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So it turns out that Arsenal's reserve team isn't actually as good as an on-form Manchester United. Who'd have thought it? Arsene Wenger fielded a much-weakened side against the defending champions out of necessity rather than choice, but if he had any hope that a lineup featuring whatever Armand Traore, Carl Jenkinson and whatever a Francis Coquelin is against the big guns of United, they were cruelly dashed the instant the sides took to the field.
The hosts dominated from the off, and it wasn't before long that they were ahead thanks to the head of Danny Welbeck, who sauntered straight past a confused Johan Djourou to plant the ball past poor Wojciech Szczesny from close range following a neat flick back into the box by Anderson. However, it looked as though Arsenal would be able to reply instantly, because for whatever reason Johnny Evans decided to drag down Theo Walcott in the box. Possibly he wanted to make things fairer, because that was virtually the first Gunners attack of the match.
No worries for United though - Robin van Persie's shot was weak and fairly central, allowed David de Gea to get down to his right and save, and moments later former Aston Villa man Ashley Young added injury to the penalty-miss insult by jinking past Jenkinson and curling a shot into Szczesny's top corner from 25 yards out, a strike so perfect that the England international started his celebration almost as soon as the ball left his foot.
Wayne Rooney would make it three with a bending free kick (and there was some bad news for the hosts in the form of a hamstring injury to Danny Welbeck), but Walcott would save some face for the Gunners after a total abomination of a first half by taking advantage of a terrible clearance and slipping the ball past de Gea - who should have done better - to make it three one with the last kick before the interval.
If Arsene Wenger and Arsenal thought the second half would bring big changes, well, they were right. Sort of. The visitors did look far more dangerous going forwards after halftime, but that was mostly because United were amusing themselves trying to score as many goals as humanly possible. Szczesny was putting on a show in the visiting goal while de Gea didn't do too badly for himself against the Gunners' suddenly competent attack, but, unfortunately for Arsenal, the wrong floodgate broke first.
Another Rooney free kick made it 4-1, and Nani followed that up within moments by taking advantage of the fact that Arsenal's defenders decided to go play in the midfield for a while, opening up space in the penalty area for the Portuguese to saunter in and chip rather jauntily over Szczesny, who looked rather murderous about the whole affair. Substitute Park Ji-Sung then got in on the act after latching onto a cut-back, before Robin van Persie finally got Arsenal's second... just before Jenkinson managed to get himself sent off for hauling down Javier Hernandez while already on a yellow card.
It wouldn't take long before the ten-man Gunners conceded again, with Rooney blasting home a penalty for his hattrick after Walcott had brought down Patrice Evra, and to top everything off Ashley Young scored his second peach of the match in the dying moments, another lovely curling effort from range that left Szczesny no chance.
So. 8-2 United. That marks, according to Twitter, the first time Arsenal have conceded eight in a match since 1896, when they were demolished by Woolwich 8-0. In that light, this is a sub-pessimal result. In any other... yikes. Some real questions are going to have to be asked about just what the club is doing, but the day belongs far more to United than it does Arsene Wenger chatter. The champions were superb, and with closest rivals Manchester City putting down a marker in Tottenham, they'll have loved their response.
What a brilliant day for Sir Alex Ferguson and company.
Arsenal have scored two goals at Old Trafford for the first time in 19 matches, but that's not really going to do them much good because they're still down by four goals and have just lost right back Carl Jenkinson to a second yellow card after he hauled down Javier Hernandez just outside Wojciech Szcezney's box. Robin van Persie was the goalscorer, by the way - one has to imagine that he's slightly embarrassed to have a permanent record of his presence at Old Trafford today on the scoresheet.
Wayne Rooney didn't score the free kick, by the way, which shocked pretty much everyone who's been watching this game, but with ten minutes left and Arsenal down to ten men, it would shock absolutely nobody if the England front man managed to notch his hattrick before all is said and done here today. I think someone might want to put a suicide watch on Arsene Wenger.
It's 6-1 United. Substitute Park Ji-Sung has just scored. Oh my god.
