Nine things we learned from the weekend’s football
Because ten is one too many
1. Dimitar Berbatov is the worst signing in football since Seba Veron:
If anyone can name a truly big match Berbatov has turned or contributed to since he strutted in to Old Trafford last summer, could they kindly alert thespoiler. Surely £30million players should occasionally do that, or at least look like they are trying to.
At Spurs of course, Berbatov was a notorious flat-track bully, scoring just one goal against top-half opposition in his first season at the Lane. At United he has continued this trend, scoring this season against Wigan, Stoke and Sunderland.
Due to deference to Sir Alex, and how the spurs-obsessed media egged on the signing in the first place, the papers never analyse and corrode his transfer policy, as they do to Rafa. But this was bad, bad business indeed.
Fergie himself effectively recognised this when speaking to the weekend press about Berba’s strengths, declaring, “he knows when a short, simple pass is the best option.” Indeed – but there are probably cheaper players one can find on Hackney Marshes who can do that.
2. The Premier League is no good:
“Liverpool’s thunderous victory over Manchester United was a cracking scrap but where was the class?” So said Martin Samuel no less in today’s Daily Mail.
And in truth, that has been emblematic of the entire Premier League season. The most influential player on the game yesterday was probably Lucas. Jamie Redknapp’s post-match dissection informed us United were missing Darren Fletcher – both of whom are simply players who run around a lot and neither of whom one would pay to watch.
3. Barcelona are the best team in Europe this year:
Poor old Jermaine Pennant. Having been thrown onto the scrapheap in England, here was his chance back in the limelight at Camp Nou. He used Friday to mouth off about Rafa to ensure maximum pre-match press coverage, and Sky spent the weekend filling our screens with his blabber about how happy he was that his friends and family back in Blighty will finally get the chance to watch him play
So here old Jermaine was, at Camp Nou against the best team in the world. On the telly. And how did it go?
In truth, so awesome were Barca that Pennant might as well have been watching at home with his family too. He hardly touched the ball.
4. Mark Hughes spent badly in the summer:
£38m hasn’t bought him a decent pair of centre-halfs. Close to £50m on Tevez and Santa Cruz has yielded precisely two goals. The heat is now on City, who were always going to be reliant on results and momentum to keep a happy ship sailing along. Three draws in a row may spell trouble for Hughes.
5. Steve Bruce always buys well:
Hughes’ former United colleague on the other hand, does seem to understand the transfer market. Add Hugo Rodallega to a list that already includes Palacios, Zaki and Valencia.
6. Spurs start to the season hasn’t been as good as everyone thinks:
Ignore the freak win against Liverpool, and their other five wins have come against the five worst clubs in the division. Against top opposition, they have been found out time and again.
7. Ashley Young is getting back to his best:
Ever since Martin O’Neill hailed him a genius for that goal against Everton, Ashley Young hasn’t quite been himself. Villa fans will point to the absence of a natural left back behind Young as a cause of this trouble, with Luke Young filling in on his wrong side instead. As a result of having a right-footer on that flank, the ball down the line in behind which Young thrives on, has been that less frequent.
But with Saturday’s MOTM, and natural left-footer Stephen Warnock now ensconced as the Villa left-back, Young has been slowly getting back to business. He provided both goals in the victory against Chelsea, and his flick in the build-up to the Villa goal on Saturday was what Martin O’Neill would certainly call “genius”.
8. Steve Sidwell remains a true mystery:
Aston Villa’s points average per game with Steve Sidwell on the field is close to 2 pts better off than when he doesn’t play, yet nothing he does on the pitch suggests a reason for this. On Saturday, he cannoned the ball into Richard Dunne’s arse (admittedly a large target) rather than into an empty net, and for good measure, gave away the decisive penalty too. Surely it’s time for O’Neill to swallow his pride, and give Nigel Reo-Coker another chance.
9. Small, skilful players can no longer cut it in the Premiership:
The Championship’s two star performers this weekend, were two youngsters for whom there was no place in the physical minefield of the Premier League. Adel Taarabt and Peter Whittingham were deemed surplus to requirements at Spurs and Villa respectively, and are flourishing now in the Premier League. thespoiler is sad that there is no place in the top flight for these nimble, quirky players whom fans tend to adore.