Phil McNulty Q&A
The Premier League is starting to settle down as we move into November - and England start their World Cup preparations with a friendly against Brazil in Doha on Saturday.
This gives us plenty to discuss so it is time for another Q&A session and the chance for everyone to have a debate around the title race and England's prospects.
Given my apparently controversial - and now it would seem completely incorrect - prediction that Liverpool would win the Premier League, we could have devoted one entirely to events at Anfield.
There are plenty of Liverpool questions to answer, and many others as well. I simply could not answer them all so apologies if I have not included you this time - there will be many more opportunities in future.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has created a lot of debate this week
We will start with the club (and manager) that is creating the most debate - Liverpool and Rafael Benitez.
Paul Loveuru on Twitter, along with countless others, such as TorreSamK9 on Twitter: "Can Liverpool win the Premier League title this season?"
I clearly felt they could, and of course mathematically they still can, but it is time to be realistic and accept that it would take a monumental improvement from Liverpool to do so - and one they show no sign of actually producing.
I do not see Liverpool making up 11 points on Chelsea, so it is time to bow to the inevitable and accept that my pre-season confidence in Liverpool was badly misplaced.
It might be worth me quoting BBC Sport's Alan Hansen (might as well drag someone else into it) from a conversation I had with him last week, because my thought processes about Liverpool this season mirrored his exactly.
He said: "I tipped Liverpool to win the Premier League before the start of the season. This was not a prediction based on old Anfield loyalties - it was based on the evidence of what I had seen from Liverpool in the last three months of last season.
"Benitez, after the way Liverpool had taken Real Madrid apart in the Champions League at Anfield, looked to have discovered the way to play against teams at home - namely by going out, penning them in and battering them.
"Liverpool had enjoyed good results against the other top four sides while Manchester United were inevitably weakened by the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. People talk about Eric Cantona and Thierry Henry, but Ronaldo was the biggest player ever in the Premier League, so United were never going to replace what he gave them."
Enough of blaming Alan though. Xabi Alonso's departure has hit Liverpool hard, but I am not so sure it is as big a factor as people say. There appears to be a malaise running through the whole team, with or without Alonso.
Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres have been injured, while Liverpool's defence has not looked secure as Jamie Carragher goes through a rare period of uncertainty. The central midfield partnership of Lucas and Javier Mascherano is built to destroy rather than create, a problem in itself.
And then we come to Alberto Aquilani. He may well prove a fine signing from Roma, but there is now the real possibility he will be fit too late in the day to have any serious impact on their title aspirations. Benitez knew this and took the risk. It is a gamble that looks likely to fail.
Benitez himself has been at the centre of speculation, but my view is that he will only have a serious problem if Liverpool fail to win a trophy and do not finish this season in the top four. This is more or less unthinkable and was almost the unspoken clause in the new five-year contract he signed in March. I do not think he is in imminent danger.
So to Paul and plenty of others. No I don't think they can win the title now. Feel free to throw the rotten eggs in my direction - although you never know. Well you do actually.
Matt Walker on Facebook: "After Ngog's disgraceful dive against Birmingham, what do you think is the best way to stamp this problem out of the game? I'd suggest an automatic three-match ban if video evidence proves cheating."
Lots on this subject too, including one from Chris Gospel on Facebook - and I would go along with Matt's suggestion completely.
If we have an open and shut case, which Ngog's clearly was, then the authorities should review video evidence and then hand down a three-match ban if this is confirmed. My only caveat is that this would have to be an obvious case of diving, which can be argued all sorts of ways and could create problems.
I was actually in the minority who thought Arsenal's Eduardo did not dive against Celtic. I felt there was slight contact, but if someone has clearly dived then three matches. No problem.
Phil Akeroyd on Twitter: "Do you think the Old Firm are good enough for the Premier League?"
Yes I do. I think they are good enough for the middle of the Premier League.
Not the top or bottom but the middle. Through a strange quirk of fate I actually saw Celtic's match at Falkirk on Sunday and they were awful and their fans are very pessimistic at the moment.
So I would say Celtic and Rangers would be mid-table sides in England, although I am totally against them joining the Premier League. What would that do to the rest of Scottish football and why should other teams in England see two others just parachuted in without going through the tiers of the game?
BrickCommo23 on Twitter: "How well do you think Arsenal can do this season? We're playing brilliantly at the moment."
