Weekend Recap; Ooh to be a Gooner

If there ever was a set of weekend results that made every Gooner the world over elated, it was the events that transpired over the last 48-hours.  While it is still early days in the league after just five matches played, no one can argue against the bit of confidence that is starting to creep into the back of our heads, especially when we were the only side from last season's top seven to win at the weekend.

Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City kicked the weekend off with the lunch-time special, playing to a 2-2 draw at Loftus Road.  Despite their dominant play over the 90-minute period, Harry Redknapp's men have Niko Kranjcar's free-kick in the 88th minute to thank for the point they took away from the match.  Despite their much improved starting XI, QPR still have set the benchmark on underperforming.  Whether Redknapp is actually the problem, or if it's their inability to learn their lesson from two season's ago, you just have to wonder why QPR's ownership would rather take to comedy than trying to establish themselves as a modern footballing institution.

Papiss Cisse's brace off the bench rescued Newcastle from another horror show - but who knew he still had any idea where the goal was? (image courtesy of the official Facebook page of the Premier League)

Despite the supporter protest up north at St. James' Park, Alan Pardew lives to manage (or, well, not manage) another day in Geordie country, as Newcastle battled back from 2-0 down thanks to a brace from second-half substitute Papiss Demba Cisse; ironically, the Senegalese international is probably the only attacking player on the books at the club that was not bought this summer.  While there is no telling how long Pardew has on Tyneside (surely, that famous little book he has on the touchline must contain all the dirt he has on owner Mike Ashley; it's the only way he can still have gainful employment), it does not bode  well for his managerial prospects that the club sit at the bottom of the cellar despite all their transfer activity in the summer.

Could there have ever been a more boring match on the fixture list than Burnley v Sunderland? Bless their hearts when it comes to their supporters, an Turf Moor always boasts a brilliant atmosphere, but surely no one will be shocked by the 0-0 scoreline after 90-minutes.  It's tough to see how Burnley will avoid the drop this season, and as for Sunderland, there is unlikely to be much breathing room for them from the bottom three, if any at all.  Sen Dyche and Gus Poyet may be standup gentlemen, but neither is capable enough of pulling off any feats of magic this season.

The Ronald Koeman renaissance on the south coast continues to press on, as Southampton dispatched fellow upstart Swansea City 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium thanks to a second-half strike from substitute and disguised tank Victor Wanyama.  Koeman will surely be happy with the points but not the scoreline, as Swans striker Wilfried Bony was given his marching orders for a second bookable offense after a two-footed tackle on Japanese international Maya Yoshida in the first-half.  The Saints would go on to dominate the match, but if it wasn't for Wanyama's 80th minute goal, it would have surely been three points missed.  But their performances this season have dispatched any notions of struggle in the wake of the summer player exodus, with the club currently sitting in second.  They won't finish there, but talk of relegation has come to a swift end.

Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck both put in an excellent performance at Villa Park.  Along with Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the rest of the Gunners, it was the response we were all hoping for (image courtesy of the official Facebook page of the Premier League)

As for our performance, despite our excellent record at Villa Park in recent years, this may have been the first time that many Arsenal supporters had one or two question marks coming into the match.  Aston Villa sat second in the table before kick-off and we had just gotten embarrassed in Dortmund - enter Mesut Ozil, and a brilliant overall team performance.  In just a three minute span, a goal and an assist each from Ozil and Danny Welbeck (the goal was his first in an Arsenal shirt) plus an Aly Cissokho own-goal sealed all the points in Birmingham.

It was a performance of quality from the German-born Turk, his best for the club in quite sometime, where he was deployed in his favored number 10 role and given the freedom to roam and create.  But more importantly than Ozil getting back on track, was that we responded after the disaster in midweek, showing mental strength in a situation where at times in the past we would have struggled.  With Spurs and Chelsea up next in the league, Southampton this midweek in the Capital One Cup tomorrow and Galatasaray next week, this was a performance that was necessary if we are to negotiate a tough run of fixtures to come.

"This is where the fun begins" - Han Solo
As for the other five matches? Well, to say that each and every result would contribute to the collective grin that swept across the Gooner kingdom would be putting it mildly.

