Last week, there was Tottenham Hotspur’s 9-goal Wigan walkabout and Sunderland’s upset, yet deserved, victory over Arsenal. This week, there was no such drama nor delight – it was pretty drab.
But nevertheless, it’s a collectors item. I doubt there’ll be many more weekends like this for the rest of the season.
Manchester United 4 – 1 Portsmouth
There wasn’t to be a shock victory for the returning Avram Grant, though given the history of the Premier League, and United’s penchant for generous welcoming gifts to new managers, I know plenty who’d take a punt on the result going for Pompey.
Those who did would have a considerable measure of justification, given how well Pompey performed. Aruna Dindane put on his best Didier Drogba impression (not the writhing on the ground in pain routine) and tormented Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic with his excellent hold-up play, immense strength and mobility. Even Kevin-Prince Boateng showed up for the game – and *shock horror* scored a goal! But actually, it was just a penalty, and he missed his last one.
United’s clinical finishing was the difference. Apart from the two penalties, Wayne Rooney’s second goal (en route to his hat-trick) and Ryan Giggs’ late free-kick (his 100th Premier League goal) were lessons to Pompey on how to finish games off. If they hadn’t packed their shooting boots, Pompey could well have produced the drama the weekend was screaming out for.
Man of the match: Aruna Dindane - When Drogba arrive in the EPL, he was causing all sorts of trouble to opposing defenders but hitting the ball into the Thames when six-yards from goal. Yet, every player in the league feared him. That Dindane’s performance was such a fine copy from the Drog’s catalogue of stellar showings shows just how well he played.
Arsenal 0 – 3 Chelsea
I flip-flopped a bit with my predictions for this one. On last week’s episode of Football Every Day, I plumped for Arsenal to nick it by a goal, seeing the form they were in, and that it was Chelsea’s first big test away from home this season.
(My assertion is that Chelsea, having beaten United and Liverpool at home, still have their toughest fixtures to play – Arsenal home and away, Man City home and away; and United, Liverpool and Tottenham all away.)
But when Arsenal’s injury problems starting mounting up at the back after their Champions League exploits, and plus the fact Robin van Persie would be missing, I switched to Chelsea taking all three points.
Arsenal only know how to play beautiful, precise football. Throw a wrench into their works and they simply do not have the character, Cesc Fabregas aside, to drag themselves out of trouble. Chelsea on the other hand, had the likes of Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole to raise their game and make the difference in a rather drab game.
Weirder things have happened - It turns out that horse placenta treatment DOESN’T work! Who would’ve known? Robin van Persie might be saying now that he’s usually “too cool” for stuff like smearing placenta all over himself, but it just sounds like he’s trying too hard to justify himself.
Who knows? Maybe the placenta massage was what ruptured his other two ankle ligaments? The Dutch FA insisted their scans indicated just six weeks out of action with a ligament tear, but now, Arsenal doctors are saying he needs surgery because three of his four ligaments are busted.
Everton 0 - 2 Liverpool
I predicted it to be 3-2 to Everton, but hey, I was close right? =P
Everton gave their Red neighbours a real run for their money. But you have to know it’s not your day when a Javier Mascherano piledriver somehow finds the back of the net. The fact that the deflection his shot took was so big it was ultimately credited to Joseph Yobo as an own-goal shows just how much Mascherano needs stop shooting at every chance as if he were Cristiano Ronaldo. For goodness sake, stop making those ball boys scamper around all day.
The Benitez problem: There’s been a sense of resignation in Rafa Benitez’s tone for some time now. The usual “We performed well… We can still turn our season around…” can’t fool football fans – He’s known for some time now that the title that means most to Liverpool fans has long been out of his reach.
The good thing is that the board cannot fire him. He just signed a new contract five months ago before his horror season began, which makes the financial implications too grave for the club’s bumbling American owners.
It might sound unfair to some that the owners are forced to make do with an under-performing manager, but from the point of a neutral observer, and as simple logic would suggest, keeping him would be the right choice.
As many of you might know, I am not the biggest fan of the manager whom I like to refer to as Rafahahahaha Benitez. But too many managers are fired after brief spells of poor form, and Benitez, for all his egotistical, manipulative ways, is a fantastic coach who has turned Liverpool from the mediocre bunch of the 90s into perennial Premiership and Champions League contenders. Surely he can find his way back from this disastrous season.
Expectations and pressure at the top are understandably high, but that doesn’t mean the best course of action for clubs would be to fire their managers once things don’t go well. In the long run, keeping Benitez could mean sustained success, while firing him now might mean putting an end to all the great work he has achieve so far.
If he stays on, he’ll get a chance to build on the solid base he has – Reina, Carragher, Mascherano, Gerrard and Torres. He already has quality squad players like Benayoun, Kuyt and Riera; while I fully expect Aquilani to be just as good a buy as Xabi Alonso. Next season, you can expect Liverpool to roar back to life – but only if Rafa gets a chance.
Ianyway, best proof that Rafa should stay would be this – how many opposition fans would like to see Rafa get the sack? Well I for one hope to god it happens.