Three Things to Take From The Weekend’s Football – 4/5/6 February

I take a look back at some interesting points from the weekend’s action.

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1.      Taarabt shows glimpses of his potential – Adel Taarabt was arguably the Championship’s best player last season as he was monumental in QPR winning the league, so understandably people expected big things as he came to make his first real appearance on the Premier League stage. Unfortunately, the hype didn’t materialise as Taarabt spend periods of the start of the season out of the team. Initially, it looked as though he may have been moving away from the Premier League as he was linked with teams like Napoli and PSG. He did end up staying at Loftus Road however, but was largely ineffective when he did feature.

This weekend though, in QPR’s 1-2 loss at home to Wolves, we saw signs of the talent that Taarabt obviously has. He was making driving runs, taking on players and taking long range shots like he hasn’t done so far this season. I’m not quite sure where this sudden confidence boost came from (maybe the appointment of a new manager) but he could well help to ensure QPR’s Premier League survival if he can build off of his performance on Saturday. At times against Wolves it did seem as though he was trying to do everything himself, taking long shots when a pass would have been the better option for instance, but that being said, he wasn’t far off scoring a couple of absolutely amazing goals. Taarabt has been underwhelming so far this season, but he may just be about to turn it around.

2.      Is Patrice Evra the weak link in Manchester United’s defence? – A lot has been made of United’s supposedly weaker midfield but it was at the back where they were lacking most on Sunday, and it could be argued that repeated lapses in defensive concentration caused them to only leave Stamford Bridge. It seems to have been agreed that Rio Ferdinand is too slow and over the hill, yet what people fail to see is that Ferdinand’s game is not reliant on pace. He’s not going to be sliding in making last ditch tackles anymore, but that wasn’t ever his job in the first place. Ferdinand is a “clean shorts” defender, and, in a sense, is only being criticised because United have failed to replace Vidic since his injury. Smalling and Evans are very similar in defensive style to Ferdinand, and Jones is often too positionally reckless to be relied on week in week out. There is a reason why Vidic and Ferdinand were recently considered one of, if not the best centre back partnership in the world, and that’s because they both complimented each other so perfectly.

Somehow, Patrice Evra seems to consistently make it into teams of the week/year (*cough* Garth Crooks) when he has been relatively poor for the past two seasons or so. Going back to last year’s Champions League final, Evra failing to track Pedro’s run led to Barcelona taking the lead in the first half, and he has made similar mistakes before and since that match. One feature of Evra’s game in years gone by was his ability to make these marauding runs, and then get back in position to defend seconds later. Now however, he seems to just trot back into position without any urgency, often letting his man sail past him down the wing with barely an attempt at a professional foul. I don’t know whether age is catching up to the United captain or not but for a player so often praised for his defensive ability, he does get beaten by his man regularly, as Sturridge did on Sunday in the build up to Chelsea’s first goal. I’m not suggesting that Evra can’t return to his outstanding best, but maybe he needs to become slightly more offensively reserved.

3.      A word please gaffer?… don’t worry about it. – The post-match interview. All Premier League managers have to do them (even Sir Alex Ferguson) so you would have thought that by now they would be used to them. They know the sort of questions they’ll be asked, okay, they may not want to answer them, but the bluntness that we see from some managers is completely unnecessary and arrogant. Andre Villas-Boas was guilty of this on Sunday after his Chelsea side had relinquished a probably undeserving three goal lead to draw three all with Man United. Every time the interviewer asked a question, AVB treated it as some sort of backhanded criticism against either him or his side, and rather than just answering the questions, went about the interview like some sort of moody teenager, questioning everything he was asked. It’s understandable that managers may not want to criticise their team are divulge important tactical information, but they could be easily be a bit more compliant. Kenny Dalglish is another manager who employs the tactic of almost attacking interviewers when they don’t completely agree with the question.

The FA have set a bad precedent with regards to manager’s conduct during interviews. It’s fair to condone manager’s who overly criticise referees and even go as far as to suggest agendas, but when punishments are handed out it has to be done consistently. Tony Pulis is the latest Premier League manager to go about criticising decisions, and has seemingly gotten away with it scot-free. Last Tuesday the Stoke manager was complaining about the two correctly given penalties that Man United were given, and then saying how you can expect that at Old Trafford. He was also bemoaning the decision to send Robert Huth off against Sunderland (probably correctly), accusing the referee of spoiling the game. Everyone knows that the referees have a hard job, and managers should probably look closer to home before they start criticising them in defeat.

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