A change of tack from Nigel Adkins
"Never do what your instincts tell you. Always, always do the opposite." It took George Costanza 86 episodes of Seinfeld to follow his own advice, but once he did the success started to roll in. Southampton's manager, Nigel Adkins, should take note. With one win and four defeats in six games, not to mention 18 goals conceded – only one other team in the history of the Premier League have let in that many goals after just six games, Newcastle in 1999-2000 – something needs to change at St Mary's. After last weekend's defeat by Everton, Adkins vowed to ignore Costanza's advice and stick by his side's attacking instincts – "we believe we play football the right way". While those instincts brought a win over Aston Villa, they have delivered precious little else. If Adkins were to adopt a more defensive shape than his tried, trusted and failing 4-1-4-1 formation, Southampton fans may find themselves enjoying Premier League football for longer than it looks right now. IMC
Koscielny out, Mertesacker in
Laurent Koscielny's rather inept display against Chelsea last week did contain at least one positive note for Arsène Wenger, as it solved any selection headache he might have had over who to play alongside Thomas Vermaelen in Saturday's game at Upton Park. If Koscielny can be pushed around by Fernando Torres, hardly the most physical of strikers, then he has little chance against either Carlton Cole or, more likely, Andy Carroll. And so Per Mertesacker should regain his place. But Arsenal close the door on one selection problem only to open another. With Abou Diaby out injured, again, there is a space in the middle that could be filled either by Aaron Ramsey or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The latter is still learning, the former is still regressing. And then there is the question of Gervinho. The Ivory Coast international often looks like an embarrassed teenager on an early sexual encounter; he's scoring, yet most of his time is spent fumbling around without really knowing what to do. But who could come in ahead of him? Olivier Giroud, who has been poor so far? Or the ever inconsistent Theo Walcott? Either way, there is plenty for Wenger to ponder. IMC
QPR playing a sweet passing game
Ezra Pound described his incomplete poem, Cantos, as a "rag-bag", but he could just as well have been talking about Queens Park Rangers' style of play. Against West Ham on Monday Esteban Granero and Alejandro Faurlín, as well as Adel Taarabt when he came on, looked to get the ball down and play a short, crisp, penetrative passing game. But far too often their good work was undone by a team-mate more interested in aiming for a fan in a white and blue hooped shirt than a fellow player. Hughes also had Bobby Zamora dropping deep to collect the ball, which left Djibril Cissé isolated as a lone target man; Cissé is many things to many people but a lone target man he is certainly not. If Hughes wants to back up his promise that QPR will not find themselves mired in the same relegation battle as last season, then he will need to define a style for his side and ensure his surfeit of players operate more as a team than the expensive rabble they currently resemble. IMC
Darren Bent starting against Tottenham
It is a local derby, your season is going so-so and your 'goals for' column in the table is one of the lowest in the league, so what you do? Drop your best striker for an inconsistent one who is just returning from injury? Or, better yet, drop him for another striker who is in his first Premier League season and has yet to prove himself? Of course you don't, unless you're Paul Lambert. The Aston Villa manager took a big gamble leaving Darren Bent to ride the bench last weekend against West Bromwich Albion. Luckily for the Scot, it paid off within three touches when Bent came on, but Lambert would be foolish to try the same stunt again. Bent is the sort of striker who needs an arm around the shoulder, not the Sandra-would-have-done-better approach. Players returning to old clubs tend to play with a point to prove, and if Villa want to leave White Hart Lane with anything but their tail between the legs, Bent should be an automatic choice. IMC
Peter Crouch scoring at Anfield
Injuries, a new system, too many individual errors, an unsettled backline, and a loss of form have contributed to Liverpool's defence looking shakier than a night in a club with Mystikal. Only three teams have conceded more goals this season, and not one performance from Brendan Rodgers's side has yielded a clean sheet. With that in mind, an in-form Peter Crouch – four games, four goals – and his Stoke City cohorts would probably be the last opponents the Liverpool manager wants to welcome to Anfield this weekend. Crouch's manager, Tony Pulis, described the striker as "unplayable" after a brace against Swansea that quite easily could have turned into his first hat-trick in the league since Liverpool's 4-1 hammering of Arsenal in March 2007. That heady mix of Crouch's form and Liverpool's weakness may just be enough to check any momentum that Rodgers's side picked up from their win over Norwich. IMC
