Thursday, August 24, 2006
Before the season began, AC and I were discussing the top 4, as usual, and we were wondering where the goals for Manchester United were going to come from. Since losing their, eh, thoroughbred striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, and their lack of activity in the transfer market, I started to wonder if Sir Alex Ferguson was losing it.
Despite leading the league in goals, the Dutchman’s bucket of oats was rudely rescinded and he spent much of the end of last season on the bench in favor of Louis Saha. Van Nistelrooy ended up with Real Madrid, which left Man U’s scoring options to be Wayne Rooney and brittle Louis Saha. Where are those 20 goals going to come from, I thought.
Fast forward not even a week into the Premier League season and the Red Devils sit atop the table, with 6 points from two games and a goal differential of 7.
Chelsea, most recently embarrassed by Middlesbrough on Wednesday night, are in seventh place with 3 points. Liverpool salvaged a point from their match with promoted Sheffield United, with a penalty kick awarded on a dubious foul. They sit in thirteenth place with one point. Arsenal, very nearly embarrassed by Aston Villa on opening day at their new Emirates Stadium, sit in twelfth place with as many points as Liverpool. Both Liverpool and Arsenal have a game in hand on both Chelsea and Man U.
I guess you can never doubt the ruddy Scot, Ferguson, but you can definitely doubt the fitness of the remaining three of the top four.
Chelsea, though capable of moments of brilliance through individual players, have looked either competent or terrible, as was evidenced last night with their nonexistent marking of Emanuel Pogatetz in the box, where he scored a header from a Fabio Rochemback free kick. Their mounting injury list (Robben, Cole, Cech and Ballack) and absence of William Gallas cannot help.
Arsenal were not impressive at all in their first league game at Emirates Stadium. A late equalizer from Gilberto, with an assist from Theo Walcott, was the result of a tired Aston Villa defense, and the Gunners looked like they missed the cozy confines of the old Highbury. The optimistic talk surrounding Walcott is perhaps the only good thing coming out of North London at the moment, with Henry reportedly at 60% fitness, and their own injuries (Clichy, Diaby, Senderos, Reyes, and Lauren) and the on-going saga with the Ashley Cole-Chelsea affair.
Liverpool look to have some major problems. Their uninspiring draw against Sheffield United aside, they managed to secure a place in the Champions League, squeaking by Maccabi Haifa on 3-2 aggregate, but losing key players to injury in the process (Sissoko, Carragher, Riise, and Warnock).
It looks like Manchester United are off to the start they wanted last year, and could quite possibly rack up the points early, as Chelsea is known to do in the last two years. With two more games to go without Rooney and Scholes, against Watford and Spurs, if the Red Devils can pick up points while Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool struggle with form and fitness, we could see Ferguson sitting pretty in the top spot for a good portion of the season.
Premier League Table
Premier League Fixtures