A number of debuts, a few dodgy refereeing calls - and enough goals to keep everyone from falling asleep - wrapped up another weekend’s Premier League action after what felt like an age-long international break. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points form the weekend’s action.
There’s a theme dominating some of the world’s biggest sports: dodgy officiating, and it’s becoming a serious issue. It happened throughout the summer’s Ashes, it happened in the New Zealand vs. Springboks game on Saturday, and it was all over the Premier League on the weekend.
To be fair, not all of the refereeing errors over the weekend were the refs’ fault. In some cases, the linesmen failed to fulfil their role of assistants. But one must ask: what is the point of officials if they can’t function at the highest level? It’s sad that even through some of the most entertaining plays, the officials’ role was being discussed more than the game itself. So surely it’s time for the FA to step in?
Aside from the officials, there were a few other notable points. We’ve picked out five of them.
Arsenal got lucky with their frailties exposed
Mesut Özil made his debut for Arsenal in impressive style. It took him just over ten minutes to adapt to the Premier League and generate his first assist. By half-time against Sunderland, he’d completed 52 passes with a 92% accuracy. Arsenal’s midfield was creating Bermuda triangles of perfection, swallowing up defenders and producing goals. But their defence still looks shaky. Going forward the Gunners are outstanding, but there are still issues at the back and Theo Walcott’s wastefulness is still a concern. Walcott should have had a hat-trick on Saturday, but he spilled a number of chances and it very nearly cost Arsenal. With a Sunderland goal disallowed, when the referee should have played the advantage, Arsene Wenger’s men got a little lucky. Add to that the fact that Paolo Di Canio got his tactics all wrong, and there is still concern over what Arsenal can achieve this season. Di Canio opted for 4-4-2 against Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1. That midfield chemistry was too much for Sunderland to handle. Perhaps Arsenal are going for the “if you can kill them with the attack, why bother with defence?” approach. How long they’ll get away with that only time will tell.
Marouane Fellaini made his debut for Manchester United, while Everton registered a 1-0 win over Chelsea. There was much talk about how much Everton will miss Felllaini, but Gareth Barry proved that he would be perfectly adequate in stepping up. He blocked Samuel Eto’os goal, committed five fouls but never got booked and never got off Chelsea’s back, forcing them into errors and cutting short their passing game. Everton won 18 of their 26 tackles where Chelsea won just nine out of 23. It’d be premature to get overly excited after just one match, but there certainly are some positive signs for Everton as they adjust to life after David Moyes. Everton’s defence was solid and despite the Blues’ 22 shots on goal – of which six were on target – there was no way through for their London opponents. For a very long time, Everton have been a club of “should have beens”, and although it’s early in the season, perhaps for once they will finally conquer the final hurdle to live up to their potential.
Post-Bale, life will be just fine at White Hart Lane
Gylfi Sigurdsson is no Gareth Bale, but he was mighty impressive against Norwich. Despite the Canries shooting themselves in the foot for most of the game – managing just 31% possession – Sigurdsson netted a brace by exploiting Norwich’s struggles when it comes to tracking runners. Every time he got in front of the goal, he made it count. His performance was in direct contrast to Andros Townsend who was nothing more than wasteful. He took nine shots with nothing to show for it and 49 passes without a single assist. His dribbling is poor and he needs to improve massively if he wants to fit into the Tottenham Style of play. If anything, he needs to aim to be something like Christian Eriksen, the 21-year old deadline day signing who made his debut on Saturday. It was his theatrics, his passing his fleet-footedness that helped Spurs secure the win. Tottenham still need somebody to build their team around, somebody to orchestrate the attack, and Saturday’s performance showed they aren’t short of options.
Diving still dreadful in the Premier League
Ashley Young put on an Oscar-winning performance in falling to the floor to earn Manchester United a penalty and have Kagiso Dikgacoi sent off. Although the referee had booked Young earlier for a similar offence, he managed to get away with it the second time. Players clearly do not learn from their mistakes and have no shame in risking a send-off for theatrics or to con refs into showing a card in their favour. The incident resulted in a questionable penalty, as it happened outside the box, and Dikgacoi was sent off for, well, doing his job as a defender. There needs to be a harsher punishment employed when it comes to diving. Referees can’t always get it right and the linesman in this incident had no clue. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about citing players for diving, much like in rugby. If they’re found guilty of foul play, suspend them for a few games and fine them a portion of their match fees. United’ manager Moyes had said he’d be having a word with Young, but the diving culture which has infiltrated the league is hardly going to change just through somebody having a chat. It’s far too easy to get away with dodgy behaviour, and the punishments barely exists.
Give Eto’o a little bit of time
Samuel Eto’o made his debut for Chelsea over the weekend, playing as a main striker. He didn’t quite adapt to the pace of the Premier League, though. Not yet, anyway. His heyday is long gone and having never played in England’s leagues before, it’s going to take him a while longer to adjust. His strength is in being a crafty mover and finding the nooks and crooks to create chances and make them count. Pace and pressing forward isn’t really his thing. He spent just under 30% of his time in the final Everton third and over 30% in the second third. Eto’o will set himself up in the right positions, he just needs to find the midfield chemistry to deliver the right crosses for him. Chelsea’s crossing was poor on Saturday, though, completing just 11 out 35. His sharpness and finishing wasn’t quite there on the weekend, but he showed some great promise.
Premier League Weekend results:
Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace
Aston Villa 1-2 Newcastle United
Fulham 1-1 West Brom
Hull 1-1 Cardiff City
Stoke 0-0 Manchester City
Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal
Tottenham 2-0 Norwich
Everton 1-0 Chelsea
Southampton 0-0 West Ham DM
Photo: Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud (L) celebrates scoring with Mesut Ozil during their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at The Stadium of Light in Sunderland, northern England, September 14, 2013. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis
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