Pitchside

Facts: 7 truths – Referees, Wenger and Pulis the genius

Pitchside

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1. Liverpool cannot complain about referees

Anyone with a balanced outlook on life will concede that all teams end up on the receiving end of good and bad decisions over the course of the season. But most football fans and managers are not particularly balanced, with conspiracy theories very much the fashion in the beautiful game. Liverpool have complained about decisions this season, but it was a Greater Manchester referee who awarded a contentious penalty that ultimately saw the Reds return to the summit of the Premier League. Indeed, Liverpool saw both sides of the coin on Sunday – West Ham’s equaliser also should not have been given, with Andy Carroll fouling Simon Mignolet. To make it even more meta, one could also argue that Carroll should have been awarded a penalty as he appeared to have been shoved in the first place. There were also ridiculous whines by Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho. Until refs get the same technology that cricket, rugby and tennis officials are allowed, we must all stop whining.

2. Arsenal must look to a new leader

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This latest Gunners collapse is not a one-off, it is chronic. Arsenal fans have largely backed Arsene Wenger through their side’s descent into upper-mediocrity, but they were chanting for his departure after rolling over and dying at Goodison. The 3-0 defeat at Everton was utterly unacceptable, and while the players showed a remarkable lack of fight, Wenger has to take the blame for his stubborn refusal to plug gaping holes in Arsenal’s squad – and his reliance on a system that has been exposed time and time again. Arsenal are simply incapable of raising their game against the top teams, with yet another meek surrender giving Everton the advantage in the race for fourth. Winning the FA Cup may see Wenger survive, but if Arsenal are serious about competing in the long-term, they need to look to elsewhere.

3.Tony Pulis is bordering on a genius

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The once derided long ball merchant that is Tony Pulis has masterminded one of the greatest-ever great escapes. Crystal Palace were in last place in the league and with just seven points when Pulis was appointed in late November but they sit 14th at the time of writing on 34 points and seven clear of the drop zone. Pulis must also be commended for the manner in which he has pulled away from the drop zone.

4. Kagawa must, must, must play for United

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It was Juan Mata who got the Lion’s share of the praise after following Manchester United’s 4-0 hammering of Newcastle United but Shinji Kagawa put in a performance that makes an absolute mockery the reluctance David Moyes has in utilising him more often. Not only can he provide the sort of creative spark that Mata was bought for but he also quite beautifully and effortless knits general play together.

5. City have been the beneficiaries of the sort of luck usually reserved for champions

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In the Liverpool-City fixture in December, Liverpool had a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside and two decent penalty shouts turned down. And then yesterday, rocking against Southampton at 1-1, they were the beneficiaries of what can be described as a dubious offside call in their favour. They have played superbly well and if they win the league they will be deserving of it – but they have also had some luck.

6. Fulham could actually do this, you know

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The win at Aston Villa saw the Whites move off the bottom for the first time in ages, five points short of safety. With five matches left, Felix Magath face a nosediving Norwich, Hull, Stoke and Crystal Palace sides likely to be safe by then, and a Spurs team in the midst of an existentialist crisis. If they win four of those five matches, they will almost certainly be safe, and three could do it. The Great Escape Part Deux?

7. Swansea should never have sacked Michael Laudrup

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The Swans would not have been dragged into a relegation scrap had the great Dane been allowed to see out his contract, as he was perfectly entitled to do. The decision to fire him because he would not commit until the summer was bizarre, unfair and stupid. Rookie boss Garry Monk is out of his depth, and while defeat to Hull has left them six points clear of Fulham in 18th, Swansea have a very tough run-in, including matches against Chelsea, Southampton and a final-day thriller at Sunderland, who could well be needing a win to stay up. What a mess.

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