Chelsea’s slump in form continues, United finally have a back four to capitalise, and both Arsenal and Liverpool are back on track.
Top of the Table
But let’s start with Arsenal. I’ve always been a fan of the way they play, and Arsene Wenger for me, is the most complete modern football manager in the world. He doesn’t just make Arsenal play beautiful football – he’s innovative, he nutures young talent, he fosters an unbreakable team spirit in the club and most importantly at the moment, he contributes to the development of the club’s finances (that’s where his masters in economics comes in handy).
Though he and his team(s) have been a thorn in my beloved United’s side for the better part of the decade, I have to give credit where it’s due. Wenger is as much a genius in football management as Lionel Messi is on the pitch (even if he tends to lose his way sometimes).
And that is why Arsenal now find themselves just four points adrift of league leaders Chelsea AND with a game in hand, even though most had written their chances off after successive defeats to Sunderland and Chelsea, and a draw with Burnley soon after.
They have been aided slightly by Chelsea and United’s charitable holiday season performances, but in this league, it’s up to you to grab hold of these gifts when they come by, and Arsenal have certainly done that.
They now look comfortable playing without van Persie, employing a bewildering 4-6-0 formation with no real strikers, apart from Eduardo who has been dropping in to midfield to provide an extra outlet for Arsenal’s intricate passing.
Chelsea‘s run of draws might continue next week against Fulham, who are in the form of their lives. After that, they face Hull City away from home, and Hull did pretty well against Champions United last weekend, so fingers crossed, I think it’ll be more dropped points from Chelsea over these two games.
United finally have a proper back four to capitalise on Chelsea’s slump. Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown’s return could have been rewarded with a clean sheet had it not been for Wayne Rooney’s excellent assist to the opposing Craig Fagan with a slack backpass.
But otherwise, Rooney was outstanding; so I have to tip my hat to one of our readers, The Truth, who gave me an earful for saying Rooney wasn’t on the same level as the Kakas, Gerrards and Messis of the world. On the evidence of his second-half performance against Hull, Rooney is still be one of the best players in the world. I wonder why I doubted him in the first place. He was blowing a bit hot and cold during the first half of the game, but he was simply outstanding in the second half.
Liverpool are back on track for a fourth place finish after a solid win over ten-men Wolves, and I believe now the race to fourth would be between Liverpool and Manchester City.
Alberto Aquilani is now nearing full fitness, as are Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. With that kind of quality, they are bound to climb up the table real soon, and the same goes to Manchester City, who will be galvanised by having a new coach around in Roberto Mancini.
Player of the Week
To be honest, I was too busy stuffing my face with turkey and roast lamb to catch most of the matches last weekend.
But I did watch Birmingham’s Joe Hart single-handedly keep Chelsea at bay (whilst chomping down on more turkey), and anybody that can shut out the Blues deserves to be the Wlayer of the Week. His close range save of Frank Lampard’s shot from around the six yard box was simply awesome (as was his mouthing of the words “f*** off” to Lampard as the latter stood motionless in the penalty area with arms on hips in utter disbelief). So classy.
That save itself should’ve been worth three points, but alas, Hart and Alex McLeish will have to make do with one, but against the might of the Blues, that should feel like a victory for both Birmingham and Joe Hart.
Special mention goes to Wayne Rooney, who had a hand in all four goals in United’s 3-1 win against Hull City. He scored one, gifted an equaliser to Hull with a careless backpass and created the other two. Seriously though, he was brilliant in the second half. An absolute menace to the Hull defence. And midfield.
Goal of the Week
The execution and timing of Cesc Fabregas’ free-kick against Aston Villa makes it my pick for goal of the week, though Matt Taylor’s own free-kick and Steven Gerrard’s monster header were strong contenders.
But Arsenal were struggling to break down the Villans without their captain, and it looked like the same old story of Arsenal dominating but failing to put away their chances again.
Then the less-than-fully-fit Fabregas stepped up to the plate and delivered an unstoppable free-kick that had Brad Friedel clutching thin air. It opened the floodgates and allowed Arsenal to breathe, and soon they were blowing down the Villan’s house with Fabregas scoring another absolute peach of a goal from a lightning-quick counter attack.
Thanks to Zul for pointing out the Mancini-Mancity connection. I think it’ll be a headline in the papers soon enough.
Ianyway, I wasn’t too happy with the way Mark Hughes was sacked last week, but I think Roberto Mancini has a pretty good game plan after watching his first match in charge.
Sorting out the defense is a good idea, and who better to do it than an Italian coach? As long as they stop shipping goals at the back, the likes of Robinho, Adebayor, Tevez, Petrov and Wright-Phillips are bound to create chances.
But still, Robinho looked as much a 32.5million pound player as Dimitar Berbatov is a 30million pound player. In other words, he wasn’t convincing enough. If Mancini can get the best out of Robinho, then he’ll probably be spared the fate of his predecessor, such is the potential impact of the tricky Brazillian.
Tell us what you think!