Sunday, September 30, 2012

Monday Morning Keeper: Premier League Week 6

It seems like every weekend so far in this early Premier League season has had at least one major clash; this weekend was no exception with two marquee match-ups. Arsenal played hosted to Chelsea with hopes of knocking the blues out of first place with their first loss of the season. Tottenham traveled north to Manchester to face United at Old Trafford. And while both games had the potential to be candidates for match of the season, only one could be selected as our MMK match of the weekend. So who won the honor?

Match of the Weekend - Manchester United v Tottenham

Random question; what's the easiest way to get Sir Alex Ferguson as red as one of his players jerseys? The answer is simple, score early against United. If you had any money on Jan Vertonghen scoring in the first half for Tottenham you probably could take the rest of the year off from your job with that pay-off. The unlikely scorer worked his way between two United defenders and fired a shot that deflected into the top corner of the net to put the Spurs ahead just two minutes into the match. And while you would expect an early deficit to light a fire under United, the opposite was the case as Tottenham continued to find gaps in the Reds backline. 

When Robin Van Persie lost the ball in his own half of the pitch, Mousa Dembele pushed forward fast and dished the ball to Christian Bale who put it past the keeper to make it 0-2. Sir Alex likely spewed forth a fury on his players at halftime like a massive volcano exploding to life because the team reacted accordingly and almost predictably. Wayne Rooney came off the bench for Ryan Giggs to start the second half and provide a perfect pass to Nani who finished a lovely goal to bring United back within one goal in the 51st minute. And while the Old Trafford faithful were still standing in celebration, Clint Dempsey cleaned up a blocked shot on the opposite end to get his first goal for Tottenham and put the Spurs ahead 1-3. Likewise, as the small Tottenham contingent danced on their feet in the visitor's end, RVP threaded a beautiful pass out to Shinji Kagawa who drives a low shot pass the feet of Brad Friedel. To be honest, Friedel looked a bit old on both goals leaving Tottenham fans to hold their breath for the final 30 minutes of the game. However, Friedel must have shock off the cobwebs of the early second half because he had no less than three incredible saves as United kept the ball in the attacking third of the field for most of the final ten minutes. In the end United could not find a way past the Spurs defense and Tottenham earned the unlikely victory and a very important three points. On the flip-side, United suffered their second loss of the season, shocking because they have outscored their opponents 9-to-5 at home in their first three matches. 

Statistic of the Weekend - 23 Years

Unlike Goodison Park or Craven Cottage that offer home field advantage because their stands are nearly on the pitch, the size and volume of Old Trafford simply overwhelms opponents. It would be enough of an intimedation factor if it were just the stadium alone, but add the most storied franchise in football history and you have the site of very few visitor victories. Tottenham hadn't won at Old Trafford in over 23 years until Sunday, one of the longest road winless streaks in the league. Last season Manchester City and relegated Blackburn where the only two teams to win at Old Trafford; with an early home loss has United lost its advantage at the grand old stadium?

Star of the Weekend - Demba Ba

Newcastle has a history of selling off their best players throughout the various transfer windows in an effort to keep operating costs low and the team somewhat competitive. Demba Ba's 16 goals for the Magpies last season made him a prime candidate for transfer as several of the major teams in the league wanted the star striker. And while deals were in the works, Demba ended up staying with Newcastle and has 6 goals in 6 league matches to show for it. His play on Saturday with two second half goals gave Newcastle a draw when their play probably didn't deserve it at Reading. And while he leads the league in scoring his real value will show in the Magpies Europa League match this week against Bordeaux if he can get a goal.

Table Review

Is anyone paying attention to Everton this season? They keep winning and yet no one seems to be giving them any credit for being in second place after six matches. Sure Goodison Park is like a Fortress of Solitude for the Toffees, but they beat United to start the season and they seem to be playing well. Will they be there at the end of the season? I doubt it, but it is great to see Tim Howard playing well in net and the "little guys" making some noise in the standings. Here is a look at the top and bottom of the table after six matches.

1. Chelsea - 16 points, +8 GD (5-1-0)
2. Everton - 13 points, +6 GD (4-1-1)
3. Manchester United - 12 points, +5 GD (4-0-2)
4. Manchester City - 12 points, +4 GD (3-3-0)
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17. Southampton - 3 points, -8 GD (1-0-5)
18. Norwich City - 3 points, -9 GD (0-3-3)
19. Reading - 2 points, -5 GD (0-2-3)
20. Queens Park - 2 points, -8 GD (0-2-3)

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