1. Mourinho can handle the cat-calling, and so can his team.
This was to be Chelsea’s first elite test. After strolling through their first four games, Mourinho’s team were yet to face a title contender. City are certainly that, and in their own ground they exploded out of the blocks. Aguero, Silva, and Dzeko were a flurry of attacking movement, Kolarov was pouring forwards, and Kompany and the supreme debutant Eliaquim Mangala were arrogant titans in defence. City were the dominant team for the first half of the match, but one doubts that Jose Mourinho was overly worried. He expected this, he can resist it. City are an offensive beast of a team, but Chelsea are nothing if not obdurate, frustrating and resilient, like an ageing pugilist, or a battle-hardy Sherman tank. They absorbed everything that City threw at them, then waited for the opportunity to counter-punch. When Pablo Zabaleta was deservedly sent off for a second bookable offence, Chelsea smelt blood, then struck five minutes later, scoring a crescendoing counter-attacking goal. Jose’s plan, as it ususally does, was working perfectly. His evening was then twanged by a sour melancholic note when Frank Lampard stepped up and equalised. Still, it was an extremely good point for Chelsea, and Manuel Pellegrini’s balking proclamations of defensive football and ‘small team’ mentality will wash off Chelsea and Mourinho without leaving so much as a smear.
2. Allardyce seems to be changing his stars.
Liverpool’s defensive woes are one thing, but the real story of West Ham’s 3-1 win over the Reds was how vibrant and fluid Allardyce’s team were. Last season, Allardyce was very pleased to stifle Liverpool at Anfield, the 0-0 draw being celebrated as a wild success. The new progressive Allardici is something to behold, as are his bevy of new signings. Valenica, Sakho and Amalfitano were all excellent against Liverpool, with the latter two scoring. Kouyate was a leggy dynamo in the centre, and with him Alex Song ably assisted Mark Noble in controlling the midfield. Stewart Downing looks a transformed man, finally surrounded with some athletic, quick-witted footballers, instead of Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll. Nolan watched the match from the stands and, as West Ham flourished in his absence, he slowly morphed into an ill-remembered image of the past. There were major doubts as to whether Allardyce could work to the new attacking brief set by Gold and Sullivan, but after a shaky start, a brand new West Ham are not only winning, they’re becoming an incredibly exciting team to watch. Who would have thought?
3. The world was harping at United for a reason.
A swelling tidal wave of voices crying out for reinforcement, a fleshy forest of pointed fingers quivering nervously and aimed squarely at the Manchester United defence, the very presence of Chris Smalling, these are things that ought to stimulate change. The defensive vulnerabilities of the 20-times champions were obvious to everyone, and yet, the brunt of the kitty that United splashed was on midfielders and attackers. They did buy some defenders, Marcos Rojo, who started and finished the 5-3 defeat to Leicester at left back, and Luke Shaw, who stayed on the bench. The mystery of Shaw’s exclusion deepened even further during the match when Jonny Evans signalled to the bench and had to come off. Van Gaal had this reshuffling option fully available to him: send on Shaw, a natural left back and then shift Rojo, a natural centre back who had played well thus far, into the place vacated by Evans. Why this plan wouldn’t have been preferable to the one van Gaal opted for, bringing on Smalling, only the Dutchman knows. Shaw is not injured, and must surely be fit enough by now. United managed to hold on for the rest of the first half and the beginning of the second with Blackett and Smalling in defence, but when Leicester sniffed that a comeback was on, both centre backs crumbled. Rojo was anonymous for Vardy’s go-ahead goal, and Blackett got himself sent off. It was a catastrophe, of United’s own making. Now, with Evans on crutches, Jones still injured and Blackett suspended, it seems that van Gaal will have to include the £30 million Shaw.
4. So there is a reason Harry keeps signing Kranjcar.
Niko Kranjcar, this season brought into a Harry Redknapp team for the fourth time in his career, saved QPR a precious point at home to Stoke, curling in a perfect free kick in the 88th minute. Redknapp has always been one for keeping ties with his old players strong (as he did with Peter Crouch, who scored for Stoke in this 2-2 draw) and Redknapp said after the match that the Croatian was keen to return to QPR on loan this season: “He came here and I think we pay a third of what he was earning in Russia, and they don’t pay any of it, he took a massive cut in wages to come back here, that is how much he wanted to come back” Redknapp gushed. He will have been very pleased that he brought his shooting boots with him, because, with the worst goal difference in the division, QPR were set to be propping up the table until Kranjcar intervened.
5. This weekend was not a one for the gamblers, but it was one for the neutrals.
West Brom beating Tottenham, Crystal Palace overcoming Everton, Leicester smashing United and West Ham trouncing Liverpool; the weekend was not one that helped anyone having a flutter on a sneaky accumulator. But, such is life in the Premier League, where results are never ensured but excitement almost always is. Mile Jedinak smashed in a perfect penalty against Everton, leveling the scores after Romelu Lukaku had put the Toffees ahead early on. Palace haven’t been fully stripped of the spirit they showed under Pulis, and they fought back marvellously to win at Goodison Park. Howard flapped badly for the Eagles’s second, and their third was a crisp finish indeed. They were stoic when Baines pulled one back from the spot, and saw the game out well.
It took a late header from James Morrison to sink a tepid Spurs, who managed their first shot on target for the match around 70 minutes in. Pochettinno’s side seemed to fall back into the attacking impotency that plagued them last season, and West Brom took advantage. New signing Joleon Lescott was excellent for the Baggies, as an added bonus. Not the most interesting of matches, what with Palace, Leicester and West Ham to compete with, but it was a welcome underdog victory nonetheless. All in all, a thoroughly entertaining, and unpredictable, weekend.