Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 3

Let's just get right to the question that is on everyone's mind, who's the better Manchester team, United or City. If there was any doubt that one of the Manchester teams would likely win the EPL this season, those doubts were squashed in back-to-back matches on Sunday. City went into White Hart Lane and earned their first win their in 20 years with a convincing 5-1 victory over Tottenham. United hosted a pathetic Arsenal squad B-Team who looked better fit to play in the nPower Championship league than EPL sinking to a new low with an 8-2 loss at Old Trafford. Let's state the obvious, both City and United should win these matches and they did. There should only be two matches all season where they aren't expected to win and that is when they play each other. So who is the better team at the very early part of this season?

The City and United are separated in the standings by a single goal in the differential column, so for all intensive purposes we can call them even in that respect. Each team has only allowed 3 goals so far this season, kind of a surprise since Joe Hart looks like a rock and De Gea has looked a little squirrely even with that great PK save on Sunday. United is working without Rio Ferdinand, but their backline is still tighter than Wayne Rooney's hair plugs so the goals allowed is a draw as well. I think the deciding factor comes down to two things, 1) performance against Tottenham and 2) home versus road victories. United hosted Tottenham in the second week of the season and won 3-0, but that was without Luka Modric for the Spurs who sets up Van Der Vaart and Crouch with most of their scoring opportunities. City went on the road to White Hart Lane and won in convincing fashion this week, though the last goal for City was in stoppage time when Tottenham was playing with 10 men. The way I see it, both teams played Tottenham, City did it on the road and had a bigger goal differential; advantage to City. The other deciding factor is the fact that there's no place like home and United have faced Tottenham and Arsenal at Old Trafford; their only road match was a tight 2-1 win at West Brom. City went into Reebok Stadium and defeated Bolton 3-2, which is saying a lot considering Bolton only lost 4 times at home last season. They followed up with a massive victory at White Hart Lane, where the Spurs lost only 1 match last season. The bottom line is that the season will be decided by road victories and goal differential, so to that extent I have to give the nod to City at this point. We will find out for sure on October 23rd when City travel to United for the first Manchester Derby of the season.

There are more than just Manchester story lines in the league this season, and we continue to follow Wolverhampton's surprising start who remain in the top 5 with a misleading 0-0 draw at Aston Villa. Both teams had chances to grab the 3 points for a win, with Villa firing away like a 5 year old playing Duck Hunt (just 3 of the 18 shots were on goal). Mick McCarthy has to be living a Blackpool-like dream this season, but we all know where the Tangerine's ended up at the end of last season and the same fate could be in the Wolves future.

The other big news was the brutal injury to Chelsea striker Didier Drogba during the Blues 3-1 victory over Norwich. I was watching the match and saw the play develop prior to the injury; let's be very clear that there was no malice intended by the goalkeeper on the play. John Ruddy had his eyes on the ball the entire time and as he went to double-fist it away he made contact with the temple of Drogba. It was like a scene out of a movie where Drogba was clearly knocked-out cold while in mid-air and his lifeless body fall flat to the pitch. Reports after the match stated that Drogba was unconscious for 30 minutes before coming to in the locker room and being transported to the hospital for observations. The sad part in all of this is that he was released that night and the team was monitoring his condition. Brain injuries are not something to take likely, look at the countless cases in the NFL and even MLS stateside. The symptoms of a closed head injury like this are better defined than they ever have been, but we can only hope that for Drogba's sake, Chelsea give him the time he needs to recover.

All of the teams will have a chance to rest their injured players and re-group as the international break is upon us so we are off next weekend. The transfer window closes at 11pm GMT on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to who deals and who stays with what they have. In the meantime, here is the breakdown of those teams living the good life and those simply living.

1. Man United – 9 pts, +10 GD (3-0-0)
2. Man City – 9 pts, +9 GD (3-0-0)
3. Liverpool – 7 pts, +4 GD (2-1-0)
4. Chelsea – 7 pts, +3 GD (2-1-0)
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17. Arsenal – 1 pts, -8 GD (0-1-2)
18. West Brom – 0 pts, -3 GD (0-0-3)
19. Blackburn – 0 pts, -4 GD (0-0-3)
20. Tottenham – 0 pts, -7 GD (0-0-2)

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