After another monotonous International break, the real excitement of the Premier League was back. As usual we had comebacks, goals, gripes and plenty to discuss.
Let’s start with the goings on at the DW Stadium on Saturday, when Sunderland were the visitors.
This was my first game since the humiliation that was the opening day, and my return coincided with that of Steve Bruce, Lee Cattermole and of course Titus Bramble, among many other of Bruce’s backroom staff.
The reception for the first two were as predicted, quite hostile and the roar from the crowd that greeted Cattermole’s red card on 25 minutes was louder than some roars after goals I’ve seen at Wigan down the years.
This was a contrast to the reception for Titus Bramble, who quite righly was given a warm welcome and recieved a huge round of applause when his name was called out. This was one time I was hoping that he’d majorly mess up, unfortunately, he had a pretty solid game.
I arrived at the DW Stadium with a feeling of optimism. After the Blackpool game, the only way was up, and after the improvement made against Spurs I thought that this could be the day we gain our first home win of the season.
Having seen the Sunderland eleven, nothing there really made me feel we might struggle. Darren Bent would be a threat, but with the past peak Steed Malbranque and the unproven Ali Al-Muhammadi on either wing, I felt service may be limited. Lee Cattermole is talented yet temperamental, and although Jordan Henderson is a promising talent, I felt he couldn’t drive a midfield on his own.
The game started out with Latics making most of the early running, although not creating too much. Hendry Thomas fired a shot well over, and there was a feel of indecision in the final third. Referee Andre Marriner went card happy during a spell that saw tenacious midfielder Lee Cattermole sent off for two yellow cards. Now I wonder what the odds were on that before kick-off.
This move prompted Steve Bruce to respond by playing very narrow, with a deep midfield with the aim of frustrating Wigan, at the expense of the spectacle of the game
Wigan on the other hand had the same old problems. Rodallega looked lost on the wing, a case of a square peg in a round hole. He typified the team’s lack of urgency in attacking areas as he failed to put crosses in quickly and rarely looked capable of producing a trick to beat his marker Nedum Onouha. Boselli looked very isolated up front, he lacked support from midfield and rarely chased down lost causes, I’d say he definitely needs a partner. Cough cough Hugo Rodallega cough cough.
I would be the first to promote short passing with a patient build up, but it would seem that we can’t do it successfully. Time after time we had the ball in defence, and we never got it past the midfield. This was due to a number of things, the slow build up allowed Sunderland to regroup and set up their two banks of four. Secondly, the lack of movement up front meant that the midfield had little options and were forced to play sideways or backwards. There was an alarming lack of urgency and tempo, especially disappointing considering the opposition had only 10 men.
Maybe I’m being slightly harsh because I have seen many worse performances, but I feel that if Sunderland had a full eleven on the pitch for the full ninety minutes, they would have taken the three points.
I had a horrible feeling at half time that Sunderland would nick one on the break, and so it turned out when substitute Asamoah Gyan buried a Jordan Henderson cross on 66 minutes with a well taken finish. Gyan, hardly a steal at £13 million, mainly had to chase down the Latics’ defenders yet took his one and only chance to give Sunderland the lead.
Wigan didn’t exactly go gung-ho, however the introduction of new signing Franco Di Santo did add some attacking spark. He showed some very neat touches, and demonstrated some pace and cutting edge that had been missing. Charles N’Zogbia was introduced to try and unlock the Black Cat’s defence, however ran down too many blind alleys on that right side. It was the final substution Tom Cleverly that had the deciding impact however.
He came on for Mauro Boselli after he missed an unbelievable chance to equalise from a Franco Di Santo cross. All that was needed was a firm connection and it was 1-1, however he glanced the header off target. A definite sign of a striker lacking in confidence.
Despite only touching the ball twice, Tom Cleverly got the meaningful assist after Hugo Rodallega’s deep free-kick was only half cleared, the Manchester United loanee fired the ball back in and Antolin Alcaraz deflected the ball home.
The 1-1 draw definitely gave off a feel of two points dropped rather than a point gained.
Elsewhere, the talking point of the weekend was Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to emit Wayne Rooney from his matchday squad at Goodison Park, due to the ‘abuse he’d face.’
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t Rooney had suffered a great deal of stick regardless of recent accusations about his private life? He had done in the past, several times. To be consistent, surely Ferguson would leave him out for the Rangers and Liverpool games coming up aswell? I doubt it, and I wonder how much stick he’ll get in those games.
This issue made the Everton vs Manchester United game in danger of being overshadowed.
Thankfully, we were treated to an amazing spectacle, Manchester United were shaken by a resurgent Everton in the first half, with Steven Pienaar bagging the opener. However, Darren Fletcher swept home the equaliser before half time. After the interval, Nemanja Vidic headed home for 2-1 and Berbatov’s classy finish put the Red Devils two up.
