A truly great weekend of football was witnessed during Gameweek 5 where football fans saw enough goals, controversy, late drama and skill to once again prove the Premier League as the world’s most exciting domestic league. Manchester United v Liverpool will steal most of the headlines, yet there was some great football played in matches featuring Tottenham v Wolves, Everton v Newcastle and West Brom v Birmingham City that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Arsenal fans may have felt slightly cheated by ref Phil Dowd when Darren Bent’s leveling strike hit the net well after the four minutes of added stoppage time. Yet as seen in the Gameweek 2 draw featuring Manchester United v Fulham, a player again failed to convert a late penalty which would have secured the three points for the away side. Then it was Nani, Saturday it was Tomas Rosicky who failed to convert what would have been Arsenal’s second from the spot which allowed Sunderland the chance to equalize late on.
Spurs fought back from one down to record their first home win of the season when Wolves visited White Hart Lane on Saturday – a fixture won 1-0 by Wolves last season. In fact, Wolves secured all six points from Spurs last campaign which would have been in the minds of players and supporters as Spurs frustratingly pushed on looking for that elusive first home goal of the season. They finally got it through new boy Rafael van der Vaart’s penalty conversion before Roman Pavyluchenko and Alan Hutton secured a comfortable home win.
Chelsea seem to just define efficiency as of late. Although many including myself have questioned their early season schedule of fixtures and the lack of a serious challenge associated with them, the Champions still have to beat the teams placed before them until they meet stronger teams from the top half of the table. Their fluidity in attack, passing and running off the ball under Carlo Ancelotti embodies a Champion’s ambition unlike the finished product that was the title winning sides under Jose Mourinho who were less flashy than this most recent installment. Time will tell whether or not Chelsea have in fact gotten better from last season’s Championship winning side, or if they’ve indeed just aged another year and will slowly return to Earth once their schedule proves more daunting.
In other weekend matches of note, WBA beat Birmingham City 3-1 in the West Midlands Derby, West Ham secured their first point away to Stoke City while Blackburn v Fulham and Bolton v Aston Villa both resulted in a point earned for all involved.
Honorable Mentions -
Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle – What a debut for the French midfielder who impressed with a man of the match performance during Saturday’s 1-0 win away to Everton. Ben Arfa’s 44th minute left footed strike was a thing of beauty, while his darting runs through midfield throughout the second half proved his winner was no fluke from a player with more than just one trick up his sleeve. Newcastle seem to have captured a gem in Ben Arfa who’s on loan with the Magpies from French club Marseille. Ben Arfa’s talent as a footballer is no new secret as he’s been highly rated in Ligue 1 for a few years.
The 23 year old midfielder is best on the left side of midfield and with the ball at his feet while he could prove the ever so important creative piece to a Newcastle side who hope to avoid anything close to relegation this season. The three points secured from Ben Arfa’s debut goal on Saturday were enough to see Newcastle jump to sixth in the table while Toon fans begin to look froward to a season with Ben Arfa on their side.
Carlos Tevez, Manchester City – Captain. Leader. Difference Maker. Manchester City recorded their first ever win at the DW Stadium on Sunday when they ran out 2-0 winners v Wigan. Tevez was again the difference maker for City who jumped to fifth in the league with the three points gained. Tevez scored the opener in the 43rd when a Joe Hart long ball just grazed the head of Wigan defender Mohamed Diame which put Tevez in on goal to chip over Ali Al Habsi.
Tevez had a hand in City’s second when he assisted on Yaya Toure’s stab home as the work in progress that is Manchester City continues to, well,….progress.
Didier Drogba, Chelsea – Drogba has been involved in a myriad of goals this season, either scoring himself or setting up for a teammate. He’s arguably the league’s best player and throws his name in for footballer of the week whenever he takes the pitch. The only problem for Drogba, at least as it pertains to this little column, is that he’s surrounded by players like Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard each and every week which makes picking a standout performer in a Chelsea squad seemingly loaded with standouts a difficult activity.
Regardless of who walks out onto the pitch at Stamford Bridge with the Captain’s arm band, Drogba is the leader. His ability to power his way into a game and make his mark is unmatched by that of any other player in the Premier League. Chelsea were again winners on Sunday by a dominate scoreline as they continue their breezy start to the 2010-11 Premier League campaign. In Chelsea’s 4-0 win v Blackpool, Drogba again scored, his fifth of the year, and assisted on two others as he was again heavily involved in an emphatic Chelsea early season victory.
Premier League Footballer of the Week -
Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester United – A sublime hat-trick for the Bulgarian striker against a determined Liverpool side at home was enough for Berbatov to get the nod this week. Two headers and a fantastic over head volley – arguably goal of the season so far – saw off Liverpool in a fascinating and entertaining match.
Liverpool fans will understandably feel aggrieved after Howard Webb failed to send off John O’Shea for his tug down on Fernando Torres in the second half – O’Shea arguably could have seen red in the weekend’s most controversial decision. Webb may have adjudged that Edwin van der Sar was easily onto the through ball wherein the foul warranted a yellow as a goal scoring opportunity hadn’t yet presented itself.
Regardless of the controversy, it was Dimitar’s day. After putting United 1-0 up with his first half near post header, Berbatov produced a stunning piece of skill to rival Europe’s best when he caught a Nani cross high on his right thigh and flicked an overhead volley into Pepe Reina’s unsuspecting goal.
Berbatov led the day with three goals while United, still not a finished product, again conceded two goals after being up two. Thanks to Berbatov, Nani’s wing play, Scholes passing and Fletcher’s presence in midfield, United were able to this time hold on for the win, if ever so slightly. Berbatov (alongside Chelsea’s Florent Malouda) is now the Premier League’s leading goal scorer with six in five. His fine start to the season comes at the most opportune of times as Wayne Rooney has netted only once in five matches for United.