It was a welcome return to Premier League action Saturday after a long international break. I’ll be the first to admit that I found the matches I watched exciting. My Saturday began by watching Everton versus Manchester United, then West Ham against Chelsea, followed by Arsenal and Bolton.
I was enthralled by the injury time comeback by Everton, impressed how Chelsea – even in second gear – dictated the West Ham match and was giddy at how Arsenal created many of the beautiful chances against Bolton. But if I’m also being completely honest, I was dismayed at the poor defending in the match at Goodison Park and the first half at West Ham’s Boleyn Ground.
Everton’s first goal came after a defensive mistake by Patrice Evra who tried to perform an acrobatic kick to prevent the ball sailing over his head from reaching Mikel Arteta, but failed. Manchester United’s equalizer courtesy of Darren Fletcher was a cinch to score especially with the three Everton defenders around him ball watching instead of marking their man. When Manchester United grabbed a goal from Nemanja Vidic, he was completely unmarked as Marouane Fellaini sauntered to the penalty box and failed to pick up a man.
And then there was the comedy of errors by Manchester United in injury time. First it was the turn of the Manchester United defenders this time to be ball watching as they failed to get in front of Tim Cahill’s header that made it 2-3. And then Manchester United defenders were again caught ball watching as the ball fell to Mikel Arteta on the edge of the box and he slammed it into the net.
In past seasons, Manchester United has seemed to be impenetrable. But now this season they have looked vulnerable. Against Fulham and Everton this season, Manchester United was the better side in both games. But United allowed both Everton and Fulham to get back into the game to steal points. At the same time, Everton and Fulham (two of Manchester United’s bogey sides) should enough determination and confidence to push forward and the points they earned should not be dismissed.
Just as the 90 minutes of the match between Everton and Manchester United was filled with defensive errors, so too was the first 45 minutes of the West Ham United against Chelsea match. Chelsea’s opening goal in the second minute featured some criminal defending by West Ham to allow Michael Essien to get a head on the ball, which was then knocked into his own goal by Carlton Cole. Then the second goal for Chelsea was even worse by West Ham. Green spilled the ball, Matthew Upson’s poor clearance hit the heel of Salomon Kalou and the ball then found its way into the back of the net.
Let me state that I realize that goals are often scored because of defensive areas. But it’s always welcoming to see goals scored from open play that feature pure genius. Scott Parker’s goal for West Ham United against Chelsea was one of them. While the games in the Premier League will hardly please the connoisseurs of defensive football, they will please the rest of us who love seeing goals scored and end-to-end action. However, before we get carried away with how much better this Premier League season is because of goals scored, we should take into consideration how weak the defensive displays have been by many teams.