Weekend in 100 words or less
As the Premier League kicked into November, many questions that we’ve been asking over the past months were unveiled. Luis Suarez reminded everyone that he is a world-class striker, We were reminded that Arsenal is a good team, but they’re not a great team and Manchester United reminded us why they’re the most successful team in the Premier League era. Over the years we’ve learned to never count Fergie out no matter how big the task is. And even though it’s as early as November, Fergie’s side that’s been plagued by defensive injuries sit top of the Premier League.
- Manchester United back where they belong? – Manchester United had the opportunity to go top of the table for a few hours if they picked up a victory against Arsenal at Old Trafford. Both teams’ named unchanged sides from last weekend, which saw them both pick up points against Chelsea and QPR. United in a 4-2-3-1 with Rooney behind Van Persie and Young/Valencia providing width. Arsenal looked to be sitting in a 4-5-1 that throughout the game became a 4-1-4-1. Unfortunately for Arsenal, an early defensive lapse from captain Thomas Vermaelen allowed former Arsenal captain Robin Van Persie to give Manchester Unitd the lead. As they did against Chelsea, United intended on attacking down Arsenal’s left side in hopes of exposing Andre Santos. In terms of quality the game was quite poor, teams were misplacing passes, the tempo was slow, and the play in the final third was dismal. Arsenal like they did at City and Liverpool were looking to sit deep and hit on the counter, but the problem was they had no outlet in Cazorla to hit as he sat deeper. Arsenal were handed a lifeline later in the half as Cazorla’s handball gave Manchester United a penalty, that Wayne Rooney missed. Arsenal brought on Walcott for Ramsey and Cazorla pushed higher up the pitch, but despite their improved performance they fell victim to another set piece goal in a big game courtesy of a Patrice Evra header. Arsenal was down and the knockout blow was given when Jack Wilshere was sent off for receiving his second yellow card. What made this interesting was the fact that both Wilshere and Tom Cleverley were on yellow cards, but Ferguson took off Cleverley whereas Wenger kept Wilshere on. Although there was no adequate replacement for Wilshere, his sending off made Ferguson look like a genius. Cazorla bagged a late goal as a consolation in a game that didn’t live up to its heights. Clinical finishing at key moments won the game for United and Rooney doing a fantastic job pressuring Mikel Arteta prevented Arsenal from playing. Arsenal continues to show why they’re not title contenders and they’re backing of Wenger display their lack of ambition. Whereas Manchester United continues to pick up points and despite the issues they have in the middle and back, sit top of the Premier League. They now have winnable games against Aston Villa, Norwich, QPR, West Ham and Reading, before travelling to the Ethiad. There’s a good chance we might see Manchester United walking into the Ethiad full of confidence, healthy and a few points ahead at the top of the table. Scary!
- Chelsea concedes late again – Chelsea handed Oriol Romeu, Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses there first starts this season, as they travelled to the Liberty Stadium. Both sides opted to sit in 4-2-3-1 setups, and Chelsea were unable to pickup all three points as Pablo Hernandez late strike earned the Wales side a point. Oscar particularly, found it difficult to drive down the middle as “Swanselona” sat narrow and were compact. Chelsea threatened from wide areas through Moses and Hazard, and set pieces through Cahill, who eventually headed a corner onto Moses head and in the back of the net. Swansea looked dangerous on the counter, constantly troubling Chelsea’s backline and their buildup play was superb, but they lacked finish and the final pass. Fernando Torres was once again decent, but he continued to show his lack of confidence and he had a few chances that he should’ve shot but opted to pass. Overall it was a fair result, and Swansea continue to inflict damage on the top teams and displayed no side will fancy their trip to the Liberty. Chelsea, who has been decent away from home weren’t ruthless and now find themselves one point behind Manchester United. Luckily for the Blues they welcome back John Terry as they welcome Liverpool to Stamford Bridge next weekend.
- Unbeaten City settle for a point – Mancini tinkered with his formation this weekend again going with a 4-3-3, which saw Carlos Tevez at the top, and Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli on the flanks. Kolo Toure also made his first Premier League start of the season for the champions who failed to break down an organized West Ham side at Upton Park. Yet again, a referee made an error that would’ve changed the entire game. Kevin Nolan’s early goal was ruled offside, but replays showed us different. City was much better on the road this weekend but the likes of Mario Balotelli squandered several opportunities. Sergio Aguero being on the bench and David Silva injured could’ve made a difference in a game where City were unable to find a break through. City stay unbeaten this season but failed to go joint top of the table with rivals Manchester United. All focus is on their massive Champions League encounter with Ajax this week as they need to win out all three-group games remaining to advance to the knockout round. Their schedule consists of games against Dortmund, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in the following weeks, so Mancini’s men need to get their act together, for Mancini’s sake.
- The battle of the winless didn’t provide a winner – Both QPR and Reading needed to record their first wins of the season but neither had that extra bit of quality to claim a winner. It was former QPR defender Kaspar Gorkss who opened the scoring as QPR failed to clear their lines and conceded another goal from a set piece. Initially it was a 4-4-2 clash, and QPR seemed to threaten a bit more, as wingers Adel Taarabt and Junior Hoilett were tucking in between the lines and overloading the midfield, in which they took multiple shots from 20 yards out. Reading manager Brian McDermott fielded a 4-5-1 in the second half, as he wanted to occupy the space provided in between the lines. This allowed Jose Bosingwa to get forward and provide the width QPR lacked in the first half, and also resulted in a goal. Bosingwa bombed down the right flank and crossed in a ball to Djibril Cisse, who followed his decent first touch and placed the ball past Alex McCarthy. QPR enjoyed a bulk of the possession for the rest of the half and missed several opportunities to win the game. Reading apart from troubling the Rangers from set-pieces rarely threatened and if it wasn’t for McCarthy making several key saves, the result could’ve gone in QPR’s favour. Neither team made a legitimate case as to why they deserved their win and a point apiece leaves both sides in the relegation zone, where they arguably belong based on performances.
