Phil McNulty Q&A blog
The supposed invincibles of Chelsea lose, West Bromwich Albion win at Arsenal and Fabio Capello is suddenly back in favour after England open their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign in style.
If we thought this season, and the Premier League in particular, was going to be predictable, then we can all think again after last weekend.
So it is the perfect time for another Q&A session. I asked for your questions on the Premier League and England and the response, as always, was first-class.
Sorry if I have not answered your question here, but there were just too many to respond to them all. There will be plenty of other opportunities throughout the season, so hopefully we will get to pretty much everyone eventually.
Kwadwo Poku Gyambibi (and plenty of others): "Why did Arsene Wenger refuse to sign a goalkeeper?"
So many questions on this one, further prompted by Manuel Almunia's mistake against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
First of all, we should stress Wenger did not refuse to sign a goalkeeper, after all he did make offers for Fulham's Mark Schwarzer, it was more a case of him failing to sign a goalkeeper.
I am utterly baffled by Wenger's inability to address such an obvious flaw in his side. For someone who is so meticulous and a wonderful student of the game, he surely cannot seriously believe his goalkeepers are good enough to help Arsenal win the major prizes?
If he does, then he is mistaken. And this is not someone telling Wenger how to do his job, this is an honest opinion that is also shared by thousands of Arsenal fans. Arsenal need a new goalkeeper - a fact. It is certainly not something said with the benefit of hindsight because this has been a topic of discussion for months now.
And if, as some have suggested, Wenger is stubbornly refusing to follow the pack who are calling him to sign a keeper, then again he is mistaken.
It can hardly be a lack of cash given Arsenal's huge profits. Shay Given would have been a better alternative, and surely Wenger's worldwide scouting network could have come up with an upgrade on Arsenal's current mediocre crop of keepers.
A mistake - and one that could prove very expensive.
Faizan Javaid: "Who do you blame for Liverpool's downfall? Owners, manager or other factors? How will Liverpool improve and become capable of fighting for the Premier League and Champions League?"
As in many cases Faizan, Liverpool's current malaise is caused by a combination of factors.
Yes, the regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett is chief among them, but it could hardly be said Liverpool's previous manager Rafael Benitez was starved of cash. It is something of a myth to suggest Benitez constantly lived on the game's breadline.
Benitez had money to spend, large sums compared to most clubs in the Premier League, but one of the major flaws at the start of last season, after Liverpool had finished second in the previous campaign, was wasting a large portion of the money he received for Xabi Alonso on Alberto Aquilani.
As former Liverpool midfield man Jan Molby pointed out last week, a lot of Benitez's legacy was on show in the humiliating Carling Cup defeat against Northampton Town. Benitez did so many good things at Liverpool, but ultimately he signed too many mediocre players and the blame for that cannot be laid solely at the door of Hicks and Gillett.
There is no doubt, however, that the owners and the ownership issue are now casting a huge cloud over the club. New manager Roy Hodgson cannot start his rebuilding job in earnest until new money flows into the club, and it will not come while Liverpool remain heavily in debt and no new owners are forthcoming.
I should add though, that players cannot use Hicks and Gillett as an excuse for performing poorly. You never hear players congratulating the owners when they are playing well, so they cannot hold them responsible when they play badly.
Liverpool need money to fight on a more equal footing near the top of the table - and as their supporters will tell you, it cannot come soon enough.
Marcus Parr: "What do you think of Gerard Houllier's appointment at Aston Villa, and where do you think they will finish in the Premier League?"
A question also posed by Sean Avfc Cook and, as I said in a recent blog, I think Houllier is a very sound appointment by Villa owner Randy Lerner.
History was in danger of re-writing his time at Liverpool as a failure, and nothing could be further from the truth. He brought discipline and professionalism after the so-called "Spice Boys" era and rebuilt the culture of the club.
Houllier, most importantly, also brought trophies back to Liverpool, winning the Worthington Cup, the FA Cup and the Uefa Cup in 2001 alone.
He is still a modern thinker on the game, very much in touch all aspects of football and a shrewd tactician. He is also a great believer in organisation on and off the field. Houllier will give Villa's players everything they need to achieve success.
Houllier has made a very good start, his appointment of Gary McAllister as assistant is also a good choice, and I can see him making Villa contenders for the top six. Don't rule out a cup run either - he's got form.
