The most impressive side I watched, by far, on Saturday was Middlesbrough. The link-up play between Tuncay, Alves, Downing, Aliadiere and, later, Mido was sensational. Wheater was also impressive. At times, it was like watching Brazil with all of the backheels and blistering attacks. Seriously.
While Spurs controlled a lot of the possession in this match and were doing a better job at passing the ball around, they were sloppy in front of goal and failed to create those pinpoint passes that could have led to goals.
The 2-1 win for Middlesbrough was deceiving. Wheater had a goal in the first half that was incorrectly disallowed, but even ignoring that, Boro was much more impressive than Spurs than the scoreline suggests. For Tottenham, it’s back to the drawing board.
Middlesbrough fans will probably be worrying that Boro will continue to do well against big opposition teams but poorly against weaker sides. Let’s hope Gareth Southgate can fix that because the initial signs from Boro this season are very encouraging. They look like a team reborn.
One more impressive thing about Middlesbrough: For the first time in ages, the Riverside sounded like a real football stadium with a cup final atmosphere and noise compared to the empty red seats and stone cold silence we’re accustomed to from Boro.
Here are my thoughts from the other matches:
- The deafening sound of boos that erupted around Goodison Park at the end of the 90 minutes against Blackburn should worry the club and its fans. They aren’t too many things to be happy with at Everton lately with the move to Kirkby on hold, no transfer signings, injury problems, boardroom problems and a dissatisfied David Moyes.
At times, Everton’s defending was schoolboy as they let Blackburn run right through the middle of the park unopposed. The perfect example of that was David Dunn who had a lot of space to twist and turn past Phil Jagielka and slot his curving shot into the corner of the net. Joleon Lescott made a crucial mistake to let Roque Santa Cruz pass him to slot the ball into the goal. Even Jason Roberts, yes Jason Roberts, made Everton’s back four look weak by dribbling past three players and getting a shot on goal.
- New Blackburn manager Paul Ince should be impressed by the spirit shown by his side. If they can keep Santa Cruz in his side, they should do well this season up front.
- Sunderland‘s performance at their Stadium of Light against Liverpool was impressive. The team put in every morsel of energy into this match, winning many 50/50 balls and tormenting Rafa Benitez’s side. I wasn’t impressed by Liverpool’s performance at all. Too many sloppy mistakes. Hyypia looked awful. Plessis looked very unsure of himself in central midfield and his replacement Alonso played much better.This is going to be an awfully long season for Liverpool unless they can start making immediate improvement. They created more chances in the second half mostly thanks to Steven Gerrard, but what happens when Gerrard has a weak performance?
- Arsenal looked extremely comfortable and confident in their 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion, but it was classic Arsenal who failed to find a second goal to put West Brom out of reach. Tony Mowbray’s side gave Arsenal a couple of scary moments with the very impressive Ishmael Miller coming close for West Brom. Samir Nasri did well on his first Premier League debut. Chris Brunt also played well for the Baggies, whose side became more comfortable toward the end of the first half. For the first 30 minutes, they couldn’t thread more than a few passes together.Meanwhile, Emmanuel Adebayor continued his frustrating streak of missing some clear-cut chances in front of goal. When he’s off form, the Gunners will be in jeopardy in crunch games.