Weekend in 100 words or less
Many sports fans were THANKFUL for the large supply of quality matches available this weekend. We had El Clasico, Brady vs. Manning, the Milan derby, Le Classique, Porto vs. Sporting and the MLB playoffs to keep us busy, as we digested our turkey dinners here in Canada. On top of these monumental sporting events, both Manchester clubs gave us a taste of why many have them as clear favourites to win the Premier League title. Fergie’s tactical alignment brought the best out of Wayne Rooney, Mikel Arteta passed Arsenal to another win and Chelsea’s front three were great again.
- United dismantle Newcastle, Rooney superb– Manchester United lined up in a 4-4-2 diamond without any natural wingers and produced their best performance of the season. A year ago the midfield of Carrick/Giggs were run ragged by Tiote and Cabaye which led Ferguson to call back Paul Scholes. It’s evident Fergie learned from his mistakes as United’s emphasis was on taking control of the middle and keeping possession. The choice to play a midfield diamond paid off, as Carrick, Cleverley and Rooney were outstanding. They dominated the likes of Jonas, Tiote and Cabaye with the extra man in midfield as they always had an open Rooney to pass the ball to. Rooney played behind Van Persie and Welbeck, Cleverley advanced to the left, Kagawa to the right and Carrick was the holder. The width came from Evra & Rafael and this adjustment led Manchester United to an impressive performance at St. James Park. United started this game hungry, and they were ruthless in front of goal. United won the game in the first twenty minutes in which they had 78% possession and two goals courtesy of some abysmal defending from the Newcastle back line. Evans lost Williamson and nodded home the first goal and seven minutes later Evra added to the lead, as Demba Ba was unable to mark the United skipper. Albeit some goal line controversy, United were the better side for large portions of this match. The back four looked solid for the first time this season as they sat deeper and Wayne Rooney was immense. Rooney was all over the pitch, dropping deep to defend when Alan Pardew switched to a 4-5-1, getting into great areas to provide a passing outlet, picking balls across the field, starting attacks and he was rewarded with two assists. The win puts United in second place, and if they continue to produce performances like this or better, then it’ll only be a matter of time before they sit on top of the Premier League.
- City cruise past woeful Sunderland – City bounced back from a lethargic performance midweek, and made seven changes to their lineup that gave Martin O’Neil’s side their first loss of the season. This Sunderland side was the opposite of the one that nearly beat City at the Ethiad last season. They couldn’t keep possession and if it weren’t for goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s great performance the score line could’ve been worse. A superb free kick from Kolarov seven minutes in put City ahead, but they failed to really dictate the game until the second half. It was when Mario Balotelli (who I thought was decent) was substituted in the 55th minute for Sergio Aguero. Balotelli wasn’t happy with the change and stormed straight to the tunnel, but Mancini’s change was the right one as Aguero scored five minutes after his arrival. Aguero’s presence changed the game as he linked up with those around him better and his movement off the ball caused more problems for the Sunderland defence. Milner added a late free kick to cement three points and City’s first clean sheet of the season. It was the result/performance we’ve been waiting to see from City, as Mancini finally let the shackles off his men.
- Goals galore see Chelsea stay top of the table – Chelsea, like Manchester City stayed unbeaten this weekend, as they blitzed Norwich City 4-1. Chelsea started off shaky in the opening 20 minutes as Grant Holt was having his way with the Chelsea back line. Chris Hughton’s side deployed two narrow banks of four when defending and looked to hoof the ball up to Holt so he can hold it up when they won possession. Holt did a great job, but as his teammates tired, Hughton’s plan slowly became ineffective. Unfortunately for Norwich, their abysmal defence had no answers for Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar. Chelsea comfortably settled after Torres equalized scoring his 6th goal in all competitions. Goals from Lampard, Ivanovic and a sensational counterattack from Mata that played in Hazard settled the game. Chelsea sit four points ahead of both Manchester clubs going into the second international break of the season. They do have a few problems at the back that they need to sort out fast, but we will really get to see what this Chelsea side is made of after the international break. They travel to Spurs, Shakhtar, and then face Manchester United twice in the span of four days at Stamford Bridge.
