Rants and musings from the magazine team
Rounding up the weekend's Premier League goodies and baddies...
Roberto Di MatteoTwo years ago West Bromwich Albion earned plaudits for their persistence in ‘playing the game as it should be played’, even though their inability to mix it physically or be uber-direct ultimately lead to their relegation from the Premier League.
By Di Matteo’s own admission, West Brom’s philosophy is still to attack rather than defend, but this time round the Baggies look to have a little more cutting edge. Last week’s hero Peter Odemwingie is quickly finding his feet – his goal against Arsenal was his third in five Premier League matches – while at the same time also looking harder to play through at the other end. Well, at least since their trip to Chelsea...
Vincent KompanyCarlos Tevez may have earned the headlines after scoring the only goal of a match Sky rather predictably billed the biggest of the season so far, but it was City’s rearguard action that ultimately proved the most crucial facet of a brilliant win. Central to that superb defensive performance was Belgian bruiser Kompany, who looked both assured in possession and clinical in the challenge.
Kompany, originally signed as a defensive midfielder, has forged an impressive defensive partnership with Kolo Toure, with City conceding just twice in the eight games they’ve played alongside one another so far this term.
City’s defensive frailty was ultimately what cost them a Champions League slot last season. This blossoming partnership could well prove key to a successful qualification this time round.
Robert GreenThey say the key to being a top goalkeeper is recovering from your mistakes, and that’s exactly what Rob Green has done, eventually, with a sterling display to keep Spurs at bay at Upton Park.
The England international (let’s give him the benefit of the doubt on that one…) did brilliantly to deny Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart in the first half, and will be rightly chuffed with his first Premier League clean sheet since April. A turning point? We’ll have to wait and see.
Darren BentBent scored his seventh and eighth goals in 10 matches against the Premier League’s ‘Big Four’ since joining Sunderland last summer. Those goals have been good for a not unreasonable nine points.
Emile Heskey and Michael OwenGerard Houllier has been back in English football less than a week and already two of his most trusted charges from his time at Liverpool have made a semi-miraculous return to goalscoring form.
Both Owen and Heskey scored with late headers to change the result in their team’s favour. Owen flicked past Jussi Jaaskelainen to earn Manchester United a point at Bolton, while Emile Heskey's neck-thrusting power-header past Marcus Hahnemann gave Villa a 2-1 win at Wolves in Houllier’s return to the Premier League.
What next? Nick Barmby to fire Hull back into the Premier League? Robbie Fowler to win Australian football’s Golden Didgeridoo award? Sander Westerveld to… nah, it probably won’t happen.
Kenwyne JonesThe £8 million Stoke forked over to Sunderland may have raised a few eyebrows , but the Trinidad and Tobago striker has now scored four goals in his last four matches to help Stoke out of the early season drop zone and up into 14th.
The big man led the line superbly again at St James’ Park and looks likely to continue to flourish in a team known for their strength from set-pieces.
Stuart AttwellControversy seems to follow Attwell round like teenage girls follow Justin Bieber (on Twitter). While this was no ‘ghost goal’ and you can at least work out how he managed to get this one ‘wrong’, it still seems like the 27-year-old lacks the experience (or perhaps confidence) to make big decisions, or perhaps even go back on decisions already made.
By the letter of the law, it was right that the goal stood. The free kick was taken from the right place, Turner hadn’t been told by Attwell to place the ball any further back and Fernando Torres was the statutory 10 yards away. Yet there was still an element of farce about the whole affair, with Atwell seemingly looking for a way out of awarding the goal by entering prolonged discussions with his linesman.
Steven Gerrard (and Stuart Attwell, again)The farce which lead to Liverpool’s opener wasn’t Attwell’s only faux-pas. The Warwickshire whistle-blower also failed to send off Gerrard for a blatant forearm smash into the face of Sunderland’s Danny Welbeck.
Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time Attwell has failed to send off the increasingly unpopular Liverpool skipper for flailing a limb into the head of an opponent, having failed to spot a similar offence committed unto Portsmouth’s Michael Brown in March.
Manuel AlmuniaYou could make a strong argument that it‘s not the Spaniard‘s fault he's not good enough and that Arsene Wenger is the bad guy for not replacing him over the summer, but there really is no legislating for the kind of error that resulted in West Brom’s second goal on Saturday.
You can just about muddle by in the Premier League on limited ability if you work hard and maintain focus and concentration, but Almunia was clearly lacking in those latter two attributes - as well as confidence - as he was unable to prevent Gonzalo Jara’s near-post shot squirming into the net. Nor was there sufficient reason for the 33-year-old to go walkabout when Chris Brunt burst into the box, allowing the ever-improving Ulsterman to square for Jerome Thomas in front of an unguarded net.
Although Almunia saved a first-half penalty, it's the least he could have done after rushing out (no, really) and clumsily hauling down Peter Odemwingie to concede the spot-kick. Arsenal fans are unlikely to be too worried that he faces a short spell on the sidelines with a elbow injury.
James PerchHaving been booked in each of the Magpies' opening five Premier League matches, the Newcastle utility man took it to the next level with a superbly taken bullet-header of an own goal. It gave Stoke a 2-1 win despite the visitors only having 35% possession (not in itself unusual for the Potters, as we told you on Friday) and one shot on target. Nice work if you can get it.
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