We just witnessed a fascinating weekend of football. Robinho and Berbatov made their debuts for the Manchester clubsÂ and every major league in Europe had some controversy or excitement to bring club football back with a bang, and this was just the appetiser before the Champions League group stagesÂ begin tomorrow.
Rafa Benitez & Liverpool
The Spaniard finally engineered a Premier League victory over Sir Alex Ferguson and for this reason alone it was arguably Benitez’s best weekend in domestic football. However, if we are going to be pedantic, it is worth pointing out that it was hardly a vintage display from the Reds, who in truth have yet to really start playing this season.
Before the season Steven Gerrard said “I desperately want us to be challenging for the title, and it does hurt me that it hasn’t happened for so long.” The Liverpool captain should finally get his wish this time round, the Reds have shown in the first four games of the season that they can win playing badly, the hallmark of Champions some might call it.
They may be thanking the fixture computer, but this was a massive win for the Tigers. Last time out they were stuffed 5-0 at home by Wigan. This result means they have picked up two wins from their opening games and incredibly sit in fourth place with a goal difference of minus three.
Amr Zaki & Mido
Three goals in four games for Mido and only against Portsmouth did the former Tottenham striker start the game. Zaki is living up to his billing as “statistically the best striker in the world,” taking to the Premier League like the proverbial duck to water with four in four.
Ironically, experts of Egyptian football claim these two aren’t even the best strikers in Egypt, that honour belongs to Emad Metab who is currently plying his trade in Saudi Arabia.
There is a nagging suspicion that Blackburn are fairly useless this season and that Arsenal won’t be the last team to demolish Paul Ince’s side. Nevertheless, after a tumultuous summer for Adebayor, this game in particular signalled the start of his season, and if the Gunners enjoy a fully-fit front pairing of Robin van Persie and the striker from Togo, they could finally break their trophy drought.
The Aussie scores goals. Goals win games.
Three goals in two games for the surprise Serie A leaders and the partnership between the diminutive Argentinean and Goran Pandev looks very promising. Next week Lazio take a trip to the San Siro to face AC Milan. A tasty fixture.
Lyon might have ridden their luck in the win over Nice, but Juninho continues to show the importance of a free-kick specialist.
Following AC Milan’s defeat to Genoa, their second of the season, Carlo Ancelotti received the dreaded vote of confidence from vice-president Adriano Galliani: “Ancelotti remains. This is the last time I will say this.”
The Rossoneri’s loyalty toÂ Ancelotti is admirable but there are clearly large issues at the club, probably as a result of the age of many of AC Milan’s best players. Following their failure to qualify for the Champions League last season they needed to overhaul the squad and inject as much youth as possible.
Shevchenko and RonaldinhoÂ were probably not the answer, although they still have time to prove themselves. Ancelotti is now living on borrowed time.
Sir Alex Ferguson was spot on when he described the defending at Anfield as that of a “Conference team.” The first goal was a reminder that despite his heroics in Moscow, Edwin van der Sar does make critical mistakes. Whilst the second goal was exceptionally poor defending from Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs.
For all the attacking brilliance of Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo and now Berbatov, United’s success in the past two seasons has been build on a rock solid defence. The United backline will have to stand up and be counted at Chelsea next weekend otherwise they may face a real up-hill struggle to retain the Premier League title for a third year in succession.
Whilst this weekend signalled the end of the Mike Ashley regime it also reminded the football watching public that fan pressure can actually pay dividends. Following Ashley’s statement yesterday, this author feels sorry for the billionaire.
The paragraphs that have not been widely quoted elsewhere in the statement included these lines: “My plan and my strategy for Newcastle is different. It has to be. Arsenal is the shining example in England of a sustainable business model. It takes time. It can’t be done overnight. Newcastle has therefore set up an extensive scouting system. We look for young players, for players in foreign leagues who everyone does not know about. We try and stay ahead of the competition. We search high and low looking for value, for potential that we can bring on and for players who will allow Newcastle to compete at the very highest level but who don’t cost the earth.”
Ashley may not have gone about doing things the right way, but his ideas for the running of the club are in tune with the developments in the global game.Â Ultimately it was a mistake toÂ make football decisions in London but many of Ashley’s ideas for the club were spot on. The trouble he now finds himself in is a reflection of just what a poor state the previous owners left the club in.
The referee of the Inter-Catania match gave a goal that wasn’t. Is it any coincidence that two champions from last season (Lyon and Inter) received favourable refereeing decisions in their victories this weekend?
And, well done to Jose Mourinho for defelecting attention away from the questionable winning goal to focus minds on the sending-off of Sulley Muntari. “The Special One” is still a class act.