The funny thing about the Premier League is that you never quite know how things will turn out until matters play out on the pitch. Before the weekend, many were waxing poetic on Chelsea’s very realistic chance of thrashing Sunderland by four, maybe five to Sunderland’s sad nil. Sunderland failed to get that memo though and while Arsenal were able to hold serve away to Everton, participants in the Premier League title race now looks to be a competitive three.
As injuries continued to pile up and plague an Aston Villa side who were coming off a dramatic midweek win against Blackpool, many assumed Manchester United would have their way at Villa Park to close the gap on leaders Chelsea. Even though Villa eventually conceded a point to United after going up by two goals, United were no where near the dominating force many said they would be.
And lastly in the ‘let’s just see how things play out’ saga, Liverpool, just last weekend disposed of Chelsea in grand fashion at Anfield while it seems the ‘one step forward, two steps back’ saying could prove to be an accurate moniker for Liverpool’s season as the Reds stumbled to a 0-2 defeat against Stoke City.
So while Premier League detractors continue to spout the evil rhetoric that denotes a lack of parity in England’s top flight, the faithful and the believers in the league just need to point to gameweek 13, its results and excitement, as proof things aren’t always as they seem and that there’s some pretty good reasons why the game continues to be played out on the pitch.
Honorable Mentions –
Marc Albrighton, Aston Villa– Villa were quite dangerous when Albrighton possessed the ball at his feet on the right flank and crossed into the box. The extremely effective and pacy winger used his full bag of tricks to torment Patrice Evra and provide relevant service that only required a decent target man to head home. Although Albrighton missed what should have been a certain goal when he headed a stunning Stewart Downing cross across the face of United’s goal and out, he soon made up for the miscue.
After Villa opened up the scoring through an Ashley Young penalty, Albrighton finished a picture perfect counter attack when he tapped in another great Stewart Downing cross (Downing too was brilliant on the day). Soon after his strike to double Villa’s lead, Albrighton this time proved a defensive asset when he saved one by heading away Rio Ferdinand’s close range effort.
Aston Villa currently hold the key to the future (and the present) with some of their young players. Barry Bannan, Nathan Delfouneso, Jonathan Hogg and Albrighton himself look a good lot for Villa to hold onto and nurture for the upcoming years.
Nedum Onuoha, Sunderland– You just knew someone from Sunderland would make the list, didn’t you? Shouts for Danny Welbeck, Asamoah Gyan and Jordan Henderson all crossed my mind while it was Sunderland’s starting right back who eventually gets the mention for his all-around good play on Sunday. Sunderland produced a master class in counter attacking football in their eventual 0-3 victory at Stamford Bridge and while the victory should largely be credited to Steve Bruce’s tactics and the overall team effort, it’s hard to leave a Black Cat off the list.
Sunderland’s opener was the first time a visiting player scored at the Bridge this season and wasn’t it one to behold? Onuoha picked up the ball some 30+ yards from goal and ‘Messi’d’ his way past three Chelsea players before slotting home a slow roller past Petr Cech for a deserved lead. It was arguably the goal of the weekend as it stunned the Stamford Bridge crowd and even the match commentators.
While Onuoha continued to hold down the fort on Sunderland’s right side, Jordan Henderson’s ball into the path of Asamoah Gyan for Sunderland’s second was a thing of beauty and unlocked Chelsea again before Danny Welbeck tapped in a third to seal a now famous victory.
Samir Nasri, Arsenal– No stranger to this list, Nasri has arguably been Arsenal’s best and most consistent player this season. In his right-ish attacking midfield role, Nasri played creator with his pace, passing ability and vision during Sunday’s 1-2 away win against Everton. The victory put Arsenal second in the table and sets them up nicely for next weekend’s North London derby against Tottenham.
Premier League Footballer of the Week –
Gareth Bale, Tottenham– Also no stranger to this list and he’ll continue to appear until he proves otherwise, Bale was up to his usual tricks on Saturday against Blackburn. Equal parts goal scorer and provider, Bale remains the lynch-pin to a Tottenham team who currently look solid, but just maybe spread a little thin as a top four spot continues to elude them. Tottenham should qualify for the round of 16 in the Champions League, an incredible feat for a club who were so recently rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table under Juande Ramos.
While the Ramos days are far gone, the Redknapp and Bale days seem to be here to stay. Bale bagged a brace in Spurs 4-2 win over Blackburn on Saturday, his brilliant snap header to open the scoring was easily the highlight of the day. For Bale, one would assume it should be impossible to keep this kind of form up for much longer. But as the Welsh wizard continues to score and provide vital goals for his club from the position of left midfield, the assumption that Gareth Bale is a flash in the pan remains one only held by those who know little about football.
If the 2009-10 season was the one in which Bale announced his name to the Premier League, then the 2010-11 campaign looks to be the one in which Bale’s name appears along side the league’s best.