Well more goals were coming, although nobody was very sure from whom it would next arrive. With Manchester United completely sure of victory, the match has become a parade of the home side's attacking players trying to score goals, which has led for some spaces in behind United's lines for Arsenal to try (and fail, mostly thanks to David de Gea and poor finishing) to exploit.
At the other end of the pitch, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverly had both drawn good saves from Wojciech Szczesny, but Arsenal's back line was looking remarkably creaky and two quick goals have put a real gloss on the scoreline for United. Wayne Rooney made it 4-1 with another free kick, wrong-footing the Gunners' young polish goalkeeper as the ball bent into the top corner, and a few minutes later Arsenal's defence left Nani all on his own to finish with a cheeky chip over poor Szczesny. Ouch.
Before the match, everyone and their dog was writing off Arsenal as a competitive force, at least right now. Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy gone? Jack Wilshere injured? Gervinho suspended? Pfft, they said. No chance.
And they were totally right. Despite conceding Arsenal's first goal of the season, United are in complete and utter control of this game, scoring three goals in the first half and absolutely demolishing their hapless opponents whenever they march forwards. Danny Welbeck got things started with a neat header after fighting through the heart of the Arsenal defence, and after David de Gea saved from a Robin van Persie penalty - his first touch of the game, more or less - Ashley Young doubled United's lead with a superb curling strike from well outside the area.
After the blow of losing Welbeck to a hamstring injury, Wayne Rooney made things 3-0 with a well-taken free kick, but in the third minute of injury time a very strange clearance by United left Theo Walcott one on one against de Gea from a tight angle, whereupon the Spanish goalkeeper undid much of his good work in saving the earlier penalty by letting the ball trickle straight past him and into the back of the net.
It was an annoying goal to concede, no doubt... but it's still 3-1 at half time, and Arsenal have virtually no hope of getting back into the match.
Talk about a response to Manchester City slaughtering Tottenham Hotspur earlier today - United are 3-0 up against Arsenal before halftime here at Old Trafford. Yes, Arsenal have been shocking, but United have been in wonderful form and are cutting through the visiting defence with ease. This time they take advantage of young right back Carl Jenkinson, who can't deal with Ashley Young making a run and is forced to drag the England man to ground near the edge of the penalty area.
While Howard Webb reached for his cards - Jenkinson got a booking for his troubles - Wayne Rooney was lining up his shot, and when the whistle blew the star striker produced an absolute peach, bending the free kick over the wall and into the top corner. Wojciech Szczesny reacted well and did manage to get a touch on the ball, but there was no way he was ever keeping that out. 3-0 United, and this is all just far too easy.
Oh dear, that's terrible news for Danny Welbeck, who was making a strong case for keeping both Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov on the bench. Welbeck who's already scored against a hilariously makeshift Arsenal side, was running around very happily harrassing and harangueing the visiting defence, but on a long ball forward just after the half hour mark the England under-21 international suddenly pulled up lame, clutching him hamstring, and fell to the ground.
it looks very much like a fairly serious injury, and Welbeck is clearly unable to play on - Chicharito comes on to replace him. Hopefully it's not a tear and the 20-year-old is able to get back up and running without missing too many games. Awful luck for poor Welbeck. Meanwhile, Andrei Arshavin is lucky not to have been sent off for a ludicrous sliding challenge on Ashley Young while already booked in the leadup to that play. Silly from the Russian.
Well that didn't take very long, did it? Danny Welbeck has gotten the hosts in front against a frankly lacklustre Arsenal reserve side, who are wearing black and blue today, presumably in anticipation of the hiding more or less everyone is expecting the defending champions to lay out (and that, in fairness, they are laying out). It was awful defending by the Gunners - one might expect Johan Djourou to be able to fight off Welbeck in the air following a cute pass by Anderson, but... nope, and Welbeck had no problem putting the ball past Wojciech Szczesny.
