Frenchmen Abroad: Goals, Goals, Goals
Goals, goals and more goals are what we want in the Premier League and we got plenty this weekend, with a total of thirty-nine scored across ten games.
Where better to start this week than with the epic match at Stamford Bridge, which saw the French sprinkling of talent in Arsenal’s ranks achieve a historic victory. While Robin Van Persie and his irresistible form is the talk of the Premier League at present, it should be said that Laurent Koscielny has been possibly as important to his side as the flying Dutchman. Koscielny has probably been the highest performing defender for the Gunners this campaign and while the defence conceded three goals in the 3-5 encounter, he kept Torres and Lukaku quiet throughout. It was a thoroughly exciting game, and while the Arsenal defence as a whole continues to be questionable, Koscielny was again the most impressive.
As for Chelsea, Florent Malouda was the only one flying the French flag, and he only played thirty minutes. He entered the game at 2-3 to Arsenal, and it would seem he had a decent impact as Chelsea pressed and got an equalizer on 80 minutes. Nevertheless, his introduction possibly reduced the defensive capacity of the home side as they conceded two late goals, which saw Arsenal take all three points in emphatic style. Perhaps the title race is back on for Wenger’s men.
One side that the title race is most certainly on for is Manchester United, who are looking to catch up with their seemingly unstoppable local rivals. They visited Everton, with Frenchman Patrice Evra outshining compatriot Louis Saha as the Red Devils ran out 0-1 winners. In fact, Evra was the one who created Javier Hernandez’s winning goal, whipping a ball in from the left that put it on a plate for the Mexican forward. Evra was tested throughout by Seamus Coleman but dealt with it well. Saha was poor in the first half, his shooting off target throughout. When he did start to find his range in the first half, he was denied by David De Gea, and along with Everton, he was frustrated.
Manchester City enjoyed a fairly routine victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Etihad Stadium, with Samir Nasri playing a decent part in a game that ended 3-1. It was actually Nasri who had the first opportunity, in the first minute, as he tested Wayne Hennessey with a volleyed shot following a City corner. The Frenchman buzzed around the midfield until he was taken off for Mario Balotelli on seventy minutes, having played a part in the first two goals for the league leaders.
Aston Villa were the visitors at the Stadium of Light on Saturday in a 2-2 clash with Sunderland. Both sides needed all of the points from this game, and Villa will feel they should have taken them because they took the lead twice. Charles N’Zogbia featured for the Midlands outfit, and was in fact a threat, although there was no solid contribution to any of the goals. It was a close game, and indeed an interesting mid-table clash.
Monday night saw the Stoke City entertain Newcastle United at the Britannia Stadium, though it will undoubtedly be the Geordie fans that were most entertained as they saw their side triumph 1-3. The quietly clinical Demba Ba stole the show with his hat trick but there were French players on show who did very well too. Yohan Cabaye put in another top performance, and continues to show himself as one of the shining lights in the Premiership this year. Newcastle just look solid and composed with him in the centre of the park, and Cabaye has become possibly their most valuable player alongside Ba.
Gabriel Obertan was also in action, but he is quite under-fire at the moment. In a Newcastle side that is bringing in high praise from all angles, Obertan has often been called into question over his contribution to the side so far. He answered his critics well on Monday in the opening exchanges, showing great anticipation down the wing to get on to Leon Best’s ball and cross in for the opening goal, converted by Ba’s head. He was menacing throughout and will look to carry on this sort of work for Newcastle down the right side.
Another 3-1 victory in quite straightforward fashion at White Hart Lane was on the cards for Tottenham Hotspur as they brushed QPR aside. Younes Kaboul was involved at the heart of Spurs’ defence, while Armand Traore lined up for Rangers at left back. Kaboul will be considerably happier with his defensive performance, as he looked strong for the most part and his partnership with Ledley King is a force to be reckoned with. However, he could be faulted for the single goal conceded, as he was easily muscled out of the aerial challenge from the corner that led to a simple tap in for Jay Bothroyd. Armand Traore, on the other hand, faced the task of controlling Aaron Lennon, and frankly, he struggled as the speedy winger threatened throughout and created many opportunities.
Gael Givet and Steven N’Zonzi played for Blackburn away at Norwich in what can only be described as the finest footballing cliché I can think of – a six pointer. Blackburn’s defence has been weak all season and Givet must be one of those blamed for how leaky it is, as they conceded three goals in a 3-3 battle. N’Zonzi on the other hand is a decent player, in many respects. His passing can be of high quality, though his role as a defensive midfielder must be looked at because he cannot be blameless in Blackburn’s miserable goals conceded tally. Norwich are not the most threatening attacking outfit, and while their spirit should be admired, Steve Kean and Blackburn will question the considerable extent to which they need to improve.