Premier League plots left hanging in the air
Curse the international weekend. Just as things were starting to get a sense of regularity again in the Premier League, another FIFA break has popped up at a most unwelcome time.
With a quarter of the season done, there are clearly more questions than answers. And now we get no resolution for two weeks.
It’s a classic cliffhanger situation, only one million times worse.
We’ve no choice but to grin and bear it. But before we all get distracted with just how bad this creaky old Socceroos outfit really is, let’s take a quick glance at four of the juiciest plotlines left hanging courtesy of international football.
When will Luis Suarez win his next penalty?
Just as diving is a scourge on the game, the reputation of being a diver is a smudge on one’s record that not even the best referees in the world can overlook. Suarez is learning this the hard way, and it was mildly fitting that it was against the rough-and-tumble Stoke that this all came to something of a head this past weekend.
The next move now falls to the Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers. He has to tell his Uruguayan talisman to stop doing it. Not for image reasons, not even because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do – but because his perceived theatrics are doing the whole team a disservice, points-wise.
Suarez is slippery and skilful enough to stay on his feet more often than he does in the box. If he behaves, then he may find the benefits are two-fold – more goals instead of trying to earn spot kicks, and more spot kicks when he actually earns them.
Is Wayne Rooney the solution for United’s midfield woes?
“Great win today. Really enjoying my new midfield role. Always involved in the game.” And perhaps that is the tweet will mark the day Sir Alex Ferguson killed two birds with the one Scouse stone. Perhaps. Time will tell.
But the early signs are good. At the point of Manchester United’s diamond, Rooney looked at home against Newcastle at the weekend. For a player who has lost pace over the years but gained intelligence and vision, it seems the perfect shift – and not just for him.
With Robin van Persie and Shinjia Kawaga occupying the two most advanced roles, the Rooney of this vintage is no longer a certainly to start as a striker. But as a hard-working, swashbuckling driver from attacking midfield, he might be capable of contributing the steel that the United midfield so desperately needs.
How much longer can Mark Hughes survive?
Zero wins, five losses and 16 goals conceded from seven matches. This is the reality for Queens Park Rangers and their manager, Hughes, who spent so strangely in the transfer market and is now having a tough time trying to fit all the different pieces of player he has together.
Predictably so. 11 players came in and 13 exited over the off-season, so Hughes was always going to have a task on his hands in keeping some sense of sanity about at Loftus Road. But bottom place was not exactly what he or currently supportive chairman Tony Fernandes had in mind.
The talk is that Hughes will get until Christmas to extract the Rs out of the mire. And it’s not panic stations just yet – they’re only six points beneath the critic’s darling Swansea. For the coach’s own sake, though, the gap between QPR are the rest cannot grow any further.
Can Everton take the next step?
They look likely. Then again, they always have. Everton have been hanging around the upper echelons of the Premier League table for years now, but remain unable to break through the glass ceiling and contend with those clubs so plush with funds above them.
If there has ever been a Toffees group capable of truly becoming a top-four nuisance, though, surely this is it. Marouane Fellaini is just about the most unplayable player in England. Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic eats goals for breakfast. Leighton Baines, on form, could walk into any other side in the competition.
And they and the rest of their teammates have all been made to play some scintillating football by David Moyes, a tactician who has been on the rise for so long it’s a wonder he’s still there.
With a moderately friendly run of fixtures coming up – QPR (away), Liverpool (home – and let’s face it, now is the time to play them before Rodgers’ philosophy starts paying dividends), Fulham (away), Sunderland (home) and Reading (away) – the next month or two will be telling.
Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard that is the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. He is a Port Adelaide fan by birth, as painful as that has been recently. He's now sports editor of The Area News in Griffith, NSW.
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