The English Premier League has been exciting from the start, offering up no shortage of on-field and off-field incidents to discuss.
Last weekend, Liverpool managed an impressive first league win despite seeing Luis Suarez denied a clear-cut penalty, Darren Bent began the local derby against West Brom on the bench for Villa before coming on to score their equaliser and Wigan’s Jordi Gomez was harshly given a straight red after a legitimate attempt to win the ball against Sunderland.
We’re now at Week 7 of the campaign and the episodes just keep on coming.
From early season form to debatable decisions, Di Davidson Amadi takes a look at the major deliberations from the EPL games this weekend.
The big Senegalese defensive midfielder doesn’t score many, so you can excuse the exuberance of his crowd-diving celebration after what was some skillful dribbling and a high quality finish.
Common sense dictates that you bear these types of factors in mind when officiating a football match, but referee Phil Dowd acted like a man bound by the laws of the game; laws that forbid excessive celebrations that cause time-wasting. Thus, he brandished a yellow card.
Looking back at the match now, it’s a good thing that Dowd got his wires crossed a little in making card-worthy calls as Diame was culpable of a rash challenge on Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta that should have been punished with a caution. Dowd thought otherwise and, subsequently, West Ham finished the game with eleven men still on the field.
Footballing spectacles are ruined by needless dismissals too often. I think that Dowd probably felt, with compassionate consideration, that the initial yellow was a little harsh and, therefore, let Diame off with a final warning following his bad challenge. An ideal conclusion for me.
Forget the 0-4 win the Blues recorded in the Champions League against FC Nordsjælland—the result flattered them; even Juan Mata—who scored two in the match—admitted Chelsea’s fortune.
Chelsea have been imperious against lower opposition before coming up against Arsenal last weekend at the Emirates, where they left as 1-2 victors.
They followed that league result up with a 4-1 drubbing of Chris Hughton’s Norwich side, bearing in mind this is the same side that was clinically dismantled at home to struggling Liverpool.
Still, I think that there are sterner tests ahead for Roberto Di Matteo and his team despite overcoming Arsenal. They miss the influence of Drogba, who was capable of holding up play effectively and crafting goal scoring opportunities out of nothing. So was Torres, once upon a time.
I said at the beginning of the season that Chelsea will struggle sometime along the way, causing them to fall embarrassingly short as title challengers. Their early form notwithstanding, I’ll stick to my guns regarding my prediction.
It was last year at the Etihad, during the post-match interview after a remarkable game with former club Manchester City, that QPR coach Mark Hughes promised that his club would never again be relegation battlers under his management.
Fast forward a few months and his statement is already looking like a false claim; a statement possibly symptomatic of the euphoria of beating the drop.
The truth is, however, QPR have bought well and frequently in the summer market, so they probably shouldn’t be in the same condition. But bringing in no fewer than eleven transfers during the window brought with it a huge dilemma: What is the best starting eleven that Hughes has at his disposal?
Hughes rotates his team so often that you’d have to believe that even he has little idea what team to go with. One thing he should be certain of is that he needs to figure it out sooner rather than later.
What the Welshman may have to do is risk giving a team, which he believes is his strongest eleven, a run of matches; a trial of 3-4 games so that the players involved become more accustomed to one another and the tactical system. If they come out of the period with positive results, then he has his starters and The Hoops can continue accordingly. If it doesn’t work out, he will have to tweak the areas that are weakest and try again.
Toffees fans can be excused a high level of optimism, having narrowly missed out on tying with their best Premiership start in their 2-2 draw with Wigan.
Besides the tremendous results, Everton sit in fourth place going about their business in textbook fashion: playing irresistible football. David Moyes has always been able to get ninety minutes worth of graft out of his team, but that can only get him so far. Now he has added some genuine quality into the mix and, all of a sudden, his team look like a formidable outfit.
Yet, even with the exploits that have seen them scale the dizzying heights of the league, many will see this period as little more than a purple patch that will surely, at least, hit snags along the way.
Everton are definitely now a team that any opposition daren’t underestimate. Champions League may be out of reach for a club who haven’t even qualified for the Europa League for the past three seasons. Don’t completely discount them though, as Everton are, historically, really strong season finishers.
I’ve personally been a huge admirer of the little Spanish magician for many years, often wondering what it would take for a Premiership club to hand him a ticket out of La Liga, where he is scarcely appreciated.
