Weekender: Missing history, infrequent derbies and a timely rant

1) Willy and Manu will miss out on making historyWith Spurs defender William Gallas set to miss Sunday’s meeting with former club Arsenal, he and new Tottenham teammate Emmanuel Adebayor will miss out on the chance to make a bit of history. The pair were set to become the first two players to feature together for both clubs in a North London derby. Regardless of who they first appear together in white shirts against, they will become only the second duo to have played together for both North London sides, following in the footsteps of Steve Walford and Willie Young – albeit the other way round. Walford and Young first lined up together for Terry Neill's Tottenham against Ipswich Town on January 31 1976, but Neill soon made the controversial switch to Arsenal and took Walford and Young with him. The pair played together for Arsenal several times.

2) Over familiarity breeds contempt...There are three big derby matches in the Premier League this weekend, but for QPR and Fulham it will be the first ever in the top flight. Liverpool and Everton are far more familiar when it comes to ‘enjoying’ eachother’s company at English football’s top table - the Merseyside Derby is the most played top-flight derby in England, with Saturday’s set to be the 185th. Spurs and Arsenal, meanwhile, will meet for the 149th time in the top division. Yet those records are dwarfed by the Old Firm, with last weekend’s meeting at Ibrox the 301st between the Glasgow giants in the top flight. That’s what happens when the two biggest teams in the country are pitted against one another more often than the average octogenarian goes to the lavatory…

3) If you want goals, head to the Reebok this weekend...Bottom of the table Bolton Wanderers are the only team in the Premier League or Football League whose league matches have all featured three goals or more. Next up for the Trotters? Chelsea, a team who have scored four goals on their last two trips to Bolton, and have the highest number of different goalscorers in the Premier League so far this season (10). It could be another long afternoon for the Lancashire side and their be-shorted manager.

4) This is England's worst Champions League in eight yearsThis is the worst start four English clubs have had to a Champions League group stage. Two measly wins and eleven points from eight matches do little to support suggestions the Premier League is ‘the best league in the world’.While Arsenal and Chelsea may be happy with four points apiece, Manchester United will be concerned at having drawn twice against what they’d consider weaker opposition – and their city rivals, err, City, will be nervous at having just one point to their name.This is a stark contrast to the 2006/07 season, when Liverpool’s draw in Eindhoven was the only blemish on the start made by the English ‘Big Four’ (remember them?). Three English sides made the semis that year, too, with Rafa Benitez’s Reds losing 2-1 in the final to AC Milan.Still, at least it’s not 2003/04. That was the last time England didn’t have four representatives in the group stage – Newcastle failed to qualify. Even so, it wasn’t the best start for the three that made it. Arsenal were battered 3-0 at home by Inter and struggled to a 0-0 at Lokomotiv Moscow, Manchester United suffered a 2-1 defeat in Stuttgart and Chelsea lost 2-0 at home to Besiktas.

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However much Carlos Tevez may try and avoid it, there was some compelling action taking part on football pitches across Europe over the last seven days.

Last Saturday saw Manchester United flinch for the first time in the title race, drawing 1-1 at Stoke in a typically full-blooded encounter. City seized the chance to move back level on points with their rivals with a 2-0 win over Everton.

The chasing pack all won too, with Chelsea, Spurs and early surprise packages Newcastle dispatching of Swansea, Wigan and Blackburn respectively.

There were also wins for relegation candidates Norwich - who beat Sunderland 2-1, and Arsenal (tee-hee) - who were much-improved in a 3-0 victory over Bolton.

In the Football League - the very bottom of it, no less - beleaguered Plymouth finally won a League Two match. Argyle disposed of Macclesfield 2-0 just days after sacking poor old Peter Reid. Whether or not it cheered him up remains to be seen. Similarly, Championship side Doncaster Rovers sealed a first league win of the season, having replaced Sean O'Driscoll with Dean Saunders just a day beforehand.

Crystal Palace came from behind to win at rivals Brighton, though that Championship clash was overshadowed by the midweek Champions League action.

It was a rather mixed week for the English sides, with Manchester United slumping to a disappointing draw with Swiss side Basel, City being defeated in Munich and Chelsea blowing a lead late on at Valencia thanks to a mindless moment from Salomon Kalou in the penalty area. It was left to 'crisis club' Arsenal to find a win, with Greek champions Olympiacos beaten 2-1 at the Emirates.

It was a better night in the Europa League on Thursday, with all four English sides winning. Stoke beat Besiktas, Fulham overcame Odense, Birmingham came from behind to beat Maribo, while Spurs recovered from a scare to eventually put Irish minnows Shamrock Rovers to the sword.

Finally, a word on that man Xavi Hernandez. Barcelona's midfield maestro completed more passes in the first half of the European champions' match away to BATE Borisov on Wednesday than the entire Belarussian side. He's good. Good at football.

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Warnock's unusual rant was the right move

Neil Warnock has never been a man to mince his words. That’s why, even after lingering for a good hour inside the surprisingly swish Loftus Road media suite in the wake of QPR’s dramatic 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Sunday, his belated arrival at the post-match press conference still aroused in me a pang of keen anticipation. This, I thought, will surely be good.

I figured he would rail against referee Michael Oliver’s admittedly mystifying decision to award Villa a penalty just after the interval, and question how Alan Hutton had afterwards gotten away with several pieces of defending more in keeping with basketball than the beautiful game. He did.

I also thought he might bring up namesake Stephen Warnock’s ugly-looking challenge on his skipper Joey Barton midway through the first half, the kind of challenge Barton himself has subjected many an unfortunate opponent to in his controversial career.

That he didn’t was surprising, but even more so was the vitriol he reserved for the tackle which earned full-back Armand Traore, recently signed from Arsenal, a second yellow card with a minute of normal time remaining.

“I thought it was a disgrace, and I’ll fine him as much as I can,” Warnock said of the incident. 

“I pulled him back in the tunnel to tell him what a disgrace he was. I think he understood what I was saying. It’s not clever at all.”

The QPR boss then went on to temper his criticism with the more standard ‘he’s a young lad and a very good player so I’m sure he’ll learn from this’ line, but it was the cutting nature of his initial remarks which stuck – both in the mind and in the following day’s headlines.

While Warnock’s response was utterly justified, it was still extraordinary. In an era of unprecedented media coverage, it has become virtually unheard of for a top level manager to chastise one of his own players so unequivocally in public.

Warnock’s public reprimand does not guarantee that Traore will never get needlessly sent off again, but it will certainly make him think twice before making further rash decisions which could have dire consequences for his team.

So too will the rest of the QPR squad, for fear of being subjected to similar treatment in the future. The boss has made his point, and made it well.

Although one wonders whether Warnock would have been quite so vociferous in his criticism had the player in question been Adel Taarabt or, heaven forbid, Joey Barton. Twitter might have exploded with the backlash…

– Liam Twomey, FourFourTwo.com writer

Read the full feature here

We're busily transferring over 15 years of FFT interviews to our online archive. Among the 400 we've uploaded so far:

"I wasn't a Tottenham fan; I was a Hoddle fan"One on One, Feb 2011: Dennis Bergkamp

"I did my diploma as a baker. My speciality? Swabian pretzels"Ask a Silly Question, Dec 2007: Jurgen Klinsmann

"His goal against the English was amazing. It was something only a genius could do"Tevez on Maradona, 2008: Carlos Tevez

This Weekender was brought to you by James MawRyan Peasland, Tom Hocking and the Lithuanian basketball team for trying

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