What a weekend! Arsenal’s collapse at Blackburn. Fernando Torres’ astonishing miss at Old Trafford. Manchester City throwing away a two goal advantage at Craven Cottage. And Wolves, in a match I saw, simply surrender to QPR, virtually dead and buried in the first ten minutes of the game.
Of Torres’ bizarre miss, after he had actually and smoothly taken the ball round the United goalkeeper De Gea, what can rationally be said? He had played well enough up to then, had crisply scored a goal, had confirmed the improvement in form a few days earlier at Stamford Bridge; when he neatly and unselfishly laid on two goals against Leverkusen. What was to stop him scoring as he approached an open goal, needing only to tap from his left foot to succeed?
But as we know, all he did succeed in doing was to skew the ball pitifully and incomprehensively past the left hand post. If lack of confidence has been at the bottom of his sustained period of poor form since he arrived for £50 million from Liverpool, what will a miss like this do to his confidence? He, who had previously come to Old Trafford and run the usually powerful Vidic ragged?
Some thought that, overall, Chelsea could easily have drawn this match. That they didn’t do so was thanks not only to the chances they missed, not only to the fact that Chris Smalling was surely offside when he scored the first United goal. There was also some doubt about the third. But, as against that, you have to ask whether the tactics imposed by Villas-Boas, all contortions and gesticulation on the touchline, were wise, rather than rash.
To come to Old Trafford with United scoring for fun, in this early season, and to try to take them on at their own, attacking game was surely less bold than presumptuous. The 4-3-2-1 formation gave United far too much space and latitude. Oh for an Essien, but who knows when the forceful figure of the central midfield will ever be back?
Arsenal? I marvelled when I heard their wretched Ewood result having reported Blackburn’s previous two games in which the very notion of their scoring four goals seemed chimerical. Of course, they substantially reinforced their attack with the arrival of Yakubu whose initiative and marksmanship proved essential. And as he said himself with some bitterness, it’s injury which had long kept him out of the picture, at Everton.
Still and all; four goals are four goals against a defence in which you have to wonder whether Arsene Wenger hasn’t blundered by signing the giant German defender Per Mertesacker – to distort an old phrase, it does seem that the player’s not for turning. Facing the ball fine even an intimidatory presence. But it was fairly clear for some time in the Bundesliga and more recently when German’s defence looked shaky in the middle that this wasn’t the dominant defender Wenger so badly needed, not least in the continuing absence of the ill starred Belgian Thomas Vermaelen.
And the Swiss defender Djourou. Brought on as a substitute right back failed pitifully to stop Olsen flying past him to set up that costly own goal by Koscielny, another defender of flickering form; though he did play well in Dortmund.
There, the Gunners almost won a victory which would have been highly flattering, thwarted only by that spectacular last ditch, left footed volley. Where Wenger has hit the spot is in the acquisition of Gervinho who, even at Blackburn, looked a winger of true pace, skill and penetration. Meanwhile Blackburn’s much put up Scottish manager, Steve Kean, had the last laugh. Supporters who paraded outside the stadium before the match calling for his head.
And how good to see overmonied Manchester City falter twice in a week, once at home to Napoli, then at Fulham, who overturned a two goal deficit and absurdly had Roberto Mancini wailing that he hadn’t enough players. Midfielders, he meant, there can as they say, hardly have been a dry eye in the house or the stadium.
Schadenfreude it may be, but any misfortunes of Man City and Chelsea with their colossal financial backing, can surely give hope to a game which they have both threatened to dominate.
Fulham? What a fine gifted forward is the Belgian Dembele. But to spend £10.6 million on the Costa Rican attacker Bryan Ruiz, who got on only after 87 minutes, looked on the basis of his inept display at home to Blackburn, an extraordinary expenditure. Not least when Fulham hardly lack strikers. Martin Jol is sure Ruiz will improve. There is room.
At Molineux, one saw Wolves inexplicably collapse and Joey Barton, who played well, as mischievous post match as ever. He should let his boots do the tweeting.