Tag Archives: cazorla

Arsenal 0 Everton 0 – match report: Champions League picture muddied by draw

Arsenal 0 Everton 0: Rough and tumble night ends all square as top four fight rumbles on

PUBLISHED:

20:38 GMT, 16 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:39 GMT, 16 April 2013

Arsenal and Everton slugged it out for a share of the spoils which does little to boost either sides' top four hopes.

The two came into the match in third and sixth place respectively, and remain there after a draw which will be remembered more its blood and thunder style than it will the football on show.

Such was the ferocity of the opening exchanges that tempers flared as the players left the pitch at half-time after Everton's Kevin Mirallas squirted Jack Wilshere with his drink.

Back on the pitch, Olivier Giroud wasted the two best chances enjoyed by either side, sliding one effort wide from an excellent Aaron Ramsey cross, then falling in a heap when well found by Theo Walcott.

More to follow…

No way through: Despite the best efforts of all concerned, neither side were able to find a goal

No way through: Despite the best efforts of all concerned, neither side were able to find a goal

MATCH FACTS

ARSENAL: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs (Monreal 90), Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere (Oxlade-Chamberlain 68), Cazorla, Walcott (Podolski 69), Giroud Subs not used: Mannone, Vermaelen, Rosicky, Gervinho

Booked: Arteta, Monreal

Everton: Howard, Baines, Gibson, Jagielka, Mirallas (Oviedo 90), Distin, Barkley (Jelavic 76), Pienaar, Coleman, Fellaini, Anichebe (Naismith 90) Subs not used: Mucha, Heitinga, Hitzlsperger, Neville

Booked: Gibson, Pienaar, Barkley

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Attendance: 60,071

Latest Premier League table and results

XX.


Rough and tumble: There were meaty challenges flying in all over the field as the sides battled for supremacy

Rough and tumble: There were meaty challenges flying in all over the field as the sides battled for supremacy

Rough and tumble: There were meaty challenges flying in all over the field as the sides battled for supremacy

Rough and tumble: There were meaty challenges flying in all over the field as the sides battled for supremacy

Rough and tumble: There were meaty challenges flying in all over the field as the sides battled for supremacy

Chances: Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud had Arsenal's best moments in the first half

Chances: Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud had Arsenal's best moments in the first half

Chances: Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud had Arsenal's best moments in the first half

Spat: There was a running battle between Jack Wilshere and Kevin Mirallas that continued into the break

Spat: There was a running battle between Jack Wilshere and Kevin Mirallas that continued into the break

Enlarge

Spat: There was a running battle between Jack Wilshere and Kevin Mirallas that continued into the break

Spat: There was a running battle between Jack Wilshere and Kevin Mirallas that continued into the break

Arsene Wenger hails Gervinho after Arsenal beat Reading

Wenger hails Gervinho as Arsenal stay in the hunt for Champions League place

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

20:44 GMT, 30 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:44 GMT, 30 March 2013

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hailed the confident display of Gervinho after the Ivory Coast forward set the Gunners on the way to a 4-1 win over relegation-battlers Reading which kept them in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

Gervinho has often cut a controversial figure among supporters following a string of frustrating displays following an 11million move from Lille in July 2011.

However, the 25-year-old was on the money this afternoon, opening the scoring on 11 minutes and having a hand in everything positive as Arsenal eventually broke the Royals stubborn resistance again at the start of the second half when Santi Cazorla sweeping home. Olivier Giroud added a third following a quick break by Gervinho.

Key role: Gervinho was praised by Arsene Wenger following his performance against Reading

Key role: Gervinho was praised by Arsene Wenger following his performance against Reading

Hal Robson-Kanu headed in a consolation for Nigel Adkins' men, but there was to be no recovery to mark their new manager's first match in charge as Mikel Arteta's penalty made sure Arsenal closed up on Chelsea in the race for fourth-spot and also remained within striking distance of Tottenham, on whom they hold a match in hand.

'Gervinho's performance was very strong. He was always dangerous, always looked like he could score, gave assists and scored himself,' Wenger said.

'I believe that sometimes Gervinho has lost confidence because he played in a very negative atmosphere during a period. Strikers need confidence, and [with] his game, even more.

Winning feeling: Gervinho celebrates with team mate Bacary Sagna after the 4-1 victory

Winning feeling: Gervinho celebrates with team mate Bacary Sagna after the 4-1 victory

'He was always taking the ball and going forward, and provoking. When you lose confidence, that is a very dangerous game then.

'When he has found the confidence back, he's a very dangerous player.

'At the African Nations Cup, for me he was the best striker there. He is the type of player who is difficult to find, because they always go at people.'

Wenger was pleased with the final result for his side, who have now won six of their last eight league games and also won 2-0 away over Bayern Munich in the Champions League, although still bowing out of Europe.

'I enjoyed our technical side, our creative side, our spirit and how disciplined and focused we were,' said Wenger.

Mind the gap: Arsene Wenger fighting for Champions League qualification

Mind the gap: Arsene Wenger fighting for Champions League qualification

'The regret you have is that there were more goals in this game than the number of goals we scored.

'Overall, it's a good basis to finish the season well. Let's just keep that spirit, that attitude and play the football we want to play.'

Wenger called for his side to keep their performances high over the run-in, with little margin for error if they are to gatecrash the top four once again.

'What we do is we look at the table and we are still behind Chelsea and Tottenham. We are not in a calculation mode,' he said.

'We can just win our next game and continue to do what we do at the moment.

'We are on a run so let's take care of the quality of our game and that run. After, we'll see where we stand.

On target: Gervinho was on the scoresheet

On target: Gervinho was on the scoresheet

'It (Champions League qualification) will be less predictable than it was predicted. We have a word to say in that and we want to give our best to do it.'

For Reading, meanwhile, the outlook is not so positive as the defeat sent them bottom of the table on goal difference, some seven points adrift of safety.

However, with a home clash against former club Southampton, Adkins is not about to throw in the towel just yet.

He said: 'We have had a bit of a fragmented week with the change, and players away on international duty, trying to get to grips with where we want to go and what to do is going to be challenging.

'We wanted to get something here, but didn't. Arsenal kept the ball very well.

'We will analyse it now, debrief back with the players, take the lessons from it and work very hard on the training ground for the next one.

'You can't change everything straight away, but we will all work hard together to give us a chance in the next game.'

Adkins added: 'The spirit is there in the group, and all we can do is take it one match at a time – there here and now is putting this one to bed, working hard over the course of the week for the next one.'

Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1 – match report: Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon score for Spurs, Per Mertesacker heads in consolation for Gunners

Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1: Bale and Lennon pounce on shoddy defending to win north London derby and send Spurs into third

PUBLISHED:

17:54 GMT, 3 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:54 GMT, 3 March 2013

Tottenham pulled clear of their north London rivals Arsenal in the race to secure Champions League football with a 2-1 win in a pulsating derby at White Hart Lane.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon capitalised on some poor defending from the visitors to give Spurs a commanding 2-0 lead at half-time.

Per Mertesacker hit back for Arsenal with a header early in the second half but Arsene Wenger's side couldn't force an equaliser.

Spurs moved seven points clear of their neighbours and leapfrogged Chelsea into third place in the Premier League.

Delight: Tottenham celebrate their 2-1 win over Arsenal which moved them into third in the Premier League

Delight: Tottenham celebrate their 2-1 win over Arsenal which moved them into third in the Premier League

MATCH FACTS

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto, Dembele (Livermore 87), Parker, Lennon (Gallas 90), Bale, Sigurdsson, Adebayor (Defoe 66).

Subs not used: Friedel, Naughton, Holtby, Carroll.

Goals: Bale 37, Lennon 39.

Booked: Vertonghen, Adebayor.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson (Rosicky 60), Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal, Ramsey, Arteta (Podolski 77), Walcott, Wilshere, Cazorla, Giroud.

Subs not used: Mannone, Koscielny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Gervinho.

Goals: Mertesacker 51.

Booked: Ramsey.

Attendance: 36,170.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LATEST PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE, FIXTURES AND RESULTS

More to follow

Opener: Gareth Bale beat Arsenal's offside trap to score the first goal at White Hart Lane

Opener: Gareth Bale beat Arsenal's offside trap to score the first goal at White Hart Lane

Opener: Gareth Bale beat Arsenal's offside trap to score the first goal at White Hart Lane

Pounce: Aaron Lennon took advantage of some poor Arsenal defending to double Spurs' lead

Pounce: Aaron Lennon took advantage of some poor Arsenal defending to double Spurs' lead

Open goal: Lennon took the ball round Wojciech Szczesny before rolling it into an empty net

Open goal: Lennon took the ball round Wojciech Szczesny before rolling it into an empty net

Back in it: Per Mertesacker celebrates after heading home for Arsenal to reduce their deficit

Back in it: Per Mertesacker celebrates after heading home for Arsenal to reduce their deficit

Arsenal"s Jack Wilshere was forced off with a thigh injury against Sunderland

Arsenal face anxious wait over Wilshere as England star hobbles off at Sunderland

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

16:42 GMT, 9 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

09:54 GMT, 10 February 2013

Jack Wilshere was forced off during his Arsenal's 1-0 victory against Sunderland with a thigh injury after being bodychecked by Alfred N'Diaye.

