EPL: Day 9, Part 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
October 18th, 2003 • 9:32 pm

Well, Arsenal is the only unbeaten side left in the English Premier League now. They beat Chelsea 2-1 at home today. It was a thoroughly enjoyable game, although the last 15 minutes (after the winning goal) were a bit too tense for my taste. Ray Parlour finally got a goal after less than 10 minutes, albeit a hardly spectacular one. Chelsea were level almost right away with a nice strike by Crespo — and there were shades of last year’s Arsenal team, unable to hold a lead. As has often been the case this season, however, Arsenal were stronger in the second half, and ultimately deserved the win and the 3 points, even though the goal itself was rather fortunate (or very unfortunate from the point of view of Chelsea keeper Cudicini). They dominated the game even though Chelsea stayed dangerous until the end.

What was particularly impressive was the combination of skill and grit, even in the absence of the suspended Vieira. I was particularly pleased to see players like Pires and even Henry get back to defend and regain possession when necessary. The problem with the Arsenal attack is sometimes that they don’t really do their bit in defending, which is pretty much required these days in football if you want to be a top team.

Even Bergkamp and Kanu, who only came on for the last 20 minutes or so, looked particularly sharp, with the Dutchman getting a lot of possession and the Nigerian hitting the post. It bodes well for the immediate future. The only player who was disappointing, I am afraid, was Sylvain Wiltord, who didn’t seem to be able to take advantage of possession when he had it.

Chelsea were not particularly impressive, as has often been the case so far this season, and they finally suffered the first EPL defeat that they have deserved to experience on the basis of their actual level of play. Players like Mutu, for example and Makelele, were pretty ordinary — and Veron himself is nowhere to be seen these days. I don’t know if it’s just a matter of “gelling” together as a team, but they cannot hope to rely on one-off wonder strikes such as the one by Crespo.

I am watching the tape-delayed Leeds United – Manchester United game right now, and it’s very boring and physical, as is often the case with Man U. I wish they didn’t end up winning all the same nearly all the time! I was glad to see Ronaldo get a yellow card for diving. Now this needs to happen more consistently (and I am not saying Arsenal is entirely innocent here), with video panel reviews after the fact if necessary. (See the outrageous Paulo Wanchope dive last week.)

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