Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

There aren’t many teams in the Premier League who can defend. Many have had this suspicion for a few weeks now and another weekend packed full of goals seems to back up this theory. There were 28 goals scored in nine games this weekend which will no doubt keep the punters happy but the side with the best defence (Chelsea on the evidence of the season so far) should go on to win the league.

Good Weekend

Didier Drogba

Prior to the game much of the chat centred on who was the better centre forward, the Ivorian or El Nino. To be fair the debate could well rumble on for some time but yesterday Drogba was hugely responsible for the victory with two assists that won the match.

The former Marseille striker also displayed his negative side with some ridiculous diving but with Drogba you have to take the rough with the smooth. His form this season is a far cry from a year ago and is put into perspective as Chelsea could easily have sold the Drogs following his foul mouthed rant after the Champions League semi-final defeat to Barcelona.

Carlo Ancelotti now has eleven wins in 12 matches as Chelsea boss and the win over Liverpool returned the Blues to the top of the table. The next big match on the horizon is the visit of Manchester United on November 8, an early title decider.

(Chelsea are 11/8 favourites for the title, while Didier Drogba is 5/1 to be top goalscorer.)

Arsenal

It was a fitting way to honour Arsene Wenger’s record breaking time at the club, scoring at will against a Blackburn side that just could not live with the Gunners.

Arsenal’s Premier League home form has been sensational so far this season. In just three games they have scored 14 goals and whilst the opposition may not have been the best it looks like most teams from the middle to lower echelons of the table will get a hammering at the Emirates.

Cesc Fabregas was imperious again, Thomas Vermaelen is looking like one of the finds of the season and the attacking talent available to Wenger is hugely impressive. If the likes of Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky can stay fit, The Professor has an embarrassment of riches.

(Arsenal are 11/2 for the title.)

Portsmouth

Paul Hart’s side finally got their season going with a win at Molineux after one of the most troubling weeks in the club’s history. Incredibly, in what is proof of how Pompey have been on a downward spiral for quite a while now, this was their first away win since a victory at Sunderland in November 2008.

Much of course depends on who takes control of Portsmouth, but on the back of the win at Wolves it looks like Paul Hart has enough quality to keep his side in the Premier League. Kevin-Prince Boateng is beginning to show why he was so highly-rated in Germany, Tal Ben Haim made some crucial blocks at the back and David James was solid throughout.

Now they are in touching distance of a host of teams, Pompey’s next game is at home to Tottenham with the return of Harry Redknapp, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjcar.

(Portsmouth remain 4/9 favourites for relegation.)

Burnley

Stoke proved last season that a team can stay up on the back of their home form and Owen Coyle’s side look more than capable of doing the same. With four home wins out of four Burnley now have the best home record in the Premier League.

Scotland striker Steven Fletcher also looks like a striker who could well be amongst the goals in the coming weeks. The former Hibs hitman, scored a goal wrongly disallowed at Spurs in the last game and was unlucky to hit the post for a second against Birmingham.

Burnley fans will be hoping their side can produce their home form in the local derby against Blackburn in the next match.

(Burnley are 7/4  for relegation.)

Phil Brown

The much maligned Brown is heavily criticised when Hull lose so it is only right to praise him when Hull produce a rare victory. The Tigers moved out the bottom three with a fine victory over Wigan, who only last week had produced the surprise of the weekend by beating Chelsea.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink repaid the faith placed in him when most thought he was on the scrapheap after leaving Celtic in the summer with the opener. The second from Geovanni yet again underlined the Brazilian’s importance to Hull.

Hull face a clutch of teams near the bottom in their next five games – Fulham (a), Portsmouth (h), Burnley (a), Stoke (h) and West Ham (h) – and have to reproduce the win over Wigan to stand a chance of repeating last season’s heroics.

(Hull are 4/7  for relegation.)

Pedro Rodriguez

Yet another technically gifted youngster on the conveyor belt at the Nou Camp. Pedro scored a fine winner against Almeria as Pep Guardiola’s side laboured to a slim win.

(Barcelona are 4/9 favourites for the title.)

Xerez

Scored their first ever goal in the Spanish top-flight.

Iker Muniain

Athletic Bilbao’s 16-year-old winger became the youngest ever goal scorer in Spain’s top division with the club’s second equaliser against Valladolid. Some have compared him to Lionel Messi, although judging by his appearance, Bart Simpson may be a better moniker.

(Bilbao are 300/1 to win La Liga.)