There didn't seem to be a great deal
of contact from the new Sunderland signing, but it was enough for Wilshere to be replaced by Abou Diaby as Arsenal looked to keep hold of their lead.

Arsene Wenger was visibly furious with the physical nature of Sunderland's tackling, as his playmaker was left on the floor on more than one occasion.

After the match the Arsenal manager said that Wilshere 'can't walk properly now', but hopes he will only be out for around four or five days.

Down: Jack Wilshere was in distress when receiving treatment after the collision

Down: Jack Wilshere was in distress when receiving treatment after the collision

Furious: As Wilshere hobbled off, Arsene Wenger was irate with the referee

Furious: As Wilshere hobbled off, Arsene Wenger was irate with the referee

Laurent Koscielny, who was initially
named on the Arsenal teamsheet, had to be withdrawn just before kick-off
after limping out of the warm up with a calf injury.

He had passed a fitness test before
the game, but was unable to take to the pitch, meaning Bacary Sagna had
to play centre back and Carl Jenkinson came in at right back.

Arsenal were also made to play the last 30 minutes without Carl Jenkinson, who was sent off for two
yellow cards, the second being a silly lunge on Stephane Sessegnon.

He will be suspended for their FA Cup fifth-round clash against Blackburn on Saturday.

They
held on to pick up a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light after Santi
Cazorla had put the Gunners ahead in the first half with a low shot past
Simon Mignolet.

Fighting: Wilshere and N'Diaye go head to head for the ball

Fighting: Wilshere and N'Diaye go head to head for the ball

Smash: Bramble came in with a heavy tackle on the Arsenal midfielder

Smash: Titus Bramble came in with a heavy tackle on the Arsenal midfielder

Wilshere's injury comes the day after Wenger had said that the England star needed to be protected from burnout and future injuries.

He had played a leading role in their 2-1 win when Brazil visited Wembley, outshining the likes of Ronaldinho and Neymar.

However Wenger was more philosophical: 'It is not just the physical aspect, but the mental pressure every time he plays. We will have to manage him well physically to make sure he doesn't face that burnout.

'I had in fact expected Jack to play only a part of the game on
Wednesday, but it didn't happen and because of his quality he will be
exposed to that, the overuse of his quality, and you can understand that.

'He will have to be managed like everyone else.'

Competitive: Wilshere and Lee Cattermole getting to grips with each other in the middle of the park

Competitive: Wilshere and Lee Cattermole getting to grips with each other in the middle of the park

Winner: Santi Cazorla's strike was the only goal of the game

Winner: Santi Cazorla's strike was the only goal of the game

Arsene Wenger: Arsenal ready to "spend big" in transfer window after paying off Emirates Stadium

Wenger delivers the news Arsenal fans have been waiting for… I'm ready to spend big now the stadium is paid off

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

16:59 GMT, 15 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:06 GMT, 15 January 2013

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says the club are ready to 'spend big' again.

The Gunners slumped to a 2-0 home defeat by Manchester City on Sunday which saw them lose further ground on the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

Wenger insists Arsenal are in the market to bolster their squad during the January transfer window but will only do so if they can find the right quality.

Keeping watch: Arsene Wenger oversees training with assistant manager Steve Bould on Tuesday

Keeping watch: Arsene Wenger oversees training with assistant manager Steve Bould on Tuesday

The Gunners have been linked with a string of players across Europe, with Lyon playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame the latest rumoured to be on Wenger's radar.

But he is also keen to have a core of players who are already at the club – like Barcelona – with a new contract for Theo Walcott expected to be pushed through shortly.

With Arsenal set to see new commercial deals kick in following their 390million move to the Emirates Stadium and with plenty of cash in reserve – resources which were further boosted by last summer's 24m sale of captain Robin van Persie to Manchester United – Wenger insists he will be able to invest heavily in the playing staff.

Jack Wilshere

Santi Cazorla

In training: Jack Wilshere (left) and Santi Cazorla will feature for Arsenal in their Cup replay against Swansea

'My plan is to keep all of the players we have and then to add maybe, if possible, two new players to the squad. We will spend big (again) because we had restricted finances because we had built the stadium and had to pay that back,' Wenger said in an interview with Al Jazeera Sport recorded before the City defeat and broadcast on talkSPORT this morning.

'You look at any club who has done that, and they have gone down (in performance).

'We stayed at the top level, yes without winning the Premier League, but we were always at the top level.

'Now we have come out in a much stronger position financially again, so we can spend.

'But our way is a bit like Barcelona as well, to produce the core of the team from inside and add from outside the players who give really a plus.'

Wenger accepts Arsenal will always be an easy target for those who claim the board put the balance sheet ahead of success on the pitch.

'The biggest challenge so far is to convince people we have a good team, that we have good quality and that we lead the club in the right way, because many people doubt that,' the Frenchman continued.

'I am convinced this team has a
fantastic mentality, fantastic quality and with the right level of
confidence, if we can create the momentum, we can be a positive surprise
until the end of the season.'

Wenger may have transformed Arsenal's fortunes since taking
over at Highbury in September 1996, but he accepts his time
will soon 'be up' as the club must one day look for new leadership.

No deal: Theo Walcott is yet to sign a new contract with Arsenal

No deal: Theo Walcott is yet to sign a new contract with Arsenal

Arsenal v Swansea: Team News

Arsenal will be without suspended defender Laurent Koscielny and injured midfielder Mikel Arteta (calf) for tomorrow's FA Cup third-round replay against Swansea at Emirates Stadium.

Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky (calf) is also sidelined. Forward Gervinho is away at the African Nations Cup with Ivory Coast.

Provisional Squad: Szczesny, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Sagna, Podolski, Cazorla, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Walcott, Mannone, Coquelin, Santos, Jenkinson, Diaby, Giroud, Arshavin.

'It is (time up), because I am 63 years old and will not work at 100. That, though, is not the most important, what is important is that when you are somewhere, you give your best,' said Wenger, whose side host Swansea in their FA Cup third-round replay tomorrow night, with Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla set to feature.

'How long will I stay I have a contract until 2014, and I always respected my contracts.

'It is important is that the club goes the right direction – we have a very young team who have fantastic qualities and (it is important) that I help them to get their qualities transformed into positive results.

'Let's not forget that last year we finished third (in the Premier League), as long as that is seen as a disaster, it is not too bad for the future of the club.'

Jamie Redknapp"s team of season so far… more Stoke players than Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs or Arsenal!

My team of the season so far… and why I've picked more Stoke players than from City, Chelsea, Spurs or Arsenal!

|

UPDATED:

11:47 GMT, 31 December 2012

Sportsmail's dream teams

Click below to read:

Neil Ashton's London 2012 team

Martin Keown's Arsenal/Spurs XI

Dominic King's Mersey stars of 2012

It's never easy picking these teams – and I'm sure you'll tell me where I'm going wrong!

How can I possibly leave out the exciting and entertaining Santi Cazorla or the powerful and productive Marouane Fellaini Both would get into most teams, but I would argue I have better players and I need to have some balance too.

Joe Hart is, in my opinion, the best goalkeeper in the world, but he has not been in the best form – and nor has Manchester United's David De Gea. Stoke have been defensively excellent and their goalkeeper, who may well move to a bigger club soon, has been very good. And so has their captain, Ryan Shawcross.

Santi Cazorla

Marouane Fellaini

You're out: Sorry Santi, sorry Marouane… there's just no room in my team for you two!

And here's how it breaks down, team-by-team…

Stoke – 2 players
Manchester United – 2 players
Swansea – 2 players
Manchester City – 1 player
Everton – 1 player
Chelsea – 1 player
Liverpool – 1 player
Spurs – 1 player

If you had told me at the start of
the season, I would be picking a half-term team with more Stoke players
than Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs or Arsenal, I would have asked for
the smelling salts.
Swansea too have two players, as do Manchester United.

There are no Arsenal players in my XI. No Wayne Rooney. No Sergio Aguero, or David Silva.
But my team has goals: Michu in midfield, Bale, Suarez and Robin van Persie in attacking positions and Michael Carrick to supply the passes.

I have two attacking full-backs, including the excellent Leighton Baines. Imagine Baines, Bale and Mata lining up for a free-kick.