This was a question also posed by Jaypreet Hothi, Bolarinwa Olajide and Dees Patel on Facebook.
I agree Arsenal are playing very well and with the usual flair associated with Arsene Wenger. I certainly agree they can be in the mix for the title, given the greater unpredictability of results this season.
I've seen the two sides of Arsenal this season, so I am still unsure whether they can win the title. I saw them somehow contrive to lose at Manchester United and Manchester City, where they got themselves into positions where you would have backed them as likely winners, and then saw them sweep aside Spurs at the Emirates.
What I can say is that watching Arsenal is nearly always a pleasure and it would be a wonderful vindication of Wenger's principles if they did win a trophy this season.
I can certainly see them claiming a cup competition, but I do have areas of concern. I am not sure about the goalkeeping position, where Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone are adequate without being outstanding.
Another area was raised in a question by Matt Lewan on Facebook:"How important is Alex Song to Arsenal's Premier League title challenge and do Arsenal have adequate cover for the midfielder, or does Arsene need to buy?"
I think Song and Abou Diaby are good players, but if Wenger could just find that world-class midfield powerhouse to complement the brilliant Cesc Fabregas, then I would feel more confident about tipping Arsenal to win the title.
One thing is certain though, with players of the calibre of Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Andriy Arshavin they will be a real threat. And another thing - having attended plenty of Wenger media conferences this season he is 100% convinced they can win the title.
Ollie O'Neill on Facebook: "How do you rate Villa's chances of breaking into the top four ahead of Manchester City and Tottenham?"
No relation to Martin I take it, Ollie? I think Villa have started very impressively, as they did last season until they faded badly. They are a very strong side built in the traditional O'Neill manner, with pace and power down the flanks and up front in the shape of Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and John Carew. And of course, they still have Stewart Downing to come.
I have been hugely impressed by the way O'Neill reconstructed his defence just before the transfer deadline with the signings of Richard Dunne, James Collins and Stephen Warnock.
Warnock was sold by Liverpool and is currently a better left-back than anyone they have, while Collins and Dunne are in the perfect mould of O'Neill central defenders. Bodies on the line to stop goals. A simple template and one that looks highly-effective.
If I was to have a query about Villa it might be a lack of craft and guile in midfield after the departure of Gareth Barry - although this might be where Downing comes in to help Stilyan Petrov.
Hope this also answers the question from Adam O'Connor on Facebook.
Corkertron on Facebook: Do you think Everton will be reduced to mid-table obscurity this season and that David Moyes deserves better support from the club?
Sadly for Everton, I fear that unless some form of major investment comes into the club then fifth place in the Premier League and reaching the FA Cup Final last season may well prove the high point of David Moyes' reign at Everton.
Everton's achievement last season was remarkable given serious injuries sustained to Mikel Arteta, Phil Jagielka and Yakubu. This season we have seen the big investments from Spurs, Manchester City, Aston Villa and even Sunderland - whereas Everton effectively paid for their summer outlay via the sale of Joleon Lescott.
The previous summer Everton's record buy Marouane Fellaini was more or less funded by the sales of Andrew Johnson and James McFadden.
Moyes has been at Everton for seven seasons now, and it will be intriguing to see how he handles this. He has always been fiercely motivated, but who will continue to motivate him if he sees Everton being overtaken?
A big day awaits Everton later this month when a decision is made on their proposed new stadium at Kirkby. The club have hung a lot on this, in terms of increasing revenues and attracting investment.
If it is turned down what then? Don't make the common sense suggestion of a shared stadium between Liverpool and Everton because they won't listen. Pride comes before a fall on that one.
On the subject of support for Moyes from the board the facts are simple - they cannot give him what they haven't got.
For two seasons running, Everton have been racing around trying to sign players as the clock ticked to the transfer deadline. This is not the sign of a well-thought out and structured policy, and while Kenwright has to take his share of responsibility, Moyes as the manager cannot be absolved from blame either.
Kenwright said in September 2008 he wanted a billionaire for Everton and it was suggested deal broker Keith Harris was searching for a buyer - but it looks no more likely today than it did then.
It is tough to see how the Kenwright regime can turn things around financially without that investment and that would leave Moyes effectively settling for make-do-and-mend management.
He has worked the oracle before, but I do not see top five this season. Everton need major investment - but I'm not sure if and when it will ever arrive.
