by Alex Dimond
Welcome to this week’s “What We Learned This Weekend”, where an inquisitive eye is cast over some of the key storylines that have emerged from this weekend’s Premier League action.
Arsenal are Prepared to Fight for Their Right
What used to be said about Arsenal? Something to do with boring? Whatever the case, it certainly isn’t true nowadays. Win, lose, or (infrequently) draw, the Gunners have made a habit of keeping things interesting this season.
Yesterday’s win against Chelsea was undeniably brilliant — even if the Blues have not been at their imperious best at home in recent weeks. To come from a goal behind, in a game they had to win to keep their slim hopes of winning the title alive, was as unlikely as it was impressive.
Nevertheless, the win will all be for nothing if they lose to Wigan at the Emirates next week, or away at Middlesbrough the week after — results that are more than likely if past experience is anything to go by.
Weeks ago, Kolo Toure admitted that the Arsenal players were “nervous” playing against Hull, wary of the fallout if they were to lose. Clearly, while this mentality has cost them many points against smaller clubs this year, it has only helped them play with great freedom and hunger when they come up against other members of the “Big Four”.
With this in mind — is the stage set for the Gunners to have another real run at the Champions League?
The Rebirth of the English Goalkeeper
Barely three years ago, fans and media alike were bemoaning the death of the English goalkeeper. The national side were forced to pick David James — at a time when few considered him to be the solid shot-stopper we see today. But, most troublingly, there seemed to be few young contenders threatening to steal his crown.
Now, however, it is a completely different matter. The weekend’s games saw solid performances from James and his one-time international rival Paul Robinson — but crucially also saw impressive appearances from many bright young English ‘keepers.
Joe Hart, Scott Carson, and Ross Turnbull all pulled off some fantastic saves, catching the eye as they endeavoured to help their respective sides.
More advanced in the age stakes, Chris Kirkland reminded the public oncemore how his unfortunate string of injuries has prevented him from reaching his extremely high potential.
With Rob Green also guarding the net at West Ham, Fabio Capello really is spoilt for choice when it comes to his No. 1. You wonder what Sven-Goran Eriksson or Steve McClaren would have given for similar riches.
Ronaldo — Definitely a Whinger, But is he a Winger?
Even in ignominy, Cristiano Ronaldo manages to make all the headlines. The Portuguese maestro’s sending off will obviously be the big talking point after Sunday’s Manchester derby, but it shouldn’t be the most important.
Whether Ronaldo should or should not have been sent-off is more of a side-issue to Sir Alex Ferguson’s real problem. Throughout United’s victory, Ronaldo had clearly been instructed to hang out on the left-hand touchline, creating width for the rest of the strikeforce.
Seemingly out-of-sorts, Ronaldo never really got into the game. He linked in well with Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney, but never really got in a position to make a killer pass, or threaten Joe Hart.
His sending-off, however unfortunate, was arguably a result of his frustration at being unable to stamp his authority on the match.
With the Ballon d’Or all set to wind up in Ronaldo’s hands — and deservedly so — on the 2nd December, it would seemingly be foolish to cast aspersions about the quality of United’s No. 7.
But, having performed abjectly in his first true performance in the position in nearly a year, is it time we finally discredited the idea that Ronaldo is a winger — and accept him for the forward he was become?
Bolton and Megson Enjoy Major Month
After hammering Sunderland (or Blunderland — as all and sundry have hilariously taken to calling the side from the Stadium of Plight) on Saturday, Gary Megson had every right to sit down and enjoy a nice glass of wine. It was a fantastic result, one enhanced by record-signing Johan Elmander doubling his goal tally for the season.
A month ago, Bolton were amongst the favourites to end the season with relegation. The team looked impotent in front of goal, and incapable of keeping things safe at the back. Yet, having taken 12 points from a possible 15 in recent weeks, the former Nottingham Forest and West Brom manager finds his current club sitting pretty in 9th, with 20 points to their credit.
With a long way to go in the season, the Trotters are still far from safe. But, if they can keep their current form going after tricky matches with Chelsea (home) and Aston Villa (away), then they should be safe for another season.
Brought in to ensure survival last season, would a similar achievement this season finally make Gary Megson popular with the club’s supporters?
Hull Force a Double Take
Did anyone else notice Hull City’s away kit bore a different sponsor to their home kit this weekend? On the pitch or off the pitch, it doesn’t matter—it seems the North East club keep surprising people (or just me).
Regardless, another solid result for the club — snatching a point at Stoke will satisfy many Premiership teams this term. After galloping towards safety at the beginning of the season, the club are now inching their way over the final few hurdles.
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