So here's my line-up (4-3-3) …

Goalkeeper:
Asmir Begovic (Stoke)

Asmir Begovic

Defenders (right-left):
Pablo Zabaleta (Man
City)
Ashley Williams (Swansea)
Ryan Shawcross (Stoke)
Leighton Baines (Everton)

Pablo Zabaleta

Ashley Williams

Just try and get past this fab four: (clockwise from top left) Zabaleta, Williams, Baines, Shawcross

Ryan Shawcross

Leighton Baines

Midfielders:
Michael Carrick
(Man United)
Michu (Swansea)
Juan Mata (Chelsea)

Passed it: Michael Carrick

Passed it: Michael Carrick

Michu

Goal threat: Michu

Juan Mata

Spain in the neck: Juan Mata

Attackers:
Gareth Bale (Spurs)
Luis Suarez
(Liverpool)
Robin van Persie (Man United)

Gareth Bale

Luis Suarez

Fearsome: Bale, Suarez and Van Persie would form a mouthwatering forward line in my dream team

Robin van Persie

Premier League half-term report 2012-13

Premier League half-term report: The good, the bad and the ugly from the season so far

|

UPDATED:

23:30 GMT, 27 December 2012

With the halfway point of the Premier League season having been reached on Boxing Day, Sportsmail's team of football correspondents run the rule over the campaign so far and consider what lays in store over the coming months for each and every top flight club…

Top of the pile: Manchester United moved seven points clear with a Boxing Day win over Newcastle

Top of the pile: Manchester United moved seven points clear with a Boxing Day win over Newcastle

ARSENAL (Sami Mokbel)

SIMON JONES’ transfer verdict

Transfer budget: 70m

Want: Striker, winger, defensive midfield, right back, left back

Targets: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), Demba Ba (Newcastle), Luiz
Adriano (Shakhtar), Nani (Man Utd), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Momo
Diame (West Ham), Kieran Trippier (Burnley)

To go: Theo Walcott, Bacary Sagna, Andrey Arshavin, Andre Santos

The season so far in a tweet (140 characters or less)
It's been a struggle for #AFC – just when you think Arsene Wenger has turned it around, along comes a result like they had at Bradford

Thumbs up for
Santi Cazorla: Simply a brilliant footballer and surely one of the buys of the season. Makes Arsenal's midfield tick and has even chipped in with a few goals. Keeping him fit will be vital for the Gunners.

Thumbs down for
Gervinho: Started the season promisingly but has had an alarming dip in form. His confidence looks shot to pieces and looked out of his depth in THAT defeat at League Two Bradford. His trip to the Africa Cup of Nations could be a blessing.

Star man: Cazorla (centre) has been a revelation for Arsenal this season

Star man: Cazorla (centre) has been a revelation for Arsenal this season

How's the boss doing
Despite his seven seasons without a trophy, Arsene Wenger's job remains one of the safest in Europe. He is, however, starting to come under fire from the supporters that have been so staunch in his defence during the trophy drought. But write Wenger off at your peril. Qualification for next season's Champions League will be one of his greatest achievements yet.

Fans' verdict
Wenger's done a brilliant job at Arsenal but he is in danger of ruining his legacy. I don't think we should sack him, but one of my main reasons behind that is because I don't think there is anyone out there who could do a better job. He has got some excellent players: Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla – but the rest are mediocre and we have to remember these are all his signings.
Brian Chriss, Croydon

ASTON VILLA (Neil Moxley)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Budget: 6m (dependent on sales)

Want: Striker

Targets: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Derek Boateng (Dnipro), Raoul Loe (Osasuna)

To go: Darren Bent, Richard Dunne

The season so far in a tweet
Poor start. Lambert stands by kids and results pick up. Glory beckons in League Cup then disaster at end of year

Thumbs up for
Nathan Baker: Benteke dominates the headlines and keeper Brad Guzan, defender Matthew Lowton and midfielder Ashley Westwood have caught the eye. But Baker’s emergence as the fulcrum of the back three tops the lot.

Thumbs down for
Darren Bent: Villa boss Paul Lambert has called the striker’s bluff. The club prospers without him. What next for the England international and Villa’s 24m club record signing

Frozen out: Bent lost his starting place before injury struck

Frozen out: Bent lost his starting place before injury struck

How’s the boss doing
Was given a huge mandate by Villa supporters desperate to see the back of Alex McLeish. At first, it failed to deliver but the youngsters – the average age of Villa’s team is just 23 – did provide a spark of vitality. The fans have given them time but the last two results raise big questions. Villa are in trouble.

Fans’ verdict
Made an excellent start with the resources, backed up with some good buys. He’s rooted out the ones who don’t want to play for us, regardless of who they are and what they cost. We might need some experience in midfield – or someone to link defence and attack. I think top ten beckons.
Mark Hateley, Warwickshire

CHELSEA (Matt Barlow)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 40m

Want: Striker, left back, defensive midfield

Targets: Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen), Radamel Falcao (Atletico
Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Lucas (Liverpool), Benat (Real
Betis), Paulinho (Corinthians), Nacho Monreal (Malaga)

To go: Daniel Sturridge, Florent Malouda

The season so far in a tweet
#CFC’s usual blend of all-conquering, early-season swagger followed by utter disarray. Crises ensue: record breaking CL crash, managerial change. Yet still in touch at the PL summit. Just

Thumbs up for
Juan Mata: the briefest flash of Mata can brighten the soul but he delivers so much more in terms of vital goals and assists. The creative heartbeat, and he could do with more help.

Thumbs down for
Eden Hazard: promised so much in the opening weeks with explosive pace and power but has been quickly neutralised by PL defences and must work hard to find new ways to make his undoubted talent a effective again in an attacking sense because he offers very little to the team defensively.

Mercurial talent: Mata has made Chelsea tick this season

Mercurial talent: Mata has made Chelsea tick this season

How’s the boss doing
Well, the first one seemed to be doing OK, all things considered, but it all unravelled quickly and they sacked him, because they never really liked him. Then the new one came in on a short-term deal, didn’t win for three games but has tightened them up again at the back and may have unlocked the goals for Fernando Torres.

Fans’ verdict
We became a farce sacking the man who won us the Champions League but things have calmed down under Benitez, even though we still don’t like him. Oscar is great, Mata is brilliant and we can hopefully win a trophy or two.
James Gardiner, Surrey

EVERTON (Dominic King)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 2m

Want: Centre back, midfield, striker

Targets: Vegard Forren (Molde), Lewis Holtby (Schalke), John Stones (Barnsley), Vadis Odjida-Ofoe (Bruges)

To go: John Heitinga

The season so far in a tweet
Having shaken off their tag as perennial slow starters, @Everton have given themselves a real chance to end a three-year hiatus from Europe.

Thumbs up for
Leighton Baines: Can justifiably claim to be the best left back in the Premier League at present. It’s not often someone in his position is the first name on the team-sheet but he defends superbly and is Everton’s main chance creator.

Thumbs down for
Marouane Fellaini: While his performances cannot be faulted, the Belgian blotted his copybook spectacularly when assaulting Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross. It was not the behaviour of an Everton player and his three-game absence from the team could yet prove costly.

Hero to villain: Fellaini had started the season in exceptional form for Everton

Hero to villain: Fellaini had started the season in exceptional form for Everton

How’s the boss doing
It is difficult to pick holes in the job David Moyes is doing at present. He has reinvented the style with which Everton play and they are now much more vibrant than pragmatic. He has again demonstrated his expertise in the transfer market and looks totally content in his work. Moyes knows there is a big opportunity in front of Everton.

Fans’ verdict
It's been a good but frustrating season so far. A couple of sloppy second half displays aside (Reading and Fulham), we have dominated games and only for some terrible refereeing decisions we would have more points to show for it. I'm genuinely optimistic going forward. Our home form has been great and top sides fear coming to Goodison plus we are now going away expecting to pick up points. It's imperative to keep Fellaini, Baines and Jelavic fit as squad our squad is still a bit thin. But we can push on and finish top four and above Liverpool for the second year running.
Mark Jackson, Liverpool

FULHAM (Laura Williamson)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 10m

Want: Goalkeeper, defender, midfielder

Targets: Paul Robinson (Blackburn), Vegard Forren (Molde), Derek Boateng
(Dnipro), Omar El Khaddouri (Napoli), Raul Garcia (Atletico Madrid),
Leo Baptistao (Rayo Vallecano)

To go: None

The season so far in a tweet
Started well but still hopeless away and struggling now. Goals aplenty (at both ends). Losing Dempsey & Dembele a blow but Berbatov so good. #FFC

Thumbs up for
Dimitar Berbatov: He has not scored enough goals but has brought a work-rate and style that could grace any team. Bryan Ruiz’s hamstring injury was disappointing as the pair seemed to be striking up quite a (long-sleeved, glove-wearing) creative partnership.

