Soccer Saturday boys have their say on wins for Aston Villa and Arsenal
The Soccer Saturday boys have their say on wins for Villa and Arsenal, plus Norwich 2-2 Swansea.
Last Updated: 07/04/13 8:18am
Charlie Nicholas says Paul Lambert's men showed their character
Stoke 1-3 Aston Villa: Read our match report here.
"Stoke pressed Aston Villa back for close to the first 10 minutes of the game and Villa couldn't really get going. Then all of a sudden Villa score with their first attack. It's awful defending from Stoke. Geoff Cameron and Gabriel Agbonlahor kind of kick the ball against each other in the six-yard box and Agbonlahor is first to react and he slides it into the corner. You think Stoke will start battering them physically again but it was Villa on the offensive on the counter-attack up until half-time. Agbonlahor had another golden opportunity - he went around the keeper but he dived. He got a yellow card and I thought he might rue that.
"Michael Kightly came on in the second half. The Stoke fans were demanding a change - if not Charlie Adam, then Michael Owen but there was no sign of Owen. Kightly made it 1-1 with 10 minutes to go. But the turning point of the match came when Matthew Lowton, the right-back (who was at fault for the equalising goal) scored an absolute stunner. He knows exactly what he's doing and hits a volley at a nice height. He gets bend and movement on the ball. It was a stunning goal and then Christian Benteke wrapped it up after some more shocking defending. Benteke touched the ball past Robert Huth and then all of a sudden there were four Villa players going in on goal!
"What a show of character from Villa. They had their moments of luck but I always say when you get your luck, make sure it counts and they did. They've walked away with an enormous three points and all of a sudden 'squeaky-bum time' is coming Stoke's way."
Phil Thompson on Tomas Rosicky's brace in a solid Arsenal win
West Brom 1-2 Arsenal: Read our match report here.
"I would say this was the performance of a top-four side. Arsenal were very, very confident. They are in a rich vein of form and they carried on like that. They were very much in control of the first-half and went ahead after 20 minutes through Tomas Rosicky after Gervinho does really well again. Arsenal were cruising it. West Brom only had a header from a corner - Claudio Yacob on the corner of the six-yard box flicks it on and who is there to head if off the line? Rosicky. He then gets a second goal five minutes after half-time. Yacob sees Rosicky making a run but he doesn't go with him. He fires his shot away and Foster can only parry it and Rosicky smacks home the rebound.
"Arsenal were very solid at times and Per Mertesacker actually threw himself on the ball with his back to prevent somebody scoring. The only time Arsene Wenger changed it was when he had to bring Thomas Vermaelen on after the sending off of Mertesacker. A diagonal ball from James Morrison found Shane Long, who took it just into the box, where Mertesacker - stretching on the turn - brings him down. The referee, Howard Webb, gets it absolutely spot on. It is a penalty kick and a red card. It wasn't the best penalty in the world by Morrison. It went underneath the 'keeper.
"But then it was all out attack from West Brom. Arsenal stood up to it and they did really well even though West Brom still had a couple of good chances, including one for Romelu Lukaku who really should have scored."
Paul Merson on a missed opportunity at home for Norwick
Norwich 2-2 Swansea: Read our match report here.
"Norwich are still in a bit of trouble. You can write off next week's game - they are away at Arsenal and if they play like they did today, that will be light-bulbs in the scoreboard for me. I don't think they are safe yet. Today was a funny game. It wasn't a classic - it was pretty scrappy. I'll give Norwich their due - they went for it, even when they went 2-1 up.
"Norwich went 1-0 down to a great Michu finish - he drilled it into the roof of the net with his wrong foot. All of a sudden they have another great chance to go 2-0 up. Nathan Dyer goes through one-on-one with the 'keeper and misses. One minute later Swansea are level. It was a great ball from Elliott Bennett and Robert Snodgrass heads it in.
"The big centre-half Michael Turner put Norwich 2-1 up with a great finish at the far post from a free-kick when he could easily have ballooned it over. But he caught it on the half-volley and drilled it in. You think that could be it because they were all over Swansea. If they score one more goal they are probably safe in the Premier League for another season but they made it too easy for Swansea. It was a diagonal ball to the far post that was headed across the ball for Luke Moore to tap in and then Michu missed an absolute sitter from four or five yards out. He ballooned it over the bar. He had another chance six yards out and put it wide.
