Game, Team and Player of Matchday 4

Yet another weekend has passed and the league is now starting to take shape with the likely frontrunners being Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. The bottom of the table is also one many expect it to be come the end of the season with Southampton propping up the table and Reading only just above them. But with Liverpool, Sunderland and Norwich still not tasting victory they are not too far away from the other teams in the league. However, Liverpool showed signs of improvement at the weekend and will not be down there at the end of the season.

Now onto team of the weekend and I would just like to say that the game at Goodison Park between Everton and Newcastle United was definitely a tale of two halves. If Everton had played the way they did in the first half for the full game they would have won the game comfortably, but then again if Newcastle had played the way they did in the second half they could have come away with all three points. But football is a 90 minute game and a team that did perform for most of the 90 was definitely Aston Villa who have been steadily improving under new manager Paul Lambert. They picked up a great point away to Newcastle and followed that up with against previously unbeaten Swansea City. It will be a morale boosting win and exactly what the club needed as a whole because a defeat would have been hard to take especially when they played so well. Along with the good result, Paul Lambert will be pleased that two of his summer signings Matthew Lowton and Christian Benteke scored their first goals for the club. But, the clear and deserved winners are Arsenal. The only disappointing thing about their game is that they conceded a goal after a mistake by Wojciech Szczesny. However, their impressive front line made easy work of Southampton and they could have had more than the six they did score. The goals came from Lukas Podolski, Gervinho and Theo Walcott and two own goals. A lot of people wrote off Arsenal and I still don’t think they will challenge for the title but they should have a great chance of finally winning a trophy. A word of warning though to Arsenal fans getting carried away, every season there is a score line like this at the Emirates and the players haven’t been able to maintain this kind of form in the bigger games.

Player of the weekend is a battle between the players that scored twice for their clubs in my opinion and they are Demba Ba, Jermain Defoe and Dimitar Berbatov. So, let’s start with the Fulham striker because when he is happy, he plays sensational football and at home in particular he will be a threat to every team. The way he took his first goal was sublime and the way he placed it was so casual that you can just tell that he does that sort of thing every day and doesn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t just his goals that was impressive, it was his movement and he just has a knack of finding space near the opponents goal. His ability has never been in doubt but he showed the Fulham fans that if they play to his strengths he will score and create chances for his teammates. Jermain Defoe is playing in a position that he is slightly unfamiliar and that is as a lone striker. Usually, a lone striker is someone that can hold up play and bring others into play but this is almost the opposite of what Defoe wants to do. As soon as he gets the ball, there is only one thing on his mind and that is to get a strike in on goal. Reading had no answer to his movement and could only watch on as he expertly finished two of his chances in their game. My player of the weekend though is Demba Ba and I know he only played 45 minutes but when a single player can change the fortunes of a team in that short space of time, he deserves a lot of praise. Within a few minutes of coming on he had got Newcastle level and they looked a completely different team and then when it looked like his team were going home with nothing he reacted brilliantly to a superb knockdown from Shola Ameobi and placed a shot underneath Tim Howard.

I think it is pretty obvious which game impressed me the most and got me the most excited but still there were some entertaining games, in particular the Arsenal game and the Tottenham games. Arsenal created chances at will and scored goals for fun and Tottenham followed suit a day later but couldn’t quite get as many goals. Both of the newly promoted teams also scored past them so that may give them confidence for the future, but they should probably put these games behind them and move on. So, my game of the weekend, Everton versus Newcastle, this game had absolutely everything, goals that should have been given and ridiculous refereeing calls, as well as goals and missed chances. The most entertaining few moments of possibly the whole season occurred during this game, Victor Anichebe got a header in on goal which goalkeeper Steve Harper tipped onto the bar with Mike Williamson clearing it, however the ball was over the line, but the referee and his assistants missed it which led to a counter attack for Newcastle which saw Hatem Ben Arfa running with the ball against one defender with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse breaking either side of him making it a three on one situation. However, they were stopped in their tracks when the referee called the game back for a free kick on Ben Arfa even though he had regained his balance and was looking to beat the defender. Two very bad decisions in the space of about 15 seconds. A draw was probably a fair result even though both will feel they could have grabbed all three points. Plus, Everton had a goal disallowed for offside even though Marouane Fellaini was onside so they may feel slightly more annoyed by the result.

Do you agree with me? Who stood out for your team this week?

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Players of the day- Dimitris Salpigidis and Andrei Arshavin

Euro 2012 kicked off with two very entertaining games as co-hosts Poland drew against Greece and Russia destroyed Czech Republic.

The quality in the first game may not have been the greatest but there was certainly enough to suggest that this could be one of the best competitions in recent years. Poland took the lead through their main striker Robert Lewandowski after Kostas Chalkias’ couldn’t reach a superb cross from the right. Poland looked in control and they should have been comfortably in front and the home support must have thought it was game over when Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off for two very harsh bookings. But the second half didn’t quite go to plan with Dimitris Salpigidis scoring an equaliser after yet another error but this time from the Poland keeper, Wojciech Szczesny. The game went from bad to worse for the Arsenal goalkeeper as he conceded a penalty and was sent off. Fortunately for him substitute keeper Prezemyslaw Tyton saved the spot kick and kept the Polish on level terms. There was still enough time for a disallowed goal and a good chance for Georgios Samaras but 1-1 it finished.

Man of the match- Dimitris Salpigidis- The Greece substitute changed the game when he came on at halftime and whatever the manager said to him clearly worked. The team in the first half looked old and lacked creativity to break down the Poland defence but Salpigidis came on and added new energy to the side and was rewarded with a simple goal. He then broke the offside trap and got to the ball before Szczesny who took him down and gave away a penalty. Just before the end he thought he had won the game but unfortunately the player that crossed him the ball was offside. He deserves to start the next game and he provides a goal scoring threat which their original starting 11 didn’t.

Salpigidis has now scored eight international goals

Onto the next game and Russia showed why they are one of the teams to watch in this tournament with some fantastic counter attacking football. With goals from Alan Dzagoev, Roman Shirokov and Roman Pavlyuchenko, the Russian team look like they could be an outsider to win the whole trophy. Going forward at times they cut the Czechs open at will and if Aleksandr Kerzhakov had his shooting boots on it could have been an even more convincing score line. Vaclac Pilar managed to grab a goal for Czech Republic and even though they were badly beaten they will take encouragement from the game and will believe they can beat both Greece and Poland.

Man of the match- Andrei Arshavin- The winger was in very good form and he just seems to love the European Championships. He impressed in the 2008 tournament and he looks like he is going to be one of the best players in this tournament too. It makes you wonder why he couldn’t produce this form for Arsenal. His passing was spot on and he was not scared to try an ambitious ball. The captain showed all his talent and his only disappointment will be that he couldn’t get himself on the score sheet.

Arshavin spent the second half of last season on loan at Zenit St Petersburg