Thumbs down for
Mark Schwarzer: The Australian goalkeeper seems to have been such a consistently high performer for so long, but the errors have been creeping in ever more frequently. Just two clean sheets since he celebrated his 40th birthday on October 6.

Maverick: The signing of Berbatov has proved a shrewd piece of business

Maverick: The signing of Berbatov has proved a shrewd piece of business

How’s the boss doing
Injuries have not been kind to Martin Jol, but his team remain highly unpredictable and prone both to scoring and conceding high numbers of goals. A mid-table finish should not be a problem, which would be quite an achievement for the Dutchman, given he has slowly but steadily overseen the rebuilding of the team that was so successful under Roy Hodgson.

Fans’ verdict
I’m pleased to have Martin Jol. We needed his experience and guile to get through some major personnel changes, especially losing our entire midfield. We’re a high-scoring side, but that masks our real defensive fragility, which became so evident when Brede Hangeland was suspended for three games recently. I remain upbeat, but a mid-table finish will not be easy.
John Pearse, Bromley

Liverpool (Dominic King)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 20m

Want: Strikers, left back, goalkeeper

Targets: Thomas Ince (Blackpool), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Danny Rose (Tottenham)

To go: Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jay Spearing

The season so far in a tweet
Signs of improvement from @LFC but, equally, must do better & little doubt squad needs strengthening before they can challenge for top four

Thumbs up for
Luis Suarez: The best striker in the Premier League and has, at times, single-handedly carried Liverpool through difficult spells. Also showing now that he can be a great goalscorer rather than a scorer of great goals; he is crucial to Liverpool’s ambitions.

Thumbs down for
Fabio Borini: Brought in from Roma at a cost of 10million, the Italian has looked ill-equipped to cope with the demands of English football. He hasn’t scored in the Premier League and has been out for three months with injury.

King Luis: Suarez has netted 11 times already this season

King Luis: Suarez has netted 11 times already this season

How’s the boss doing
It has not been easy for Brendan Rodgers in the six months he has been at the helm. Though there have been some encouraging performances to go alongside qualification for the Europa League knockout phase, he has made some mistakes and there are still elements of Liverpool’s support who are reserving judgement on him. His enthusiasm, however, cannot be faulted.

Fans’ verdict
The imminent arrival of Daniel Sturridge worries me. On one hand, I'm not sure he is the player we need. But on the other I know how badly the club is run and wonder if this is just another output of poor ownership / leadership. Also the system we are playing doesn't get the best out of Stevie Gerrard. We don't have enough good players to not maximise his abilities.
Mike Fitzharris, Liverpool

MANCHESTER CITY (Ian Ladyman)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 30m (dependent on sales)

Want: Striker, midfielder

Targets: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), Radamel Falcao (Atletico
Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Fernando Llorente (Athletic
Bilbao), Paulinho (Corinthians), Benat (Real Betis)

To go: Joleon Lescott, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, John Guidetti

The season so far in a tweet
Hardly recognise this team from the one that made season 2011/12 so special. Where is the excitement The passion The goals Mancini needs to sort it. #disappointed

Thumbs up for
Pablo Zabaleta: If everyone had his desire to give his all and wring every ounce from every performance then City wouldn’t have a problem. The perfect pro.

Thumbs down for
Mario Balotelli: What else is there left to say So much promise during Euro 2012 and so little end-product at City. Last chance saloon time now.

Warrior: Zabaleta has been a rare bright spark for Man City

Warrior: Zabaleta has been a rare bright spark for Man City

How’s the boss doing
Mancini is a Barclays Premier League title and FA Cup winner so he deserves time. There have been chinks in the armour this season, though. Doesn’t always look to be in control.

Fans’ verdict
I will never forget what this team did for me last year. Unbelievable. But the bar has been raised in terms of expectations now and I have to say that I am not that happy with the way we have gone about things this season.
Steve Ryan, Manchester

MANCHESTER UNITED (Chris Wheeler)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 30m

Want: Goalkeeper, left back, centre midfield, winger

Targets: Asmir Begovic (Stoke), Nacho Monreal (Malaga), Angelo Ogbonna
(Torino), Alen Halilovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Sime Vrsaljko (Dinamo Zagreb)

To go: Nani, Anders Lindegaard

The season so far in a tweet
Erratic. Top of the table and through in Europe, but United know they can’t afford to go behind as often as they have been doing

Thumbs up for
Robin van Persie: The Dutchman was brought in from Arsenal for 24million in the summer to make a difference and he’s certainly done that. Where would United be without Van Persie’s goals so far this season

Thumbs down for
Nani: Booked in the third minute of the opening defeat to Everton and it’s gone downhill from there. On the rare occasion he plays, the Portugal winger looks like a man who knows his future lies away from Old Trafford.

Dutch of class: Van Persie goals have helped fire United to the top of the table

Dutch of class: Van Persie goals have helped fire United to the top of the table

How’s the boss doing
As well as ever and, thanks to Harvard University, we now know how he’s doing it. There is little doubt that Sir Alex Ferguson is coming to the end of a wonderful career, but the challenge of Manchester City has given him a new lease of life and the ambition is still burning to go out in style.

Fans’ verdict
It’s been a great start to the season without playing to the best of our ability. Van Persie has been a brilliant signing and he’ll be a massive player if we’re going to take the title off City. The Premier League’s already looking promising, and if we can get past Real who’s to say we can’t go all the way in the Champions League as well.
Chris Lloyd, South Manchester

NEWCASTLE (Colin Young)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 15m

Want: Striker, midfield, centre back, right back

Targets: Loic Remy (Marseille), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Momo Diame (West Ham), Andy Carroll (Liverpool)

To go: Demba Ba, Danny Simpson

The season so far in a tweet
Europa League, the dubious reward for last season’s heroics has taken its toll but #nufc are a good performance away from getting their season back on track

Thumbs up for
Hatem Ben Arfa: The injury to Newcastle’s outstanding playmaker comes at the worst possible time for Alan Pardew. The French midfielder has been brilliant throughout the season while others have struggled and his match-winning abilities will be sorely missed.

Thumbs down for
Papiss Cisse: He could not stop scoring when he arrived a year ago, netting 13 in 14. The form, the confidence and the prowess has deserted him in front of goal, and on the wings and he doesn’t look happy.

Jekyll and Hyde: Cisse (right) has struggled with form since August

Jekyll and Hyde: Cisse (right) has struggled with form since August

How’s the boss doing
Alan Pardew has been unable to exert his influence on his players on the training ground because of the European campaign, which has been a success so far. But it has hit the league campaign and, unlike last season, Newcastle have leaked messy goals which have cost them games.

Fans’ verdict
It has been a poor and disappointing first half of the season. We should have invested in the summer, they knew we were in the Europa League would struggle to cope, not sold Danny Guthrie and bought more quality so we didn’t have to rely on kids like Bigirimana who looks a good prospect, but not ready yet. Saying that, I am confident we will get better with injured players back. I hope Ba stays, but I have my doubts.
Reuben Horner, Newcastle

NORWICH CITY (Laurie Whitwell)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 4m

Want: Striker

Targets: Leigh Griffiths (Wolves), Raoul Loe (Osasuna)

To go: None

Season in a tweet
Jekyll and Hyde from last season but producing similarly good results. Defensive stability has replaced goals to keep club on the up

Thumbs up for
Sebastien Bassong: Secured from Tottenham for a bargain fee in the summer, the Cameroonian has brought strength and calm to central defence. Only once have Norwich conceded more than a single goal when he has played. Chipped in with two valuable strikes too.

Thumbs down for
Grant Holt: He brings invaluable link up play and presence to the Norwich team, but is finding goals harder to come by in his second top-flight season. He netted 15 times in the Premier League last year but, as we approach halfway, only four this.

Floored: Holt has not lived up to the high standards he set last season

Floored: Holt has not lived up to the high standards he set last season

How’s the boss doing
Chris Hughton had a tough task to follow in the footsteps of Paul Lambert, but the 53-year-old has managed it with aplomb. Finally given (a little) money to spend after having to sell players at Newcastle and Birmingham, he has picked wisely. The first-choice back four is all his own and can shut out the best attacks. A little sparkle up front might be welcome.

