Weekend in 100 words or less
Could the Manchester sides bounce back from below par performances? Was Fernando Torres back? Could Arsenal score a goal? Would we get to see Wayne Rooney start with Robin Van Persie? These were just a few questions football supporters and pundits were asking themselves. Fortunately to our delight, the footballing God’s provided us with answers that we believe we rightfully deserved.
- Chelsea top of the table – Playing three games in seven days doesn’t seem to have troubled Chelsea as they have an 100% record in the league and sit top of the table for the first time since November 2010. Di Matteo’s men haven’t been outstanding this season, but thanks to the emergence of Eden Hazard, they’ve been able to overcome every obstacle thus far. They’re best performance of the season was this weekend against a Newcastle side that was full of confidence. It was the best Chelsea performance we’ve seen in some time and it was without John Terry and Frank Lampard. Di Matteo’s rotation policy seems to be effective and the players seem to be determined to do one better in emulating last years success by claiming a Premier League title. With all the new players brought in and a striker still expected to come in, this team looks younger, more creative, and if they can gel quickly don’t be surprised if we seem them make a legitimate push for the Premier League title.
- Fernando Torres isn’t dead but he’s not back…YET! – For the second consecutive game we’ve seen Fernando Torres, YES FERNANDO TORRES hit the back of the net. Torres is slowly showing glimpses of his former self as he’s working hard off the ball, making improved runs and is getting into dangerous areas frequently. This was Torres best game in a Chelsea uniform since the Spaniard left Anfield, and performances like the one we saw this weekend is why Roman Abrahimovich paid £50m for his services. It was a finish of absolute quality, and once again it leaves many Torres fans optimistic. Yes with 3 goals in 4 games, many are proclaiming that this former world class striker is back. As a Chelsea supporter, I want to truly believe this statement, but I advise many that follow this game to proclaim his return at your own peril. We’ve seen this many times, where Torres would have one or two good games then disappear for a few months. We should just give him time and let him enjoy his football. Consistency is what Torres is lacking and once he can achieve that then maybe we can once again praise him for the striker we all fell in love with.
- Eden Hazard is the real deal – £32m is what Chelsea paid for Hazard. Many felt the price valuation was too high, some felt he wouldn’t succeed in the fast paced, physical Premier League and many believed the 21-year-old Belgian star was merely hype. Boy were they wrong! It’s safe to say that he is the real deal and whether you’re afraid to admit that or aren’t convinced yet, this world-class talent has made his mark. His movement around the pitch is superb, his confidence to take players on is frightening and his efficiency in the final third is exciting. Now will this form last all season? probably not, but his ability to make his teammates around him better is vital. Chelsea have scored eight goals in three games this season and Hazard has been involved in seven of them, scoring 1 and assisting four (he was brought down twice and received a penalty which is not an official assist. I believe that is an absolute farce).
- United rebound from their dismal start to the season – Manchester United picked up their first win of the season against Fulham as their summer signings both found their names on the scoresheet. Shinji Kagawa tapped in United’s second goal from point blank range and Robin Van Persie who started over talismanic striker Wayne Rooney slotted home an absolute stunner of a strike with his only shot of the match. It was a goal out of nothing and it yet again displays why Van Persie is one of the best strikers in the world, as only a handful of players would be able to replicate that. Unfortunately for Rooney, he was stretchered off the field after receiving a gruesome wound that was opened up wide after Hugo Rodallega accidentally stepped on Rooney’s leg. Apart from Van Persie’s goal it was an improved performance, but not what we expect of Manchester United, but that will come in time. The high point was their ability to use their width and stretch the Fulham defence. The right side specifically that was poor against Everton, were absolutely brilliant in Antonio Valencia and Rafael. There were positives to take from this victory but there were also some alarming negatives.