Ronaldinho

The fact a draw with Atalanta is being hailed as a good result says much about AC Milan circa 2009/2010. The Rossoneri simply have to hope the gap-toothed Samba star can produce some more match turning goals in the season ahead.

(AC Milan are 16/1 to win Serie A.)

Lyon

OL returned to the top of Ligue 1 as Bordeaux and Marseille both lost, are we returning to the natural order of things in France?

(Lyon are 4/6 favourites to win Ligue 1.)

Kenny Miller

Celtic’s defending may have been woeful and the Old Firm encounter short on quality, but as a Rangers striker there can be no greater feeling than scoring the winning goals against the enemy.

(Celtic are 4/7 faourites for the SPL, Rangers are priced at 5/4.)

Braga

Top of the Portuguese Liga having claimed seven wins in seven games.

Bad Weekend

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments about ref Alan Wiley after the 2-2 draw with Sunderland were to be expected and can only be explained as the canny Scot looking to cover up a poor performance caused by a strange team selection.

Ferguson made seven changes to the team that had beaten Wolfsburg and throughout the side there were poor performances. Ben Foster was culpable for the second goal when he should have reached the ball in front of Jones, and the United defence has struggled in front of the young England keeper who can’t force his way into Fabio Capello’s squad despite a dearth of quality custodians.

United’s midfield lacked coherence with Paul Scholes giving the ball away and Nani continuing to frustrate. Up front Wayne Rooney failed to make much of an impact and despite Dimitar Berbatov’s incredible goal, the Champions can look a little light creatively.

Which puts into perspective Ferguson’s decision to leave Ryan Giggs out the squad completely. The Welsh wizard has been United’s star performer this season and now has a two-week international break to look forward to.

(Manchester United are 9/4  for the title.)

Keiran Richardson

Anton Ferdinand may have been the fall-guy with the late own goal but Richardson produced one of the most stupid and inexcusable moments of the season so far.

Liverpool

Three defeats in Liverpool’s opening Premier League fixtures this season and the dark clouds are beginning to hover over Anfield. The Merseyside giants were poor against Fiorentina in midweek and again struggled to create much at Stamford Bridge.

A number of reasons have been put forward as to why Liverpool are consistently losing to any team of quality they face. The loss of Xabi Alonso is the most popular just edging out the reliance on Gerrard and Torres. Other reasons include Jamie Carragher’s loss of form and Lucas’ lack of ability.

So, perhaps it is time to throw another into the hat: Javier Mascherano’s poor form this season. The Argentine midfielder lost the ball for Chelsea’s first goal and has struggled at times in the past few weeks. The very public flirting with Barcelona in the summer and even more importantly the strain of being Argentina captain as they struggle to qualify for the World Cup are clearly taking their toll.

Too many of Liverpool’s first choice players are struggling and Rafa Benitez didn’t help things yesterday by leaving Yossi Benayoun on the bench. On the upside there is a long way to go and titles are not decided in October.

(Liverpool are 1/4 to scoop no trophies this season.)

Sam Allardyce

Allardyce took the tried and trusted method of blaming ref Peter Walton after his side took a battering at the Emirates. Perhaps Big Sam should look closer to home, starting with four full-backs in defence at Arsenal was unlikely to end well.

(Blackburn are 13/2  for relegation.)

West Ham

Both Matthew Upson (gave away a penalty for Fulham’s first) and Robert Green (responsible for the Cottagers’ second) will hope Fabio Capello hasn’t seen the highlights of the match. Green, currently England’s number one, then nearly lost the match with a kamikaze run-out in the dying minutes of the match. These mistakes will be heavily scrutinized as South Africa approaches.

(West Ham are 15/2  for relegation.)

Lee Bowyer

The former Leeds midfielder was guilty of one of the worst misses you have ever seen at Burnley on Saturday. Bowyer would be hanging his head in shame alongside the likes of Ronnie Rosenthal and Chris Iwelumo if anybody had been watching Burnley-Birmingham.

Real Madrid

Los Blancos lost their first game of the season and were indebted to keeper Iker Casillas for some incredible saves that kept the score down. Luckily, Manuel Pellegrini rarely faces teams as good as Sevilla in La Liga and Cristiano Ronaldo should be back for the next match.

Bayern Munich

The Bavarian giants are lagging eight points behind joint leaders Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg. Louis van Gaal’s side have also failed to score in three successive matches. Perhaps spending all that money on injury-prone Arjen Robben, currently out for a month. wasn’t such a good idea.

(Bayern remain 10/11 favourites for the Bundesliga. Hamburg are 7/2 second-favourites.)