We’re just three weeks into the new English Premier League season and we have already seen two of the greatest team performances of recent times, two of the worst team performances of recent times, and two clubs in crisis.
The obvious place to start either White Hart Lane or Old Trafford as Manchester United destroyed a decimated Arsenal side 8-2 while Manchester City travelled to London and beat Spurs 5-1 with Edin Dzeko scoring four. But we won’t go there just yet.
We’ll start at Anfield where Liverpool put in a performance every bit as special as either of the Manchester sides.
Liverpool 3-1 Bolton
It is hard to believe that Kenny Dalglish only took over as Liverpool boss eight months ago. Since then Liverpool have literally rocketed up the table and with certain Champions League rivals in disarray, the Reds really do have a great chance to put some daylight between them and Spurs and Arsenal.
In recent seasons a 15:00 kickoff on a Saturday at Anfield has become a rare thing so it was fitting that Liverpool pit on a performance for their fans.
Andy Carroll was surprisingly dropped for Dirk Kuyt which is really saying something because when your first touch is worse than the frantic Dutcman’s you know you’re in trouble.
As it was, Luis Suarez once again ran the show. His positional sense and intelligence on and off the ball is phenomenal to watch and in his current form his movement and use of the ball is an education to any youngster who is interested in football.
He tore Gary Cahill apart all day long and dragged the Arsenal transfer target around so much that he must have wondered what sport he was playing at time. Goals from Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel and Charlie Adam were the difference on paper as Liverpool beat Bolton 3-1 but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Liverpool absolutely hammered Bolton and could easily have won by more but what is most impressive in the Reds is their attitude. They want to do the right things all the time and Kenny Dalglish deserves huge credit for the job he is doing there. They won’t challenge for the league and will still have to hold off Spurs and Arsenal but the start is more than encouraging.
Oh, lest we forget. Following the win, Liverpool moved to the summit of the Premier League for the first time in years. It won’t be the last.
Blackburn 0-1 Everton
Steve Kean welcomed the giant Christopher Samba back into the fold for the visit of David Moyes and Everton. Unbelievably Blackburn missed two penalties after Tim Howard saved the first before Formica hit the post with the second. To rub salt into the wounds Mikel Arteta then scored an injury time penalty for the Toffees after Samba had been harshly adjudged to have climbed upon Marouane Felliani’s shoulders.
Judging by Blackburn’s awful start to the season, it is right that they are many peoples favorites to go down. They lack penetration up front and are very slow across midfield and without Ryan Nelson or Samba in the team they are lost defensively.
Chelsea 3-1 Norwich City
Believe it or not, Norwich are just one of three sides who have an actual better record against Chelsea than the Blues have against them. The other two being Arsenal and Oldham…
Anyway, the first 20 minutes of this match was a stoll for the Pensioners and after opening the scoring through the revitalized Jose Bosingwa on six minutes it really did look like Andre Villa Boas’ side were going to win by a cricket score.
However, Paul Lambert made a few tweaks and put two big men up front, Morison and Holt, and they really caused havok across the back for John Terry and co. They scored a deserved equalizer before the best penalty taker in the business, no not Robbie Keane, Frank Lampard scored to ease the growing pressure on the home team. Before Juan Mata scored his on his debut.
The game was marred by an injury to Didier Drogba after the Ivorian leaped and headed goal-wards only for John Ruddy to misjudge his flying punch as he caught the centre forward fully with both fists. Drogba was instantly knocked out and probably received as much damage from the fall as he did from Ruddy.
I know the punch was accidental but two things should have happened here.
1. Chelsea should have won a penalty and
2. Ruddy should have been given a yellow card.
For Andre Villa Boas the win was much needed. The Portuguese is only in his third game in charge of Chelsea and you can already see the pressure he is under. He will have to sort his teams’ formation though because for long periods they were outplayed by the promoted team.
Nothing else really worthwhile happened on Saturday.
