Arsenal's recovery continues in style; Man United bounce back
Chelsea's problems have been compounded with stunning loss to Arsenal
United won but the defense still looked shaky and had GK David De Gea to thank
Man City players overcame some adversity in holding on to beat Wolves
Five things we learned from Saturday's action in the Barclays Premier League:
1. Bouncing back? Chelsea lost in ugly style at its little neighbor Queens Park Rangers last week. It had two men sent off and was fined for the way its players mobbed the referee. Its captain John Terry faced a Football Association inquiry for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.
On Saturday, Terry probably felt better at halftime after he scored from a corner to put Chelsea ahead at home to Arsenal. It had been a remarkable first half. Both defenses looked awful. Both attacks were horribly wasteful. Per Mertesacker was awful at the heart of the Arsenal defense. Terry and his partner, Branislav Ivanovic, often looked like statues. The left backs were particularly bad. Theo Walcott exposed Ashley Cole's declining pace. The only consolation for Cole was that Andre Santos, Arsenal's chunky Brazilian emergency fullback, looked as if ArsŤne Wenger had plucked him from a local park.
At halftime, Arsenal appeared doomed. Yet somehow the Gunners solved their problems. "We got tight in midfield,'' Wenger told Sky television. Mertesacker and Santos were not exposed again. Santos was even able to trundle forward to thump Arsenal's second goal. Chelsea's play became increasingly inaccurate and Fernando Torres increasingly invisible. Its only goal of the half was a long-range strike by Juan Mata.
Meanwhile, Chelsea could not solve its defensive problems. "In the second half we kept going forward, and that made the difference," said Wenger. His team had some help. Terry fell trying to reach a pass from Florent Malouda. Robin van Persie accepted the gift and gamboled off to score Arsenal's fourth goal, while Terry picked himself up slowly. Van Persie later scored again to complete his hat trick and Arsenal's 5-3 victory. Chelsea had never conceded five goals in the Premier League. Terry and his mighty Chelsea have truly fallen.
2. Bouncing back, part two? A week after a 6-1 home loss to Manchester City that Alex Ferguson described as his most "humiliating" defeat, the United manager rang the changes for the game against Everton. He brought in five players, including Nemanja Vidic, back from injury, in place of Rio Ferdinand. Ferguson also made one interesting tactical switch, dropping Wayne Rooney into midfield. Javier Hernandez scored a tap-in after 19 minutes. That was all United needed to win, 1-0, away to a team that has given it problems in recent season.
Crisis over? Not at all. United's problem all season has been that it allows opponents too many chances. Vidic was heroic, but the pattern was still repeated. Everton had 18 shots, 11 of them were on target. That's too many.
Ferguson saw the glass half full. "The fact that there have been so many chances against us recently," he told the BBC. "We had to reduce that and if we are going to win the league and today we didn't have any problems."
It's true a lot were from long range, perhaps a sign that Everton couldn't penetrate or maybe a reflection of the widespread belief, based on statistics from Spain, that David De Gea is vulnerable from long range. Most of the shots were straight at the young Spaniard, but he made a spectacular save to keep out Jack Rodwell. Leighton Baines hit the bar from a free kick with De Gea beaten. United also escaped unscathed from a series of nerve-shredding melees in front of goal. The weakness that City so ruthlessly exposed is still there. Unless Ferguson can find an answer, United will be punished again.
3. A tale of two forwards. Liverpool's pair of high-priced forwards has been attracting a little criticism. Saturday evening's easy, 2-0, victory at West Brom gave some fuel to critics of both Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.
Suarez was again lively, smart and hard working. He again looked constantly dangerous without turning menace into goals. Suarez scored a delightful goal against Stoke in the League Cup in midweek, but the statistics show his conversion rate of chances into goals in the Premier League is only 15 per cent. On Saturday he won the penalty from which Charlie Adam gave Liverpool the lead. It was Liverpool's first penalty conversion in three attempts this season -- one of the misses was by Suarez. Suarez did finish neatly in the second half, but he probably already knew that the offside flag was up.
Carroll's issues are different: his temperament, his lack of athleticism and his poor work rate. For much of the first half he did indeed look like a lazy, leaden big man chiefly interested in allowing himself to be sucked into a battle of shoves and elbows with Jonas Olsson and arguing with the referee. Yet on the stroke of halftime, Carroll showed what he can do. Set free by a pass from Suarez, Carroll charged toward the area before poking a shot just inside the post for a goal. Carroll also produced Liverpool's most menacing second-half moment, meeting a knock down from Suarez with a vicious shot that tested Ben Foster.
Between them, Carroll and Suarez had conjured the goals Liverpool needed to turn domination into victory -- something the Reds haven't always done this season.
4. Coping with adversity. The one lingering question for Manchester City as it has rampaged through the Premier League was how it would cope under pressure or in the face of adversity. Well, City coped very nicely with the pressure against Manchester United last week. On Saturday, City's players looked as if they had left their goal touch at Old Trafford. For 50 minutes, it struggled in vain for an opening against the dogged Wolves defense and an inspired goalie, Wayne Hennessey. Some woeful shooting did not help. But one of the characteristics of almost all the high-priced stars City have bought is that they run as if they are still hungry. Early in the second half, Sergio AgŁero sprinted across the field in the slim hope of forcing an error as Hennessey collected a back pass. He was rewarded by Hennessey's lazy first touch and panicky clearance that hit the Argentine. The ball dribbled to the only other player who had reacted to the potential danger, Edin Dzeko. He stroked the ball into the empty net. Aleksandar Kolarov added a second but City had more work to do. Wolves plugged away. Joe Hart fumbled. As Kevin Doyle moved to pounce, Vincent Kompany knocked him over, conceding a penalty and earning a red card. Stephen Hunt converted. Wolves went for the throat. They had chances but it was 10-man City who broke and coolly scored. Adam Johnson hit the final goal in a 3-1 victory. The City players coped with adversity better than the impatient minority of their fans who, after waiting 30 years for a decent team, couldn't wait 45 minutes for a goal and booed their players off at halftime.
5. Dempsey's milestone. This is a thin year for Americans in the increasingly global Premier League. Stuart Holden at Bolton and Zak Whitbread of Norwich are battling injury. Both were again missing on Saturday. That leaves Clint Dempsey as the only American outfield player playing regularly. He appeared in his 14th game of the season for Fulham as it visited another struggling team, Wigan. Once again Dempsey showed his knack for the important goal, scoring the opener from close range. His fourth of the season did more than set Fulham on the way to a 2-0 victory; only its second of season. He had already passed another American, Brian McBride, as Fulham's top scorer in the Premier League. McBride scored 32 for Fulham. He also scored four for Everton before moving to London. Dempsey's goal Saturday was s his 36th goal in the Premier League, tying him with McBride for the most by an American.
Peter Berlin has been following English soccer for 45 years and reporting on it for 25 years.
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