What They Said: Wenger disappointed, RDM happy
Saturday's Premier League programme got underway with the early kick-off between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium, a game which ended goalless to leave both sides' managers with very different feelings.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who revealed Theo Walcott has a serious hamstring injury, felt his side should have won after having the better opportunities to score, especially after they hit the woodwork twice: "We were not sharp or quick enough with our passing today to open them up. For us to open them up completely we lacked a little bit of spontaneity in our game, but we still had the chances to win the game," the Frenchman told Sky Sports. "We had the better (chances) certainly because I don't remember them having one clear-cut chance. I expected the game to be very open, because they had to win and we had to win."
After a midweek Champions League win over Barcelona and a very busy schedule, Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was extremely pleased with a point after making eight changes to his starting XI: "When you come to the Emirates it's difficult to play against Arsenal, and I think just the final pass was missing today. But I thought it was a fantastic performance," said the Italian. "A point away at Arsenal is a great point. Let's see what the other teams do now. We've got four games left, only one away and three at home, so I don't think we could've done any better than we have in the games we have played since I've been in charge. This was our third game in less than six days, it's absolutely incredible, the demand on these players and this team, and the way they have responded to this fixture list. We showed that there is a great quality in this team that the spirit is very high."
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has promised an all-out assault on Champions League qualification in a bid for a ''special'' end to an outstanding season, after their 3-0 win over Stoke: ''That is a big, big achievement by us, make no mistake. I am pretty sure Liverpool can't catch us and to finish above them, regardless of their cup exploits, is still outstanding. Whatever we do now, it's an outstanding season. But of course, we haven't lost sight of what the city hasn't lost sight of. You can feel it in the crowd, you can feel it in the city, that there's a chance for us to do something really special, and we will go to Wigan and try to achieve that.''
Frenchman Yohan Cabaye was the architect of Newcastle's latest success, scoring twice as the Magpies ripped into Stoke. Pardew said of Cabaye's display: ''They were two great goals, but perhaps the pass [for Papiss Cisse's goal] was better than the goals. I was on the sideline and I didn't even see that run, and he was having to manoeuvre the ball with players left, right and centre of him. To find that pass was exquisite - it was still a great finish, by the way, but that will go down as one of the best passes I have seen at this stadium.''
Stoke boss Tony Pulis was left to reflect on missed opportunities, although in truth, the Magpies could have won even more handsomely: ''Jon Walters really could have scored a hat-trick by himself. The main difference was they got in good scoring opportunities and hit the target; we got in good scoring opportunities and we didn't hit the target. I don't think their keeper had a save to make. I am not picking on Jon - Jon has been fantastic for us. He's a great lad and he kept going and kept going. But he had three great chances today by himself, never mind the rest of the team.''
QPR manager Mark Hughes felt his players were good value for their 1-0 victory over Tottenham, which saw Adel Taarabt sent off for two bookable offences: ''It was difficult circumstances,'' the Welshman told ESPN. ''Once again we've gone down to 10 men, but I thought we were by far the better team anyway and it would have been travesty if we hadn't won the game. It's difficult for referees. It's not been easy for us the last few months. Some decisions have gone against us but I know for a fact they make honest decisions. Sometimes it does frustrate you but we're not going to dwell on that. The performance rises above that and I thought we were excellent.''
Blackburn boss Steve Kean hailed his side's fighting spirit after goals from Mauro Formica and Junior Hoilett boosted their Premier League survival chances in a 2-0 win over Norwich: ''Junior played with a tight hamstring and Yakubu also had a tough time getting fit. [Gael] Givet needed an injection at half-time for a severe dead leg, and Bradley [Orr] needed one too. It's always nice when you win, but this was about the performance because we had players who were on their last legs with lots of fatigue, and they didn't want to come off the pitch.''
