Weekend Review: Arsenal get over-excited, Liverpool stumble, Chelsea grumble, Manchester United grind and Everton take #5 title from Tottenham

Update: If you’re offended by this piece, please read the follow-up review in which I’ve explained everything in much more detail (please do so before ranting here – if after reading it you still feel like ranting, be my guest).

There are still two matches to go this weekend (and I’m quite looking forward to seeing both matches), but with the quality (or lack thereof in some cases) of matches played out on Saturday it’s worth stopping and evaluating what we’ve learned from it all.

Liverpool are nothing without Gerrard and Torres

Before the weekend Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina boldly claimed that Manchester United were nothing without Cristiano Ronaldo. Then, yesterday, as a subdued Ronaldo was a distant figure in Manchester United’s hard-fought victory over Everton, Reina must have remembered the wise adage that you shouldn’t throw rocks if you live in a glass house.

Despite being a very good squad (and much better than last season), Liverpool are still highly reliant on one or two players to get them going. No Gerrard means a lack of fire in midfield, and no Torres this season has meant a lack of pace and intelligence up front.

Gerrard-Torres could turn to be as talismanic as Gerrard-Owen once were – however, if they’re not playing, Liverpool have no plan B (unless you count lobbing it up to Crouch as plan B).

Chelsea’s money can’t help them

Who said being rich meant having everything you wanted? Right now Chelsea have a striker who was ignored for a month and is woefully lacking in match-practice (Shevchenko) and when it got tough, Sheva failed to get going. Some will use this as an excuse to bash the Ukrainian but at this point the blame lies with Chelsea for not giving him more time earlier in the season.

The Blackburn game, much like winter last season when Terry and Cech were missing, showed how much reliant Chelsea are on their spine (Cech, Terry, Lampard, Drogba) to win games. Take those players out and not only do Chelsea lose heart they also lose the ability to win games. It’s unfortunate that Michael Essien didn’t step up to the occasion as expected (Ballack, I feel, would have scored) and he still has some time to go before he turn into as reliable a match-winner as the much-maligned Frank Lampard.

This video clip shows that Kalou was a little offside, but Mourinho thinks otherwise and since he remembers that Styles apologised to Liverpool, he now wants the fourth official to call him up to say sorry as well. For what, Jose? And on a sidenote, should Jose’s conduct at the touchline be punished by a fine? I hope not, because a pissed-off Mourinho is more dangerous than a satisfied Mourinho. Someone get me Jose’s number so I can fake the apology?

Arsenal top the table, deservedly, but hold before you celebrate – Tottenham were absolute crap

Keep your head down, play to your strengths and roll with the punches thrown your way – Arsenal have done exactly that and despite their injury problems in defense, they were able to more than hold their own against a Tottenham side lacking in confidence.

Reading a couple of the match previews to this game (written by Arsenal fans), I was surprised to see them apprehensive, as if unsure that they would win or not. Part of it is because of Arsenal’s goal-leaking tendency but overall I think it had a bit to do with the last two seasons and a lack of confidence that has come with it.

It was great to see Fabregas contribute the way he did and Adebayor’s goals will do his confidence a lot of good, but it was a game of spirit and not a game of quality. Arsenal still have a long way to go and there are few other teams in the Premier League who are playing as badly as Tottenham at the moment. Full credit to the Tottenham board for sabotaging their own manager, crushing his confidence and then heaping an impossible expectation on him (Champions League qualification) to ensure that the club’s season drowns in its own piss.

Tottenham have excellent players (Keane, Bent, Berbatov, Malbranque, Bale, Lennon, King, Kaboul just off the top of my head, and Dawson, Huddlestone and Jenas are quite good as well) and they are capable of much better than this. The mess Levy and co. have created will hurt Tottenham for as long as Jol is there – not because Jol is a bad manager, but because the pressure on him has cracked him and he’s unable to motivate his players anymore.

Manchester United grinding their way to the top

No two thoughts about – Manchester United this season have been poor – their only saving grace has been the fact that one time or the other this season their rivals have looked poor as well.

Harry Redknapp has backed his friend Alex Ferguson to lead Manchester United to the title again at the expense of rivals Liverpool. It’s mere banter unfortunately as Manchester United have a long, long way to go and their problems over the summer (such as the left-back position) have not been solved.

Manchester United’s win over Everton was notable for the quality of football on display from both sides. Never mind the fact that Ronaldo couldn’t put the ball over the wall during free kicks to save his life, or that Everton’s crossing was a bit off the mark – in terms of spirit and sheer technical ability, this match was the best of the day.

Will Manchester United retain their title? I don’t know – last season I had been sure from the first 20 minutes of the season but this time around there’s doubt. I don’t think it’ll be as open a title race as everyone’s predicting though – by Christmas we’ll know which two teams are going to slug it out at the top.

Everton played a fantastic game, and along with Blackburn and Portsmouth they are now the real contenders for the #5 spot – you know, the one that Tottenham have been at for the last 2 seasons? We’ll see a new #5 this season, and I’m putting my money on Everton (and a bit on Blackburn as well).

Other games

West Ham (deservedly) beat Middlesbrough, Sunderland toppled Reading 2-1 (what a goal by Kenwyne Jones), Birmingham City beat sorry Bolton 1-0 (Kapo again) and Wigan could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Fulham.

Also see the images from BBC Sport for the Saturday Premier League games – they’re all quite good.

Thoughts, comments, all welcome.

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