Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Things We Learned From Wayne Rooney vs. Kun Aguero and EPL Week 4

Manchester United and Manchester City dominated proceedings once again as the two sides continued their own private "anything you can do..." battle as both Wayne Rooney and Kun Aguero scored hat-tricks for their respective teams.

Liverpool traveled to Stoke for what many regarded as Kenny Dalglish's first real test of the season, which says a lot about how Arsenal are now perceived.

Speaking of the Gunners, they entertained Swansea at the Emirates as their struggling North London neighbours, Tottenham Hotspur, took on Wolves at Molineaux with Harry Redknapp entrusting his future to Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker...

As with every Premier League weekend there was a multitude of talking points, so lets begin by going to the Emirates...

Arsenal 1-0 Swansea City

Having been trounced 8-2 by Manchester United in Week-3, the international football break really couldn't have come at a better time.

It gave the Frenchman a chance to bed in his three panic buys, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, and Yossi Benayoun.

Over the course of one transfer window "slamming-shut" evening, Wenger eventually managed to bring in the three aforementioned  players but only after failing with bids for Yoann Gourcouff, Mario Goetze, Yann M'Vila and, of course lest we forget, Gary Cahill.

Mertesaker has been available for transfer from Werder Bremen for the last three seasons while Arteta has always been there if Wenger was really that interested before. As for Benayoun? Who knows?

Anyway, as expected Arsenal were very very nervous and they never really managed to get their game going at all.

They managed to beat the manager-less Swans thanks to a freak mistake by Michael Vorm after the Dutchman threw the ball against the back of one of his defenders legs and into the path, of the otherwise distracted, Andrei Arshavin who passed home with ease.

From there the nervy Gunners had Wojeich Szczesny and the crossbar to thank as Swansea pushed for an equaliser.

As the weeks roll by the young Polish 'keeper seems to be growing towards his potential. However, it will be at least another three to four seasons before his experience, strength, stamina and concentration levels reach the levels expected of a top class 'keeper, and that is only if he keeps doing the right things.

In the end debutant Mikel Arteta, speaking to BBC Sport, probably summed the game up best;
"It was important to get the three points and we've done it. It was important to forget about what happened two weeks ago [the 8-2 defeat against Manchester United]."
 In other words: the result was more important than the performance as far as Arsenal was concerned.

Across to North London and up to the Black Country...

Wolves 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Make no mistake, this was a crucial result for Spurs and Harry Redknapp.

Last year Tottenham's season floundered against teams from the bottom half of the table where they only took six points from a possible 24.

While the defeats to Manchester United and Manchester City were probably expected the manner of them was not and the performances betrayed a Spurs squad who were bereft of confidence and any fight whatsoever.

With that in mind, Redknapp parachuted both Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor into the side and the difference was immediate.

Wolves can no longer be regarded as relegation candidates as Mick McCarthy has built a side who are experienced in all the wiles of the Premier League and they do not just roll over, perhaps unlike Spurs, because they are playing against heavyweight opposition.

The game was an open affair with numerous players impressing for either side. Kevin Doyle, fresh from his heroic exploits with Ireland was immense up front for Wolves while both Luka Modric and Parker seemed to enjoy playing with each other as their best games started to show for the first time this season.

In the end it was inevitable that Emmanuel Adebayor would score. The Togo international has scored on his debut for Manchester City, Arsenal and now Tottenham after he rounded the outstanding Wayne Hennessey after collecting Scott Parker's deft through ball.

Jermaine Defoe added a late second after the wind had been taken out of Wolves but perhaps the more important factor to note was that Spurs kept a clean sheet and their two strikers scored on the same day in a 4-4-2, all without the injured Rafael van der Vaart...

Stoke City 1-0 Liverpool

The Reds tasted defeat for the first time this season as they were beaten by Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.

This was always going to be a tight affair as the two busiest "transfer-window" managers went head to head.

Stoke is never an easy place to go to and that task has become even harder after Tony Pulis added numerous top class Premier League players to his squad during the window. Confidence is now at it's highest ever for Pulis' side and it says much about their constant growth that many expected them to turn Liverpool over.

The two sides were separated by a Johnathan Walters penalty after some dreadful defending by Jamie Carragher allowed the Irish international to get goal side of him in the penalty area. In the ensuing tussle referee Mark Clattenburg awarded the spot kick to Stoke after Carragher hauled the striker down.

Before the Potters took the lead the game was all Liverpool with Luis Suarez, once again, pulling the strings. The sheer speed of the Reds attacking play was impressive and they opened up Stoke on numerous occasions but failed to pull the trigger.

Perhaps, the key moment of the game for Liverpool came when Jordan Henderson broke from midfield and failed to beat Asmir Begovic with three quickfire shots after the 'keeper had saved his first efforts.

However the most worrying aspect of this phase of play was not Henderson's wayward shooting, it was his complete lack of vision as Luis Suarez was completely free on the left hand side of the box. The Paraguayan international would have had an open goal if the English U-21 had looked up.

It is in little moments like this that you can see the potential of players laid bare and from here it looks as if Henderson will never reach the heights hoped of him of Anfield unless he learns rapidly.

As it was, and this perhaps shows the self-inflicted pressure Kenny Dalglish is under, the Liverpool manager blamed the defeat on the referee showing disrespect to his team by awarding Stoke their penalty.

And while the old saying of "these things even out over a season" may be true, it was most definitely true for the 90 minutes at the Britannia where the referee could have given up to five penalties.

One for Skrtel hanging out of Shawcross at a corner, a possible hand ball against Delap in the Stoke box (the one with Upson would have been harsh in the extreme), one from Etherington on Skrtel after the Slovak had a rare shot at goal, and of course Carragher hauling Walters down.

