English Premier League Highlights and Lowlights

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterSeptember 17, 2012

English Premier League Highlights and Lowlights

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    Arsenal soared, Manchester United cruised and Tottenham finally earned Andre Villas-Boas his first win.

    But that wasn't all. Danny Welbeck might have dived (OK, probably), Peter Crouch might have handled the ball (OK, definitely) and Reading might have played the football version of the Republican National Convention (OK, we'll explain).

    It was another busy weekend in the English Premier League, and we've got all the highlights and lowlights right here. Keep reading for all the details.

Latest Goal-Line Controversy

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    Everton and Newcastle drew 2-2 in a thrilling Monday night game, and all anyone (rightfully) wanted to talk about was the goals that weren't allowed.

    Everton's Marouane Fellaini had a goal ruled out incorrectly for offside, but that wasn't even the worst call of the night. That came in the 78th minute, when Everton's Victor Anichebe had another goal ruled out.

    Anichebe's header was cleared by Newcastle's defense, with goalkeeper Steve Harper and defender Michael Williamson getting touches. But replays showed the ball crossed the line.

    Thankfully, goal-line tech is coming to England in 2013 (via The Guardian). Surely, though, we can all agree that it's already too late.

Most Guns Blazing

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    Arsenal romped to a 6-1 home win over Southampton on Saturday, and the result was so impressive that it prompted Cesc Fabregas to tip his former Gunners teammates for the title all the way from Spain (via ESPN FC).

    Arsene Wenger himself got in on the title-challenge prognostication (via The Independent)—though admittedly, he hedged his words with a trip to Manchester City looming next—a mere two matches after his team started the season with back-to-back scoreless draws.

    And why not, right?

    Santi Cazorla once again oozed class as Arsenal tore through Southampton relentlessly in the first half. Lukas Podolski scored with a nifty free kick and completed every last one of the 31 passes he attempted. Fourteen of those passes, by the way, came in Southampton's defensive third (via Arseblog).

    Theo Walcott scored against his old club and gave Gooners something else to think about for a day besides his contract saga. Even Gervinho, the target of so much (deserved) criticism during his debut campaign last season, chipped in with two well-taken goals.

    The defense finally conceded (more on that momentarily), but with only one goal allowed this season compared to eight scored, the Gunners have a more balanced team than in recent years.

    So is it too soon to talk title challenge? Maybe so, but like Wenger hinted, we'll find out more after the Manchester City match.

Most Szczesny-ish Moment

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    Arsenal entered the weekend as the only English Premier League team yet to concede a goal this season. That streak ended thanks to the talented Wojciech Szczesny.

    Szczesny, last seen being sent off during Poland's Euro 2012 opener, spilled a routine cross near the end of the first half of Arsenal's 6-1 victory over Southampton. Daniel Fox duly pounced and pounded the ball into Arsenal's net.

    Arsenal were never really in danger of losing their big lead, but Szczesny's clanger gave Southampton hope and led to some anxious moments early in the second half after the Saints brought on midfielder Gaston Ramirez for his debut.

    Not that Szczesny was alone in making mistakes. Southampton's Jos Hooiveld and Nathaniel Clyne scored on the wrong goal, and Hooiveld's first-half replacement, Japanese debutant Maya Yoshida, fared even worse without actually producing an own goal.

Most Milestones in a Match

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    Midfielder Paul Scholes marked his 700th Manchester United appearance with a goal in the Red Devils' 4-0 victory over Wigan on Saturday.

    Scholes wasn't the only United man marking a milestone.

    Defender Rio Ferdinand made his 400th appearance for the club, while midfielder Ryan Giggs appeared in his record 600th Premier League match. Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, managed his 500th league match on home turf.

    There was lots to like for such an August occasion. Scholes scored, as did debutantes Nick Powell and Alexander Buttner, while United eased to a first blowout victory on the new season.

    Lost in all the hubbub was perhaps the best part: United kept a clean sheet for the first time on the new campaign.

Slightest Contact and Ugliest Chant

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    On second thought, it wasn't all teddy bears and rainbows for Manchester United on Saturday.