Ben Johnson: "Can you seriously see anyone but Jose Mourinho succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in two or three years, and do you think he will continue to bring unparallelled success to the club when he eventually takes over?
This was also a question from Dale Mattocks on the more general point of Ferguson's departure. I have long been of the opinion that Mourinho would be the perfect successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
He is someone who is undaunted by the size of any task, a prerequisite for anyone taking over from Ferguson, and is a winning, world-class coach. The identikit of what United will be seeking.
He also has a good relationship with Ferguson, whose input will no doubt be sought by the Old Trafford hierarchy.
Some worry if Mourinho will regard himself as bigger than the club itself, but Mourinho is not stupid. He will be aware of the history of Manchester United and embrace it.
So to answer your question, yes I think he is perfect for Manchester United and his career is almost looking like a route map to Old Trafford after Real Madrid. Mourinho has been a success everywhere he has been in recent years, so I do not see things changing in his next job, wherever that may be.
The big imponderable is, of course, Ferguson's retirement date. When will that be? Who knows? It could be longer that two or three years Ben.
Ben Hargreaves: "Do you agree or disagree with Blackburn's playing style?"
Interesting question. Not a question of agreeing or disagreeing with it, more a question of do I like it or not. While not agreeing with everything Sam Allardyce says or does, there is no question he has done a good job at Blackburn Rovers.
It is the job of a manager to manage his resources as best he can and find a formation that suits his players. Allardyce does that, although there is no doubt it is a style that is not universally admired.
It might not be my chosen style of football, but Allardyce has every right to do what he thinks is best for Blackburn, irrespective of the critics, and he has rebuilt them very well since taking over at Ewood Park. They were threatened with relegation when he arrived and I certainly do not see them struggling this season.
Andy Forsyth: Where do you think Everton are going wrong this season? Surely it can't just be the case that we're not taking chances?
Thanks also to Neil Challis and others for questions about Everton. They are traditionally slow starters, but they have had an horrendous opening to this season. Totally unexpected.
And no, it is not simply a matter of Everton not taking chances, The main focus in the summer was on keeping players rather than adding to the squad that ended last season so well and, Steven Pienaar's failure to sign a new contract apart, this was done.
Sadly, because of a failure to attract new investment, there was no money available for the quality striker and right-sided midfield player Everton crave. This flaw has been exposed in the opening weeks of the season.
This is arguably the strongest squad Everton have had under Moyes, and yet the manager himself has not performed brilliantly this season. Marouane Fellaini was outstanding as a midfield anchor last season, and yet has hardly played there this time around. John Heitinga is clearly at his best in central defence, and yet has been in midfield this season - selection seems uncertain.
Also, Moyes has been unable to perfect a team formation that allows him to utilise two strikers. He is reluctant to depart from that rigid format, almost always operating with a lone striker.
He has shown an ability to turn things around before of course, but Everton could ill-afford this slow start if they want to make an impact in the top six.
So not just missing chances, try lack of transfer funds, poor form and an unconvincing start to the season from the manager.
Ahad Shaukat Gooner: "Don't you think Steven Gerrard should be the permanent captain of England with Rio Ferdinand's injury problems?"
Yes, I do think Steven Gerrard should be England's permanent captain. Rio Ferdinand cannot be relied upon to string a consistent run of games together, and for the sake of continuity alone Gerrard should be given the armband.
More importantly than that, though, Gerrard has handled the responsibilities of captain superbly since the World Cup - on and off the field.
He has been outstanding in all of England's games since they returned from South Africa, and he was a mature and measured spokesman for the team recently in giving support to coach Fabio Capello and talking about the problems team-mate Wayne Rooney was having. There was also a real unity around the squad as well and Gerrard has the total respect of his team-mates.
Capello will have to make this decision soon. I hope he sticks with Gerrard as England captain.
Danny Spooner: Under Roberto di Matteo, do West Brom have a manager who can keep them in the Premier League?
Long way to go Danny, but the early signs are good. Di Matteo has a great pedigree and background in the game. It was not just the fact that they won at Arsenal that was so impressive, it was the manner of their victory. They were outstanding.
And the confidence going to The Emirates and winning will give Albion's players cannot be undervalued. They will have troubled times ahead of course, but they have made a great start under someone who is a real, emerging managerial talent.
They will also be difficult to beat at home in front of passionate supporters, so yes they certainly have a chance of stopping the boing-boinging between the Premier League and the Championship.
