Jen Offord picks out five features of the Premier League weekend, including Alan Pardew’s burgeoning reputation at Palace, some welcome signs of life at Newcastle, and Villa’s tortuous slide into the Championship.
Hart is awfully honest
Joe Hart had an outstanding afternoon on Saturday, both on and off the pitch. The England No1 made some good saves in the 2-1 win over Swansea on a sodden, rainy day at the Etihad Stadium. Hart notably denied Gylfi Sigurdsson on four occasions – most impressively from a second half free-kick – and also prevented Wayne Routledge in the opening moments of the game when through one-on-one with the keeper.
Were it not for Hart’s heroics, then City would almost certainly have dropped more points in their up-and-down campaign, but, if anything, his post-match interview comments were even more commendable.
Always one for being refreshing honest, Hart echoed the sentiments of almost everyone, stated: “It’s a big win – considering we were awful.”
Villa predictably lost
Arsene Wenger had another one of his “perfect weeks”, following up the Champions League win over Olympiakos by going top of the league after beating Aston Villa 0-2. Jack ‘the lad’ Grealish returned to the pitch for Villa (Remi Garde presumably having made the decision that this is not a time for principles, given his team’s current standing in the league. Or sitting, if you prefer). Regardless, it wasn’t enough to bother a buoyant Arsenal.
But the Gunners may not be top of the league for long, with Leicester taking on Chelsea this evening – the inference of this sentence having once been something altogether different. Asked after the game if he’d ever experienced a season like this, Wenger responded: “Honestly, no – it’s so unpredictable.”
Perhaps the easier prediction (and I’m looking at you, Villa, with six points from 16 games) is which teams might end up in the Championship next season, rather than the Champion’s League.
Alan Pardew: The people’s prince
Alan Pardew went from villain – not for any specific reason, just because he’s generally quite an angry man, it seems – to hero again this week, joining Palace fans in a local pub to take some questionable selfies. Pards and assistant Keith Millen joined a fan group to celebrate their tenth birthday and, of course, Palace beating Southampton 1-0 to go sixth in the league.
But enough of my cynicism; I actually like Pards and, somewhere between his fanbase heroics and the falconry display ahead of the match, it was almost enough for me to rouse some level of respect for Palace. It’s a dark day when a Charlton Athletic fan has to admit this, but credit where it’s due: who could have foreseen such a great start to Palace’s season?
Problems stack up for LVG
Even with the other myriad problems Manchester United may or may not have at present, Bournemouth certainly gave them some others to think about. Marouane Fellaini scored the first equaliser for the Red Devils – his first league goal since May, possibly because he’s only been played in half the games this season and, well, he’s not even an attacking midfielder. He did a good job to hit the net having stumbled to his knees, but it certainly wasn’t all that nice to look at (which pretty much encapsulates United’s season so far).
The 2-1 defeat was a poor end to a miserable week for Louis ‘Old Elvis’ van Gaal, whose team had bombed out of the Champions League just days before. The Dutchman has lost the backing of the fans; seems to have lost many of the most talented players that he inherited from David Moyes; and on Saturday named a team line-up that would have been surprising if it hadn’t simply followed his trend of bizarre selections.
Turning over a New leaf?
Newcastle pulled their collective, lazy finger out for long enough to rustle up a victory against contenders for the top four, Tottenham, on Sunday. Spurs, who have enjoyed a very respectable start to the season, would’ve easily been the bookies’ choice ahead of the game, with the Magpies perpetually languishing towards the bottom of the table.
But perhaps last week’s similarly unexpected win over Liverpool spurred them (no pun intended) to victory this week. It puts Newcastle up to 16th – one place above Chelsea. But, as it’s now ironically predictable to note, there’s almost no telling how tonight’s game might end. I don’t think I’ve been so excited about a football match, well, ever.