Five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend.

1) Chelsea are the best team in Europe right now

Inter Milan, conquerors of Tottenham last week, drew yet another game in Serie A on Sunday (a 1-1 with Sampdoria.) Barcelona laboured to a 2-1 win over 10-man Zaragoza. Last year's Champions League semi-finalists Lyon drew with bottom-of-the-table Arles. And Bayern Munich failed to find the net again this season, putting them in 11th place in the Bundesliga, and leaving with their worst start to a league campaign ever.

Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea on the other hand steamrollered yet another team into submission, beating a resilient Wolves side 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Even without their most influential player (Frank Lampard) and a misfiring Didier Drogba, the Blues still managed to make their spirited opponents look distinctly average. Wolves created several early chances, with Kevin Doyle and David Edwards going close. But two goals from Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou gave Chelsea the victory. That win on Saturday also means that the last person to score at Stamford Bridge was John Carew for Aston Villa, back in March, meaning Chelsea have now scored a record 38 goals without reply in the league.

2) Andy Carroll should beat up his girlfriend more often......allegedly!

A tumultuous week for Andy Carroll ended in fairytale fashion, with the lanky Geordie scoring the winner in Newcastle's 2-1 win over West Ham.

Having been in court earlier this week for allegedly attacking his ex-girlfriend, Andy Carroll was then granted bail on the condition that he lives with club captain Kevin Nolan until January. Further humiliation was then bestowed to the braided idiot on Wednesday afternoon when an arsonist attacked a Range Rover belonging to Mr Carroll, as well as covering Kevin Nolan's garage with graffiti. And as if the man's week could not get any worse, he was also charged on Friday with common assault and ordered to pay £1,000 in fines and £2,500 to his victim who, incidentally, wasn't his ex-girlfriend this time.

But, a week of burning cars and court appearances seem to have been just what the England U-21 international needed, as he put on arguably his best performance of the season, setting up his new housemate for the first goal, and then scoring the winner himself in the second half. 

3) Gary Neville really should retire

Whether you love him or hate him, getting to 600 professional appearances for Manchester United is a huge achievement. It now puts Gary Neville in 5th position in the club's all-time record for appearance holders, just behind Paul Scholes, Bill Foulkes, Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs. He was United's first choice right-back for well over a decade, and has been given 85 England caps as a result. He was Mr Consistency for club and country, with a remarkable positioning sense and a fantastic crossing ability (United vs Inter Milan 1999 Champions League Quarter-final springs to mind.) And he has an honorary degree from University of Bolton. But a series of bad knee and groin injuries over the past  four seasons have seen the mustachioed scouse-hater go from England's greatest full-back to just outrageously abysmal. Sunday's game against Stoke was the tip of the iceberg. Out of pace and  poorly positioned, even Matthew Etherington was giving him a tough-time. So please Gary, for the sake of your reputation, you've made it to 600, just go quietly.

4) Man City actually look like a team who can challenge for the title

Yes. Yes. I know they lost on Sunday to Arsenal in what really could have been a 5-0 demolition, but Man City do have a team-spirit and commitment to the cause which could see them challenge come May.

It's really quite easy, with enough money, to produce a team which looks good on paper. Something which Man City have done this year with the signings of David Silva, Yaya Toure and James Milner. Add to that the previous year's lavish signings and you have a squad which really should be challenging for silverware on every front. Only it's not quite that easy. Over the years, many chairmen have come and gone, promising the world and then leaving a couple of months down the line with their tale between their legs.

At Blackburn the Premier league-winning team which Jack Walker bought in the mid-nineties was notable for its team spirit above all. Similarly, Chelsea's success of the early Abramovich years was down to the closeness within the camp and siege mentality which Jose Mourinho brought.  It seems that new-built teams need a player/leader whom the rest of the squad can rally around. With Blackburn it was Colin Hendry, Chelsea have John Terry. For City this player seems to be Carlos Tevez, a leader from the front. They will be encouraged by their performance with 10 men, and will no doubt be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

5) All twenty teams are better than Feyenoord

No matter how dire West Ham fans think their current predicament is, nothing can compare to what Feyenoord fans must have thought this weekend.

