New Year Eve was a crazy day for Barclays Premier League. Another action packed weekend but last night was just too much even for the festive standards. Blackburn Rovers beating Manchester United at Old Trafford, eh? Well, after Mario Balotelli’s antics, anything can possible now at Manchester it seems. Yet, this was unexpected.
At London, there was jubilation at Arsenal camp. For their victory over QPR is compounded with home defeat for Chelsea and points dropped by Spurs at the Liberty Stadium. Only two points separates three teams competing for the fourth spot and we can only expect topsy-turvy in the coming year. Liverpool courtesy of their victory against Newcastle have leveled points with Chelsea and they would surely want to have a fair crack of the whip for the elusive Champions League spot.
As for the relegation contenders, Blackburn can see light at the end of the tunnel. Not too certain about Bolton under Owen Coyle but another brilliant result for Wigan surely will make the fight more interesting.
a) Breaking the Old Trafford fear-factor: Manchester United haven’t lost a league game at Old Trafford last season, won 18 out of 19. This season they have suffered only one defeat, a humiliating one, at the hands of their ‘noisy neighbors’. Yet, you could feel the impregnable aura at Old Trafford. A fear factor. Blackburn manager Steve Kean in his presser left his team with two options – either battle fearlessly or to surrender helplessly. Blackburn who have nothing to lose opted for the first one. They are already buoyed by the emphatic performance at Anfield last weekend fought hard till the end to earn a precious three pointer. The question is can other teams take lessons from this game? Last season we saw how defeat to Sunderland provided a spark and belief amongst other mid table teams to play with positive attitude at Stamford Bridge and subsequently getting results. Teams visiting to Old Trafford should take note of Blackburn’s approach. Who knows what might happen.
b) Great comeback from Arsenal: Finally they made the top four. Who would have thought that? A team that got brutally spanked, humiliated at Old Trafford came back sharply and strongly to leapfrog Chelsea and Liverpool. Much credit should be given to Robin Van Persie for his messianic role at the Emirates. However, if we observe carefully, Arsenal’s strategy this season has been to play effective football at the expense of free flowing beautiful game. Their aim is to get maximum points from the teams outside top six-seven. Also, the experience of Arteta and the maturity of Ramsey are taking the team forward. There are certain areas of concern like the injuries at the back, loss of Chamakh and Gervinho due to the participation in African Cup of Nations and lack of 'genuine' impacts from Rosicky and Arshavin. The Gunners will be hoping another repeat of 2011 for Van Persie in the coming year. Well, do they need Batman? No, but good to have Alfred in the form of Henry.
c) Shambles at the back, school boy defending: Wrote before here that Terry and Luiz are dangerous cocktail last night it was no different either. Luiz was superb again going forward and with his distribution but really he doesn't know how to defend. The Brazilian does not have any clue about positional sense. Surely, Chelsea shouldn't have conceded two goals towards the end and three points. Those were not goals created through brilliance. Those were gifted by poor defending. The thing that has shocked me is Chelsea don't seem to learn from their past mistakes. John Terry gave Lampard a simple pass, which should have been easily dealt with. But Lampard is Lampard. Trying to manoeuvre an intelligent pass through outside of his boot he gave the ball to Ireland and left his team in a position with defence open like crater. These are basic mistakes and shouldn't be allowed to repeat at this level.
d) Captain fantastic is back for Liverpool: Good to see Steven Gerrard coming back into the action, leading the team and galvanizing the squad to victory which he has done over the years. May be, there is life without Luis Suarez. Gerrard was head and shoulder above the rest and for the first time Andy Carroll looked like the old Newcastle striker. But the night was all about Liverpool's talismanic skipper. He might not have been blessed with 'great' technical abilities like Scholes, Xavi, Guti et al but he is a special player, as Shearer rightly said in MOTD that Gerrard belongs to a different league altogether.
e) Important January transfer window: Another important January transfer window on the cards. Chelsea need to bolster their squad in more than one areas, but most importantly they need to block the holes at defence. Gary Cahill might be a good addition. Liverpool might opt for new signings as well. Now the club is inching closer to top four, a quality striker or midfielder can give them necessary impetus to reach the promised land. Important for QPR too. They have the financial backing of their owners and must spend in order to secure another season in English top flight football.
Finally leaving with a conjecture. Tottenham will be 'the team' to watch in 2012. Why? They are in the twilight zone. Neither they can challenge Manchester United or Manchester City for the title nor they can sit back comfortably and thwart the dangers from Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Happy New Year to everyone & follow me on Twitter @Saikat_SAnchor