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Observations About Premier League Saturday Matchday 13

darren fletcher Observations About Premier League Saturday Matchday 13

Thank god the Premier League is back. Nothing against international football, but there’s something very comforting with getting back into the ritual of watching Premier League football and being familiar with the surroundings, the pace of the game and the excitement it creates.

So the Liverpool against Manchester City game on early Saturday was the perfect re-introduction to the Premier League. I found the first half not as boring as ESPN’s Tommy Smyth claimed it was. Sure, there were few chances, but the flowing football was easy on the eye which was punctuated by two unfortunate injuries for Daniel Agger and Ryan Babel.

The second half of the match erupted. The last ten minutes of the match were pulsating with both teams throwing everything forward to try to get the winner, but alas the game ended 2-2 — which I thought was a fair result for both teams.

For me, the player who had the biggest impact on the match was Carlos Tevez who came off the bench and transformed City from a team who looked soulless in midfield to a team that was suddenly dangerous on the attack and had more possession. The thing I love about Tevez the most is that he turns nothing into something. He constantly fights for the ball and a perfect example of this was how he won the ball down the left wing and ran with the ball, passing it to Shaun Wright-Phillips who planted a beautiful pass to Stephen Ireland to score a valuable goal for City.

In the other games I watched, the football wasn’t as exciting as the match at Anfield.

Sunderland’s 1-0 victory against Arsenal was a game that wasn’t for the soccer purist. Both teams played well but Sunderland suffocated most of Arsenal’s attempts on goal and the Mackems had few chances of their own. That’s not to take anything away from Sunderland’s performance. The team battled hard and deserved to get something out of this game, and had a bit of good fortune in the ball falling to Darren Bent to win the match. While Tevez was my man of the match in the Liverpool versus City game, my man of the match at the Stadium of Light was Andy Reid who delivered a performance equal of Tevez by constantly fighting for the ball and pouring his enthusiasm into everything he did for Sunderland.

Just as Liverpool and Manchester City didn’t look like Premier League champion material today, neither did Arsenal. It wasn’t that they were bad. Instead the Gunners were shut down well by Sunderland similar to how Steve Bruce’s side did the same against Manchester United at Old Trafford recently. I’m sure a lot of the excuses for Arsenal’s defeat today will be aimed at the unavailability of Robin van Persie due to injury, but I feel that’s unfair. Arsenal had a few golden chances near the end of the game to equalize but it just wasn’t their day.

With Arsenal’s loss in the northeast, Chelsea moved eight points clear of the Gunners with an emphatic 4-0 home win against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Seriously, Chelsea have become incredibly boring to watch this season. Don’t get me wrong. They’re playing wonderful football, but the matches they play are so one-sided that I find myself losing interest because they constantly cruise to victory with simplicity (except of course in a few games this season such as against Manchester United and Wigan Athletic, where the opposition was tougher to break down).

Last but not least, the match between Manchester United and Everton was exceedingly enjoyable to watch. Everton were very much in the game and fighting for every ball until the 35th minute when Darren Fletcher rocketed the ball with his right foot into the top corner of the net. Despite Everton’s constant persistence, they created very few chances against a Manchester United side that seemed to be buzzing after their recent drop in form during the past few matches.

The second half of this match was very wide-open with both teams trying to get the decisive goal. But it was another piece of class in this game that saw Manchester United scoring a goal. This time it was a perfect pass from Ryan Giggs to Michael Carrick who knocked in a shot with precision into the far corner of the net to make it 2-0 to United. Antonio Valencia’s shot near the end of the match which was deflected in to make it 3-0 made it a very convincing win for Manchester United although you have to think that the scoreline wasn’t a fair representation of how well Everton played at times during this match.

I’ll try to spend some time later tonight watching the other Premier League games played today. But in the meantime, feel free to post your observations about the games today and what was interesting for you.

Photo credit: Soefrie.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

15 Responses to Observations About Premier League Saturday Matchday 13

  1. Brian W says:

    So United was boring the last three years because their matches were one-sided and they scored lots of goals as well? Or are they different because they are United.

