Monday, October 29, 2007

What We Learned This Weekend

There were goals galore in the Premiership this weekend and after 11 games (for some teams), things are finally starting to become clear as we're roughly a quarter of the way into the season. The title chase will once again be a four-horse race with Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal out in front right now and the relegation battle may not be much of a battle at all with Derby County, Bolton, Wigan, and Middlesbrough playing so poorly. Here it is then, four observations from the weekend:

1. Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez are the most lethal striking duo in the Premiership, if not Europe. After Rooney scored twice (and just missed a hat trick) against Aston Villa with the help of Tevez, it was the Argentine's turn to bag a brace this weekend against Middlesbrough in a 4-1 victory. Whoever said these two can't play together because they're the same type of "in the hole" player is dead wrong. The interplay between them is incredible, both players have a very strong work rate, but most importantly, these are two of the most clinical finishers out there right now. Rooney's backheel pass to Tevez, who then scored, was the number 1 play of the day on SportsCenter Saturday night, and if SportsCenter can make you number 1 on a day filled with college football, it shows just how much class and skill these two players have. Rooney has now scored 4 goals in 6 Premiership matches while Tevez has 4 in 10, though some of those games came without Rooney alongside him.

2. Chelsea are back and better than ever/Manchester City isn't for real. Chelsea's 6-0 thrashing of Man City was a showcase of attacking soccer from the West London club and an absolute embarrassment for the second team in Manchester. Micah Richards has all the tools and potential to be England's best defender ever but he looked miserable this weekend, caught out multiple times which led to Chelsea goals. Joe Hart was beaten through the legs on 3 or 4 occasions (I lost count, to be honest), but to be fair, he wasn't going to stop a couple of them no matter what. If you want to be one of the best teams in the Premiership, you have to do two things: win on the road consistently and beat the best teams in the Premiership ("Big Four"). City are now 1-1-3 away from home, which simply isn't good enough, and have been pounded by Chelsea and Arsenal, though the scoreline doesn't truly reflect that in the Gunners match. Yes, they beat city rivals United, but the game was at City's stadium and the defending champions played without Rooney, Ronaldo, and Anderson. City's next tough road test is at Portsmouth on November 11. Come away with a victory there and you'll open my eyes again, but right now, City look to be a pretender, not a contender.

Chelsea, on the other hand, are playing the attacking style promised by temporary manager Avram Grant. Grant is certainly making a case to be hired on a permanent basis, but I don't know if Henk Ten Cate would've left Ajax just to be a coach at Chelsea. Either way, it's good to see Joe Cole back in the lineup and contributing, Didier Drogba is doing his thing (whether he wants to stay with Chelsea or not, who knows), and even Shevchenko got a goal this weekend. I'm not convinced Chelsea can win the title yet; they have the players but the manager doesn't compare to Sir Alex or to Arsene Wenger, but we'll see.

3. Cesc Fabregas is really pushing for Player of the Year. As much as Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard put his club on his back yesterday (he was Liverpool's best player by far), the 20-year old Spanish midfielder did the same and got the tying goal for the North London side. A point on the road against Liverpool is certainly a point earned, and Cesc now has 5 goals in 10 Premiership games. This, of course, doesn't reflect what he's truly gifted at: passing and spraying balls all over the field. Fabregas is a quality, quality player and definitely the catalyst to everything the Gunners do on the field.

4. Gary Megson has a tough road ahead at Bolton. Megson has come out in the press saying he believes Bolton can stay up, and he has the players to do it..except for the fact that there's no way Nicolas Anelka will stay with Bolton come the January transfer window and if/when he leaves, I don't think this club will be able to score any goals. Megson has proven that he's not a Premiership quality manager (got West Brom relegated) and once again, Bolton hired a new manager too quickly after doing the same with Sammy Lee last year.


weenie said...

If Bolton had waited, do you think Martin Jol would have been tempted to go up north?

MJ said...

Absolutely not. Bolton is the junkyard of the Premiership as they say, and to be honest, no manager of any prestige or significance would've been interested in that job. Jol built his teams at Tottenham around young English talent, something Bolton has none of, and had solid financial backing from chairman Daniel Levy. Bolton isn't in a position to spend large amounts of money on transfers as not only do they still have a new stadium they're paying for, they're a relatively small-market club who doesn't generate much in the way of ticket sales or merchandise.

tyduffy said...

I don't think that we've seen the last of City. But they need a striker BADLY. I mean they are back to starting freaking Samaras up front terrible. Early prediction - the incredible sulk will be wearing Sky Blue come January.