5 talking points from the weekend’s Premier League action

Paul Fennessy

Rafael was extremely fortunate not to be sent off in today’s Man United-Liverpool game.

The defender was already booked when he deliberately handballed in the box — an offence that, if the letter of footballing law is applied correctly, should result in a booking.

Recently however, in light of some decisions going against English clubs in the Champions League, critics have argued that sending off a player who has given away a penalty is too harsh a punishment, and perhaps the referee in today’s match was influenced by these suggestions.

On this occasion, the incident scarcely mattered though, as Liverpool outclassed their rivals and won 3-0 anyway, emphasising their title credentials in the process.

But that should not detract from the issue, which needs to be discussed in depth by footballing authorities.

A potential solution would be letting the player off and awarding penalty goals instead, thereby ensuring one punishment is implemented instead of two, or none in cases where a spot kick is missed and the player isn’t sent off.

2. Mourinho was right about Spurs

Jose Mourinho’s words sometimes have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but he made one insightful remark about Tottenham last week.

He said that his team never felt in danger against them during their recent encounter, even in the periods where Spurs were on top in terms of possession.

Similarly, today against Arsenal, Tottenham enjoyed plenty of the ball and even pinned the Gunners back into their own half for large sections of the match.

Nevertheless, Tim Sherwood’s men never really looked like scoring owing to a lack of creativity in attack — their only big chance came as a result of a mistake from Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny, with the Gunners’ defence enjoying a relatively comfortable afternoon thereafter.

3. Could Coleman do a better job in a more advanced role?

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Cardiff City - Goodison Park
Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Cardiff City - Goodison Park

(Everton’s Seamus Coleman [left] celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game)

Seamus Coleman scored his sixth goal of the season on Saturday — a vital last-minute winner as Everton beat Cardiff?

Despite being a defender, he now has more goals than most Irish players this season — even strikers such as Shane Long and Kevin Doyle.

The 25-year-old is not entirely flawless however — his defensive vulnerability was highlighted in Ireland’s recent clash with Serbia, as he was the primary culprit for one of the goals conceded.

Coleman has operated on the right side of midfield before for Everton though, and it may be tempting for Roberto Martinez to try the player out there on a more permanent basis, thereby conceivably accentuating his strengths.

4. City show the resilience of champions

If Manchester City’s title challenge was ever going to unravel, yesterday seemed like the perfect time for it to happen.

On the back of a demoralising Champions League exit, they faced Hull City away — a team who have already beaten Liverpool among others this season.

To make matters worse, they had Vincent Kompany sent off after just ten minutes, as the defender committed a rash challenge on Nikica Jelavic.

In such difficult circumstances, it is vital that big-name players make their presence felt and take on extra responsibility to help their team pull through, and David Silva did not let them down yesterday.

The Spanish midfielder proved the difference between the sides, scoring a stunning long-distance strike shortly after Kompany’s red card, before playing an exquisite pass to Edin Dzeko, whose goal wrapped up a morale-boosting victory late on.

5. Are Mourinho’s comments helping or hindering Chelsea?

Jose Mourinho’s post-match interviews are undoubtedly entertaining, and the Portuguese manager, largely because of the success he’s enjoyed as a coach, is generally deemed to be a master at deflecting pressure away from his team in tense situations.

Throughout this season, and as vociferously as ever despite evidence to the contrary of late, Mourinho has claimed that Chelsea are considerable underdogs in the title race.

The obvious intention is to ease the pressure off his team and play down expectations around Stamford Bridge, so that their performances are not affected as a result of such talk.

However, is it really a wise claim to make? Mourinho is effectively saying his players are inferior to those at Manuel Pellegrini’s disposal. This can hardly do wonders for their confidence and perhaps they suffered against Villa as a result.

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