As one of Holland's 'big three', they have enjoyed success almost beyond parallel in their home country. They are the only side never to have been relegated from the Eredivisie (the Dutch top-flight) and also won the European Cup back in 1970. They have produced players like Ruud Gullit and Robin van Persie. But as of yesterday, Feyenoord Rotterdam will go down in history as having suffered the worst defeat in any major Euroopean league ever. Losing away to PSV Eindhoven 10-0.



"Thanks very much. Let's have a coffee."

And there was me thinking the Premier League had mellowed Ian Holloway.

So far this season Ollie had been so uncontroversial, it was almost Guardiola-like. But this past week a mixture of dismal refereeing decisions, and the ongoing Wayne Rooney vs. Man. United saga has finally put pay to all that blandness.

It wasn't so long ago that seemingly the only reason Holloway had a job in football management was because of his off-the-wall press conferences and ability to produce soundbites like Barcelona produce 'wonderkids'. A book of 'Ollie'isms' was even published in 2007. A distinctly average managerial career had taken him from QPR, Plymouth Argyle and Leicester City, with only one promotion to his name back in 2003-04 with the west Londoners.

None of this really mattered though, because what the fans really wanted from Holloway was not promotion, but a barn-storming post-match interview. From comparing his team's performance to a night out on the pull, through to telling Danny Shittu: "I'm going to pull your pants down and slap you on the arse."(0:40 on this video). Nothing, seemingly, was out of bounds.

All was to change when Ollie took charge of Blackpool in May 2009. What seemed like an impossible job turned into, what some might call, 'a Tangerine dream', as Blackpool won promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs the following year. Holloway had guided a team of journeymen and nobodies to the footballing promised land, and whats more, done it without the use of gimmicks and catchphrases. 

Or so we thought. 

It seems now that the pressure of top-flight football has severely taken its toll on Holloway. Firstly getting a touchline ban after being infuriated by refereeing decisions made in Blackpool's away game against Newcastle on October 9th. And, calling for video technology to be used in football after the Tangerines were disallowed are clear goal in their game against Man. City last weekend.

All of Holloway's frustrations however seem to of come to a head yesterday in a truly astonishing attack on Wayne Rooney and the Bosman ruling:
'I've got big problems with the people who are running football. I know the reasons I think the game is in trouble and you cannot have the Bosman ruling they have at the moment.'
'Manchester United have helped Wanye's career. They've brought him for massive amounts of money. They've blossomed him into the player that he is. And if he sees his contract out, he's going to walk out of there for nothing. Just because he's 24!- what on earth does that have to do with it? It's just ludicrous.'
'I'm looking at Alex Ferguson and thinking: "What a magnificent manager manager. How can he handle this?" How he feels about Manchester United, how proud he is. Yet Wayne Rooney and his agent can manufacture a situation like this.'

And after all that anger? Wayne Rooney signs a new five-year deal with Manchester United. There's just no justice.



A Welshman scoring a hat trick in Italy and other footballing miracles of the week.

Welsh Boys on Tour
Not since John Charles has a boy from the valleys shown so much promise in an Italian stadium. Rushy had a fair crack but it was too much “like living in a foreign country”. Bale’s indistinguishable strikes are made even more remarkable when you take in to consideration the position Spurs found themselves in after 45 minutes. Shortly after Zanetti’s second minute opener, Spurs’ keeper Gomes was sent packing, reminiscent of a north London rivals red in the final four years ago. By the half mark three more had found their way past Carlo Cudicini and a beleaguered Tottenham. A half of football described by the BBC’s Alan Green as the “slaughter of the innocent”.

Unfortunately for Spurs, the comeback kid was managing the other team. So they made do with ‘Arry and a lad with a head monkey’s head, not Peter Reid but the young Bale.  Although, arguably the Plymouth manager would have at least equalled the performance of Jermain Jenas, a talent seemingly lost in the current crop of Spurs players.

Bale in the mist. Or out of it, as it were.
The former Southampton trainee’s first strike came in the 52nd minute. Following a jinking run passed an array of Inter talent, the young Welshman finished off with a powerful controlled strike into the far corner of the net. Forty minutes passed, yet despite chances and the emergence for many of Coutinho (surely with all Mr Cameron’s international aid we English could get a couple of Brazilian youngsters in return? I'll settle for a Welshman instead though), no more than the four goals purchased in the first half would materialise for the Scudetto champions. Then appeared Bale once more, finishing off another individual effort in identical fashion. Two minutes remaining, 4-2 and time for no more, surely? Apparently not and again Bale rounded the challenge of Zanetti, again he placed the ball across Julio Cesar and again he scored.  Not only had Bale just scored a hat trick at the San Siro, he’d done it in Tottenham’s biggest game of recent times and with a team of 10. Three goals which displayed all the talents of a world class winger, all at the ripe old age of 21. “Not for sale” says Redknapp firmly.  

