In Ligue Un, it was a difficult turnaround for Laurent Blanc to face his former side Bordeaux, with whom he won the Ligue 1 title in 2009 with such a quick turnaround after much of his side featured on international duty. I know TV contracts dictate Friday night matches in France and Germany, but both leagues should strongly consider dumping the Friday matches coming out of an international break. This led to a slow start for Paris Saint-Germain, and Blanc fielded a somewhat unusual lineup. Still, PSG eventually broke Bordeaux down and won 2-0.
Monaco’s victory over Lorient was decided by an early penalty, but yet was one of the most free-flowing and entertaining matches of the weekend. Claudio Ranieri has mixed Monaco veterans well with the new flair players, in an effort to win Ligue Un.
In the Premier League, Jose Mourinho’s claims that Chelsea dominated its match against Everton are so laughable they are not worth discussing in greater detail. Everton looked like a well-oiled machine. Under Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, Gareth Barry was an automatic selection more often than not because of his tactical acumen and positional sense. But Barry’s passing ability has always been under-appreciated and his simple but effective balls, combined with his positioning, allowed Everton to dominate the second half with a goal lead.
Kevin Mirallas is often forgotten when people talk about Belgium’s national side. In August at the International Champions Cup, a Miami Dolphins PR person and I spent several minutes discussing how strong Belgium was player for player and yet forgot Mirallas even though he was playing in the game we were watching (Everton vs. Valencia). On Saturday, Mirallas proved to be perfect striker late on for Everton, holding the ball up well and linking up well with the midfield that was bossing the game. The Belgian winger was moved up front from his normal right sided wide position after Nikica Jelavić was subbed off.
Chelsea fans seem to be partaking online in a certain degree of self-delusion about their side parroting the rhetoric of Mourinho.
Meanwhile, Manchester City fans — who were attacking me on message boards a few weeks ago for my alleged negativity about the new signings and changes at the club — now are echoing my sentiments loudly. A few delusional Blues fans still traffic the message boards but the tone has certainly changed over the past few weeks, moving rapidly from self-delusional to realism about City’s chances of remaining in the title chase for very long.
At Arsenal, Aaron Ramsey has now been dominant in three different positions on the pitch early this season. Perhaps this is most versatile and useful Welsh footballer on the planet, not that hundred million euros guy at Real Madrid.
Those critics who so easily wrote off Arsenal for not spending seem to forget a quality side often blends together over time. The Gunners have maintained their principles and a consistency in style and squad selection that should serve them well in this topsy-turvy year of change in the top division of English football. I would not discount Arsenal’s title credentials. In fact, other than Manchester United’s long-term success and Arsenal’s injury record, I see no reason why the Gunners aren’t considered the favorite to win the league right now considering how disjointed and arrogant both Chelsea and Manchester City appear in their approach.
Ryan Shawcross is for me one of the best defenders in English football full stop. The Ramsey incident in 2010 was a horrific moment but he has since proven his quality time and time again. If I were Roy Hodgson, I would strongly consider him for next summer’s World Cup should England qualify.
Geoff Cameron could be the most consistent American field player playing in a top European league not named Michael Bradley.
I was concerned about both Gylfi Sigurðsson and Lewis Holtby’s futures when Tottenham went on a summer raid of Continental football. AVB’s confidence in the former was rewarded this weekend with two timely goals, though the later may simply be wasting away at White Hart Lane. Also encouraging for Spurs is the continued development of Andros Townsend who is making Aaron Lennon expendable after years of loyal, though injury riddled, service to the club.
It still counts as a mild shock of the transfer window that a player as highly regarded as Christian Eriksen ended up at Spurs and not Real Madrid, Chelsea or Juventus. His quality and creativity was on full display Saturday in Spurs’s 2-0 triumph over a listless Norwich.
The camaraderie between the French contingent at Newcastle is now being displayed in some slick passing football and good results. Perhaps many of us were too quick to write off Le Toon? Alan Pardew’s tactic of taking away wide areas of the pitch from Aston Villa worked like a charm in this game. The Magpies controlled the midfield and ran out well deserved winners away from home.
As for Serie A news, the worst thing Sir Alex Ferguson did in his last few years at Manchester United may have been letting Paul Pogba leave. Fergie knew it was a mistake rather quickly, but Pogba’s talents were on full display in the Derby d’Italia on Saturday. Inter controlled much of the flow of the game, but Pogba’s timely tackles and excellent link-up play helped Juventus salvage a 1-1 draw.
Bayern Munich were wholly unconvincing in a 2-0 victory over Hannover, while Borussia Dortmund ran rampant against Hamburg. The new signings for Jürgen Klopp have seemingly more than offset the loss of Mario Götze who has yet to make any significant impact for Pep Guardiola. Bayern remain the Bundesliga favorites but Dortmund very well could push them until the end of the season the way things are looking right now.
In the Championship, Brian McDermott is showing his management skill at Leeds United. With an undermanned squad, the biggest club in Europe playing outside a top division currently (sorry Rangers), the team sits in a Championship playoff place following a 1-0 victory against Bolton at the Reebok.
Last but not least, the job Paul Ince is doing at Blackpool is being under-reported and under-appreciated in the British press. A squad with virtually no money to spend, which has seen an exodus of top players in the last few windows, sits atop the Championship table joint-leaders with big spending and squad bloated QPR.