Archive for September 20th, 2012

Football: Prem 2012 Week 4

Back To The Grindstone

After the inexplicably arranged International Week, this marks the end of the phoney war and the real beginning of the season. The transfer window has shut, the players are off holiday time and focused on the season ahead and that first juddering gap in the Prem schedule is over. Now it’s back to business. And what a great set of matches there were.

Southampton have been given what you can only refer to as the ‘shitty stick’, with matches against Man U, Man City, Wigan and now Arsenal. Unlike both the Manchesters, who were given a bit of a game, Arsenal gave Southampton a 6-1 stuffing. And while they may be missing the full on threat of Van Persie, all their new boys are looking full of beans. Podolski and Carzola look to have midfield sewn up, while Gervinho looks like a man who’s been released from indentured servitude, his first (and Arsenal’s third) was fuelled by 12 months of frustration. Add to that the threat of the Ox, Wallchart and Giroud and a new found defensive solidity and it seems that, as last season, Arsenal have actually improved on the previous season. Only the butterfingered Szczesny really let the side down. I suspect a spell out of the team with some kind of ‘strain’ will follow. Southampton can now begin their season. Their next game, at home to Villa will have a massive impact on their season.

It’s only week 4, but the table is taking on a familiar look, what with the top four already in place and Liverpool down among the dead men

Chelsea managed to go to QPR and amazingly no one got sent off or arrested and no criminal charges are pending. Admittedly there were no goals and precious little in the way of excitement. The whole game was overshadowed by questions about what would happen when John Terry attempted to shake hands with someone. What is it with Terry and handshakes? Chelsea’s 100% record was sacrificed on the alter of preparation for the visit of Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday. Still, they’re top once again. The only other note was the appearance of Brazillian keeper Julio Cesar in QPR’s goal. That’s a long way from Inter. He must be on a fair hefty wedge methinks. I wonder what former Engerland keeper Rob Green, signed only this summer and having played just one, calamitous game, will make of that.

Wigan might have done better had they built on the success of saving a penalty they conceded when yet another Man U player took a dive in the box. This time it was Welbeck who played the ‘trailing leg’ gambit. What with Ashley Young’s antics last season it’s clear that there is someone at United who trains players to take a dive at every opportunity. Which is a shame given the quality Man U have in the side. They were good value for a 4-0 win with their new boys settling in well. Buttner, their left back, scored a fabulous goal after a great dribbling run, Van Persie looks to be everything that Ruud Van Nistleroy was and Kagawa looks controlled in midfield. And even newer boy Powell scored a great fourth goal. What with Cleverly, Scholes and Giggs all playing well you wonder what Wayne Rooney will have to do to get back in this side.

Arsenal were castigated a bit for drawing 0-0 at Stoke a couple of weeks ago, but their performance was put in context when Man City went behind before stumbling their way to a 1-1 draw. Again, possibly, their minds were on the upcoming Champions League and their away trip to Real Madrid. Mancini made a bunch of changes, giving debuts to Javi Garcia, Maicon, and Sinclair. While the former looked excellent, I can’t help feeling the latter two are vanity signings (although Mancini did manage Maicon at Inter). Stoke were their ever-present schizophrenic selves, combining admirable defensive will (epitomised by Ryan Shawcross’ last minute off the line clearance) with diabolical cheating and fouling (Crouch’s hand ball in the build up to the goal, Wilkinson’s deliberate elbow in the face of Ballotelli and a general malaise of kicking, shirtpulling and niggly fouls). As with the Man U diving training, Stoke’s apparent embracing of the illegalities of the game is unpleasant to say the least.

Swansea continue their plummet down the table by recalling last season’s poor away performances and losing 2-0 to a resurgent Aston Villa. As with their performance at home to Sunderland, they never established the control of the game that typified their games at the end of last season. Villa, like Sunderland, moved to disrupt Swansea’s style and the latter were not able to adapt. Villa look a million miles away from the painfully tedious side so carefully assembled by Alec McLeish. Their new keeper, Guzan, has been excellent, way better than the failing Shay Given. Laughton’s goal was a fabulous strike from outside the area that dipped savagely and gave Vorm no chance. Less edifying was Ashley Williams attempt to head back to Vorm, which set up Villa’s second.

Paul Lambert’s former side, Norwich haven’t yet reacquired their strength of last season. Holt hasn’t begun to threaten and it’s unclear where their threat is going to come from. Still with visitors as one dimensional as Fat Sam’s West Ham, this game had 0-0 written all over it.

Fulham could have been forgiven for crawling into their shells and sulking, what with the loss of both Dembele and Dempsey to Spurs. Instead they’ve bought wisely and Dimitar Berbatov rewarded them with two lovely goals against West Brom, one a classy curl into the net, the other a great penalty. Berbatov was his languid best. He is going to enjoy being the big fish at Fulham.

Liverpool continue their miserable transition from King Kenny’s Komedy Klowns to Brenden Rogers’ fast passing fancy boys. As is his wont, Suarez took a dive in the box (and was booked). But unusually he actually managed to score from open play. Sterling was excellent on the wing and Liverpool look to be getting a little more to grips with the way Rogers wants them to play. Sunderland seem to have inherited the mantle of Wolves, along with a number of their players. 1-1 was about right.

Also getting to grips with a new system, Spurs seem to be acclimatising to the world of Villas Boas. Their 3-1 win over Reading showcased everything that Villas Boas is trying to encourage. Reading look more worrying than Southampton, they’ve played less dangerous sides and only secured one point. They’ve scored fewer goals and it’s unclear where their threat really comes from.

Perhaps the most schizophrenic game of the week was Everton‘s 2-2 draw with Newcastle. For the first half, Everton were totally dominant, repeating the constant threat they displayed against Man U. They should have been 3 or 4 up by half time. After that Pardew made some changes to Newcastle, bringing on Demba Ba, who transformed the game. Sure Everton should have had a couple of penalties and a clear ball across the line wasn’t given as a goal. But to lose it (or draw it) in the 90th minute must have been even more annoying.