Premier Ratings: City dare to believe as Chelsea & United endure hell
FourFourTwo.com's Christopher Cox runs his eye over the weekend's efforts in the Premier League...
Manchester City Ã¢ÂÂ 10(Man Utd A, W 6Ã¢ÂÂ1)Quite extraordinary, thoroughly deserved and highly entertaining. All hail the Premier League champions elect? This was without question the most momentous result in the Premier League for quite some time and one that was a joy to watch. Silva, Balotelli, Dzeko and Aguero lit up the Manchester derby (no jokes about BalotelliÃ¢ÂÂs bathroom, please) and theyÃ¢ÂÂve put smiles on the face of just about every neutral in the land. City don't have to dare to dream anymore. They can dare to believe.
Queens Park Rangers Ã¢ÂÂ 8(Chelsea H, W 1Ã¢ÂÂ0)Have QPR played a part in the most pivotal weekend of the 2011-12 season to date? Their pressing game prevented Chelsea from playing their usual fluid and flowing football in the first half, the one that ultimately counted. Barton looked every inch the perfect captain, his decision to take the ball off of Taarabt prior to the penalty paid off for a huge three points.
Sunderland Ã¢ÂÂ 8(Bolton A, W 2Ã¢ÂÂ0)This huge win for Sunderland will ease the pressure on Steve Bruce, though realistically it was a game that could have gone either way. The victory was a timely one - being just the fifth the Black Cats have mustered in their last 23 league outings. Eight out of ten for the magnitude of this result and the potential for it to be a turning point. Perhaps weÃ¢ÂÂll see more of the prodigious Connor Wickham in the coming weeks, too.
Norwich Ã¢ÂÂ 7.5(Liverpool A, D 1Ã¢ÂÂ1)A result Canaries fans will be rightly proud of. TheyÃ¢ÂÂve not been overawed by the Ã¢ÂÂbig teamsÃ¢ÂÂ this season and itÃ¢ÂÂs as good a draw as theyÃ¢ÂÂll get all season, especially given how Liverpool rallied late on. This result is another confidence booster and Norwich look almost certain to stay up if performances and results continue in this vein Ã¢ÂÂ what a set of saves by keeper John Ruddy, too.
Everton Ã¢ÂÂ 7(Fulham A, W 3Ã¢ÂÂ1)ItÃ¢ÂÂs hard to see Everton winning all that many games on the road this season Ã¢ÂÂ they only managed four last term Ã¢ÂÂ so this will have gone down very well with the clubÃ¢ÂÂs rather concerned fanbase. At times the Everton defence was like the Alamo as Fulham rained in shots and duly got their equaliser. It could have been worse had Zamora not missed a sitter, but Saha and RodwellÃ¢ÂÂs late late strikes provide a fortunate yet welcome three points.
Arsenal Ã¢ÂÂ 7(Stoke H, W 3Ã¢ÂÂ1)ArsenalÃ¢ÂÂs record against Stoke may be horrible, but Van PersieÃ¢ÂÂs in front of goal is fantastic. A good win for the Gunners, but they need to learn how to score without their captain. Positives? Fourth place is up for grabs again based on this performance, but results like this need to keep coming. As for negatives, look no further than Chamakh Ã¢ÂÂ lazy, tepid and just not a very Ã¢ÂÂArsenalÃ¢ÂÂ player.
Tottenham Hotspur Ã¢ÂÂ 7(Blackburn A, W 2Ã¢ÂÂ1)Job done. Van der Vaart was in scintillating form and Spurs have averaged two points per game, a record which, should it continue, will put Harry RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs side in a very strong position in the race for a top four spot. They took the opportunities presented to them on the Ewood Park pitch and off it Ã¢ÂÂ with Liverpool only drawing, this was a good weekend for the men from White Hart Lane.
West Brom Ã¢ÂÂ 7(Aston Villa A, W 2Ã¢ÂÂ1)The talking points will be Alan HuttonÃ¢ÂÂs tackle and Chris HerdÃ¢ÂÂs red card, not the BaggiesÃ¢ÂÂ win, which is unfortunate. Hard-fought wins like this point toward a mid-table finish for Roy HodgsonÃ¢ÂÂs men, and full credit to them for capitalising on the opportunity presented to them. A good win and their first at Villa Park since Art GarfunkelÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂBright EyesÃ¢ÂÂ was number one in the hit paradeÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Newcastle Ã¢ÂÂ 7(Wigan H, W 1-0)It took 81 minutes to come but their fans wonÃ¢ÂÂt mind. Newcastle knocked on the door throughout the game against lowly Wigan and theyÃ¢ÂÂve now cemented their place as a top half team. Measures of a good team include grinding out results, finding that goal from somewhere just as it looks as thought all hope is lost and beating the underdogs when required to do so. Newcastle met all those requirements on Saturday.
Swansea Ã¢ÂÂ 6(Wolves A, D 2Ã¢ÂÂ2)Not a result Swans fans will look back on fondly, but the performance was certainly impressive. It was all going swimmingly, with Vorm playing the game of his life, another goal for Ã¢ÂÂGoldenÃ¢ÂÂ Graham and a 2-0 lead that looked unassailable - but they then blew it against a side who had looked awful at best for most of the 90 minutes. A worrying sign, not least in a match against a potential relegation rival.
