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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Bad day for Jon LOL-ters, a 'Ridge too far

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.

Jonathan LOL-ters

How cruel of Frank Lampard to deny Jonathan Walters a richly deserved hat-trick for Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. Having already notched twice, he was robbed of the chance to round off a superb afternoon's work by completing his first Premier League treble of the season on what was his 100th top flight appearance. The poor lad's performance was more reminiscent of Julie Walters.

Nothing went right for him. He scored two delightful headed own goals and even blew a late chance for a slice of redemption by blasting a penalty so far over the crossbar it probably provided an unwanted problem for Air Traffic Control at East Midlands Airport. Perhaps it could talk down Chris Waddle's still-orbiting pen from Italia '90 while it is up there.

Walters' family and friends would be well served to give him a wide berth for a week or so, as he comes to terms with the fact that he's now a member of an exclusive quartet to have scored in their own net twice during a match in the Premier League era. Michael Proctor and Gary Breen are in there, and so too, of course, is Jamie Carragher, one of the top flight's most prolific own-goalers of all time. So chin up Jon, it could be worse.

A 'Ridge too far

What a perfect fit Daniel Sturridge is for Liverpool. A nearly but not quite striker, fitting snugly into a nearly but not quite team. It must be torturous being a fan of theirs this season. Once again they showed flashes of competence, just like they did earlier in the campaign against arch-rivals Manchester United, yet once again they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat that had a distinct air of inevitability about it.

If Brendan Rodgers thinks Sturridge is the answer, he's definitely misheard the question. What is it about his psychological make-up that persuades the striker he can score from anywhere on the football field, even if there are 21 players, a wall or an elephant in front of him? The glimpses of brilliance he often demonstrates are forever overshadowed by his voracious appetite for frivolous shooting.

He did, at least, contribute far more to proceedings than Luis Suarez, who for once, looked demure in the face of predictable vitriol from the stands. It won't have been lost on him that while he toiled, Patrice Evra proved far more of a goal threat, setting up both of Manchester United's, even if one came by nodding the ball into Nemanja Vidic's rather large hooter at point blank range.

All hail the egg chasers

Arsenal's clash with Manchester City was almost delayed when police sealed off access roads to the ground due to a suspicious package being discovered. Maybe it was a trophy, and the Gunners' hierarchy were so bamboozled as to what this gleaming silver ornament was they pawed at it gently before calling the cops. Let's face it, it was either that or Nicklas Bendtner was back in the vicinity.

There were more suspicious goings on inside the stadium, as football fans across the globe asked what Manchester City had done with the real James Milner. Equally whiffy was Arsenal's open disgust at Mike Dean. All the referee did was show Laurent Koscielny a deserved red card for an excellent rugby tackle. And for those denying it was a clear goalscoring opportunity, perhaps you are better off watching the egg-chasing instead.

Dean had a fine game until he gave in to over an hour of high-pitched cappuccino-fuelled whingeing by sending Vincent Kompany off for a perfectly legitimate ball-winning tackle on Jack Wilshere. But the officials did redeem themselves a little as linesman John Brooks told City's players to go over and thank their fans, who had paid a ridiculous £62 a ticket. Good on him, but shame on those Arsenal supporters who attempted to defend their club's exorbitant prices.

'I ♥ Daniel Levy'

I'm surprised 'Arry had the time to take in QPR's game with the club that biffed him back in the summer given all the jet-setting he's been doing trying to coax various European mercenaries to join his journey back to the Championship. But there he was, practically bear-hugging AVB after an awful 0-0 he somehow managed to describe as a "wonderful" Rangers performance.

I'm struggling to work out which of 'Arry's tasks is more difficult: trying to extricate QPR from the Mark Hughes-shaped hole they are in, or attempting to persuade players like Peter Odemwingie to swap the relative comfort of the top half for a hopeless relegation procession. And that without forcing the owners to drop their trousers and hand over the sort of wages that got them in this mess in the first place.

If Redknapp thinks Odemwingie and Jake Livermore are the answer to his woes he must share the same hearing aid as Brendan Rodgers. But at least he's having fun: "My whole life is consumed by saving QPR. I don't sleep every night and my mind's non-stop. But it's a buzz." He also went on to add: "I could sit back and say: 'It's not my problem, unlucky'," which is ironic, as that is precisely what he'll do in the summer.

Royals of the Rovers

Perhaps only in the Premier League could a side be absolutely woeful for 81 minutes, trail by two goals, rely on the post and the bar to keep them in the game, force a decent chunk of their fans to leave early in disgust and still end up winning. Perhaps most worryingly, Brian McDermott's Reading might come away thinking they only need to put in nine minutes hard work to be able to dig themselves out of whatever hole they are in.

Reading's triumph pulled them within a win of Aston Villa, who were sunk by Jay Rodriguez's audition for ITV's new primetime monstrosity 'Splash!' Nigel Adkins baffled the universe by admitting Enda Stephens made no contact with his striker, but that he didn't dive. I'd like to see him explain that one under oath. This was tough to swallow for Villa, a few days after they were humbled by Bradford in the League Cup. It was a beating that made you think Arsenal's result there wasn't too bad after all.

But all those sides will be buoyed by the news that Sports Direct United's best defender is keen to ditch their relegation scrap and take his flowing locks back to Argentina. That would leave Mike Williamson as the only fit centre-half standing between them and the Championship, and look what Brighton did to him. The shock of Coloccini's stance persuaded husbands across Tyneside to retract a generous offer outlaid in their ever-popular song about the defender. No? Go look it up.

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