Martinez On The Up, Wenger On The Slide

That's certainly the narrative they want you to take from Arsenal's trip to Goodison, where Daniel Storey thinks they'll draw. Plus City, John Terry, Cardiff and Lambert...

Last Updated: 04/04/14 at 07:57 Post Comment

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Arsene Wenger and Roberto Martinez
Two managers meet at Goodison with more than the top four at stake. One is widely viewed as on the slide, a once innovative approach now dismissed as archaic, whilst the other is the youngest permanent manager in England's top flight. On Sunday, Roberto Martinez will hope give a cheery wave to Arsene Wenger as he provides further evidence that he should take over the mantle of the next big thing in foreign Premier League managers.

However, whilst there is a clear managerial narrative on Sunday, this is a game that needs no such back story. Arsenal travel to Merseyside just four points ahead of Martinez's side having played a game more, and given Everton's extra match is at home to Crystal Palace, this will be filed under 'must not lose' for Arsenal.

For Everton, this is the perfect scenario. With five consecutive victories for the first time in ten years the home side have established themselves as the dark horse in the race for the Champions League, and all the pressure will inevitably be piled upon Wenger and his team.

The smart money must surely be on the draw given what is at stake, a result that would probably appease both managers. Everton would retain their top four hopes, whilst Arsenal would also be confident of keeping Martinez's side at bay, given a run-in comprising of West Ham, Hull, Newcastle, West Brom and Norwich.


Manchester City
Still title favourites, but after the draw at Arsenal, Manuel Pellegrini's side can afford no more slip-ups, and in Southampton face a dangerous banana skin. Everyone's focus may be on the game at Anfield next week, but it would be foolish to underestimate an opponent filled with pace and carefree adventure.

Mauricio Pochettino's side are a difficult opposition currently simply because they have so little to lose. Against Newcastle last weekend, they scored four times and it could have been 14, such was their invention and creativity.

Evidently City will be an altogether trickier assignment, but the Saints took four points in the two fixtures between the two sides in 2013. With the concerns about pace in City's central defence whoever is selected, the interchangeable Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez will look to make hay. The English trio have eight goals between them in Southampton's last three matches, and Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis will need to be on their guard to ward against further spoils.

Win and City will remain in the driving seat to win their second Premier League, anything but and you can look forward to those 'Does Pellegrini know what he's doing?' in the papers next week.


John Terry
It's easy to feel sorry for Gary Cahill as Chelsea suffered their second defeat in five days because, despite neither loss being down to his own individual ineptitude, it was Cahill forced to face the music.

"It's a sloppy goal and unlike us," the England international told the waiting media. "It's a big blow at 2-1." Unfortunately for Cahill, his manager disagreed, upgrading the description from "sloppy" to "ridiculous".

However, it is not Cahill that should be answering such difficult questions. Both defeats (PSG and Crystal Palace) were due to defensive c*ck-ups from his captain and defensive partner John Terry, and yet Terry remained notably camera-shy. He may not have [redacted] anyone's [redacted], but it has not been a good week for the captain, leader and legend.

After consecutive losses that have led to Chelsea's Premier League and Champions League hopes taking a serious denting, a home game against Stoke should provide some welcome relief, but having conceded three times to the same opposition in December, chickens should not be counted.

For Terry, a display in which he isn't at fault for a crucial goal would be welcomed.


Andy Carroll
A good week for England's likely 'alternative' option, scoring his second goal in 11 months against Sunderland on Monday, but doubts must still remain about his ability to add either quality or effectiveness in Brazil whilst the likes of Jay Rodriguez stay at home.

Although obviously affected by injury this season, Carroll's goalscoring record in recent years has been pitiful. The striker has 23 goals in all competitions (including at international level) since December 2010 - Jay Rodriguez has 17 this season alone. Evidently Carroll's role for England would simply be about scoring goals, but having been bought by Liverpool on the back of scoring 11 goals in 19 games for Newcastle, that's still a heck of a drought.

With the manner in which Southampton's front three have been so ruddy brilliant and gorgeous to watch of late, now is a good time for Carroll to start impressing Roy Hodgson.

Scoring the opener on Monday was a fine start, but scoring against his old club and derailing Liverpool's title bid would be a pretty wonderful way to continue a little run of form - it may be enough to persuade Roy Hodgson that he is England's perfect Plan B.


Cardiff
It's all very well saving yourself with last-gasp equalisers, but Cardiff are now at the stage of the season where wins are all that matter.

The club's run-in is actually more favourable than any of the other sides in deep relegation trouble, with Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Stoke and Newcastle all providing realistic opportunities for victory, but when you consider that West Brom had won one of their previous 11 matches before coming so close to victory against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side last weekend, this is still deep trouble.

The principal issue for Solskjaer is his porous defence (it's now one clean sheet since mid-December), but a home fixture against Palace could be the perfect tonic for such a problem - Tony Pulis' side have scored just six away goals this season.

Put simply, if Cardiff can't beat Palace at home on Saturday then they not only probably deserve to go down, but they surely will.


Marouane Fellaini
In the matchday programme before the match against Bayern Munich on Tuesday, David Moyes complimented his players for their performances in the Champions League this season.

"We have certainly displayed some of our best football this season in the Champions Leagues. With the exception of the away tie at Olympiakos, I have been really pleased with much of what we have done. The players have played well and looked comfortable at this level."

It's little surprise that United's players have 'looked comfortable' at Champions League level, given that a number of them have played in three Champions League finals in the last four years for this club.

In fact, there was one exception to Moyes' view during the otherwise excellent result against the German and European champions - the one player that Moyes signed. There is little doubt that Marouane Fellaini was dreadful against Bayern, and (as Matthew Stanger said this week) his underperformance is now dragging Moyes down.

A fixture against a Newcastle side that have been on the beach since January provides Fellaini with an opportunity to stamp his authority on a match in an attempt to display at least a glimpse of the form that persuaded Moyes to part with £27.5m for his services just eight months ago. Another disappointing showing, and the doubts will increase as to whether this is simply a player worryingly out of his depth.


West Brom
One win in 12 matches, and with little sense that Pepe Mel justifies his appointment, things still look pretty grim at the Hawthorns. What's more, the mood won't have been helped by headlines revealing that James Morrison had punched Saido Berahino following the draw at home to Cardiff last weekend. That's not exactly what was meant by showing fighting spirit.

With Manchester City, Arsenal and Spurs still to play before the last two games of the season the Baggies remain in serious danger of relegation, but with Sunderland seemingly unable to find any form, a trip to Carrow Road provides an opportunity to create some breathing space.

Unfortunately, given that Chris Hughton is in 'must win' territory, this is the game that Norwich win before slipping to two further disappointing defeats. Sorry West Brom fans.


Alan Pardew
With some serious grumblings in the North East regarding Chunky Pardew's continued employment at St James' Park, his Newcastle side have now failed to score in 10 of their last 14 matches.

Whilst the problems with Pardew's perceived untouchable position run far deeper than simply Newcastle's current form, us football fans are a fickle bunch. A home victory over Manchester United would far from repair the broken relationship between manager and supporters, but it would certainly act as a decent first step.


Paul Lambert
A record of 13 defeats in 18 games, and fans are getting restless. Paul Lambert might not be asked to clear his desk should his side lose to Fulham this weekend, but he damn well should be close.

After recent home losses to Stoke, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United, you wouldn't exactly rule it out.

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter.

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