Matt Bevis: "Do you see Manchester United looking to strengthen their midfield in the next two transfer windows?
The January window is never a great time for clubs like Manchester United to strengthen because the calibre of player they require is invariably involved in the Champions League or chasing trophies with another club.
They will, however, have to strengthen soon because - despite evidence to the contrary - Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs will not go on forever.
I was at a press conference with Sir Alex Ferguson recently when he stated the club may have to stretch themselves in the market in a couple of years to cover the retirement of that older generation of Old Trafford stars.
I would be surprised if he waited that long. I bet Wesley Sneijder's contract negotiations at Inter Milan are attracting the odd glance from Old Trafford for a start.
Jack Theo Anniky: "What do you think of the brand of football Chris Hughton has got Newcastle playing this season, along with his signings?"
Only seen Newcastle in the flesh once this season Jack, but they were very impressive when they won at Everton. Looked well-organised, strong in midfield and had a threat up front with the power of Andy Carroll and the creativity of new boy Hatem Ben Arfa, who scored a spectacular goal that day.
They will be inconsistent, as home defeats to Blackpool and Stoke City have proved, but I think they have enough about them to stay in the Premier League this season.
Steven Gabriel Ha: "Do you think the Liverpool job was one hurdle too high for Roy Hodgson, despite his accomplished managerial career?"
Very early for that sort of talk - despite Liverpool's indifferent start. Hodgson inherited a very tough task at Liverpool. Self-evidently the job would not have been available had everything in the garden been rosy.
He started well by signing Joe Cole and persuading Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to stay, but things have veered off course in recent weeks.
There is no doubt you are managing a unique footballing institution at Liverpool, and this is what Hodgson is currently coming to grips with. Maybe it has surprised even someone as experienced as a man who previously coached Inter Milan.
With all due respect, while getting a goalless draw at Birmingham City is a good result for Fulham, it is merely a "middling" one for Liverpool. Expectation levels are on another plane, and I also think Liverpool's fans will not expect their team to approach games so cautiously in future months. Hodgson must be more expansive.
I thought the appointment of Hodgson was a good one and I'm certainly not moving away from that on the basis of a view games and a pretty tough Premier League start. Could have been better though - no escaping that.
Frew Frez: "Will Adam Johnson be England's next superstar?"
Not sure about superstar, but he has all the equipment necessary to make a big impact for England. Every time I have watched Johnson play he has done something to have you on the edge of your seat, and he looks a natural at international level, making and scoring goals.
Johnson has something of the old-school winger about him, direct, pacy, the odd trick and a willingness to shoot or cross on sight. No messing, which is exactly what defences do not like.
He will do well to heed those words. It would a crying shame if he did not fulfil all the natural talent he possesses.
Andrew Webb: With the Montenegro game coming up for England, should Capello try out new players in all positions (except the goalkeeper) or stick with the same team?
Don't think England should be getting ahead of themselves Andrew. Montenegro cannot be taken lightly and I am not sure Fabio Capello's pool of talent is deep enough to consider tinkering on that scale, even it was ever justified.
He should play his strongest team, although it will be interesting to see if John Terry and Rio Ferdinand return in central defence. I believe Everton's Phil Jagielka should keep his place in central defence, Theo Walcott should stay on the right if he is fit and Adam Johnson should play on the left in place of the suspended James Milner.
Imagine the outcry if Capello did what you suggested and England lost?
Quazi Islam: Do you think Michael Owen will get more chances to play this season since Wayne Rooney is completely out of form? What is the chance that he will get a contract extension by the end of the season?
Not sure Wayne Rooney's slump will last that long, but one thing Michael Owen has proved again is that when he is fit and given the chance he still knows exactly where the goal is.
It is pretty certain his England career is over, so Manchester United can be his sole priority. It is obvious Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov are ahead of him at Old Trafford, but what an option for Sir Alex Ferguson to have.
Interesting question about a contract extension too. Much will depend on how he performs this season and how other United youngsters develop, but I am very certain that if United do not want him, plenty of others will. Gerard Houllier for one.
Grant Carmichael: "Do you have an opinion on the "Old Firm" joining a league down south, whether that be Championship level?"
Yes I do have an opinion on this Grant. I do not think they should be allowed to join a league down south unless it is at the very bottom tier - and they clearly would not accept that.