Arsene Wenger took a chance in paying £16 million—an insane amount if you adhere to the Arsenal way of budgeting—for a player who has been nowhere near as influential as he could be in recent seasons.
Ultimately, it’s paid off. The man can do it all—swivel on a sixpence, deft little touches, neat interplay and has anybody figured out which of his two feet is the weaker yet?! Cazorla has already managed three goals and two assists in 11 caps for Arsenal. He’s had numerous opportunities to add better numbers to these statistics, too.
Ironically, Manchester United boast possibly the closest contender to Cazorla as top summer signing in Arsenal’s former captain Robin van Persie. Chelsea fans will point to the acquisitions of Hazard and Oscar as strong candidates with their instant impacts, while not many central midfielders have controlled the matches better than Liverpool’s Joe Allen. Nonetheless, based on sheer inspiration and how beneficial he’s already been to his team, Cazorla just pips the lot.
City fans—and football aficionados in general—have been at a loss to figure out why Mancini has made so many questionable decisions following their Premiership triumph last season. Besides his somewhat peculiar transfer activity, the dapper Italian has toyed with hefty personnel and formational variations in all competitions.
Consequently, these decisions have been held accountable for City’s inconsistent form and poor defensive displays. Though, Mancini’s stars are not far off leaders Chelsea, nor did they look phased in their Saturday contest against Sunderland, where they were 3-0 comfortable winners despite making seven changes to the team who drew with Dortmund midweek.
It’s understandable that Mancini wants to experiment with several options but their previous 4-2-3-1 setup brought them a first championship in 44 years. Why are Manchester City endeavouring to fix something that isn’t broken? It seems as if the club are in danger of starting all sorts of self-destruct sequences if they’re not careful.
There is no doubting that United have struggled this season. League table positions can sometimes be deceptive; even Alex Ferguson has admitted that his team are not playing well below par.
Most notably of the Red Devils’ woes is the fact that they have had to come from behind on several occasions to salvage something from games; granted they are the best in the business at doing this, but it’s not an ideal practice.
This weekend against Newcastle—fresh from their disheartening home defeat to Spurs—United showed that they had a point to prove. They did so in style, scoring twice within the first 15 minutes of the game. They were simply irresistible.
Watching the game, it seemed as if Ferguson had decided that attack was the best form of defence for this match as he played a very offensive lineup that included both Rooney and van Persie as starters. It was somewhat derisively droll then that United recorded a clean sheet in the game thanks to superb performances from the centre back pairing of Ferdinand and Evans.
The club have passed a stern test at Sports Direct Arena and, with the new year fast approaching, the 19-time title winners will—as history has shown—go from strength to strength.
Admittedly, the English game—a brand of football that has been synonymous with honesty and integrity since it began—has seen many less desirable influences enter it. More commonly and scornfully labelled "diving," simulation has been at the forefront of footballing debate recently with many players using it to gain an advantage during matches.
Yet again this week, some of the regular facilitators of such deceit were guilty of ridiculous attempts to con the referee; the players I am referring to are namely Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez.
Even as a Liverpool fan, I can’t excuse the Uruguayan on this occasion, while Bale will have to take a long look at his theatrics and note that keeper Brad Guzan wasn’t within a foot of him when he decided to fly to the turf. I half-wished that the ground would open up beneath the pair and consume them while they were down.
But how do you rid the game of instances like these? It’s a simple solution really—you ban those responsible for games. Once the players get it into their heads that such antics will not be tolerated under any condition, they will become less inclined to do it.
This comes off the back of the Manchester United game against Newcastle, but it’s an exasperatingly long and convoluted argument.
In the game, United were leading 0-2 at the time when Papiss Cisse took advantage of a mix-up in the box to fashion a header on target. Keeper de Gea clawed the attempt out but, at first glance, it appeared that the keeper had saved from behind the line. If the goal had been given, it could have potentially transformed the entire complexion of the game.
The additional problem was that at second, third and fourth glance, it still remained inconclusive to the naked eye as to whether the ball completely crossed the line or not.
Some people complain that if the technology were introduced, then the Premier League would lose some of the entertainment and furore that is characteristic of human error. My reply to that is that goal-line decisions are extremely costly if they are not 100 percent correct. How would you feel if the team you supported were on the wrong end of a contentious disallowed goal that cost them the championship, a place in Europe or a place in the Premiership next year?
So what if football loses a little fuel for the professional and habitual pundits; goal line situations are among the rarest occurrences in football. They will not be missed.