Premier League Analysis – A bad weekend for the top teams

This weekend saw the discovery of a new problem for the Premier League’s top clubs. For the first time all four of England’s Champions League clubs failed to win a game before a round of European games. The problems of travelling to a wet Blackburn on a Sunday lunchtime after a glamorous midweek fixture are well known, but all the teams struggled to pick up a win this weekend.

Chelsea travelled to Eastlands to play Manchester City. For City, this was a chance to kickstart their season, after a loss to Sunderland and draw with Blackburn had left some questions hanging over the club. Roberto Mancini prepared for the game by declaring that Chelsea were going to run away with the league – the message in the changing room was obviously very different. City were meticulously prepared to see off the Chelsea threat. A tight, tense game was decided by a counter-attack by Carlos Tevez and David Silva. The clever running off the ball by the Spaniard left John Terry and Ashley Cole panicked, allowing Tevez to score his 25th goal in his last 29 games.

Arsenal would have been aware of Chelsea’s loss when they trotted out in front of the expectant Emirates crowd. However, opponents West Bromwich Albion were in a mood to demonstrate the maturity that has been lacking in previous Premier League seasons. With a patient and defensive minded side frustrating the Arsenal attack, new West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie enjoyed another afternoon showing CSKA Moscow fans the joke is on them. Luckily for Odemwingie, the Arsenal defence were in the mood to help him show off. New centre-back pairing Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny looked like they had never met, while Manuel Almunia made a mockery of Wenger’s claims that there was no goalkeeping problem at the club.

Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United rounded off the results. West Ham got their first win in the League this season. Victor Obinna and Frederic Piquionne look like a threatening front pair and if Robert Green remembers some of his saves in this game he could he start to remind everyone why he was Fabio Capello’s first choice at the start of the World Cup. Manchester United went to Bolton Wanderers knowing they could cut the gap to Chelsea to a point. Six minutes in and they seemed to have been crushed by the pressure, as Zat Knight shook off Jonny Evans to put Bolton ahead. United then started to perform and Nani produced a wonder-goal to get them level. The expected United surge never materialised and when Martin Petrov put Bolton ahead again it seemed United were set to slip again. Sir Alex Ferguson, however, could call Michael Owen from the bench and he quickly repaid his manager by rescuing a point for his team.

Elsewhere, Gerrard Houllier took his new team to Wolves, where Emile Heskey enjoyed his first start for six months. Heskey showed how much he likes working with the Frenchman. With two minutes to go, Heskey popped up to score his second goal in two games and help Houllier take his side to fifth in the table. Liverpool continued to struggle as they faced Steve Bruce’s improving Sunderland side. The game however will be remembered for Stuart Attwell’s erratic refereeing display. It was all downhill after an excellent early offside call. Liverpool’s first was from a mix up, as Michael Turner thought he was knocking it back to where Attwell wanted it taken from, not taking the free kick. Fernando Torres leapt on the mistake and squared for Dirk Kuyt to roll in the first. Luckily Attwell repaid the favour and awarded a free-kick to the Black Cats to level it up. After Bent had put Sunderland into the lead following a glorious Nedum Onuoha cross, Attwell made his next mistake. Steven Gerrard leapt, elbow first, into Danny Wellbeck. Gerrard was shown a yellow, but as Steve Bruce wisely put it, if it had been Lee Cattermole the card would almost certainly have been red.

Birmingham and Wigan played out a spectacularly boring draw, as did Fulham and Everton. Both games were marked out by a distinct lack of creativity. Everton continued their disastrous start to the season, whilst Birmingham marked a year since they last lost at home.

Stoke continued their resurgence as they beat Newcastle 2-1 at St. James’ Park. After going a goal up, Newcastle let Stoke back into the game. Kenwyne Jones continued his form for the Potters as he levelled the teams, before James Perch powered a header past his own goalkeeper with five minutes to go. Blackburn Rovers visited Blackpool for the tangerines second home game of the season. Blackburn benefited from another excellent own goal as Charlie Adam put past his keeper. Blackpool couldn’t match the strength of players like Chris Samba and Brett Emerton and it was the stocky Australian who lashed home the winner in stoppage time.

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