by Steven S
So it was another big Sunday with the games between Manchester City and Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool taking the spotlight for the weekend. Big Johnny Terry took to the pitch after his recent four game ban and in the most ironic of ironic moments in football was felled by his headline nemesis, Luis Suarez, leaving the Chelsea captain strewn on the pitch and out of the game requiring a knee scan. That’ll learn him for making bigger news whilst serving a smaller ban and making everyone focus on Suarez’s’ diving. The two loveable characters were also responsible for the goals on the day; Terry leaping to head home from a corner and Suarez doing likewise late in the second half, making it his sixth away from home which is more than any other player in the league.
Earlier in the day it was another late show from the defending champions, as Edin Dzeko once again rose from the bench to volley home the winner from an exquisite Silva pass. The Bosnian striker has now scored in 9 times as a substitute for the club and they always win the game when he does so. Although Sergio Aguero can go one better. He has scored in 18 Premier League games since arriving last season and City have won 17 and drawn one of those games.
Steven Caulker gave Spurs the lead midway through the first half, capitalising on poor defending from the home team who have seemingly forgotten how to defend dead balls – 60% of their goals conceded have come from corners and free kicks. The return of David Silva gave City a dimension they have been missing for weeks and whilst they were not firing on all cylinders they are chugging along nicely thank you very much. In fact, they have recovered 14 points from losing positions already this season and when things do begin to click into place, it will be them and United that fire ahead of the pack once again.
Alex Ferguson is set to have a statue raised near the Fergie stand at Old Trafford sometime during this season to commemorate his 26 years at the helm of the club. And not even Medusa could have produced better defending players in stone at Villa park as the home team blew a 2-0 lead thanks to United’s Hernández coming from the bench at half time to smash a match winning hat-trick (although the second may be given as an own goal). 40 goals in 94 games from a man who has started 62 games is a frightening record and his performances so far this season are a sharp reminder of what a talent he is. He is also now the deadliest substitute in Premiership history, slipping in 9 goals from the bench.
The Mark Clattenburg investigation was due to be concluded by the FA this last Friday which will hopefully mean the whole unsavoury mess will be resolved in the next week or two. The referee missed out on the action again this weekend as is par the course and whatever the final judgment it will have huge implications either for referee’s or Chelsea FC. There has been talk of recording the referee’s during the course of the game as they do in rugby, which seems like a sensible idea to implement. Resistance to the idea stems from the formal approach it forces onto the men in charge on the pitch, who instead of exercising some common sense to certain decisions feel under pressure to apply the strict letter of the law as the crowd, viewers and of course assessors are listening in. So it is a hard line to walk and one I don’t believe is necessary at the moment. This seems like a one off situation and only if we find ourselves back here again and again should changes be made to how referee’s use their power on the pitch. Apparently referee’s will all be taking one session at Premier training sessions over the winter which seems like a smart way to deal with players and their issues directly.
Gavin Kirkham, the lunatic Chelsea fan pictured making monkey gestures toward Danny Welbeck three days after the Mikel incident, has been banned from the club. Of course, he’s not racist just ‘one of the boys’. All a bit of bantz eh Gav? Thankfully the numbskull has been painfully and publicly exposed and the more that happens, the more we can rid the terraces of similar disgusting behaviour.
Following on from ‘that’ game, The Society of Black Lawyers seem determined to make a stand and the use of the word ‘Yid’ by Tottenham fans has become the first target to be addressed. A deadline of November 20th has been set by the SBL for use of the word to be stopped in and around White Hart Lane, which prompted a sharp response from the club defending those who use it in a different context. Football is a national game and as such very stuck in its ways, so modernising or changing decades of behaviour can prove to be very difficult. One look at the struggle to get technology introduced to assist the game shows us that people can be very protective and introducing a zero tolerance strategy to crowd chanting will prove to be very difficult to convince let alone enforce. Their heart is in the right place but threatening a club and its defiant supporters will not produce a co-operative partnership toward resolving the issue. I remember reading an article by David Baddiel (a Chelsea fan incidentally) two years ago, where he highlighted his disgust at the use of the word – used by a Chelsea fan watching their Villa match as Tottenhams result to Hull flashed onto the score board. Given the intricacies of race arguments, zero tolerance may seem like the only way to stop any grey areas and lets’ face it, should it really hurt anyone NOT to use racial words at a football match?
Game of the weekend was of course Arsenal and Fulham’s six goal fest, the home side blowing another two goal lead after doing the same midweek away to Schalke. Dimitar Berbatov put on another masterclass orchestrating an impressive Fulham who are weaker at the back than they have been in seasons past but have far more attacking prowess. Another top 8 finish beckons if they can puncture their away games with performances like this and with Martin Jol eager to extend his stay at the club, things are very positive. Not so for the Gunners who even with the 8-2 hammering away to Manchester United last season managed to scrape more points on the board after eleven games. Two goals up and cruising, once again it was poor defending that let the Cottagers (giggle) back into the game, even going behind early in the second half. Olivier Giroud scored two to get them a point, although Arteta missed a last second penalty that looked dubious at best, so justice was delivered
Sunderland and Aston Villa continue to struggle to put together any sort of form with both of them lingering just off the bottom three of the table. Both are clubs with very passionate support who can become very unsettled when things begin to look terminal, so Martin senior and Junior have their work cut out turning around their teams fortunes. Meanwhile the bottom three only stay within sight because of the cutting edge missing above them and this weekend they managed one point between them; Southampton dropping two points despite taking the lead at home to Swansea. Nigel Adkins is coming under increasing pressure but Mark Hughes and Brian McDermott are not too far behind and as we approach the hectic winter schedules, every manager in the bottom six will be looking over their shoulders.
The two West’s continue their impressive starts to the season, Brom sitting in fifth with Ham below in sixth, with both teams bagging all three points with impressive away wins this weekend. The ground work laid by Hodgson last season has been picked up by Steve Clarke who has worked under some heavyweight managers and has set about proving everybody wrong, including myself. Sam Allardyce is an old dog of the Premiership who also has challenged perceptions of the game his team play, despite the enigma of Andy Carroll in their ranks. 17 points is one of their best ever starts in this league and it pretty much secures their place again next season
Other bits and pieces from the week include an alleged agreement for Fluminense right back Wallace (Wallace Oliveira dos Santos) to join Chelsea for £4.4m. Fluminense director Rodrigo Caetano told us a deal was agreed for the 18-year-old who has only played 18 games for the Brazilian club. James McFadden recently joined Sunderland on a free short term deal until January and suffered a hamstring injury in training that will keep him in the treatment room for at least a month, so a look at the Championship may prove more fruitful if the agreement is not extended. Following Carlos Tevezs’ turn as caddie for Andres Romero in the last round of The Open during the summer, his international and club team mate Sergio Aguero took to the O2 stage before Del Potro’s group match against Janko Tipsarevic, showing off his tennis ball skills, although rumours he hit the net more times than this season are unfounded.
Which brings us to the end of another round of news with an international ‘break’ taking place midweek although thankfully not affecting the solid flow of league and cup football to follow. Leave all your fan mail in the usual place and we’ll catch up again next Monday.