Fans’ verdict
It was a summer of turmoil but most fans thought Hughton was the right appointment. Worries emerged after a very shaky start but he has turned it around and we look settled. There were only three clean sheets all last season but five already this. Finding goals hard to come by, though, and maybe that could be addressed. Everyone would settle for just staying up.
Tom Goodywn, Norwich

QPR (Sami Mokbel)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 15m (dependent on sales)

Want: Left back, centre back, striker

Targets: Nicolas Anelka (Shanghai), Darren Bent (Aston Villa), Michael
Dawson (Tottenham), Andros Townsend (Tottenham), Sylvain Distin
(Everton), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa)

To go: Clint Hill

Season in a tweet
Simply put: a disaster. Tony Fernandes and his allies are facing financial oblivion with QPR's relegation fight. Can Harry Redknapp save them

Thumbs up for
Jamie Mackie: Put his heart and soul into every performance and has become an important part of Harry Redknapp's new regime. QPR players have been accused of only being at the club for money – that's not something you could level at Mackie.

Thumbs down for
Jose Bosingwa: Coming off the back of Chelsea's Champions League triumph, the Portuguese should have been full of vigour going into the new chapter of his career. Wrong. He's been poor, underlined by his refusal to sit on the bench for QPR's win against Fulham.

Disaster: Tony Fernandes' millions have failed to bring QPR success

Disaster: Tony Fernandes' millions have failed to bring QPR success

How's the boss doing
After a promising start of four games unbeaten – including their first Premier League win of the campaign – Harry Redknapp is starting to see the size of the task in front of him after two consecutive defeats against Newcastle and West Brom. But if anyone can save QPR then surely it's Redknapp.

Fans' verdict
We believed Mark Hughes when he said we would not be in another
relegation scrap under his watch. How wrong we were to trust him. The
season truly has been one to forget and the problem is that if we do get
relegated, which is looking increasingly likely, then I fear it will
take years for us to come back up.
Colin Barber, Banstead

READING (Sam Cunningham)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 15m

Want: Goalkeeper, central defenders, midfielder, strikers

Targets: Paul Robinson (Blackburn), Andrey Arshavin (Arsenal), Carlos Sanchez (Rangers de Talca), Raoul Loe (Osasuna)

To go: None

The season so far in a tweet
Not good enough. Already cut adrift of safety & if they’re not careful their season will be over soon. Can score goals, dreadful at the back

Thumbs up for
Garath McCleary: Almost quit football six years ago with a nasty leg break. But a summer move to Reading provided the 25-year-old with his first experience of Premier League football and he’s featured regularly this season.

Thumbs down for
Danny Guthrie: Joined the club in June on big wages and was the kind of player with Premier League experience McDermott has highlighted that will keep them in the league. But he’s had three separate spats with his boss in just six months. That and a thigh injury have meant he’s had little impact.

Feeling the heat: Brian McDermott's Reading are six points adrift of safety

Feeling the heat: Brian McDermott's Reading are six points adrift of safety

How’s the boss doing
Struggling. Has the full backing of the owner but two crucial summer signings – Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie – have not paid off. The Russian striker has not found the goalscoring form he had at the end of last season at Fulham and Reading’s other forwards don’t look like scoring consistently. Guthrie was supposed to bring Premier League experience in the centre of the park but has been more of a disruption. Injuries have not helped.

Fans’ verdict
When we lost the 2011 play-off final, Sir John Madejski said we were better off in the Championship than struggling higher up; after five months back in the top flight I find myself agreeing. Despite Brian McDermott’s assurances that it’s a good time to be a Royal, abject performances at Southampton and Sunderland leave things looking bleak. I wasn’t expecting too much, but now I’m just desperately hoping McDermott remains the man to turn things around.
Dave Ivermee, 24, Reading

STOKE (John Edwards)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 8m

Want: Left back, winger, striker

Targets: Martin Olsson (Blackburn), Michael Dawson (Tottenham)

To go: Cameron Jerome, Kenwyne Jones, Jermaine Pennant, Wilson Palacios

Season in a tweet
Not difficult to see where the main problem lies. Goals have not been flowing but defence is good. Eighth place is a more telling stat, though. Pulis still working his magic

Thumbs up for
Steven Nzonzi: The summer signing could have been custom built for Stoke, but he’s a big player in terms of technique, as well as physique. Keeps the ball well and has hardly wasted a single pass. A real bargain from Blackburn.

Thumbs down for
Charlie Adam: It may be harsh to single out Adam, but there is a feeling he has yet to show Stoke fans his true capabilities and that there is surely more to come. Only glimpses from the former Liverpool midfielder so far.

Class act: Nzonzi arrived in the summer from Blackburn

Class act: Nzonzi arrived in the summer from Blackburn

How’s the boss doing
Pulis has had to contend with a few whispers that he may have taken Stoke as far as he can. Oh no he hasn’t. Stoke are still no-one’s favourite opponents but are starting to show they have more to their armoury than a succession of long balls and long throws. They can play, as well, and full credit to Pulis for that.

Fans’ verdict
I’m old enough to remember trawling round places like Exeter, Hartlepool and Darlington, so anyone criticising Tony Pulis has a short memory. I doubted whether I would ever see us back in the top flight, but here we are, holding our own and steadily improving with signings like Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam. That’s down to Pulis and chairman Peter Coates.
Allan Smith, Stoke

SOUTHAMPTON (Sam Cunningham)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 10m

Want: Goalkeeper, central defender, midfielder, striker

Targets: Paul Robinson, Scott Dann (Blackburn), Carlos Sanchez (Rangers de Talca), Gary Hooper (Celtic)

To go: Artur Boruc

The season so far in a tweet
What a turnaround. Looked lost in the Premier League, bottom after 10 games. But Adkins has managed to get them competing at this level.

Thumbs up for
Jason Puncheon: Back in January his relatively short Southampton career looked over. He played barely any part in their successive promotions but is now a regular in the first team and is their top-scoring midfielder with four goals in 14 matches.

Thumbs down for
Artur Boruc: The summer signing has played only two games at the club, and they might be his last. The goalkeeper threw a bottle at his own fans following defeat to Tottenham, on his home debut, and hasn’t played since.

Packing a punch: Pacy winger Puncheon (second left) has been making up for lost time

Packing a punch: Pacy winger Puncheon (second left) has been making up for lost time

How’s the boss doing
Nigel Adkins certainly knows how to learn fast. Two seasons ago he took over the club in League One. Only six years ago he was a physio at Scunthorpe. He looked out of his depth at the start of the season and was close to losing his job, but he responded with results on the pitch and knows how to get his players performing.

Fans’ verdict
Southampton have showed plenty of promise this season, especially going forward. The team have adapted to the ruthlessness of this league and we’re beginning to beat teams confidently now that our defence is more assured. Our attacking style of play has been exciting to watch, especially against the bigger teams that have been expecting us to defend for 90 minutes.
James Simmons, Southampton

SUNDERLAND (Colin Young)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 15m

Want: Striker, centre back, midfield

Targets: John Guidetti (Manchester City), Gary Hooper (Celtic), Leo
Baptistao (Rayo Vallecano), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), John Stones
(Barnsley)

To go: None

The season so far in a tweet
A struggle at first and #safc have missed opps to pick up wins against fellow strugglers. Thankfully Fletcher has been scoring and things better now

Thumbs up for
Danny Rose: Steven Fletcher has scored most of the goals and Simon Mignolet has kept them out but the real star has been on-loan Spurs defender Rose. No wonder Sunderland fans have been urging Martin O’Neill to sign him.

Thumbs down for
James McClean: He could do no wrong a year ago but defenders have wised up and doubled up on the Irish winger. To his credit he has persevered, and his manager has kept faith, but only McClean can get himself out of the rut.

Loan ranger: England Under 21 international Rose has impressed at left back

Loan ranger: England Under 21 international Rose has impressed at left back

How’s the boss doing
Martin O’Neill knew this season would be a struggle but even he must have been disappointed with the early return from a squad including 20million worth of new signings Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson. He took time to bed in at Villa and Leicester and needs more time, patience and money to deliver for Sunderland.

Fans’ verdict
It’s been underwhelming, especially after the signing of Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher but I am convinced Martin O’Neill is the right man for the job. Fletcher has been an excellent signing and we just need more players to reach his level – Johnson has been a disappointment, but there are signs recently, as have Sessegnon and McClean. The one thing we do need is to keep hold of Martin O’Neill and I can’t understand the idiots who want him out after a year. He’s got the track record and he is a very good manager who builds good football teams.

SWANSEA (Riath Al-Samarrai)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 10m

Want: Striker, midfielder

Targets: Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Leo Baptistao (Rayo Vallecano), Mark Davies (Bolton), Matt Phillips (Blackpool)

To go: None

The season so far in a tweet
More excitement, more goals, more points. Life at the Liberty after Brendan Rodgers has not been so bleak after all.

Thumbs up for
Michu: Surely, at 2million, he is the signing of the season. His goals get all the attention – 13 so far and he isn’t a striker – but he is also a superb playmaker and a tireless worker when he hasn’t got possession.

