Don’t you just love this beautiful game with all the surprises it dishes out time and time again? Who would have thought that after putting up a display that reeked nothing but invincibility only six days earlier, Manchester City would succumb so tamely to newly promoted Cardiff City last Sunday? It is very rare for a team that enjoys as much as 70 percent of ball possession to concede three goals, but there it was.
You could say the absence of their first-choice central defence partnership played a part in the Citizens’ shock defeat in South Wales, but questions have also been asked of England Number 1 Joe Hart who contributed to some of the poor defensive flaws on the day just like he did in national colours a few days earlier. Whatever the scenario, manager Manuel Pellegrini would have got a timely lesson about English football.
Of course, last weekend’s biggest game was set for Old Trafford where defending league champions Manchester United hosted Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. For some reason, I decided not to watch the game, but every account I have heard or read points to the fact that I did not miss anything. There seems to be consensus that both teams were more interested in avoiding defeat than actually collecting full points.
That result, plus several others, meant that my Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are the only teams enjoying a 100 percent record at this very early stage of the season. Both are yet to concede a goal and have scored once in both of their opening fixtures with the same man for either side finding the target. Both records face their real test tomorrow when the two sides meet their traditional rivals.
A win for either side gives them the chance to taste top position and that is likely to add an extra spark to what are already feisty fixtures. Liverpool are enjoying their best start in five years and that tells you all you need to know about their state of decline since they finished second in the 2008-09 season. Tomorrow’s fixture, even at this point of the season, will show if there is any substance to suggestions that they are clawing their way back.
For United manager David Moyes, he might be coming from a pressure game against title rivals on Monday, but he would know from his Everton days how much more pressure there will be for him to do well at Anfield tomorrow. As far as one-off fixtures go, this is more important for the fans than the one against Chelsea and it will be interesting to see if he will approach this encounter the same way he did at Old Trafford.
After settling this tie one way or another, our attention will switch to North London where the Arsenal host their neighbours. Three straight wins have lifted the gloom at the Emirates that was precipitated by unimpressive transfer activity and the opening league defeat at home to Aston Villa and although there is a still a clamour for significant transfer business in the little time that is left, there is more buoyancy among Gunners right now.
So while Arsene Wenger will be under some pressure, his counterpart Andre Villas-Boas will be under even more intense pressure because of the incredible financial backing he has got in the transfer window.
Even if Gareth Bale leaves for Real Madrid, there will be no excuses if Spurs are not challenging at the top end of the table throughout the season. Time to scramble for those bragging rights!