- Manchester United fans beware! – This weekend we witnessed a Fulham side, who is arguably one of the worst away sides in the Premier League nearly gain a point at Old Trafford. United’s difficulty to defend set pieces were yet again exposed as they trailed Fulham less than five minutes into the match, courtesy of a Bryan Ruiz free kick that Damien Duff stroked home. Alongside set pieces, I’ve been constantly preaching about United’s holes in the midfield in many conversations with friends and I touched on it in my season preview. Yet again when they come up against a midfield that are technically astute and can move the ball fluidly they seem to struggle. United lack a midfielder who can take hold of a game. Yes they have Paul Scholes, but he is 38 and cannot play an integral part in such a physically demanding season. The Robin Van Persie signing was fantastic, but United desperately need a player who can dictate the midfield. Dembele’s masterclass this weekend reminded me of what happened to United in Europe last season, and if they don’t fix this massive hole than history may just repeat itself.
- Moussa Dembele shines against United – The 25 year old Belgian midfielder had a fantastic outing at Old Trafford this weekend, and with a few days left in the transfer window he’s made himself a wanted man. Dembele had a field day in the middle of the park and seemed dangerous every time he was on the ball. Dembele who is overshadowed by the talents of Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini within this talented crop of Belgian players made a case as to why he’s an integral part in the national side. Dembele was able to dominate the United midfield as he skipped past players with ease and freely picked pass after pass in the final third . This did again highlight United’s need to revamp their midfield, but it also showed what a gem Dembele is and why he’s Madrid’s alternate option if they fail to land Luka Modric. Dembele’s ability to dominate United’s midfield with his quick feet, vital tackles and sleek passing allowed us to witness for the second time in six days another Belgian talent dominate the United midfield and nearly gain Fulham a valuable away point.
- Why 3-5-2 Mancini? Why? – A 3-5-2 that could be labelled a 3-4-2-1 or a 3-5-1-1 did not help Manchester City defeat Liverpool for the first time at Anfield since 2003. It left many wondering why Mancini opted to go with this formation and it left us questioning whether this will be their set up against top sides in the Premier League and Europe. What happened to the patented 4-2-3-1 that led City to their first title in 44 years? Why does he choose the big games to experiment this formation. They have the personnel to run teams to the ground with this formation, but have gone a different route as of late. Yes this formation saw them defeat Chelsea, but may I remind you that City didn’t come to life until Branislav Ivanovic was sent off. Yet again this weekend they were outclassed by a Liverpool team that was superb on the day. City didn’t come to life until they sacrificed Samir Nasri (who I thought had another good game) for Jack Rodwell so Yaya Toure could push forward. Some might feel it was because Nasri wasn’t demonstrating his defensive duties which is true, but prior to the switch City never looked like they were going to score. This formation could be successful in time when more players become match fit and they bring in an adequate right wing back, but results like this should slowly revert Mancini back to the 4-2-3-1 that they thrive in for the time being. What’s most important is that City showed resilience by gaining a point when not at their best.
- Two points lost but Liverpool give fans a reason to be positive right? – Albeit massive errors that led to Manchester City goals, Brendan Rodger’s couldn’t have done a better job in winning over a few pessimistic fans that were calling for his head after the debacle at the Hawthorns. Liverpool were the better team by far, and performances from 17-year-old Raheem Sterling and the new boy Joe Allen should give their supporters something to smile about. There passing was sleek and as a unit they pressed City well and left them unsettled throughout majority of the game. Take nothing away from Liverpool, but they suffer from the same problem Fernando Torres does and that’s consistency. Over the last few years Liverpool have always played excellent in the ‘big games’, but seem a shade of themselves when playing teams below their level. Hopefully this trend doesn’t continue under the Rodger’s era. Nonetheless, this Liverpool team is headed in the right direction and if they can get Suarez firing and Sahin integrated into the system quickly than many Premier League teams better watch out.
