The one place where you can still feel comfortable predicting what is going to happen is at Stamford Bridge. It is almost an annual ritual that Arsene Wenger will bring his talented young side to face the experienced heads of Chelsea, play them off the park and then go home with nothing.
Arsenal knocked the ball around with the usual pleasing confidence. Unfortunately for those in the away end, all the promise seemed to desert them when they got near the goal.
Arsenal fans must be sick of screaming shoot as their teams dally round the edge of the box refusing to try for goal. They must be just as sick of seeing Chelsea soak up spells of pressure then amble down the other end and stick the ball in the net.
There should be no taking away from the excellent performance Chelsea put in, Didier Drogba’s goal was the result of excellent play and a bafflingly brilliant finish. As for Chelsea’s second, you cannot criticise anyone in an Arsenal shirt for not getting in the way of Alex’s thunderous free kick. It would not have surprised anyone to see it rip through the net after screaming past Lukasz Fabianski.
At the other end of the table Everton finally got their season going. Alarm bells were starting to ring and a visit to St.Andrew’s to play Alex McLeish’s record breaking Birmingham side would have worried David Moyes. As it was, his team put in a consummate performance to end Birmingham’s year-long unbeaten home streak.
Roger Johnson put into his own net from a Leon Osman cross to help Everton on their way. Everton displayed the nerves you would expect from a side struggling for form but club talisman Tim Cahill popped up to secure the points in the final moments.
Stoke continued their transformation from strong armed long-ball merchants to a decent footballing side. The introduction of talents such as Kenwyne Jones and Jermaine Pennant has helped galvanise the side. Sam Allardyce could learn a thing or two from Tony Pulis as he saw his side opened up by some excellent football for Jon Walters’ winner.
Blackpool had one of their best days yet in an already wondrous season. Luke Varney scored the Seasiders winner to propel Blackpool to 9th, and keep Liverpool locked in the relegation places. If you consider Varney spent last year fighting to keep Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, the work being done by Ian Holloway has to be commended.
Roy Hodgson’s efforts are obviously not going down so well. The Kop started chanting Kenny Dalglish’s name as they made it clear who they expect to come in and solve the mess at the club, and the abject performance from those in red did little to inspire confidence in Hodgson’s side.
Manchester United had another lacklustre weekend as they struggled to produce anything of note. Ferguson tried Michael Owen, Federico Macheda, Dimitar Berbatov and Jay Hernandez up front at various points of the match, and none of them ever looked like creating anything for his side.
Steve Bruce, however, can be very proud of his side. They can rightfully argue a draw was more than United deserved and the signs of quality emerging at the Stadium of Light show the club could be going in the right direction.
The other North-West/North-East match of the weekend saw Newcastle travel to Eastlands to face Manchester City. The game finished 2-1 to the Blues, but it will be remembered for Nigel de Jong breaking Hatem Ben Arfa’s leg with a strong tackle.
Another challenge that will live long in the memory is Karl Henry’s tackle on Wigan’s Jordi Gomez. The red carded Henry got it all wrong as he slid in on Gomez and propelled the Spaniard into a full cartwheel.
The tackle was horrendous and Henry’s protests were laughable, however it did not seem to be malicious, Henry just seemed to have no idea what he was doing. Gomez and Hugo Rodallega scored for the Latics as they got their first home win of the season.
West Ham showed their continuing improvement, in particular the growing partnership between Victor Obinna and Frederic Piquionne. The Frenchman put away an Obinna cross to level after Clint Dempsey opened for Mark Hughes’ side.
Finally, Gerard Houllier brought his new side to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham. Villa started brightly, with Marc Albrighton opening the scoring from an Emile Heskey cross. However, there was little the Midlands side could do about Rafael van der Vaart as he dominated to haul Spurs back into the game. He scored both goals to help them take all three points.