"Norwich would probably take a draw at the end because of the Michu chances but when you are 2-1 up at home playing against a team whose season has finished, I think Chris Hughton will be very disappointed knowing that they've got Arsenal next."
Plus, in other football news...
Liverpool have two legends in Gerrard and Suarez, says Thommo
"There's a good chance Stevie Gerrard could play on until his late thirties. In his early days he had problems playing two Saturdays in a row because he always had injury problems. He had a small operation on his groin, which meant he missed out on the World Cup, but since then he's never looked back - he's been able to play in all these games and I think he has been absolutely staggering. You know Stevie is going to pick up injuries but he's been absolutely fantastic this season. He changed his game around about Christmas and rather than just play keep-ball he started to look to get forward at the right time whereas before he was trying to change his game to suit his manager. There was a coming together and Stevie has been better off ever since, as has the team, for it. Then there's Luis Suarez, who never stops working. He puts it in every single game and that's why you love him so much. Yes, he has his flaws but my goodness I'm so glad he plays for Liverpool."
Sir Alex has had better United squads in his time, says Le Tissier
"You look at how far ahead United are in the Premier League and you think the squad must be good but I must admit that I've seen better Manchester United squads. For me it is not right up there with the best of them, to be honest with you, but they've ground out results at times. The likes of Arsenal and Chelsea have battered teams at times but I don't remember Manchester United battering too many teams like they used to in the past. So I don't think this squad is as good as some of the ones that Sir Alex Ferguson has had at Old Trafford in the past. As for Man City, Samir Nasri has been nowhere near the consistency levels that he showed at Arsenal before he got the transfer. That must frustrate you as a manager to see him not delivering at his best over such a long period of time."
QPR took a gamble signing Samba, says Merse
"It doesn't matter if you are Harry Redknapp, Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger sitting on the bench when people defend like Chris Samba did at Fulham. I don't care what anybody says - it was a gamble bringing him back to the Premier League. He was outstanding at Blackburn but the problem is that if you play away from the Premier League for almost a year it's incredibly tough to step back into the Premier League. You don't get a second breath. If you are playing in Russia you can defend and the ball gets cleared, but here it's 100 mph and Samba doesn't get a second wind. He's under pressure. It's very rare that people close the ball down like Berbatov did - he went because it was Samba and he knew he'd get a chance. When do you ever see Berbatov close down? But as soon as he saw it was Samba on the ball, he thought 'I'll have a bit of that' and Samba was punished."
Benitez needs to put more faith in Ba, says Charlie
"It's Chelsea's fourth game in nine days and that will have an effect. The manager made six or seven changes for Southampton and some of the players that Benitez brought in should have been good enough to go and win at Southampton. But he didn't bring on Demba Ba. Sometimes he's putting the substitutions on in desperation. But the fixture backlog does definitely take its toll because he keeps chopping and changing - not with two or three but with six or seven. If you sit down and look at the next big league game when it matters and they are trying to get into the top four - does Fernando Torres start or does Demba Ba? For me it would be Demba Ba, because he would be more of a threat and because he looks like more of a team player at the moment than Fernando Torres does."
Di Canio needs to 'light it up' at Sunderland, says Thommo
"I don't think his politics really matter but a lot was made of it in the interview on the very first day. He should have just answered it and got it out of the way. They waited for 24 hours - so I think he had bad advice going into that meeting. He should have answered it straight away - the way he did the following day - and hopefully that would have put a lot of it to bed. Yes, he has had his problems. That was many, many years ago. Now he's trying to make his way as a football manager. I was quite shocked that he came in as a manager. I was absolutely shocked by Martin O'Neill's departure. How long has Paolo di Canio been in the game - 18 months? That's not a lot to get such a top job but I don't blame him one bit for taking it. What you've probably got with this guy is full-on intensity on the training pitch, in the restaurant having something to eat. At this level sometimes that's what these players need. That's not having a go at Martin O'Neill but this fella's going to light it up."