1. Arsenal will be encouraged by the performance against Man United if not the result. Two costly errors turned a comfortable 1-0 lead into 2-1 defeat which though disappointing showed that the new formation and current personnel can compete against the top teams as well as the bad ones faced thus far. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a United side create so little in a game and the midfield especially was quite pedestrian.
After Fletcher somehow got away with taking out Arshavin in the box as well as handling it in the same move (thanks Mike Dean), the tiny Russian decided to score from 25 yards shortly afterwards. Foster should have done better but it was none the less a good strike. The second half saw Almunia stupidly dive at Rooney’s feet but unlike Boruc with Eduardo, he kept his arms out, allowing Rooney to dive over them and get the decision. There definitely was contact but Rooney was falling already (look at his left foot trailing). If Almunia hadn’t had come out so far, there’s no way Rooney was scoring from that angle/speed. Another error for him against United then (there’ve been a few down the years…).
For United’s second Diaby headed in unmarked from six yards. You don’t even need to see a picture to imagine how silly that sounds. But the reactions of Gallas and Vermaelen below should tell you everything you need to know about how bad an error it was.
I do wonder when someone will take action over the “sit down you paedophile” chant constantly sung at Old Trafford though. The media silence over it is deafening. Why is something done when Sol Campbell is abused but not when Wenger is. This goes beyond terrace banter and I don’t see how calling calling him a paedophile is any different to being racist or homophobic to Sol Campbell.
Look how far he was from any Bolton player for the winner. Gerrard mentioned that the same tactic had been used on him by Gary Megson last season (though Bolton still lost that one too) and it could be an interesting tactic for other managers going forward. It does seem right now if you stop him you stop Liverpool.
4. I still think it’s too early to consider Spurs or Man City title challengers but they are both looking capable of getting a top four place. I read a stat today that since Harry Redknapp has taken over they’ve won only one less point than Arsenal and winning four from four so far this year is their best start for decades.
I did wonder how they would go forward following the injury on Saturday to Modric but they’ve gone straight out and bought Kranjcar who is an excellent replacement. Man Utd and Chelsea are next so let’s wait until the end of September before reassessing.
The same goes for Man City really who face Arsenal and Man Utd before a tricky tie against Fulham. Again though, their start has been solid and Adebayor is beginning to look like the striker of 2007/08 once more.
5. Stoke have been quietly going about their business and currently find themselves in fifth place. The Britannia Stadium has become a real fortress for them and they are confident enough to start spending a little bigger too, as demonstrated by the £15m or so splashed out on Collins, Tuncay, Huth and Arismendi in the past week or two. They’re not to everyone’s taste but Tony Pulis is doing a great job and the way Stoke are going they could well end up comfortably in the top half of the table.
6. Two straight matches without Heskey starting, two straight wins for Aston Villa. It’s unfair to lay all the blame for Villa’s extended poor run at his feet (no Laursen and tiredness was a big factor last season and no Barry is a big loss this season) but their strengths are geared to playing at pace in a 4-5-1.
To this effect Agbonlahor and also Carew (who is much more mobile then Heskey in my opinion) are much better suited to the style of play. Heskey still has a role to play but a much smaller one if Villa are to again push for Europe. However the better Carlton Cole does, the more Heskey’s England place is under threat too.
Tags: arsenal man utd, Arshavin, Aston Villa, bolton liverpool, Burnley, Carlton Cole, Chelsea, diaby own goal, Gerrard, Heskey, Man City, man marking, old trafford, rooney dive, sit down you paedophile, Spurs, Stoke, wenger sent off