We have just had, yet another great weekend of Premier League action with twenty-eight goals in nine games. West Ham and Arsenal won to kick start their seasons and Manchester United scored two late goals to win at Southampton. Those three points could prove to be huge come the end of the season. The pressure is building on Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, after another defeat and Fulham and Tottenham fans will be beginning to get a little worried at how things are going.
Just as teams are beginning to get into their season we are heading for an international break. Different sides will have different emotions about the break. Some will see it as a chance to start again and others will be annoyed as it could cost them momentum. I’m not a big fan of international breaks but that’s a story for another day so I’ll go straight into the weekend’s reviews.
West Ham 3-0 Fulham
West Ham got back to winning ways with a first half demolition of London rivals, Fulham. The Hammers made the perfect start, catching Fulham asleep in the opening moments. Nobody tracked Kevin Nolan’s run and he was able to open the scoring. The Fulham defence didn’t get much better. West Ham got a corner and Kevin Nolan stood on the line in front of Mark Schwarzer and John Arne Riise. Once the corner was taken, Schwarzer ran into no mans land and Winston Reid headed the ball right into the space he had vacated. Schwarzer had allowed himself to get preoccupied with Nolan and it cost his team a goal. West Ham’s third goal was another defensive error. A ball into the box was headed down by a Fulham defender, right into the path of Matt Taylor who found the corner. West Ham were much better than last week and Andy Carroll had a great debut. He had to go off injured but Hammers fans will be hoping the injury isn’t too serious. West Ham will need him to lead the line in their attack as, Kevin Nolan aside, they haven’t got a lot of aerial threats. For Fulham, it’s a case of, back to the drawing board. Their midfield has been weakened in the transfer window and they will need to up their game or their season will become a struggle.
Swansea 2-2 Sunderland
Swansea’s winning run came to an end with a 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland. Swansea gifted Steven Fletcher a debut goal when Ashley Williams attempted a pass back and gave the ball to Fletcher who finished well to put Sunderland ahead. In stoppage time at the end of the first half, Wayne Routledge levelled the score, finishing off a great pass from Nathan Dyer, after a smart Swansea move. The scores weren’t tied for long and Steven Fletcher, put Sunderland ahead again. The Swansea defence switched off from a free-kick and let Fletcher tap in at the back post. Swansea levelled in the second half through a Michu header. Michu is looking like becoming the buy of the summer. Swansea finished the game with ten men, when Chico was sent off for a bizarre challenge. He made what can only be described as a flying kick at the ball, which was at head height and made contact with Louis Saha. It was a rash challenge but I’m not convinced it was a red card. Chico had already been involved in controversy earlier in the game. He had made a challenge on James McClean that enraged the Sunderland players and management. My own thoughts on that challenge were, Chico did get the ball but also got the man. If he hadn’t already made that tackle, I am not convinced the referee would have sent him off. Both teams can take positives into the international break. They are both undefeated and Swansea in particular will be delighted with seven points from their opening three games. On the down side for the Swans it has been announced that Neil Taylor will be out for the season after fracturing his ankle in a challenge on Craig Gardner.
Tottenham 1-1 Norwich City
Spurs manager, Andre Villas-Boas is still waiting for his first win in charge after his side conceded yet another late equaliser. Norwich started the game well and missed a few good chances in the first half. Robert Snodgrass had a header which Brad Friedel done well to save but the American should never have got the opportunity to make the save as Snodgrass put the header too close to him. Spurs brought on new signing, Mousa Dembele, at half-time and he marked his debut by scoring the opening goal. He received the ball on the edge of the box and flicked it to the side before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the bottom corner. However, Spurs couldn’t hang on and Robert Snodgrass marked a fine display with the equalising goal. Snodgrass netted with a fine, left footed, half volley. There was still enough time for some controversy. Tom Huddlestone received an absolutely ridiculous red card. The ball fell between him and Jonny Howson and both players slid in. Huddlestone made contact with the ball and then the two players collided. Naturally, Howson came off worse but there was absolutely no reason for the referee to send Huddlestone off for what was a 50-50 challenge.
