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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Arsene Wenger's hidden gem

Arsenal
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Horses and daddy long-legs for courses

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.

He's all arms and legs

An ungainly creature is Peter Crouch, like one of those snakes that slowly winds itself around its prey before strangling the life out of them. Except that Crouch is far less venomous that the aforementioned reptiles; a better likening is to a daddy long-legs, given that it seems to share the same sense of direction and discretion as the beanpole striker.

Long after his playing days are over he may well be remembered for his ill-advised lunges in Madrid, though I'm sure the ones on Sergio Ramos and Marcelo at the Bernabeu were less enjoyable than the one he is alleged to have had with a lady of the night called Monica Mint last summer. At least if he never plays in the Spanish capital again he can boast that he did manage to score there, however much it cost.

Back at White Hart Lane at the weekend, Crouch's name was greeted with more than a few grumbles at the global epicentre of fickle fandom, until he demonstrated what his head was created for - not thinking, but nodding - as he potted two trademark headers past Stoke and rescued Tottenham's charge for Champions League qualification. And just like that, everything was forgotten (until Wednesday).

Phone a friend

At least Fergie had someone to talk to on his ancient Nokia handset this Saturday as he was joined in the realms of pitchside banishment by Avram Grant - the man who looks grumpy even when he's attempting a broad smile. I can only imagine the pair of them spent 90 minutes slagging off the FA, using some choice words straight out of the Roonatic's English swear dictionary.

Of course, Fergie had to break off from his 90-minute chinwag with Avram to listen to the Grand National and find out how his horse was getting on. It's lucky that Dimitar Berbatov wasn't running at Aintree or the race stewards would have thrown the screen round him and got the bolt gun out due to his lack of movement. He did manage to amble into position to slot in United's first against Fulham, though, after Nani had done all the hard work.

Over in Bolton, Avram wasn't so lucky with his mob, who played like those horses in the National who refused to jump fences. We can only assume his players suffered given their proximity from his unique brand of managerial magnetism. Presumably, he stayed up in the gods at half time to chow down on a Balti pie and a cup of Bovril while Scott Parker gave his usual half-time pep talk.

The wonder of Roy

Someone joked in the Soccernet office recently that Roy Hodgson might be a candidate for manager of the season - a left-field tip I would wholeheartedly support. I mean, who couldn't have failed to be impressed by the way he infiltrated Anfield and tried to bring them down from the inside before jumping ship and saving West Brom from the brink?

Roy has now recorded 12 points in his six games with West Brom, when he took 20 games to garner 25 points at Liverpool. He feels so content with life these days, even the weather is better: "If you spend your life worrying about the clouds on the horizon, you forget the sunshine and you lead a pretty miserable life, so at the moment, I am just enjoying the sunshine." He's changed his tune hasn't he?

Liverpool went to Sunderland recently and edged a gritty game short of quality (Luis Suarez's goal aside) largely thanks to the referee - the Baggies went there and served up a rip-roaring advert for football that offered five goals, dramatic swings in balance and a seven-man, 15-pass move that culminated in the winner. And all this one week after he toppled the club who sacked him. I hope Roy has got big Y-fronts because the man's cojones are growing by the hour.

Joey 'Eyjafjallajökull' Barton

You could hear the murmurings, like a volcano chucking out ash before it prepares to spew out a cartload of piping hot magma, and sure enough, Joey Barton's Vesuvius-like gob exploded in spectacular fashion again midweek. Ousmane Dabo was a predictable target, but his rant against 'goody two-shoes' Gareth Barry took on Charlie Sheen-esque proportions.

Robbed of Kevin Nolan, who provides a similar service at Newcastle to the one Scott Parker does at West Ham, Alan 'I beg your' Pardew handed Barton the captain's armband for the trip to Aston Villa but all it seemed to inspire him to do was to engage in a running battle with Stuart Attwell - the Premier League's refereeing intern.

An insipid Toon performance reminded one of their capitulation two years ago when a Damien Duff own goal sent them crashing into the Championship under Big Al all hail the Messiah, except there was less crying from bare-chested fatties this time around. Their meek surrender was manna from heaven for embattled Gerard Houllier, who looks like he may actually be able to keep a lid on the inevitable dressing room insurrection until the summer.

No-one lurks better than Lehmann

I can't hide it anymore Arsenal fans, I have to admit I love watching you. I love sitting on the edge of my seat to see if Mad Jens is going to crack up, I love watching Gael Clichy operate a yard and a half behind your other three defenders, I love the rash challenges of Laurent Koscielny, and I love how you squander a billion chances before threatening to implode when the opposition pull one back.

I love how you went into the game clawing at each other's throats, with Wenger crowing that second best is a good achievement, the supporters' trust uttering their dismay at his attitude and the chairman lambasting the fans for lambasting the manager who was lambasting the criticism from the fans. In that context the win at Blackpool was rather sizeable.

It could have gone belly-up when Manuel Almunia picked up a knock in the warm up, meaning Mad Jens got the nod but being honest, having to pick one of those two is akin to choosing whether you want your arm sawn off with a rusty compass, or nibbled off by an army of steroid-riddled hamsters. Despite Jens' attempt to recreate his sending off in the 2006 Champions League final, the Gunners emerged victorious, but only because ref Lee Mason failed to spot a blatant penalty ten yards in front of him.

And now Monday brings news of a Stan Kroenke takeover to add to the tumult. "I believe he has the best interests of Arsenal at heart," warbled Arsene Wenger. So do you Arsene, but that doesn't mean you're doing a good job does it?

Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Sepp Blatter at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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