5 things to know about the Premier League
LONDON (AP) — Premier League leader Arsenal has been dismissed by many critics as a credible title challenger despite its impressive start.
The time has come for the Gunners to underline their credentials as they travel to fourth-place Manchester City — which has yet to lose a point at home this season — before hosting Chelsea.
Chasing it first Premier League title since 2004, Arsene Wenger’s team leads the standings by five points ahead of Liverpool, which travels to Tottenham on Sunday.
Defending champion Manchester United cannot afford another slip-up at Aston Villa following two consecutive losses that have left the club trailing 13 points behind in the title race.
Here are five things to know about this weekend’s matches in the Premier League:
LACK OF LEADERSHIP?
Arsenal’s resurgence this season has left Patrick Vieira in awe, though the former Gunner feels Arsene Wenger’s team might eventually pay for its lack of a real leader in the dressing room.
Vieira, who won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship with France and marshalled the Arsenal midfield for years, raised doubts about the London club’s capacity to react when they will play with less flamboyance.
“When you look at Arsenal, they play fantastic football. But sometimes you need to win games playing badly, and I don’t think Arsenal are capable of that at the moment,” said Vieira, who now works as a football development executive at Manchester City. “Maybe there is a lack of leadership. They don’t have a Tony Adams, Martin Keown or Sol Campbell. These are players who can be leaders on or off the field.”
Manchester United winger Ashley Young remains unrepentant despite the diving accusations that have turned him into the scapegoat for the Red Devils’ current struggles.
Young, who was criticized by both Alex Ferguson and successor David Moyes for his frequent dives in the penalty area, does not look ready to make amends for his bad habit.
Young says it’s down to the referees to do their job and decide whether he is cheating and deserves a booking when he tumbles, or be rewarded with a penalty.
“It’s been talked about by the previous manager and the current manager, but that’s in-house,” said Young, who has been playing poorly this season and could miss next year’s World Cup. “I’m not going to comment on what’s been said. I understand what you’re saying and everyone is going to have their say on it, but the referees are giving decisions and that is where I think it lies.”
After losing Daniel Sturridge for up to two months through injury, Liverpool was handed another blow in its titles ambitions with captain Steven Gerrard out for at least a month with a hamstring injury he picked up in the 4-1 win over West Ham on Saturday.
The injury crisis comes at the worst time for the Reds manager Brendan Rogers as second-place Liverpool travels to Tottenham on Sunday before hosting Cardiff, then faces difficult trips to Manchester City and Chelsea before the end of the year.
Gerrard has scored three goals and provided six assists this season.
“Steven is such an important player for us, but we have other players and dynamics in the team and they have to step up,” Rodgers said. “Lucas has been excellent for us and he has forced his way into the Brazil side, so he has that quality and experience to step up and take the responsibility.”
Opposed to a name change for their club, Hull fans have accused club owner Assem Allam of acting on his own without any form of consultation. The club has applied to the Football Association to change its name from Hull City to Hull Tigers from next season.
But the City Till We Die fans group, which assembles supporters opposed to Allam’s plans, said they received the guarantee from the owner that any name change would not occur for two to three years and that any modification could not be decided “without supporter consultation, or without the benefits being proven by research. No such research or consultation has taken place.”
The group has supplied the FA with a dossier on Allam’s proposals and met with representatives of the Premier League to voice concerns.
Earlier this month, Allam infuriated the fans, telling them “they can die as soon as they want, as long as they leave the club for the majority who just want to watch good football.”
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Arsenal’s revival owes much to Laurent Koscielny, who has been remarkably consistent in the heart of the Gunners defense this season.
But the Frenchman has warned that the Gunners need to play better if they are to secure a good result against Manchester City on the back of their 2-0 loss at Napoli. Arsenal will also play Chelsea before Christmas.
“We need to play much better to win at Man City,” Koscielny said. “It’s two hard games that await us so it will be difficult because they are two of the best teams and we need some points. We are on top of the table so we need to keep this (lead) and December is a very important month in the Premier League.”