Two goals inside the first eight minutes from Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho at Upton Park saw West Ham pull off a smash and grab 3-1 win over Liverpool.  Whether it was a bit of a European hangover that Brendan Rodgers has never had to deal with before, or if the influence of Daniel Sturridge in the lineup is truly missed, Liverpool could not turn their possession into any points in the table come full-time.  Raheem Sterling did score a brilliant half-volley from outside the box to make it 2-1 before thirty minutes were played out, but Sam Allardyce's troop held on and were rewarded by new signing Morgan Amalfitano in the 88th-minute.  The result led to the same questions being asked by so many; did Liverpool spend wisely to replace Luis Suarez?  While there are only a handful of footballers who could actually replace the Uruguayan Dracula, the Reds are currently doing their best Spurs impersonation, and thus far it looks like their massive recruitment program this summer may not have been the best option.

Jamie Vardy may not have bagged a brace, but he was the catalyst with which the Foxes rallied around to earn themselves a brilliant result in front of their home support (image courtesy of the official Facebook page of the Premier League)

When you spend over 150million pounds on summer acquisitions and your manager is Louis van Gaal, you'd imagine that Manchester United would be on the up and up again.  The harsh reality for the Red Devils, is that they are now amidst a start to the season that was worse than under David Moyes last year after they lost to newly promoted Leicester City 5-3 at the King Power Stadium.  To compound the situation further, United were 3-1 up with just 33-minutes let in the match.  Four straight goals later (two of which came from the spot), and the Foxes completed one of the greatest comebacks in Premier League history, and arguably the greatest result in their history.  Jamie Vardy was the standout performer (despite Jose Ulloa bagging a brace), putting in a brilliant shift that was one of the most influential of the early days in the season.  After their first five matches, it is hard to think that Leicester will be in the thick of the relegation battle, but as for United, it my all well come good for them overall but they'll have to remember two important things; 1. just because LvG made a goalkeeping change for a penalty shootout, it doesn't make him a tactical genius, and 2. apart from their thrashing of Spain, the Netherlands struggled in every other match during the World Cup this summer under his stewardship.

West Bromwich would earn their first three-point haul of the season yesterday in a 1-0 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane.  New manager Mauricio Pochettino continues to head up "Operation Inconsistency" at a club who's recent exploits on the pitch are as hot and cold as Beyonce and Jay-Z.  It was never going to be easy for the Argentine gaffer, but after being unable to put his personal stamp on the squad this summer, Pochettino was left with a side that he had no hand in acquiring.  The loss was Spurs' second in three home matches thus far in the league, but the result lifted the Baggies out of the drop zone, though there is no telling if they'll be able to avoid slipping back down.  One thing is for sure, north London remains Red.

After a hugely successful first season at Goodison Park last year, Roberto Martinez is currently suffering a  sophomore slump at Everton.  The Toffees 3-2 loss at home against Crystal Palace saw them surrender three straight via Mile Jedinak, Fraizer Campbell and Yannick Bolasie after Romelu Lukaku's eighth minute opener.  A converted spot-kick from Leighton Baines in the 83rd-minute gave Everton a lifeline but they were unable to grab on with both hands.  Everton are now winless in three matches in front of their home support, surrendering an astonishing 11 goals.  While their away form has been solid, their home form must improve if they have any ambition of reaching the a similar high place as they did last campaign.

Frank Lampard refused to celebrate against his former club - a classy choice by a player who remains adored by the Chelsea faithful (image courtesy of the official Facebook page of the Premier League)

The weekend would be closed out by a titanic clash between the leagues pre-season favorites Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.  While I personally wanted Chelsea to get a roasting, the 1-1 draw that was played keeps Chelsea honest, while City continue their annual slow start to the league.  Andre Schurrle bagged the goal for the Blues, but it was former player and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard who leveled matters for the home side with just five minutes remaining - surely, no one could have written a more ironic storyline to a match.  Despite being one of the two pre-season favorites, City have yet to truly look impressive this season, though the draw against Chelsea was the first time the Blues failed to secure the maximum point haul.  Still and yet, with Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas leading  the charge, it's hard to look past Jose Mourinho's men in the title race.

Arsenal news from this morning;

  • Nacho Monreal will be out till mid-October
  • Mathieu Debuchy came through his surgery successfully, but will be out for three months
  • Arsenal take on Southampton tomorrow at the Emirates in the Capital One Cup, with Arsene Wenger potentially set to make a host of changes to the starting XI
  • Theo Walcott will not be available for the clash with Chelsea as first expected

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week - COYG!!

Andrew Thompson is a contributing writer at The Modern Gooner, Outside Of The Boot and We Are Hooligans - you can follow him on Twitter @AFCBvB1410