Brief Serge of brilliance, Suarridge and a communication breakdownPosted: October 29, 2013
Premier League Talking Points – Week 9
The first game of the weekend was at Selhurst Park as Crystal Palace took on Arsenal in their first game following Ian Holloway’s departure from the club. Following the victory over Norwich City last week it was assumed that the Gunners would get their biggest win of the season against a Palace side that was five points from safety already.
The game started as expected, Arsenal dominated a large percentage of the possession as Palace just sat back and allowed the league leaders to pass the ball in front of them. A groin injury to midfielder Mathieu Flamini however turned the half on its head when he was taken off for Serge Gnabry.
After this, Palace began to press the ball, captain Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi the most influential players for Palace, and despite Arsenal’s far superior possession, they were unable to actually create any clear cut chances. The first shot on target happened to come from a former Gooner favourite, Marouane Chamakh. Towards the end of the half Arsenal were constantly split open at the back from set pieces and were lucky not to go in behind.
It was the young star, Gnabry who was key to the opening goal though as he was taken down in the box by Adléne Guédiora, with a tackle that can only be described as stupid following Palace’s hard work. Captain Mikel Arteta stepped up to coolly slot it past Julian Speroni.
The game changed in the home side’s favour once again though, when the goalscorer was sent off for taking down Chamakh when the ref had judged him to have been through on goal.
Following this, without the solidity that Arteta and Flamini provide, Arsenal looked like they would have been punished by a better side as Palace looked dangerous on few occasions, especially when they had two long range shots in quick succession which were palmed away by Wojciech Szczęsny.
Unfortunately for the long punished home fans, it was Giroud who put the result beyond doubt following a lovely ball by Aaron Ramsey on the counter.
One of the names linked to replace Holloway is former Stoke City boss, Tony Pulis, and if this game taught me anything, Palace could do well with the tactics which served the Welshman so well at the Britannia Stadium.
Next up was a trip to Anfield for West Brom Albion as the Baggies hoped to extend their run of good form against Liverpool, who they have beaten in their last three encounters in the league.
As it happens though, the game became a bit of a sideshow as the Luis Suárez show took full effect, as the Uruguayan ‘Bagg-ed’ a hat trick.
Other than the prolific number 7 and his strike partner, Daniel Sturridge, the midfield also gave Liverpool fans reason to smile as for the first time this season, it looked to have recaptured the form of last season.
It was the first time that the trio of Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson had played together in the middle for a while from the off, with Henderson being moved around filling in for missing players, and Lucas missing last week’s game against Newcastle due to the birth of his latest child after being banned for the visit of Crystal Palace.
The trio were able to dictate the game for large periods, and pressed the ball impressively whenever they lost it, something which has been missing from Liverpool’s recent games. Henderson’s tireless running in the number 10 position was something that made this happen, validating a recent BOIP article on the Red’s midfield troubles.
Winning the midfield battle was always going to be key in this game, with Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob being a tough midfield partnership to come up against, but the Red’s trio was able to nullify their threats for the most part, with Yacob being quite anonymous throughout the game, giving away more fouls than actually pulling off successful tackles.
Most of the talk following this game is on whether or not Suárez and Sturridge (I refuse to refer to them as The SAS!) is the best strike partnership in the Premier League. At the minute, I’d say it is too early to tell but it’s hard to deny the fact that they make up by far the most in-form partnership at the moment.
Next week’s game against Arsenal will be a big one for Liverpool to test how far they have really come in the past year. The same applies to the Gunners.
Sunday night saw two of pre season’s favourites for the Premier League title face off as Chelsea hosted Manchester City which was settled by a rush of blood to the shampooed head of Joe Hart, and Matija Nastasić.
Other than the way the game was won, the other main talking point was the performance of Fernando Torres, who benefitted from the mentioned misunderstanding between defender and goalkeeper, scoring his first league goal of 2013. Granted, the Spaniard worked hard throughout the game, something which is appreciated by the Chelsea fans (in a cruel twist of fate, he may have become the Dirk Kuyt of Chelsea).
For me the “is he back?” questions are far too premature, although, he did show glimpses of the Liverpool Fernando Torres, including a great attempt from the edge of the area which hit the cross bar, similar to a goal he scored against Sunderland for the Reds back in the day. The Torres he used to be was one of the most clinical strikers in the world; he wasn’t missing sitters like he did in this game earlier on, smashing in goals for fun and only when he starts doing that again can you really ask, “is he back?”
As for the incident at the end which led to Torres’ goal, I can’t put all of the blame on Hart, although his form has been a worry since last season. He did what any keeper would do and came out screaming for the ball, Nastasić had enough time to look up, see Hart wasn’t on his line and just knock it out for a Chelsea corner or a throw in. It was a catastrophic breakdown of communication between goalkeeper and defender which could lead to the former getting dropped from the first team after Manuel Pellegrini failed to publicly back the England number one.
Across Manchester, David Moyes can breathe a massive sigh of relief as his Manchester United came from behind to beat a Stoke City who had pegged them back twice with goals from Peter Crouch and summer signing Marko Arnautović. It was as if Alex Ferguson had never left as he sat in the stands watching on as his old side were able to fight back and draw level through Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney before this generation’s super sub Javier Hernandez knocked in the late winner.
One of the characteristics of United while under the Scot was their ability to be able to play poorly at home and still come out with the three points but this hasn’t been the case so far under their new Scot, so he will be hoping that this is the springboard for their season, as will the fans.
It was Battle of the Belgians at Villa Park as Christian Benteke’s Aston Villa took on Romelu Lukaku’s Everton, and it could have been the former who could have drawn first blood if his penalty kick wasn’t saved by Tim Howard. As it turned out, it was another victory for the Toffees, carrying on their impressive start under Roberto Martinez with goals from the on loan Lukaku, and Leon Osman.
Most of the football being played by the blue side of Liverpool has been as easy on the eye as the red half, and it is paying dividends with the victory meaning that Everton occupied 3rd spot for a few hours before Chelsea, City and Tottenham played. It also makes you wonder if Moyes’ pragmatic approach could have held the Blues back for the past few season.