Guest Post: Top Four Sunday


This is a watch. Somebody needs to introduce Martin Atkinson to one. Old Trafford is like a casino in that time does not appear to have any relevance until the house wins. More than anything I am just annoyed because I lost the near full page of notes I made during this derby, that will surely be remembered as one of the most pulsating ever played. On a day that schedule makers pat themselves on the back for enabling the top four teams on the table, well before Liverpool unwantedly shoved their way in with a 3-2 win over West Ham, squaring off in two derbies back to back. 

But first to rather more humble arenas…

Turf Moor Stadium in Burnley. You know it’s a small town team when a major sideline hoarding bears the words David Fishwick Minibus Sales. I thought I should watch a Sunderland game as they were one of the teams at the start of the season that I thought could push into the upper middle of the standings. A good number of quality off season additions to the squad and a new manager in Steve Bruce has confirmed this feeling with the best start to a league campaign since 1980. All facts that would have had the Black Cats’ biggest Northern Ireland residing Scot fan Anthony feeling very chuffed. That was before Portsmouth cast-off David Nugent kept alive a number of surprising trends with two well taken goals.

I am still utterly perplexed by The Clarets as a Premier League entity.  For most of this game they were thoroughly outplayed yet a 3-1 scoreline meant the result was fairly comfortable. The lesson is to put a chunk of change on them when they are playing at home. No promoted side since Blackburn in 1992 (who won it all two years later) have won their first three home games, making it nine straight at the Turf Moor. Making their start to the campaign that little bit more impressive they have also now played four of last years’ top five and so should have an easier time of it until the return fixtures kick in.

Arsenal kicked their habit of winning late against Wigan by simply thrashing them instead. Maybe they just wanted to give a Yankees cap-wearing Spike Lee a better sideline experience than suffering through another Knicks game. At 3pm (gmt) these two teams were only two places apart on the table. Wigan’s new spot of 15th more accurately reflects the gulf in class between the two squads. Forced into constant fouling to keep the half time score respectable at 1-0, they had given up 13 free kicks to do so. Emmanuel Eboue must have compromising pictures of Arsene Wenger because his continual presence on the starter’s sheet is unfathomable otherwise. In the corresponding fixture last season this happened.

This game he managed to hold it together somewhat more convincingly, but the sooner any of Rosicky, Arshavin, Walcott or Nasri can make it through 90 minutes I will feel an overwhelming sense of relief. As it was the Czech featured in his first competitive game at the Emirates since an FA Cup draw with Cardiff City on January 25th, 2008.

 The real star though was Belgian Thomas Vermaelen. His scouting report from the usually impeccable Ajax Academy was that of a good but limited player. I am still waiting to see the same. With these two goals he is now the club’s leading scorer. The second was a work of true beauty.

Picking the ball up just forward of the centre circle and advancing 20 metres, pushed it left to Eboue and then ran through the middle plainly calling for the return. 59,103 people in the stadium could see this and thankfully EE did too and a) Diaby left it and b) Eboue managed a simple squaring maneuvre. Hitting it first time with his left foot the resultant curl perfectly brought the T90 Ascente inches inside Kirkland’s left upright.

 Continuing a theme for the weekend we move to Manchester for the first of Sunday’s derbies to see whether Citeh can continue their best ever start to a Premier League campaign.

At 2:25am (nzt), after 94 of the most thrilling, free flowing minutes of counter thrust football you would ever hope to see, the answer was yes. United took the lead three times but could only hold it for 14, 3, and 10 minutes each time. It is unfortunate then that the final memory will be one of, not so much a refereeing mistake – more indifference, say, because Martin Atkinson actually had an excellent game. Only for United’s third goal could any other questions be asked with an incredibly soft free kick awarded. This was duly fed onto Fletcher’s head from the boot of an irrepressible Ryan Giggs. For two such cosmopolitan teams, featuring players from nearly every Fifa confederation including the “infinitely yours SEOUL” marketing unit Ji Sung Park, the goals were scored by three Englishmen, a Welshman twice, and a Scot also twice.

Bellamy Fires One In

The Welshman, Bellamy, was particularly excellent on a day in which Citeh had £75 million of strike power sitting in the stands in civvies; Robinho could learn a thing or two about caps from Spike Lee. Even purer than Vermaelen’s the day before, from pretty much nothing he fired an absolute rocket from the left corner of the penalty area across into the top right corner. This time Foster could not be blamed. Citeh’s desire to prove themselves more than just a “small club” was best exemplified by Carlos Tevez and his hustle that saw him absolutely mug poor Foster and create Barry’s goal. Both Foster and the player formerly known as England’s premier centre half, Rio Ferdinand, should have to shine Michael Owen’s boots for the rest of the season.  All which leads me to set the Manchester United Cuntiness level for the first time this season.

Right now it is running at an inverse of the amount of relief expressed in the media after the All Black’s win on Saturday night.

 How do you follow up a game like that? The initial plan was to just record the action at Stamford Bridge but there was no way that sleep would come quickly with emotions running as high as they were. Yet was there any way that it would feel anything but anti climactic? Even the pitch looked like a pale imitation of that of the Theatre of Dreams, the smaller dimensions meaning the play was of a more intricate nature.

Chelski fully deserved their 3-0 win and are now the only holders of a 100% record now that the Manchester Blues have lost theirs. Carlo Ancelotti is the first manager ever to win his first six games in the Premier League and he also managed to get his team to put in an impressive post Champion’s League performance. Something they have been notoriously bad at. That he has restored a harmony to an unsettled squad is shown by the performance of the biggest malcontent of them all, Drogba who has equaled his entire league goal tally from last year in six games.


To finish I will leave you with the opening of the first stadium to be considered elite by Fifa in, of all places, Donetsk in the Ukraine.  Awesomely timed for the annual holiday that is Miner’s Day, appropriate as the team is named after a miner.  They threw a big party that featured of all people Beyoncé. No Kanye though…

– Tom Townley



Filed under Football, Premier League

2 responses to “Guest Post: Top Four Sunday

  1. ED

    East European football luminary Jonathan Wilson was apparently at the opening of that stadium, and managed to run into Beyonce backstage. Shame there was no football. Could it be that all the Ukrainian games of EURO2012 will be played in this stadium, as the others are behind schedule? Espanyol took an abject Liverpool side to the cleaners to open their new stadium in Barcelona, but maybe the should have got the Sugababes or similar for a touch of that post-Soviet showmanship that is so popular out East.

    Controversial refereeing at Old Trafford? Suggestions of a conspiracy? You’re starting to sound like a bitter Scouser their Tom.

  2. Tom Townley

    There was some football, it just featured aliens.

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