Three weeks ago, in previewing the weekend's action in the English Premier League, I discussed five fallen idols we want to see turn their careers around. Since we know coincidence is just a fancy way of saying causation (Editor's note: It's not), I'm going to take credit for three players from that list finally making an impact. Seeing as the other two have been injured - unable to fulfill the destiny I've made inevitable - I assume it's only a matter of time until Kolo Touré and Robbie Keane are again forces in the Premier League.
In the interim, we've seen upticks from Matthew Upson, Joe Cole, and Steven Gerrard. Thanks to an improved Hammers defense, in which Upson mans the center, West Ham is undefeated in four, having allowed only three goals, climbing out of the drop. Joe Cole has returned from injury, recording a goal on Saturday that may best be explained by my list cosmically eliminating the offside rule, while Steven Gerrard, just days after a disappointing performance in Liverpool's loss to Wolves, supplied two gorgeous passes in crafting the Reds' goals.
But that trio's resurgence wasn't the only thing to love from England's football weekend. In fact, those stories weren't even the league's greatest awakening given the league's biggest name ended an eight month scoring drought (of sorts). And that's where we start our list of things to love from this weekend's action: With the first match, the first goal, three minutes in.
You Won't Have Wayne Rooney To Kick Around Anymore: Gabriel Oberton to Patrice Evra to Wayne Rooney. It was the type of goal he couldn't help scoring last year, when league followers marveled at his new aerial prowess. On Saturday, the shot seemed to move in slow motion, giving us ages to ask "Is this really happening? Is Wayne Rooney really going to score a goal?" With each Scott Carson step seeming to cartoonishly slip beneath him, the West Brom `keeper lost his chance to stop the header from bouncing into the lower left corner. The drought was over. Rooney had scored from open play, eliminating the final reason people have for overlooking his strong, post-Portland form.
Makes Wayne's "The Other Goal" From The Hawthorns This Weekend: James Morrison was a golden god. At least, he was for a few moments in the first half, right-footing the rebound of a Nemanja Vidic header, swinging his leg compactly through and to the outside of the ball, blistering his shot to the far side of Tomas Kuszczak's net. Just like that, Brom was even. "Uh, what just happened?"
The goal probably won't be a coming out party for Morrison, with the Brom midfielder likely to fade back into relative obscurity, but it was certainly a coming-out ... informal, impromtu get together. Morrison has been great all season for Brom, picking up where Graham Dorrans has suddenly left off. Along with Chris Brunt, the 24-year-old Scot has provided the quality that's enabled Roberto Di Matteo to play expansive and (relatively) successful football.
You may be more familiar with the name Odemwingie because he was much balleyhooed. Or you might know Jerome Thomas from his huge day at The Emirates. But it's Morrison and Brunt that have made Brom tick, with Youssuf Mulumbu and Paul Scharner turning the gears. If Morrison's goal brings some attention to those parts, the blast will have value beyond it's tally on the scoresheet.
Let's Not Forget, Liverpool Scored A Damn Decent Goal: We moved away from Steven Gerrard too quickly, because Liverpool's first goal (and the role he played in it) was a more of a "sublime kind of beautiful" than Morrison's blistering highlight show fodder. The three passes that led to Liverpool's highlight deserve as much attention: a chip from Glen Johnson to the edge of the box; a ball chested down by David N'Gog to Steven Gerrard; Gerrard's first touch, a curling cross to the far post; Fernando Torres volleys Liverpool in front.
Brilliant work from all involved, but when was the last time Liverpool scored such a beautiful goal? When was the last time a Roy Hodgson team showed that kind of execution? We hear tales of training ground drills - Jonathan Wilson regaling us with the attention Hodgson has his side pay to the formation's details - but what about spending some time on crafting those kind of goals? Gentlemen, I didn't know you had it in you. Now that I've seen it, I demand more.
Carlos Tévez and Peter Odemwingie Relating To The Common Man: For all the unattainable heights of athleticism footballers achieve each weekend, we're occasionally given a moment that makes us say "even I can do that." The penalty kick is something the Sunday player thinks he could perform, but as the perfection of Frank Lampard and Ashley Young's Sunday blasts show, much of our fantasy is delusion. I'm never going to convert a penalty kick like Ashley Young.
I can, however, take one like Carlos Tévez, who chunked and pulled his attempt against Blackpool. Likewise, I can take one like Peter Odenwingie, who chunked and pulled his try versus Manchester United. Both attempts seemed more intent on competing with Wayne Rooney's Arsenal miss than trying to convert the kick.
In a sport where elite athletes converting penalty kicks is the norm, I want to thank Carlos and Peter for making me feel a little closer to them. From now on, I'll refer to them by their first names.
Newcastle's Midfield Sparking Debate: The take way from Newcastle's 1-0 win at Wigan? The Magpies have assembled one of the league's better midfields.
Notice the qualifier ("one of"), but also notice Kevin Nolan and Chieck Tiote's ability to control Sunday's match, even after Roberto Martínez tried to counter their efficacy with numbers. Granted, it's just Wigan, but when you see Tiote banging off bodies, Nolan cleaning up, Jonas breaking through on the left while Barton's creating chances on the right, you're reminded this team should have never come close to the Championship. All except Tiote were part of the team that went down.
It was a command performance from the Magpie midfield, one that begs the question: Which squads have better units patrolling the middle, at this point in time? Manchester United's midfield is hard to define. City has a strong, three man unit in the middle. Arsenal's is less stalwart but more creative. Chelsea's has been questionable is year, while Spurs - well, Tottenham's become the standard, thanks to Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon, and Tom Huddlestone (stroke Wilson Palacios).
Perhaps Newcastle's four man unit (five, when Wayne Routledge starts in a five man group) isn't as great as Sunday made them look. Maybe it's The Wigan Effect that has me so excited. Nonetheless, I choose to remain abuzz. Amidst our focus on title contenders we forget that there's class farther down the table, and while that word isn't readily associated with Joey Barton or a man that leads league midfielders in fouls (Tiote), Newcastle's still assembled a group capably of bossing their way to mid-table.
And Let's Not Overlook:
Richard Dunne was a bit shaky on Sunday, but it was good to see Gerard Houllier forgive and (hopefully) forget.You might choose to think that's a man coming to grips with tenuous job security. I choose to believe in the holiday season!
- Samir Nasri continues to impress, showing a slightly different dimension on Saturday, possibly a function of a career high confidence level. Deployed on the left, in Andrei Arshavin's (former?) spot, Nasri turned on the afterburners multiple times, deciding to beat Stephen Carr and Roger Johnson with pure speed. He didn't look like Gareth Bale, but for a couple of Saturday moments, he seem almost Welsh.
Bits And Bites: Matthew Etherington continues to be his own Bale-light, as evidenced on Stoke's first goal; Ahmed Al-Muhammadi may be coming into his own wingy-ness, putting in his best Premier League performance against Blackburn; Blackpool went punch-for-punch with City in the second half, a battle of the league's most and least costly teams; Yaya Touré continues to show more willingness to push forward and become the attacking presence Roberto Mancini sees in him; Joleon Lescott's playing better than he has in two years; Lots of own goals, no own goal stigma - I think it's a Jamie Carragher-thing; Luciano Becchio, clutch - wait for it: