Debrief: Moyes risks wrath of his dressing room and Liverpool are title contenders
Man United and Moyes border on crisis territory
"I haven't been involved in a game like that in my time" said a forlorn Michael Carrick after Manchester United's 2-2 draw against Fulham. For him, his team and David Moyes, the nightmare season continues.
The league title was already nigh on out of the question heading into the game against Rene Meulensteen's mish-mash of a side (you could be forgiven for looking at Fulham's team-sheet pre-match and stroking your chin at the number of unknown quantities). But failing to beat the team with comfortably the Premier League's worst defensive record means even qualifying for the Champions League now looks pretty much beyond United this season.
With five defeats already in 2014, the stat of the day was that Moyes' side attempted an unbelievable 81 crosses, the highest number on record since Opta began squiggling numbers on notepads. Meulensteen picked up on this in his post-match press conference, witheringly describing United's completely one-dimensional style of play as 'straightforward', and, as an example, Juan Mata has now already put in almost one-third of the total number of crosses he did all season at Chelsea in just three games in United red.
There are seemingly two camps when it comes to the David Moyes debate: those who point the finger of blame at the players and those who place it squarely on the manager's shoulders and that of his backroom staff. In truth, both arguments have some degree of merit. But the longer the team formerly known as champions continue to play in the same, rigid, joyless, barely functional way, the more tempting it appears to side with the latter tribe. To put it simply, can a squad that won the league by 11 points last season really drop its collective level by that much?
Watching United labour to a draw against the side Hull battered six goals past and even Leicester City put four past, and hearing Moyes talk afterwards of his team's 'mental softness', you wonder. The dressing room will certainly not appreciate those comments given their trophies and successes to date, and with Rooney, Van Persie, Mata, Januzaj & Co. all available to Moyes for the last few games, there is less and less legitimacy behind the hard luck story that is becoming the manager's post-match staple. The time for excuses is running out.
Everton need an Adebayor to call their own
Spurs don't have the best home record and have often struggled in front of their own fans this season. Gone are the Andre Villas-Boas days - the man who lashed out at home supporters for not always lending their voices when needed - but Spurs' home record still reads a less-than-impressive Played 13, Won 6, Lost 4.
Everton came to White Hart Lane looking to impose themselves on the hosts from the start, and this they did, forging a number of openings and playing open, positive football. Spurs failed to register a single shot on target in the 65 minutes before Emmanuel Adebayor's brilliant opening goal and only managed two all game.
That said, Martinez's side weren't much better themselves. Despite their early dominance, they only managed three attempts on goal and only one from inside the box. What's more, all these shots came in the opening 25 minutes, after which Everton failed to create anything of note despite their 54 per cent possession.
Build-up play was positive for the most part, but the final ball was poor and Kevin Mirallas in particular was guilty of over-egging the pudding on a number of occasions as his selfish side got the better of him.
In Romelu Lukaku's absence Everton have no real presence up front. Lacina Traore will soon be an option, but given the pair are on loan both of these are temporary solutions. When the summer comes and they leave for nothing, what next for Martinez in that area of the pitch?
Stop-gap signings will only do for so long and in the back of Martinez's mind he must already be wondering how he can address this issue next season.
Liverpool are definite title contenders
One team that do bring to mind the Manchester United of old - though their supporters might not appreciate the comparison - is Liverpool. A blend of young and experienced players, all hungry, playing with wonderful freedom, energy and joy in their game and led by a manager who appears to be getting the best out of almost everyone around him. Make no mistake, Liverpool are definite title contenders.
Though frailties in defence remain - before this weekend Liverpool had made more errors leading to a goal or attempt on goal than any other team in the league this season - the verve and cut-throat ferocity with which Liverpool are attacking teams stands them in good stead.
The way Brendan Rodgers' side ripped Arsenal's defence to shreds in the first half of their 5-1 win was a real joy to watch for the neutral and, fronted by Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, Liverpool have the kind of creativity that can turn a game on its head at any moment.
With a six point gap and the teams above them facing the inevitable distractions of midweek Champions League football, it is not far-fetched to imagine the Reds sneaking up on the top three and closing the gap in the weeks that follow. Their football is so full of confidence and swagger right now that if they manage to do that then, from there, who knows?
Things get worse for Cardiff
The Vincent Tan pantomime act has largely distracted attention from events on the pitch at Cardiff this season, but on the evidence of their 3-0 defeat to Swansea the Bluebirds really are in big trouble.
Swansea failed to attempt a single shot on target in their 2-0 defeat at West Ham last weekend - as clear a sign as any that the Michael Laudrup days might have been coming to an end, in hindsight - but they dusted themselves down from a difficult week and comfortably dispatched their old Welsh enemies at the Liberty Stadium.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team put in a hard shift in the first half, but were overwhelmed in the second half and now sit just one point away from the bottom of the Premier League. What's more, three of Solskjaer's January signings wholly failed to impress.
Wilfried Zaha beat his man four times but only one of those was in the opposition half, and he failed to create a single chance for his new team-mates. Fabio let his man get the better of him time after time, watching on almost wistfully as he allowed his direct opponent to whip in crosses without so much as a half-hearted attempt at preventing them. And Kenwyne Jones flattered to deceive.
All three players were hauled off by Solskjaer as the game wore on and that will come as a worrying sign for Cardiff supporters. These were supposed to be the players charged with leading the escape to victory, but after an encouraging start against Norwich last weekend they turned out to be among the more disappointing players on display in arguably Cardiff's biggest game of what could end up becoming a brief Premier League stay. Ole has work to do.
Pulis and Palace deserve praise
If the Premier League table was based on the last 10 games alone, Crystal Palace would be 10th. If you narrow that down to the last six games, they would be eighth - and three points above Manchester United.
Tony Pulis has been a divisive figure in English football ever since his Stoke team bruised their way to consecutive years of Premier League survival and an FA Cup final. Really, Pulis finds himself an unwitting focal point for what is an ideological clash that has endured throughout the ages of football, since the days of RAF Wing Commander Charles Reep.
But putting all that to one side for a moment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny one thing: Pulis is a pretty darn good manager, and far better than he gets credit for.
Palace's 3-1 win against West Brom was their sixth in 13 games under their baseball cap-clad gaffer. The Eagles had won two and lost 10 of the 12 league games before his arrival. Now sitting in 14th, it looks far more like they will remain in the division - though their position remains precarious given Palace are still only three points clear of the bottom three.
Guided by a manager who strives to continue his record of having never experienced the grim spectre of relegation, Palace are going pretty good right now.