Wednesday takeaways: Arsenal looking resilient; Liverpool struggling from open play

Ian Walton

Things are looking up for the Gunners despite injury trouble, cracks are appearing in Liverpool's foundation and it might be time to say goodbye to Fat Sam.

Is Wilfried Bony finally coming good for Swansea?

by Callum Hamilton

Wilfried Bony looks like he might be finally adapting to the Premier League. With some impressive early performances, it looked like Swansea had made a superb acquisition, but since then he's struggled to find his best form, exacerbated by Michu also struggling to hit last season's heights.

Against Manchester City, Swansea were equal to the battle in midfield, but Wayne Routledge and Roland Lamah left them struggling for creativity in the final third. Fortunately, Bony was at hand to create chances by himself and was a threat all afternoon in all kinds of ways, particularly in the air and with his dangerous shooting from distance.

Whether it's more effective wingers, a midfielder pushed up or a genuine second striker, Bony will probably need better partners if he is to find his best form. But Wednesday was a positive step in what has been a disappointing season for Michael Laudrup's men, and they'll need Bony to step up to salvage the rest of the campaign.

Arsenal looks more resilient than in past seasons

by Callum Hamilton

Arsenal were poor all game against Cardiff City, but they showed a mental resilience they haven't for a long time before this season. That should be fairly worrying for the rest of the Premier League's title hopefuls, as it follows on from their victory against Newcastle where they won despite being outplayed -- a rarity for Arsene Wenger's side in recent years.

Injuries played a big part in how weak the team were, of course, as did some very good defending from Cardiff for most of the game. Yet although Cardiff may be a bad side, their midfield does contain two excellent players in Gary Medel and Jordon Mutch. Arsenal barely gave them a sniff today, and it seems like everything that could have gone right has done so far for them.

Maybe that won't last, and the club will soon receive its inevitable share of poor luck. All of the title chasers have shown some form of mental strength in different ways, but since Arsenal were so lacking in it before, they have had the most to gain from finding it.

Liverpool's lack of open play chances a bit alarming

by Jack Sargeant

Their 2-0 win over Hull City may have looked pretty routine, though it took two set-pieces for Liverpool to find the back of Allan McGregor's net. It was far from a classic performance from Brendan Rodgers' side.

Granted, they were playing against a team that was set up to avoid conceding at all costs, with Steve Bruce sticking with the back three which has seen Hull restrict their opponents' opportunities pretty well since they won promotion. Even so, considering the attacking players Liverpool had on the field, they managed to create alarmingly few chances before Hull completely gave up on defending in the last few minutes.

Luis Suárez pulled off a piece of individual brilliance with his second-half free kick, though otherwise was kept pretty quiet by a solid back three. Raheem Sterling too struggled to get involved, while Iago Aspas was completely anonymous under the man-marking of Maynor Figueroa. It wouldn't be at all surprising if the rumours of a January departure materialise. The Reds will certainly be glad to see Daniel Sturridge return later this month.

Southampton has been found out

by Kevin McCauley

Southampton's impressive run to the top four in the early part of the season looked somewhat sustainable at the time. No one really expected them to hold off the big boys for fourth or challenge for anything more than that, but they achieved their place playing an attacking brand of football against solid teams. They made good signings over the summer to supplement their homegrown talent and previous signings, and looked like they had the makings of a team that could at least hold off one of the "Sky Six" for a Europa League place.

Fast-forward to 2014 and they're down in ninth, six points behind Newcastle with three fewer wins. They're 12 points off fourth place and look nothing like a team that can get back to that level. Their last win over a team in the top half came on Nov. 9, against 10th-place Hull City, and they've failed to win in eight of their last nine. Injuries and a tough schedule have hurt them, but their collapse is down to more than that. On the evidence of their losses to Aston Villa, Tottenham and Chelsea on Wednesday, they've been figured out.

Mauricio Pochettino's side look to be one-trick ponies

Mauricio Pochettino's side look to be one-trick ponies who haven't figured out a good Plan B when Plan A isn't working. They keep the ball better than other mid-table sides and like to press high up the pitch, but they don't quite have the talent to dominate a game playing this style against top teams, and their central defenders aren't good enough to stop the numerous dangerous counter attacks that their style of play inherently causes them to give up.

Southampton have been found out. If Pochettino and his bosses have aspirations beyond seventh or eighth place, he'll have to figure out how to play more than one way.


Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Time to say goodbye to Sam Allardyce?

by Kevin McCauley

Oh, poor Sam Allardyce. Following West Ham's defeat at the hands of Fulham, the Hammers are now three points from safety and four points behind the Cottagers. They've failed to win in their last seven games.

In the beginning of the season, Allardyce dealt with his injury crisis superbly, fielding a 4-6-0 that no one knew how to play against, propelling his team into the top half for a brief period of time. They didn't look like they'd be in a relegation fight this season, but they've quickly become one of the favorites for the drop.

Given Allardyce's track record with teams of West Ham's caliber -- at the bottom of the Premier League or top of the Championship -- it might seem premature to sack him. But West Ham spent quite a bit of money this season while refusing to sell Mohamed Diame, and their squad is clearly not one of the three worst in the league. Even with their injury troubles and Andy Carroll failing to make an appearance this season, they shouldn't be in the drop zone.

There's going to be a huge outcry about the harshness of the firing and the ridiculous state of modern football from Allardyce's fellow managers if he does get the sack, but after a winless December and a loss to a direct relegation rival, could you really blame West Ham's board for pulling the trigger?

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