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Walcott echoes Thierry as Nasri plays pantomime villain

ESPN staff
December 29, 2012
Samir Nasri was shown a red card after mixing it with Sebastien Bassong © Getty Images
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Uphill task

Manchester United were hardly at their electric best in the first half, but they nevertheless went into half-time 1-0 ahead thanks to Gareth McAuley's unfortunate own goal.

It was a gift the Baggies defence could hardly afford to give - United have never been beaten in the Premier League era having held the lead after 45 minutes. Their record, from 210 such previous instances? 198 wins, just 12 draws ... and exactly 0 defeats (duh!).

Surprise, surprise - Fergie's side (definitely not a "wee club in the north west") went on to win the game 2-0.

Theo-ry Henry

Starting up front by himself, Theo Walcott certainly put his case across to be considered an out-and-out striker, as he scored a hat-trick against Newcastle.

With Arsenal legend Thierry Henry looking on from the stands, the Gunners No. 14 produced a finish the Frenchman would have been proud of, running onto Lukas Podolski's pass before stroking a calm finish past Tim Krul.

Walcott revealed after the match that Henry had been giving him some tips in training this week, and it certainly paid off as the England international scored his second hat-trick of the season to help Arsenal claim a fourth successive victory.

Tooned out

Newcastle have the right to feel hard done by after scoring six goals in their last two matches and coming away with nothing to show for it. After leading on three occasions only to lose 4-3 at Manchester United on Boxing Day, the Magpies equalised on three occasions before eventually succumbing 7-3 at Arsenal.

It was the first time since Ipswich Town in 1985 that a team in the top flight has lost back-to-back matches after scoring at least three goals.

Goal fest

Walcott's hat-trick contributed to a goal-heavy day of action. While it fell some way short of the 41 scored on February 5 last year, it was the third most prolific day in the history of the Premier League with a whopping 35 goals. Seven goals at Carrow Road saw Manchester City pip Norwich 4-3, while Stoke and Southampton shared the points after a 3-3 draw at the Britannia.

Interestingly, on the day that yielded the most Premier League goals, Arsenal and Newcastle were involved in an eight-goal thriller then, as well.

Rewriting the rules

Gareth Bale was booked for diving in Spurs' win against Sunderland - his third such offence in the last five games, and his fifth such booking since the start of last season (a record, in Europe's major leagues, that only Pescara's Vladimir Weiss can match).

The winger protested his innocence after the match, claiming it was the referee's mistake that he was booked - not an act of simulation after Craig Gardner appeared to touch him.

"It's the same thing every time - it's the third time this season I've been clipped," Bale told Sky Sports. "There is nothing I can do about it - the referees have to look a bit closer. If I get contact there it is a penalty or free kick."

The only problem, Gareth - it doesn't have to be a foul just because the opponent touches you. This is a contact sport, it is not basketball. So perhaps read up on the rules a bit more - and don't go down unless it is genuinely impossible to stay on your feet?

Situational comedy

After being the half-man in question in Roberto Mancini's "we had two-and-a-half men in the wall" jibe after Manchester City lost the derby to United a few weeks ago, Samir Nasri was once again the centre of attention as City edged to a nervy 4-3 away win against Norwich City.

The Frenchman, much maligned in recent weeks, was sent off following a confrontation with Sebastien Bassong, one in which both players seemed to raise their head to the other without actually unleashing a full-on Glasgow kiss.

Rather than use another comedy to criticise his midfielder this time, however ('Dumb and Dumber', maybe?), Mancini sought to defend his charge: "I don't know why [he was sent off] as the linesman was there and I don't know what he saw. We saw the video both play touch heads."

A case of 'Everybody [Well, the Referee] Hates Samir', then?

How low can you go?

What is worse - conceding 12 goals (and scoring none) in two Premier League games ... or losing 3-0 at home to Wigan?

Well, Paul Lambert is now in the rare position of being able to answer that question, after his Aston Villa side were dismantled once again on Saturday. Something tells us he might be getting a bit more free time to consider the issue, especially if results don't improve sharpish...

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