Man United back on top as Arsenal and Chelsea crash
Manchester United went back to the top of the Premier League after surviving a mighty scare against lowly Reading. It was a different story for Arsenal and Chelsea as they both lost and delved deeper into crisis mode.
The Premier League was treated to an incredible show of attacking flair and defensive ineptitude as Manchester United and Reading combined to score seven goals in the first 35 minutes at the Madejski. Set pieces were a cause of concern for both sides as Anderson and Rooney cancelled out goals by Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre and Morrison.
Star man Robin Van Persie eventually scored the winner in 34th minute after being left completely free by the Reading defence and calmly slotted the ball past the helpless Federici.
Despite a spirited performance, Reading were once more let down by their inability to defend even the simplest of situations. With 27 goals conceded already, and trailing five points behind 17th place, this defeat will no doubt continue to dent the Royals’ confidence in their ability to survive the drop this season.
Survival is already an issue for Benitez at Chelsea. After two poor 0-0 draws against Man City and Fulham, the Spanish manager was looking for his first win at his new club.
And it all started so well for the Blues… With an inspired Mata back in the side the European champions took over the game in the first half. Dominant in midfield, organised in defence, Chelsea took the lead through a nice flowing move, which involved Moses, Torres and Mata, with the little Spaniard applying the finishing touch with aplomb. However, their profligacy ensured that they only went in at half-time 1-0 up.
Rejuvenated by Allardyce’s introduction of Diamé in the second half, West Ham took the game by the scruff of its neck. A combative Carlton Cole came back to haunt his old club by beating Ivanovic for a fine header in the 63rd minute. Now in the ascendancy, the Hammers struck twice in the last ten minutes, first with a fine low drive by Diamé, then through Modibo Maïga after an uncharacteristic mistake by Ashley Cole.
Already unloved by many Chelsea fans, this defeat will have hurt Benitez’s standing, even amongst many neutrals.
Another manager under pressure is Arsène Wenger. His Arsenal team laboured in possession and created no chance worth mentioning throughout the game. They were thoroughly outplayed by a creative and dynamic Swansea team led by Michu and their flying wingers Routledge, Dyer and Pablo. It was testament to Arsenal’s poor performance that their goalkeeper Szczesny was their man of the match. Devoid of any incentive and rhythm, the Gunners proceeded to concede two late goals by Michu.
Now 10th, with their worst-ever start under Wenger, Arsenal look like a team running out of steam and in need of a push. Swansea, by contrast, are flying high and sit in 7th, only three points behind 3rd placed Chelsea.
In other games, a convincing Tottenham team came away with a convincing 3-0 away win at Fulham, with Jermain Defoe scoring two nice finishes to bring his tally to nine for the season.
The game was marred, however, by Gareth Bale’s fourth booking for diving already. Whilst there was contact by Steve Sidwell, the Welshman seemed to react in a particularly theatrical way, leading to many pundits and fans alike to openly criticise him for such antics. He is the Premier League’s most booked player for diving this season already.
QPR also continued their mini-revival under Redknapp with another draw but are still looking for their first win of the season. Meanwhile, West Brom’s good start to the season suffered its second consecutive defeat, this time at the expense of a resurgent Stoke side.
Manchester City are also still unbeaten thanks to Carlos Tevez’s equaliser from the spot after the impressive Marouane Fellaini had put Everton ahead. This leaves the champions three points behind their city rivals. Liverpool and Norwich also recorded home wins at the expense of Southampton and Sunderland respectively, sending both defeated clubs back near the relegation zone.
With results going United’s and City’s way, it looks like the title will stay in Manchester this year.
Baptiste Reynaud, Football correspondent