Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

Yet another weekend of twists and turns in the Premier League full of incident to chew over that leaves the table almost as uncertain as ever. It is quickly becoming clear that predictions are useless and the latest “crisis” club can not be relied upon to stay down for long. Elsewhere in Europe Hoffenheim, Lionel Messi and the “Special One” march on.

Good Weekend

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal and Robin van Persie

Arsene Wenger has proved his critics wrong once again and now the young Gunners look like potential title challengers. Arsenal seem more capable of beating the best teams rather than the rest and the seven point gap to the top of the league could be breached if they can continue to get results against Liverpool and the return fixtures with United and Chelsea.

Although much of the post-match analysis has been dominated by the offside decision for the first goal, Robin van Persie should receive much credit for his match-winning double in the space of three minutes. The first was a cracking shot and the second was an impressive finish made by the Dutchman’s own work. The same rule applies to van Persie, if he can stay fit he can be a massive player.

December is going to be a big month for Arsenal, if the kids can see off Burnley and then the regular side can get past Wigan next Saturday, there will be a huge amount of confidence coursing through the club. And the games with Liverpool and Aston Villa towards the end of the month should go a long way to telling us yet more about this enigmatic Arsenal side.

Manchester United

For all their money, United reminded their city rivals just how far they have to go to become the best team in Manchester. It was an assured display from the Champions (besides the Ronaldo sending off) and yet again the defence was excellent.

Full-backs Evra and Rafael were superb and the centre back partnership of Vidic and Ferdinand is swiftly becoming as important as Bruce and Pallister were in Ferguson’s first championship season. In front of them Michael Carrick was also impressive – his booking late on was cynical but oh so professional.

It was also noticeable how after Ronaldo was sent-off, Rooney went straight to the bench to talk over where he would play. The former Everton striker is maturing and his experience of English football is becoming crucial in derby games such as the one yesterday.

After some disappointing results away from home this season, this could be a big win in the context of United’s season. Home advantage in the second half of the campaign could decide the title.

Bolton

Up to ninth after another terrific away win, they have claimed an impressive seven goals in two games, Gary Megson’s side are in confident form, which is lucky as they face Chelsea, Aston Villa and Liverpool in the next four games.

Fulham

Successive clean sheets at two of the best clubs in the league is an impressive feat. Fulham have let just 11 goals in all season and have not conceded more than one since the end of September. Most amazing of all is that on paper the Cottagers midfield looks a little lightweight, especially with no recognised defensive midfielder.

Roy Hodgson is a tactical genius.

Lionel Messi

For a long time the big question mark over the diminutive Argentinean surrounded his fitness. This season he seems to be answering with his feet, making a difference late on in games. This weekend was the third time this campaign that he has scored a brace in the final minutes of a match. as Messi tore Sevilla apart with some awesome finishing.

If he can stay fit, Barca can win La Liga and the Champions League and Messi may be able to pip Ronaldo for the individual awards this time next year.

Hoffenheim

Defeated opponents of Hoffenheim have spoken of the pace and verve of the “village team.” Their attacking play is ripping up the Bundesliga and they are continually surprising teams early on in matches. The clash with Bayern Munich on Friday night is mouthwatering to say the least and as the penultimate match before the winter break could have a massive impact on the season ahead.

AZ Alkmaar

Three points clear and on a blistering run of league form (nine wins in 11 games). And with four winnable games before the winter break (Heracles, Feyenoord, Utrecht and Nijmegen), Louis van Gaal could yet win another Dutch title.

Inter Milan

The last week has summed up the Nerazzurri. Juventus (2nd in Serie A) and Napoli (4th in Serie A) were soundly beaten yet in Europe they came unstuck against Panathanaikos at home.

Bad Weekend

Cristiano Ronaldo

Undoubtedly the best footballer in the world last season. But what a twat.

Chelsea

It was always going to be difficult to keep their incredible home record going, but losing to Liverpool and Arsenal at home could be fatal in the title race. The Blues just don’t look quite right with the defence not as sturdy and miserly as it once was, the midfield missing the drive of Essien and Anelka, despite his excellent recent form, struggling to test the really top teams.

Disappointingly, Scolari has tried to take the pressure off his own team by blaming the officials but Chelsea were made to pay for not making their dominance count.

Manchester City

Money cannot buy happiness and whilst success will probably come to Eastlands eventually, if the big names comes in, for the short term Mark Hughes seems to be struggling to inspire his troops. And who can blame the likes of Joe Hart, Richard Dunne, Benjani etc. for not performing to their maximum since they will probably not be first choice regulars unless they perform like Stephen Ireland.

After the game Mark Hughes blamed the anemic performance on the tough week previously that included victories over Arsenal and Schalke. But, this was pure bluster, City failed to set about their opponents and in a Manchester derby this is unforgivable.

Hughes may well have a shedload of cash to spend, at a time when most clubs are tightening their belts, whilst this seems like the perfect scenario it is going to be a difficult puzzle to complete.

Blackburn

At 2-2 after 67 minutes, Paul Ince’s side should have gone on to claim a morale boosting win that would have eased any relegation fears. Liverpool (h) and Wigan (a) represent two tough fixtures before the six-pointer with Stoke on December 20, 2008.

Sunderland

Sunderland’s wins this season seem to have all come at random times. They cannot piece two wins together and some of their home games have produced horrible performances and subsequently poor results. A strikeforce of Cisse and Jones should be good enough to keep them up, provided Keane stays and they cut out the embarrassing individual errors.

Real Madrid

Six points behind Barcelona and fourth in La Liga, ultimately this Madrid side lack the creativity and goals needed to win the title for the third season in a row. Sevilla at home and Barcelona away before the winter break, what are the odds on Schuster being out of a job by December 15?