Darren Fletcher has been impressive for Manchester United this season
Arbër Salihu on Facebook: "Does Manchester United have a good player for the future in Darren Fletcher? Is he the man to be a part of the famous midfield which once comprised of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane?"
Manchester United have a good player for the present as well as the future in Darren Fletcher. He is one of Sir Alex Ferguson's most trusted players and it was significant that United played a lot better with him in the side at Chelsea than they did without him at Liverpool.
He has a style that suits those high-tempo type of matches and is very under-rated, although not by anyone at Old Trafford.
Whether he would have got in the midfield that once housed Paul Scholes and Roy Keane at the same time is debatable, and indeed hypothetical, but those days have gone and Ferguson almost always picks Fletcher for the big games. This tells us a lot.
topheechrisp on Twitter: "With every England keeper faltering and Fabio Capello's promise to only play people who play for their clubs, why is Ben Foster in ahead of Paul Robinson?"
Good question. When I did a run down of the goalkeepers I felt England should take to the World Cup, I put Paul Robinson in ahead of Ben Foster.
I actually think Robinson is a better goalkeeper than Foster, and has rehabilitated his career well since leaving Spurs for Blackburn. I also felt he was very harshly treated for a goal that was not his fault when England lost to Croatia in a Euro 2008 qualifier.
His confidence was badly damaged by the subsequent criticism, but he has proved he is a strong character by rebuilding his career.
I've not been impressed with Foster when I have seen him this season. Not commanding enough and just looks too uncertain for me. The England goalkeeping debate is one we will be having all the way to South Africa and potentially beyond.
deovratk on Twitter: "Who do you think should cover Rio Ferdinand's absence? Matthew Upson or Gary Cahill?
This was also on the mind of Chris Smith on Twitter.
I would go for Matthew Upson ahead of Gary Cahill because he has done little wrong for England. Cahill has promise but Bolton have leaked a lot of goals recently. I interviewed Cahill with England recently and he certainly has plenty of confidence, but is modest enough to accept he has much work to do and is currently down the pecking order.
Joleon Lescott has been poor since his move from Everton to Manchester City, while it is a shame his former Goodison Park colleague Phil Jagielka is still injured because he would have given Capello a quality added option.
The question of Ferdinand's fitness and form was raised by many.
Michael Muldoon on Facebook: "Does Ferdinand go back into either Man U or England team directly? I don't mean Wes Brown for England, but still....."
I suspect if he is fit and playing well he will do both, but the issue of Ferdinand needs to be examined in a wider context. He is not a youngster any more and is increasingly troubled by injuries.
I have seen Ferdinand several times this season and it looks like his absences from the game have reduced his mental and physical sharpness - which is not to say they won't return with games, but they are currently a worry.
He was at fault for England in the Netherlands and the Ukraine, made a crass error to gift Manchester City a goal in the derby at Old Trafford and was swatted aside with ominous ease by Liverpool (and Spain!) striker Fernando Torres when he scored at Anfield recently.
A fit Ferdinand playing well will be an automatic choice in England's central defence, but he has work to do on both form and fitness.
Yusuf Bham on Facebook: "Many clubs have been linked with Valencia's David Villa. Which club do you think will suit him best in the Premier League and why?"
I think he would be the perfect fit for Manchester United, although he is a player of such outstanding quality he could join any club in the Premier League and not look out of place.
I say United because I do feel they are missing an extra, game-changing, sparkle in attack since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. They cannot rely on Wayne Rooney every time and I think someone of Villa's stature would flourish under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Jebtha Kapirial on Facebook: "Can you see Man Utd winning any trophies this year? I certainly can't!! How seriously can we take Arsenal's title challenge as they've sneaked under everyone's radar so far this year and are playing some wonderful football?"
Dealt with Arsenal earlier, so I'll concentrate on Manchester United. I can always see Manchester United winning trophies, but there is a vulnerability about them at the back this season that is worrying and of course Ronaldo cannot be replaced in attack.
Never rule them out of the Premier League, although Chelsea are starting to have a real air of authority. Do not see United having the quality to win the Champions League, but only a fool bets against any sort of silverware ending up at Old Trafford so I can certainly see them winning something.
WobyTide on Twitter: "Do you think Sunderland have what it takes to pick up a Europa League place this term?"
Not sure about that but I predict real progress for Sunderland under an excellent manager in Steve Bruce. He has been given money to spend and regular readers of my blog will know how highly I rate Darren Bent and what a great piece of business that was.
