Monday, September 21, 2009

EPL Review: Hughes Cries Over Spilt Milk, Liverpool... and Chelsea Hammer Spurs

This weekend's EPL action saw the "big four" all win while the two pretenders to their dominance were both beaten. Aston Villa moved back to where everyone thought they would be, and Blackburn moved to where everyone hopes they will stay.

The first big derby of the season produced a classic in forward play and a nightmare in defensive play as Manchester United beat Manchester City 4-3 with Michael Owen popping up in the sixth minute of injury time to claim the winner after Micah Richards went walkabout instead of staying with his man...

Mark Hughes cried foul, as the fourth official had originally stated that the game would only have four minutes of injury time, one minute before City equalized in the last minute, incidentally, the celebration lasted for one minute.

Besides, the injury time played is a) at the referee's discretion and b) there for both teams. I wonder if Hughes would give the goal back if it was City who had scored?

For sheer entertainment the game was a pleasure to watch, a real seven goal cracker.

Defensively it was a disaster.

Shay Given made one of the worst mistakes of his career for Fletcher’s first, Rio Ferdinand had an absolute howler and was the direct cause of two of City’s goals.

While Sir Alex Ferguson will be putting Edwin van der Sar into some kind of rehabilitation tank to get him back playing as quick as possible, lets just say that Ben Foster will not be Capello’s first choice in South Africa.

Funny thing though, City's owners offered each player a special £9,000 bonus if they beat United at Old Trafford. And City's players have so far made £459,000 in bonuses since the start of the season...for four games work.

One worrying thing for Manchester City fans is that Sheikh Mansour's main aim is to put Abu Dhabi on the world map, not Manchester City.

Emmanuel Adebayor's acts of stupidity and selfishness last week came back to haunt his club in a horrible way.

His team really missed the focal point that he gives, and on his day he can be as good as Drogba. His three match ban is well deserved, and the FA will be well within their rights to add to the ban after he pre-meditated celebration.

With United winning and putting early pressure on Carlo Ancelotti’s team, they went about their business with aplomb and breezed past Spurs 3-0.

Tottenham have not won away against a big-four team since 1993, and have not beaten Chelsea in 34 attempts in league action at Stamford Bridge. On this evidence that record won’t end soon.

Luka Modric is badly missed, but Spurs have far too many average players to even worry the top four. Spurs are much improved this season, but are just not improved enough to challenge any of the top four.

Saying that, Carlo Ancelotti took Spurs so seriously that every training session this week was directly aimed at how to counteract Spurs' threats. It was Chelsea's and Ancelotti's first test, and they passed it with flying colours.

Peter Kenyon's removal from his Chief Executive position at Chelsea comes as no surprise, Eugene Tenenbaum is not a fan of the ex-United executive and he has been living on borrowed time since Scolari's sacking.

There is a mass of in-fighting and back biting in the corridors of power at Chelsea that could threaten to derail all of the teams good work.

The team effectively runs itself and is doing it's best to stay out of the politics at the club, but John Terry remains one of the most powerful figures at the club, and has forced contracts through for some of his team-mates.

Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti has avoided making any friends and as a result any enemies at the club, and is wisely sticking to coaching football.

Arsenal beat Wigan easily 4-0, but in truth the game was over before the teams left their dressing rooms. Roberto Martinez’s curious decision to play one up front to try and stagnate Arsenal’s play while refusing to tackle them backfired dramatically.

Despite the ease of the win, Arsenal are still ropey. They lack character and presence and Wigan were the exact team that the Gunners needed to face this week.

Everton got their season well and truly up and running with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Blackburn who lost their seventh away game in a row to slip into the bottom three.

Blackburn will be poor on their travels this year, the whole team is very one paced and they have little threat up front so Big Sam will look to maximise their strength at home against the smaller teams, they play awful football though and deserve to be in the relegation mix.

The Europa League positions are beginning to take a familiar look about them as Aston Villa moved into fifth place after a well deserved 2-0 win over poor old Pompey, my heart goes out to Paul Hart who has seen his team ripped to shreds by board after board, the newest owner likes wearing football jersey's with his name on the back, he reminds me of someone...

The win gives Villa 12pts from five games and is the clubs best start to a season since 1997.

The secret to Villa’s revival?

A complete new back four. Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock, and James Collins have significantly strengthened Martin O’Neill’s team, and they will definitely push City and Spurs for the last spots for Europe.

Mick McCarthy got his first Premiership home win in three seasons as Wolves cantered past Fulham 2-1 thanks to goals from Kevin Doyle and Paul Edwards.

Fulham are struggling to re-produce the kind of form that saw them qualify for Europe last season, they are conceding far too many chances while Bobby Zamora, never a prolific striker, is failing to hit the target never mind hit the back of the net. Ironically Roy Hodgson tried to sign Kevin Doyle last summer.

Bolton and Stoke played out a 1-1 draw, at half-time the score was 0-0 and Gary Megson’s team were soundly booed off the pitch. As far as Bolton’s fans are concerned Megson has to go.

Burnley took all three points against Sunderland with a great 3-1 win, David Nugent, on loan from Portsmouth, got two on his debut, the Clarets travel to White Hart Lane next week to take on a Spurs team who need the win badly to re-invigorate their early season form.

Actually, Owen Coyle deserves much praise for the way Burnley go about their business, and at this early stage have a 100 percent record at home.

A real relegation six-pointer at the KC Stadium saw Hull lose 1-0 to Birmingham. This loss was disastrous to Phil Brown’s chances of keeping Hull in the league, and on early form they look doomed…

Liverpool’s forward line rescued their defence with a much needed 3-2 win over West Ham at Upton Park. Winning the league looks a bridge too far for Rafael Benitez this season, but they could go far in the Champions League.

Saying that, Liverpool sit comfortably in third...

So far this season Liverpool look a shadow of the team from the tail end of last season. From March until May Liverpool were at their brilliant best, but they are struggling to reach any kind of form this year.

With two new full backs in the team who push forward, the likes of Carragher and Skrtel are being left isolated and are making mistakes, while going forward the team have yet to hit the kind of form they are capable of.

They obviously miss Alonso's influence and Lucas is nowhere near the same calibre of player, but rather than lay Liverpool's poor form at his feet alone, it is a collection a number of faults.

One being their over-reliance on Gerrard and Torres.

Another being low confidence, and another loss so early in the season could have bad ramifications for Rafa who is obviously being left out in the cold by the board. Only giving him a couple of million to spend and then announcing an £80m deal with a sponsor when the transfer window closes…you do the math…

10 Statements after Game-Day Six.

1) Spurs’ results against United and Chelsea are as expected, they’re short of top four material.

2) Chelsea are still a machine. Only one other team has won six in a row since the start of an EPL season. Chelsea in 2004, who went on to win the league.

3) There comes a time in every affair when you have to ask the question, “Should we stay together?” Spurs are at that stage with Ledley King, sad as it sounds.

4) Liverpool are not playing well, but they should hammer Hull next week…but do their players trust Rafa?

5) Confidence is very low at Arsenal despite an easy win over Wigan, on early evidence they will win nothing this year and Wenger will come under pressure...

6) Michael Owen has paid some of the favour back to Fergie.

7) Rio Ferdinand has had two nightmares in two games since his comeback. And it's Vidic who makes him, rather than the other way around.

8) Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney are virtually unstoppable at the moment.

9) Dive or don’t dive…Was Robbie Keane too honest? And more importantly, does he have a future at Spurs?

10) Is it right for managers to condone their own players cheating?

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