As much as I do enjoy the off the field entertainment associated with football in England, early Saturday kickoffs are always a welcome relief to the insanity of contract negotiations, rumors and managerial master classes. While topics concerning the week that was have been written on at length, it’s now time to get back down to the exploits on the pitch in what ended a weekend of Premier League football with plenty of talking points.
It was a decent enough couple of days in the Premier League that saw Manchester United finally win their first away game of the season, witnessed Chelsea continue their dominance and experienced West Brom jump into fourth spot, if only for a day or so. Manchester City failed their big test against Arsenal, although the neutrals hated to see Dedryck Boyata sent off so early in the encounter that promised to delight had XI men stayed on for both sides.
Spurs and Everton drew in a match that screamed one side was coming off a European hangover and the other was still searching for their best form while Liverpool got back on track with a win at home against Blackburn but remain in the relegation zone, if only on goal differential. West Ham remains worst but set out to attack while Blackpool were blanked away to Birmingham City.
Honorable Mentions –
Joey Barton, Newcastle – Newcastle won an important away game on Saturday v West Ham and Joey Barton played the role of provider for both of Newcastle’s goals. While it was far from a dominating performance by the Toon, they’ll take the points away from home any day of the week. Barton started the game on the right side of midfield giving way to Kevin Nolan and Cheick Tiote and his usual central midfield role. It was Barton’s cross in the 23rd that found Andy Carroll who won the header to set up Kevin Nolan for the equalizer and again Barton’s service in the 69th which found Andy Carroll for the winner when the striker headed home decisively.
One thing we’re learning about Joey Barton being back in the Premier League this year is that when he’s removed his head from his nether regions, he’s a decent enough footballer. It’ll be Barton’s leadership, experience and the occasional goal that will help Newcastle stay up this season, consolidate and push on in the coming years. Newcastle proved a few years ago that no team is too big to go down. While they currently boast a good enough squad through Nolan, Carroll, Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini and Barton himself to stay up this season, here’s hoping football fans don’t have to experience another Geordie meltdown in the near future.
Nikola Zigic, Birmingham City – The Serbian has now enjoyed two goals in as many weeks as his most recent effort proved enough to seal a 2-0 win at home to Blackpool on Saturday. Upon his move from Spanish side Valencia, Zigic took some time to settle into life as a Premier League footballer. In fact, he seems to still be settling. Although his goal on Saturday was the epitome of being at the right place at the right time, it just may be the little bit of luck he needs to get his first season in the Premier League off to a flying start.
Samir Nasri, Arsenal – To exclude an Arsenal player from at least the honorable mentions would be unfair to a side who saw off a determined Manchester City 0-3 away from the Emirates. Although the final scoreline shows Arsenal to have won without much fuss from City, the match itself was closer than the 3-0 mark leads it on to be. Even with a man less, City maintained some form of cohesion throughout the remainder of the encounter while some credit is due to the oft-criticised Lukasz Fabiabski who had a fine game in goal for Arsenal.
While the Gunners were able to win an important early season match to secure second spot, it was their ability to play as a team without one standout performance in the side. Cesc Fabregas was good, but failed to convert his penalty while the three goals for Arsenal came from three different players. All this said, Samir Nasri continued his good form for Arsenal when he combined brilliantly with Andrei Arshavin to open the scoring in the 20th minute, the goal his fourth in the league this season. Late on, Nasri’s hustle kept the ball in play and the Frenchman was able to slid a neat ball into the path of the just on Nicklas Bendtner who finished past Hart to seal the game.
Premier League Footballer of the Week –
Javier Hernandez, Manchester United – Chicharito’s exploits saved United on and off the pitch on Sunday. His brace secured Manchester United’s first away win of the season and quieted fears surrounding the Wayne Rooney saga, in that United have options up front with the Little Pea and through Dimitar Berbatov who’s contributed goals for United this season. While United maintain the services of their talisman Rooney, Fergie’s early summer buy of Chicharito looks to have been a smart one.
If there’s one thing Premier League fans have learned about Hernandez thus far this season, it’s that he’s an accurate finisher with pace. His clever back-header opened up the scoring for United, a goal that was as brilliant as it was difficult to complete, and his winner late on was a precise reaction finish that only the best strikers can pull off with their keen instincts.
Hernandez is an out and out striker the likes of a young Michael Owen. He works and works and doesn’t need a myriad of chances to put the ball into the net. While United fans mull over whether or not they’ll accept Rooney upon his return, they’ll take calm in the play of Chicharito and welcome him into the family with open arms.