Premier League Footballer of the Week, Gameweek 2
- 6-0, the new 1-0.
- Parity, maybe? Well, not really.
Three Barclays Premier League matches ended 6-0 this weekend with one still left to come Monday night. As the parity debate rages on concerning the overall quality of Premier League teams 1-20, gameweek 2 went a long way in proving just how unequal the league currently is, or did it?
Usual suspects Chelsea repeated their opening weekend thrashing of Nobody United while beautiful passing home boys Arsenal properly welcomed Tangerine Ltd. to the Premier League by the same score.
A plethora of goals were seen Saturday and Sunday would be no different. Sunday would also host the weekend’s best match that saw Fulham fail to capitulate after conceding a late OG and earn a well deserved draw against Manchester United.
After Aston Villa’s gameweek 1 victory over West Ham (who are having a horrid start), one could have been granted the freedom to assume they’d do something similar to the back-in-the-big-time-boys Newcastle United. This time, parity won. Newcastle were brilliant in all things football related on the day as Villa played as if they’d been out on a serious bender the night before. Surely not many Newcastle supporters or Premier League fans would have guessed the Toon could have pulled a Chelsea or Arsenal and post 6 against the boys from Birmingham. Welcome back Newcastle.
So, was parity the winner or is gameweek 2 still too early to tell how equal this league is from top to bottom? Flukes? Defenses still finding their cohesion? Or, the most uneven league in Europe?
Honorable Mentions -
Andy Carroll, Newcastle United – There was something rewarding and maybe even a little charming in watching Newcastle thump Villa at home on Sunday in front of their supporters. I guess I have a soft spot for the Northern club who’ve had a tumultuous time in the Premier League in recent years. When Steve Harper was adjudged to have brought down Ashley Young for a penalty, I suddenly got the feeling that this match was going to mirror one from the 2008-09 season which saw Newcastle relegated. Cue John Carew to the penalty spot and one match-changing blast off later and Newcastle had new life and a renewed sense of purpose.
Joey Barton, Jonas Gutierrez and Jose Enrique all had great performances for Newcastle, but it was Carroll’s hat-trick, striker’s instinct, link play and ability in the air that led Newcastle to the home win. Carroll is a massive target man who can win most balls in the air and flick on to other players. Similar to Emile Heskey at his best for England, could Carroll be the #9 that England so desperately need? Newcastle fans won’t be bothered by a potential call up to the England senior squad as long as Carroll can keep his goal scoring form for the Toon and keep them in the Premier League where they belong.
Gareth Bale, Tottenham – No longer the best new player or most improved player in the Premier League but now simply one of the best players in the league, Bale continually finds ways to impress in attack. I briefly touched on his brace for Spurs in an earlier article, but if you’ve yet to see his second, it’s definitely worth a look.
Harry Redknapp set up Spurs in a 4-5-1 formation with Bale out wide on the left. He’s best in this role because of his goal scoring, dribbling and crossing abilities as opposed to his earlier role for Spurs at left back. Spurs got their first win of the season largely because ref Chris Foy failed to award Stoke City what looked to be the equalizer late on. Bale was brilliant though and continues to shine.
Theo Walcott, Arsenal- Often times described as the type of player who can do so much but lacks that final killer ball, Walcott seems to be finding it, if somewhat slowly. During Saturday’s thrashing of Blackpool, I lost count of how many times Walcott blew past Blackpool left back Stephen Crainey. It was as if Walcott had two or three gears he could easily use to accelerate past anyone Blackpool threw at him on his way forward and into the box.
Oddly enough though, while Walcott bagged his hat-trick, his best moves and best service into the box didn’t see an Arsenal player latch onto the end of his crosses. When an Arsenal player was forward in support was when Theo failed to provide that meaningful service his opponents have criticized him for in the past. A good display with some fine finishing, but Walcott still not that complete player many still think he can become. Blackpool however defended poorly and Arsenal, like Chelsea, will always be a good enough side to exploit the weaknesses of a poor opponent.
I believe Walcott can start for England and regularly for Arsenal in the near future because of his pace and ability to change a game in a second when he’s at his best. Even when he’s only playing decent, he can still be dangerous. Oppositely though, Walcott seems to have these little breakout games once or twice a year only to succumb to injury or loose form in the proceeding weeks. On Saturday, Arsenal supporters will have hoped Walcott marked a line in the sand for future performances and will expect more of the quick wing play and finishing from their young Englishman.
Note: I want to recognize Chelsea Football Club for another incredible performance against Wigan on Saturday. The Champions blitzed another poor side and played well together as a team without necessarily having one player dominate the headlines. Drogba was brilliant in his passing and unselfish play, as was Lampard while Anelka proved he’s a fine finisher. Ashley Cole did what Ashley Cole does best while a team of classy and experienced players took their chances well. Chelsea aren’t the Champions for nothing and they showed just why they’re the league’s best team over the past two weeks, I’m just waiting for them to play a side that won’t eventually be relegated this season.
Premier League Footballer of the Week -
Paul Scholes, Manchester United- The influential midfielder scored one for United on Sunday and was man of the match in his club’s opening season win last Monday v Newcastle. Scholes has been at his best for last season’s runners up and when sharp can control the pace and flow of a game better than most. He seems to be getting better with age and so far this season has been one of the leagues best midfielders. His poise on the ball when looking for an open man is unmatched. He never gets flustured and rarely misses finding his man.
Scholes scored his 150th goal for United on Sunday, a low, hard drive from just outside the box, not unlike one you’ve seen from Scholes in seasons past and continued to spray passes in his quintessentially cool manner as United dominated the majority of the first half. Everything starts through Scholes when United are at their best. Even when Darren Fletcher receives the ball from a defender, it seems as if his first task is to then find Scholes to start the attack.
Ferguson will rue his decision in allowing Nani the responsibility to take United’s penalties. Surely Sunday marks the last time he’ll ever be granted the opportunity as United drop early season points because of Nani’s attempt to the dismay of Ferguson. Nani struck his penalty well, but it was his placement that allowed Fulham keeper David Stockdale to make the save. If Scholes can maintain his brilliant early season form and Wayne Rooney can regain match sharpness with the help of his supporting cast, I believe United can and will challenge Chelsea for the title this year. Chelsea and Manchester United to battle it out again for the title - a fine example of parity if you ask me.