Wednesday Evening Centre Back
After the astonishing events at the Medinah Country Club over the weekend, the Ryder Cup deservedly hogged the limelight this sporting weekend, and for a brief minute almost made us forget that there was a fantastic weekend of Premier League action. But in a weekend where Man United and Arsenal fell at home and Man City finally looked like Champions, this lapse was momentary. On with the show
AVB Gets Statement Win
When Spurs announced that ‘Arry’s successor would be Andre Villas-Boas, eyebrows were raised all throughout England. Sacked only months earlier from Chelsea, with the club’s players having rejected him and his philosophy and with the club languishing outside the top four, AVB was a confusing choice, surely a top four team needed a manager with the experience and knowledge to keep them there.
What many pundits and fans may have missed during Chelsea’s slide under him was that Chelsea was just an aging and relatively poor team, in desperate need of wholesale changes, whilst many of the club’s senior players did not take kindly to his selection policy with his decision to select younger players ahead of them. Many of the older players, fearing the exit, turned on him and left Roman Abramovic with little choice, AVB was sacrificed to the football Gods.
It was a brave decision by Spurs to give AVB another crack at a top Premier League club, but here, he has the opportunity to mould a team in his own image, with no fear of another show of unprofessionalism from within the dressing room.
A slow start however, with Spurs failing to win any of their first three, saw the pressure cooker get turned up exponentially, with some media outlets incredibly reporting that AVB had only three games to save his job. Well here we stand, three games later, and how have Spurs done since then? How does three straight League wins sound?
Saturday’s historic 3-2 win at Old Trafford is the result which will surely silence the haters for a few weeks at least. Spurs hadn’t won at Old Trafford in any competition since the dying days of Thatcherism in 1989, an amazing run of mediocrity considering they’ve played at there at least once a season.
They won this game inside the first twenty minutes. Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale both exposing United’s soft underbelly by just tearing through the midfield and exposing the defence’s weakness, which is it doesn’t like to defend. After the inevitable United fightback materialised, Spurs managed to do just enough to hold on, and eventually cling on to a 3-2 win. This win is, for the time being, sweet vindication for the Spurs board in their faith in appointing a manager with some heavy baggage.
Spurs are on a roll, maybe it’s time to start taking their top four credentials a little more seriously.
Rodgers put his faith in the kids and they rewarded him with 5* showing
Liverpool were another team who made a poor start to the season, in fact, this season saw their worst start since 1903. Liverpool were another team who made a risky managerial appointment, luring the impressive Brendan Rodgers away from Swansea City, despite his lack of top flight managerial experience and after an awful start, the heat was already on.
Well Rodgers, who was left with a depleted and threadbare squad thanks to Kenny Dalglish’s woeful buys, seems to have decided enough is enough and put his trust in the kids to deliver Liverpool’s first League win of the season.
Starting in an attacking midfield three were the 17-year-old Raheem Sterling and the 18-year-old Suso, whilst 24-year-old Nuri Sahin was the pivot in the middle of the three. All three impressed, with Sahin finding the net for the third time this week. The future looks bright in some respects at Anfield, whilst if Luis Suarez can build on his hattrick performance at Carrow Road and become a consistent goalscorer, then Liverpool should start to pick up more points.
The defence however, needs some work doing to it. Martin Skrtel looks hell bent on single handedly losing games for Liverpool. He has been so bad it’s only through a lack of depth at CB that he still starts. Shipping two sloppy goals against an awful Norwich team has to be a cause for concern, but this week Liverpool fans should enjoy being away from the relegation zone. And with the schedule clearing up some, after facing last season’s top three in the first five games, points should be easier to come by.
Champions’ Performance At Last
It was Man City’s turn to become the media’s crisis team this week, after a pathetic League Cup exit at home to Aston Villa capped off a run of four games without a win, featuring some very mediocre performances. Muffled laughter could be heard from press rooms, as pre match against Fulham, Roberto Mancini declared his side will still retain the title. Well I hope the Premier League sat up and took notice at events at Craven Cottage, as, although the 2-1 Man City win signified a close game, it was anything but.
After falling behind after 10 minutes to one of the worst penalty decisions you will see all season, City responded with a performance typical of the City side which won the Title last season, completely dominating possession, playing some beautiful football and besieging the Fulham goal.
This revival can much be owed to the return to form of David Silva, who reprised his role as puppet master, after a slow start to the season. Sergio Aguero looked fit and sharp again after a lacklustre return against Arsenal last week, netting the equaliser just before half time. Whilst Gareth Barry’s return to fitness is huge for City. Barry remains criminally underrated in this City team, and much of what he does goes unnoticed. He shields the back four, whilst controlling possession and the pace of the game, he also rarely gives the ball away. It is no surprise that City’s best defensive performance this season came with him back in the starting XI.
City should only get better as their summer signings such as Javi Garcia, Maicon and Matija Nastasic adjust to the pace and physicality of the Premier League and their star men from last season continue their physical recovery. It is a warning to the rest of the Title challengers that City have managed to not lose a game whilst playing some of their worst football under Mancini, and now that City look to return to their best football, Premier League beware.
