The weekend just passed marked the last we will see of the Premier League for the next two weeks, as international football and World Cup Qualifying takes centre stage, so I hope you got your fill. Now on to the action…
Champions Performance From The Champions
Manchester City headed into this weekend’s home clash with Sunderland without a Premier League defeat since THAT April 8th loss at the Emirates that almost brought their title hopes to a shuddering crash. Yet many observers had begun to write City off as one season wonders, with no hope of retaining the title, after a sluggish start to the season had seen them draw three of their opening six games and fail to keep a clean sheet in any game since May 6th. Now though, after their dismantling of Sunderland Saturday, all that negative energy seems way too premature and silly. Amazing what one game can do.
When the City lineup was announced, there were many groans from the City fans as captain and leader Vincent Kompany was absent through injury; Sergio Aguero was benched, whilst injuries in midfield had forced James Milner back into the first team. But this did not matter.
Even without Kompany in at centre back, the returning Micah Richards and the reinstated Joleon Lescott managed to keep in form Steven Fletcher anonymous.
Milner and Gareth Barry were outstanding in the midfield engine room. The two provided a balance to the team that has been sorely lacking, particularly in midweek against Dortmund when the midfield was overrun. The two were more than willing to help out defensively, whilst also providing the defence with an outlet to build from the back and link up with the attack. Their presence also allowed the human tank Yaya Toure to roam higher up the pitch and free up space for the magical David Silva to shine.
When Aguero finally came on after 55 mins, City found fifth gear. His link up play with Carlos Tevez and Silva was just beautiful to watch and completely opened up Sunderland’s defence, who had no answer.
If City can keep performing like this, then they may very well be unstoppable. The Premier League is on watch, the Champions are back.
Manchester United Excel
Not to be outdone by their title rivals, Man United took to the road to take on a Newcastle side who had dismantled them 3-0 in the same fixture last season and repaid the favour.
Sir Alex Ferguson hasn’t lasted so long and won so many trophies without learning from his past mistakes, and after last season’s debacle, when United were completely overpowered in midfield, Fergie packed the midfield this time around, and it paid off.
Newcastle were completely outplayed and outfought and after 15 mins, the game was essentially done, with United powering in 2 headers from corners.
Ferguson must especially have been pleased by the performance of his oft criticized defense, with the much maligned Patrice Evra enjoying his best game for months at left back. Rio Ferdinand rolled back the years and didn’t resemble the 34-year-old has been he appeared to be last week against Spurs. Whilst for 90 minutes Rafael finally resembled a defender.
If United can keep up this level of performance when play resumes after the international break, they will once again, be pushing City for the title all the way.
It’s hard to believe now that, at the end of August, some media outlets were reporting that AVB had only three games to save his job at Tottenham, after Spurs failed to win any of their first three games of the season. This coming despite Daniel Levy’s reticence in doing any serious transfer dealings before 11:59pm on August 31st and the protracted and frankly ridiculous Luka Modric saga that dragged on for far longer than was necessary, all which had nothing to do with AVB.
With gaping holes in midfield, Spurs struggled out the gate, and because AVB is an easy target the pitchforks were sharpened and the torches lit. However, something mysterious happened, AVB was finally able to bring in some quality players, in Moussa Dembele (who is brilliant) and Clint Dempsey, and just like magic, Spurs started winning. Crazy isn’t it?!
On Sunday, Spurs eased past a pathetic and terrible Aston Villa team 2-0, to make it four consecutive victories and position the team as early Champions League contenders.
AVB gets an unfair rap from the media, due to his perceived failures at Chelsea, but now that he is in an environment which is frankly much more hospitable, I believe AVB can and will succeed at Spurs.
Swans Have Been Shot Down
What has happened to Swansea City? After three games they were the feel good story of the new season. A new manager in Michael Laudrup had the team playing some beautiful football complete with a high pressing game, and the Swans flew out of the traps and topped the table briefly, with seven points from their first nine available. Since the last international break however, Swansea have been a completely different side.
Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Reading now means Swansea haven’t won in five and indeed, Saturday saw them score their first goals since September 1st, the weekend just before the last international break.
Their once stingy defence has suddenly become porous, injuries and just terrible mistakes have plagued this team. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm added his name to the lengthy error list after he allowed a Pogrebnyak shot to squirm under him and into the net. Their beautiful passing game and thrill a minute had been somewhat impotent until the final 15 mins Saturday, when it finally showed signs of life.
Simply put, Swansea right now are playing well below their expected level, and a 2-2 draw at home against what is a woeful Reading team, who should finish rock bottom of the League, cannot and should not be tolerated. Right now there are no tangible signs that Swansea are capable of putting together a top ten campaign, which, given the talent levels on the team, simply not good enough. Work still to be done in Wales.
Hero of the Week
Gareth Barry – Manchester City
Perhaps one of the most underrated and undervalued players in the Premier League, Saturday saw Gareth Barry underline just why he is so important to any continued City success. He was outstanding against Sunderland, providing the defence with a security blanket, whilst always creating space and making himself available for the ball. He also provided the linkup play between midfield and attack which City sorely lacked in midweek against Dortmund. You don’t always need to score to be a hero.
Goat of the Week
Luis Suarez – Liverpool
Check out his dive against Stoke, utterly laughable and a pathetic attempt to win a penalty. He just wants to be disliked.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1) Remember when AVB had three games to save his job? You have to hand it to the British media, they sure do know how to over react.
2) It’s starting to get serious for Sparky. It’s looking harder and harder to justify why Mark Hughes should keep his job at QPR. Two points are just not acceptable when you consider the financial backing he has received.
3) Southampton’s defense is terrible, and I mean really really awful. They have spent vast sums on money beefing up their attacking options, but if you can’t keep the ball out your own net, wins are going to be hard to come by. Also why does Adkins persevere with taking his best players off? Nonsensical.
4) Most underrated team coming into this season? West Brom. Fantastic start and if they keep up this early season home form, they just might be Europa League contenders.
5) Most overrated? Swansea. After sprinting out the blocks, they can’t buy a win right now. Drawing 2-2 at home against Reading is a terrible result, even if you came from 2-0 down. Swansea are tumbling.
6) As for the Royals they cannot afford to drop two goal away leads. Points are going to be few and far between for them this season, and dropping two of them in this manner is a devastating blow.
7) Micah Richards returned from almost 3 months out injured Saturday and didn’t miss a beat. What an unbelievable athlete he is.
8) Can we just declare Santi Cazorla as signing of the summer.
9) I hope Sky/ESPN decide not to show any Stoke games, in fact I will pay extra to not have their games shown. Their brand of football does not wash with me.
10) Two weeks without Premier League football? I hate you international football. I’d rather sit through a Stoke game than watch England vs San Marino.