5 Things We Learned from the EPL Weekend
Another set of Premier League matches played, another set of talking points—and plenty of them.
This weekend saw some of the most high-profile matchups so far this season, with title contenders Arsenal and Manchester City facing off while Manchester United and Liverpool played out another epic edition of a historic rivalry.
Overall, this was definitely a game week to remember. Here are five things we learned.
Rickie Lambert Is the Real Deal
Time and time again we see players who simply can't make the transition from Championship football to Premier League football.
Take Wolves' Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. In the 2008-09 season, Wolverhampton's Championship-winning campaign, Ebanks-Blake scored 25 goals and finished as the top scorer in England's second tier of football. The following season, in Wolves' return to the Premier League, Ebanks-Blake scored just two goals from 23 appearances—the next season he got a return of seven goals from 30 appearances, and last season he got just a single goal in 23 appearances.
As you can see, there's some players who, though prolific in the Championship, struggle once they enter England's top flight. Rickie Lambert doesn't seem to be one of those players.
The Southampton forward has wreaked havoc in the lower leagues of English football, netting a total of 78 goals in the past three seasons. Top scorer of last season's Championship with 27 goals, Lambert led Southampton to promotion and will now be looking to lead them to survival from relegation.
In my opinion, there's no better man for the job. Lambert has already got himself four goals in five appearances and looks to be taking the Premier League by storm. An outside contender for the Golden Boot at the start of the season, Rickie Lambert now looks like the real deal in making a push to be the league's top scorer.
So Is Jermain Defoe
Towards the end of the summer transfer window, Spurs faced a serious problem in that their only established forward was Jermain Defoe. Now they seem to have one of the league's most in-form strikers.
If there's anything to be happy about at White Hart Lane right now—and there isn't much—it's Defoe's goal-scoring form. Having already scored four goals in five games, Defoe has certainly justified his request for more playing time. The tables are turning, as it's now Emmanuel Adebayor who warms the bench and Jermain Defoe in the limelight.
The fight to be Tottenham's No. 1 striker will be interesting this season, but as long as Defoe keeps scoring, Adebayor will likely keep starting on the bench. The question is, can he keep it up?
The Man of the Match Can Be a Referee
All jokes aside, Mark Halsey's refereeing performance in Manchester United's 2-1 win at Liverpool was probably the worst I've ever seen.
I'm no Liverpool supporter—not even close, actually—but to see a referee's poor judgement and maybe even bias change the result of a match is infuriating. I was fuming about the result, so I can only imagine what a Reds' fan felt.
Not a single call seemed to go Liverpool's way. Even if Antonio Valencia didn't dive—which it looked like he did—I can still think of a handful of other situations that were as bad if not worse than Valencia's going down in the box, where Halsey should have given a Liverpool penalty.
Of course, the direction of the game changed long before the penalty decision. Jonjo Shelvey's sending off was simply the wrong decision—not in that he shouldn't have been booked, it was a reckless two-footed challenge that will always be at least a yellow card. But Johnny Evans did just about the exact same thing, the only difference was that he stayed down due to a knock and Shelvey got up.
In my opinion, refereeing performances like these should be punished, either with a ban, or a fine, or whatever the FA can come up with, really. Thoughts?
Manchester City Have Work to Do
At their best, Manchester City are a team with 11 world class players on the pitch each doing his job near perfectly. So far this season, City have been far from their best.
Still without a clean sheet, the defense continues to let in goals week after week, to the point where it could be a potential weakness in City's title challenge. The attack has been below par too, looking much less dynamic then it did at times last season and lacking the ability to finish off a match before the 80-minute mark.
You could blame it on Sergio Aguero's opening-day injury, which has kept the team's 2011-12 top scorer out until this weekend, when he made his return against Arsenal. You could blame it on David Silva's lack of form, which probably stems from fatigue from Euro 2012. You could even blame it on Roberto Mancini, who decided to play a completely different 3-5-2 formation in preseason, switched back to a 4-2-3-1 for the regular season, and now changes the back four constantly due to squad rotation.
Either way, something is off at Manchester City, who were completely outplayed by Arsenal at the weekend and were lucky in the end to escape with a point. The Citizens' title challenge is lacking that wow factor, and that needs to be fixed before more points are dropped.
Arsenal vs Chelsea Will Be the Best Match of the Season
In what should prove to be a thrilling encounter, Arsenal will host Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium next Saturday.
Chelsea are the team to beat at the moment, sitting at the top of the table and impressing so far this season with their fresh, young, attacking talent. The Blues' London rivals, Arsenal, aren't in bad form themselves, remaining unbeaten in the league coming off of an impressive draw at Manchester City.
With both teams possessing a high level of technical skill and quality, this game will surely be pretty to watch, and will definitely say a lot about each team's title credentials.
Can Chelsea get all three points at a major rival, and can Arsenal make another statement by upsetting the league pacesetters? This could shape up to be the best match of the season.