The ever improving Wolves travelled to Birmingham to take on Aston Villa in a derby or sorts and the game proved to be a real tactical battle. Initially Mick McCarthy got on top as Wolves probed and penetrated the Villa rearguard at will with Kevin Doyle impressing once again. However, McLeish made a few changes and the game swung like a pendulum in Villa’s favour. The 0-0 draw was probably the fairest result in the end.
Wigan beat QPR thanks to two goals from Franco Di Santo and their five points from the opening three fixtures is their best ever start to a Premier League season.
On a side note, we are still waiting for the first Premiership goal to be scored on foreign soil as Swansea and Sunderland had a boring 0-0 draw. The big news for the Black Cats was the first appearance of the season for ex-Man Utd defender John O’Shea and that’s about as much as you can say about that particular game.
On to Sunday…
The third weekend of the 2011-’12 season is one that will live long in the memory of fans of the Manchester teams…
Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City
Manchester City travelled to White Hart Lane to take on Spurs in a game that many thought would be very tight.
Since Spurs pipped City to the Champions League at the end of the 2009-’10 season Roberto Mancini has spent somewhere in the region of £150 million improving his side so it was little wonder that City went into this game as favourites.
Spurs for their part started well again with Luka Modric and Nico Krancjar pulling the string in central midfield and they actually carved out the best chances of the opening 30 minutes. But once Edin Dzeko scored his first, he would score four altogether, Harry Redknapp’s team literally fell apart.
Credit to City to brushed Tottenham aside without breaking sweat as Gareth Barry impressed in midfield while Samir Nasri and David Silva provided all the ammunition Dzeko could ask for.
In the end their 5-1 win was well deserved. But Spurs were embarrassing in the way they just rolled over and had their collective bellies tickled.
Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal
make no mistake about it, this was one of the greatest Premier League performances of all time.
You may argue that Arsenal had little more than a B-Team out there and you would be right but the way Manchester United went about their business and the speed, skill, precision and attitude they showed really has set a high bar for the rest of the season.
In short, Arsenal were shocking but Manchester United were sensational.
As with any great Manchester United performance of recent years, Wayne Rooney was at the very epicentre of it. His hat trick was phenomenal even if it did include a late penalty.
There is no two ways about it this is the lowest point in Arsene Wenger’s time as Arsenal manager and he is now learning that his transfer policy is a very flawed piece of strategy.
Elsewhere on Sunday Stoke City continued their impressive start to the season with yet another win over West Brom at the Hawthornes. With Wilson Palacios signing from Spurs on Sunday evening it looks very much like Tony Pulis’ side will improve once again and they are a very real threat to teams ranked from 5th to 8th.
Newcastle also won on Sunday after they beat Martin Jol’s expansive playing Fulham side thanks to a brace from Leon Best and from an inspired display by their goalkeeper Tim Krul. Fulham have attacking options all over the pitch and someday they will hammer somebody.
10 things we learned from Week 3 of the EPL Season:
1. Arsenal are the dirtiest team in the EPL with three red cards in just three games.
2. Wayne Rooney is back to being…Wayne Rooney.
3. North London is at Defcon 5 and both Redknapp and Wenger will have to splash the cash before the transfer deadline on Wednesday to save their seasons.
4. Blackburn are doomed.
5. Wilson Palacios is a fantastic signing for Stoke. With him in the team Spurs won 55 percent of their games, without him they only won 34 percent.
6. Emmanuel Adebayor must be wondering why he left Manchester City for Spurs…
7. Daniel Levy should let Luka Modric go to Chelsea and take Daniel Sturridge as part of the deal.
8. Luis Suarez is phenomenal and it will be more than interesting to see how Dalglish accommodates Steven Gerrard when he comes back from injury.
9. Wayne Rooney is Manchester United’s record Premier League goalscorer with 107 goals. And his hair actually looks good too.
10. The main reason for Arsenal’s poor start to the season is the size of their crest. It is so big and heavy that their players aren’t balanced correctly…