Thumbs down for
Ashley Williams: One of the club’s most dependable players last season has been poor by his own standards this time round, typified by a string of calamities that led to goals early in the campaign. Illness and injury haven’t helped.

Prolific: Michu reached the halfway point in the season as the Premier League's joint-top scorer

Prolific: Michu reached the halfway point in the season as the Premier League's joint-top scorer

How’s the boss doing
Superbly. He had a few teething problems early on as some players grumbled about his methods, but he has taken the Swansea of Brendan Rodgers and improved it. The team is now more aggressive and also has a more effective Plan B, with Michu’s height enabling them to switch from the tiki-taka stuff when necessary.

Fans’ verdict
Michael Laudrup has kept the emphasis on possession but has also injected a greater sense of urgency into the way we play. The result is a team that is more dynamic, more exciting to watch, and, crucially, is scoring more goals. He’s also succeeded in adding depth to the squad. It can be hard to comprehend how far we’ve come.
Joseph Allen, Haverfordwest

TOTTENHAM (Laura Williamson)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 30m

Want: Left back, midfield, striker

Targets: Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Andy Carroll (Liverpool),
Wesley Sneijder (Inter), Yann M’Vila (Rennes), Zeki Fryers (Standard
Liege), Massadio Haidara (Nancy), Cristian Atsu (Porto), Carlos Andres
Sanchez (River Plate)

To go: Carlo Cudicini, Heurelho Gomes

The season so far in a tweet
We’re #THFC, we sing what we want, beat #MUFC at Old Trafford & would prefer to play games that only last 80 mins. Defoe & Bale on fire

Thumbs up for
Jermain Defoe: The highest English goal-scorer in the Premier League, Defoe has shouldered the burden for Spurs so far this season, playing up front alone or with Emmanuel Adebayor and averaging a goal every two games.

Thumbs down for
William Gallas: Time seems to be catching up with the 35-year-old central defender, although Andre Villas-Boas still prefers him over Michael Dawson. If matches ended after 80 minutes Spurs would be second in the table: is this down to concentration or fatigue

Goal-den patch: Defoe (right) has been prolific for Spurs this season

Goal-den patch: Defoe (right) has been prolific for Spurs this season

How’s the boss doing
A solid but unspectacular B+ for AVB so far. Spurs are fourth in the table, after all, but are just two points above Arsenal who are supposedly drowning in a crisis of their own making. Villas-Boas’ faith in Defoe has been repaid with goals, switching to 4-4-2 has worked well and Spurs have progressed in the Europa League, but the jury is still out.

Fans’ verdict
I still haven’t made my mind up about AVB, but we’re in a good position heading into Christmas – although it could have been even better if we ever played the full 90 minutes and stopped conceding late goals. If we add a couple of quality signings in January, improve our concentration and put a run together I’m confident we can achieve a top four place.
Paul Williams, Hove

WEST BROM (Neil Moxley)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 6m

Want: Goalkeeper, striker

Targets: Paul Robinson (Blackburn), Raoul Loe (Osasuna)

To go: Jerome Thomas, Chris Wood

The season so far in a tweet
Brill start for Clarke. Has built on what RH left behind. Industrious. Strong at home, dangerous away. Injuries an issue. #moretocome

Thumbs up for
James Morrison: Has finally found his rightful position, just behind the main striker, threading it all together. Baggies far less dangerous when he isn’t about.

Thumbs down for
Marcus Rosenberg: The Sweden international has not really shown anything to suggest he will be a hit in the Premier League.

New lease of life: Morrison (right) has revelled in a more advanced role

New lease of life: Morrison (right) has revelled in a more advanced role

How’s the boss doing
Most West Brom fans – and head coach Clarke – would recognise that the club was in a healthy state when he arrived. But so far has had the good sense not to mend that which doesn’t need fixing. Promising.

Fans’ verdict
There was a slight air of uncertainty because Clarke had never been a No 1 before. But with the start he made, it has settled everyone’s anxieties. It’s a similar style to that used by Roy Hodgson but perhaps less rigid. He seems to have a good bunch of players. I’m still not sure whether we are punching above our weight or not.
Steve Fisher, Kingswinford

WEST HAM (Laurie Whitwell)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 8m

Want: Striker, right winger, right back

Targets: Miralem Sulejmani (Ajax), Sean Maguire (Waterford), John Brayford (Derby)

To go: Momo Diame

The season so far in a tweet
Bubbles blowing high at Upton Park. Steel and, yes, silk have been blended to climb safely into top half. Spirit makes Europe not impossible

Thumbs up for
Mark Noble: The original Eastender has been West Ham’s fulcrum, starting attacks from deep midfield and often dictating tempo. After years of promise the 25-year-old has even received England backing. Causes opposition panic with free-kicks and offers a cool head for penalties.

Thumbs down for
Matt Jarvis: Perhaps suffering from the pressure of being the club’s record purchase, the England winger has yet to hit heights he showed at Wolves. Not truly sparked or taken command of a game, an expected return form 10.75million of investment.

Midfield general: Noble has excelled for West Ham on their return to the top flight

Midfield general: Noble has excelled for West Ham on their return to the top flight

How’s the boss doing
Sam Allardyce has comprehensively won over the faithful by introducing his style: winning. The 58-year-old is never slow to reveal his dogma, that of getting points, and the alacrity with which he speaks only instils belief in the squad. Signings have been made wisely, although he would probably like to expand his trim squad for the second half of the season.

Fans’ verdict
We have enjoyed one of our best starts to a top flight season and much of that is down to the excellent home form. With eight matches played, Arsenal are the only away team to have left with all three points. We’ve been in the top half all season but the magic 40-point mark remains the main target. Hopefully we can reach that as soon as possible.
Graeme Howlett, KUMB.com editor

WIGAN (John Edwards)

SIMON JONES’ transfer watch:

Transfer budget: 5m

Want: Right wing back, midfielder, striker

Targets: Roger Espinoza (Sporting Kansas – agreed), Ferrie Bodde (free agent), Angelo Henriquez (Man Utd loan)

To go: Franco di Santo

The season so far in a tweet
Mixed fortunes, as ever, but keep the faith, Wigan fans. Roberto Martinez certainly will. The one constant about inconsistent, unpredictable Wigan is they will entertain

Thumbs up for
Ivan Ramis: After a shaky debut, the former Mallorca centre-back has adapted brilliantly to the demands of the Barclays Premier League and become a rock at the heart of Wigan’s defence. Already a firm favourite with Wigan fans.

Thumbs down for
Jean Beausejour: Made an immediate impact after signing from Birmingham last January but has done nothing but frustrate so far this season. Ability to go past defenders seems to have deserted him.

Defying the odds: Martinez faces yet another relegation battle

Defying the odds: Martinez faces yet another relegation battle

How’s the boss doing
Martinez has an unshakeable belief in his attacking principles, and ability to get the best out of players, and, by and large, it is proving well founded. Continues to defy the odds, given Wigan’s resources, and surely destined for greater things before too long. One of the most innovative, forward-thinking coaches around.

Fans’ verdict
The main problem so far has been refereeing decisions, rather than performances. Maynor Fugueroa’s early red card at Newcastle, for a challenge you see every week, was a prime example. Injuries have hindered us, but we have played some great stuff. There could be more to come, too, with one or two January signings and no-one leaving.
Jason Taylor, Wigan

Arsenal players sing Christmas songs in fans video

Santi Cazorla's coming to town: Gunners give us their top three picks from the fans chant competition

|

UPDATED:

10:53 GMT, 21 December 2012

It looks as though Arsenal’s 5-2 thrashing of Reading may have brought a little festive spirit to the Emirates Stadium.

Armed with an array of musical instruments, including some maracas and a harmonica, a few of the Arsenal boys belted out some potential Christmas chants for their fans.

They selected the top three choices from the fans chant competition, which included ‘Santi Cazorla’s coming to town.’

Scroll down for video

Enlarge

The Arsenal team sang their top three fan chants

The Gunners still look merry off the back of their 5-2 victory over Reading

Tomas Rosicky joined the Arsenal team in singing some fan chants

Tomas Rosicky put in a winning performance on the guitar as the team sang 'Santi Cazorla's Coming to Town'

Theo Walcott seemed to be enjoying his turn with the tambourine, while goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny took the lead on vocals.

He was backed up by Tomas Rosicky and Johan Djourou, who were pleased with the team’s rendition of ‘Call Me Szczesny.’

But their best performance had to be their third – ‘A Little Bit of Arsenal’ set to the tune of Mambo No 5.

Fans can vote for their favourite chant on the Junior Gunners website. Those who do will be in with a chance of winning a PS3 games console.

