Victories in football games taste sweet. But victories at the homes of bitter rivals are sweeter. The Chelsea diehard fans who witnessed the Gunners loss to the reigning European Champions at the Emirates Stadium understand this better.
And neither did anybody smile wider than the Red Devils’ fans when the last whistle was blown at Anfield a week after. What about the Spurs’ convincing win at Old Trafford? It tastes the sweetest when the arch-rivals are humbled at home.
But I’m sure when Chelsea players left the Emirates, a chunk of Blues fans were starting to remember what the taste of champagne is like. Not so? Or put it this way. Do teams that are top of the league after six games, even unbeaten, keep rest assured of lifting the crown? Maybe elsewhere, not in England.
As I’ve indicated before, Roberto Di Matteo’s team who did not include Frank Lampard to beat Arsenal, it surely looked like the shape of Chelsea things to come. The Blues squad is undoubtedly in a state of flux, when their rival, the two Manchesters’ are stumbling.
At The Emirates, given the excellent interchanging line of three, which saw Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard harassing the Gunners’ defense with Torres as a single hit man, I see Di Matteo’s contract secure.
Besides the young acquisitions in the midfield, Lampard, even at 34, and John Terry at 33 remain cornerstones of the Chelsea dressing room.
And the skipper has retired from international duties. Plus other midfield energetic driver in Ramirez who often augments Obi Mikel’s holding qualities- it was evident in the Copenhagen midweek Champions impressive win.
The Red Devils made crucial win while the reigning Champions Manchester City made a consoling equalizer on 89 minute at home, against a much stronger German champions Borussia Dortmund. The visitors were quite confident, making attractive passing and movements.
They dominated throughout the 90 minutes and the man-of-the Match at Etihad Stadium was undoubtedly the England International keeper Joe Heart- he made several unbelievable saves!
Anyway, the bottom line is: throughout the few games, Premier or Champions the Manchester clubs have not shown convincing superiority.
The only convincing win Manchester United played is the 4-0 against Wigan at Old Trafford. Their 2-1 win at Anfield was just hard luck for the hosts- the referee was evidently partial.
But the Red Devils’ loopholes were exposed then, in last Sunday’s loss to Tottenham after several yester years since the Spurs won a game at Old Trafford. That clash shows that gone are the days when the Ferguson teams were indomitable.
Some of their legendaries in defense like Galley Neville, O’Shea, Michael Sylvester, Loy Keane and Fletcher have not yet got equivalents. Rio Ferdinand has waned like a moon and is now injury-prone and no longer with required pace.
The skipper Vidic is still sidelined, while the France international Patrice Evra hasn’t gained top form neither.
When fans see Fergie playing the yester year heroes like Giggs and Scholes for more than 60 minutes, they should worry. The best alternative wider men Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are also sidelined with injuries.
That is why the defense is no longer impenetrable. That’s why the world class strikers are not hitting the net regularly. And that is why Wayne Rooney is more often reserved and brought in when the worse turns to worst to bridge the loopholes in defense, midfield and strike when possible. The weakness highlighted above is why Ferguson’s side have given teams the lead in five of their six league games and did the same in the Champions League against Cluj on Tuesday before recovering to win 2-1.
Theirs is the most top flight game against Newcastle United at St. James Park on Sunday. Manchester United were hammered 3-0 by Alan Pardew’s men last season at Old Trafford.
And the last season’s defeat at Newcastle in January ironically proved to be a turning point as United mounted a title charge which ultimately floundered on the last day.
The Tyneside have a strong, talented Senegalese duo strikers in Demba Ba, Pappis Cisse plus creative midfielders, Cheick Tiote’, Yohan Cabaye and other adds-up. However, they will miss key men in the defense including captain Colocini and Steven Taylor plus keeper Tim Krul.
And not only now when Pardew has a strong squad; winning a game at St. James Park, by any of the Big Four has traditionally become a nightmare.
Man City are also playing a tuff game against Sunderland at home, especially after playing an exhausting clash with Dortmund.
And besides that, the reigning champions have not made a convincing win. They have a broad world class squad- over 25 equally strong.
But they haven’t picked form; they are under pressure over their Champions League fate after loosing to Real Madrid and drawing at home. And like United, Mancini’s men haven’t convincingly won any premier league game with such an expensive team!
The Gunners are not having a simple challenge this weekend either. They visit West Ham United who are 2 points above them. The Hammers are indeed a strong team with a tradition in terms of Premier league experience.
But Wenger’s men will be boosted by their Champions League win against Olympiakos at The Emirates.
Chelsea host Norwich after an excellent away Champions league win and home boost. For now, no big threat until they meet another hopeful top flight contenders. The same applies to the Spurs who are hostAston Villa.
But the team to watch is Everton. They are second on the table with 13 points. The Toffees have won four games home and away. They have lost only one game and are already eliminated in the Capital Cup.
Everton are among the few teams that will make the competition stiffer until January when the transfer window opens for title contenders to reorganize.