West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Everton
West Brom kept up their good start to the season with a 2-0 win over Everton. West Brom are now sitting on seven points from their three games against Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton. Steve Clarke couldn’t have dreamt of such a good start. Shane Long and Gareth McAuley were the goal scorers on Saturday. Long finished well after a good cross from Peter Odemwingie. McAuley sealed the three points when he got away from Marouane Fellaini at a corner and reached the ball just before Tim Howard to head into the empty net. Everton won’t be happy, especially as they missed a few chances and Fellaini in particular should have done better. They have had a good start though and manager, David Moyes, won’t be too downhearted.
Wigan Athletic 2-2 Stoke City
A decent game between two teams who will, primarily, want to avoid a relegation battle. Shaun Maloney and Jonathan Walters both scored first half penalties, which could have been considered harshly awarded. Wigan took the lead in the second half through Franco Di Santo but Stoke goalkeeper, Asmir Begovic, should have done better in the build up. He was standing at the edge of his penalty area and the ball broke into the path of Wigan's, Arouna Kone. Begovic back tracked into his net but the ball was getting away from Kone and he only made his first touch when he got to about five yards away from were Begovic was standing when the ball was played. The goalkeeper would have easily got to the ball if he had come out. Instead he backed off and Kone ran into the box before skilfully setting up Di Santo. Wigan were unable to hold onto their lead and Stoke equalised when Peter Crouch scored a close range header with 13 minutes left. There were no further goals and both teams had to make down with the point.
Manchester City 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
Manchester City came out on top in the battle of the big spenders with a 3-1 victory. It wasn’t all plain sailing though and QPR did give the defending champions a bit of a fright. City took the lead when Yaya Toure finished well after a scramble in the QPR box. QPR levelled after half-time, when Joe hart could only parry a shot from Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora headed into the empty goal. It didn’t last long however and Carlos Tevez sent in a great cross for Edin Dzeko to head home from close range. Tevez sealed the win late on, deflecting a Dzeko shot into the net. At 2-1 QPR had a few chances and Ryan Nelsen had two great opportunities. City don’t look convincing at the back and Joleon Lescott looks out of his depth. For the equalising goal he stopped once Hart made the save and started waving an arm at the linesman. He probably wouldn’t have got there before Zamora but he didn’t even attempt to put pressure on him. He was also at fault for the second of Nelsen’s chances. He took a wild swing at the ball but his timing was so poor, he missed completely and can consider himself lucky not to have scored an own goal. I don’t think he’s good enough and City will need to replace him if they want to retain their title.
Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal
Arsenal picked up their first win of the season, with a comfortable and well earned win at Anfield. Arsenal have still not conceded a goal in the Premier League, which is a far cry from their usual, we'll score one more than they will approach. Mikel Arteta was superb in a deep lying midfield role and was as good defensively, as he was on the ball. Podolski and Cazorla are combining well and linked up for both the goals. Cazorla played in Podolski for the opener and the German returned the favour for the second. Cazorla did benefit from yet another error from Pepe Reina but the move deserved a goal. If Cazorla and Podolski continue to develop their partnership then Arsenal could do well. They could do with a little more help from French striker, Olivier Giroud, who had yet another day to forget. It's still early days but the more I see of Giroud, the less I think of him. It's not only his finishing that is letting him down, his first touch is also nowhere near the level required of a Premier League striker. Time will tell but the early signs haven't been impressive. For Liverpool, the pressure is increasing on manager, Brendan Rodgers. He still hasn't picked up a league win and Liverpool have only one point to show for their opening three games. The fixtures were always going to be tough but the performance will hurt Rodgers more than anything else. Rodgers has introduced a new style of play and most of his players are sticking to it but his captain, Steven Gerrard is really letting him down at the moment. Every other player is playing the game the right way, looking for an open man but when the ball comes to Gerrard he is looking for that “Hollywood” pass and continuously hoofs the ball up the pitch. It is absolutely killing Liverpool and Rodgers has a big decision to make. If he keeps Gerrard in the team, the system is pointless but if he drops him then the fans and most likely, the dressing room will turn against him. Another thing that isn't working is Luis Suarez in the middle of the attack. Suarez is at his most dangerous with the play ahead of him. He is currently playing as a number 9 and has his back to goal. He is simply not that kind of player. Rodgers needs results to pick up quickly and the fixtures aren't getting any easier with a trip to Sunderland and then Manchester United at home.
