I'd like to write about one of the highlight matches of the weekend, Manchester City's 1-0 defeat to visiting Stoke City. It's the upset of the season so far.
But I can't write about it. I didn't watch it. And neither did my Premier League recapping counterpart Dillon Friday (great minds, you know).
I watched Newcastle and Crystal Palace, a 3-3 thriller with Palace's Wilfried Zaha scoring in the 95th minute to seal the draw. Dillon watched his squad, Southampton, win 3-1 over West Ham.
I played the game out on paper before the game, like you're not supposed to. Stoke City finished ninth in the Premier League to Manchester City's first. Stoke had four players compete at the World Cup this summer while virtually Manchester City's entire team did. I thought Manchester City would score at will. And I'd bet that I wasn't the only one to think that.
It's not easy to see the upsets coming against teams like Manchester City or Chelsea. The first thing you have to go by is personnel. The gulf in talent between the top team in the league and the ninth team in the league is so big that it's just about impossible to pick the ninth team.
That's all the more credit to Stoke. They defended against the best attacking team in the Premier League without allowing a goal in 90 minutes. Defending takes more energy, more communication with your team and, at the end, sheer willingness by the players to do anything they can to stop Manchester City.
All that defense is supposed to set up the counterattack. The idea is to let Manchester City's players creep up the field so far in search of a goal that they're out of position. With that, all Stoke would need is one goal.
All Stoke scored was one goal.
One of the blue blurs is Vincent Kompany, widely considered one of the best in the world. I'm pretty sure he's the one Stoke's Mame Diouf beats first. Diouf gets style points for touching the ball to one side of the defender then running around the other.
Yeah, that's right. Stoke City stunted on Manchester City. And I missed it for a tie.
Chelsea Looks Like A Champion In August
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a title favorite. It's not that Chelsea was dominant in its 6-3 victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday — at times the hosts pushed the pace and nearly erased each deficit they faced. It's that the Blues adjusted to a game Everton team that refused to be beaten. Jose Mourinho has earned the reputation over the years as being a cynical tactician. He'll park the bus against tough opposition and rely on counterattacks to stimulate an otherwise dormant offense.
While he has certainly used those tactics, Mourinho is also the best manager in the world at maximizing his lineup. Branislav Ivanovic, who now has two goals in three games from right back, has become a threat on both ends of the pitch. Nemanja Matic fills the so-called “Makelele role,” a defensive midfielder who breaks up attacks in front of the back four and distributes to the more forward players, splendidly. He also found the score sheet against the Toffees when his left-footed strike deflected off an Everton defender and crashed into the goal off the post. Matic added an assist on Ramires' goal for good measure.
And then there's the signings of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, two players who have been nothing short of brilliant. Costa has four goals playing the sort of roaming, physical, striking role that Stamford Bridge last saw in a younger Didier Drogba. The Spaniard by way of Brazil timed his run perfectly on the opening goal of the match to beat the offside trap and then keeper Tim Howard. His second epitomized his afternoon, which included numerous confrontations not to mention scoring chances. Costa composed himself facing a sliding Howard and Sylvain Distin to neatly tuck in Chelsea's sixth and final goal.
Fabregas assisted on Costa's first goal with a typically incisive pass. Free from the tiki taka, Xavi to Iniesta to Xavi midfield at Barcelona, Fabregas is putting on the kind of box-to-box performances that made him a captain at Arsenal. He's simply been the best midfielder in England (through three games, but still).
What all of these players have in common — Ivanovic, Matic, Costa, Fabregas — is versatility. For that reason, they are all Mourinho players. Now that the Special One has brought in an additional striker, Loic Remy formerly of Newcastle, Chelsea is deep at every position. The Blues sit at the top of the table with nine points and a superior goal differential to Swansea City. It's a safe bet they won't budge much from that position. Hell, even the coy Mourinho called is club a real contender.
Don't Mess With Timmy Or His Boys
I don't know if there's a rule against taunting in the Premier League, but I'm pretty sure there's one about putting your paws on somebody in a violent fashion. Tim Howard doesn't mind bending a rule or two.
In their 6-3 trouncing of Everton, Chelsea striker Diego Costa thought it'd be good fun to taunt Seamus Coleman after the Everton defender turned the ball into his own goal.
Tim Howard didn't like that very much.
Ranking All 9 Goals In Chelsea 6, Everton 3
ONE: Diego Costa (6-3) — John Obi Mikel back heel? Step over? Off the post and in? Yeah, they saved the best for last.
TWO: Kevin Mirallas (2-1) — A terrific ball in from Coleman and superb attacking header from Mirallas. You rarely see world-class goalkeepers beaten from that far out, but it was a top notch finish.
THREE: Ramires (5-3) — Perfect one-touch soccer at the edge of the box between two defensive-minded players. Not fair.
FOUR: Samuel Eto'o (4-3) — Clever header from the veteran. More impressive considering the striker had just entered the game.
FIVE: Costa (1-0) — This is all about the pass from Fabregas. A beautiful move from Chelsea to start the match in style.
SIX: Steven Naismith (3-2) — Similar to Costa's first, this one is about the build-up play as much as it is the finish. Clever outside-of-the-boot strike from the in-form Scot.
SEVEN: Nemanja Matic (4-2) — Solid strike but definitely benefited from a deflection. Not a bad goal by any means.
EIGHT: Seamus Coleman O.G. (3-1) — Hazard's stellar run set up the goal, but you can't rank an own goal any higher than this.
NINE: Branislav Ivanovic (2-0) — Ivanovic was offside. This all but disqualifies the goal.
Ranking Manchester's Goals From Saturday
Carden's Goal Of The Week: Alberto Moreno Lights Up Spurs
Alberto Moreno has the dumbest jersey in the Premier League. Like other players, he went with his first name. Unlike other players, he added his last initial. It literally looks like "ALBERTOM" half the time.
The 22-year-old Spanish left back also scored one of the best goals in the Premier League this weekend in Liverpool's 3-0 victory over Tottenham.
This goal is about the player's pace and accuracy. It's hard to have one with the other, but Moreno dispossesses his man and flies down the lefthand side.
Tottenham's defenders don't offer much of a challenge to him, so Moreno keeps on going into the penalty area. He looks up and hits his shot perfectly, banking it into the goal off of the far post. That's exactly the shot you want to hit in that situation. Not many people can hit that shot. But this 22-year-old defender did.
Dillon's Goal Of The Week: Swansea's Wayne Routledge Flies ... Like A Swan?
Wayne Routledge really had nothing to lose when the ball bounced to him at the edge of the penalty area with Swansea City leading West Brom United 1-0. It came at a height that made everything difficult. He couldn't head the ball — he was too far out, and the pace of the ball was too slow. He couldn't trap the ball either. Routledge's only option was a jumping half volley, and well, he pulled it off spectacularly.
Swansea is currently second in the table with nine points from three wins (Chelsea, as we mentioned near the top, is ahead on goal differential.) They may not see these heights again all season. They certainly won't see a better goal.
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