Let’s all enjoy the not-so-shocking upsets.

by Ian Ford

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Okay, so I probably wouldn’t be writing that headline had Owen not rescued United from a defeat yesterday (our defending is giving me palpitations and fits of rage, more on which shortly).

But it’s hard not to welcome a weekend in which the artists formally known as the Big Four all failed to register wins — that hasn’t happened since December 2008. Variety is the spice of life, and an all too-rare commodity in the Premier League.

Despite this freaky weekend though, the table — as Martin Banks mentions elsewhere on this site — is already taking some kind of shape, with the new big four (i.e. City usurping Pool) filling their respected places.

It’ll probably stay that way too. They just have too much quality and/or money for anybody else to realistically challenge them for the top (except perhaps Spurs, but they are struggling to juggle the added claims on their squad made by the Champion’s League).

So, weekends like these are invaluable. They are shocking — literally and metaphorically upsetting — and they keep people watching. Purists would say we should refrain from analysing them in any real sense, we should just sit back and enjoy the fireworks (they are, after all, rarer than Bonfire Night).

But, me being a stickler and in need of a column, the question begs: just how much of a shock were the results really?

Let’s start with United, because their problems this weekend were the same they’ve been since the start of the season e.g. they cannot defend. Until they stop conceding two goals a game, victories are going to come at a premium.  The sooner Owen Hargreaves and Ferdinand return, and Jonny Evans is consigned the reserves, the better. Fact is, drawing at Bolton was not overly surprising.  

The same could be said of Chelsea losing to City. Their recent record against the new-money mafia is poor, having lost home and away against them last season. And while a stupendously easy start to the season led many to expect they would rectify last season’s failings and put these title-aspiring upstarts in their place — I certainly wasn’t one of them.

It would be wrong to call Chelsea flat-track bullies — they beat their title rivals home and away last season after all — but they are not the all-conquering force some idiots had interpreted them to be after beating a few crap and easily disheartened teams 6-0.

And you get the feeling some of those idiots are in the Chelsea side. Watching them mope about on Saturday it was hard to shake the feeling of complacency — that, although they undoubtedly knew City were improved opposition, they didn’t necessarily have to drive at it 100%.

City aren’t great, but neither are they mugs, and Chelsea paid the price for not playing with the same intensity they have since match day one. Entirely predictable.

Arsenal were the real shock.  

I wrote last week that they aren’t willing enough to fight for victories against physical teams. Well, Saturday’s performance provided the surprising revelation that they aren’t prepared to fight enough against teams who are playing the shadow form of the Arsenal way (at least until it’s too late). This bodes badly for their season.

That said, it was all too predictable they would concede with that arse between their sticks.

Maybe the purists are right. Shocking or not, let’s just enjoy weekends like these.

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