Newcastle United 1-1 Aston Villa
Aston Villa finally put in a decent display under new manager, Paul Lambert and got a well deserved draw at Newcastle. Ciaran Clark gave them a first half lead when he found himself in acres of space to head home a fine cross from Barry Bannon. Both sides had plenty of chances in an end to end but it was Newcastle's, Hatem Ben Arfa who got the equaliser and what a goal it was. Ben Arfa received the ball on the corner of the box and the defender showed him onto his right foot. Ben Arfa responded by hitting an unstoppable drive into the top corner. The teams got a point each from a lively and entertaining game but both will feel they could have won. In the end, a draw was probably a fair result.
Southampton 2-3 Manchester United
How unlucky are Southampton? They have been 2-1 up against Manchester City and Manchester United but on both occasions lost 3-2. There have been a lot of positives in those two games but the league table shows zero points from three games. Obviously the fixtures have been tough on the Saints but the pressure is now building and the longer it takes them to get that first win, the more difficult their situation becomes. Rickie Lambert gave them the lead early on, when he found himself up against Rafael at the back post. Lambert out muscled the United man and headed home. It didn’t take United long to level and Robin Van Persie was the man with the goal. He controlled and half volleyed a cross from Antonio Valencia, into the back of the net. Southampton took the lead again, early in the second half. Morgan Schneiderlin took advantage of a Patrice Evra slip in the box to head the Saints into a 2-1 lead. United were handed a lifeline when Jos Hooiveld fouled Van Persie inside the box. Van Persie stepped up to take the penalty but tried to be clever and Saints keeper, Kelvin Davis was able to turn his weak effort around the post. It looked as though Southampton were going to hold on but with just three minutes left, United were level. Rio Ferdinand’s header rebounded off the post straight into the path of Van Persie who finished from close range. United weren’t done there however. United won a corner in stoppage time and Van Persie got away from his marker at the near post and headed in for his hat-trick. It was a huge victory for United. They didn’t play at all well but they still managed to get the three points. Defensively they are struggling and it is unlike them to have conceded five goals in three games. Luckily for them they are scoring goals but Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking for more from his defenders.
Goal of the Week
3) Wayne Routledge – A superb move from Swansea and well finished by Routledge.
2) Mousa Dembele – That’s how to mark your debut. The flick to set up the shot was sublime and the shot was every bit as good.
1) Hatem Ben Arfa – There’s just not enough words to describe how good that goal was. It’ll take some beating in Goal of the Season, never mind Goal of the Week. Fantastic strike.
Man of the Week
Robin Van Persie – Who else could it have been? United were terrible but their star striker pulled them out of a deep hole with a hat-trick. I’m not a United fan and was feeling a bit smug that they were losing and he had missed a penalty. RVP’s two goals took the smile right off my face. I have to give credit when it’s due and those goals could end up being a huge factor at the end of the season. £24m wouldn’t be a huge price to pay if Van Persie’s goals, lead United to the Premier League title.
Moan of the Week
I’m turning into Alan Hansen. When I’m watching football these days, I find myself not appreciating the goals and skills but instead, I’m trying to find someone to blame for what teams are doing wrong. It’s a dark and unhappy place but hopefully someone will come up with a good enough performance to snap me out of it.
The predictions were not good this week. No correct scores and I only got three results right. I had Manchester City and Manchester United to win and Swansea to draw. The other six games, I was completely wrong. At least there’s room for improvement.