Bonjour lovely readers, fresh off the back of a Mo Farah inspired effort in the Great North Run I welcome you to this week’s editions of Bacon, Eggs & Football!
The international break has come and gone and as a Scotsman I say GOOD RIDDANCE! Having kept a keen eye on all those premier league starlets that sauntered off for a weekend of half-hearted international football, lets see if they were able to bring their A-game back with them.
The weekend was a tasty one; 10 games, 26 goals, a red card and some invisible handshakes. As we wave goodbye to the ‘Super Summer of Sport’ lets don our Tom Daley speedos and dive in!
Lets begin with a look back at the weekend’s action.
Spurs finally chose to demonstrate why people are so excited about their attacking prospects on Sunday in their 3-1 away win against Reading. Defoe, who so capably demolished the Royals defence, said after the game that Tottenham’s season starts now and I’m sure AVB would be all to happy to agree with that! Defoe showed what a quality finisher he has been for the last decade scoring a couple as Tottenham dominated a Reading team who hadn’t played a game for 25 days. Brian McDermott’s side seemed to be lacking the basics; their fitness was poor, passing slack and their organisation was non-existent. McDermott said he didn’t recognise his team in the first half (insert ‘specsavers’ gag here). So some of the pressure will no doubt have eased off AVB after last night’s result however a spanner is waiting to be thrown into the works. With Defoe in a rich vein of form and once again leading the line for England (albeit in Rooney’s absence) where does this leave Adebayor? The summer signing arrived thinking that he would pick up where he left off under Redknapp as the target man, a role in which he was able to score 15+ goals last season. Yet his instant integration into the Spurs side has gone the same way a Lloris, seemingly he will truly have to prove his worth.
We move to the fortress (home of anti-football) that is the Britannia stadium. This was Man City’s 4th successive 1-1 draw away against Stoke at their defensively saturated cauldron of a ground. The result is proof that while Stoke may have their critics for the style of football they play, they can definitely get the job done. Ryan Shawcross should take a lot of the credit for his heroic goal line clearance at the death, while Roberto Mancini wont be surprised to know that the LA Lakers have made an approach for Peter Crouch. As Gary Neville described it Crouchy’s ‘cheeky’ handball going unnoticed by the officials was a piece of luck that Tony Pulis was delighted with after the game. From Man City’s perspective it was, as ever, a very hard fought game. Again their imperial defence of last season seemed to go missing and Mancini’s increasingly predictable tactic of pushing Toure forward late on didn’t have enough time to fully impact the match. Toure had only just begun to truly influence the game in his more advanced position as it came to a close. Mancini knows that City perform better when Toure is playing higher up the pitch so WHY NOT START HIM THERE?! The Italian chooses to do the same thing every time City are struggling to control a game and the Ivorian always makes a difference.
Javi Garcia, a product of the Real Madrid academy system was a positive for City this weekend. A good debut capped off with a goal yet Mancini’s side remain clean sheet-less in the 2012/13 campaign. Next up City travel to a Bernabeu where cracks have steadily begun to appear. The unhappy Ronaldo coupled with some unusually average early season performances should provide City with optimism.
(Real Madrid form update: - Real continued their poor start to the defence of last seasons La Liga title. Their loss to Sevilla is their 2nd in 4 league games this season. Mourinho has had the worst start to a season of his career)
Meanwhile, City’s neighbours welcomed their relatively local rivals, Wigan, to the Theatre of dreams. United have only conceded 1 goal at home to the latics in their last 9 games and History dictates that Wigan do not enjoy themselves at Old Trafford. Moses’ Ten Commandments famously began ‘1. WIGAN SHALL NEVER GET A POINT AT OLD TRAFFORD’ and, true to the bearded wonder’s words, Roberto Mancini’s side have struggled recently. Saturday proved to be no different as United romped home. Once Welbeck’s early belly flop had reaped its just reward of a saved penalty United began to take a hold of the game. On a day all about their heroes, who have contributed to past and present successes, it was fitting that Paul Scholes should be the one to pop up with the first goal; a trademark run, ghosting into the 6 yard box and pouncing on a rare Al-Habsi spillage. Yet it was a day for what seem the future heroes of Old Trafford as two debutants were on the score sheet. Buttner’s goal was reminiscent of a three-legged dog as he rambled into the box bouncing the ball and his body off Wigan players before lashing toward goal. However, Nick Powell’s strike was much more refined and rather predictably sparked comparisons between United’s new young midfielder and their well-aged ginger nut. Perhaps a future replacement yet lets try and not put too much pressure on him, after all in terms of show-filling Scholes is tiny so his feet cant be that big…..
(Galatasary Form Update; - Ex-Bolton man, Johan Elmander, has helped the Turkish club to the summit of their league. They won their weekend fixture comfortably beating Antalyaspor 4-0)
Van Persie started on the bench for United this weekend while his old club tried to maintain the momentum gained form their victory at Anfield. Cast your minds back a year or so ago. Arsenal had just lost 8-2 to Man United, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas had upped sticks and left London for pastures new and there the Gunners were sinking. Wenger, in a Dale Winton style supermarket sweep moment, launched a late dash into the transfer window to try and remedy the situation but fans were worried. At the start of this season, having lost their dutch goal machine/talisman and drawn their first two games without scoring a goal fans were losing faith. However, the Liverpool game has proved a real turning point for the Gunners. They are only 2 points off top spot and have actually showed signs of progression following a less than convincing start.
So what’s different? They have brought in quality players like Podolski and Cazorla EARLY in the window as opposed to the last week of July. Wenger has allowed them time to become part of the setup at Arsenal and has integrated them effectively. (Ignoring Giroud who has so far been beyond unconvincing, to be polite) It was Podolski, the Gunner’s new German (Polish) recruit, who disposed of Southampton in typically efficient style as the Londoners racked up a 6-1 win.
