Guessing, the Neil Warnock face in the picture above pretty much sums up the Premier League weekend, which was ... eh?
My ego isn't big enough, well hold that thought, let's frame it this way. Nobody on Earth -- my parents included -- want to waste 39 seconds of their Monday reading about me patting myself on the back for going 8-1 (through Sunday) on my EPL Round 6 picks. Thank Peter Crouch for scoring against Manchester United, because if it was 9-0 you'd all be hearing me channel my inner Bill Simmons and congratulate myself for being so awesome for another eight or nine paragraphs.
Alternately, for those scoring at home, this barely makes a dent in balancing out all the 2-8 weekends from last season's nightmarish final prediction record. So let's just get a couple thoughts and move on to next weekend, okay? Deal?
Thought No. 1 -- Manchester United aren't going 38-0-0: Raise your hand if you thought Sir Alex Ferguson was going to throw on Mr. Own Goal in the final 10 minutes at the Britianna Stadium and find a way to take three points from Stoke City. For the second straight weekend United looked rather ordinary -- by their high standards.
Without Wayne Rooney and Chicharito -- hurt with the first 10 minutes on a collision with Asmir Begovic -- United looked dull and toothless, though much more suave with Dmitar Berbatov and Michael Owen up top. That meant all the Red Devils could turn to were Nani and Ashley Young out wide, and naturally the little Portugeezer chipped in another thumping goal from outside the box. No, he's not a week-in, week-out, every-touch force of nature like Cristiano Ronaldo in his Old Trafford prime, but Nani isn't a bad consolation.
If Rooney, Chichario and Danny Welbeck are all sidelined, United do morph until a very ordinary team, that is unless Phil Jones continues to rampage forward from the backline with aplomb. (Expect him to quickly become the most loathed player at Old Trafford by United haters. Probably because he has blond highlights.)
The story here is probably more about Stoke City trying to edge up the table -- meaning maybe pushing a team for fifth or sixth place thanks to the Premier League's glass ceiling.
Stoke have beaten Liverpool and home, with draws to Manchester United and Chelsea. You might not like you they play and the Britianna might resemble Ice Planet Hoth crossed with Philadelphia's old Veteran's Stadium in terms of charm, whatever, Tony Pulis' has found a style that works. If anything, Stoke is using the real tenets of the "Moneyball" philosophy -- i.e. finding under valued players to compete, albeit against the grain.
Maybe one day Stoke will be more than long Rory Delap throw-ins and monsters described as fullbacks. Every team with ambition wants to emulate Barcelona. Stoke seems content to emulate 1973 Leeds United.
Thought No. 2 -- Bullish on Tottenham?: Spurs seemed destined for a backslide from the previous two seasons in August. The team felt stale.
Add a true striker that knows how to score in the Premier League in Emmanuel Adebayor and a steady, week-in, week-out performer in Scott Parker and Tottenham might be able to do some damage. Damage in this case meaning pushing for the Top 4.
Against Wigan Spurs looked fluid. The Adebayor-Rafael van der Vaart link-up provided a nice early goal and Gareth Bale -- remember him? -- scored from a header off a corner.
As always, the keep for Tottenham is consistency.
Not sure where Sandro's haircut from Saturday falls into that dynamic. Wow.
Thought No. 3 -- Always something at Chelsea: Naturally, Fernando Torres scores a goal in the 3-1 win over Swansea ... then manages a really mindless two-foot studs up tackle to get a red card. Torres doesn't look like a re-animated corpse any more, so overall the weekend is a positive.
Less interesting, but will draw more headlines is the "story" about Frank Lampard not being used as a substitute. Why shouldn't this be a story? At 33-years-old, unless your name is David Beckham, when does any soccer player automatically "deserve" to start every week?
Again, this goes back to the Roman Abramovich meddling issue.
Andre Villas-Boas seems to have a vision for the team and the players to do it with Juan Mata and Ramires -- quietly very good this year. The old Chelsea of Lampard-Drogba-Terry is going to end eventually, but does the old guard still have enough locker room pull to assert their will on the new boss?
