1. Chelsea fail first big test, but get let off the hook.
Comprehensive wins over West Brom, Wigan, Blackpool, Stoke and West Ham had propelled Chelsea to the top of the league in style, however from the beginning of the season it was clear that it would take until late September until Carlo Ancelotti’s side were properly tested against a side who could reasonably be expected to cause them damage and prove that perhaps, they were not quite the force it seemed.
Twice defeated by their cash-endowed rivals last season, Chelsea traveled to Eastlands on Saturday determined to prove the skeptics wrong but as it transpired they did anything but. The Blues looked a shadow of the side that we watched dispatch opposition with ease so far this season as City’s carefully executed tactics once again derailed the Londoners. With Arsenal up next, consolation comes from the fact that, barring a freakish turn around in goal difference, their lead at the top will remain intact no matter what the result come six o’clock next Sunday as both the Gunner’s and Manchester United failed to capitalize on the Champions’ slip-up. Hope for these sides comes in the form of the knowledge that Chelsea, mercifully, are human.
On a sidenote, Optajoe informs me that its the first time all of the traditional Big Four failed to win on the same matchday since December 2008. Paddy Power’s accumulator department Christmas party is saved.
2. City’s style suited to the big time.
While some will question the merits of having a multi-multi-million pound team play a 5 man midfield and a counter attacking style , few can argue that the system doesn’t work when needed. The key words in the previous sentence shouldn’t need to be pointed out but just in case you’re not your usual alert self they are “when needed”. A third win on the trot against Chelsea, four points from the past six against Arsenal, five from nine against Liverpool (who can count themselves lucky to be included in this list) and seconds away from two draws with Manchester United shows that City know how to handle themselves when the big boys come knocking.
The problem however is that they look a far less certain side when lesser sides set up against them and a lack of central creativity often fails to unlock a stout defense who battle their hardest to give City a taste of their own medicine. Roberto Mancini has a strange problem on his hands…… proven to be more than capable against the top sides, if he can manage to regularly defeat the lesser lights of the Premier League, he may just be able to spark something beautiful in the blue half of Manchester.
3. All not Att-well for Stuart.
Stuart Attwell is not a Premier League standard referee. Any man who awards a goal for a ball that went over the endline and nowhere near the net should never be allowed take control of a juvenile game not to mind say a top-level clash just two years on. Even forgetting the infamous “Phantom Goal”, Attwell has proven himself incompetent time and time again and his inclusion in the list of Premier League referees allows only for more high profile mistakes to occur, and for managers to target officials more and more often. Only two weeks ago Attwell was on the receiving end of a rant by Arsene Wenger for failing to acknowledge an horrific tackle on Abou Diaby by Paul Robinson. While the official rules of the game state that Attwell was correct to allow Dirk Kuyt’s goal on Saturday, his credibility is now so poor that he could never escape criticism for giving it. While that is far for a crime in itself, the expectation of him to be wrong does little for fans, players or manager’s alike.
4. Arsenal suffer as Manuel is Fawlty.
If I were an Arsenal fan I’d be feeling pretty p*ssed off. How many times must Arsene Wenger continue to put his faith in such a liability? While stubborn mindedness can often be a blessing for a manager, it soon becomes a damnification if he is unable to admit he was wrong all along. A shambolic display against West Brom this weekend is another example in a long line of poor performances by the Spanish stopper. Put simply Almunia costs the Gunners more points than he earns them and while it quite likely that he will pull off a string of fine saves next weekend and be hailed for his ability to recover from despair, to anyone but the most blind-eyed football fan it is clear that this increasingly seems to be the only praise the Arsenal number one ever seems to receive. Acclaim dripping with patronization should be discounted as a compliment immediately, just as quickly as Almunia should be consider as a top level goalkeeper. His only saving grace seems to be the ineptitude of those behind him in the pecking order his manager’s baffling hesitancy to sign a replacement.
5. Substance over style for Stoke.
While the revelation that Stoke are not one of the League’s more stylish outfits is unlikely to surprise any of you out there, maybe the fact that since rejoining the top-flight 82 games ago, The Potters have never once managed to break the 50% possession mark in any game will. This doesn’t seem to be much of a concern around the halls of the Brittania stadium however as Stoke once again look capable of a comfortable mid-table finish with a cleverly combined mix of athleticism, skill and power.