(Montpellier Form Update; - Last seasons Ligue 1 champions lost their last domestic game 3-1 newly promoted Reims. Giroud’s old club are currently in the bottom 5)
The recent Hillsborough disaster developments have meant it has been a momentous week for Liverpool as a city their football club. An emotional week that came to a close with a well deserved point taken from the Stadium of Light (yet a point will have left the fans disappointed as it signals their worst start in over 50 years) Yet again Raheem Sterling enhanced a quickly growing reputation as his quick feet unlocked Sunderland’s defence to allow Suarez to equalise. Steven Fetcher had earlier put O’Neil’s side ahead with a well-taken goal, his 3rd in 2 league starts (my tip of him as dark horse for golden boot is looking promising, early days I know). His finish left every Scotland supporter questioning why Craig Levein wont just grow a set and play him in the national side. Over the weekend Fletcher was asked, on twitter, if he would play for Scotland again if asked to which he responded simply with ‘yes’. LEVEIN GET ON YOUR BLOODY PHONE!
Returning to London, and a game in which the focus revolved around the pre-match physical contact (or lack of) of two men rather than the result or the nature in which the match was played. I am not going to talk about handshakes…much. There has been enough controversy about it over the weekend and frankly I couldn’t care less about who shakes whose hand before a game. After a game it makes sense to congratulate someone who has played well, swap shirts or shake hands but forcing players to do so before a match is obviously just going to cause problems. (Looking ahead to the Liverpool v Man United game this coming weekend the hype around the Evra-Suarez situation is already bubbling.)
Anyway back to the game. It was very average. Julio Cesar had a good debut and showed glimpses of the ability upon which he built his reputation at Inter. Chelsea never really got going but QPR’s defenders seemed determined to not let their West London Rivals score. After being subbed in the second half, Torres threw a strop and stormed off down the tunnel having made his 50th appearance for the Blues. After his first 50 games for Liverpool Torres had 33 league goals. In the same number for Chelsea he has 9. Chill out El Nino you just had a bad game…another one.
(Juventus Form Update; – Juve won their weekend game 3-1 against Genoa. The defending Italian champions have won 3 out of 3 in Serie A and are unbeaten in 42 league games.)
Staying in the West of London, Fulham put on a show at Craven Cottage, led by their new, ‘revitalised’ Bulgarian forward. Since leaving United Dimitar Berbatov has become a complete footballer, at least that’s what his manager thinks. Following Berba’s 2 goals on his home debut at the cottage, Jol confessed his love for his new frontman. He is convinced that the striker will go on to be the best in Fulham’s history. This is quite a claim but if he continues as he did against West Brom he will certainly be well remembered. Man United fans among you will argue that this is trademark Berbatov. Mercurial as ever, he will pop up and score 10 goals in 3 games and then go missing for 6 weeks. Yet I urge you to not be so sceptical. At United Berba was one of a collection of world-class strikers and thus his chances were limited. At Fulham he is very much the main man. He will be the target of the through balls, corners and crosses and he will take the penalties. He obviously just wants to be loved before he calls it a day and who can blame him.
Paul Lambert can breathe easy for the first time this season as his Villa side finally turned in a confident performance. Judging by his praise for new signing, Christian Benteke, he is delighted with the young Belgian forward and predicts a bright future for him in the midlands. He did well to pounce on an Ashley Williams mistake (his second in as many games) and finish it off with composure. Earlier in the game Villa’s young right back, Mathew Lowton scored an absolute blinder on his debut. Not bad for a boy who played his football in league 1 last season with Sheffield United. For Swansea and Laudrup this was a reality check. The Swans were shown just how fickle football can be having had their wings clipped following their explosive start. How Laudurp’s side can respond to this defeat will set the tone for the remainder of the season.
As I type, a Demba Ba inspired Newcastle are staging a rallying siege on the Everton defence. Having taken the lead early on through Baines, the Toffees ran the entirety of the first half. The toon army couldn’t get any shape or rhythm to their game but Everton failed to capitalise and, after he was brought on at half time, Ba made them pay. Both teams exchanged blows late on, Anichebe’s header hitting the underside of the bar and clearly crossing the line before being disallowed (HMM MAYBE WE SHOULD HAVE GOAL LINE TECHNOLOGY!!!) only for Ben Arfa to pick up the ball and be cynically brought down by Pienaar as he tried to prevent a Newcastle break. Having had a Fellaini goal ruled out for offside earlier in the second half Everton will no doubt feel that they got their rewards when Anichebe slotted past Harper late on. Goodison Park exploded!….until….the Toon Idol that is Demba Ba got on the end of a bouncing ball in the Everton box and poked home to equalise. An enthralling match finished 2-2 and both teams have right to feel aggrieved and relieved with a point. Accompanied by another sterling performance in the studio by Gary Neville (whose quality analysis is undeniable) it was to use the old cliche; ‘an excellent advert for the Premier League’.
In true MOTD style we finish with the weekends least exciting game. Despite a handful of chances for both teams neither possessed the quality to finish any. However, Big Sam seems well aware that in the context of survival the currency of the Premier League are clean sheets. Having made some canny signings in the summer, not least James Collins and Jussi Jaaskaleinen, West Ham’s defense looks the most assured of the promoted clubs. Granted that isn’t much of a claim given Southampton and Reading’s frailties. As the ingenious Allardyce revealed; if you are able to keep 38 clean sheets then you are guaranteed 38 points which should in-turn gurarntee that you will leave to experience ‘second season syndrome’.
Well done Sam, now its just a case of conceding no more goals for the remainder of the season….given how many teams have done it before, that should be easy.