5 things to know about the Premier League
LONDON (AP) — There’s no immediate risk to David Moyes’ job at Manchester United. As for the manager’s reputation? That seems to be sinking by the match.
Alex Ferguson’s successor has presided over a hat trick of losses at the start of 2014, a miserable sequence not witnessed at United since the tail end of the 2000-2001 season. And, at that stage, Ferguson’s side had already won the Premier League.
That piece of silverware is unlikely to be won this year. A side that won the league by 11 points under Ferguson last season is now 11 points behind table topper Arsenal in seventh.
The Red Devils host Swansea on Saturday, less than a week after being knocked out of the FA Cup by the south Wales side. Here are five things to know about the weekend’s Premier League matches:
NO HOME COMFORTS
Old Trafford is proving to be no fortress for United, with five losses coming on home soil in all competitions this season.
“Being a Manchester lad and being a United fan, there is extra passion inside me and it does hurt me when I see the team losing,” striker Danny Welbeck said. “I can understand why fans are concerned.”
The losses at the start of 2014 have looked very similar:
— 2-1 to Tottenham in the Premier League.
— 2-1 to Swansea in the third round of the FA Cup.
— 2-1 to Sunderland in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals.
It’s the wrong kind of consistency for Moyes’ team.
“We know that the consistency in our game has not been good enough,” Welbeck said. “It is a new experience for us all.”
And the players are trying to show they are working hard to recover their form going into the Swansea match.
“We frequently stay after training to practice crossing and finishing,” goalkeeper David de Gea said. “We do it especially when there are no matches in the following days and I think the extra training helps me and the other players to improve.”
Robin van Persie was the signing whose goals powered United to the Premier League title last season before Ferguson retired. But Moyes’ options have been curtailed by injuries to both Van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
There’s no certainty when the strike duo will be fit again, having only managed eight starts together this season. Although Rooney has only been sidelined for two matches with a groin strain, Van Persie has been out since Dec. 10 with a thigh injury.
COPING WITHOUT WALCOTT
When Arsenal faces Aston Villa on Monday it will provide a reminder about how quickly fortunes can be transformed in football. Rewind to the opening day of the season, and Arsenal’s 3-1 loss to Villa sparked dire warnings for the team’s prospects.
What an over-reaction that seems now, with the team top of the league.
A sour note, though, is the left knee ligament injury that has ended Theo Walcott’s season, denying Arsene Wenger an attacking threat on the wing or through the center.
Manchester City’s strike force appears to be unstoppable, despite having been without Sergio Aguero for almost a month because of a calf injury. The 2012 champions travel to Newcastle on Sunday just a point behind leader Arsenal having scored 57 goals in 20 league games.
City is scoring so freely that not even striker Edin Dzeko could keep up in the 6-0 rout of West Ham on Wednesday in the first leg of their League Cup semifinal.
“It’s not easy to win 5-0 at home against another Premier League team,” Dzeko said.
FINAL ROLL OF THE ALLARDYCE?
Cardiff was the last topflight team to fire its manager. Could West Ham be the next? The struggling teams meet on Saturday.
Sam Allardyce’s West Ham hasn’t won in the league since November, and has lost its last two matches: in the FA Cup — 5-0 to Nottingham Forest — and in the League Cup — 6-0 to Manchester City.
“You either come out fighting or you sink and die,” Allardyce said. “I come out fighting as a manager and my staff and players are the same.
“We’ve got to get out there, face the music and use it to anger us, if you like, make us mad, prove them wrong and win football matches.”
Cardiff’s decision to replace Malky Mackay with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already seen the team advance in the FA Cup with a win at Newcastle last weekend.