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Premier League Talking Points

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The Mancunian Premier League duopoly many have predicted/feared broke clear for the first time this season as Manchester City and Manchester United won while the capital pretenders all failed to win, with Arsenal throwing away their second two-goal lead in the space of four days and Chelsea going a third league game without victory.

The Blues' latest indiscretion, Dimitar Berbatov, the adaptable Marouane Fellaini and André Villas-Boas' defensive quandary are just some of the weekend's talking points...

CHELSEA'S SELF-HARM
John Terry has a knack for reminding his detractors of his footballing credentials during personal crisis. In 2010 he nodded in a Premier League winner at Burnley the day before the News of the World splashed on his alleged extra-marital affair with Wayne Bridge's former girlfriend. And at Euro 2012, he performed admirably despite his looming court case for using "threatening, abusive or insulting words" towards Anton Ferdinand.

On Sunday, he scored on his comeback after being suspended for four games after the Football Association found him guilty of insulting Ferdinand. Unless you're a Chelsea fan or an admirer of Terry, it was an uncomfortable moment. What was more unsettling though was the reaction of his team-mates, who rallied round their captain with reverence and care as if he had been racially abused. Terry emerged from the huddle somewhat sombrely as if it to suggest it really was him who had been wronged all along.

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This is becoming disturbingly endemic of Chelsea Football Club. Even before José Mourinho strutted into the country they or their supporters, like Millwall, didn't care if anybody liked them. Whereas Millwall have made notable strides to improve their image, Chelsea haven't done enough. This week the Lions have banned a 13-year-old for verbally abusing Bolton's Marvin Sordell, but will put him through one of the club's education programmes in a bid to "change his outlook on equality, racism and life in general". Chelsea meanwhile mollycoddle a man who has cost an England player his international career, an England manager his job and put a family through the ordeal of a racism trial. The club's image, like their skipper, is in tatters.

UNITED NEED TO ALLEVIATE PRESSURE ON SCHOLES
Manchester United's latest heart attack-inducing comeback once again came against opponents they made needlessly hard work of. In their third game of the season they defeated the dunce defenders of Southampton only in stoppage-time and the weekend's 3-2 conquest was over an Aston Villa side who are just one place above the relegation zone with only two wins all season.

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For the umpteenth time Sir Alex Ferguson's midfield blind-spot aided the opposition. Paul Scholes' selection did not prompt many qualms from United fans, but Villa were savvy and energetic enough to stifle him. It was a poor display by the veteran, but it remains embarrassing his manager stocks so much reliability in a player who turns 38 this week. Even Scholes' vision to seek out Javier Hernández's first goal could not mask his age showing throughout the 71 minutes he played.

Scholes was instrumental in the win at Southampton when he emerged as a substitute to capitalise on the shattered Saints, and rather than leave him vulnerable with the tentative Michael Carrick, Ferguson would be wiser to strictly utilise Scholes to effect games as an impact player when his legs are as fresh as his mind.

FELLAINI FINALLY GIVEN PLATFORM TO SHOW CLASS
Everton's newfound adventurousness under David Moyes has probably benefitted Marouane Fellaini more than any other of their squad members. His goal and assist in their 2-1 win over Sunderland were two exhibitions of his technical proficiency which compelled some to express their surprise at the Belgian's skill, when actually Fellaini has always possessed such quality.

fellaini

The 24-year-old has been restricted by the role of the battering ram under Moyes. A hulking number 10 in the Duncan Ferguson mould, it has endeared him to Blues fans but not enabled Fellaini to showcase the central midfield qualities Everton supposedly signed him for. Occasionally he will have to play off of Nikica Jelavić, but Steven Pienaar's license to drift centrally has freed Fellaini from the shackles to become creative and his impact against the Black Cats came after he dropped back into midfield. With six goals and three assits so far this campaign, he's a very early contender for the player of the year awards.

VILLAS-BOAS' FORMULA FINALLY FAILS
Tottenham's previous two away wins at Manchester United and Southampton were both won by a solitary goal thanks to good first halves but with the home side dominating the second period. Spurs were fortunate to be 1-0 up against Manchester City at the interval on Sunday but rather than strive to improve their performance they retained the cautious approach which had shown symptoms of failing at Old Trafford and St Mary's. And on Sunday it failed.

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Spurs' defence isn't good enough or experienced enough to option the "s**t on a stick" tactics José Mourinho's impregnable Chelsea defence of 2004-06, United's 2008-09 or even City's title-winning rearguard specialised in. As porous as a sieve, Sergio Agüero's equaliser was long overdue and Edin Džeko's winner was as inevitable as it was deserved for the Citizens. Chelsea conceded 31 goals in 27 league games under André Villas-Boas last season and Spurs have conceded 16 in 11 under the Portuguese already. Torn between a high defensive line and a poor imitation of catenaccio, Spurs are in the awkward position of having to countenance their coach's own uncertainty.

BERBATOV WOULD NOT HAVE IMPROVED ARSENAL
"We didn't know he was on the transfer list," conceded Arsène Wenger after it was suggested to him Dimitar Berbatov might have been a useful purchase in the summer. While Wenger would have to have been as far away from Earth as Felix Baumgartner to seriously think Manchester United had no intention of selling the Bulgarian, Berbatov isn't what Arsenal are lacking.

berbatov

The 31-year-old has been in sparkling form for Fulham, whose maverick identity has been augmented by his arrival. But the Cottagers are a comfort side for Berbatov, who rejected Serie A champions Juventus' overtures as deadline day loomed. He deserves to play regularly and would only have done so sporadically at the Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal's pacy play is instrumental to Wenger's gameplan and contrasts with Berbatov's poetry-in-motion. Fulham, on the other hand, with their romantic Cottage by the Thames, is the perfect platform for him. And us neutrals.

MCLEAN CRITICISM POPPYCOCK
Sunderland's James McClean chose not to wear a shirt with a poppy emblazoned on it at Goodison Park on the weekend of Remembrance Sunday. Some have suggested the decision by McClean, a Derry-born Republic of Ireland international, was motivated by the British army murdering 14 innocent people in his home city, although this hasn't been clarified.

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Predictably criticised by the Twitteratti, it is another example of poppy fascism. Those who fought for their country also fought for democracy. You don't have to wear a poppy. That McClean took this decision because of politics does pose the question as to why he doesn't represent Northern Ireland if he feels so strongly about the Royal British Legion, but what he did isn't offensive. The dictatorial reaction of some however is.

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