The third weekend of top flight football action threw up some well-established Premier League stories; namely Man United recovering from a deficit to win in Fergie time, Liverpool drawing a humiliating blank at home and Spurs managing only a disappointing draw at White Hart Lane. Here are some vaguely coherent ramblings on the games at hand:
Southampton 2-3 Man United:
This was no vintage United performance, but it was a classic United performance; meaning they didn’t deserve the win but managed to somehow steal it at the death, which is the stuff of champions, meaning they did deserve it. Follow? Good. Basically, two full-backs slipped over to allow goals from Lambert and Van Persie in a first half largely dominated by United, although the Reds lacked any real incision. Southampton then asserted themselves in the second half, scoring another well worked headed goal from Schneiderlin. Van Persie then took over proceedings with the help of the evergreen/everginger substitute saviour Paul Scholes. First the Dutchman drew a penalty from a very clumsy Hooiveld challenge, but embarrassed himself, his family and everyone he had ever tweeted by allowing his ego to overcome his decision making in screwing up a dainty chip, saved easily by Davies. How could he ever be forgiven? Well, he could be forgiven by scoring a hat-trick and winning the tie for United, which is exactly what he did. Not bad, but Rooney did manage a hat-trick on his debut for United, so he was a little behind schedule.
Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa:
Like many of us during the double dip recession, Paul Lambert is having to manage an increasingly shrinking budget, and Villa’s starting line-up reveals this fact quite starkly (a back five of Guzan, Vlaar, Clark and Lowton, for instance). Lambert’s side did present a serious challenge to the Magpies on Sunday though, particularly in the first half. Ciaran Clark – emerging as a Villa favourite in the mould of Newcastle’s Steven Taylor – scored the opener with a powerful header in the 22nd minute. Villa’s lead, though, was blown away by a ferocious 25-yard strike from Ben Arfa on the hour mark. The goal actually made me jolt to my feet, and it wasn’t even live, so either it was an absolute corker or I had drunk far too much coffee by the time Match of the Day 2 started.
Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal:
The Gunners have now gone three games without conceding a single goal, which is either a huge complement to Steve Bould’s abilities as a defensive coach, or… nope, that’s pretty much the only option. Liverpool did help Arsenal’s cause by continuing to pose very little trouble for even the rarely seen Arsenal back-up keeper Vito Mannone, but the back four did look far more like, well, a back four, as opposed to four players randomly distributed across the pitch. Carzola sparked the Gunners’ engine into gear and other nonsensical mechanical metaphors, creating the first for Podolski and scoring the second. It’s my hunch that Brendan Rodgers is no fan of Steven Gerrard, who plays a very direct, often careless style of football that contradicts his intended overarching strategy, but such is Gerrard’s Kop stature that he’s pretty much immovable as team captain.
Man City 3-1 QPR:
Having purchased £38million worth of footballing goods on the last day of the transfer window, City have buttressed their already heavily fortified squad ready for a season pursuing victory in the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup (in that order)- and there’s every chance they’ll accidentally win the League Cup (now named the Capital One Trophy). The first half was all City, and the goal inevitably came from Yaya Toure after a loose corner clearance. London Rangers then got all excited when Zamora nodded in after Hart saved but, alas, City reacted swiftly and the forgotten £27m Serbian striker Dzeko pounced to regain the lead. Tevez also decided to score in the last minute, rounding off a relatively simple day for City.
West Ham 3-0 Fulham:
Well, Mr Allardyce has finally found his new Kevin Davies; someone to lazily aim long balls towards, someone to put the hope (and maybe balls) back into hopeful balls. He carried out his duty admirably in his first game for the Hammers (ok, so nothing Andy Carroll does could ever be described as ‘admirable’, but ‘effective’ at least), before limping off injured after 68 minutes. Nolan, Reid and Taylor scored the goals to sink Fulham’s efforts, whose only real cause for celebration came from the introduction of silky sloth Dimitar Berbatov.
Swansea 2-2 Sunderland:
So apparently Steven Fletcher was an excellent signing at £14million. I have a feeling that this current consensus is more reactionary than rational but he certainly played very well on Saturday, finishing deftly for his first and stealing in at the far post for his second. Having shown tremendous fluidity in possession during their opening two matches, Swansea displayed another vital quality against the Black Cats: the ability not to concede after a new, overzealous defender gets sent off. Goals from Swansea (playing in the incorrectly named English Premier League) came from new signing Michu, who scored another great goal, and Routledge, whose performance levels under Laudruap make him… wait for it… ‘as good as a new signing’.
Tottenham 1-1 Norwich:
Style took on substance and even with home advantage, style only managed a draw. Having trimmed Spurs’ squad to his requirements in order to suit his high-pressing, quick-passing strategy, Villas-Boas now has a platform to build on without any excuses to fall back on should he fail to bring success at Spurs. His style of play is so alien to most Premier League players that they will naturally take time to develop into a cohesive, purposeful unit, but still this was a disappointing result. New recruit Dembele scored a beauty on his debut and Spurs looked destined for a much needed maiden victory of the season, but Norwich new boy Snodgrass rewarded Hughton’s team’s hard work by equalising near the end. Tom Huddlestone also celebrated his first appearance in over a year by getting sent off in the final minute of the game (lasting a full nine minutes having come on a substitute).
Wigan 2-2 Stoke:
The glamour tie of the weekend produced two fittingly glamorous penalties in the first half, converted by Maloney and Walters for Wigan and Stoke respectively. Di Santo continued his rich vein of form, finishing emphatically to draw the Latics ahead, before Crouch levelled things up. My current favourite Premier League keeper, Ali Al Habsi, produced the moment of the match by making a great save, requiring a rapid re-adjustment from a deflected Charlie Adam free kick.
West Brom 2-0 Everton:
After Everton had made such an uncharacteristically strong start to the season, they came up against their most organised opposition yet. Steve Clarke really does seem to have the makings of a top manager for decades to come; he has it all: he’s Scottish, he’s dour, he’s Scottish. Working with a set of players in the relegation zone of the ego league has surely helped Clarke to further reinforce an already cohesive squad. Long and McAuley scored for the Baggies to leave them on seven points, and very much in the running for Champions League football next season. Don’t laugh. Steve Clarke certainly isn’t.
One other thing: Fabio is running a 10k to raise money for CALM. What a hero. To donate click HERE