Immediately after conceding, Arsenal had an implausible lifeline after Johnny Evans stupidly hauled down Theo Walcott during what was essentially the visitors' first attack of the game. Howard Webb pointed at the spot, but David de Gea got down well to stop the penalty by Robin van Persie, and United immediately marched up the other end and added to their tally, Ashley Young scoring an absolutely brilliant curling effort from all of 25 yards out. United well on top, and the scoreline reflects that. 2-0.
If Tottenham Hotspur thought that Luka Modric's return to the lineup was the answer to what ailed, they were proven hugely wrong as Edin Dzeko inspired Manchester City to a buccaneering performance at White Hart Lane. It was a far cry from the equivalent fixture last season, where only Joe Hart stopped Spurs from battering the Champions League aspirants and City played with three defensive midfielders.
Faced with a pairing of Niko Krancjar and the aforementioned Modric in the centre of midfield, City went on the attack, with Dzeko leading the line and a wicked combination of rotating players behind him. Before the first half was gone, the visitors were 2-0 up, with new signing Samir Nasri supplying the big Bosnian twice, and things would only get worse in the second half, where a Dzeko tap-in and a classy finish by Sergio Aguero proceeded an absolute belter of a striker from Dzeko in the last minute of injury time to make it a brace of braces for the much-maligned January signing.
Spurs had a brief revival in the second half coincidental with Modric being removed to a chorus of jeering, scoring what always looked like a consolation goal off the head of Younes Kaboul, but lost Rafael van der Vaart to an injury moments later and were forced to accept their impotence with ten men as City confidently stroked the ball around White Hart Lane for the rest of the match.
Early days, but Robert Mancini's side have been very impressive so far.
Arsenal appear to be playing a reserve team against defending champions Manchester United, which is totally - totally - going to go well you guys. Then again, Arsene Wenger hasn't had much success with his first team at Old Trafford in the past few years, so he might as well change things up a bit, eh?
Sir Alex Ferguson is most definitely not changing things up. The same eleven who (eventually) cruised past Tottenham Hotspur last weekend start here, with Rio Ferdinand fit to make the bench. Danny Welbeck still keeps both Chicharito and Dimitar Berbatov off the team, which is funny.
Also, I have no idea who Francis Coquelin is. I imagine United fans will be looking forward to the introduction.
Substitutes: Anders Lindegaard, Fabio da Silva, Rio Ferdinand, Park Ji-Sung, Ryan Giggs, Chicharito, Dimitar Berbatov.
*At least 145 points in scrabble right there.
Tottenham Hotspur certainly haven't been poor in their opening 45 minutes against Manchester City. In fact, between the two penalty areas, they've matched or perhaps even bettered their visitors. The serious difference between the two teams has been right in front of goal, where Edin Dzeko has been spectacular while Spurs can't hit the broad side of a barn. City are up 2-0 at halftime, and Samir Nasri looks like a spectacular buy already.
Nasri, the now-former Arsenal man, provided both assists to the scorer of both goals, Dzeko. He's settled in right away and has proven an absolutely perfect fit for City's system. The first goal came in the 34th minute, with Nasri providing a low cross into the box after a one-two exchange with Sergio Aguero. Dzeko's positioning was perfect and he tapped in the goal with the bottom of his boot, getting City off to a great start.
Interestingly enough, Gareth Barry appeared to have committed a handball in the box just one minute before Dzeko's opener, but referee Phil Dowd was not in a good position to spot it.
Spurs looked like they were going to get back into the game in the 40th minute, when Bale put the ball on a silver platter for Peter Crouch, hitting him square on the head with an absolutely fantastic cross. Inexplicably, though it appeared he just had to let the ball hit his head and go into the net, Crouch managed to miss. It was Spurs' second big let-off of the game, as Bale had missed a sitter of his own about 20 minutes prior.
Once again, City would score just one minute after Tottenham failed to finish off a great chance of their own, illustrating the main difference between the two teams on the evening. The assist came from Nasri once again, this time with a floating cross. Dzeko hit an absolutely ridiculous header towards the far post, providing a world class finish that no one on Spurs seems to have the quality to execute.
City leads by a score of 2-0 at the break, and based on the players available on the two benches, it would not be surprising if that lead was expanded.
