How are the mighty fallen! An uneasy start for both Manchester clubs; of whom United have now alas lost Wayne Rooney for many weeks. Even if he merely came off the bench as a substitute in the narrow unconvincing win against Fulham. Spurs without Luka Modric, who has at last had his stubborn way and gone to Real Madrid for a lot less money than chairman Daniel Levy wanted have made a stumbling beginning.
I was at White Hart Lane to see them denied a point by a West Bromwich Albion team even without the injured Peter Odemwingie, which saw the hugely effective Belgian Lukaku play duck and drakes with the Spurs defence, making you wonder why Chelsea, who have lent him to Tottenham, didn’t decide to keep him after the loss of Didier Drogba. Even if Fernando Torres so emphatically came good against Newcastle United with a display which revived memories of his past excellence.
Yet to what extent do even Chelsea truly convince? Watching their midweek exertions at home to an unlucky Reading team, there was cause to wonder. No doubt at all about the refulgent gifts, the exciting new presence, of Eden Hazard who can pick his way at pace through any defence. Yet the goal with which Chelsea eventually went undeservedly ahead against Reading was scored by Torres from a palpably offside position, and the fourth goal was an oddity, knocked by Ivanovic into an empty net when Reading’s keeper, anxious to grab an equaliser, had gone AWOL. Nor should one forget the awful blunder by goalkeeper Petr Cech which gave Reading such a gift of a goal. Poor Cech had a shocking bang on the head when playing against Reading themselves, a bad injury which still obliged him to wear protective headgear. In front of him meanwhile Chelsea’s defence with or without John Terry hardly looks impregnable.
In parenthesis, what a dog’s dinner the Football Association have made of the Terry-Ferdinand case. Certainly it should never have been taken away from them in the first place by the officious and interfering Metropolitan Police, “obliged” they would have us know, to follow up the complaint of an off duty copper who chanced to be watching the relevant match on television. This, as we know, led to the fiasco of a trial at the Westminster court, which made a couple of QCs richer than ever, but ended in anticlimax, which in Scotland would have probably have been a “non proven” verdict. In the embarrassing knowledge that, even had Terry been found guilty, the resulting fine would have been a piffling £2,500
Had the FA initially been allowed to try the case, it seems quite possible that with the burden of proof a less exacting one, Terry might have been both fined and suspended. But now the busybodies of the FA have resuscitated the case and even called dubiously for more evidence. Were Terry to be found guilty, would he then appeal? Obliging the case to drag on…and on.
Chelsea have again spent large sums of money in the close season, and now they have added the talented Victor Moses to their list of attackers. Already it is being asked how much chance he is likely to get. Like Manchester United, where even the loss of Rooney for weeks to come leaves them with such a profusion of strikers, Chelsea are knee deep in salient attackers. To the extent that Florent Malouda may find himself the latest star turn to be marginalised. Obviously he would prefer to play, but if he doesn’t, he has a big salary to compensate him.
Before the Spurs game, in which Lukaku was able to show Villas Boas how wrong he had been to chop him last season from Chelsea’s European squad – Lukaku had said he would never forgive him – I spoke to Roy Hodgson who’d come to watch, no doubt Jermaine Defoe, in lively form, and who sounded a great deal more tolerant of Rooney, both as a person and a player than some of us.
But looking at the super-abundance of strikers at Old Trafford, you can well understand Roy’s fears that players he might choose for England are not getting into club’s first teams. Ferguson at United has said that, even with the arrival of Robin Van Persie, the presence of Danny Welbeck and Mexico’s ebullient Chicharito, not to mention young Macheda, now due to go out on loan, he isn’t overloaded with strikers.
City, meanwhile, have made a limping start to the season, fortunate winners against Southampton. Saved from defeat at Liverpool only by a couple of shocking defensive errors. Schadenfreude may be the operative word, but it is not displeasing to see City, after their colossal expenditure, far outstripping even Chelsea, and their regiment of stars, already shipping water. In sharp contrast to a Swansea team which, even if it has lost the coruscating Joe Allens to Liverpool, and had to readjust under the new management of Michael Laudrup, have made such a brilliant beginning, with a hatful of goals. Thanks not least to the three newcomers Laudrup has brought from Spain. While Everton, another club with limited funds are riding so high. Democracy rules; just now.