- Life without Van Persie isn’t too shabby – Arsenal went back to winning ways this weekend as they comfortably defeated West Ham 3-1. There were many positives to take from this game as the Gunners bounced back from last weekends defeat to Chelsea. Olivier Giroud started and scored, Cazorla and Arteta were brilliant yet again, Podolski was superb down the left hand side where most of Arsenal’s play was crafted from, and Theo Walcott came off the bench and netted the winner. Although many will give the plaudits to Cazorla or Giroud, (for his goal and assist for the winner) it was Mikel Arteta who was solid once again. The Spaniard has really relished in his deep lying role and like Juan Mata, if he weren’t Spanish he would walk into many XI’s. Arteta completed 106/111 passes, successfully won all of his 5 tackles and rarely lost possession. Overall it was a great Arsenal performance all around, and it sees them pick up eight points on the road out of a possible twelve. Although Van Persie was a massive loss to the club, Arsenal is slowly silencing the doubters who dismissed them from cementing a top four spot.
- Fonte saves Southampton from disaster against Fulham – It was a poor match overall, but the late drama made up for it. Portuguese defender Jose Fonte put the Saints in front early courtesy of a header in which he was left unmarked. Fulham was unable to cope with Southampton’s high pressure and were constantly giving the ball away. Fortunately for the Cottagers, Southampton was poor in front of goal and talismanic striker Rickie Lambert who pressed well, didn’t have his shooting boots on. The second half saw Fulham with more of the ball as the Saints players tired, but Fulham never really looked like scoring. Ultimately the game changer was Saints defender Jos Hooiveld as he scored his second own goal of the year as he directed John Arne Risse’s shot that was going wide into his goal. In the 88th minute substitute Kieran Richardson put Fulham into the lead as his shot deflected off of Hooiveld and into the net. Unfortunately for the Cottagers their lead lasted less than two minutes as Fonte added to his goal tally with a header in injury time and rescued a point for the Saints. A tie reflects the dull encounter that Southampton should’ve wrapped up in the first half. Fulham pick up a road point they ultimately should be proud of whereas the problems at St. Mary’s continues and pressure continues to rise over Nigel Adkins head.
- Second season syndrome might exist! – Many might not believe in second season syndrome, but as of October 8th two teams who were promoted last season are winless, sitting in the relegation zone. Many believe it’s only a matter of time before QPR eventually turn it around, but Norwich is in deep trouble. They currently sit second in the league for goals conceded and they’ve scored the least this season. Last season they weren’t any better at the back but they’re ability to score goals along with Paul Lambert’s tactical set up saw them finish 12th in the league. This season they continue to leak goals, but they struggle to create/score goals. I had Norwich going down this season and so far they’ve displayed every reason why they will. Will players like Grant Holt, Anthony Morison and Steve Pilkington be able to replicate their goal scoring form of last season? Can Simeon Jackson and Wesley Hoolahan fill the void if these men fail to get the goals? Can Chris Hughton tighten up the back line? These are key components to whether Norwich will survive this season and right now survival doesn’t look attainable.
- Tottenham picked up their fourth successive victory this weekend dispatching of Aston Villa 2-0. 20-year-old Steven Caulker scored his first top-flight goal and Aaron Lennon secured three points that sees Spurs climb to fifth in the table. Moussa Dembele was great yet again with a 91% passing rate, misplacing only one pass in the final third. Hugo Lloris also made his Premier League debut earning his first clean sheet. It was a Spurs result that many expected, but it didn’t come easy. Andre Villas-Boas will now have his side set for their marquee match against Chelsea at White Hart Lane in two weeks. May I remind you that Chelsea fired AVB and went on to win the FA cup and Champions league. Chelsea’s Champions League victory also dumped Spurs into the Europa League this season.