Premier League"s best midfield hat-trick heroes after Santi Cazorla treble for Arsenal

Midfield Marksmen: After Cazorla's treble for Arsenal, we salute the Premier League's midfield hat-trick heroes

|

UPDATED:

15:05 GMT, 18 December 2012

The little Spanish master Santi Cazorla ran the show last night as Arsenal cruised to a 5-2 win at Reading and alleviated some of the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger.

He not only scored three goals of outstanding quality, but contributed innumerable touches of pure genius as he continues to excel in England following his 15m move from Malaga.

The fact Cazorla’s hat-trick came from midfield made it all the more impressive, but he certainly isn’t the first non-striker to hit a treble in the Premier League. In fact, there were 39 instances before last night.

Sportsmail looks at some of the most memorable Premier League goalscoring performances from midfield.

You've earned that! Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla with the match ball after his hat-trick sunk Reading last night

You've earned that! Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla with the match ball after his hat-trick sunk Reading last night

Andrey Arshavin – Four goals for Arsenal v Liverpool (April 21, 2009) 4-4

A crackerjack encounter at Anfield saw Arsenal’s Arshavin torpedo Liverpool’s title hopes with a quartet of goals.

Liverpool and Manchester United were neck and neck as the title race rounded the corner into the final stretch, and Arshavin’s intervention was a devastating blow for Rafa Benitez and his club’s hopes of wresting the finally trophy from Old Trafford.

The Russian opened the scoring after 36 minutes, only for Liverpool to fight back into a 2-1 lead by the hour. Ten minutes later though and Arsenal had swung it round into a 3-2 advantage as Arshavin struck twice in three minutes.

Anfield was pulsing with excitement and Fernando Torres restored parity again. But there was yet more drama to come – as stoppage time began, Arshavin was teed up by free-running Theo Walcott and finished clinically. In one final twist, Yossi Benayoun earned Liverpool a point at the death but the fatal damage to their title hopes had already been done.

Four! Andrey Arshavin grabbed a quartet in April 2009 to destroy Liverpool's Premier League title hopes

Four! Andrey Arshavin grabbed a quartet in April 2009 to destroy Liverpool's Premier League title hopes

Steven Gerrard – Hat-trick for Liverpool v Everton (March 13, 2012) 3-0

Any hat-trick is gratefully received, but one in a local derby is a one-way ticket to hero status. Not that Gerrard needed to ingratiate himself to the Anfield faithful, but a treble against Everton is a pretty good renewal of vows.

He scored once in the first-half and twice after the break as the Reds made it a miserable 10th anniversary for Everton manager David Moyes. It was also the first hat-trick in an Anfield derby since 1935.

His first required a delicate, well-measured touch to lift the ball over Tim Howard and Everton’s defenders, while his second was a thumping shot into the top part of the net after Luis Suarez set him up.

The pair then combined for a late third as Liverpool recorded a resounding win over their near neighbours.

Hat-trick hero: Steven Gerrard was the decisive factor as Liverpool beat Everton 3-0 earlier this year

Hat-trick hero: Steven Gerrard was the decisive factor as Liverpool beat Everton 3-0 earlier this year

Patrik Berger – Hat-trick for Liverpool v Chelsea (October 5, 1997) 4-2

Czech midfielder Berger contributed a handful of goals for Liverpool during his eight years there, including these three against Chelsea which turned out to be his only strikes during the 1997-1998 season as he spent most of the year warming the bench.

In a glittering personal display, Berger put Roy Evans’ side in front when he pounced on a weak Graeme Le Saux clearance to burst clear and lob the ball over Ed De Goey. An emphatic finish from Stig Bjornebye’s low cross on his weaker right foot restored Liverpool’s lead at 2-1.

His third, shortly before the hour, came as he slipped Chelsea’s offside trap to meet Steve McManaman’s through ball, round De Goey and finish with a simple roll into the net.

Czech that out! Patrik Berger scored three from midfield against Chelsea in 1997

Czech that out! Patrik Berger scored three from midfield against Chelsea in 1997

Andrei Kanchelskis – Hat trick for Manchester United v Manchester City (November 10, 1994) 5-0

Sir Alex Ferguson never forgets a defeat and, even if it takes a few years, he always gets his own back.

In 1989, City had trounced United 5-1 on one of the darkest days in his fledgling Old Trafford career and, five years later, Fergie could finally revel in derby revenge.

Key to the rout was Kanchelskis, the lightning-fast winger. First, he delivered a pinpoint long ball from the right touchline for Eric Cantona to open the scoring before squeezing a low shot in at the near post via a deflection to open his own account.

A third came in the second half, finishing on the rebound after a scything run set up by Cantona’s flick. He got a second chance on his third too, after scorching through the middle to finish Cantona’s handiwork and cap a glorious night to be a United fan.

From Russia with Love: Andrei Kanchelskis led Man United to a 5-0 derby day win over City in 1994

From Russia with Love: Andrei Kanchelskis led Man United to a 5-0 derby day win over City in 1994

Matthew Le Tissier – Hat-trick for Southampton v Norwich City (April 10, 1994) 5-4

Squeaky bum time in the 1994 season and Southampton are fighting tooth and nail to preserve their Premier League status.

Thankfully, they have at the head of their midfield Matthew Le Tissier, who has scored over half of their league goals. So despite a standard of defending manager Alan Ball labelled ‘embarrassing’ in this late season match at Carrow Road, Southampton have just enough in attack to win 5-4 in a humdinger.

It was 3-1 to Norwich with 35 minutes left but Le Tissier was just getting started. He scored a 14-minute hat-trick to swing an extraordinary game with a right foot strike, a penalty and a header, and keep them in the top flight by a solitary point.


Paul Scholes – Hat-trick for Manchester United v
Newcastle United (April 12, 2003) 6-2

United and Arsenal were inseparable in the title race in
2003, with the factor of goal difference likely to be decisive. Paul Scholes
clearly took this message on board when he scored a triple in United’s
devastating Saturday lunchtime massacre of Newcastle.

Behind early on, United roared back to lead 4-1 at the
interval, with Scholes scoring twice and orchestrating the midfield.

Just as insatiable after the break, Scholes completed his
hat-trick to really turn up the heat on Arsenal, who blew their lead in the
title race to hand United another crown.

Deadly: Paul Scholes hit three as Man United thrashed Newcastle 6-2 en route to the title in 2003

Deadly: Paul Scholes hit three as Man United thrashed Newcastle 6-2 en route to the title in 2003

THE FULL LIST OF PREMIER LEAGUE MIDFIELD HAT-TRICK HEROES

Source: Opta

Arshavin, Andrey – Four goals for Arsenal v Liverpool, April 21, 2009 (4-4)
Barmby, Nick – Three goals for Everton v West Ham United, February 7, 2000 (4-0)
Bart-Williams, Chris – Three goals for Sheffield Wednesday v Southampton, April 12, 1993 (5-2)
Benayoun, Yossi – Three goals for Liverpool v Burnley, September 12, 2009 (4-0)
Bentley, David – Three goals for Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United, February 1, 2006 (4-3)
Berger, Patrik – Three goals for Liverpool v Chelsea, October 5, 1997 (4-2)
Cantona, Eric – Three goals for Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur, August 25, 1992 (5-0)
Cazorla, Santiago – Three goals for Arsenal v Reading, December 17, 2012 (5-2)
Gerrard, Steven – Three goals for Liverpool v Aston Villa, March 22, 2009 (5-0)
Gerrard, Steven – Three goals for Liverpool v Everton, March 13, 2012 (3-0)
Gomez, Jordi – Three goals for Wigan Athletic v Reading, November 24, 2012 (3-2)
Kanchelskis, Andrei – Three goals for Manchester United v Manchester City, November 10, 1994 (5-0)
Kanchelskis, Andrei – Three goals for Everton v Sheffield Wednesday, April 27, 1996 (5-2)
Kuyt, Dirk – Three goals for Liverpool v Manchester United, March 6, 2011 (3-1)
Lampard, Frank – Four goals for Chelsea v Derby County, March 12, 2008 (6-1)
Lampard, Frank – Four goals for Chelsea v Aston Villa, March 27, 2010 (7-1)
Lampard, Frank – Three goals for Chelsea v Bolton Wanderers, October 2, 2011 (5-1)
Le Tissier, Matthew – Three goals for Southampton v Oldham Athletic, May 8, 1993 (4-3)
Le Tissier, Matthew – Three goals for Southampton v Liverpool, February 14, 1994 (4-2)
Le Tissier, Matthew – Three goals for Southampton v Norwich City, April 9, 1994 (5-4)
Le Tissier, Matthew – Three goals for Southampton v Nottingham Forest, August 19, 1995 (3-4)
Ljungberg, Fredrik – Three goals for Arsenal v Sunderland, May 11, 2003 (4-0)
Marshall, Ian – Three goals for Leicester City v Derby County, February 22, 1997 (4-2)
Maxi Rodriguez – Three goals for Liverpool v Birmingham City, April 23, 2011 (5-0)
Maxi Rodriguez – Three goals for Liverpool v Fulham, May 9, 2011 (5-2)
McAllister, Gary – Three goals for Leeds United v Coventry City, October 28, 1995 (3-1)
Nolan, Kevin – Three goals for Newcastle United v Sunderland, October 31, 2010 (5-1)
Overmars, Marc – Three goals for Arsenal v Middlesbrough, November 21, 1999 (5-1)
Parlour, Ray – Three goals for Arsenal v Newcastle United, December 10, 2000 (5-0)
Peacock, Gavin – Three goals for Chelsea v Middlesbrough, February 4, 1996 (5-0)
Pennant, Jermaine – Three goals for Arsenal v Southampton, May 7, 2003 (6-1)
Pires, Robert – Three goals for Arsenal v Southampton, May 7, 2003 (6-1)
Ronaldo, Cristiano – Three goals for Manchester United v Newcastle United, January 12, 2008 (6-0)
Scholes, Paul – Three goals for Manchester United v West Ham United, April 1, 2000 (7-1)
Scholes, Paul – Three goals for Manchester United v Newcastle United, April 12, 2003 (6-2)
Sinton, Andy – Three goals for Queens Park Rangers v Everton, December 28, 1992 (4-2)
Speed, Gary – Three goals for Everton v Southampton, November 17, 1996 (7-1)
Strachan, Gordon – Three goals for Leeds United v Blackburn Rovers, April 10, 1993 (5-2)
Tchoyi, Somen – Three goals for West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle United, May 22, 2011 (3-3)
Walcott, Theo – Three goals for Arsenal v Blackpool, August 21, 2010 (6-0)
Walters, Mark – Three goals for Liverpool v Coventry City, April 17, 1993 (4-0)