I was watching the latter stages of the game in the concourse of the East Stand, with 85 minutes on the clock, I thought the game was over. So I decided it was time to grab my Steak Pie, and take my seat. How wrong could I have been?
Everton came storming back, and uncharacteristically United let a two goal lead slip and ended up drawing 3-3 thanks to goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta.
If Sir Alex thought he’d had a bad day, his disappointment was outdone by his son Darren Ferguson. His Preston side were leading 3-1 against rivals Burnley with 6 minutes to go before defender Billy Jones was sent off. Everyone was gobsmacked when Burnley fought back to earn an improbable 4-3 victory! It was truly astonishing. Anything you can do…
Another team United had fallen to late on recently is Fulham, they were in action against Wolves at Craven Cottage for an interesting encounter. The game finished 2-1 to the home side after Moussa Dembele’s double earned three points for Fulham after Jelle Van Damme had opened the scoring for Wolves with a finish from a tight angle.
The main incident however, was the news that Bobby Zamora had broken his leg after a heavy challenge from Wolves captain Karl Henry. I mentioned him in my last review for his stalwart style, and I have to say I love his style of play, he’s like a more aggressive Hendry Thomas. Yet his tackles are fair, and we saw that once again on Saturday. Despite injuring Zamora badly, his tackle was a fair one, and his only objective was to win the ball.
Despite this, on my way home from the DW I was listening to Robbie Savage’s phone-in on 606 and it was flooding with calls from Fulham fans adamant that Wolves were dirty and a ‘disgrace to the Premier League.’ I strongly disagree as I’ve seen Wolves play and their not dirty, just competitive like all good teams. If they weren’t competitive then they’d be accused of showing a lack of passion and I think Robbie Savage argued Wolves’ case excellently.
You can say what you like about him, but he’s a very misunderstood person in my eyes. Although on the pitch he can come across quite badly at times, all he’s doing is doing his best for his team, and you know aswell as me that fans love that. He’s not the best ball player in the world yet he makes up for it in other areas, he’s very clever at winning the ball and gaining free kicks. People who ‘hate’ him hate Robbie Savage the player and not Robbie Savage the person, and if a footballer is hated by opposition fans for their playing style, then surely that’s a good thing on his behalf? It’s better than being loved by opposition fans, that’s for sure!
Meanwhile, fans at the Emirates witnessed a miracle. Johan Elmander scored! Often accused of being an incompetent, lazy striker devoured of any finishing ability, he headed home a Lee Chung-Yong cross after a defensive error to cancel out Koscielny’s opener.
Carlos Vela then put the icing on the cake with a neat finish from an excellent free flowing passing move which was 24 passes long. Mr Martinez, please take note of how to play the passing game successfully.
Elsewhere, West Ham’s nightmare continued as they went down 3-1 at home to London rivals Chelsea to leave the Hammers with four defeats from four games. Rob Green’s recent nightmare continued as he spilled a relatively routine free kick from Didier Drogba, before Matthew Upson’s clearance took an amazing deflection off Salomon Kalou and looped over Green for 2-0. Joe Hart suffered the ‘England Goalkeeper effect’ when he made a rare error at Eastland’s to gift Blackburn’s Nicola Kalinic the opener. Veteran Patrick Vieira’s equaliser earned a 1-1 draw. Likewise, West Brom earned a respectable 1-1 draw with Tottenham at home, in a game where a certain Mr Scharner made his debut, his first task was to mark Rafael Van der Vaart. Gulp.
The dream continued for Blackpool as they beat Newcastle 2-0 at St James’ Park, with Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell scoring the goals. It really does beggar belief how Blackpool can have some many average strikers scoring goals. Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Marlon Harewood, Luke Varney and now DJ Campbell. The only way that list could get any more unbelievable is if Brett Ormerod finds the net. Credit where it’s due though, they’ve done brilliantly to find themselves in fourth spot.
Sky chose the wrong game to televise as Birmingham and Liverpool played out a stale 0-0 draw, with Liverpool suffering from many bad Rafael Benitez signings blowing their budget so they have to make cost cutter replacements. I mean, Paul Konchesky is at left back.
Aston Villa face Stoke tonight in the only game left un-played over the weekend, with ex-Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier now in charge at Villa Park. After his reign at Anfield, I doubt he’ll be a success, and especially after reading Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen’s autobiographies, his management ability and techniques are very questionable. I’d go as far as saying he’s came across as a right idiot. Still, I wish him luck, he may need it.
Goal of the Weekend: Carlos Vela, Arsenal vs Bolton
Blunder of the Weekend: Chelsea’s second goal against West Ham, the Green and Upson blunder
Save of the Weekend: Pepe Reina, Birmingham vs Liverpool, to deny Cameron Jerome
This Week’s Teaser
When was the last time that Manchester United lost a two goal lead?
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you all next week.