Pellegrini must bottle winning formula
ESPN FC: Two tales of Torres
Premier League Spotlight previews the weekend's top-flight fixtures, highlighting the key points to keep an eye on as the action unfolds.
City's away tour continues at Chelsea
Well done to the hundreds of millions' worth of talent for winning an away football match. Achieving such a feat is considered one of the highest accolades in the sport, but credit where credit is due for doing so at the fourth time of asking in the Premier League. Tongue out of cheek for a second, it was actually an impressive performance at West Ham United, who offered not all that much because City were having one of those good days.
They had the same type of day under manager Manuel Pellegrini in the Manchester derby, when the team clicked and the likes of strike partnership Sergio Aguero -- one of the best players in the world right now -- and Alvaro Negredo formed a seemingly telepathic partnership. It is now the Chilean coach's job to put a bow on this level of display, for consistency wins back Premier League titles.
And there is work to be done. They were sloppy at the back during midweek in the Champions League, stressing that captain Vincent Kompany's continued absence is a blow to the Achilles' heel -- Javi Garcia has hardly proved he is a capable central midfielder since his move from Benfica, let alone a centre-back. Sunday's game at Stamford Bridge is the third of four in a row on the road, with a trip to Newcastle in the Capital One Cup just around the corner.
As for Chelsea -- who face Arsenal 48 hours later in the Capital One Cup -- they've scored 14 goals in their last four games in all competitions, which spells that their wealth of attacking options are beginning to gel quite nicely. There is even talk of Fernando Torres being "back," but this is a path well trodden, so let's not revisit it until he's maintained the excellence he showed against Schalke over the course of a campaign.
Poyet pressure in Wear-Tyne derby
The size of the task that new Sunderland manager Gus Poyet faces was rammed down his throat as his side capitulated in the second half at Swansea to lose 4-0. For the Uruguayan, watching their collapse must have been as comfortable as digesting a pine cone. "We need strong characters to go in there and react to adversity," said Poyet in the wake of the loss, with the words having a Paolo Di Canio ring about them as the Italian was not shy in his criticism of the gutlessness of his former squad.
In Poyet's first match in charge at the Stadium of Light, a loss to city rivals Newcastle is unthinkable. But it is not beyond the realms of possibility, for Alan Pardew's side have demonstrated what Poyet is seeking of his players in recent matches by sticking together and playing gritty. A 2-1 win at Cardiff was the perfect response to their horror 45 minutes at Everton, while a point earned against an admittedly profligate Liverpool while playing with 10 men for 50 minutes was impressive.
Managerless Crystal Palace spiralling down
And so Ian Holloway's return to the top flight lasted just eight fixtures -- no more kookiness for us, dear friends of the footballing "characters" of this world. No, the writing was on the wall as to concede four goals against a Fulham side that had previously scored six in seven outings was unacceptable.
There were few grumblings about the departure of Holloway, who appeared to lack the belief he'd avoid relegation following a scattergun summer of recruitment -- of which the nadir was Florian Marange being brought in only not to make the 25-man Premier League squad.
At the time of writing, former Stoke boss Tony Pulis is the favourite to come in at Selhurst Park, paving the way for a lot of high passes aimed at the head of Marouane Chamakh. Oh, it's Arsenal at home next, whose reaction to their setback against Borussia Dortmund will be worth keeping tabs on. In fact, a win against such a struggling side ahead of matches versus Chelsea, Liverpool, Dortmund and Manchester United is a must.
United unconvinced by David Moyes
A 1-1 draw at home to Southampton unsurprisingly did not placate those Manchester United fans who are yet to be won over by David Moyes. Among the points of concern is Moyes' apparent lack of ambition in his tactics, and that in particular irks as he follows in the footsteps of Sir Alex Ferguson who would go for the jugular in the latter stages of matches.
Bringing on Chris Smalling and Ryan Giggs hardly helped quell the fears as in-form Southampton grabbed a deserved point at Old Trafford, meaning United have won just one of their four league matches at home this season. An edgy 1-0 victory over Real Sociedad during midweek has temporarily stemmed the pressure, but until United blow a side away then cautious Moyes will be swimming against the tide, presumably wearing armbands.
Stoke are the visitors to the champions on Saturday, a team very much "in transition," or, in another word, "struggling." Indeed, Mark Hughes' team have failed to score in each of their last three matches, making them the lowest scorers in the division with 0.5 goals a game managed. With this in mind, nothing but a routine success will do for United, who currently reside nearer on points to the relegation zone than they do top spot.
More really good goals, please
We've been spoiled in the last week. The team goal that Jack Wilshere finished in Arsenal's win over Norwich -- all four of the Gunners' goals were high quality, in fairness -- was the objet d'art that Arsene Wenger has been searching for all these years, as his team finally and actually did "walk it in." Then on Monday, Pajtim Kasami scored a volley that led to a clattering of jaws hitting the floor across the land. It seems unlikely either of those goals will be topped before the completion of the 2013-14 season, though it will be fun finding out.