Over the last two years, this fixture would have been a major decider for the top four places. In fall of 2011, the circumstances are probably a little bit different, but Saturday's match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City is still a big one. Spurs will feel like points at home against City are a must, especially after their poor performance last week, while a win at White Hart Lane would go a long way towards proving City's title credentials. Here are the lineups.
Tottenham Hotspur lineup (4-4-1-1): Friedel; Corluka, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Kranjcar, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart; Crouch
Substitutes from: Cudicini, Bassong, Walker, Huddlestone, Livermore, Defoe, Pavlyuchenko
Manchester City lineup (4-4-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Lescott; Barry, Yaya, Silva, Nasri; Aguero, Dzeko
Substitutes from: Pantilimon, Richards, Savic, Milner, A. Johnson, Tevez and Balotelli
The game kicks off at 8:30 am ET, 1:30 pm BST. You can see it on Fox Soccer Channel in the USA, ESPN in the UK, and Setanta Sports in Canada.
All too easy for Liverpool, who cruised to a 3-1 home win over Bolton Wanderers. The only blemish on the evening for the hosts was that the score didn't adequately reflect the match - some poor finishing on the Reds' part and a late late consolation in the form of an Ivan Klasnic goal meant that the match ended up decided by just two goals rather than the four or five margin of victory that Liverpool's play probably merited.
Luis Suarez stole the show with a bizarre game - causing havoc in the Trotters defence but failing to score and then nearly talking his way into trouble in the second half when he opted to start sulking over calls that didn't go his way during a 3-0 match. Still, he once again demonstrated the talent which led Liverpool to splash the cash for him in January. Jordan Henderson too went some way towards recouping his transfer fee, notching the opening goal with a fine curling effort, while fellow newcomer Charlie Adam got the hosts' third, sandwiching a header from Martin Skrtel.
The only real positive Bolton can take from the match was that late goal by Klasnic, who now has three in three games. Frankly, that's not doing them much good. The visitors were a complete mess defensively and Jussi Jaaskelainen has had two awful matches in a row. Bolton aren't at full strength, but partial strength ought to be a lot better than this.
If there was any worry that Liverpool, having beaten Arsenal at the Emirates in an impressive display last weekend, would fail to turn up against relatively lowly Bolton at Anfield, I'd imagine that the fears have been more than assuaged. £20M man Jordan Henderson is the guy on the scoresheet for Kenny Dalglish's team, finishing sweetly with his left foot after the ball broke loose following a lovely save by Jussi Jaaskelainen, but the hosts could realistically have had four or five in the opening half.
Luis Suarez especially should be concerned about failing to net - when one on one with Jaaskelainen he opted for an extraordinarily cheeky chip that bounced off the roof of the net rather than into the goal. That might come back to bite the Reds later, but only if the pattern of the match changes. It's not really that clear whether it's Liverpool playing well or Bolton playing horribly (realistically, it's a mix of the two), but the Trotters can't keep this up. They'll be hoping for a very different second half, because they won't even be able to dream of salvaging something from this match if they keep playing like they did for the first 45.
It’s 2 home wins from 2 for Andre Villas-Boas’s Chelsea, after Jose Bosingwa, Frank Lampard and Juan Manuel Mata scored for the Blues. The 3-1 scoreline makes it sound like a comfortable victory, but it was anything but. Norwich were the better side for the middle part of the match, and the 3 goals conceded is a tad harsh.
Chelsea started off in a flash, with Ramires and Fernando Torres having good chances before Jose Bosingwa took advantage of lots of space and thwacked one into the bottom right corner of John Ruddy’s goal. Norwich, however, came into the match, with Grant Holt and Chris Martin having good chances. Norwich got their deserved equaliser after Hilario came out, missed the ball, took out Branislav Ivanovic who headed to Grant Holt who volleyed home.
Soon after, Didier Drogba collided with John Ruddy, and hit the ground hard. Drogba, worryingly, had to be given oxygen as he was stretchered off.
