5 Things: Everton Outplay Chelsea, Dikgacoi's Red, Ozil Impresses, Altidore Robbed, Villa Crashing, Newcastle Rising
14 September 2013
The Premier League returned on Saturday and left us with plenty to talk about in its wake.
Everton Played Chelsea at Their Own Game and Caught Them Out Doing so
When I previewed this game, I completely forgot about the fact that over the years, Everton have been the one side that has somehow on a semi-regular basis gotten results against Chelsea. I guess many people, myself included, thought it had passed after the results Rafa Benitez got last season. However, Everton were patient, just organized enough, and caught Chelsea out on the counter to take a deserved victory against Chelsea in Saturday's tea-time kickoff.
There were two under rated players for Everton today. Gareth Barry's play in midfield acted like a glue that helped bind the midfield and back four. Besides getting back to block an Eto'o effort on what appeared to be an open goal after a Tim Howard mistake, he was all over the midfield disrupting Chelsea's play in the middle third of the pitch. The other player was Raul Mirallas. When Jelavic was substituted off before Chelsea went completely off the boil, moving Mirallas up top was the perfect foil to take the bite out of the Chelsea attack. His holding play allowed Everton back into their attacking half, resulting in Chelsea giving up plenty of late free kicks to milk time off the clock.
While Everton's goal may have technically been the run of play, they deserved a reward for being just organized enough in the first half. With Ramires left on an island due to too many Chelsea midfielders pushing forward, he was easily dispossessed. The cross to Jelavic was perfectly headed back across goal where Petr Cech failed to make an attempt to clear the ball. Steven Naismith had the easiest of headers to put Chelsea in front. This is the second time this season Chelsea have been caught out right before the interval, and I'm sure it will be something other teams quickly pick up on.
Chelsea is an absolute mess right now, and Jose Mourinho is doing nothing to make their compounding midfield problems any better. Eto'o had a much better performance than this result shows. His runs put him in advantageous positions but when the midfield gave him no service, it renders him useless. Furthermore, Jose's insistence of playing a back four with two players, Luiz and Ivanovic, out of position is also doing Chelsea a disservice. As much as Jose Mourinho may not want to admit this, Rafa Benitez found David Luiz's natural position as a defensive midfielder. It is embarrassing beyond belief that Chelsea are not playing Cesar Azpilicueta at right back, as Ivanovic and Terry is a much better center back partnership.
While Chelsea's fans can act delusional about how poorly their side has played in the opening month of the season, and not question Jose Mourinho, the manager needs to answer questions about why he cannot find his best eleven, and play them. He was embarrassingly caught out by Everton playing Chelsea's old game, and Jose Mourinho didn't have an answer for it.
Dikgacoi Deserved to be Sent Off
In a first half that was looking like the highlights would be early qualifying for the 2016 Olympic diving (Thought Evra should have been booked alongside Ashley Young), it was one moment of madness right before halftime that shaped Manchester United's 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
With two minutes to go before halftime, and Manchester United finally starting to work the ball into scoring positions, Ashley Young took a pass near the top of the 18. Young then collided with Kagisho Dikgacoi. Two separate challenges, within two seconds of each other, changed the course of the game. However, many are combining the challenges into one.
The first challenge occurred outside the 18 yard box. While it was a strong challenge, it was fair. The second challenged happened just inside the penalty area when Dikgacoi foolishly tackled Young. While Young had just nudged forward, it also appeared that Young was starting to fall to the ground. It was that second challenge that referee saw, and awarded the penalty on. From there, the referee had to adjudge the challenge denied a goal scoring opportunity. After that, the red card being shown was automatic.
While Manchester United looked shaky for large stretches of this game, they got the goals that mattered. It helped United that Crystal Palace only advanced forward once in the first half. It was also a chance that Gayle should have finished. While Ian Holloway may not have liked the red card, I believe it was the right decision to be made.
Mesut Ozil Impressive Debut for Arsenal
When any team spends 42.5 million pounds on one player, that player better come out of the gate on fire. Mesut Ozil did just today in Arsenal's 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light.
He picked up where he left off at Real Madrid. His service early to Giroud produced an early opener, and his service later to Walcott should have produced a second. It wasn't Ozil's fault that Walcott had a disappointing outing today. His short passes also allowed Arsenal to keep possession for extended periods of the opening half.
However, his biggest attribute today was what Ozil did for the rest of Arsenal's attacking midfielders. With Ozil on the pitch, Sunderland did not know which player to really mark. This allowed Ozil to create passes, and have others in plenty of space to create. This paid off twice for Aaron Ramsey today. I'm not convinced with Ozil on the pitch that Ramsey gets those opportunities. The space Ramsey had on the second goal was simply inexcusable for that time of the match.
If today's performance was indicative of what Ozil will do for Arsenal, then it was obviously the right buy. If they can keep him, and get the other injured players back soon, they will make their opening day performance look like an exaggeration in rather short order. It could be argued that Arsenal already has.
Jozy Altidore Disallowed Goal
The other big talking point from the Stadium of Light this afternoon came in the second half, when Martin Atkinson pulled back what appeared to be an obvious equalizer for Jozy Altidore. It is a decision that no one can logically explain why it was called back, and neither can I.
After a poor first half, Sunderland finally came out to play in the second half. Craig Gardner pulled one back from the spot not long after halftime, and had numerous opportunities to take the lead. However, after Ramsey pulled Arsenal back ahead, what looked a 50-50 struggle for a ball between Altidore and Sagna outside the penalty area was blown back for a free kick well before any opportunity for an advantage could be played. However, there is one minor flaw to this passage of play, Atkinson didn't whistle for the free kick until after Altidore had got past Sagna and had put the ball past Szczesny.
It wasn't until after the ball had crossed into the net did anyone realize that the referee had called the play back for a free kick, and a yellow card on Sagna. Had the referee taken the advice of the assistant referee, not only would the goal have counted, but Sagna still would have been booked for obstruction. With Sunderland incensed, the free kick was never a threat. Had the goal counted, I'm not entirely convinced the game would have ended in a two all draw, but the nature of the match does change.
Atkinson should be secretly thanking Ramsey he made it Sunderland 1 Arsenal 3 to at least semi-bail him out of the worst call of the weekend. It still doesn't excuse the call being completely blown.
Newcastle United on the Rise, Aston Villa on the Decline
After steadily declining performance for Aston Villa since their opening day victory at the Emirates, I think it's safe to say the opening day performance for Aston Villa was more an exception than the rule. The same could be said in reverse for Newcastle United after their opening day performance against Manchester City.
There is a significant difference to each side since those first performances. Newcastle United has found a way to maximize the full services of Hatem Ben Arfa. He was in the right place for the opener to finish a pass that was deflected past Cisse, and his set up shot late allowed Yoan Gouffran to clean up the Guzan save. It has looked since the West Ham draw that Ben Arfa has decided to put this Newcastle United side on his back, and his performances have shown it. If he can stay healthy for the whole season, Newcastle's safety won't be in doubt.
Teams have caught onto the fact if they can narrow Aston Villa's play, they can limit what they do on the attack. Villa's lone goal this afternoon came from a set piece, and it was one that would have probably been saved had Tim Krul not abandoned the goal mouth. During open play, Benteke was isolated, and as Villa got narrower and narrower, so did Aston Villa's ability to get forward.
When it's all said and done, Villa have to figure out how to create the width they did during the opening two games. If they can't do that, it might be a much longer season for Aston Villa than expected.
Those are my thoughts on what I witnessed today. What are yours? Let me know in the comments below.