Newcastle to expose Manchester United's shaky defence
Back when he was plain Alex Ferguson and in charge of East Stirlingshire, it was rumoured that he used to go behind the stand and practise losing his temper. Since then he has had plenty of reason to convert that practice into performance, and Sunday's late afternoon jaunt to Newcastle is liable to provide him with another opportunity to do so – especially if his defence put in another uncertain display. They were ragged against Tottenham and ropey against Cluj. They were (physically) exposed by Everton and servile against Southampton. A lack of cover in front of them is certainly not helping matters but, as Gary Neville pointed out on Monday night, the back four are not working as a unit and that is costing them goals. Last season the Magpies bullied their way to an impressive 3-0 win in this fixture, and it would be difficult to bet against a repeat result. IMC
Swansea making more than two goalscoring chances
When you start your season with a 5-0 away win, things are likely only to get worse (unless you get to play QPR every week). But Swansea's mini-slump needs to be addressed. They have lost their past three games without scoring – and it's the lack of goals rather than the defeats that alarms their manager, Michael Laudrup. "We did not create chances like we are used to – only two or three in the whole game," Laudrup said after the 2-0 defeat by Stoke last weekend. "It is not so much that Stoke scored. Maybe we have to look a little more into why we did not create more chances and score goals." Another concern is that Swansea have had a relatively easy start: Stoke and Aston Villa hadn't recorded a league victory until they came up against Laudrup's team. Saturday's game against Reading is a good opportunity for Swansea to bank some points and regain their early season fluency. There will be sterner tests ahead. TL
Continued tension between Allardyce and Wenger
Just how does Sam Allardyce release all that anger at Real Madrid's continued, exasperating refusal to make him their manager? Well, he usually has a pop at Wenger. Here are a few choice samples:
August 2010: "I have to remind Arsène that his team, which used to win the league, was the dirtiest in the league. If you cast your mind back to when they were winning the league, they had more sendings-off and bookings than anyone else."
September 2010: "Arsène has most of the media in his pocket now and is almost – almost – affecting the officials so that you can't tackle an Arsenal player."
April 2011: "I don't know him well enough to like him or dislike him, but I think his own self-importance takes him into an area where he can become rude with what he does, in terms of ignoring you and ignoring what you do. For instance, he's not shaken my hand in the past and walked straight down the tunnel because he's frustrated with one thing or another."
For fans of petty squabbles everywhere, let's hope Wenger does something to annoy Allardyce – perhaps forget to offer him a Polo mint on the sidelines, for instance – when Arsenal play West Ham this weekend. TL
Adam Johnson showing City what they're missing
Much was expected of Adam Johnson when he joined Manchester City in January 2010, but injury, a falling out with Roberto Mancini and questions over his commitment meant it was no real surprise when he joined Sunderland at the start of the season. If he can realise his talent it would be a huge boost for Sunderland (and England) and there are signs that the ideal place to do that is the Stadium of Light. Martin O'Neill has a knack of getting the best out of players, Johnson's life off the pitch may be more settled in his native north-east, and in Steven Fletcher he has a brilliant target for his crosses. Johnson was solid rather than spectacular against Wigan on his return from injury last weekend, but there'll be no better motivation to show he is a changed man than a meeting with City on Saturday. TL
Jelavic to maintain Everton's Goliath status
When Everton feature in top versus bottom matches, they have usually found themselves billed as David rather than Goliath. But the Goodison Park bandwagon is gradually gathering momentum, and David Moyes's side roll into Wigan's DW Stadium in second place. Wigan have not won at home all season, which must give Everton belief that their bubble is still far from bursting – especially when they have Nikica Jelavic scoring on a regular basis. The Croatia international bagged two in Everton's 3-1 win over Southampton last week, and it would be prudent to back him to notch his 13th goal in 19 league games against a side who haven't kept a clean sheet in their past six games. Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman have been a terrifying trio this term with Marouane Fellaini and Victor Anichebe benefiting from their approach play. Roberto Martínez will be relying on the return of Antolín Alcaraz to shore up his porous defence but, if Mirallas and co are on form, Wigan could be in for a rough ride. MS