Lee Cattermole was starting to fulfill all his potential until injury, while Lorik Cana and Michael Turner are shrewd additions by a manager who really knows his way around the transfer market.
If everything went right and there were no serious injuries, they might just come into contention for the Europa League. I personally think it will be beyond them, but things are on the move at Sunderland under the stewardship of Bruce and I can see a top ten place.
This response was also in answer to Danny Williams on Facebook.
Chris Richardson on Facebook: "Will Jimmy Bullard's return reignite Hull's season and save Phil Brown?"
I think Bullard needs to play more games in succession to prove his fitness before we can make a definitive statement on that, but he certainly made a difference against Stoke. He just got on the ball, passed it, showed confidence and took responsibilty - all things some Hull players may have become reluctant to do during their struggles.
I think Phil Brown is still fighting for his future, but new chairman Adam Pearson is responsible and that last-minute win against Stoke has certainly given everyone at Hull some breathing space to regroup during the international break.
Will Owen Coyle's Burnley side survive in the Premier League?
Chris Ellis on Facebook: "What do you think to Burnley's start to life in the Premier League and do you think they will be able to stay up this season?"
I said before the start of the season that I felt they could stay up and nothing has happened to change my mind. They have got an outstanding home record, bar a blip against Wigan, and the point the collected at Manchester City will give them added self-belief.
Home form will be the key, but having been to Turf Moor this season there will be some harrowing afternoons for teams there this season let me tell you.
And who cannot be impressed by Owen Coyle, not just for his personality but also his passing beliefs? Home form more or less kept Stoke City up last season, and I can see it doing the same for Burnley.
Gregor Fink on Facebook: "What do you think about Spurs' performance this season so far and will they be able to break into the top four?"
No-one can complain about fourth place at this stage can they? Spurs have a side full of goals and deservedly won against Liverpool, but were well beaten by Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
They are progressing under Harry Redknapp, and for every team hoping to gatecrash the top four (and you would put Villa and Manchester City in that group) Liverpool's poor start will have given them renewed hope.
Consistency is all important, as ever for Spurs, but you cannot rule them out.
johal20 on Twitter: "Should referees come out and explain decisions they've made during games, if they're perceived to be controversial?"
As a member of the media I am biased here, but yes, I think they should. Why not offer an explanation of major decisions, not least of all to the fans? Not holding my breath on that one though.
Bolarinwa Olajide on Facebook: "Which goalkeeper has impressed most this season?"
Liverpool's Pepe Reina. Beachball incident at Sunderland aside, he is the best in the Premier League. Reliable, intelligent, consistent. He has surpassed Chelsea's Petr Cech in my opinion and is in a different league to other English goalkeepers.
Mahesh Soren on Facebook: "What if Birmingham gets relegated by one point or two? What will be FA's stance and yours?"
Obviously a reference to the David Ngog dive at Liverpool. If they got relegated by one or two points it would be very unfortunate, but my stance would be there would have been a whole season of decisions and teams tend to finish where they deserve. I do not think the Football Association would have any stance on it, to be honest, Mahesh.
Russell Irving on Facebook: "Do you think Martin O'Neill has taken Aston Villa as far as he can?"
No. He hasn't won a trophy yet at Villa Park so there is plenty of places to take them. He has good backing from owner Randy Lerner and Villa could be a good bet for a cup competition.
coastalpastor on Twitter: "Will Fellaini make it?"
Saw this one coming after I made some unflattering remarks about Everton's giant Belgian, and his choice of hairstyle recently. Sorry, do not see him being a major force in the Premier League. Decent enough, but too often games pass him by and at £15m was vastly over-priced. I make no more observations about his hairstyle.
Kush Kohli on Facebook: "Who should Chelsea go for because their ban is lifted and how much should they spend?"
I would love to see Chelsea add some quality width to their side, so my choice would be Franck Ribery - but I think he would also be a superb buy for Manchester United. I leave them to decide how much to spend but he won't come cheap.
Adam_Townsend on Twitter: "Could you imagine the scenario if Rafael Benitez was to get the sack at Liverpool and be replaced by Darren.Ferguson? Father/son rivalry would be immense."
Got to confess Adam I haven't imagined that scenario. Strangely enough I don't think it will happen - but would be quite a story though.
Thanks again for so many questions. It was impossible to answer them all but the Q&A will become a regular feature of the blog so there will many other chances.
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