From a Norwich corner, Ramires bombed through the Canaries midfield before he was taken down by John Ruddy for a penalty, and a red card to the Norwich keeper for DOGSO. The red card might’ve been harsh; Ramires was heading away from goal, and Ritchie De Laet was back covering. Frank Lampard took the resulting penalty, and smashed it down the middle. Luckily, Declan Rudd had dived to his right.
There were 11 minutes of injury time, and Norwich continued to plug forward. However, it was Chelsea who got the final goal. Juan Mata did extremely well to anticipate Ritchie De Laet’s poor backpass, and then finished into the bottom right corner.
A good, if wobbly, performance from Chelsea, but most importantly, they got all 3 points. If Norwich continue to play like that, they’ll stay up comfortably.
John Ruddy was shown a straight red for hauling down Chelsea midfielder Ramires and denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. It's questionable whether the red card should have been shown, as the ball appeared to be going wide at the time, but the Norwich goalkeeper is sent off anyway. And is anyone surprised that it's Frank Lampard who stepped up to take the resulting penalty kick?
Despite the fact that six out of eight penalties awarded in the Premier League thus far this season have been missed or saved (an impressive number, even if the season is still only three weeks old), Lampard sent his kick straight down the middle, past substitute Declan Rudd, to give Chelsea the 2-1 lead at Stamford Bridge.
Meanwhile at Ewood Park, Blackburn Rovers have done their part to increase the number of missed penalty chances, with Mauro Formica missing his chance to take the lead over Everton by drilling his shot against the post. Oh dear.
Just after Grant Holt equalised for Norwich City, Didier Drogba had a sickening collision with Norwich keeper John Ruddy, and appeared to fall on his head and/or back. Drogba was down for about 7 minutes, and while he appears to be conscious, he required an oxygen mask and was lashed down into a stretcher before being carried off.
From a personal standpoint, it is a very worrying injury, especially as Drogba takes such a battering, and if he has had a concussion, it is possible for him to have a recurrence. Hopefully he hasn’t suffered a concussion, and he’ll just have severe back pain, but from the way he landed, that doesn’t look likely.
From Chelsea’s point of view, losing Drogba, while a blow, isn’t as big a blow as it would’ve been in previous years. Fernando Torres is looking better, and new signing Romelu Lukaku, while raw, is as big, if not bigger than Drogba, so Chelsea do have options if Drogba is out for a couple of weeks.
It’s been all Chelsea in the second half, with the Blues taking advantage of Kyle Naughton’s weak defending to wreak havoc down Norwich’s right. Norwich took off Wes Hoolahan for summer signing Steve Morison. Soon after, though, Naughton did something useful. It was his cross that lead to Hilario coming miles off his line, and taking out Branislav Ivanovic, who had headed Naughton’s cross straight to Grant Holt, who turned and brilliantly volleyed over the despairing John Terry. Based on the first half, Norwich deserve a goal, and have continued to plug away despite Chelsea’s dominance.
Soon after, Drogba and Norwich keeper John Ruddy collided, and Drogba had a bad fall, and has remained down for 5 or 6 minutes. Thankfully, Drogba is conscious but does appear to be getting oxygen and has been stretched off.
Meanwhile, Juan Manuel Mata has come on Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka has come on for Drogba. There’s 20 minutes left, plus at least 7 after Drogba’s injury, for Norwich to hold out.
Jose Bosingwa’s thunderbolt of a strike in the 6th minute remains the only goal of the game, but Norwich have come close, and had the better of the last 20 or 25 minutes of the half. The Canaries finally settled into their 5 at the back formation, and Grant Holt was a touch away from equalising after Wesley Hoolahan’s fantastic ball. Hoolahan has been running the show for Norwich, playing in both Holt and Martin, and testing Hilario from 30 yards.
Zak Whitbread came off with injury, and was replaced by former Huddersfield winger Anthony Pilkington, leading to a change of formation to their more familiar 4-<4>-2. Chelsea’s left has been their more threatening sides; Kyle Naughton is the weaker of the Norwich fullbacks, and Fernando Torres has been peeling off to the left to take advantage. Florent Malouda has also gotten past Naughton, and tested John Ruddy with a swerving left shot. Ruddy, though, was up to the test, as Norwich have been.
