we put together", according to his gaffer, which after all, is definitely the main thing right?

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