That Was The Weekend That Was: Losing Our Religion
It only took until the end of the first match of the weekend for football’s first CRISIS of the new season to end. Arsenal’s win at Fulham by four goals to one on Saturday lunchtime is unlikely to have pacified too many of Arsene Wenger’s critics at The Emirates Stadium – everyone involved in that particular debate is now in their trenches and lobbing their grenades depending on the outcome of each individual match – but we can at least console ourselves with the fact that at least everything is now going to revert itself to the way it has been every season for the last few years. The win at Fenerbahce in the Champions League play-off match last week means that Arsenal are practically guaranteed a place in the lucrative group stages of the competition, and Saturday’s win serves as a reminder that supporters of the club are highly unlikely to have to put up with anything as frankly demeaning as being outside the top four or five in the Premier League for that long.
They remain, however, three points behind Tottenham Hotspur, who are making up for lost time in the not being awarded penalty kicks league this season. A second in two goals, converted again by Roberto Soldado, gave them a win against Swansea City which keeps them at the top of this fledgling Premier League table alongside Chelsea and Liverpool, another side that is showing signs of becoming one-nil specialists after a win at Aston Villa on Saturday evening. Manchester City, meanwhile, might well be thinking that they could do with a little of this dullness after a three-two defeat away to The Cardiff City Redbirds saw the first serious questioning of their new manager, Manuel Pellegrini. After last week’s one-sided win against Newcastle United it was proclaimed all over the place that this will be City’s year, as if knocking seven bells out of a Newcastle United side that seemed to have only been introduced to each other in the tunnel before the match proved a great deal, but ambitions may have been tempered as a result of this defeat. Meanwhile, the world was also treated to another picture of the Redbirds’ owner Vincent Tan hitched up to his armpits whilst wearing a replica shirt, so at least we can all forget about the way in which he desecrated that particular football club.
There was also a first win of the season for a new club called Assem Allam’s Hull City Tigers, by a single goal against Norwich City, a result that will come as something of a relief to the AAHCT’s manager Steve Bruce, who will surely find himself on engaged in a struggle to keep hold of his job for not wearing enough merino wool jumpers or being otherwise not dreamy enough to reflect the company’s brand. And if beating an out of sorts Norwich City team doesn’t prove the benefits of his rebranding, what possibly could? Elsewhere, Stoke City came from behind to beat Crystal Palace by two goals to one at The Britannia Stadium, and a whole load of other teams all drew their matches, as if with a flagrant disregard for the following day’s newspapers. How on earth can one produce fifteen hundred words of fevered speculation from a goalless draw between Everton and West Bromwich Albion? Premier League clubs need to start thinking more seriously about this sort of thing, we think. Perhaps Leighton Baines should have pulled a knife and fork from one of his socks and started to try and eat Markus Rosenberg, or something.
At the top of the Championship, the earliest signs are that this may well be as tight as season as last season was. Four sides – Nottingham Forest, Blackpool, Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers – are tied at the top on ten points, with a further five clubs tucked in behind them, within three points of the early leaders. At the other end of the table, meanwhile, there are CRISES at Bolton Wanderers, who started the season as one of the bookmakers’ favourites for promotion back to the Premier League but, after four matches, are sitting one place above the relegation places with just two points from their opening four matches, and Birmingham City, whose future has been hanging in the balance for the last few months but which now seems to be finally starting to clear. Perhaps the most curious record in the division belongs to AFC Bournemouth, who sit in mid-table having won two and lost two of their opening four matches so far this season, but who have conceded twelve goals in the process – six at Nottingham Forest and five at Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
In League One, meanwhile, these are exciting times to be a Leyton Orient supporter. The Os have now won their first four league matches of the season and sit top of the table after a win against Crewe Alexandra at Brisbane Road on Saturday, and they are joined at the top of the table by Peterborough United, who scored five without reply at Tranmere Rovers. At the other end of the table, the early season stragglers continued to be propped up by the Northampton City Sky Blues, who drew four-all at “home” yesterday afternoon against Preston North End in front of another pitiful crowd of just over two thousand people. They remain on minus two points at the bottom of the table – proof, as if it were needed of just how paltry a ten point deduction for this summer’s shenanigans at The Ricoh Stadium. But hey, the Football League has all twenty-four clubs playing in League One this season? Who cares if ten thousand former Coventry supporters are now in the process of drifting away from the game altogether? Greg Clarke for Prime Minister! Am I right, eh? AM I RIGHT?
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