Worst discipline – Cattermole
Most teams have one – a player who adds little in attack, who opposition fans struggle to understand, because he brings little to the team. Yet his own fans adore him, thanks to his passion. Think Vinny Jones for Wimbledon, or Dennis Wise for Chelsea.
Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole is one such player. He is a galvaniser, a fist-pumper who pressurisers the opposition’s creative players, leads from the front, plays with his heart on his sleeve and makes tackles galore.
One problem – he cannot tackle.
His red card on Saturday at Hull City was the seventh of his Premier League career. Only Patrick Vieira, Duncan Ferguson and Richard Dunne have received more. The first two have retired and Dunne is 34.
Cattermole is only 25. Steve Bruce was Cattermole’s manager at Wigan Athletic and Sunderland, but is now at Hull.
“Thankfully he’s not mine to manage anymore,” he said after Hull’s 1-0 win on Saturday.
“He’s got to learn and I’m sure he will … eventually.”
Best start – Arsenal
Remember when Arsenal lost their first game of the season at home to Aston Villa? Coupled with a lack of summer signings, it was the perfect combination to declare a crisis. Nine games later and Arsenal have a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
The media have gone from asking whether manager Arsene Wenger should be sacked to pondering whether Arsenal can keep this up and win the title.
Pre-season predictions invariably revolved around the Manchester clubs and Chelsea as title contenders.
Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool – who have also impressed and sit third and fourth – would be scrapping over the final Uefa Champions League spot, the consensus had it.
Instead, Wenger’s side have turned things around and it is hard to pick a fault in the current line-up.
They have conceded just nine times, scoring 22. Only Manchester City have scored more (28), but seven came in one game.
Arsenal’s midfield, on form, could be one of the best in Europe. Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Michel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey – the Premier League’s most improved player – are all on top of their game.
Add Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who are both injured, and that is a lot of quality.
If striker Olivier Giroud stays fit, it is not hard to imagine Arsenal finishing as champions.
Worst accuracy – West Ham
When West Ham United spent £15 million (Dh87.7m) on Liverpool’s Andy Carroll in the summer, they were expecting goals.
Another £5m went for winger Stewart Downing. With him on one side and Matt Jarvis on the other, both providing crosses for man-mountain Carroll, West Ham were sure to see the net bulge regularly, right? It has not quite gone to plan.
Carroll, the England forward, got injured and will not be back until December. Downing, the England winger, has zero assists or goals. Jarvis has set up two goals.
West Ham have the third-best defence in the league, but it is fairly useless when you cannot score. Sam Allardyce, the manager, resists the stereotype that his sides play simplistic football.
Going more than four games without a goal is unlikely to change that perception.
“I’m angry because I don’t understand [why we lost]. I was expecting to lose my next game when the opponent was fantastic or when we were very unlucky – a match where we fought to our limits and couldn’t get the result.” – Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho is angry and worried about his side’s 2-0 loss at Newcastle United, while belittling the winning side at the same time.
Best statistic – 128
Robin van Persie, who scored in Manchester United’s win at Fulham, is now the Premier League’s top Dutch scorer. He surpassed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (127), the former Chelsea, Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic forward. Van Persie netted 96 times for Arsenal, and now has 32 goals for United in the league.
Best goal – Asmir Begovic
Aaron Ramsey’s half volley against Liverpool was special, and the sheer ferocity of Van Persie’s effort at Fulham was worth a mention. But it is not every day a goalkeeper scores. A lofted clearance by Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic bounced over Southampton’s Artur Boruc, with the help of a tailwind. And after just 14 seconds, too. Begovic is the fifth goalkeeper to score a goal in the league after Peter Schmeichel, Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Paul Robinson.
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