1. The guy with the funny name: If you’re a Manchester United fan and you mistrusted Alexander Buttner (5.5) (i.e., you thought he was rubbish), then shame on you. United’s Dutch pocket rocket is already my all-time favorite left back, and I’ve only seen him play once. He looks a bit like one of those leather-jacketed Italian hooligans who, every time their team scores, try to climb over the mesh barrier separating players from leather-jacketed Italian hooligans. He exudes a weirdly seductive anger – the tattoos help. And he scores goals. The next Leighton Baines (7.1), anyone?
2. Dimi: Some would call this “Berbatov’s Renaissance.” I wouldn’t; I’d simply call it “The Renaissance,” because that’s how I feel about Dimitar Berbatov (7.0). Berba (or Berbo, or Dimi, or Tov-Tov) is the Roger Federer of professional football, only without the fawning pundits. He’s 6-2, languid (some critics would say “lackadaisical,” or even “lazy”) and arguably the most gifted footballer in the Premier League – not the best, but the most gifted. On Saturday, he scored two goals, both of which reeked of an essential Berbatov-ness, a combination of the accuracy and power that you know takes years of practice and the subtle grace that makes the whole thing look effortless anyway. You can’t quantify Dimitar Berbatov. And while fantasy football isn’t a game for sentimentalists, he’s one big reason why you should, just this once, be entirely, unashamedly sentimental.
3. Arsenal romp: Perhaps that was a little too wishy-washy for you. Perhaps you prefer cold, hard fact. Perhaps you’re the guy who calculates the length of Cristiano Ronaldo’s eyelashes simply for the joy of calculating something that no one else has ever calculated before — or perhaps because you just kind of like eyelashes. Anyway, the coldest, hardest, most statistically impressive team this weekend was Arsenal, who romped to a 6-1 win over Southampton (winless in four). Even Gervinho (7.3) scored, for crying out loud. Arsenal seem to have returned to what I used to call the “Fabregas Zone,” a semi-mythical level of play that is simultaneously impossibly brilliant and dangerously inconsistent. Helped by fantasy gems like Lukas Podolski (8.5) and Santi Cazorla (9.2), Arsenal will score a lot of goals this seasons. But, inevitably, they’ll implode.
4. Forget about the Swans: The Swansea Surge is starting to wane. You can’t lose at Aston Villa and expect to be, you know, respected. That’s not a cheap shot at Paul Lambert – one of the best young managers in the Premier League – but a fact of footballing life. Michu (7.2)? Only plays well when it’s sunny. Danny Graham (6.0)? A second-division player. If you’re still on the Swansea bandwagon (I was, until five minutes ago, when I realized that what had been a solid, commodious bandwagon was slowly dissolving into nothing right under my feet) get off it. Fast. (And, no, I am most certainly not exaggerating for comedic effect.)
5. Mancini complains, Tevez continues to contribute: If Peter Crouch (6.5) were a basketball player – and, let’s face it, he’s got the height – I wonder if he’d be any good? Probably not. One man who hasn’t taken up a new sport – though I hear that golf is one of his favorite pastimes – is Carlos Tevez (9.4), who notched an assist against Stoke and is turning into one of the best strikers in the league.
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