Another weekend of football, and another weekend of talking points.
Arsenal bounced back from their mid-week Champions League defeat against Borussia Dortmund, with a hard-fought victory (with only ten men!) against the mighty Crystal Palace. To be fair, I did not watch the game and do not know if it was really a hard-fought victory, but it always seems appropriate to mention that when one team has one less man than the other team (unless of course that team is Barcelona in which case it is business as usual). As for the mighty Crystal Palace – they were better than last week but need to realise that they are now in the big leagues.
Aaron Ramsey continued his fantastic season (thus far) with a superb assist for Olivier Giroud. The naysayers among the football watching public keep muttering that we will only see the “real” Arsenal after the next two games against Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.
A Fergie-esque victory for under-fire manager David Moyes and United this weekend against Stoke City. Following the reversals against Manchester City and West Brom, United were in need of victory (especially at home), but things were not going according to plan at half-time with Stoke leading the way 2-1. Thankfully, for the home supporters, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez popped up with the all-important goals to give United the victory.
The pressure doesn’t seem to be easing on David Moyes, with one of the major issues appearing to be some indecision about who his favoured starting eleven players actually are. Another potential problem also appears to be Moyes’ inexperience at this level, which is indicated by his current inability to make the correct tactical decisions during the match. At the present moment, the Manchester United faithful are experiencing what it feels like to have been a Liverpool supporter for the past 23 years.
“Dirty” Suarez struck again with a phenomenal, and well-taken, hat trick at home against West Brom. Suarez, having spent most of the summer trying to escape from his contractual obligations at Liverpool, is playing some superb football and continues to not only score goals but also provides assists and a work rate that is second to none. Not to be outdone, Daniel Sturridge chipped in with a goal-of-the-season contender with an audacious chip from the edge of the penalty area. Much like the Gunners, Liverpool have made a good start to the season but the question remains of whether they can maintain their sparkling run of form. The omens appear to be good given that Liverpool typically fare well against the so-called bigger teams but generally struggle against the Premiership lightweights.
And who would have thought that Arsenal vs Liverpool would have been a top of the table clash at this stage of the season?
The Pre-Chelsea El Nino is gone forever. Forget about him and if you want to catch glimpses, looks for archive footage of him playing for Atletico Madrid and for Liverpool. I know that many Chelsea fans may not like to hear it, but that is the truth. However, all hope is not lost – based on the performance in the Chelsea – Manchester City game last night there is a new and different Torres in his place. This Torres re-booted does not have the finesse and instincts of the original Torres. The original Torres would have controlled the ball with one touch and caressed the ball into the back of the net. But the Torres re-booted attempted to hit the ball first-time and instead the shot bounced off his shin pads and high over the bar from an excellent Ramires cross.
To his credit, Torres re-booted did not hang his head and dwell on his miss – instead, he worked even harder, provided the assist for Andre Schurrle to tap in from close range and also saw an effort cannon off the crossbar with Joe Hart well beaten. His never-say-die attitude also resulted in the match-winning goal as he chased down a hopeful long ball and tapped in after a defensive mix up between the Manchester City goalkeeper and central defender.
The pre-match headlines were dominated by the new boys on either side in a Neymar versus Bale battle. That was hardly a skirmish, never mind a battle, as a clearly unfit Bale pottered about the pitch for an hour before being replaced by Karim Benzema. There were mutterings that the decision to play Bale was a political one from the higher-ups and that Ancelotti was essentially forced to play the world record signing. Neymar, on the other hand, provided the first goal for Barcelona. The Catalan press described Bale’s influence on the game as “nonexistent” and describing him as a “hologram”.
Another player who (to me) resembled a hologram was Leo Messi. The Barcelona star was noticeably by his absence and he did not influence proceedings at all. Perhaps a symptom of the Madrid defence, or perhaps a continuation of his recent relatively (by his own high standards) lacklustre performances.
Cristiano Ronaldo was apoplectic with rage as he was denied a clear penalty following a shove from Javier Masherano. The referee and his assistant decided that nothing unfair had occurred and play continued. This highlighted one of the inconsistencies among referees – I was under the impression that if a penalty is not awarded, then the attacking player should receive a yellow card for simulation. Perhaps the referee simply decided Ronaldo had simply tripped over his own feet. In any event, Neymar found an isolated Alexi Sanchez with a through ball and the Chilean striker kept his composure to score with a sublime chip from outside the 18 yard area. Real Madrid did score a consolation goal in the 90th minute, and Barcelona won their first Clasico in five outings, but sadly the post-match conversation was dominated by the man in the middle.