    • Tyson says:

      It’s probably a figure of speech.

      I mean they were playing Wolves they weren’t exactly going to be tested by mighty Wolverhampton with their 200 pound a week players.

      When Chelsea played United that was an interesting match because despite Berbatov, Vidic and Ferdinand not being available United crushed Chelsea for 90 minutes while Chelsea did a little here and there to keep it level then the 12th man got them the win. That was a tight close game and the “it can go either way” factor kept you glued to your set.

      On the other hand against inferior opposition, Chelsea just walk up and down them and it isn’t exactly eye candy.

      • Gunner JD says:

        I’m not sure why the author of the first comment feels the need to be so defensive. There sure are a lot of sensitive fans here on this blog! The Gaffer even had some pretty glowing things to say about the Red Devils, befitting their performance today against Everton, but Brian seems to sound like somehow United was being attacked or something.

        And I don’t think it was a figure of speech, but just a simple observation by the Gaffer, one that could apply to both teams: When you’re one of the better sides in the EPL, it can be boring football watching when you’re blowing lesser sides off the pitch, like Chelsea did today, or United has done repeatedly over their championship winning seasons of late.

        The great thing about the game though, is a better point: The Chelsea’s and United’s AREN’T always playing lesser opposition and/or destroying everyone in their path.

        United DIDN’T always score lots of goals, and their matches WEREN’T always one-sided, and they still won titles. THAT’S WHY IT’S FUN LOL (well, more fun for United fans, but still).

        I guess I just keep re-reading that first comment trying to make some sense out of it and I am unable to. No I didn’t have anything else to do tonight lol.

        • Tyson says:

          Manchester United and Chelsea are inherently different teams as well though.

          Chelsea are more of an attacking side that score a whole bunch of goals on form.

          Manchester United on the other hand are a defensive team that do enough to get a goal or two then sit back and laugh as their opponents try to strike back.

          In many ways Chelsea and United do destroy most teams because when they are on form and all their best players are on the pitch they are incredibly difficult to outscore/breakdown.

          This season looks more and more like a two horse race by the day though so chances are we will see some more Chelsea-Manchester United meetings deciding which way the trophies go this season.

          I wonder what the odds of United vs Chelsea for the Champions League trophy are at the moment.

          • Gunner JD says:

            Ah. Maybe Brian’s apparent defensiveness stems from the difference you’re pointing out.

            But I must admit to being a little confused now. You are surely a more experienced watcher of the English game than I (this is only my 3rd full season watching and loving the beautiful game), but is United really considered a defensive team? I know that they are considered by many to be a little weak in the midfield (post CR7 of course), but isn’t their bread and butter their attack (not just Wayne Rooney but their overall approach)?

            Also, if recent developments are any indication, Chelsea seem to be the stronger team defensively, don’t they? The Red Devils’ defense hasn’t exactly dominated this season.

            I’m definitely no expert, but it just seems to me to be the case.

          • Tyson says:

            Manchester Uniteds defensive pairing is based entirely around Vidic and Ferdinand. When those two don’t play the defense is heavily impaired.. I mean it’s literally a world in difference.

            Basically the idea is Wes Brown and Evra both have a faster pace than either Vidic or Ferdinand. Evra generally plays a very advanced position and his job is to funnel the attacker into Vidic or Ferdinand. Wes brown isn’t as fast as Evra and probably not much faster than either Vidic of Ferdinand but he is good at seeing things coming and breaking them down in their infancy.

            Whenever you see somebody attacking Uniteds defense chances are Evra will run to intercept them or Wes Brown will break them down. These two don’t necesarily tackle they just put pressure on the attacker and funnel him straight into either Vidic or Ferdinand who are amongst the best at what they do in the world.

            The problem is if Evra and Brown have been taught to funnel the attacker towards Vidic or Ferdinand if either of them are not playing or not at their best there is suddenly a problem.

            United haven’t been the fortress this year as they have in the past because they are having to play inexperienced players in positions that can make or break the match.

            This has especially been a disaster against attackers with a fast pace. Ferdinand was bought back too soon from injury and just couldn’t cope with everything coming his way. When this defense is firing on all cylinders it is arguably the best back 4 + goalie in the world and numerous records broken last year show that.

