When will Arsenal’s bubble burst? They have been asking this for quite some time and the answer still remains buried in the mist. And it will at least till the next round of matches in the English Premier League rush upon us.
For the moment the scintillating Arsenal side conjured up by the wily old Professor, one Monsieur Arsene Wenger, remain top of the Premiership tree. Their 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday is their 11th in the league and takes them to 36 points from 14 matches with a game in hand with Manchester United still to play on Monday night against Fulham, Chelsea have stolen into the second position in the table while the other end of the tunnel is still heavily laden with traffic but not with goals with no fewer than 9 clubs battling one another to avoid the drop.
Aston Villa’s Craig Gardner sent a ripple of shock when he scored the opening goal at Villa Park on Saturday in the 14th minute and with Villa’s constructive and organized football, there was a time when it appeared that Arsenal would finally lose their first Premiership game of the season. But the Gunners didn’t lose steam or motivation and came back to beat Villa convincingly. Midfielder Mathieu Flamini equalized 9 minutes later and then the man who has so crucially filled the yawning boots of the departed Thierry Henry Emanuel Adebayor hit the winner with an exquisite header.
The win for Arsenal is their 11th in the Premiership this season and with a game in hand and a UEFA Champions League knockout stage berth guaranteed, Arsenal are the team to beat in England. They are playing the best football in the country, have the best player in the league in Cecs Fabregas and are effective at the same time. Although the same cannot be said of Chelsea, the Londoners are still winning. This time they won a tough London derby against West Ham United, thanks to a Joe Cole Chelsea strike 15 minutes from the final whistle; the Blues are second in the table as of now with 31 points behind Arsenal.
Liverpool haven’t had the best of start to the season both in the Premiership and in the UEFA Champions League but they have gradually smoothed themselves. Rafael Benitez’s side beat off relegation threatened Bolton Wanderers 4-0 at Anfield with a man-of-the-match performance by Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard who created two goals and scored one too as Bolton continued their fling with relegation. Liverpool are third at the moment, level on points with Man United but have a superior goal difference. With a game in hand, Liverpool are on 30 points, same as that of Sven Goran Eriksson’s exciting Manchester City side, who were not so exciting in their 1-1 draw with second from bottom Wigan Athletic.
While a cluster of teams are involved in an in-fighting for the top places that guarantee European spots for next season, a considerable traffic is also struggling for daylight at the wrong end of the tunnel. Derby County are rock bottom in the Premiership with 6 points from 15 matches and failed to register a point or a goal again this weekend, even with a new and better man in charge. Paul Jewel, formerly at Wigan Athletic, was appointed as the new manager of the Rams in midweek but let’s face it, Derby are always going to be the first team to go down into the Championship at the end of the season. Derby were beaten 1-0 by Sunderland at the Stadium of Light and with the win Roy Keane’s Black Cats who still remain 15th in the table, just 2 points ahead of safety.
Just like Derby, Wigan too failed to inch closer to the safety zone but it must be said that Paul Jewel’s old club did marginally did better than his current one. Wigan clawed out a 1-1 draw at home with man City but remain second from bottom with just 7 points in the bag so far this season.
Middlesbrough are looking more and more like genuine relegation contenders. In their six-pointer relegation dogfight with Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday, Boro could only come away with a hard fought 1-1 draw and that too after coming back with just 7 minutes left on the click. Dave Kitson gave Reading the lead after 54 minutes and it was only in the 83rd minute that Boro could salvage a point when a Luke Young’s cross was headed home from close range by Tuncay Sanli for his first ever goal in the English Premiership.
Juande Ramos’ Tottenham Hotspur fell down 3-2 to Birmingham City in a thrilling encounter which was made more interesting by the sending off of Spurs striker Robbie Keane for a supposedly dangerous foul on City’s Fabrice Muamba. Spurs stay in 16th place and a mere 1 point ahead of Bolton while Birmingham climb to 12th in the table and are 2 points ahead of Spurs with 14 points from 15 matches.
Elsewhere in the Premiership this weekend, Blackburn Rovers beat Newcastle United 3-1 at Ewood Park and Portsmouth and Everton couldn’t break the stalemate at Fratton Park on Saturday.