It's easy to mock Arsenal for being happy with fourth, but Nick Miller says the enormous changes coming up at the top mean there is a genuine reason to celebrate...
Matt Stanger finds it impossible to believe that Roman Abramovich is content with the haphazard nature of Chelsea's European title victories in the last 12 months...
* This is the first season since football was invented in 1992 that Manchester United have not beaten Spurs. While two results are not necessarily proof of Tottenham's rise, it does indicate that they are an increasingly powerful force in the Premier League. They are not the finished article (more on that later) but that they are challenging so convincingly for not just the top four but third place while still a work in progress must be hugely encouraging. Of course, they were comfortably in third after 23 games last season too, so Tottenham fans have been burned by hope before.
* Sky were obviously getting terribly excited about United's lead at the top of the table being cut down to JUST FIVE POINTS! because that's what Sky do, but more relevant is perhaps a look at theirs and Manchester City's upcoming fixtures. United's next eight games are against Southampton (h), Fulham (a), Everton (h), QPR (a), Norwich (h), West Ham (a), Reading (h) and Sunderland (a), while City face QPR (a), Liverpool (h), Southampton (a), Chelsea (h), Villa (a), Wigan (h), Everton (a) and Newcastle (h). And then it's the derby at Old Trafford. The odds are that United's lead will still be at least five points by then.
* Word is that Spurs are trying to bring Lewis Holtby to Spurs earlier than the summer, and it's easy to see why. They need a 'Number Ten' quite badly, especially when one considers the paucity of their striking options, and how poor Clint Dempsey has been for much of the season. Holtby played what some think will be his final game for Schalke on Friday, and he was excellent, setting up two goals and scoring one himself. He was bright, inventive and incisive, all the things that Demspey, despite his late goal, wasn't in this game and indeed hasn't been so far for Spurs. Dempsey was purchased as a second-choice in three or four different positions, but hasn't proved an adequate back-up in any of them. Holtby, and possibly another attacking option, can't arrive soon enough for Spurs.
* A lack of options is basically what is holding Spurs back at present. A look at their bench revealed the only attacking substitution that Villas-Boas could have made was to bring on the unproven Andros Townsend, which is hardly the most fearsome prospect. Villas-Boas had to be a bit more creative, introducing Benoit Assou-Ekotto to give a little more attacking thrust and balance down the left, and Tom Huddlestone for some more offensive passing from midfield - and even the latter substitution was probably more about giving Scott Parker a rest than trying to change the side.
* Parker is an interesting one, in that it's surprising how quickly he has become essentially marginalised. Sandro has been so good in that withdrawn midfield role this season, providing a perfect foil for Mousa Dembele, that the man regarded as one of, if not the most important player in the Spurs side last season has not been missed.
Parker was obviously still rusty after his long lay-off (he last started a league game in April, a competitive match at Euro 2012), but it was noticeable how much slower he was at moving the ball than the Brazilian, Parker's trademark 15-point turns becoming somewhat infuriating when we've been used to Sandro. It will be interesting to see if he is simply rusty and will get back to last term's form, or if Sandro's absence will prove significant for Spurs.
* Both Matthew Stanger in the last edition of Winners and Losers, and myself in Big Weekend, referenced the decision Sir Alex Ferguson would have to make regarding his wingers, given the poor form of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani and the threat they would be faced with in Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. It perhaps shouldn't be a surprise that Fergie came up with a more creative solution, starting with something close to a 4-2-3-1, Michael Carrick and Phil Jones screening the defence and pushing Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck to unfamiliar wide positions. And it sort of worked, in that Bale had one of his quieter afternoons, being forced to come inside quite frequently to search for the ball, although this was perhaps more to do with Rafael, who was excellent again. United had a few more struggles dealing with Tottenham's other wide threat, with Lennon proving a constant menace on the right, but in general they managed to contain Spurs.
* Another quick point on Bale - he attempted seven shots in total, only one of which was on target, and six were from outside the area. He's a special player, but one imagines an occasionally infuriating colleague.
* Many have suggested that Jonny Evans, who has been undoubtedly excellent this season, is now United's first-choice centre-back, but that's a position difficult to take seriously after Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand performed so brilliantly. Ferdinand's block from a Jermain Defoe shot in the second half was particularly brilliant. How reassuring it must be for a United fan to see them both in the starting line-up.
* Having praised Ferdinand for that block, it was perhaps ironic that Defoe was defied after not employing his usual main strength - namely shooting early before defenders and goalkeepers can prepare themselves. On this occasion he waited for a moment too long, giving Ferdinand time to recover.
* David de Gea had an interesting afternoon. The praise for his save from Bale's deflected shot in the first half was completely over the top, since the ball just hit the United keeper. In those situations a keeper must try and be in approximately the right position, then hope for the best. This is not to criticise De Gea, for criticism he would've deserved had he let that shot in, but to acknowledge that not every time a goalie keeps the ball out is a world-class save. Indeed, it's part of an obsession that people have with extremes - something either has to be brilliant or dreadful, without acknowledging that there are grey areas. In football, there are few things that exemplify this more than goalkeeping.
Gary Neville was scathing about the punch that eventually led to the injury-time equaliser, but while De Gea was perhaps a touch tentative, he did have three or four bodies basically under him, including Nemanja Vidic. It's all very well saying 'Come out and clear everything', but when a keeper is as skinny and gangly as De Gea, it's easier said than done.
* It's difficult to say enough nice things about Robin van Persie, but here's one. His movement for the United goal was exceptional, staying on the shoulder of the defender for just long enough, then dropping back and creating enough space to head in at the far post. That's 18 goals in 20 league starts so far. He's useful.
* Michael Carrick's excellent season continues. F365 have often been fairly unconvinced by the midfielder, but it's difficult to deny how good he has been for United this campaign. Quite apart from his simple, intelligent passing, Carrick made six tackles (more than anyone else on the pitch) and four interceptions (only Scott Parker made more, with five).
* "It was Beckham-like, that cross," said Jamie Redknapp about Tom Cleverley's ball for Robin van Persie's opener. He was right, and it's not the first time Cleverley has pinged a beauty in from out wide - his effort from the flank against Braga to set up Javier Hernandez earlier this season (about 1.20 in this clip) was a peach worthy of United's old number seven too. With someone as deadly as Van Persie in the middle, Cleverley's ability from those positions is quite a weapon.
* It's good to have Benny Assou-Ekotto back, simply because he's terrific fun. There was a moment that summed him up quite neatly after he came on - the ball was launched towards him, high in the air, and the left-back killed it stone dead as it dropped from a great height. It was a first touch that Cantona or Berbatov would've been proud of. However, then he shanked a forward pass straight out of play when there were two or three better options available. Hugely talented, hugely unpredictable, hugely entertaining.
* A rather...erratic afternoon for referee Chris Foy. It's been repeated any number of times on this website that a referee should only be judged on what they can reasonably be expected to see on the pitch, but even by those standards Foy made some strange decisions. A few spring to mind, notably of course the penalty that Wayne Rooney should've been given for a foul by Steven Caulker, but also Shinji Kagawa committed two of the most blatant tugs on the shoulders of two Spurs players, hauling them down as they reached the penalty area, and nothing was given.
* "He plays on the left, he plays on the leeeeeeeefft, Gareth Bale, he plays on the left." Yes, the tyranny of Sloop John B has now progressed to tactical advice to the manager. When Bale shifted inside for about two minutes in the first half, this piped up from the Tottenham fans. This really must stop, as soon as possible.
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