Arsene Wenger should stay at Arsenal: Gary Neville

Yes, Arsenal are struggling but sensible people should be defending Wenger now

|

UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 16 December 2012

When I started out as a pundit I was
given a piece of advice from someone in whom I place an awful lot of
trust. ‘The key to being good in the media is to ensure you don’t get
embroiled in every single little piece of comment and opinion,’ he said.
‘Don’t spend the day listening to the talkshows. Don’t read every
single paper. Keep your opinions fresh.’

Of course, I have to be across news
stories like never before but you can get distracted by the noise of
football and it can start to warp your thinking.

It has been an enormous change for me
to be inserted into that fast-moving, frantic media world when, at the
club where I played, I was working in a dressing room that was like a
sanctuary, protected from the whirlwinds and thunderstorms of the
outside world.

Why always him Mario Balotelli storms off at the Etihad after being hauled off by Roberto Mancini

Why always him Mario Balotelli was one of the talking points this week, storming off at the Etihad after being hauled off by Roberto Mancini

And the past week has been full of
those types of storms. On Sunday we were talking about diving yet again
after Santi Cazorla against West Brom. On Monday the headlines were all
about Mario Balotelli and his performance the day before against
Manchester United, when other players were much worse than him.

It was that or the issue of netting at
games because Rio Ferdinand had been struck with a coin in that
Manchester derby. Then we moved on to Bradford beating Arsenal and the
fact that Arsene Wenger has to go … again. On Thursday, racism reared
its ugly head again, with the verdict on the Serbian FA.

And then on Friday I was looking down
my Twitter timeline and there was a question from an Arsenal fan: ‘What
do you think of George Graham’s comments that Arsenal will never win
the title again’ And I’m thinking: ‘That can’t be right’ So I went
online to check and it’s there in the newspaper as clear as day — George
Graham is quoted as saying: ‘Will they [Arsenal] win the league again I
can’t see it.’

The dark side of the moon: Arsene Wenger watches as his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford

The dark side of the moon: Arsene Wenger watches as his side crash out of the Capital One Cup at Bradford

The speed at which the football media operate today is like a blender that is constantly having food chucked
into it and chopped into a thousand pieces but never has any end
product. There’s never any substance at the end of the process. Or it’s
like a sausage machine that just churns out more mincemeat rather than
sausages.

More from Gary Neville…

Gary Neville: The title is now a two-horse race and both are from Manchester
08/12/12

Gary Neville: Chelsea's players must be living on a knife-edge
24/11/12

Gary Neville: Brave, ruthless, relentless: Ronaldo redefined football
17/11/12

Gary Neville: Why Manchester City are still searching for their own identity
10/11/12

Gary Neville: Nine great reasons why RVP can become a Manchester United legend
03/11/12

Gary Neville: Why both Chelsea and Manchester United would accept a 1-0 win at the Bridge
27/10/12

Gary Neville: AVB deserves a second chance… good managers – and some great ones – have failed before
20/10/12

Gary Neville: Rooney is in the same mould as Robson, Adams and Keane
06/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Being partly in football as an
assistant coach with England and partly in the media, I can see it from
both sides. And I think football and the media should work more closely
together. I want footballers to be more open.

But the reality inside the changing
room is often totally different to the furore on the outside. I’m not
sure which the public want: the frenzy of the media or a reflection of
the serenity of the dressing room; or a bit of both. But it has got to
the point where we almost need two distinct media: one that deal with
the actual match and one that deal with the issues surrounding it.

Football has become a soap opera,
which, of course, is partly why the Premier League has become so
extraordinarily popular and is one reason why it is beamed around the
world. But the actual football can get lost in the drama. For some
people the main act can become the sideshow.

And so incredible statements come out
like: ‘Arsenal will never win the league again.’ Now I’m not going to
sit here and say: ‘All’s good and well at Arsenal and they shouldn’t
worry about going out to Bradford.’ That’s not the case. They’ve lost a
lot of quality in the past three years and they haven’t replaced it,
like for like. There seem to be some management failures in the number
of players who end up with just one year on their contract but I doubt
that’s Arsene Wenger’s fault. And they definitely need a bit of the
attitude of the 2005 FA Cup final team, the last trophy they won.
Without Thierry Henry that day they struggled but there was such a
resilience about those players that they were prepared to win ugly and
beat Manchester United on penalties.

Halcyon days: A jubilant Wenger holds the Premier League trophy aloft eight years ago

Halcyon days: A jubilant Wenger holds the Premier League trophy aloft eight years ago

But for George Graham, someone who has a greater knowledge of Arsenal than I will ever have, to be quoted as saying they will never win the league again leaves me stunned. I’ll be amazed if Arsenal Football Club never win another title. Honestly, I’d be just as surprised if tomorrow wasn’t Monday. It’s like saying Liverpool will never win another title. Of course they will. It’s a fact. Fifteen years ago who would have said that Chelsea or Manchester City would win a title Things change. They move on.

When I look back at the history of Arsenal, the club went 45 years before they won their first league title. And after dominating in the Thirties and then after the war, they went 18 years between 1953 and 1971 without a league title. And then another 18 years before the next title, which came under George Graham, in 1989. Arsenal are not a club like Real Madrid, Benfica or Celtic who should expect to win the title every year. They never have been.

When Roberto Di Matteo was sacked three weeks ago, the same people who were saying they despised the madness of Chelsea are now saying that we need a change at Arsenal. What do we want We just want a news story. We want more food in the blender.

Nadir: Arsenal's midweek defeat is a low point, but the club will get back to fighting for titles under Wenger

Nadir: Arsenal's midweek defeat is a low point, but the club will get back to fighting for titles under Wenger

There’s nothing to say that if you
change Arsene Wenger you’re going to be more successful. There’s nothing
to say that if you spend 100million, like Liverpool did, you’re going
to win the league.

Manchester
City and Chelsea have done superbly in recent years and between them
have won four out of the last eight Premier League titles. But it has
cost the best part of 2billion between them to do it. Are we saying
Arsenal should do that

Arsenal
are on the right track. They run the club in a sensible way. When I go
there, I watch good players, good football and you sense the history of
the place. There is a drop in quality, especially in forward positions.
They were the best attacking team I played against and, at the moment,
they don’t have that ruthlessness and devastation.

Lack of quality: Gervinho misses a crucial chance in the first half against Bradford

Lack of quality: Gervinho misses a crucial chance in the first half against Bradford

But we should be applauding the fact a club have had a manager for 16 years in a world in which divorce rates get ever higher, in which loyalty isn’t valued and in which everyone demands everything instantly.

Sensible football people should be defending Arsene Wenger and fighting for him to build another great Arsenal team. And we certainly shouldn’t be sat here saying: ‘Arsenal will never win another title.’ To me, that seems absurdly reactive.