Premier League: The Weekend Everything Went Mental

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: Fernando Torres of Chelsea performs an overhead kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on September 18, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Last weekend, English football finally flipped. Up was down, black was white, birds flew backwards, all that was solid melted into air. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria.

Well, that was all rather good fun, wasn't it?

Because football is a nonsensical waste of everybody's time, it is at its best when it's certifiably mental. When things happen that don't normally happen, when talent and endeavour is undercut at every level by base comedy and farce, and when the open mouth, the shaking head, the belly laugh and the ‘well well well. Stap me, eh?' replace the usual chorus of carp and counter-carp, at least for a bit.

Of course, the chuckles might be a little forced for those that ended up on the wrong end of this weekend's madness, yet I think -- I sincerely hope -- even the most distraught Arsenal, Liverpool or Stoke fan can look back at the weekend and manage to summon a faint suggestion of a smile. After all, Jamie, this weekend literally had everything.

Let's start with the encouraging. All three promoted teams won pretty convincingly. Swansea, the most poetic team in the world right now, finally found a sharp edge to their pretty patterns. Norwich worked liked Trojans with a pressing deadline and an overbearing boss to heap more misery on poor Owen Coyle (for whom the vague links to the Arsenal and Liverpool dugouts are but a smoky memory). In Wolverhampton, the Joey Barton Queen's Park Circus overcame a power cut to make Neil Warnock a very happy man, and I think we can all get behind that.

Chelsea are starting to look like a team with an idea of how to play, if not quite how to score - thought: get closer before shooting? - and Juan Mata is starting to look like another one of those Spaniards who come to this country and generally swan about like they don't actually know who invented the game, dammit. Phil Jones continues to glow like an aspect of the divine - those aren't highlights, people, those are the golden marks of heaven - and David Crisis Butterfingers Iron Gloves Gary Sprake de Gea looks, horror of horrors, like quite a good goalkeeper. #Supervorm abides. At White Hart Lane, Luka Modric and Scott Parker seem to be enjoying one another's company, while Gareth Bale is buzzing again. Even Ledley King got a game.

Next, the nasty. Ashley Cole did his best to remind everybody of the rotten gap in his soul by assaulting the most adorable striker in the league, while Liverpool did the decent thing by their manager and contrived to pick up six yellow cards, not a single one of which could be considered even remotely controversial. King Kenny can sleep easy that his team got no less than they deserved from the referee. Norwich's Leon Barnett attempted the world's first - and, while indelicate, I can think of no other way to put this - decapitation-by-arse; later in the same game, Marc Tierney was so discombobulated by the gentle, nuzzling inquisition of Ivan Klasnic's forehead that he quite lost the run of himself.

Personal aside: I can sympathise. I was once so startled by a friendly cat that I fell off a bench and poured most of a pint of cider all over myself. The cat was quite rightly dismissed.

It had the marvellous. Even without considering his overall excellence, which has been neatly parcelled into the "stepping out of Ronaldo's shadow" narrative, Nani scored one seriously good goal, to which Fernando Torres responded with a quite lovely pancake flip of a finish. Luka Modric found his head, Bobby Zamora found his feet, and Yakubu twice found himself without any real need to move, which is when he's at his most dangerous; however offside and fortuitous the second, the first was a masterpiece of striking efficiency. QPR's owner, Tony Fernandes, compared Warnock and Barton's merry men to Brazil, which tells you everything you need to know about the weekend: tonight, Matthew, Luke Young will be Dani Alves.

It had the illogical. Stoke went to Sunderland undefeated, defensively solid, to play a team that were both officially "in crisis" and completely lacking in forward power. Naturally they shipped four. As noted above, doughty Wolves were humped by non-scoring Swansea, while the most expensive and terrifying team in the league skipped merrily into a two-goal lead at Fulham - Sergio Agüero recovering admirably from his early-morning loss to Floyd Mayweather - only to fall to pieces in a well-nuanced and quite touching tribute to their dear departed Chief Executive. As Garry Cook taught us, people, it's all about the comedy.

Everton scored three despite having no strikers; Aston Villa and Newcastle extended two of the least convincing unbeaten streaks since [Lance Armstrong joke removed for legal reasons]. Marouane Chamakh scored; Leroy Lita scored; Franco di Santo scored again. Tottenham fans cheered Emmanuel Adebayor, while Ray Wilkins responded to Cole's shelling of the Little Pea by reminding his audience that the snarling left-back is a really nice guy off the pitch. Presumably that's news to both Darling Cheryl and one limping former Chelsea employee.

Then there was the farcical. Oh, Arsenal. To throw away one lead looks unfortunate; to throw away two looks careless; to score two own goals in the process looks like a plaintive cry for help. (For the record, this correspondent still thinks they'll finish fourth.) Steve Kean lives to underwhelm another day, while Liverpool achieved the unthinkable, and made Roy Hodgson's reign look like a halcyon and happy time. And perhaps most beautifully for those of us sick to the eye teeth with the cloying commercialisation of modern football, Nike took the brave decision to launch Wayne Rooney's new boots with a tribute to the penalty-taking techniques of two true English heroes, David Beckham and John Terry. (The boots retail at £140, which is a bargain considering you'll be able to tackle yourself.)

Finally, it had the historic. Whatever the implications of that miss for Torres - who had been mostly excellent all afternoon and is generally playing well - for Chelsea - minimal, since they were probably going to lose anyway, and they can take heart from their continuing, Juan Mata-inspired improvement - and for the league at large, it seems to have been generally agreed that this generation has found its Ronny Rosenthal. People won't remember where they were, perhaps, when that ball slid past the post and poor Fernando crumpled to the sod, but they will remember what they did. They laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. Then they felt bad, and some even wanted to give him a hug, and then they laughed again.

Yes, this is basically a list, and list pieces are the bane of modern football coverage. Sometimes you learn six things, and sometimes nothing at all. But sometimes so much happens, so quickly, with such glorious incoherence, that all you can do is look at it and shake your head. We can unpick the meanings and significance later, with hindsight, once we've all calmed down a bit. For now, let's all enjoy the afterglow of one the most beautifully bonkers weekends in recent memory. Football, eh? Bloody hell.

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