    The hosts won an early penalty in the first half, and in all fairness, Danny Welbeck, well, he went down rather easily to earn it.

    Justice was swift, though, as Javier Hernandez saw his penalty saved by Ali Al-Habsi and Wigan remained on level terms a while longer.

    Also, a small minority of home supporters were heard reciting a chant that has been largely interpreted as a snipe at Liverpool.

    Of course, Liverpool are United's heated rivals, but in the wake of the emotional week Liverpool just went through, it's no surprise the chanting drew heavy criticism—and rebukes from the club and largest supporters' group (via BBC Sport and Daily Telegraph).

First Wins, Longest Waits

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    Aston Villa defeated Swansea 2-0 on Saturday for the club's first victory of the new Premier League season.

    It was new manager Paul Lambert's first win, and it was Villa's first league triumph since March 10, a run of 189 days.

    Down in London, Andre Villas-Boas picked up his first win with Tottenham Hotspur, a 3-1 decision away to Reading on Sunday. Two goals from Jermain Defoe and a Gareth Bale strike did the trick, as Spurs moved up to 10th after their disappointing start.

    So, then, still think it's all bull***, Harry?

Longest Layoff

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    Seeing Andre Villas-Boas win his first match must have been nice for Spurs fans, but for Reading supporters, the whole match must have rankled.

    When Reading took the pitch against Spurs on Sunday, 25 long days—more than three whole weeks—had passed since the Royals had played a league match.

    The scheduling quirk came about because of Reading's involvement with both Chelsea—the match between the two clubs had to be pushed ahead to accommodate Chelsea's participation in the UEFA Super Cup—and the recent international break.

    No, the break didn't cause Reading to lose, and yes, Chelsea faced the same issue. But for analogy enthusiasts, Chelsea's squad is to Reading's squad as Honey Boo Boo's ratings were to last month's Republican National Convention.

    In other words, loosely speaking, Reading faced almost insurmountable odds.

Quickest Returns, Pt. I

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    Dimitar Berbatov made his first league start for Fulham on Saturday. No big deal, but he only scored twice in a 3-0 win over previously high-flying West Brom.

    Afterward, the nonchalance oozed from the 31-year-old Bulgarian, fresh off his exile from Manchester United. Per the Daily Telegraph:

    If I feel the coach is trusting my ability then I can do special things on the pitch. Now that I play for Fulham, I just want to show that I appreciate that they took me to the club. I know the coach, he trusts me. I feel good if the coach trusts the way I play and you saw that with the way I performed on the pitch.

    Now, if Berba keeps scoring and finally decides to speak exclusively in his Godfather voice, he might just be the league's most entertaining player. Well, top five at least.

Quickest Returns, Pt. II

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    Dimitar Berbatov's scoring return was heartwarming and all, but Manchester United, Manchester City and Aston Villa all got even quicker returns on their money.

    All three teams saw players score on their debuts. The scoring debutantes were Nick Powell, Alexander Buttner (both of Manchester United; the latter is pictured), Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) and Javi Garcia (Manchester City).

Most Predictable Developments

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    Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand refused to shake hands with Chelsea defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole on Saturday. If you don't know why, you're probably not in the right place.

    By now, the pre-match handshake conundrum is becoming an unwelcome and tedious issue for fans. Even managers (via The Guardian) seem to find the whole thing unnecessary.

    Even more depressing, for neutrals at least, is the state of the table after only four weeks. At such an early point of the season, the identities of the top four are alarmingly and depressingly—again, for neutrals at least—familiar.

    Granted, there's plenty for the remaining 16 Premier League teams to play for. Or is that just what we tell ourselves?

Handiest Handball

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    Champions Manchester City drew 1-1 at Stoke on Saturday. It was the fourth straight time that fixture had ended 1-1, but that wasn't the story.

    The story was Peter Crouch's goal, a goal City boss Roberto Mancini said belongs more in the NBA than EPL.

    See for yourself here.

    For the record, Crouch admitted his transgression after the match (via The Guardian).

    Can you blame him for doing it, though?


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