No major changes in the battle for the Premiership title at the weekend. Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all won. Chelsea did leapfrog Manchester City who play Liverpool tonight (Monday 11/04/11). Tottenham beat Stoke 3-2 but realistically they are not in the race for the title.
Manchester United beat Fulham 2-0 with both goals coming in the first half from Berbatov and Valencia. Wayne Rooney was of course absent, due to his 2 match ban for swearing into a TV camera in the game against West Ham. His boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, is also serving a touchline ban for criticising a referee.
Rooney and Sir Alex both complained that the ban was too harsh, but I am with the FA on this and better levels of behaviour are definitely required of Footballers. They have a bad reputation world wide and it is high time the sport stamped on these spoilt millionaires. I know here in Australia they are treated with disdain for their diving and feigning injuries, in a country where more full contact sports, namely AFL, Rugby League and Union are more popular. One thing that I have always believed that Football could learn from Rugby is to stop the arguing with referees. If a penalty is awarded in Rugby and the defending side argue with the referee, the penalty is moved forward 10 metres. If they continue to argue this is repeated until they stop. The same thing takes place in AFL only they move 50 metres forward. This could easily be repeated for free kicks in Football. It has an immediate effect on the game and I believe the change in attitude would quickly flow through all areas of player behaviour.
Anyway back to the results. Man Utd made 8 changes from the side that beat Chelsea 1-0 in the mid-week European Champions League clash. They look unstoppable at the top of the table. Arsenal now require them to make at least two major slip ups, including losing to Arsenal, in order to catch them. When they can make this many team changes and still win, coupled with their coming back from 2-0 down to beat West Ham 4-2 last week it looks unlikely to say the least.
Arsenal did at least make a comeback of sorts, with a 3-1 away win over struggling Blackpool, following Arsenal‘s recent run of 3 draws in the league. Diaby and Eboue both made an appearance in the starting line up and both played well, even getting a goal a piece. Fabregas also seemed to regain some of his old form, providing great vision and some beautiful through balls. Blackpool were always threatening though and in fact dominated for the first 15 minutes. Manuel Almunia injured himself in the warm up before the game and was replaced in goal by 41 year old Jens Lehmann. Lehmann looked confident despite his advancing years and not having played in the Premier League for 3 years. Too confident at times, frequently playing at the very edge of his box and sometimes outside of it. But I always rated him as a better keeper than Almunia, who definitely lacks confidence these days. Arsenal had numerous attempts on goal either blocked, or just missing. One of the best was a ripping shot from Nasri which beat the keeper, but just clipped the outside of the post. Although Blackpool defended well a times, both of Arsenal‘s first half goals looked easy, with Diaby unmarked, just needing to tap in a Van Persie cross. Eboue finished his run very well, but again the defending was lacking.
Blackpool made a comeback after the break with a goal from Gary Taylor-Fletcher. Lehmann brought down Blackpool forward Campell immediately before the goal and was lucky to remain on the field. It would have been interesting to see what Arsenal would have done about the goalkeeping situation, had he been sent off. Theo Walcott replaced Andrei Arshavin in the 61st minute and he injected more pace and thrust. With 14 minutes remaining he set up Robin Van Persie for Arsenal‘s third goal, to put the game out of Blackpool‘s reach.
I’ll watch with bated breath this week to see what Arsenal do to fix up their goalkeeper shortage, with 41 year old Jens Lehmann currently their only fit man for that position.