Call it an early onset of March madness, but there were some managers up and down the country having a few problems grasping reality this weekend. It might come as no surprise that one such interview took place at Selhurst Park in the wake of Crystal Palace’s ninth league game without a win. Alan Pardew decided that there should be certain periods of the game when fouls could not be awarded, as if he were playing the latest FIFA and had chosen to turn fouls off. Talking about Watford’s penalty, the Palace manager said, “Not going to say it wasn’t holding but to have it on the first corner at the first play was tough.” I’m sorry to break it to you, Alan, but, as you said in the very same interview, “It’s a 90 minute game.” To come out and admit that a foul was committed and then go on to say it shouldn’t translate into a penalty, is the height of desperation. After a much vaunted start to the season, Palace have struggled to score, looking particularly vulnerable at home. They are now 9 without a win and have dropped to 13th in the table. An FA Cup run could be all that saves their season now but with Tottenham away the next hurdle in that competition, it could be unlikely. Pardew is going to have to arrest this slide soon if he isn’t to quickly run out of the credit he has in the bank with the Palace fans.
It wasn’t just in London that managers were struggling to make sense. The disease had spread to Merseyside by 5 o’clock with both Roberto Martinez and Tony Pulis coming out with some interesting statements. Having seen the curtain come down on a 0-1 home defeat to hapless West Brom, Everton’s Martinez stated, “We didn’t do anything wrong.” Apart from having 34 shots on goal and still failing to score, against a team who struggled past League 1 side, Peterborough, on penalties in midweek. Of course Roberto, it seems like a faultless performance from where I’m standing. Everton have flattered to deceive this season and find themselves in 11th place, 12 points off the top four, for a reason. In one of the most open Premier League seasons in living memory, they should have been pulling up trees around the top four, yet instead Roberto Martinez finds himself struggling to explain why his team has been so poor at home. It doesn’t bode well for Everton’s future. Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Tony Pulis was all too keen to talk up the opposition. Having readily admitted that “Everton were the better team in lots of respects,” the West Brom boss went on to say that Everton “are a top four or five side.” You’re kidding nobody, Tony, but feel free to try and big up the win for your own ends.
If the result at Goodison Park was pretty irrelevant to the Premier League table, the final score at The Emirates this weekend was the opposite. Danny Welbeck’s late winner was “a pivotal moment” according to Arsene Wenger, who saw his side register a crucial win against leaders Leicester. “It was a big mental hurdle for us because we were in shock at being behind at half-time. We didn’t see that coming.” Despite only having ten men to play against for most of the second half, you have to say that Arsenal did pass a mental test with that win at the weekend. They still had to find a way through a very solid yet still dangerous, Leicester side who just do not know how to lose at the moment. But find a way they did and now they should be clear favourites to win this league title. If they don’t it should be a failed hurdle too far for Arsene Wenger. Arsenal will never have a better opportunity to win the league but it is knowing this that could well trip them up.
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