Chelsea, though, still have the lead, and Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres are looking good as a partnership. Creativity, though, has been a bit of a problem; Juan Mata, on the Chelsea bench, could change that.
After dominating the early stages, Chelsea have broken through against Norwich after just 6 minutes. Both Ramires and Fernando Torres had shots saved/blocked before Bosingwa, finding lots of space in the Norwich midfield, lashed an unstoppable shot to the right of John Ruddy.
Norwich have started with 5 at the back, and look uncomfortable playing it. With only 3 in the midfield, Chelsea are dominating possession, and neither Bosingwa or Ashley Cole are getting closed down because Richie De Laet and Kyle Naughton are too deep. Playing 3/5 at the back against a team playing two strikers isn’t a bad idea, but Norwich look uncomfortable, and, if they are to get back into the match, might have to take off one of the centre backs and revert to a diamond formation or a 3 man central midfield. Grant Holt has put in a very Shane Long-esque performance so far, but is lacking the service. John Obi Mikel is taking care of Norwich’s star man, Wes Hoolahan.
Well, that didn’t take long. After two somewhat disappointing performances from Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas has gone away from the 4-3-3 that has served both Chelsea and Porto last season so well. Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres both start this afternoon, in a diamond 4-4-2. It’s an interesting move from Villas-Boas, especially as creating chances for Torres rather than his finishing has been Chelsea’s major problem. Florent Malouda, in what could be his last game for Chelsea if latest rumours are correct will have the job of main creator for Torres and Drogba, but expect Ashley Cole and Bosingwa to spend lots of time forward.
Norwich make two changes to the side that drew 1-1 at home last week. Zak Whitbread comes into the centre of defence, pushing Richie De Laet to left back, while Wes Hoolihan (The Irish Lionel Messi, or Wessi) replaces Anthony Pilkington. Marc Tierny continue to play, albeit in the midfield instead of left back. Paul Lambert played 4-<4>-2 for most of last season, but his side could play 4-5-1 today, depending where Chris Martin (no, not the one from Coldplay) lines up. Last week he played upfront with Grant Holt; this week he could play on the right of midfield.
Chelsea: Henrique Hilario; Ashley Cole, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose Bosingwa; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Ramires, Florent Malouda; Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba.
Substitutes: Ross Turnbull, Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Paulo Ferreira, Josh McEachran, Alex, Nicolas Anelka.
Norwich City: John Ruddy; Kyle Naughton, Zak Whitbread, Leon Barnett, Ritchie De Laet; Andrew Crofts, Bradley Johnson, Wes Hoolahan, Marc Tierney, Chris Martin; Grant Holt.
Substitutes: Declan Rudd, Russell Martin, Elliot Bennett, Anthony Pilkington, David Fox, Simeon Jackson, Steve Morison.
It's always nice when we have a completely obvious and unsurprising result to start the weekend! In one of the many West Midlands derbies which have various degrees of animosity contained within them, Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers played to a 0-0 draw at Villa Park as both defenses played almost flawlessly while both teams lacked the quality to create clear cut scoring opportunities.
The ageless wonder Emile Heskey continued to defy critics/logic to put in an excellent first half performance, despite the fact that no one can explain how in the world Heskey is effective. Unfortunately for Villa, his good performance didn't result in goals. Alex McLeish once again played a lineup with all of Heskey, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent, causing the fans at home to side eye their walls as if they were Alex McLeish.
Villa were the better side for most of the game - especially for the opening 35 minutes or so of the second half - but Mick McCarthy's defense got it done again and kept a clean sheet, despite the fact that Villa had a high volume of set piece opportunities. It seemed like something would eventually come from one of them, but Wolves defended expertly.
McCarthy's side was actually on the ascendancy and looked like the more likely team to score in the final 10 minutes, but nothing quite came of it. They leave Villa Park with a credible 0-0 draw, and they remain top of the table for the time being.
Week three of the Premier League! Only 35 weeks to go!
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