This is not a reflection on the stature of two great clubs, but you cannot have them simply parachuted in near the top tier of the English game. How would the game be reorganised to accommodate them? Would a club have to drop out of a division to accommodate them? Non-starter for me I'm afraid.
Christopher Ward: "Do you think the next England manager should be English and who do you think is favourite to get the next England manager's job?"
In a recent blog I made it clear I am very happy for the next England manager to be English, providing he is the best man for the job. I think the Football Association would make a serious error if it restricted the search for Fabio Capello's successor to an Englishman.
It is too early to say who the favourite is because so much can change in the next two years, although I have to say I do not see Capello's coach Stuart Pearce as an England manager. Not enough experiece.
What I will say is that if the best available candidate in 2012 is foreign, then the FA should have no hesitation in appointing him.
Paul Lewis: "Watching Fernando Torres play at the moment, if you were offered £50m for him & you could invest the money into getting another three or four people in to replace him would you take it?"
I know this is an idea that would tempt some, but Torres is playing his way back from a succession of injuries and is a world-class player. If Roy Hodgson felt Torres' heart was not in Liverpool any more and he could use cash for all-round strengthening then he may be tempted.
My take on it, however, is that unless Torres makes it clear he is unhappy at Liverpool, they should never be in the business of selling their world-class players. What message does that send out to their supporters and other clubs?
I do not buy into the theory that Torres is an almost reluctant participant in Liverpool's current team. I believe the fact that he is a class act whose mind is still learning to trust his body after some serious injuries is a better explanation of his below-par performances.
If I was at Liverpool, I would be very reluctant to sell Torres unless the player himself announced he wished to leave.
Mark Flavum Tattersall: Despite their 1-0 victory over Chelsea, do you think Manchester City need some more firepower up front? With Adebayor obviously not a favourite of Mancini, Balotelli out injured for a while with Santa Cruz barely justifying the large price tag paid by predecessor Mark Hughes, it seems we are relying even more heavily on Carlos Tevez's goals this season.
Long question but a good one. I do think City will rely heavily on Tevez this season, but he seems happy with that responsibility. I do not think Mancini is a coach who will fill his team with forwards, and I think he has great faith in Balotelli to deliver once he is fit.
Roque Santa Cruz has proved to be a poor buy, while it does seem Emmanuel Adebayor is not flavour of the month. It will be intriguing to see how Mancini man-manages his resources.
The good news for City fans is that if he does decide he needs another striker, he can pay pretty much whatever it takes to get him. A nice position for any manager to be in.
Raymond Fagbenro: "What solution would you proffer for the obvious frailties tormenting Manchester United's defence lately? Do you think Sir Alex Ferguson should try out another defence pairing or is everything just some kind of lack of concentration?"
I think the answer to this would be a long run of form and fitness for Rio Ferdinand alongside Nemanja Vidic - whenever that might be. Jonny Evans has struggled this season, while Chris Smalling is a work in progress.
The result has been a vulnerability for United at the back. Ferguson called it "lapses in concentration". I prefer "frailty".
It is a pivotal time for Ferdinand now. If he proves incapable of stringing together a respectable run of games, then I can see Ferguson going into the market to replace him, in fact I am a little surprised he hasn't done it already. He has great faith in Evans and Smalling though.
Āmèy Kokànè: "Should Chelsea be worried by their loss to Manchester City? If Chelsea face a physical opposition that crowds them out and try to attack on counter, they have problems. Same happened with Inter Milan in last year's Champions League quarter-final. Does Ancelloti has a solution for this strategy?"
Only one defeat Amey, although I take your point. Manchester City's power and stifling approach pretty much snuffed out Chelsea's threat. Chelsea did miss Frank Lampard, however, and they have plenty of power of their own if players like Didier Drogba and Michael Essien are firing on all cylinders.
They were not at Eastlands, so City won. I am certain Carlo Ancelotti will regard it as one disappointing performance rather than a sign of a bigger problem.
Tanimu Umar: If Sir Alex Ferguson seeks your advice on when he should retire, what will be your opinion?
Funnily enough Tanimu, I am not sitting by the phone waiting for Fergie's call! Should it ever come, then I would suggest when his passion for the game and hunger for success has diminished. So I am not holding my breath.
Many thanks again for all the questions. Apologies is yours did not appear, but there will be regular Q&As throughout the season.