Pitchside Europe

Facts: 7 truths – Newcastle, Carroll, and the mess at United

1. By their own standards, Manchester United are officially in a mess

It's been said before, but we might as well say it again: What has happened to last year's Premier League champions? The fact that Charlie Adam banged in two goals in a 2-1 win that made Stoke City the eighth side to down United tells you what kind of a state David Moyes' side are in. Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie all started, but United might as well have fielded the reserves for all the difference it made.

The title went up in smoke weeks ago, but things have gone way beyond that point now - the way things are going, they'll be lucky to earn a Europa League spot. Unless there is a marked response at Old Trafford to end these continuing relapses, United's run of 17 consecutive seasons enjoying Champions League football - a greater number than any other club in Europe, including Real Madrid - is about to come to an end.

2. Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear are not popular among Newcastle fans (we know, old news with a fresh twist)

That is probably an understatement. The Newcastle owner did not show his face for the club's 3-0 mauling by Sunderland on Saturday. And neither did Joe Kinnear, his director of football. Sounds appalling for a local derby but with tensions running high among the home fans, it was probably a blessing in disguise. The selling of Yohan Cabaye for £20 million to Paris Saint-Germain on Friday has not gone down well among the Newcastle fans. That is also probably an understatement. Several fans invaded the park during the match. Several more might have gone for Ashley and Kinnear if they had bothered to turn up.

3. Everton have character and strength in depth

No Romelu Lukaku, no Arouna Kone and no Gerard Deulofeu? No problem. Not when you have Kevin Mirallas picking up the cudgel in the absence of the trio of injured attackers. It must be said, Everton bludgeoned Aston Villa on Saturday. The 2-1 winning scoreline should be filed under false advertising. Villa managed only one shot on target during the match, but it needed a moment of brilliance to seal the points in Everton's favour as Mirallas swept home a free-kick from 23 yards. Three goals in four games is rich form from the Belgian forward. More importantly, Everton showed that their 4-0 defeat at Liverpool was merely a bad day at the office.

4. Fulham are the new favourites for relegation

Fulham's viability as a Premier League concern is set to be tested like never before over the closing months of the campaign. A 3-0 mauling by Southampton at home does not bode well for the club's prospects of escaping relegation under René Meulensteen. These were the types of returns that became commonplace under Martin Jol, but they have not gone away despite a change of head coach. It remains tight at the wrong end of the table, but Fulham are bottom and four points behind fourth-bottom Crystal Palace. There is work to be done by the club's new signings. The £12 million Greek forward Konstantinos Mitroglou was not signed from Olympiacos in time to face Southampton, but his goals are needed badly and needed now with Fulham bottom for the first time this season. Meulensteen said: “This is the biggest challenge I have faced in football and the biggest challenge Fulham have faced in recent years.” Never a truer word spoken.

5. Andy Carroll's availability is critical to Big Sam's future health as West Ham manager

Although Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino are technically superior to Carroll, his return to fitness and experience of the Premier League might prove more important in West Ham’s attempts at improving their form. That he is now suspended for a likely three matches makes his performance in the 2-0 win over Swansea even more frustrating. Carroll set up Kevin Nolan's two goals before being sent off for swiping an elbow at the head of Chico Flores. Fortunately for him it did not impact upon the final outcome on Saturday, but Sam Allardyce's side remain third bottom of the standings. One suspects their survival could rest on how many games Carroll plays between now and the end of the season.



6. Tim Sherwood is probably not up to the job as Tottenham manager

Much has been made of Andre Villas-Boas's shortcomings as Spurs manager, but his successor Tim Sherwood does not look like the man to bring fresh hope to the club. A 1-1 draw at Hull City does not make for great reading, but Sherwood has struggled to make any impact upon teams at the top of the Premier League. Sherwood has been the beneficiary of a helpful fixture list since replacing AVB, but it could get progressively worse for Spurs and Sherwood when they come across sterner tests. There are also rumours of discontent in the dressing room about his abrasive attitude towards players. The 2-0 loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup and the 5-1 drubbing by Manchester City tells you where Spurs are in the natural order of things. Little wonder the chief executive Daniel Levy is apparently keen to bring in Louis van Gaal this summer.



7. 'The Ox' is like a new signing for Arsenal

And there was Arsene Wenger thinking Kim Kallstrom was badly needed. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is gradually becoming reborn as a central midfielder. He might have started life as a winger, but why keep a player with his ball skills out wide? His two goals against Crystal Palace endorsed a performance of some vitality as Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League - for 24 hours at least. In his first start in five months, he was a bundle of energy as he earned a healthy appreciation from the club's fans and manager. It must surely boost his confidence levels. Will Oxlade-Chamerlain be a key part of England's midfield at the World Cup finals after returning from a knee injury? Stranger things have happened.