Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Hats the way to do it - Weekend Observations 22nd-24th January 2011: Part One

They say that things come in threes; Buses, Stooges, Wise men, Bronte Sisters and most relevant to the following blog, goals to complete a hat-trick.

It was a tale of two strikers and two hat-tricks at the top of the Premier League this weekend. For Manchester United, Dimitar Berbatov hit his third treble(which includes one quintuple) of the season in a 5-0 battering of Birmingham to consolidate top spot. Down in London, Robin van Persie almost single-handedly saw off Wigan with all three goals in Arsenal's convincing 3-0 home win lifting them to second.

As I always say about the gunners, when it clicks into place they look a frightening unit who have the beating of anyone. Consistency remains a problem but for the first time since Jesus was going through puberty it seems as though the spearhead of their attack is fit and firing.

Saturday's haul made it 6 in 3 for the Dutchman who is doesn't only contribute to the scoring charts but also provides a number of assists for his teammates. Share and share alike!

If van Persie can avoid a return to the physio room that has almost become a second home to him over the past few seasons then Arsene Wenger’s team are as good a bet as anyone to potentially prevent United from winning the league as well as challenge for other honours both now and in future.

That said, Saturday saw the reds look someway convincing for the first time in weeks as they swept aside a Birmingham team who seemed content to go to Old Trafford, bend over, look toward their more illustrious opponents with 'come hither' eyes and take a pounding all the while showing about as much resistance as Kerry Katona's g-string.

One could make the case that following their battling performance at St. Andrew's three weeks ago, Birmingham, under the leadership of one Sir Alex' cronies in Alex McLiesh, felt obliged to give United the freedom of Manchester on Saturday. If this wasn't the case then you really have to wonder why people rave about Roger Johnson who may as well been a traffic cone for the 'defending' he actually did.

As much as I'd like to, I can't be completely disingenuous towards United as I have to admit they looked about far better than they have all season. An ominous sign for the chasing pack. I have speculated before that if they could be as average as they have been so far but still head the table unbeaten, it will be curtains for the others when they actually started to play well.

Aside from Berbatov's hat trick, the fat waste of space Wayne Rooney who I condemned here just last week seems to have hopped into the DeLorean and travelled back to this time last year. Rooney looked some way near his best having been heavily involved in almost all five goals and showing some brilliant touches throughout. However, Shrek was still guilty of one of the misses of the season when he blinked and put a header wide from about a quarter of a centimetre out. Still only three for the season from the scouser.

A striker not concerned about his goal scoring form is multi-million pound Darren Bent who provided an instant return on the money Aston Villa invested in him with the winning goal in his new side's 1-0 victory over fellow frivolous spenders Manchester City.

People raise their eyebrows over the price and seem more than ready to point out his supposed limitations and highlight his dodgy period at Spurs where they seem to forget he was top scorer in his final season and had to play under the chaotic and constant managerial upheaval in his three years there. Admittedly, he may not have the attributes of some of his more high profile peers but as he showed with his goal on Saturday evening, he is more often than not in right place at the right time. He gets the goals, goals win games.

If nothing else, he's even somehow managed to make Gerrard Houlier smile!

As for City, the defeat saw them drop to third behind Arsenal and United who both have games in hand on them. It's not as if they were outplayed by Villa. They had their many chances but failed to find the back of net. One of those occasions that is often written off as a bad day at the office. However, but are bad days at the office becoming more frequent for City? Recently they have lost to Everton, lucky to come away from the Emirates with a draw and defensively suspect against Wolves. As much as I've touted them for success all season, they seem to be stuttering at present. Worryingly, the goal came from a Joe Hart error. Not his first over the last few weeks either. Has the England keeper curse struck again?

Villa's win over City lifted them away from the relegations zone which still contains a West Ham side unfortunate to come away from Goodison Park with a 2-2 draw against Everton. According to highlights, the Hammers actually looked half decent and put in a good performance despite the final result. The fact that they do seem to be fighting for their lives at present just highlights the absurdity of the Gold/Sullivan/Brady triumvirate and their constant undermining of cheerful Avram.

The main talking point from the game was the ridiculous red card issued to Frédéric Piquionne after he picked up a second yellow for celebrating his goal with his own fans. I don't much explanation is needed to describe how daft it is for this to be considered a bookable offence in the first place but equally daft are the players that continuously fail to recognise this and get themselves into trouble. The Frenchman has himself, and ONLY himself, to blame.

Also dropping points in the upper echelons of the Premier League, and after an outstanding Christmas period, the Tottenham train seems to be derailing somewhat at the minute after no league wins in their last three games. Their most recent setback came in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Newcastle at St. James' Park where in fact, Spurs were lucky to come away with anything following Aaron Lennon’s last gasp equaliser.

Apparently, 'arry was mugged on a scouting mission in Madrid last week. Against the magpies the tables were turned as it was his side doing the stealing as they managed to get away from the North with a barely deserved point.

A curious player is Lennon. Pacey and skillful but about as good with crosses as Dracula. The fact he can't use his left foot will always hinder his progress as player and I personally believe that this is solely down to those stupid tramlines he has shaved into the side of his head and eyebrows which clearly affect his balance.

Creeping up on City and pulling away from Spurs in a bizarre turn of events that I totally predicted would happen, Chelsea remembered that they were actually a half decent football team and put a laclustre Bolton team to the sword on Monday 4-0 with the sort of ruthlessness that had us all drooling and quaking in our boots in equal measure at the start of the season. Four goals from four different players - including the surface to air missle Didier Drogba decided to launch with is right foot - is a telling statistic that indicates that once more Carlo Ancelotti's men are working together as a cohesive, well-oiled unit and any talk of their demise has been vastly exaggerated. I think that so many people wanted to see Chelsea fall on their collective arse that they convinced themselves that Stamford Bridge was indeed falling down. A couple of recent convincing wins would suggest that this was never the case.

Whether or not they are 'back' remains to be seen. They have some serious ground to make up on the teams above them but in this most bizarre of seasons that seems totally devoid of anything that could even be mistaken for consistency, it would take a brave man to dismiss Chelsea's chances completely.

Part Two to follow

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