Rants and musings from the magazine team
The weekend's heroes and villains from the Premier League...
Matthew GilksFar from being everybody’s b*tch, Blackpool have made a solid start to their debut Premier League season, securing seven points and making the popular pre-season theory that they may break the Premier League points record look very silly indeed.
Key to their triumph at St James’ Park on Saturday was the goalkeeping display of Gilks, who superbly denied Joey Barton, Peter Lovenkrands and Andy Carroll to frustrate the home team, not to mention the home crowd.
The newly Scottishised 28-year-old will face many even busier afternoons than Saturday between now and May, but with two away clean sheets already, this may not be the last time he causes moans and groans from opposition fans this season. Not bad for a player who two years ago had to get first team football by going on loan to League Two Shrewsbury.
Pepe ReinaGilks wasn’t the only top flight gloveman excelling on the road this weekend. Having endured a fairly inauspicious start to the season, Barça-shirt-wielding maniac Pepe Reina recovered to almost single-handedly (not literally, even he isn't that good) earn the Reds a point at St Andrew's.
A string of fine, acrobatic saves, particularly in the first half denied Birmingham the win they probably deserved, and with compatriot Fernando Torres clearly lacking sharpness at the other end, Reina may be required to put in more performances such as this for Roy Hodgson’s side to pick up points at what they would consider an acceptable rate.
Scott Dann and Roger JohnsonHaving said Torres lacks sharpness, it’s worth mentioning that Brum’s defensive duo were once again in imperious form to keep the Anfield side - and Torres at particular - at bay.
Sunday’s draw extended Birmingham’s unbeaten home record to 18 in all competitions, during which time Alex McLeish’s side have conceded just 10 goals. With England centre-backs currently dropping like flies, an international call-up for one or other of the Blues duo may well be a possibility in the coming months.
Tim CahillWhat was perhaps most puzzling about Everton’s amazing 3-3 draw with Manchester United was that the Toffees managed to score three times without a single striker on the pitch for the entire game, especially considering United had five recognised defenders in their number.
Cahill was, as usual, the embodiment of the never-say-die spirit in David Moyes’ side, and started upfront alongside Marouane Fellaini - hardly the archetypal little and large strike partnership, but Everton’s problems were largely at the other end (we’ll come back to that in a bit).
Paul RobinsonWhile some felt his international retirement may have smacked of sour grapes, the Rovers keeper has rediscovered his top form over the last 12 months. It’s just a shame it took him so long to recover from the high-profile mistakes he made for club and country in 2007/08.
Inevitable, then, that Robinson put in an all but faultless display at Eastlands while current golden boy and England No.1 Joe Hart conceded thanks to one of the most bizarre rushes of blood to the head to ever grace the Premier League.
Naturally, it would be madness to suggest Robinson should replace Hart as England’s main man, but a continuation of this form could see Fabio Capello consider trying to coax another stubborn sort back out of international retirement.
Asamoah GyanIf you're the record signing of your new club, and your transfer dragged out to the dying minutes of the transfer window, causing your new manager and chairman no little stress, it's advisable to be prompt in making an impact. Well done to Asamoah Gyan, then, for convincing Steve Bruce and Niall Quinn that months of wrangling and haggling were worthwhile, with a brilliantly taken debut goal at Wigan.
A word too for Jordan Henderson, who teed up the Ghanaian with a superb cross from deep on the right and put in a performance so impressive that team-mate Darren Bent wondered aloud whether he would Sunderland's next England call-up.
Tomas RosickyThe midfielder has been involved in all four of the Gunners’ matches so far this season - starting in both of Arsene Wenger’s side’s empathic home wins. Sadly, you worry that with his and Arsenal’s injury record, it’s probably due to go wrong any time now.
Arsenal completed 463 passes in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Bolton, 296 more than the Trotters could manage. This long-range, outside-of-the-boot defence-splitter from the Czech ace was quite possibly the best.
Lee CattermoleThere can’t be a man alive with more knowledge of the tiling of Premier League changing rooms. Not because he used to work part-time at Wickes to make ends meet when he was at Wigan (it was actually B&Q), but because he presumably regularly spends extended periods of Saturday afternoons staring at them.
You can tell you need to calm down a bit when Steve Bruce winces as you tackle. A second early bath of the season means that Cattermole, who had been tipped to progress from England U21 to full honours, is currently looking more likely to be forced to retire thanks to shrivelled-up feet – too long in the bath, you see...
Karl HenryWhile the Wolves midfielder’s tackle on Bobby Zamora wasn’t as aggressive and clearly intentional as some of the tough love he was doling out to Joey Barton two weeks back, it was still pretty reckless.
The 27-year-old threw himself in at a ridiculous angle from which he could never realistically expect to win the ball, at least not without taking a substantial chunk of Zamora with him, given his momentum.
Clint Dempsey was among the Fulham players who felt Wolves had been slightly over-zealous in the tackle throughout the match, with Henry claiming the American had accused him of going out to 'do’ Zamora. With Barton’s bruises probably still blue, Henry then had the cheek to claim that he “would never go out to hurt anyone.”
Prediction: Arsene Wenger to quite reasonably bring this all up the week before Arsenal play Wolves.
Manchester United and Everton defendersIt would be very Hansenesque to focus on the negatives of such a compelling match, so we’ll keep our advice brief.Things to do: Put some kind of pressure on opposition players adept at crossing the ball when they’re in acres of space in a wide position in the final third.Things not to do: Attempt at overhead kick in your own half that, should you fail to pull it off, will see an opponent through on goal. Or go careering up the pitch in an attempt to win a loose ball you’ve got no chance of making, only to leave your defensive partner sat 30 yards behind with no cover, playing the world and his wife onside.
Robert Green & Matthew UpsonThis really feels like kicking two men while they’re down, down, down, but it’s impossible to overlook the slapstick japery which lead to Chelsea’s second goal at Upton Park. Green’s fumble from a tame Didier Drogba free-kick was only half-cleared by a stumbling Upson. Half-cleared, that is, straight onto the head of Salomon Kalou and then straight back over Green’s head and into the net.
Frederic Piquionne & Mauro BoselliYes, that’s right, West Ham again - but also Wigan, so it’s not bullying. Three weeks back we were blessed with a double header of amazing misses, the likes of which it was hard to imagine being surpassed in the Big League this season. That was until Piquionne and Boselli both managed to miss the target with headers practically underneath the crossbar, possibly directly underneath in Piquionne’s case.
The one saving grace for the Frenchman is that he was offside anyway, although it won’t have filled West Ham’s fans with much confidence for the coming season. It could be a long one.
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