Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

It was a weekend for forgotten men, some of the winners over the past few days included Big Sam Allardyce, Robbie Keane, West Brom, James Milner and Damien Duff. More than anything, with the bottom two winning in the Premier League, the table has just got even tighter, which should be a nice fillip for Christmas. In Europe, it was Italy that stole the show thanks to fine performances from Maicon (and Mourinho) and Alexandre Pato.

Good Weekend

Manchester United

Champions of the world, and Arsenal and Liverpool draw. What are the odds Chelsea wrap things up by failing to register all three points at Goodison Park tonight.

Robbie Keane

Following a week where Mark Lawrenson claimed the all-time top goalscorer for the Republic of Ireland was on his way out of Anfield, Keane hit back with a performance and a goal that could be the turning point in his career at Liverpool.

It has been difficult for Keane to fit in at Liverpool, in a team who do not play to his strengths and following a tough few weeks it may even have been good for him not to have had Rafa Benitez on the touchline. Since it was at the Emirates, he was always likely to be up for it, as was evidenced by his yellow card for winning the ball from Clichy in the first half.

And the goal showed just what a class finisher Robbie Keane can be, smashing a ball coming over his shoulder past Almunia. If he can kick on from here he could be the latest Liverpool legend to wear the number seven shirt.

West Brom

Four years ago the “Great Escape” also started with a win against Manchester City.

Big Sam Allardyce

Stoke did their best to welcome back Big Sam with some woeful defending but the way Blackburn came out the traps is proof of the new managers influence. There is still though much work to do, not least to solve the future of Roque Santa Cruz.

James Milner

It was a timely goal for James Milner. The former Newcastle winger got the all-important winner and secured all three points from a tricky fixture. More than anything it reminded us that Milner has a crucial part to play in the rest of the season. With Carew out injured, Young and Agbonlahor have stepped up to the plate and look like they have the potential to take Villa into the Champions League.

Milner, the third member of the strike force has failed to really make an impact so far this season. Although he has provided four assists that was his first goal of the season and if you are playing 4-3-3, then the attacking triumvirate must all contribute. It is easy to forget that Milner is just 22, the next few months could be crucial in his career development.

Ricky Sbragia

Three games into the job and Sunderland look like a different side to the one that lost five out of six under Roy Keane. Sbragia nearly guided the Mackems to a point at Old Trafford and his team have now scored eight goals in two games and brushed aside West Brom and Hull.

When looking at the Sunderland line-up, it has long been suspected that if Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse can get a partnership going they have enough about them to stay up. One of the keys on Saturday was the form of Kieran Richardson and Steed Malbranque. Richardson scored the all-important second goal whilst Malbranque claimed the opener and set up the two late goals.

Suddenly the squad Roy Keane left behind doesn’t look so bad.

Gary Megson

The most underrated manager in the division?

Roy Hodgson

The most underrated manager in the division?

Damien Duff & Mark Viduka

Two forgotten men combined to produce a classy goal.

Maicon and Mourinho

The Brazilian full-back is surely the best right sided defender in the world (only fellow Brazilian Dani Alves is in the same league). Maicon is the second-best player at Inter Milan after Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the form the Swede is in at the moment, that is high praise. Ultimately though, one still feels Inter will struggle against United in the Champions League, there just doesn’t seem to be enough quality when compared with the Premier League champions.

If United do prevail, these league wins will be all important for the “Special One,” after all his predecessor was sacked for winning the league. Mourinho also yet again showed a great turn of pace to celebrate with Maicon, he might not have played the game professionally, but he can move quicker than most managers.

Alexandre Pato

The 19-year-old Brazilian was sensational early on against Udinese, scoring twice and setting up another for Kaka in the first 18 minutes. Pato now has four in three and is beginning to really mature as an AC Milan player.

Juande Ramos

A win is a win.

Bordeaux

Came back from 3-0 down early in the second-half to stun Monaco by winning 4-3. Diarra and Cavenaghi scored crucial goals that could further fuel their transfer values ahead of the transfer window. What a shame there were so few people to see the game of the weekend in Europe.

Marcus Berg

Having openly admitted that he was put off by the transfer rumours in recent weeks, the Swedish striker returned to form with four goals against Roda, three of which came in a ten-minute second half spell.

Bad Weekend

West Ham

The Hammers are being afflicted with a very current Premier League disease, the ability to grind out better results away from home compared to at Upton Park. Much of the reason for this must go down to the lack of creativity in the wide positions in midfield. Away from home this can help the cause by closing down the opposition quicker, but at home the Hammers seem unable to break down teams.

Carlton Cole has also been woeful, which has sorely affected the service coming in to Craig Bellamy, who in recent weeks has been almost their only creative spark. Like a lot of teams, January is going to be crucial for the Hammers.

Manchester City

“We are going to be the biggest club in the world, bigger than both Real Madrid and Manchester United.” – Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim.

Only Manchester City could spend like they did on players like Robinho and find themselves in the bottom three at Christmas. The trip to the Hawthorns always looked like a tough fixture going into the weekend and so it proved.

Mark Hughes’ side have a run of winnable games in the Premier League in the coming weeks, if they can get Robinho back and sign some quality then they should be ok. But, there is no doubt that the immense amount of wealth that has come into the club has affected almost all the players negatively, bar Stephen Ireland.

How easy can it be to play for the club, if you know you are unlikely to have a long-term future?

Portsmouth

Does anyone else think that Tony Adams is not a good manager?

Gareth Southgate

Simply too inconsistent, after drawing with Arsenal, they lose at Fulham. Boro haven’t won since the 2-1 victory at Aston Villa in early November. With the league so close, a team like Middlesbrough could well be the ones to drop into the Championship in May.

Stoke

They have really struggled since Rory Delap’s shoulder injury got worse.


GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE, PLEASE PLAY RESPONSIBLY