Rants and musings from the magazine team
Naming the goodies and shaming the baddies from the Premier League weekend with James Maw...
RESULTS Sat 20 Nov Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur, Birmingham City 1-0 Chelsea, Blackpool 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton Wanderers 5-1 Newcastle United, Manchester United 2-0 Wigan Athletic, West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Stoke City, Liverpool 3-0 West Ham United Sun 21 Nov Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Aston Villa, Fulham 1-4 Manchester City
Younes Kaboul and William GallasIt says a lot about how rampant Arsenal were in the first half of Saturday's North London derby that Tottenham’s centre-backs were so comfortably the visitors' best performers despite the team being 2-0 down.
Gallas has had a wobbly start at White Hart Lane, but he and the club’s fans will certainly be happy he managed to finally find his feet – against Arsenal, of all teams. The outspoken Frenchman has been uncharacteristically understated since crossing North London, but that didn’t prevent him from being the subjected to a torrent of abuse from the fans of his previous club, although that only seem to act as further incentive. He was in imperious form from the first minute, when he delicately dispossessed mortal enemy Samir Nasri.
However it was Kaboul who struck the decisive blow, flicking Rafael van der Vaart’s inswinging free kick into the bottom corner to cap a successful week in which he also received his first ever call-up into the senior French side. The former Portsmouth man is slowly starting to develop a strong defensive partnership with his compatriot; now all they need to do is start keeping some clean sheets, having not managed one in their last 13 Premier League matches.
Roberto ManciniFollowing the anti-climax of the Manc derby and the sheer frustration of the home draw with Birmingham, came a much-needed and highly impressive 4-1 victory away to a Fulham side who had previously only lost once at home all season and had yet to concede more than twice in a match.
Mancini's men were much more attacking at Craven Cottage, and City clearly and emphatically benefited from having extra bodies upfield, even if one of them was Jo: the extra attacking intent allowed David Silva and Carlos Tevez in particular the opportunity to roam the final third looking for pockets of space in which to cause havoc.
It was also a victory for the Italian's policy of playing Yaya Toure at the pinnacle of his midfield, with the Ivorian providing a constant outlet to City players under pressure in possession in their own half, and also scoring a neatly taken and sublimely crafted first goal for the club – at the end of a move encompassing two dozen passes.
Bolton WanderersWe're getting to the point now where we have to stop referring to teams as having "had a good start" and instead acknowledge that they’re probably roughly where their ability and application merit – and have every chance of staying there if they can maintain somewhere near the same levels over the next six months.
This is true of Bolton. Although you would imagine a prolonged tilt at the top four would most likely prove a step too far, at this stage there looks no significant reason they shouldn't compete with the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa for a European spot.
Owen Coyle has proven that it’s possible to get a ‘lesser’ side into the upper reaches of the Premier League table without having to resort to a more primitive form of the game. It might not be too long before Reebok regulars finally move on from the Sam Allardyce era.
Ben FosterChelsea may currently be in somewhat of a malaise, but that didn’t stop the champions peppering Foster's goal with 32 shots at St Andrews on Saturday afternoon. No fewer than nine of their efforts drew saves from the England international who, particularly in the first half, showed exactly why he has now risen to second in the pecking order for his country.
With Edwin van der Sar looking increasingly likely to retire at the end of the current season, perhaps in the not too distant future Sir Alex Ferguson will be ruing allowing Foster to leave Old Trafford.
Paul RobinsonFoster wasn’t the only English keeper to frustrate his opposition and help his side pick up three points. Morten Gamst Pedersen may have scored the goals, but it was Paul Robinson's performance at the other end which was most decisive in seeing Blackburn march to a 2-0 win over Aston Villa – their third victory in a four-match period which has seen Rovers jump from the bottom three to 11th place.
Luke VarneyLuke Varney really doesn’t look like a footballer – he looks like he's in sales, or maybe a crap mid-90s boy band who have just reformed (for the love of the music, not the money).
That said, he definitely is a footballer, because it's very very unlikely that a mere wallet-extractor could score a goal as lip-smackingly spectacular as the one Varney lashed in from the corner of the box in the early stages of Blackpool’s crucial win against Wolves.
Arsene WengerGiven his history of ‘not seeing’ offences committed by his starlets over the past 14 years, it came as no surprise to hear Wenger claim he hadn’t seen the frankly preposterous handball committed by Cesc Febregas in his own penalty area which allowed Rafael van der Vaart the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot.
It did, however, come as a surprise to hear Wenger claim he could see that the free kick which preceded said handball should not have been awarded, despite that offence occurring the same distance away barely 30 seconds previously.
The Frenchman will also face questions over his summer defensive acquisitions, with Sebastien Squillaci and, in particular, Lorent Koscielny so far not looking anywhere near consistently solid and composed enough for a team pushing for Premier and Champions League titles.
Hugo RodellegaWhat you really don’t want to do, when your team has just gone down to 10 men away to Manchester United, is fly into a two-footed tackle and get sent to join your dismissed teammate in the dressing room just minutes later. But that didn’t stop Hugo Rodellega steaming in to Rafael da Silva an hour into Wigan’s defeat at Old Trafford. Quite how the usually honest and objective Roberto Martinez could attempt to defend it, we have no idea.
Phil DowdLast time we checked, a finger held to pursed lips didn’t constitute inciting the crowd any more than actually putting the ball in the back of the net in the first place. But that’s why Dowd booked Spurs’ Rafel van der Vaart for doing after the Dutchman equalized at Arsenal. Killjoy.
Brad FriedelThe American keeper put in an uncharacteristically poor display as Villa slumped to defeat at Ewood Park – flapping at crosses throughout the first half before getting his positioning all wrong in allowing Morten Gamst Pedersen to bend a free-kick over his head and into the far post from an acute angle.
The match marked the 10th anniversary of Gerard Houllier releasing Friedel from Liverpool, and if this kind of performance is repeated the Frenchman may well consider doing away with him again, if only this time to the substitutes bench.
Fabricio ColocciniHaving made a right old hash of a long ball and thusly allowing Johan Elmander to barge past him and slot the ball past Tim Krul into the back of the net, the bubble-permed Argentine defender then planted his elbow in the Swede's face. His impending suspension will allow the fit-again Steven Taylor another chance to prove he can cut it in the top flight, having looked far from a Premier League defender in the Magpies relegation season. Then again, so did Coloccini.
LATEST FOOTBALL NEWS
Spain seal major tournament treble
UEFA dishes out dosh to clubs for Euro 2012
Russia win appeal against Euro 2012 sanction
Nasri banned over behaviour at Euro 2012
Van der Wiel critical of compatriot Robben
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010