Crunch time for Gunners

Published: Friday | December 13, 2013 Comments 0
Southampton's Luke Shaw (right) vies for the ball with Manchester City's Sergio Aguero during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, England last Saturday. Aguero will be a key man for Manchester City on Sunday when they host Arsenal. - AP
Southampton's Luke Shaw (right) vies for the ball with Manchester City's Sergio Aguero during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, England last Saturday. Aguero will be a key man for Manchester City on Sunday when they host Arsenal. - AP

LONDON (AP):

Premier League leaders Arsenal have been dismissed by many critics as a credible title challenger despite their impressive start.

The time has come for the Gunners to underline their credentials as they travel to fourth-place Manchester City - who have yet to lose a point at home this season - before hosting Chelsea.

Chasing its first Premier League title since 2004, Arsene Wenger's team leads the standings by five points ahead of Liverpool, which travel to Tottenham on Sunday.

Defending champion Manchester United cannot afford another slip-up at Aston Villa following two consecutive losses that have left the club trailing 13 points behind in the title race.

LACK OF LEADERSHIP?

Arsenal's resurgence this season has left Patrick Vieira in awe, though the former Gunner feels Arsene Wenger's team might eventually pay for its lack of a real leader in the dressing room.

Vieira, who won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship with France and marshalled the Arsenal midfield for years, raised doubts about the London club's capacity to react when they will play with less flamboyance.

"When you look at Arsenal, they play fantastic football. But sometimes you need to win games playing badly, and I don't think Arsenal are capable of that at the moment," said Vieira, who now works as a football-development executive at Manchester City.

"Maybe there is a lack of leadership. They don't have a Tony Adams, Martin Keown or Sol Campbell. These are players who can be leaders on or off the field."

SERIAL DIVER

Manchester United winger Ashley Young remains unrepentant despite the diving accusations that have turned him into the scapegoat for the Red Devils' current struggles.

Young, who was criticised by both Alex Ferguson and successor David Moyes for his frequent dives in the penalty area, does not look ready to make amends for his bad habit.

Young says it's down to the referees to do their job and decide whether he is cheating and deserves a booking when he tumbles, or be rewarded with a penalty.

"It's been talked about by the previous manager and the current manager, but that's in-house," said Young, who has been playing poorly this season and could miss next year's World Cup.

"I'm not going to comment on what's been said. I understand what you're saying and everyone is going to have their say on it, but the referees are giving decisions and that is where I think it lies."

GERRARD OUT

After losing Daniel Sturridge for up to two months through injury, Liverpool were handed another blow with captain Steven Gerrard out for at least a month with a hamstring injury he picked up in the 4-1 win over West Ham on Saturday.

The injury crisis comes at the worst time for Reds manager Brendan Rogers as second-place Liverpool travel to Tottenham on Sunday before hosting Cardiff, then faces difficult trips to Manchester City and Chelsea before the end of the year.

Gerrard has scored three goals and provided six assists this season.

"Steven is such an important player for us, but we have other players and dynamics in the team and they have to step up," Rodgers said.

"Lucas has been excellent for us and he has forced his way into the Brazil side, so he has that quality and experience to step up and take the responsibility."

Opposed to a name change for their club, Hull fans have accused club owner Assem Allam of acting on his own without any form of consultation. The club has applied to the Football Association to change its name from Hull City to Hull Tigers from next season.

But the City Till We Die fans group, which assembles supporters opposed to Allam's plans, said they received the guarantee from the owner that any name change would not occur for two to three years and that any modification could not be decided "without supporter consultation, or without the benefits being proven by research. No such research or consultation has taken place."

The group has supplied the FA with a dossier on Allam's proposals and met with representatives of the Premier League to voice concerns.

Earlier this month, Allam infuriated the fans, telling them "they can die as soon as they want, as long as they leave the club for the majority who just want to watch good football."


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