Alex Song makes strange turnabout; Hugo Lloris turns United away: EPL talking points

Paul Radley outlines his talking points from Gameweek 19 in the Premier League, including Alex Song's weird non-celebration-turned-protest and Hugo Lloris' stellar showing for Spurs.
West Ham United's Alex Song, right, had a goal disallowed for offside on Sunday in his side's loss to Arsenal in the Premier League. Julian Finney / Getty Images / December 28, 2014
West Ham United's Alex Song, right, had a goal disallowed for offside on Sunday in his side's loss to Arsenal in the Premier League. Julian Finney / Getty Images / December 28, 2014

Song changes his tune

The cult of the non-celebration-against-your-former-club is getting weird now.

Fair enough, Frank Lampard played a million or so games for Chelsea, the club which defines him. So when he knocked in a vital strike against them for Manchester City, who have his services briefly, his low-key response was fair. Romelu Lukaku doing similar after scoring for Everton against West Brom, where he played one season, was more dubious.

Then what of Alex Song? He rifled in a peach for West Ham against Arsenal, the club which made him famous, then showily refused to celebrate. The ethics of which were then thrown out of kilter when he protested because it had been ruled out for offside.

Unbeatable Lloris

Ashley Young playing at left-back. Wayne Rooney centre midfield. A front-three of Radamel Falcao, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie. Vlad Chiriches even playing at all.

The team sheets suggested a goal-spree for Manchester United was in the offing against Tottenham Hotspur. Yet somehow they drew a blank.

The reason is pretty clear. As much as it was two days earlier when Spurs had claimed a third successive win, despite being outplayed by the division’s bottom club, Leicester City.

Some might have argued before the game that Hugo Lloris was not even the best goalkeeper playing at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

The evidence of the ensuing 90 minutes suggests there are few better anywhere in the sport, on current form.

Lambert lambasts calender

Paul Lambert was speaking from experience when he added his voice to the chorus demanding less of a festive fixture pile up.

Louis van Gaal had said it was inhuman playing two games in less than 48 hours. Meanwhile, Gus Poyet, Sunderland’s Uruguayan manager, offered to write a new calendar for the Premier League.

All worldly wise people. Lambert, having won the Uefa Champions League with Germany’s Borussia Dortmund as a player, is equally qualified.

The Aston Villa manager’s argument was a little skewed, though. “You’re trying to sell a product and two games in three days is nonsense,” he said. “There is no quality with that.”

In fairness, if the Premier League is trying to sell its product, Lambert’s side might not get the advert gig, anyway.

Burnley’s battlers

For all the talk of the tough schedule, Van Gaal named the same United starting 11 for the two games in three days.

And he has the benefit of a deep squad to pick from.

Burnley did the same and took a point at Manchester City, despite manager Sean Dyche not making a substitution.

“I find it incredible people are making that point,” Dyche said. “When I was playing, we would put out the same team if we were playing well.”

Flat-track bully Lamela

Erik Lamela is the scorer of great goals rather than a great scorer of goals.

That much is obvious, given his two main contributions to Tottenham Hotspur’s season so far.

The “rabona” he scored against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League in October was so spectacular, his teammate Jan Vertonghen declared the competition for the world goal of the year over.

Then on Saturday he curved in the winner against Burnley at White Hart Lane with the sort of precision that would have made a Swiss watchmaker feel clumsy.

Tellingly, both were on a relatively flat track, against humble opposition.

If the Europa League were any more low key it would be inaudible, and Burnley are struggling in the lower reaches of the Premier League.

If Lamela is really going to start repaying the hefty investment Spurs have made in him, he needs to be performing such feats against the top sides, too.

Rodgers’ wild aim

Liverpool’s forward line have an errant radar at present, and their under-pressure manager is similarly scattergun.

After Liverpool somehow contrived to draw with Arsenal – and that only thanks to a 97th minute equaliser – Brendan Rodgers went on the offensive in his television interview.

In the space of one sentence in reply he heaped blame on his defenders, the referee and a cheating Arsenal forward.

“I think [Alexis] Sanchez dived when he realised he was not getting the ball,” Rodgers said of the free-kick leading up to Arsenal’s opener at the end of the first half.

He may have had a point. Sanchez was clipped, but slow-motion replays suggested he still had enough poise to plan his mini-somersault to make sure the referee noticed.

Eclectic England

English football recently rolled out its new vision for the future of the game, at its high-spec, state-of-the-art, money-is-no-object national training facility.

Quite what the “DNA” project is going to produce years down the line is anybody’s guess. A Masia imitation? The German model? Some replica boys from Brazil?

Back in the present, the three most threatening English forwards are Charlie Austin, Saido Berahino and Andy Carroll. None of whom is exactly an advertisement for any sort of system.

The first is a former bricklayer, the second a war refugee. And the third is an old-school centre-forward whose method looks as retro as the kit he plays in at West Ham United.

England supporters would probably enjoy seeing any of those three leading the line for the national team, though. Vive la difference.

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Published: December 29, 2014 04:00 AM


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