A rundown of some of the talking points from the weekends Premier league action.
1) The majesty of Berbatov. A fine player is Dimitar. His quality has seldom been questioned, his work ethic and desire criticized in a way that only the English will understand. At Manchester United, Tevez would be cheered to the rafters for closing down a full back, thus winning a meaningless throw in, whilst Berbatov's deftly intelligent hold up play and movement would be greeted with, well, a mild shrug of indifference.
Some United fans knew different. They knew he was a quality performer with rare and dignified skill, whose only rational explanation for Berbatov's exit from Man Utd was due to the player not fitting the style of Man Utd's swift attacking play with an emphasis on width and penetration.
Man Utd's loss is Fulham's gain, and on Saturday the Bulgarian was, at times, exquisite. Sure of touch, intelligent in his body shape as he held the ball up and started attack after attack.
He will always be criminally underrated in England as he lacks the traditional attributes of the classic striker in which we have, over decades, become accustomed to seeing. A quality performer with an ultra rare skill set who is the owner one of the greatest center forward performance I have ever seen live, Man City 0-1 Tottenham in the Carling cup quarter final.
2) Points from losing positions. Now, when the Daily Mail starts using opta data in it's articles you can be sure to know that slowly stats are creeping out from the darkness and into the light. The Mail today published two charts which feature points dropped from a winning position and points gained from a losing position, here.
Man Utd are currently the league's best team in terms of points gained when conceding the first goal. United have conceded the first goal in 7 out of 11 PL games, and have won five of those fixtures. The all time PL record for wins when conceding the first goal is 6 wins. United have 27 games to break that record.
What no pundit seems to be talking about is the unsustainability of Man Utd's comeback wins. They surely cannot continue to a) concede the first goal so frequently and b) continue to win when falling a goal behind. My bet is we see option A happening with far greater frequency, which means more points for The Red Devils.
3) Are Everton 4 Real? David Moyes has been in charge of Everton, for what, 10 years, 11? Whichever it may be, there is little doubt that he is a strong coach, with a solid tactical brain who has molded this Everton club into an excellent, tight and obdurate unit capable of, at the bare minimum, challenging for the top 7.
This season is different however. Gone is the poor start to a campaign and it's place Everton have recorded 20 points in 11 games which, if continued, would be good for 69 points which will be there or there abouts for a CL spot.
Can this form be continued? Everton have recorded just one more point than they did from identical fixtures than they recorded last term, but they are getting near equal results whilst being a far higher shot on target event team (4th best SoT ratio). The one potential downfall is the lack of squad depth, and this may be a problem around Christmas and February when the games come in quicker bursts.
Can they become a top 4 team? If injuries don't bite and form doesn't dip, they have a fighting chance. Arsenal's decline and Tottenham's slow progress in becoming the team AVB wants them to be may mean an opening is available at the top table. Top 4 is possible.
4) Taxi For Maicon? Not likely. It was with no little trepidation when we saw that Maicon was to be brought on against Tottenham, to play right wing back against who else but his supposed nemesis, Gareth Bale. We may have witnessed first hand Gareth Bale's arrival on the European scene when he overpowered and outpaced Maicon during Spurs' 2010/11 CL run, and the same result may have been expected on Saturday with Maicon having aged a few years and gained a few pounds, not to mention Bale's continued progress.
The impudent Mark Ogden had this to say as Maicon limbered up:
Ogden couldn't have been more incorrect. Maicon swung the game in City's favour, offering width and attacking daring in Mancini's much maligned, but perfectly set-up on Saturday, 3-5-2. Bale couldn't track Maicon's runs, Vertonghen was a mess at left back as the Brazilian put in many a dangerous ball. My favourite Maicon/Bale moment was when the Brazilian chased back, caught up with Bale and out-muscled the Welshman to many a crowing cheer from the crowd.
This twitter response summed up the folly of Ogden's initial tweet:
5) pdo and the big 3. Come May, when the title has been won and awarded to the deserved victor, most think the crown will go to Man City, Man Utd, or, with an outside chance, Chelsea. I believe it will be awarded to one of the Manchester clubs, with Chelsea handicapped slightly with the World Club Championships and a slight deficiency in quality when compared to the current top 2. But, how have these so called big 3 teams been performing in terms of pdo, which can be luck driven?
As predicted many times, Chelsea's pdo number would fall considerably from the 120 heights of the first 8 games. As their pdo fell, so would their points gained, and so it has proved to be the case. United and Chelsea will regress toward the mean of 100, whilst Man City, whose low pdo indicates bad luck, would see their pdo rise toward and probably to the mean and beyond.
Quite how Man City have been able to live with Chelsea's and Man Utd's points totals, and high pdo, (thus good luck) whilst themselves suffering from well below average scoring% and save% is a small miracle.
Man City are there abouts in the title race and are there in spite of far worse luck than than Chelsea and Man Utd. Ominous signs for the pretenders to the crown.
6) How Many More Games Will Mark Hughes Survive? QPR's form is brutal. No wins, 4 points from draws and on course to concede about 70 goals this season. QPR need to tighten up, learn how to utilize their attacking weapons and just start to win some football games. QPR have the talent at their football club, but can Mark Hughes mold this hastily thrown together squad into a semi cohesive unit capable enough to keep a clean sheet and score a couple of goals?
Up next for QPR is Southampton at home. This is a must win fixture, and so early in the season. If QPR lose to the Saints at Loftus Road. Then I think Mark Hughes may be taken out back and quietly put out of his misery. Why did he ever leave Fulham and the safety of the top half of the PL. Greener grass and all.
7) Relegation Teams. A glimmer of hope for QPR is the evidence that in 2011/12 relegation threatened teams were stronger in the 2nd half of the season than in the first, where they tended to struggle. 4 out of the 6 teams who occupied the bottom six spots last season saw there form increase as the threat of relegation became more of a possibility with games running out.
An exert from this Bitter and Blue article:
8) Fulham Want to watch a sure-fire entertaining game? Watch Fulham. The Cottagers fixtures have seen 43 goals scored in 11 games in the PL. That is 3.9 goals per game, way above what is normally expected. Two 3-3 draws, a 5-0, a 3-2 and a couple of 3-0 scorelines.
Fulham want points and progress, though. They will probably achieve both of these thing under the strong management of Martin Jol. Top half is the aim, but any kind of upturn in away form from last seasons dire away points total will see Fulham potentially pushing for a top 6 spot. Dembele was a huge loss, though. Berbatov is a huge gain.
9) Sunderland. Seemingly, Sunderland are my favourite team to talk about. Adam Johnson scored for the Mackem's on Saturday away at Everton, and thus became only the second player in 10 games to score for the club. Sunderland currently have 9 points from 10 games and face Fulham, a strong home team, in their next fixture.
I took Sunderland at 18/1 to be relegated solely due to the data which showed Sunderland were the worst shot team, worst shot on target team, had an insanely lucky pdo despite the poor points totals, and are one of the worst possession team in the league. Sunderland are currently 7/1 to go down, and no they aren't too good to be relegated. O'Neill may turn it around, but their struggles in creating chances may handicap them. A Stoke style survival may be their only means of escape.
Sunderland are on course to register less points than Bolton did in being relegated in 2011/12 and only 3 more points than Blackburn. The fact that there are many poor sides in the current bottom 3 may just save them.
10) Goal Of The Week. Easy.