A controversial victory for Manchester United was perhaps the talking point of this weekend’s Premier League action, but there was plenty more to keep us entertained too. Chelsea strolled to victory while Liverpool struggled, Everton got off the mark and Villa continued their Jekyll & Hyde start while Bolton, Portsmouth and Blackburn remain win-less. What did you make of the weekend’s action? Here are a few of my conclusions.
1. It’s gonna’ be another controversial season.
The match between Manchester United saw one of the most shambolic refereeing performances I’ve seen for quite some time, with two penalty decisions made incorrectly, and Arsene Wenger shambolically sent from the stands – sort of. With Eduardo’s diving exploits in midweek, Rooney too will surely come under some scrutiny while Eboue was caught clearly trying to cheat the referee.
This suggests that we’re in for a season of big talking points. Not only are the players seemingly more willing than ever to bend the rules despite all the risks involved in it, but the referees are also still incompetent enough to be consistent enough in catching them out. That means that some players will get away with it while some will be punished and this will bring accusations of bias and conspiracy from all quarters.
This means that the debate over whether or not technology should be brought in to “aid” the referees in their decisions should be brought in and probably more and more radical and outrageous ideas will be suggested and trialled by FIFA in various low key competitions. At the end of the season though, we’ll be right where we are now, with no technology and tonnes of controversy, and it’ll be brilliant, because that’s what football is all about. Bring it on.
2.Manchester City aren’t as good as they think they are.
Mark Hughes has seen his merry band of mercenaries get off to a perfect start – three wins in three and Emanuel Adebayor with three goals in three too. Things then, are looking rosy on Eastlands, and doubtless expectations are starting to sky-rocket. Fans and media alike must surely now be starting to believe that pre-season talk of a title challenge may not have been as ridiculous as it sounded.
They’re mistaken though, and there’s no way that Man City will make a real title challenge – if I was a betting man and wasn’t broke, I’d put some serious money on it. The simple fact is that in none of their wins so far this season have they been at all convincing. Yesterday’s one-nil win over Pompey heavily resembled their win by the same scoreline over Wolves in that had their opposition been a bit more clinical, City would not have a 100% record.
Even on the opening day when they beat Blackburn by two goals to nil, City’s defence looked a little shaky and should really have been breached. And while Adebayor is notching goals consistently, few of the other signings have really excelled as yet. Of course they’ll get better as time goes on and the addition of Lescott should sure up the defence but I remain unconvinced.
Especially when you consider that the opposition that they have overcome with little certainty so far are all clubs who you would expect to be fighting it out at the wrong end of the table come May. I think Pompey need to shake up their squad massively if they’re to avoid the drop while Blackburn have had a poor start and Wolves will themselves be surprised if they steer clear of a relegation battle.
In my opinion then, we’re yet to see City really tested, and the little tests that they’ve faced so far haven’t really been passed with flying colours. The league table means nothing at this stage of the season, and so although Man City have the full compliment of nine points on the board, I think Hughes’ rich kids will be shown up sooner rather than later, and there’s no way they’ll mount a title challenge. Get some money on it.
3. Rafa Benitez and Liverpool will part company before the season’s conclusion.
Sunday saw another unconvincing display from Rafa’s Reds, and it took another rescue mission from Gerrard and Torres to spare them from an embarrassing third defeat in four against Birmingham. Benitez suggested that Gerrard has been below par so far this season but it was Captain Fantastic who again inspired a late comeback.
Rafa has assured us that when he gets some of his other stars like uh… Daniel Agger, Fabio Aurelio and the untried Alberto Aquilani they will “make a difference” but I’m just not sure. Liverpool look like a completely different side so far this season, lacking the verve and inspiration from last season and clearly suffering a lack of balance after the departure of Xabi Alonso – who has not been replaced.
Rafa, in my opinion, does not have the charisma or man-management skills to get his team going again – as his disastrous attempt to sabotage Ferguson with an ill-advised rant proved last season – he is certainly more of a tactician than a motivator. He must have noticed that Alsonso has left a fairly massive hole in his side then, but the problem for him seems to be that the money at Anfield has at last dried up.
After spending liberally and buying mostly average players for many years now, it seems that Liverpool’s ever-popular American owners have tightened the purse strings which means that Rafa will have to settle for a really expensive wing-back who can’t defend and an injury prone central midfielder rather than bringing in a deep-lying play-maker to fill the role that Alonso occupied so successfully last season.
All of this combines to tell me that Rafa’s stint in charge of Liverpool is coming towards its conclusion. If results continue to stutter as they have been in the opening rounds of this season then the fans and board will doubtless lose patience very quickly, while if Rafa isn’t allowed to reinforce come January I feel he could easily walk – wild internet rumours suggested this had happened last week which was bollocks, but there’s no smoke without fire and Benitez won’t be happy with his resources cut.
All in all then, I don’t think Rafa will be in charge at Anfield come May and I think Liverpool will join Manchester City in falling short of a significant title challenge. In a way, I shall be disappointed if/when Rafa does leave Anfield, because then they may actually appoint a competent manager who won’t waste money in quite such spectacular fashion as Rafa, and then Liverpool could finally end their title drought. Let’s hope not though.
Have your say:
So there we have it, those are my three conclusions from this weekend’s Premier League action. Do you agree with my thoughts? If not, why not? And is there anything else you found particularly interesting about this round of games? Please leave me a comment below and let me know…