Chelsea is going to play some attractive games, I'd wager, but that might translate to dropping points since they'll be more vulnerable at the back to allow goals.
One thought, if Lampard/Chelsea turns into a bitter divorce, any club would best avoid signing him. Just burn the cash in a wheelbarrow. Sure it'd be a nice PR boost for a club like Stoke or Aston Villa or whomever to add Lampard, but he's got next to nothing left and minimal pace to begin with. The shirt sales aren't worth the trouble.
Thought No. 4 -- Hero man: Admission, the first half of Arsenal/Bolton put me back to sleep Saturday morning. It was awful.
Within 40 seconds of the second half, Robin van Persie scored and the Gunners were on their way to a 3-0 win on hapless Bolton -- more below.
The question here, as the new captain at the Emirates is the fragile Dutchman enough to drag the rest of the team up and push for a Top 4 spot? As it stands, van Persie is among the few remaining truly world-class/elite level players at Arsenal. Since the start of 2011 he's been the best scorer in the Premier League (21 goals) -- as long as he's on the field.
This is one of those stat/heart thoughts, too. van Persie doesn't cut the mold as a leader, instead profiling more as a lethal assassin. He's also one of the last links to the Thierry Henry days at Arsenal, so perhaps the Dutchman could use some of the lessons learned off the field from the French legend and apply it to the current team.
A lethal van Persie is probably the only way you can buy Arsenal as a legit team, regardless of Arsene Wenger's bluster.
Thought No. 5 -- Bad teams?: After six games its far to early to use the word "relegation."
Instead, let's say this quartet of established Premier League teams are in a little early season trouble: Fulham, West Brom, Bolton and Blackburn.
Each team has their own issues, for Fulham and West Brom, after playing to a 0-0 snoozer, when Fulham manager Martin Jol allegedly nearly started a fire for a halftime cigarette, is offense. Specifically a glaring lack-thereof.
Blackburn couldn't build off its upset of Arsenal and got smacked around at Newcastle, while Bolton got blown away by the Gunners.
It's so early in the season all it's going to take it one win and these clubs are right back in the thick of it -- the warm bosom of the mid-table. Still, with the promoted teams -- at least QPR -- showing some signs of life they'd best be careful. Don't forget, it's impossible to relegation Wigan Athletic, too. One of these clubs might be on the drop.
Around the League: Newcastle United might actually be good? Yes, that's a question. Three goals from Demba Ba vs. Blackburn is quite a statement. Ba has a wonky knee, but he could be a difference maker if he can stay healthy. ... Everton played well, but were undone by a couple individual moments from Mario Balotelli and David Silva -- setting up James Milner. Solid win by City ahead of their trip to Bavaria vs. Bayern Munich in the midweek. ... When he's on form, there's nobody in the Premier League I want to see more than Luis Suarez. Wish I could think the game like him. ... It's been said elsewhere, Aston Villa is doing okay -- haven't lost yet -- but it's a tough team to watch, much like Birmingham City under Alex McLeish. Bob Bradley is probably queitly nodding from a hotel outside Cairo wishing Michael could have stuck around. (More on Bradley below.) An own-goal off Richard Dunne to allow QPR to draw sounds about right.
Fantasy Team O' the Week: Kevin Bagley's MVee FC takes top honors with 69 points this week. 26 points from captaining van Persie helped, so did a solid defensive point output from Luis Enrique, Jose Bosingwa and Vincent Kompany.
One Other Thing: Never thought we'd see an American comedy out-"greasy" the Canadian classic "Trailer Park Boys" -- check them all out on Netflix Instant, you're welcome -- but "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is coming close. Through two episodes of the new season the "Gang" is knocking it out of the park, assuming jokes about eating a rum-soaked ham on the beach entertain you. Chances are you're already watching "Sunny," so no need to pimp it, though late Thursday night I did really die from laughing so hard during the montage set to The Go-Gos "Vacation."