Arsenal’s 2-1 victory against Manchester United last weekend was easily one of the most entertaining matches of the week, combining intensity and skill to a perfect degree as the European champions were beaten by a young but hungry Arsenal side in desperate need of a win.
Arsenal’s stellar performance was just one of many this past weekend in the English Premier League. You had Everton’s impressive comeback win, Chelsea’s latest romp and Liverpool’s most recent easy victory.
SBI EPL correspondent James Tyler of The Unprofessional Foul discusses Arsenal’s convincing victory, the icy relationship between Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson and all of the weekend’s 10 EPL matches:
No love lost between Arsenal and Man Utd.
By JAMES TYLER
Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger don’t exactly get along. They never have; in SAF’s mind, the Arsenal manager will always probably always be "a novice who should keep his opinions to Japanese football." However, it was the Devils who looked positively novice on Saturday, undone by a much brighter, much more dangerous Arsenal side that seems to be finding its teeth again after a disappointing month. They were frustrating to watch against Fenerbahce midweek; what on earth happened since then?
Samir Nasri looked like the next Arsenal cult hero with two well-taken goals, the first a volley that deflected off Gary Neville (heroic as he is for battling back from serious injuries, I think it’s time he’s put out to pasture… not at his best on Saturday, not even close), and the second a thundering shot past Van Der Sar (also reaching the "past his prime" stage?) after a neat through-ball by Fabregas.
It was a vital win for the Gunners, despite the long season still to come. It gives Chelsea and Liverpool a bit of breathing room at the top, but it proves that any of the Big 4 is still in it when it comes to title aspirations. They’ve all tasted the highs and lows so far, all showing strength and vulnerability to varying degrees; I think it’s safe to say that no-one else below them will challenge after the results this weekend.
Rafael’s neat finish gave the home crowd some jitters, but really, 3 deserved points for Wenger and co. The EPL is wide open at this point; brace yourselves, folks.
Fergie may complain that all these early-season away fixtures are to blame, but honestly, if the mercurial Scot can’t get his team up for a trip to the Emirates, can it be anyone else’s fault?
On to the rest of the weekend:
Liverpool 3, West Brom 0
A comfortable win (for once) for my Reds, dispatching with arguably the weakest of the three promoted sides (I say this because they don’t have a Rory Delap) thanks to Robbie Keane’s first goals in the EPL for his new side. His finishing reminded me of just how good a striker he can be when he finds his confidence; imagine that, 6 games without Torres and the loss is nowhere near as devastating as it could have been, thanks to Kuyt and Keane (although losing to Spurs will hurt for quite some time). Arbeloa’s late 3rd was sweet as well.
Sunderland 1, Portsmouth 2
I’d hate to have been a Mackem at Roy’s mercy at full-time. That dressing room probably needs remodeling. The home side controlled proceedings but lost the plot late, as El Hadji Diouf’s clumsy take-down of Glen Johnson gave Pompey a late penalty that Defoe coolly finished. A first-half of missed chances for Sunderland, and valuable points lost.
Hull 0, Bolton 1
What’s the bigger story here: the beginning of Hull’s slide down into mid-table, or Bolton’s recent run of form (this plus the win at home to Man City last weekend)? A scrappy affair, a scrappy goal, and I fear that this is just the beginning for the Tigers in terms of EPL frustrations.
West Ham 1, Everton 3
For 80 minutes, this game was a done deal. The Hammers dominating at home, and then it all went south; 3 Toffees goals in 5 minutes… Lescott with his first of the season, and two for Louis Saha. If you’re Gianfranco Zola, how much job security do you think you have?
Wigan 0, Stoke 0
Wigan have the worst home record in the league. With results like this, who knew?
Blackburn 0, Chelsea 2
We expected this. The only point of contention was surrounding the final margin of victory. Despite the torrential rain, the visitors still managed some sexy football, and two goals for Anelka must ease those Blues fans worried at the disappearance of Didier Drogba.
Man City 1, Tottenham 2
The Redknapp renaissance continues! Darren Bent is in the form of his life, scoring seemingly at will. Five goals in four days… as insane as it sounds (and believe me, it does), surely Fabio has to put him on the England shortlist. It’s not like a continually crocked Michael Owen is showing any signs of life. Man City took an early undeserved lead, and had a man sent off for two bookable offenses within 26 minutes. Money can’t buy you everything, eh?
The miracle of Bent and the 10 men City also had to deal with a shocking performance by their usually reliable captain, Richard Dunne. He failed miserably on a Modric cross to serve up Bent’s first, and then ended up with a red card himself late into the game. Mark Hughes’ job is safe, we’re told, but then again, how much longer can that be true? If you’re keeping score at home, they’ve lost their last 3 (‘Boro, Bolton, Spurs), not to mention just one win in the league since September 21st. Oh, and they were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Brighton & Hove Albion. Does the Sheikh really think that Torres, Fabregas and Cristiano will want to go clean up that mess?
Fulham 2, Newcastle 1
Yet another game I called the wrong way. Kinnear has given the Magpies some confidence, and they show it in the number of times they come-from-behind to snatch points here and there. It wasn’t to be at Craven Cottage though, thanks to Coloccini’s ham-fisted attempt to extract ball from Andy Johnson in the box. Danny Murphy scored from the spot; goodnight, sweet Geordie prince.
Aston Villa 1, Middlesbrough 2
Does any team in the league want that UEFA Cup spot? Villa certainly don’t, and they have former Chelsea lad Steve Sidwell to thank for it. His awful back-pass 2 minutes from time gifted Tuncay his second goal of the game, and confirmed that there are no gimmes in the EPL.
Big 4, who are not surprisingly Top 4, aside, just 7 points separate 7th from 20th. Who said anything about this league being predictable?