- Joe Allen was not OVERPRICED! – When news broke out that Liverpool had signed Joe Allen for £15m I initially thought that Allen wasn’t worth the price valuation. Unfortunately I didn’t watch enough Swansea games last season which was why I was one of the many that was puzzled as to why Liverpool paid £15m for Joe Allen. Just two games into Liverpool’s campaign and he has given me every reason to state, that for once, Liverpool got it right! He is so composed on the ball and his vision to pick out passes is fantastic. What really caught my eyes this weekend was how tactically astute Allen is. Lucas Leiva left the game with a knock not even five minutes into the match, and this forced Rodgers to peg Allen into a deeper role in which he thrived in. His ability to pick up the ball in deep areas from either his CB’s and Reina allowed Allen to control the tempo of the game, as well as highlight his vision that many tend to overlook. Allen was by far the man of the match and one of they key men needed if Rodger’s system is to succeed at Anfield.
- It’s only a matter of time before Arsenal arrive – They’ve yet to concede a goal and with the Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla anchoring the midfield, the problem Arsenal are clearly having is finding the back of the net. Santi Cazorla had yet another fantastic outing in what is always a difficult fixture at the Britannia. His passes were of the highest quality and many were in the final third of the field, but the front three of Gervinho, Podolski and Giroud still couldn’t grab a winner. What I found alarming was Cazorla had more shots in total and on target than the Arsenal front three. This is all a work in progress and it’ll take a few more weeks to get this disjointed front three that lack cohesion firing, but what’s more important is that Cazorla has adapted quickly. Their first big test comes this weekend against Liverpool in a massive game in which both teams are looking for their first win of the season. If their’s any time for this front three to awaken it will be against Liverpool
- Baggies haunt AVB once again as pressure mounts. – March 3rd 2012 Gareth McAuleys late goal is what triggered Villas-Boas sacking a day later. Coincidentally six months later James Morrison equalized at the death to cause Villas-Boas men to drop two points in a very mediocre performance. Tottenham who were better in the first half were unable to get onto any of the chances created and it ended up haunting them as West Brom slowly grew into the game. It took a deflected shot from Assou-Ekotto to take the lead but the games balance tipped towards West Brom when Romelu Lukaku who publicly stated his anger towards Villas-Boas came into the game. Lukaku’s half an hour on the pitch caused Tottenham’s back line multiple problems as they were left terrorized. He was able to get into the box several times and one could say West Brom were fortunate not to win this match. A draw was a fair result, but this mounts more pressure on AVB as he has only won two games since the turn of the calendar year. If there was anytime to sell Luka Modric it’s now as the transfer window is slowly coming to an end. It’ll leave us to watch an interesting couple of days to see how AVB and Daniel Levy conduct business as they plan to use the Modric money to pick up the players ‘AVB’ feels will make this team contend for a top four spot.
- Swansea dominant – As I highlighted earlier, last season I didn’t get to see enough of Swansea as I’d hoped, but this weekend I was privileged to watch them at early-kick off against what was an extremely poor West Ham side. Swansea controlled the game from the get go and won the game in style by three goals in what could’ve been another blowout. Swansea cherished possession, their pace down the flanks is frightening and their movement both on and off the ball was superb yet again. A period of the match that caught my eye was when they held the ball for nearly two minutes. At this level that is truly remarkable as we don’t see that too often unless we’re watching Barcelona. Michael Laudrup’s men have started the season well scoring eight goals and have yet to concede a goal, more importantly they’re getting maximum points in games they should be. It has been a great start to the season for the South Wales side and Laudrup will look to build on what has been an impressive start to the season.
Top 5 Players of the weekend
1. Eden Hazard
2. Joe Allen
3. Moussa Dembele
4. Santi Cazorla
5. Carlos Tevez
Goal of the weekend : Robin Van Persie vs Fulham (http://www.101greatgoals.com/gvideos/robin-van-persie-man-united-1-1-v-fulham-2/)
I hope you all enjoyed this recap, and I apologize for the delay. Starting this week they’ll be up on Monday as I’ll no longer be working night shifts. Enjoy the long weekend! Cheers!
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