x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Juan Mata Chelsea debut bore the hallmarks of David Silva

Juan Mata's cameo for Chelsea showed why Spain reign in football in our best and worst of the Premier League weekend.

Juan Mata made an instant impact on his Chelsea debut, and reminded fans of another Premier League midfielder from Spain.
Juan Mata made an instant impact on his Chelsea debut, and reminded fans of another Premier League midfielder from Spain.

Best Silva impression - Mata

Chelsea, along with Manchester United, will be kicking themselves at allowing David Silva to join Manchester City unchallenged last summer.

Silva has since emerged as the most artful schemer in the league and the £26 million (Dh156m) wired electronically from Abu Dhabi to Valencia for his services now looks a snip.

In search of their own Silva, Chelsea plumped for the next best thing, Juan Mata, Silva's successor at Valencia, who seem to have cornered the market in producing impish left-footed playmakers.

Mata's 23-minute cameo bore all the hallmarks of a classic Silva display on Saturday as he became the first Chelsea player to score on his league debut as a substitute since George Weah in 2000.

Forget the unerringly finish for the third goal, it was the movement and exchange with Jose Bosingwa in the build-up which caught the eye.

Worst defence - Bolton

The award could go to the entire Bolton Wanderers defence after they took their goals-against tally to six in as many games by shipping three at Liverpool on Saturday.

Instead, we'll just focus on Paul Robinson, their combative left-back.

Robinson normally invokes the anger of the opposition for the, erm, committed nature of his tackling but at Anfield he had the home side haranguing the referee (wasn't that supposed to stop this season?) for a deliberate back pass to Jussi Jaaskelainen, the Bolton goalkeeper, which should have resulted in a free kick in a dangerous position.

Lee Probert, the referee, somehow thought otherwise as did Robinson who, with a straight face said 'He [Luis Suarez] touched it, ref'. C'mon, Robbo.

Worst pre-season schedules

Take a bow Manchester United, Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers.

Tours to America and Asia may do wonders for the brand of the respective clubs and keep various sponsors happy, but the long-haul flights appear to be contributing towards an alarming number of injuries at this embryonic stage of the season.

United have been forced to cope without Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra so far this season while Arsenal have been denuded by the absence of Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny and the brittle Kieran Gibbs.

Blackburn, in contrast, do not have the squad to absorb injuries to their key players so Steve Kean, the Rovers manager, would, privately at least, have been cursing his team's summer jaunt to Hong Kong when Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn both limped off with hamstring injuries in the same minute of Saturday's game with Everton.

Best crowd - Wigan Atletic

The lowest Premier League crowd of 3,039 (Wimbledon versus Everton on January 26, 1993) appeared to be under threat on Saturday when Wigan Athletic played host to Queens Park Rangers just hours before the Wigan Warriors, who share the DW Stadium with the Latics, went head-to-head with Leeds Rhinos in a mouth-watering rugby league Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

"There will be virtually nobody left in Wigan," Andy Farrell, the Warriors legend, said pre-match. Yet the Latics, who are maligned by Premier League snobs for their poor crowds, showed there is more than one top-flight sporting team in the town by attracting a crowd of more than 17,000 for the match with unfashionable QPR.

Worst selection - Mancini

Worst might be a bit of an exaggeration but the decision to leave Micah Richards on the bench was baffling.

The hulking right-back, who has marauded forward to supply two assists already this season, signed a new four-year contract last week and was relishing the chance to impress the watching England manager, Fabio Capello.

But he found on himself on the expensive cast list on City's bench with fellow frustrated Englishman Adam Johnson and James Milner.

Best example...

... of why Arsenal appear in disarray. The Gunners needed their senior players to stand up and be counted yet Andrey Arshavin, the laconic Russian, did his best to get himself sent off with two tackles, both of which warranted straight red cards, in the first 40 minutes at Old Trafford.

kaffleck@thenational.ae


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