SPORT
28/10/2013 04:39 GMT | Updated 28/10/2013 04:40 GMT

Liverpool's Fergie Team Talk And More Premier League Talking Points

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:  ( THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 26, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Getty
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: ( THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 26, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Manchester City were the biggest losers in a Premier League weekend which featured Fernando Torres' belated Second Coming, a Manchester United comeback under David Moyes, Southampton and Everton's resurgence and more.

Here are five talking points...

ARSENAL PASS ANOTHER TEST OF METTLE

Invariably, teams who have lost a manager do not get slaughtered in their following game. Sunderland's battering at the hands of Swansea, in Gus Poyet's first game in charge, perhaps quelled expectation of Crystal Palace not being eviscerated by Arsenal on Saturday. Televising the game was BT Sport on its free to air weekend, and that didn't stop one tweeter to suggest it was, "A nod to the old days when hangings were held in town squares for all to see."

olivier giroud

Giroud clinched Arsenal's three points at Palace

The execution was laboured, though. Not only was it another example of a team galvanised by their former coach's departure but a reflection of how vulnerable Arsenal are. Even Match of the Day, still withering in its dying throes, offered an illuminating analysis of Arsenal's problems without the ball.

Arsenal still won, however, and that gutsiness which they have lacked in recent seasons was showcased after Mikel Arteta's red card. At this late juncture, it is perhaps disingenuous not to regard them as title challengers even if clubs like Aston Villa and Leeds United have sat atop the tree on Christmas Day in the Premier League era.

The next two months will be a fairer reflection of Arsenal's progress, though. They face Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United in the space of eight November days before they take on Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea in the 11 days before Christmas.

FERGUSON GIVES LIVERPOOL TEAM TALK FOR THE SEASON

Sir Alex Ferguson's chapter on Manchester United's greatest rivals is actually titled "Liverpool - A Great Tradition". There are plenty of compliments but, not unusually for a United manager, he enjoys lobbing a few hand grenades at Anfield, be it about their Spice Boys, support of a player who racially abused an opponent or Kenny Dalglish's risible second stint as coach.

Brendan Rodgers has vociferously taken exception to Ferguson's critique of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson as, not for the first time, Liverpool gnawed at the bait. The reaction was not as flustered at Rafael Benítez's in 2009 and, unlike the aftermath of his "facts" diatribe, Liverpool responded resoundingly. A 4-1 thrashing of West Brom maintained Liverpool's second-place status.

They have done a largely good job of dismissing bottom-half teams but are in a similar scenario to Arsenal, with a potential winter of discontent on the agenda. Liverpool travel to Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City over the next two months. Like Arsenal, they are reliant on the Premier League's regression continuing if they are to progress.

Photo gallery
Premier League Saturday
See Gallery

SOUTHAMPTON COULD COMPETE FOR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACE IN TIME - IF THEY KEEP POCHETTINO

At this stage last year, Southampton had conceded 24 goals whereas now they boast the Premier League's most miserly defence. Three of the back five who started in the 4-1 loss at West Ham in October 2012 were fielded for the 2-0 defeat of Fulham at the weekend.

Mauricio Pochettino has kept changes at a minimum since he replaced Nigel Adkins but has injected a sophisticated approach lacking elsewhere in the Premier League. The Saints prefer to go pressing, rather than marching, in, under Pochettino. They are possibly the best at it in the Premier League, memorably witnessed during their defeat at Old Trafford as far back as February - his second game in charge. Fast-forward eight months and Southampton's 1-1 draw at United was as merited as it was unsurprising.

southampton

Rodriguez and Lambert earned the Saints another three points against Fulham

Blessed with two full-backs as good at attacking as they are at defending, athletic and combative defensive midfielders and a telepathic forward line and suddenly a top 10 finish seems like an underachievement.

HOWARD'S HIDDEN REPUTATION

So renowned at saving penalties was Tim Howard at Manchester United he was sent to warm-up during the 2005 FA Cup final as a penalty shootout emerged on the horizon. The game ended after 120 minutes and Sir Alex Ferguson still had one substitute spare but showed faith in Roy Carroll, who failed to stop any of Arsenal's five spotkicks.

tim howard

Howard denied Benteke with the scoreline goalless at the weekend

Howard had stopped two Arsenal penalties in the 2003 Community Shield shootout and suddenly earned a reputation as a 12-yard specialist. He never actually denied an opponent during a game with United but it has stuck, and eight out of 22 takers have failed to score past him while an Everton player. Christian Benteke became the sixth player to be denied by Howard at the weekend.

The American is actually credited with saving Sergio Agüero's effort earlier this month, which is dubious since the ball ended up in the back of the net via Howard's head. Ironically, it highlighted how he is capable of saving more penalties than he does.

MOYES' PERSITENCE WITH SMALLING AT RIGHT-BACK JUST DAFT

Chris Smalling started at right-back for Manchester United's 6-1 and 4-1 maulings to Manchester City and has said on several occasions he prefers to play as acentre-back. Yet David Moyes started him on the flank for Stoke's visit instead over the fit Da Silva twins.

chris smalling

Smalling struggled on the flank again for United

Moyes might justify this by pointing out Stoke's physicality - his predecessor often preferred John O'Shea in those types of games. But in that case, why did the diminutive Tom Cleverley start ahead of Marouane Fellaini? Inevitably, Stoke scored via a foray down the left flank and it wasn't until Moyes introduced Adnan Januzaj and Antonio Valencia on the right that United looked more assured.