Wolves Ã¢ÂÂ 5.5(Swansea H, D 2Ã¢ÂÂ2)For a long time it looked as though Mick McCarthyÃ¢ÂÂs men were in trouble Ã¢ÂÂ as was the man himself, with boos ringing around Molineux owing to some Ã¢ÂÂinterestingÃ¢ÂÂ substitutions. Wolves were abysmal and yet somehow got the two goals to level it up but this is by no means a bright new dawn for Wolves. ItÃ¢ÂÂs probably fair to say they papered over the cracks with their point rather than building towards anything solid.
Liverpool Ã¢ÂÂ 5.5(Norwich H, D 1Ã¢ÂÂ1)While Liverpool are ambitious, it doesnÃ¢ÂÂt look as though this season will be the one where they get back into the top four. This wasnÃ¢ÂÂt as bad a result as, say, their loss to Wolves last season, but it may have a brought back a few bad memories of the Hodgson era for some Reds fans. You donÃ¢ÂÂt qualify for the Champions League without winning home games against sides outside the elite, so a draw against a newly promoted team is no good to them.
Aston Villa Ã¢ÂÂ 5(West Brom H, L 2Ã¢ÂÂ1)On paper Villa had the better team, but this reign of Alex McLeish seems to be defined by the clubÃ¢ÂÂs continuing run of below par performances and underwhelming results. Villa are in a rut and losing to West Brom at home will be seen as unacceptable by the clubÃ¢ÂÂs fans. With five of last seasonÃ¢ÂÂs top six coming up in the next ten matches, could things be set to get worse before they get better?
Wigan Ã¢ÂÂ 5(Newcastle A, L 1-0)Only losing 1Ã¢ÂÂ0 is almost an achievement for Wigan these days, especially when facing a side in as ruthless form as Newcastle are at present. It seems nothing has changed since that final day relegation decider last season, and it feels like light-years since those euphoric scenes at the Britannia. How they will regret RodallegaÃ¢ÂÂs missed chance in the first halfÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Fulham Ã¢ÂÂ 5(Everton H, L 3-1)A winnable fixture and for most of the game Fulham played as if they would take at least something, with the Cottagers creating several chances to put themselves in front. Bryan RuizÃ¢ÂÂs audacious chip will have inspired the Craven Cottage faithful but it was a completely false dawn. Seven points from nine games isnÃ¢ÂÂt good enough, nor were their squandered opportunities. There is a slight bit of hope on the horizon Ã¢ÂÂ Wigan away up next...
Stoke - 5(Arsenal A, L 3Ã¢ÂÂ1)Maybe the good old days of Arsenal being intimidated by Stoke are over, maybe they suffered from hard luck due to an inspired substitution. Either way, Stoke lost 3Ã¢ÂÂ1 at the Emirates which in itself is hardly humiliating, though Tony Pulis will be concerned his side once again fell short following a midweek European match. Still, another goal from Crouch proved just how good a signing he is.
Bolton Ã¢ÂÂ 4(Sunderland H, L 2Ã¢ÂÂ0)What is going on at the Reebok? Answers on a postcard please, as itÃ¢ÂÂs baffling stuff. Following last weekendÃ¢ÂÂs success over Wigan, youÃ¢ÂÂd have tipped Bolton to record back-to-back wins due to SunderlandÃ¢ÂÂs equally poor start to the season. Is this a sinking ship? Owen Coyle is constantly praised for having a commendable Ã¢ÂÂfootballing philosophyÃ¢ÂÂ, but has he met his match? Can he show strength in a relegation battleÃ¢ÂÂ¦?
Blackburn Rovers Ã¢ÂÂ 4(Tottenham H, L 2Ã¢ÂÂ1)How long can Rovers stick with Steve Kean? In truth, itÃ¢ÂÂs surprising heÃ¢ÂÂs lasted this long. The league table tells you all you need to know, five points from nine games, one win and five defeats. The ineptitude of sides around them is the only thing preventing them from being completely cut adrift.
Chelsea Ã¢ÂÂ 3(QPR A, L 1Ã¢ÂÂ0)Horrific. David Luiz, Jose Bosingwa and Dider Drogba let their team down in quite some fashion at Loftus Road. Luiz has looked defensively shaky in recent weeks and giving away the penalty wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt have helped his confidence. Bosingwa showed glimpses of his Ancelotti-era self with a clumsy tug on Shaun Wright-Phillips that drew a red card, while DrogbaÃ¢ÂÂs tackle and sending off was a result of his sheer frustration at being isolated up front. Bouncing back from this will be Villas-BoasÃ¢ÂÂ first real test.
Manchester United Ã¢ÂÂ 1(Man City H, L 6Ã¢ÂÂ1)There canÃ¢ÂÂt be many weekends when you see a one out of ten rating for the champions, but this is deserved Ã¢ÂÂ it may well have been zero were it not for Darren FletcherÃ¢ÂÂs goal. A horrendous result for United, who rang the changes - as they had done at Liverpool - and they again paid the price. EvansÃ¢ÂÂ dismissal shouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be an excuse for the margin of defeat - United looked stale with 11 men and those left on the pitch looked largely disinterested.