Norwich boss Paul Lambert expressed his disappointment with the nature of the goals scored against his side, and urged them to continue to seek to end a fine season on a high: ''We huffed and puffed and you've got to take your medicine and go again. I hope we will keep playing this season whether there is some meaning or not. The first goal was a poor goal from our point of view and for the second you can't let someone shoot from 25 yards and do nothing. You've got to get in a tackle or a block or something.''
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill admitted he expected the hostile reception he received from Aston Villa fans during the two sides' 0-0 draw: ''I think it's a very natural reaction considering I've been gone two years and they've never known my reasons for leaving. It is very natural, I was expecting it and I got it. With the idea that I left them in the lurch, I apologise maybe for leaving five days before the start of the season. But I came to this football club a fortnight before the season started with a team that had almost been relegated the previous year. The timing was not great five or six days before the start of the season but I think the team I left behind was infinitely better than the team I had started with. You had internationals galore and players who have gone to other clubs, James Milner, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, and had great success."
O'Neill, who saw his midfielder Craig Gardner sent off for two bookable offences, felt his side were denied victory when Nicklas Bendtner's 'goal' was ruled out for offside: ''I think the linesman has incorrectly called offside against Bendtner because level is on. It certainly was last week anyway and, unless they've changed the rules this morning, it still is now. They are having a tough time of things, the referees and linesmen, but they need to get that right, particularly as the linesman told one of our players to watch it again on TV. He was so adamant he had got it right. I hope he watches it himself before he settles down to his supper. I'm sure he will.''
Villa boss Alex McLeish praised the fighting qualities of his young side, particularly as they had to cope with the loss of striker Gabriel Agbonlahor and defender James Collins through injury: ''Sunderland are a very good side with a lot of experience but the boys had the chances to win it with just a bit more quality in the final third of the pitch. They gave everything they could and the young boys are playing out of their skins. We have got four games to go and we have got to try and take points in every game. We are capable of that with the spirit the boys are showing.''
Bolton boss Owen Coyle urged his side to stand up and be counted after they scraped a 1-1 draw against Swansea at the Reebok Stadium: ''We came here wanting the three points and we've taken one. We obviously gave ourselves a mountain to climb at the start, although it was a terrific finish from [Scott] Sinclair. But I've showed them all week what he wants to do, he wants to come in on his right foot, and that's certainly my frustration that that's been allowed to happen. But the players came storming back into the game, scored a great goal, and I thought we got a grip of it, particularly towards the end of the first half. Sometimes you've got to stand up and be counted, take that ball and be brave in possession. There's no doubt how hard our group work but, when we get the ball, we want to see the quality we've got."
In truth, anything more than a point for the hosts would have been an injustice and Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers felt Bolton were lucky to get that: ''We certainly deserved the three points. It was a terrific game. Of course there's a wee bit of tension around but I thought we were excellent and we created enough chances to win the game. We scored a very good goal to go in front early on but conceded a disappointing goal from our perspective. But the reaction to that was outstanding."
Martin Jol was relieved that Fulham secured a deserved 2-1 win against Wigan after the match had looked set to be overshadowed by the goal-line technology debate, after a Pavel Pogrebnyak goal wasn't given: ''I asked Pav and he said, 'No, it was not over the line'. I thought therefore it was not over the line but our video guy showed me it was. It was a goal. Maybe what Sky or BBC saw was different but what I saw from my TV man was it was behind the line.
''We were in Geneva with a lot of coaches and we listened to [UEFA president Michel] Platini, who said 'it is a game of human beings'. Everyone makes mistakes and when you think how many times it happens in a season, it is four or five times. Everybody agreed to leave it like but that was two years ago and there is now endless discussion.''
While Fulham sit comfortably in the top half, Wigan still face a fight to stave off relegation, and manager Roberto Martinez remains philosophical: ''I am disappointed with the result, with the manner the game ended. We knew it was going to be a very difficult game because first we knew Fulham are enjoying a very good season and are in good form and they had a lot more time to prepare. We allowed Fulham to come back and their equaliser was a very good strike from the edge of the box but a draw would have probably been a fair result so the set play at the end is a fantastic reward for Fulham.''