            Manchester Uniteds midfield has been a disaster zone for a while now but it has nothing to do with CR7.

            If you look at Barcelonas midfield they have Xavi, Iniesta and Yaya Toure. Xavi and Iniesta are great players. Between the two of them they create a lot of opportunities for goals and score a few too. Yaya Toure doesn’t create opportunities for goals or score them though. He’s a holding midfield player.

            His job is to hold break down attacks before they get to the defenders and keep them in play. The problem is if your defense is breached you have to commit players and time to defending.

            With a holding midfielder if he can break down more attacks he can keep the ball in play and therefore create more opportunities to score goals and keep his team forward.

            Manchester United have an incredible holding midfielder in Owen Hargreaves but he has been injured for many a year. Aside from that Manchester United have had to do without a key component in their arsenal.

            That has forced United to be the type of side where the entire team falls back and spends more time defending because they struggle to keep the ball in the midfield in comparison to their contemporaries.

            Up front United have both Rooney and Berbatov but neither of them are goal scoring machines that United had in the past like Ruud Van Nistelrooy. United haven’t had a goal scoring maching in quite a few years.

            Rooney and Berbatov are not volume scorers. Rooney has a good pace and a strong kick which allows him to get into positions and attempt shots that players will struggle to deal with. Berbatov has an excellent ability to create opportunities from nothing.

            Nani or Valencia are generally the wingers that provide crosses or rush into the box, try and take a shot or get it to Rooney or Berbatov. Carrick and Fletcher come to the edges of the box and pick up stray balls, deflections etc or just keep the ball in play.

            The point is there are a few people that can score goals but none of them are outright pure strikers or volume scorers they just all create opportunities with unique playstyles and collectively take them.

            United are not at their best at the moment but their defensive line is there. Wes Brown will start playing regularly again but he has had a one year lay off due to injury so itll take time.

            Owen Hargreaves is fundamental to United and he was a huge difference to their playstyle before he got injured. When he starts playing regularly again he’ll change the pace of the game.

            Just imagine the way United played against Everton today but with a defensive midfielder who kept the ball into play longer and then imagine what United could do.

            Sorry about the long post but I love the tactical aspect of football the most lol

      • oliver says:

        “United crushed Chelsea for 90 minutes while Chelsea did a little here and there to keep it level”

        behave… per the opta stats, Chelsea had more territorial advantage but Man U had more possession (which implies Man U passed the ball around their own half a lot.) Chelsea had 6 shots on target to Man U’s 2.

        Man U did have more blocked/off-target shots and more corners though.

        I’m not saying Man U weren’t worth a point, but to describe it as a ‘crushing’ is incredibly one-sided

    • The Gaffer says:

      Brian, at times, yes they were so dominant that they were boring. But not always. They won the title the last few years but some of the games were close encounters where United scored in the last few minutes to win the games.

      This season Chelsea are so far ahead and so much better than the opposition, United included, that I don’t see anyone stopping them. At this rate, they’ll have the title wrapped up in record time.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  2. brn442 says:

    Chelsea are odds on for the title yes, but they will wobble this season. They are nowhere near the defensive fortress they were under Jose, plus with the African’s Nation Cup coming up in January who knows. They may not do a Newcastle type bottle but It may be closer than you think.

    • brn442 says:

      And another thing – the fact that Man City can bring a player the quality of Tevez off the bench whilst Liverpool can’t even dream of a striker anywhere near that class being in their first team says it all.

  3. iZy® says:

    tyson ur comment was long(i doubt u typed that lol)…but it was partially factual ….

  4. Richard says:

    There was me thinking 3-0 actually flattered Everton.

  5. Jason says:

    As far as relegation goes, right now its betwen Portsmouth, Wolverhampton, Bolton, West Ham United, Hull City and now Wigan. Birmingham and Blackburn Rovers gave themselves breathing room this week.

    I hope WHU and Bolton go down. I would have said Blackburn too but they look to be escaping from the dogfight. What do you think?

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