Weekend in 100 words or less
It was a weekend filled with heartache, controversial referee decisions and impressive performances from individuals and away teams. With some of the topsides suffering from a European hangover, we witnessed close encounters throughout the Premier League. Teams are either still finding form, searching for their first wins, and trying to maintain great starts to the campaign. Amongst the topsides in the league Arsenal & Everton stole the show this weekend as they produced fantastic away performances, where as their rivals were surprisingly mediocre at best.
- Arsenal contenders? – Arsenal were eight minutes away from recording their first loss of the season, until Laurent Koscielny smashed home an equalizer past Joe Hart. Although trailing for 42 minutes, the Gunners overall were the better team on the day. Arsenal operated in a 4-5-1 and was content on defending deep and then breaking into space with pace. It was highly effective for portions of the match and it saw them dictate a game they should’ve won. With Cazorla keeping Javi Garcia busy/dropping deep into the midfield and Aaron Ramsey tucking in, they seemed to pass the ball much quicker and dominated possession due to the number of bodies in the midfield. The defense was just as impressive with Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs bombing up the flanks and Per Mertesacker’s ability to break up the play was vital as he read the game magnificently. Apart from shaky moments defending set pieces and attempts to walk the ball into the net, it was an impressive away performance from the North London side. Wenger’s men have surprised many and are coping well after the sales of Robin Van Persie and Alex Song, as they remain unbeaten this season. There are still questions on whether they can break down teams that defend deep and questions on production upfront. It’s too early to determine whether they’ll be contenders come May, but Arsene Wenger’s post match comments were spot on, “It’s down to consistency and what happened today should strengthen our belief.”
- More problems at the Ethiad – It’s always been said that it’s easier to win a title then retain it, and Manchester City might just be learning this the hard way. After conceding a lead in the last five minutes to Madrid midweek, City drop more points five days later against Arsenal. In the six matches City have played this season, seven out of the nine goals conceded have come in the final 30 minutes of play. City has also failed to keep a clean sheet this season. Mancini’s men haven’t won a game since September 1st and this weekend failure to clear their lines haunted them. City’s attack in the first half was dull. Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero didn’t receive enough service and Scott Sinclair was poor! In the second half City sat deeper and broke with runs from Yaya Toure and David Silva, but their attacks lacked cohesion and an end product. City like many other contenders hasn’t hit their best form yet, but there are several issues tactically and generally that Mancini has to solve. City are still trying to adapt new players into their system and Mancini still hasn’t found his best eleven. With Aguero back, City now have their best strike force at disposal so there is no need to panic yet!
- Woeful United pick up three points AGAIN! – Manchester United sit one point behind Chelsea at the top of the table after claiming three points this weekend when being far from their best. A dismal first half from Sir Alex’s Ferguson side saw him introduce Paul Scholes for Nani. Like their trip to Southampton, Paul Scholes was introduced in the second half and helped United take control of the game and dominate possession. It seems that no other United midfielder besides Scholes can dictate a game. United have been given a real scare with their lack of options in the midfield, but along with Scholes brilliance, Robin Van Persie has proved to be a quality signing scoring five goals in five games. Jonjo Shelvey’s dismissal benefitted United in terms of possession once Scholes was introduced. A fantastic strike from Rafael and a spot kick from Robin Van Persie saw United come from behind once again. It was a tale of two halves and United were fortunate to get the penalty awarded to them. United were nowhere near the level we expect them to be at but once again they steal three points, and Paul Scholes played a vital part in the process.
- Liverpool a work in progress… – The Brendan Rodgers era hasn’t started off in the manner many supporters and FSG owners had hoped for, but what they need is patience. It was a dominant first half from the Reds, but Shelvey’s red card really left them in a difficult position. Liverpool was down to ten men for a little over 51 minutes and instead of sitting deep they pushed on in front of the Anfield faithful. It wasn’t a poor decision from Rodgers and Liverpool did quite well, but their lack of an attacking threat upfront has let them down again. Also their weakness down the left hand side was exposed again, and both goals were created from that side of the field. In terms of dictating games and retaining possession, Liverpool is headed in the right direction. But their weakness at the back and their inability to score goals will see them suffer this season. Can Rodgers find a solution for this problem? Possibly, but the question is will Rodgers be given the time to fix these holes in this Liverpool side.
- Chelsea narrowly squeak past Stoke – Chelsea picked up three points this weekend thanks to a late Ashley Cole winner courtesy of a Juan Mata back heeled pass. Stoke were resilient, they defended deep but that wasn’t enough to deny the European Champions three points on the night. It was far from a memorable Chelsea performance, as they struggled to get in behind the Stoke back line, but their aim to attack through the middle of the park nearly saw them drop two points. With Oscar and Mata looking for space in central areas, width was dependent on Cole and Branislav Ivanovic. Jonathan Walters did a great job tracking Cole (only mistake was on the goal when he failed to track Coles run) but Ivanovic in general was poor. The game changed when Victor Moses was brought on for Eden Hazard. Moses stayed wide and stretched the Stoke backline, giving Chelsea a significant threat from wide areas. Moses ability to beat defenders as he cleverly did on a couple occasions provided Chelsea/Fernando Torres dangerous balls into the box and allowed Mata and Oscar more space to create. With the likes of Oscar, Mata, and Hazard searching for space centrally it crowds the middle of the park which is why Di Matteo needs the likes of Ramires, Moses, or the right back Cesar Azpilicueta on the field.
- Everton run rampant on Swansea as Fellaini shines – Everton sit with 10 points from a possible 15 in SEPTEMBER! A team that’s known for saving their best for the second half of the season has started well this season. They’ve stayed fit thus far and this weekend they showcased a brilliant away performance at Swansea winning 3-0. Marouane Fellaini was the star again as he scored one goal and played a part in the other two. Everton pressed at the right times, they closed down space quickly and the combination plays on both flanks (especially the left) was fantastic. It was a superb away performance that could’ve seen Everton win by six or seven goals, Everton were imperious! The likes of Fellaini, Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines continue to dazzle in fine form and have been key components in the success of the Merseyside club thus far.
- Southampton win, Lambert crashes and burns – It was a tale of two halves, but Southampton came from behind the second half to defeat Aston Villa 4-1. It was the home debut of marquee signing Gaston Ramirez and Maya Yoshida for Southampton. Paul Lambert’s men went into halftime up a goal, as Villa was arguably the better side in the first half. At the half he changed his well-equipped 4-4-2 into a narrow 4-3-1-2 and was out done on both flanks by Southampton. Their fullbacks were often left exposed in 2 v 1’s and the likes of Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Ramirez and Rickie Lambert were brilliant and made Villa pay for the lack of cover in wide areas. Tactically, Lambert was outcoached by Nigel Adkins, and must feel like he dropped a valuable 3 points away from home. Adkins finally picks up his first win in the Premier League and for at least a week he’ll be able to sleep well.
Top 5 Players of the weekend
- Marouane Fellaini
- Per Mertesacker
- Aaron Ramsey
- Steven Gerrard
- Paul Scholes
Goal of the Weekend: Rafael equalizer against Liverpool http://www.101greatgoals.com/gvideos/rafael-manchester-united-v-liverpool/
This is my weekend recap for this week I hope you all enjoy! Keep posted for my tactical analysis on Humber x Lambton this week. Cheers!
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