Is there actually a football season going on at the moment? I mean amid all the racism scandals, idiotic fan behaviour and errant tweets, are people actually kicking a ball of leather about over a grassy pitch? I’d presumed so, and my suspicions were confirmed when last weekend I finally got a chance to catch up over what all this fuss has been about.
Idiotic and thuggish fans aside, it’s a shame the media seem so intent on focusing on off-field events, given how good this season has been from an entertainment point of view. Not content with heaps of entertaining games and plenty of goals scored, they seem intent on turning the Premier League into a soap opera of E4 proportions. They seem convinced we’re more interested in who is tittle tattling against the other; who is falling out with their bosses. I mean is anyone really all that interested in the reasons behind Rio Ferdinand’s garments of choice?
Either way the Premier League continued apace, with three teams definitely charging ahead. It currently looks very unlikely that the top three will consists of teams other than Man Utd, Man City or Chelsea. Spurs will be among those pushing them, even causing hell to freeze over with a win at Old Trafford, but they came unstuck against an organised Chelsea. Spurs had a good crack, and no-one could doubt Villas-Boas’ dedication to his cause, given his look of elation when Defoe put them briefly ahead. But Di Matteo has a knack for uniting his band of tempestuous players. Mata in particular was looking scrumptious on Saturday, feeding through pin point passes and even finding time to score a couple of goals himself. Chelsea have found the same sort of swagger we saw from them during Mourinho’s days.
Meanwhile Man City are finding a degree of resilience. They came up against a team that has been the surprise of the opening months, West Brom, who have come out of the gates like a jet propelled whippet. They didn’t move quite so fast during this game, but they still did enough to take the lead and give Man City a real scare. A Dzeko brace rescued the three points for the champions, but at times it looked like that was going to be an unlikely outcome. Regardless of this result, both teams are on track to reach their targets. Just like Man Utd, who as always keep on plugging away with win after win after win. Rooney recovered from an early own goal to score twice against Stoke, who unusually are looking a wee bit unconfident. Not even Ferdinand’s wardrobe malfunction could dampen United’s spirits, though they remain shaky by their standards.
Sundays action was dominated by a pair of zesty encounters, none more so than at the Stadium of Light. The Tyne and Wear derby is always akin to a war of attrition, all fancy play abandoned in favour of nervy aggression. In the heated atmosphere someone usually makes a humdinger of a mistake, and this time it was Tiote, who was sent off for a high challenge on Fletcher, and Ba, who scored a late own goal with a horrific deflection. Together this ensured the spoils were shared, though this won’t do either team much good. There was a surprising symmetry in that neither was a draw much good for Everton and QPR, who also saw an own goal and a red card for Pienaar in their own 1-1 draw.
But alarm bells should he ringing for Arsenal. They were as toothless as a new born lamb in attack, never looking like recovering from an early Holt goal for Norwich. They are already ten points behind Chelsea and, I don’t want parrot what everyone is already saying inside their heads, but they seriously miss Van Persie. Arsenal have at times looked a threat this season, but they do not have any consistency, or any superstars that can lift the team when they are in trouble. It’s too early to really predict their downfall, given how bleak things looked for them at points last season, but they will really have to improve to have a realistic shout at fourth place, let alone third or above.
So two months in and things are already looking intriguing. We’ve had surprises, quality games, heaps of goals and a genuine sense of unpredictability. Which makes it all the sadder to consider off field matter are dominating the headlines as much as on-field affairs. This has been a good start all told, but the fact that in 2012 we are still debating racism and the behaviour of fans and players speaks for itself really!
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