Arsenal Hot and On Top: Downing Not From the Spot

Andrew McNairSenior Writer ISeptember 22, 2008

What a fantastic weekend of football action in the Barclays Premier League.

Chelsea recovered to earn a draw at home to Manchester United. Liverpool faltered at home to Stoke City as Arsenal and Manchester City delighted the crowds with vintage performances.

So what else stood out…


David Di Michele was fantastic for West Ham United in their 3-1 over Newcastle United. The Italian scored two and set up the other as the Hammers swept aside the Magpies.

The only bright spot for Newcastle was the form of Michael Owen who is getting back to full fitness. The former Liverpool man bagged his side a consolation goal with a vintage Owen shimmy and curling finish.

A lot of the talk at the Reebok was about the sheer class of the Arsenal performance but I’m going to focus on Manuel Almunia. The keeper made two world class saves from Kevin Nolan, and the game could have been far more difficult for the Gunners had he not been on top form.

Saturday certainly wasn’t a day for the faint hearted in defence. It was quite literally bodies on the line. First up was Danny Shittu but his block was anything but. The big centre taking one in the stomach as he threw himself into a last ditch block. It’s what you like to see and Newcastle’s defence would do well to take some notes.

Secondly we had poor old Leon Cort of Stoke taking a thunderbolt to the head at Anfield. It probably wasn’t Cort who was left feeling Shittu however, as Liverpool failed to score.

Welcome back Michael Chopra. The Sunderland man came off the bench to score both goals in their 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light. I wonder if his old bookie saw the light and cut the odds on his best client hitting the headlines.

Chopra has competition as the league’s best poacher in the form of Matt Derbyshire. I’m sure the Blackburn Rovers man must have the best goals for minutes played ratio in the Barclays Premier League! The lad only ever plays ten minutes at a time and still finds the net.

Arsenal went top of the league with a 3-1 win at Bolton. They played some breath taking football and deserve to be on top of the pile.

They might not deserve to be top of the league (yet) but Manchester City were even better than Arsenal and that’s saying something. This time last year Man City were flying high but were brought back to earth by Chelsea who dished out a 6-0 hammering. This time it’s City who dished out the 6-0 trouncing to a usually impressive Portsmouth. What a difference a year makes…or is it a Brazilian?

Petr Cech’s save from Rio Ferdinand was impressive but what exactly was Rio doing playing up front? That’s a good 60 yard sprint! He’s past Scholes, he’s past Fletcher, he’s going round the outside of Berbatov, he’s up alongside Rooney. Can he finish it off? No because he’s not a striker, where was the Bulgarian?

These are the days of blinkered managers and how refreshing it was to see Big Phil Scolari simply admit it wasn’t a penalty! When last did you hear a manager say that?

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering when the little Brazilian would get a mention. Well you don’t have to wait any longer as Robinho is here and he’s making quite an impact. The former Real Madrid man set Eastlands alight on Saturday with a world class performance including a goal and an assist. He’s well on his way to paying off that £32 million.

Robinho wasn’t the only one thrilling the crowd in Manchester on Sunday. Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips added to the show with terrific performances.

West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison got a mention last week but another bright performance and another goal have earned the Scot a second mention this time out.

So what about goal of the week then? Hot or Not’s choice is unsung Hull City centreback Michael Turner for his powerful looping far post header against Everton.

Tim Cahill doesn’t half make an impact. Two games, two goals for the Aussie and he isn’t even match fit.

And finally this week we half Leon Osman. The Everton midfielder is one of the most underrated players in the English top flight.


I couldn’t start anywhere else but Anfield where Sky Sports tell me that Liverpool had 24 shots at home to Stoke City without scoring! Out of the 24 they managed six on target, but what Sky Sports didn’t mention was that the target was Thomas Sorensen.

Liverpool had 76% of the possession at Anfield and it’s rare to see a game so one sided these days.

West Ham still have no shirt sponsor but replaced last weeks sewn on square maroon fabric with big white square patches showing the players number. It was like watching an advert for the football pools.

Who says Arsenal don’t get decisions Mr Wenger? Emmanuel Eboue was 66cm offside for Arsenal’s equalizer. Thanks to BBC’s Match Of The Day for that tasty statistic.

Stewart Downing, oh dear, oh dear, who taught you to take a penalty? Downing was obviously aiming for three points when he hit the bar last week. We all thought he’d been trying to get it under the bar but this week he showed us just what he’s made of. His sky high penalty cost Middlesbrough three points and now he’s finally shown England’s rugby coach Martin Johnson that he’s the new Johnny Wilkinson, let’s hope he passes the penalty responsibility on next time.

7th place isn’t even a European spot but it’s the best Manchester United can wish for with a win next week!

We’ve all missed a sitter or two over the years but Nicolas Anelka must still be red in the face after Sunday’s miss. He didn’t even make contact.

As a few of you may know you won’t get many positive words said about Younes Kaboul in this column and it’s not going to change this week. The Portsmouth defender drafted in to the side at Manchester City only to have a torrid time before being axed at half-time. He’ll be waiting a while for his next start.

David James, David James what a shocker. Six goals conceded and at least two had calamity written all over them.

A big thanks to Phil Neville and the Everton defence for their contender for own goal of the season. Three just doesn’t go into one. Unless that one is the back of the net of course.

Tottenham Hotspur have had their worst start to a season in 34 years. Sadly for Spurs fans that was before they drew again at home without scoring. Tough times at White Hart Lane

And we end with a tail of two Phil’s.

Earlier Scolari was mentioned for his objective opinion on a Chelsea penalty shout and just to prove the point we have Phil Brown (Hull manager) and his view that Tim Cahill hadn’t scored as there was inconclusive evidence as to whether the ball had crossed the line. The replay’s proved it was a goal and his defender Turner even admitted it. So what was the point in denying it Mr Brown?

Anyway that’s enough for this week as you’ve all been kept long enough.


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