In the end blaming the referee is just an excuse, Kenny Dalglish knows his team came up short and that they really should have won.

Manchester City 3-0 Wigan

The Sergio Aguero show continues to roll, and continues to get rave reviews after he scored a hat-trick to bring his goal tally to six goals in just three Premier League games. The little Argentinean was simply superb again and once again he was at the centre of everything that was good about Roberto Mancini's attacking side.

Yes, you read that right.

In the space of one summer, or more probably one signing, Manchester City have become what everyone always wanted the lavish spending side to be - entertaining.

Mancini's side were already the meanest team in the league with 18 clean sheets last season and this year the Italian has started putting the final pieces into play as the Citizens begin their assault on Europe and the hearts and minds of the football public.

Surprisingly Mancini started with a straight forward 4-4-2, although perhaps when you consider the opposition it wasn't surprising at all.

Tevez, who had a penalty well saved by Al Habsi, joined Aguero up front in a fantasy football front two while, this season's big Fantasy Football points earner, Edin Dzeko who scored a four last week was left on the bench.

The incredible work rate by their two strikers combined with their undoubted talent set City up perfectly for the game and once they scored early it was a case of damage limitation for Roberto Martinez's relegation candidates.

Bolton 0-5 Manchester United

Kicking off with the evening kick off Manchester United knew that they needed a victory to put them back level on points at the top with Manchester City and that only a win of four goals or more would give them outright leadership.

Just as was the case in the last weekend, United set about trying to win two battles. One was against their opposition and the other was against City.

Poor old Bolton just never knew what hit them and were 3-0 down after just 25 minutes as a Hernandez strike and a Rooney double put them in control.

In past years with the game dead and buried Alex Ferguson may have been tempted to make some early substitutions, especially as much of his team played over the international break, but knowing that momentum in the league is important he instructed his team to be even more ruthless.

They added two more goals, a second from Hernandez who tellingly played his first 90 minutes of the season before Rooney put the icing on the cake with a hat-trick.

As it currently stands Rooney is playing like the complete striker. He has everything you could want in a player, an incredible work rate, superb technique, magnificent vision, with strength and stamina to match. However, and like all great players, his greatest asset is his ability to make his team mates look brilliant.

Elsewhere on Saturday...

Daniel Sturridge was given a first start to the season as Fernando Torres found himself dumped the bench. Which was hardly surprising given he has only scored two goals from 22 games.

The ex-Manchester City striker helped Chelsea to a 2-1 win over a dreadful Sunderland side who already look like they're in all kinds of trouble. His goal was improvised brilliance as he back flicked the ball into the bottom corner after running onto a through ball. He could have a great future at the club unlike Fernando Torres.

Everton were unlucky not to take all three points against a very lucky Aston Villa side as Richard Dunne brought his incredible international form to the Premiership.

David Moye's team, using a patented 4-6-0 formation, played all the best football and were denied by a late Agbonlahor strike.

The Scot's standing in the game is unquestionable and he is arguably one of the best managers in the league if not the best. Given the protests at chairman Bill Kenwright before the match, the potential sale of their top players and the complete lack of future finance at the club, the Toffees will do well to hold onto him going into next season.

On to Sunday...

Peter Odemwengie scored after just minutes and then missed a penalty as Roy Hodgson's West Brom claimed their first win the season with a 1-0 over Norwich City at Carrow Road.

The Baggies were just too Premiership savvy as they bossed the game and they really should finish the season comfortably this year.

As Euro 2012 edges closer and with it the England managers job when Fabio Capello's contract ends, Roy Hodgson will be more than keen to challenge Harry Redknapp for the job as their country's number one.

Tony Soprano handed a debut to Bryan Ruiz as Fulham entertained Blackburn at the nicest stadium in the world, Craven Cottage.However, on this evidence the Costa Rican centre forward has a steep learning curve ahead of him as far as the EPL is concerned.

With his side beginning to get on top he dawdled on the ball and allowed Rovers to break quickly. The ball eventually ended up at the feet of Ruben Rochina who fired home an absolute rocket of shot to relieve some of the mounting pressure from Steve Kean.

The Cottagers hit back almost immediately through Bobby Zamora after some poor defending by Gael Givet.

As with all things, you make your own luck in this game and Blackburn can only have themselves to blame for another three points missed, despite a very strong late penalty claim.

When you're under pressure as Steve Kean is, the God's don't smile on you.

10 Things We Learned From EPL Week 4:

1) Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better...Does that make Wayne Rooney Betty Hutton?

2) Liverpool's great start to the season depends upon them beating Spurs next week and what has bloody ear-flicking got to do with morale?

3) Roberto Mancini is growing into being an outstanding manager after he demanded improvement from his high flying team.

4) Wayne Rooney is only the fourth player to score a consecutive hat-trick in the Premier League after Les Ferdinand, Ian Wright and Didier Drogba.

5) Javier Hernandez's movement for his first goal was world class and made a very good defender in Tim Cahill look very ordinary indeed.

6) Was Michael Vorm auditioning for a job at Arsenal?

7) Arnold Schwarzenegger was coming out of retirement for the next Terminator film when he met Richard Dunne he said "ah no, its already done!" Thanks to the best Twitter trend in months, step aside Chuck Norris.

8) Emmanuel Adebayor has scored on his debut for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Spurs (but only if you count his home debut for Real) and if he hits the ground running Redknapp's side could finish as high as third.

9) Sergio Aguero isn't half bad.

10) What in God's name was going through Asamoah Gyan's mind when he left Sunderland for the UAE?