Welcome to TheHardTackle’s review of all the action that took place in the Barclays Premier League, Week 7. Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool faced off against considerably weaker opposition and were expected to walk off with all 3 points. Mancini, di Matteo and Wenger will certainly be glad their sides lived up to their billing as favorites, and Sir Alex Ferguson will be thrilled Manchester United buried Newcastle United at home. But their Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers must certainly feel like the universe is conspiring against him. Liverpool only managed a scoreless draw, against a dogged Stoke City as they failed to shake off the pall of gloom that’s descended lately at Anfield.
Game Of The Weekend
Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United
A pretty disappointing week, for neutrals looking for an upset or a big game clash that lives up to its billing. While Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur convincingly swept aside their opponents, the Red Devils were clearly the ones with the biggest challenge on their hands. Having lost 3-0 to Newcastle last season at the Sports Direct Arena in January, Fergie’s men exacted some measure of revenge by trouncing the home team by a 3 goal margin.
Demba Ba and Cisse might not be teammates come season end, if their hopeless pairing up-front is any indication. Both strikers are used to being point men and are often uncomfortable taking up a more supporting role as second striker. In contrast, Wayne Rooney who seflessly set up Cristiano Ronaldo during his years at United, seems to be quite comfortable propping up Robin van Persie in an advanced role just as effectively. In the end however, it wasn’t the terrific duo who got on the scoresheet.
Taking full advantage of a Newcastle defense minus the services of Krul, Coloccini and Taylor, last season’s second place finishers put the result of the game safely out of Pardew’s tactical reach with two goals in the first 15 minutes. Evans scored United’s opener with a spectacular header off of Rooney’s well-taken corner in the 8th minute.
That initial sign of Newcastle’s defensive porosity at the back would come to haunt them again, as another defender – the much maligned Evra – converted another Rooney corner with an exquisite header. Steve Harper between the posts was rusty, and was fortunate not to have let in more considering the day he was having. Newcastle began to exert themselves a bit more towards the end of the first half. Early in the second, Demba Ba’s effort was adjudged by the linesman not to have crossed the line, and TV replays were inconclusive. United piled on the misery in the 71st minute, as they raced 3-0 up when Cleverley, who lived up his billing as the next Scholes with an imperious performance in midfield, slotted one in the top corner.
The game should surely have been contested a bit more closely, to be a shoo-in for the game of the weekend. But in a week with few nail-biting moments for any of the big sides, we pick this clash as our game of the weekend.
Player Of The Weekend
Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Beating off stiff competition from Wayne Rooney and Santi Cazorla, is our pick for the player of the Weekend – the diminutive Spaniard at Stamford Bridge, Juan Mata. Easily Chelsea’s most gifted player last season, Juan Mata was expected to be eclipsed this season by the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar. Hazard may have set the League on fire at the start of the campaign, but Juan Mata has suddenly grabbed the initiative in the past couple of weeks. The Spaniard seems to have developed a magical bond with every attacker in the side, and unlike Hazard who is always stuck in traffic, Juan Mata seems to carve out acres of space.
Ending the game with a Xavi-esque 92% pass completion rate, Mata had his hand – or foot rather – in two of Chelsea’s goals. He also played a role in setting up Torres’ equalizer, although Ivanovic must be credited for playing his part. Frank Lampard scored a well-taken goal, but in a sign of how much of a paradigm shift the game has undergone at West London, it was merely just another – almost negligible – nail in the coffin for Norwich. Mata has shaken off whatever plagued him at the start of the season, with some well-deserved rest in September.
Any any player who can put Torres, Hazard and Lampard in the shade on a day when they all scored, deserves the accolades that come his way.
Assist Of The Weekend
Podolski for Girou (Arsenal)
The Gunners get the nod here, for their first goal – incidentally also the equalizer – against West Ham. After the Hammers had gone ahead, you could be forgiven for thinking it looked all too familiar. Arsenal with their magic, finesse and class – and yet somehow, their opponents with the lead.
That would change as Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski conjured up a one-two in dazzling fashion. In a move characteristic of the telepathic understanding that usually only comes with having played several years together, Giroud sent the ball wide out to a rampaging Podolski.
The German was in an unforgiving mood, as he rocketed down the left, before crossing the unlikeliest of passes to Giroud who barely made it in time. It’s wholly conceivable that given another chance, they might not be able to replicate that again.
Giroud deftly volleyed the goal into the net. Arsenal were back in the game, and how!
Goal Of The Weekend
Tom Cleverley (Manchester United)
In most weeks, Kolarov’s opener for Manchester City in the 5th minute would be a strong contender. You might even argue Lampard’s confident strike off a Torres overhead bicycle kick is worthy of a mention. Just as would Lennon’s cool as ice shot past an unfortunate Guzan.
But Manchester United’s Cleverley contributed an effort so out of the box, it’s in an entirely different league altogether. The young United up-and-comer sent the ball looping over the massed ranks of Newcastle and United players jostling for space. It looked like it was heading for Robin van Persie, who’d made an intelligent run beating the offside trap. As it turned out, the former Arsenal striker needn’t have done anything.
The ball stayed afloat in the air for what seemed like an eternity, before gently swerving right into the top corner of the goal. And just like that, United’s demons at the Sports Direct Arena were exorcised.
Biggest Controversy Of The Weekend
Luiz Suarez diving (Liverpool v Stoke City)
If controversy is the topic, can Luiz Suarez be far behind? Having sullied his name and reputation after being found guilty of racism, and then making no friends by refusing to shake hands with the target of his offense, the Liverpool striker might just be on a new crusade to mark himself out as the most unpopular figure in the Premier League.
In the 75th minute in the clash against Stoke City, with another scoreless draw in the works, Suarez fell to the ground under the pretext of being tripped in the box. The two nearest Stoke defenders – Nzonzi and Wilson – had made no contact whatsoever with him.
Tony Pulis was naturally incensed, while Brendan Rodgers pulled a Wenger in claiming he hadn’t see it.
Team Of The Weekend
Premier League Results
Manchester City 3 – 0 Sunderland
Swansea City 2 – 2 Reading
Chelsea 4 – 1 Norwich City
Wigan Athletic 2 – 2 Everton
West Bromwich Albion 3 – 2 Queens Park Rangers
West Ham United 1 – 3 Arsenal
Southampton 2 – 2 Fulham
Liverpool 0 – 0 Stoke City
Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 0 Aston Villa
Newcastle United 0 – 3 Manchester United