- Emphatic Wins in their Infancy
While two massively different matches played out to identical score-lines on Saturday, the meaningful implications associated with those 1-0 wins by Manchester City and West Ham United may go somewhere over the rainbow in defining the seasons of the victors.
While Roberto Mancini got his formation and personnel spot on in what ended up being a fantastically entertaining chess match between two of English football’s biggest spenders, it was a moment of inscrutable profit that led to the difference maker. Equal parts luck and precision led to Carlos Tevez finding the break through in the 59th minute when his determined run from the halfway line set up the winner which oddly enough found an avenue between the legs of Ashley Cole and then a loving smooch off the post.
Largely a match where defenses dominated the proceedings, somehow, again, it was Tevez for City who proved the catalyst. Although the team Carlo Ancelotti fielded in Chelsea’s midweek Carling Cup loss to Newcastle was entirely different to the XI who took the field at Eastlands, the Champions have now lost two in a row after their boisterous start.
West Ham United won a football match played on a pitch of grass in the League for the first time this season when Frederic Piquionne found the net with a hard fought and well won header. Saturday’s West Ham wasn’t the team of the first five weeks of the Premier League. They played with more purpose in the derby with Spurs, defended well and showed ambition. West Ham are taking baby steps in the League which resemble something along the lines of L-L-L-L-D-W. It was the win on Saturday that pulled them out of 20th by only a point, while baby steps sooner or later turn into strides.
This allegory concludes with Manchester City fans humming “Hey, Chelsea, City we got your number time to worry” to the tune of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Got Your Money (having taken 9 points from the last 3 matches) while the Irons, in pursuit of stabilization, breathe a heavy hearted sigh of relief at the site of their first 3 points. Two clubs at different horizons win by the slimmest of margins while those 1-0’s could prove most emphatic in the infancy of their respective seasons.
Plucky Draws, Impressive West Brom and Equally Unimpressive Manuel Almunia
The two big North West clubs failed to produce inspired football in drawing to inferior opponents. Credit to Bolton and Sunderland for playing organized and determined football while talismanic figures such as Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres continue to search for their best form. Neither looked 100% fit while many hope Roy Hodgson’s tactics somehow ‘click’ with time. Manchester United’s failings shouldn’t cause too much concern, yet it was Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, two of United’s early season best, who failed to make an impact on the match.
It’s been said time and time again that Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia isn’t quite good enough to play for Arsenal if they have ambitions of silverware. I’ve always agreed with this sentiment. Almunia was largely responsible for West Brom’s second and third when his shoot stopping abilities and positional awareness failed him, again. Gonzalo Jara scored when Almunia let his low, hard shot from the right edge of the penalty area skip over his hands. For West Brom’s third, Almunia left the goal mouth wide open for Jerome Thomas when he mistakenly ran out for a ball Chris Brunt was well onto. Questions have to soon be asked of Almunia or Arsenal will surely suffer the error of his ways until he’s dropped.
Honorable Mentions –
Dedryck Boyata, Manchester City – As a colleague and I discussed the potential set up, match ups and difference makers on Friday in anticipation of Saturday’s clash, the one re-occuring theme in our pre game analysis was Chelsea’s Ashley Cole and just how dangerous the Champions could be attacking down the left. At some point in the discussion, one of us ended up spot on as Chelsea overwhelmingly favored the left side as their avenue towards goal in the first half. Enter Boyata at right back for Manchester City.
As Roberto Mancini struggled with a selection headache as injuries plagued the squad, it was the young Belgian defender who got the nod at right back. Tough would be his duties on the day as Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda continually picked at Boyata yet he stood firm. As an even-keeled matched played out like a heavyweight fight, City’s defense held strong and for long stretches were barely tested by Chelsea’s once poignant but now somehow stuttering attack. Credit to the young Boyata for a mature defensive performance against some of the league’s best attackers.
Victor Obinna, West Ham – Obinna’s strike partner Frederic Piquionne scored the winner yet Obinna also impressed leading the line for West Ham during their first win of the season. The on loan from Inter Milan winger scored his first goal for West Ham during their mid week Carling Cup victory away to Sunderland and was key for West Ham on Saturday as the Hammers dominated early spells of the match. Obinna held the ball well and was a true attacking threat when West Ham were in possession. He’s a strong, powerful striker with International experience in the form of the Nigerian national team. If he fits in well at Upton Park, West Ham have an option to buy him from Inter at the end of the season and would do well to keep him if they can avoid any additional major drops in form.
David Silva, Manchester City – Silva was effective for City in a right-ish, roaming attacking role. As Carlos Tevez did what he does best, Silva contributed to City’s forwards movements with his accurate passing and runs off the ball. In review of Tevez’s winner, which was a brilliant bit of skill, it was also Silva who matched pace with the Argentine. As Silva filled the space to Tevez’s left to pull John Terry with him, Tevez was able to take Ashley Cole 1 on 1 and finish. The move was largely successful due to Tevez and his determination, yet Silva did his part in keeping Terry busy. Silva’s ‘activity’ was enough to trouble Chelsea as City went onto to the 1-0 win. His slow settling into English football comes as a welcome relief to City fans as they pursue a top 4 finish.
Premier League Footballer of the Week –
Jerome Thomas, West Bromwich Albion – Thomas produced a man of the match performance for the Baggies who were involved in the shock result of the weekend. Few predicted a win for West Brom at the Emirates while even fewer predicted they’d score three goals against the Gunners. Thomas started on the left side of midfield, assisted on one and scored another with some impressive attacking movements. On more than one occasion, Thomas blew past Bacary Sagna, a decent enough right back, and was at the right place at the right time to finish a move he was heavily involved in setting up. The lead commentator of the match was correct in his assessment after Thomas (formerly of Arsenal) scored stating, “Jerome Thomas bites the hand that used to feed him“.