Are Chelsea Legit?
Chelsea went into Saturday’s match away at Arsenal top of the table and unbeaten, yet they were not being taken overly seriously as legitimate Title contenders. They had a cakewalk early schedule and it was difficult to know just how good Chelsea were until they faced some of the big boys. Well they got their chance Saturday and passed the test with flying colours.
Arsenal’s decision to drop star defender Per Mertesacker was a confusing one, considering how few minutes Laurent Koscielny had played this season due to injury. It was a decision that would ultimately win Chelsea the game as Koscielny handed them two goals from some woeful set piece defending.
With Petr Cech in magnificent form between the sticks, Chelsea’s defense managed to just about keep Arsenal out during the second half, and Chelsea clung on to a first win against a top four team since 2010.
After the international break, Chelsea will play Spurs and United back to back, if they are still top after that run, it is time to seriously consider Chelsea, a team still rebuilding and replacing aging stars, for real.
Who’s Worse Norwich or QPR?
Both of these teams are so poor it’s laughable. The general consensus was that Norwich would struggle mightily this season without the inspirational and tactically astute Paul Lambert occupying the dugout. Well they were right. Norwich is bereft of match winning talent. Their strikeforce of Grant Holt, Simeon Jackson and Steve Morison is of Championship quality at best, and they have struggled to find the net at all, never mind on a consistent basis. Their defence was once again horribly exposed at home to Liverpool this weekend, shipping 5 and contributing mightily to their own downfall with some horrendous mistakes.
Chris Hughton is a very good manager and has done excellent work on limited budgets in the past, but even this job looks too much for him. Norwich for the drop is only going to gather momentum with more performances like Saturday’s.
As for QPR, Mark Hughes was backed massively in the summer, but with no success so far. His Dale Winton Supermarket Sweep summer transfer signings left the club top-heavy, but with little done to fix a defence which starred Clint Hill at CB. The decision to sign and start Rob Green in net was such a poor one I am sure it was Hughes’ attempt at humour, whilst European Champion Julio Cesar’s arrival from Inter looked a good one on paper, there was a reason no one else in Europe wanted him. His performance against West Ham Monday night suggest a goalkeeper well past his prime, not quite up to the physical battle necessary for a goalkeeper in the Premier League.
This team also features too many players who need to be put out to pasture such as Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ji Sung-Park, who offer little of anything to the cause. In fact, the only players of real consistent quality on this roster, are Djibril Cisse and Esteban Granero.
QPR currently sit bottom and await their first win, don’t be surprised if Hughes is the first casualty of the season, this team is truly awful.
Heroes of the Week
Edin Dzeko – Manchester City
He had been on the pitch for all of 50 seconds when the ball fell to him on the edge of the Fulham six yard box. With his back to goal, he turned and powered the ball into the top corner. A superb finish by the sub which won the game for City 2-1 and rekindled their early season title challenge.
Luis Suarez – Liverpool
Suarez must wish he could play at Carrow Road every week. After his hattrick there last season, he repeated the feat this season too, adding an assist for Nuri Sahin along the way as Liverpool blitzed Norwich 5-2. A one man wrecking ball, Suarez exposed that awful Norwich defence all day long.
Goat of the Week
Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal
No one person contributed more to their team’s defeat over the weekend than Koscielny. A surprise inclusion over the impressive and inform Per Mertesacker, his woeful defending from set pieces directly contributed to both Chelsea goals and Arsenal’s first defeat of the season. I still don’t understand why he tried to block Fernando Torres and not clear the ball that led to Chelsea’s first goal. Just why?!
Ten Things I Think I Think
1) Rio Ferdinand for the England team? After his performance Saturday the closest he’s getting to the England team is by attending as a spectator.
2) Huge, huge goal by Edin Dzeko. That goal has reignited an underperforming City side and for this week at least, has silenced the critics.
3) If Alan Pardew has any intention of getting at least halfway through that eight year contract he signed midweek, his Newcastle team has to be beating teams like Reading away. Poor result.
4) West Ham are seventh, they won’t be anywhere near the drop this season, Sam Allardyce doesn’t do relegation.
5) This may just be the best Everton team in the David Moyes era. There’s a nice balance to this team, and they have depth up front and in the midfield areas which they haven’t previously enjoyed. Top four isn’t out of the question, but it will come down to results against the lower tier sides.
6) Swansea’s form has completely tailed off. Struggling to score and struggling to keep the ball out of the net. This isn’t as easy as it promised to be for Laudrup after their barnstorming start.
7) Does any one player mean more to their team than Steven Fletcher for Sunderland? He has scored all their goals so far this season and is looking like he’s worth every penny Sunderland paid for him.
8) Demba Ba gets dropped. His reaction? 5 goals in three games. Not bad.
9) Everytime I see Villa play, I am struck by how quickly that team has fallen. Sad and avoidable fall from grace. January is time to pay up Lerner.
10) As for Man United, that was one bad home defeat. That defense was terrible once again and the midfield completely absent in the first half. Work to be done for Fergie and co.