Debrief: The Premier League weekend reviewed, Dec 1
Deulofeu dazzles on debut start, Oviedo excels as Baines back-up
Everton fans may have had to wait a while to see Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu in full flight, but on Saturday's showing it was worth it.
The 19-year-old had been limited to eight substitute appearances in the Premier League before the weekend and celebrated his first start by ripping into Stoke at Goodison Park, scoring the opener before playing a key role in two more goals.
"I think he was fairly disappointed with last week - from my point of view I thought he was outstanding when he came on against Liverpool but he had two very good chances and he thought he should have took them," said manager Roberto Martinez. "I thought his goal was sensational."
Saturday's 4-0 pummeling of the Potters also witnessed a star turn from stand-in left-back Bryan Oviedo.
As Leighton Baines nurses a toe injury on the sidelines, the 23-year-old signing from FC Copenhagen also made his first league start of the season and seized the opportunity, bagging Everton's third from long-range and teeing up Romelu Lukaku to score the fourth.
"This is a very good chance for me. Leighton is a great player but I have waited a year and a half for this chance and I am so happy to play again," he said. "I think the coming games are a good opportunity to play for the team and make the most of my chance."
Man United's missed opportunity at Tottenham
Manchester United may have left White Hart Lane with their long unbeaten run there (13 visits) in tact as Wayne Rooney’s brace picked up a point, but it could have been so much more.
The entertaining lunchtime tussle ebbed and flowed, with the Red Devils enjoying 60% of the possession but often failing to work Spurs shot-stopper Hugh Lloris.
David Moyes’ men targeted left-back Jan Vertonghen for much of the game. Prior to his 84th-minute substitution, Antonio Valencia had made the most attacking third passes and completed the most take-ons.
Contrastingly, Danny Welbeck was used sparingly on the left as the visitors failed to exploit the space in behind attack-minded right-back Kyle Walker.
On one of the few occasions they did, Welbeck won his side the penalty that allowed Rooney to cancel out Sandro’s stunning strike within three minutes.
Tottenham 2-2 Man United • Match report • Stats Zone analysis
Meulensteen needs more from Taarabt, Bent
New Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen may have insisted the news of Martin Jol's sacking was a surprise, but he was probably the only one.
The Dutchman's departure was confirmed on Sunday afternoon, a day after a 3-0 defeat at West Ham United made it six consecutive defeats for the Cottagers in all competititions, leaving them in the drop zone.
Former Manchester United coach Meulensteen arrived at Craven Cottage less than a month ago to join Jol's backroom staff, and said of his compatriot's ousting: "We have a fantastic understanding with each other and I really enjoyed working with him and was looking forward to working with him in the future to ensure we can turn this corner. We were both confident we were capable of doing it."
To turn that corner, the 49-year-old needs to start getting more out of the gifted individuals at his disposal, including Adel Taarabt and Darren Bent, as FFT's Ben Welch explained in his findings from Upton Park...
Taarabt’s talent is not in question, but his decision-making cancels out his ability. Time and again the Moroccan chooses to dribble when he should pass. At Upton Park he attempted 13 take-ons – more than any other player – but lost the ball 7 times, often in promising positions.
He attempted 20 passes in the attacking third, but just 12 found their target – that’s a completion rate of just 60%. He failed to create one goalscoring opportunity. When you’re in a relegation battle, you need your match-winners to make a difference, but Taarabt is all style and no substance.
Bent, a proven goalscorer at this level, is lost in this Fulham side. He didn’t manage one shot on goal and only completed 73% of his attempted passes. The former Aston Villa hitman is most effective when he plays on the shoulder of the last defender. When he did peel off his man and make a run the pass never came.
Instead, Fulham pumped the ball forward for Bent to compete with James Collins and James Tomkins. Inevitably he lost 11 of his 12 aerial duels. Bent is a poacher, not a target-man.
West Ham 3-0 Fulham • Match report • Stats Zone analysis
Arsenal's other unit working just as well
Amid the clattering applause for Arsenal's attack, let's not forget the boys at the back. The clean sheet at Cardiff means that the Gunners have only conceded once in five league games - Robin van Persie's winner at Old Trafford, also the only time they've failed to score in this season's Premier League.
Cardiff caused trouble for the two Manchester sides but were held at bay by Arsenal's back six. Aaron Ramsey has caught the eye going forward but topped the charts for ball recoveries with 10; alongside him, the increasingly impressive Mikel Arteta registered 7 ball recoveries but also won a match-leading 7 out of 10 tackles and made 5 interceptions, topped only by Gary Medel and matched by Laurent Koscielny behind him.
Koscielny also contributed 10 clearances, as did Kieran Gibbs, with Per Mertesacker contributing 7. Arsenal completed 38 clearances as a team – but there's the rub: the defensive section of their unit is currently working as well as their more eye-catching brethren farther forward. And as long as that continues, so will Arsenal's charge for glory.
Jay Rodriguez should have a future with England
The Southampton striker was dismissed by critics after one game in an England shirt. Even by football fandom’s fickle nature, this was way too premature. Rodriguez is a handful.
His power, pace and strength gave Arsenal all sorts of problems at Emirates Stadium. In the first half against Chelsea on Sunday, he was unsettling the experienced heads of Gary Cahill and John Terry. He read Michael Essien’s woeful backpass inside the opening 15 seconds and coolly slotted the ball past Petr Cech to give Southampton the lead.
When he gets the ball, he’s positive – driving at defenders, either beating them with skill or holding them off with brute force. Admittedly, he was only successful with 2 of his 5 attempted dribbles, but it was his confident running that put Chelsea on the back foot. His defensive work deserves more recognition. He picked up 8 loose balls – the third best tally on the day. This young star could offer England something different in Brazil.