Monday, September 19, 2011

The Premiership Weekend - What did we learn?

There was much to be gleaned from a highly entertaining weekend in the Premiership, lets start with the events at Old Trafford.

Despite riding their luck to a large degree in a match that could have finished 5-5, ManYoo proved beyond all doubt that they remain the yardstick this season by dispatching Chelsea 3-1. Ferguson looks to have bought extremely well this Summer with even the much maligned De Gea enjoying a good performance. Once Vidic is fit again the backline will tighten up and they look a formidable outfit. Wayne Rooney has clearly been reinvigorated by the new arrivals and they have attacking options to burn.

Chelsea are what we already knew, one or two players short of a title challenging side. Mata has made a difference but too many of the old guard remain. Torres, that shocking miss aside looked back to his absolute best with great movement and a well taken goal. Chelsea should at least take heart from that and also from the bold attacking conviction that AVB showed in his tactics. On another day it could have been a different result but they remain off the pace and Lampard may have reached a nadir in his career in being substituted at half time, he is no longer the fulcrum of the team it would appear.

City probably should have beaten Fulham but they didn't by blowing a two goal league with fatigue or lack of focus after the Champions League potentially a factor. City face five more away fixtures after their remaining CL group stage fixtures and Mancini will have to find a way to navigate those more effectively. City can and probably will push ManYoo hard for the title but it appears that they are still learning at this level and this season may prove one year too early.

The race for fourth place is wide open with Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool all harbouring realistic hopes to finish in a Champions League spot. Spurs' new additions of Adebayor and in particular the economical and excellent Scott Parker have jump started their season and helped to reintegrate the previously unhappy Luka Modric who scored a fantastic goal yesterday and played with a smile on his face again.

It is easy to be too harsh on Liverpool as they were down to nine men but there is certainly the first suggestions emerging of a false dawn at Anfield. Back to back away defeats to Stoke and Spurs have killed the early season momentum and unlike Ferguson, Dalglish's transfers have not had the same impact. Carroll is yet to score in the Premiership this season, Adam got himself sent off and Jordan Henderson is of questionable ability to put it mildly. Jamie Carragher also has to be careful that he doesn't morph from begin a club legend to a liability during the twilight of his career, his alarming lack of mobility is becoming highly problematic. Liverpool have made progress under Dalglish but they are still a long way short of a regular Champions League berth.

For Arsenal it is difficult to be harsh enough as they again showed an entire lack of character, quality and belief to blow a lead at Ewood Park against a poor Blackburn team. Arsenal are already playing like a side that know they have little to play for this season as the Premiership and the Champions League trophies are so far out of their reach. Wenger seems to have few ideas as to how to arrest the slide and they would appear to be facing a long hard season of trying to hold on to fourth place.

Wenger's overall demeanor is also proving unhelpful towards the team as his public distress and level of despair is so obviously apparent to all. The players, fans and board have always placed absolute trust in him and to see him utterly ruinous could start to incubate panic. One must wonder whether another month of this type of result and performance might see him walk away from the club.

Blackburn's victory will have earned Steve Kean at least a temporary reprieve and so was the case for Steve Bruce who enjoyed a thumping 4-0 home victory against high flying Stoke, you always know it is going to be your day when Titus Bramble gets an early goal for you - and even manages it at the correct end of the pitch.

Saturday was the day of the new boys with Norwich, Swansea and QPR all enjoying fine wins. Swansea having previously failed to score this season helped themselves to three against Hodgsons' much fancied West Brom. Norwich enjoyed a surprise win at the Reebok where Bolton usually provide stiff opposition. QPR however probably earned the biggest plaudits with a fine 3-0 away win at Wolves. They in particular look to have benefited from deadline day transfers and they will be aiming to move up the table from here. In Barton and Wright Phillips they have two proven quality Premiership players who will provide points for them this season.

Newcastle proved once again how hard they have become to beat with a point at Villa Park with Agbonhalor showing again why he should be in everyone's fantasy team until November at least. Everton meanwhile secured a much needed three points against the relegation fodder that is Wigan.

The title looks very much a Mancunian two horse race, Chelsea should have a relatively dull journey into third place whilst the two North London clubs and Liverpool fight it out for fourth. At the bottom, Wigan, Norwich, Swansea, Blackburn and possibly Wolves face a long hard season whilst the rest fight it out for mid table mediocrity although with mediocre being the key word, there is always the potential for one or more of those teams to drop into the relegation battle - No Nonsense.