- Liverpool are still searching for their first home win this season as they drew Stoke City 0-0. Anfield used to be a fortress but Liverpool has only won twice at Anfield since the turn of the calendar year. It was a bit of deja vu for anyone who’s watched Liverpool over the last year. They dictated possession, hit the woodwork several times, and a Luis Suarez dive was another hot topic in another Liverpool fixture. Stoke sat deep and stayed compact as many teams do at Anfield, and Liverpool couldn’t break through despite a few moments of individual brilliance. Luis Suarez stormed off the pitch when the whistle blew for full time and the Uruguayan seems to be a very frustrated man. Other than Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, Liverpool lacks a proven goal scorer and that is currently one of their biggest issues.
- West Bromwich Albion enjoys their best start to a season since 1919 with a 3-2 win over QPR this weekend. Former Chelsea/Liverpool assistant manager Steve Clarke is enjoying a great start to his managerial career and the win pushes the Baggies to sixth place in the league level behind Everton and Tottenham on goal differential. They’re 100% at home, and under Clarke have been a tough team to break down. Now this form might come to an end soon, but this team is capable of finishing in the top half of the table.
- Despite spending approximately 17m pounds this summer on transfers, QPR sit bottom of the table and winless this season. Mark Hughes’ side suffered another loss this weekend which adds more pressure on Hughes to pick up points. Many predicted this team would take the next step and finish mid table this season based on their summer signings, but they’ve looked far from that. Hughes doesn’t have much time so he needs to get a result FAST! Let the Harry Redknapp rumours begin!
- Everton leave it for late and pick up a vital point at the DW stadium courtesy of a Leighton Baines spot kick. The Toffee’s started the game flat and went into the half down a goal as they were overrun in the midfield. Moyes rallied his troops and they came out with a better performance in the second half. Baines and Pienaar continue to cause havoc down that left hand side and are easily the most dangerous flank in the league thus far. “Leighton Baines was at the heart of everything, I thought he was extraordinary,” said Moyes after the match. Moyes’ men came from behind twice away from home and showed their fighting spirit. They’ve lost once this season and if they can stay healthy, they have a squad capable of finishing in the top six.
- Remember when Swansea was scoring goals for fun? Yeah, me neither. Swansea failed to score in their last three games and nearly lost at home to Reading this weekend despite finishing the match with 71% possession. Laudrup’s men completed triple the amount of shots and passes on the weekend but had to settle for a point courtesy of late goals from Michu and Wayne Routledge. Swansea will always concede goals because of their style of play and quality of players, but if the continue to struggle creating goals they may be headed down the same route as Norwich.
- Chelsea are the only team not to concede a second half goal in the 2012/2013 Premier League season
- Frank Lampard scored his 189th goal for Chelsea and 129th Premier league goal at the age of 34
- It was the first time Arsenal came from behind to beat West Ham at Upton Park
- Arsene Wenger picked up his 350th Premier League win. Only Sir Alex Ferguson has more with 505
- Fulham have not won a league match at Southampton in 77 years
- Mark Schwarzer becomes the 12th player over the age of 40 to play in the Premier League
- Southampton has now dropped 11 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season
- The last time Brad Friedel did not start a Premier League match was in May 2004. A streak that saw him play 310 consecutive matches in a row ended this weekend
- Southampton’s Adam Lallana leads the league in assists with four. He’s currently tied with Chelsea’s Juan Mata & Eden Hazard
Top 5 Players of the weekend
1. Wayne Rooney
2. Mikel Arteta
3. Juan Mata
4. Santi Cazorla
5. James Milner
Goal of the week
I just wanted to clarify that this was not intentional, due to the fact that many United fans are claiming it was. Cleverley was attempting to cross the ball to the unmarked Van Persie. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic goal that just beat out Diame and Cazorla’s goal.
That was this weekends EPL recap. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much I enjoyed writing it. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Stay posted to the blog for multiple stories throughout the weeks and my tactical analysis of Humber x Fanshawe tomorrow.
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