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Jan 21, 2013

Snowstorm hairdryer, an 'Arsh winter

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.

Snowstorm hairdryer

There are some things in life that are certain, and we saw three of them at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Robin van Persie scored on his return to north London, hours after Arsenal were sunk at Chelsea; Sir Alex Ferguson blamed a late equaliser on whichever linesman he didn't like the look of; and, for the umpteenth time this season, Aaron Lennon's matchday mascot was taller than him.

That the game even saw the light of day was an achievement given the Arctic conditions in the capital - it was so snowy that even a team of Eskimos might have turned up their noses at a kick-about. Ironically, given the icy conditions, this was a game in which Gareth Bale seemed remarkably able to keep his footing, while Clint 'Deuce' Dempsey won his rap battle with David 'the drop' De Gea. The Yank sure dropped some phat ones on the Spaniard's heat, whatever that means.

And sure as he will enter hell by being dropped from a vat of boiling tar, Fergie took aim at an official, this time preferring to rant into a microphone rather than take his fight face-to-face on the touchline. He had a point in reference to Wayne Rooney's penalty appeal - but clutching at a late throw-in award? He might be in his 70s, but I'm pretty sure Fergie's punch would be stronger than the one De Gea's possesses, and maybe that's where the gaffer's inquest should start.

An 'Arsh winter

Where once Queens Park Rangers and Southampton walked tall, Arsenal were cowed. Where Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jason Puncheon left as all-conquering heroes, Theo Walcott left attempting to justify why he warrants a new £100,000-a-week deal. Where once Arsene Wenger strode into Stamford Bridge with the firepower of RVP, he limped into west London with the show-pony-slash-drama-queen that is Olivier Giroud.

Had Arsenal played Andrey Arshavin instead of Jack Wilshere, they'd have had a full set of 11 players who looked like they couldn't care less. Either that or they could have swapped him for Fernando Torres, who stank the place out for over an hour while an in-form and hungry striker sat idly on the sidelines. Roman was in town to watch his £50 million man toil, yet still refuses to sanction another pot of his fortune going towards prolonging Frank Lampard's Chelsea career. How that man ever made billions in business never ceases to amaze me.

It is a big ten days now for Wenger, who must squeeze some winners through the remaining lifetime of January's transfer portal, and this time players like Park Chu-young just won't cut it. It would be churlish not to let Arsenal's last high-profile departure have the final word, so here is RVP again: "If you look at the past couple of months, I think that explains why I left Arsenal." Ouch.

Another Pard luck story

Even when Mike Ashley thinks he's doing the right thing, it turns out he is still spectacularly wrong. Handing Alan Pardew an eight-year contract on the basis of one flukey season must have seemed a good idea at the time; now it's looking like an eight-ton Norovirus-riddled albatross around Sports Direct United's neck.

At 1-0 up against relegation rivals and his old club Reading, Pardew's pervading smugness transmitted to his substitutions. He withdrew Sylvain Marveaux - minutes before Newcastle's best player, Yohann Cabaye, went off injured - in favour of James Perch and a teenager from Burundi with a name no-one can pronounce, clearly thinking the game was done and dusted. All he did was hand Brian McDermott three points on a silver platter, in the same way West Brom did last week.

How Pardew could do with stealing ALF - no, not the cuddly extra-terrestrial of 1980s sitcom fame but Adam Le Fondre, Reading's super sub, who did in his short time on the field something Papiss Cisse last did in May. How ironic that Newcastle's beleaguered boss is now insisting a new legion of French unknowns are required to hoist them away from danger when a Gallic-sounding striker from Stockport might have sunk him once and for all.

QPR (Quietly Pinching Remy)

Newcastle's home capitulation rounded off an awful week in which they were beaten to the chase for an injury-prone striker living off past glories and unwanted by Marseille. Yes, it's the new Djibril Cisse, Loic Remy. 'Arry couldn't care less about Remy's fall from grace after he promptly scored on his debut for new club Queens Park Rangers, nor could he care less about looking like football's biggest hypocrite. Again.

His propensity to utter apocryphal statements week after week is staggering. Ironically, it was after defeat at Newcastle that he said: "You shouldn't be paying players' massive wages when you have only 18,000 seats," before adding: "I don't really want to see the owners have their pants taken down like in the past."

Such statements were rendered instantly meaningless when his club allegedly offered Remy £80,000 a week and an assurance he can quit if they slump into the Championship. It seems Tony Fernandes willingly took his own pants down on this one.

Given his astronomical weekly wage, Loic had better prove Rangers Remy-dy. While they splashed big money on Remy, West Ham had to make do with more modest moves, like borrowing Marouane Chamakh from Arsenal. Great, just what they need, another on loan striker who can't score. At least new old-boy Joe Cole grabbed them a point after slithering free of 'Arry's grubby, cash-rich grasp.

The Adkins diet

How to turn an excellent run of form and a harmonious newly-promoted club, steadily rising up the table, into a rubble-strewn in-fighting mess, by Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese. In keeping with Nigel Adkins' fondness of poetry, this was the chairman's love letter to discord, his haiku to hatred. I find it very hard to trust a man whose first name is Nicola anyway.

You know you are in trouble when even Matt Le Tissier is labelling you a coward with an ego problem. Heck, that could describe half the Premier League. But despite his club steadily pulling away from the relegation zone thanks to run of two defeats in 12 games, Cortese decided they would be better off with a non-English speaking Argentine who led Espanyol to the foot of La Liga. He then promptly shoved him out on his own to explain the mess to the national press.

At a stroke, this has turned the Saints into relegation certainties. A vitriolic 'hanky' protest is planned ahead of Monday's home game with Everton; that disaffection will spread to the players and the manager will struggle to get his message across and change their playing style mid-season. And for anyone in any doubt as to what deposing a popular manager in favour of a wild punt does for a football club, I have three words for you: Joe f*****g Kinnear.

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