- Liverpool play long ball and football – Brendan Rodger’s side were desperate for a home win against Newcastle but instead they ended up sharing points at Anfield. Liverpool was in more of a 4-2-3-1 this weekend, as Raheem Sterling and Suso were more central behind Luis Suarez allowing the fullbacks to get forward. Nuri Sahin was in an advanced role as Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen sat deep. Newcastle lined up in a 4-3-3 with Demba Ba leading the line and Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa out on the flanks. Liverpool for the most part was the better side, the pace from Suso and Sterling and Luis Suarez roaming around the final third always looked dangerous. Despite dominating possession and moving the ball quickly, Liverpool failed to create good goal scoring opportunities. Newcastle took the lead with their first legitimate break on net as Ben Arfa did well to skip past Jose Enrique and cross in a ball to Yohan Cabaye at the far post. Cabaye’s first touch was marvelous and his finish was even better. It was quite absurd how Newcastle, who was far from impressive, led this game. Both teams made personnel changes, but it didn’t involve their shape. Liverpool’s equalizer came from nothing as Enrique played a wonderful long ball into Suarez, and the Uruguayan displayed his sublime skill as he took three touches of class to brush off Fabricio Coloccini and get past goalkeeper Tim Krul to tuck the ball into the net. Suarez was magnificent on the night dropping deep, beating defenders one on one, dragging defenders out of position and the goal was class. Suarez frustrated Coloccini all night, which led to his sending off after a high challenge on the back of Suarez’ leg. Liverpool failed to nick a winner against 10 men Newcastle and will have to settle for another two points dropped in a game they should’ve won. Alan Pardew will be pleased with a point, as his men didn’t offer much going forward. Liverpool clearly needs a player who can put the ball in the net because an injury to Luis Suarez would be a massive blow. Despite controlling possession they still fail to create enough goal scoring opportunities and if this tiki-taka approach is for the future, Rodgers needs to find ways get goals from it, and FAST.
- Boos were heard around White Hart Lane as a Ben Watson winner gave Wigan a 1-0 victory over Spurs. AVB will not be a happy man suffering two straight home losses, but he’s not the only one that’s unhappy. Spurs fans and Jermaine Defoe let AVB know how they felt as Defoe stormed straight to the tunnel after being subbed off. With a November fixture list that include matches against Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, it’s fair to say that AVB will be the subject of criticism if he fails to get results.
- Everton somehow failed to pick up all three points after a great performance that saw the Toffees dominate Fulham at Craven Cottage. Kevin Mirallas again was superb and a Marouane Fellaini brace seemed to be enough. Unfortunately, for the Toffees. Seamus Coleman failed to pick up Steve Sidwell who equalized at the death courtesy of a Sascha Riether cross. David Moyes will be upset that his side conceded late, but also with their finishing in front of goal (cough cough Nikita Jelavic).
- Bradley Johnson’s goal just before half time gave Norwich a 1-0 victory against Stoke City. The Canaries are now unbeaten in their last 4 matches in all competitions. Chris Hughton’s men are now 5 points clear of the relegation zone after a rough start to their campaign.
- A second half Gabriel Agbonlahor strike gave Aston Villa their second win of the season against Sunderland. Villa was worthy winners on the day, and the midfield duo of Barry Bannan & Ashley Westwood took advantage of the space awarded to them. This allowed Villa to dominate possession and dictate the tempo of the game.
- It was another poor performance from the Black Cats who were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by npower Championship side Middlesborough midweek. They’ve only won one game this season against Wigan, and they’re struggling to score goals as teams are easily isolating Steven Fletcher. Martin O’Neil is walking a tightrope and his fate might be sealed soon if results don’t change.
- RVP (3′) equaled the fastest goal ever in this fixture in PL era – Dwight Yorke in 2001.
- Wayne Rooney has now missed 7 of his 20 PL penalties. NOT GOOD ENOUGH
- Robin van Persie has now scored against ALL current PL clubs. Only one other player has done this – Yakubu
- Tottenham suffered back-to-back PL home defeats for the first time since May to September 2008, when they lost three in a row.
- Kaspar Gorkss became the second Latvian to score in the PL after Pahars, who scored 42 for Southampton between 1999-2004.
- Steven Gerrard plays his 600th match for Liverpool, becoming the 10th player to reach this milestone for the Reds.
- Liverpool will end 2012 with their lowest amount of PL wins at Anfield in a calendar year (now 3). Even if they win all four of remaining PL home matches.
- Gabby Agbonlahor ended a run of 28 PL matches without a goal, netting his first since Villa 3-2 home win vs Norwich on Nov 5, 2011
Top 5 Players of the weekend
- Luis Suarez
- Wayne Rooney
- Kevin Mirallas
- Marouane Fellaini
- Alex McCarthy
Goal of the week
That was this weekends EPL recap. Stay posted to my blog for stories throughout the week.
Follow Me @TEEWHYox