The Xmas and New Year period was profuse with examples. Thus, at Stamford Bridge, one was astonished to see an Aston Villa side lying twelfth in the Premiership table at the time give away a first half penalty goal, then proceed to take Chelsea apart. Even though their top scorer Darren Bent didn’t, recovering as he was from hip injury, come off the bench till well into the second half; which didn’t prevent him knocking in the third Villa goal.
But then what? Hot on the heels of that famous victory, we find Villa playing and losing ineffectually at home to a promoted Swansea City team which hadn’t won a single away match till then, but did so on its merits.
Chelsea’s defence against Villa was an utter disaster, guilty of errors which would have shamed any schoolboy. Time and again the defenders were caught hopelessly out of position. Four times at least Villa had clear scoring opportunities presented to them by defenders conspicuous by their absence.
In the first instance, only a fine save by their goalkeeper Petr Cech got them off the hook, but three times later they would be punished for their astoundingly slack marking; or rather the lack of it.
More surprising still perhaps was the surrender of Rooney-less Manchester United team at Old Trafford to Blackburn Rovers, then bottom of the table even though Rovers had just drawn impressively at Anfield with Liverpool.
Yes, United were without several other key players, not least Wayne Rooney who, with two other less significant players, seems to have blotted his copybook with excessive nocturnal celebrations. But by the same taken Rovers, with nothing like the same cornucopia of talent to draw on, were without their £8 million rated young Canadian attacker, the Canadian David Hoilett.
Blackburn surpassed themselves with a victory which seems till so near the end to have escaped them, but what happened next? Defeat at home by Stoke City, hardly the most potent of away teams, with towering Peter Crouch scoring two skilfully taken goals, taking him to a century of them, winning at Ewood Park.
At Fulham, I saw the home team, labouring against Arsenal in the first half and arguably fortunate to be but a single goal down, come out transformed for the second, when so much swift, incisive inventive forward play with the gifted likes of Clint Dempsey, Bryan Ruiz, Mousa Dembele, young sub Kerim Frei and of course the scorer of the left footed winner, Bobby Zamora – seemingly back in favour with Martin Jol – calling the tune.
Arsene Wenger was hardly the best of losers, though he did have claims for a penalty when Gervinho was brought down by Senderos. Far less convincing were his protests at the expulsion of the shaky, out of his true position, Johan Djourou; it was absurd to protest that his first yellow card, given for a clumsy foul, was unfair and reason to believe that the fatal second was legitimate.
It would have been equally legitimate for Frank Lampard as he himself virtually admitted to have been sent off at Wolves, rather than to survive to score Chelsea’s winner.
By Brian Glanville