A quick paragraph dedicated to two other miracles, in no way confined to this week, and in no way confined by ability. Ronaldo v Messi. Messi v Ronaldo. However you phrase it, the battle continued this week. I’ve got my favourite. He scored a cracker from outside the box, but then that doesn’t help much does it? Both have the potential to better  oneanother on their day, but I think this particular rivalry is summed up best by the universally accepted test of Facebook, the modern/thinking man’s litmus test. Need I say more than the group name, a summary as exact as perceivably possible: “C.Ronaldo thinks he is God. God thinks he is Lionel Messi.” Long live Lionel.

A modern footballing icon: Mr Blanco.
My final miracle of the week is perhaps the most miraculous. Raul, or Raul Gonzalez Blanco a player with a name born to play for Real (Los Blancos is the club’s most popular nickname), set two records with two goals as his current club Schalke set aside Hapoel Tel Aviv with a 3-1 victory. Raul’s first goal means he has now scored in every Champions League Season since the reformation of the European Cup in 1992, his second equaled Gerd Muller’s record of 68 goals in all European competitions. Not bad for a player criticised for lack of invention, and most bewildering; ability. Fully grown men were shown weeping as Raul waved goodbye to Madrid to see off his career with a final swansong in the Bundesliga, and who can blame them? Never has a name been so apt, and now Mr Blanco has two more records to add to his collection.

On a rather opposite note to the aforementioned miracles; Liverpool. It wasn’t so long ago that the song went “We’ve got the best midfield in the world, Xabi Alonso, Momo Sissoko, Gerrard and Mascherano” and it wasn’t that long ago that Liverpool would have been expecting a two or three goal victory away in Naples. No one can blame fans for not being inspired to pen a verse or two about Jonjo Shelvey, Chritian Poulsen, Ryan Babel and Jay Spearing, and no one can argue with the foresight of Alonso and Mascherano for leaving the club and the song behind. Gerrard remains, then and now; the best, it’s just a shame that the midfield around him as taken such a dramatic turn for the worse.



So, Wayne Rooney has had enough.

He's had enough of shagging a pair of prostitutes behind his wife's back. Enough of pissing up against a wall after a night on the booze. And enough of earning a paltry £100,000 a week. He also seems to have had enough of scoring goals for Manchester United and England.

So what does Wayne want? To move abroad and experience a new way of life? Madrid is the destination he's most frequently linked with, but could a man called Wayne really hack it amongst all those Sergios and Fernandos? It would fascinating were it to happen, mainly because we'd get to see if Rooney tans, or just becomes a hairy, sweaty, bright red bogeyman used by Spanish parents to get their children to behave.

At the end of the day, it doesn't particularily matter where he goes, because what Wayne really wants is more money. That's all. He doesn't want much… £200,000 for a hard week's work. Of course, that is the minimum he wants. If there was the chance of a wee bit more, he'd take it. Of course he would. Who wouldn't?

And is that so wrong? Roy Keane doesn't think so. "Footballers are pieces of meat," he says. "They have to look after number one." And if the market will pay Wazza £250,000 a week, is he wrong to accept that offer? Madrid would probably have to off-load one of their current strikers (Karim Benzema on a swap deal anyone?), but I'm sure they could scrabble it together. So could Chelsea. And Manchester City's Sheik Mansour doesn't just have that kind of money at his disposal... he probably has it in loose change behind the cushion of his cashmere fur couch.

 Rooney, if Ferguson is to be believed, has been pining for a move since his disastrous performance at this Summer's World Cup. In the space of a few months, he has gone from wanting to be a Manchester United player for life, to wanting out as soon as possible.

Maybe he got chatting to Cristiano in South Africa. Or perhaps Carlos Tevez. Or maybe Colleen just needs more gold, frankincense and myrrh for baby Kai.

Whatever the argument, he obviously is greedy, has no loyalty to his teammates, and no respect for the fans who have cheered him since he arrived.

But in the current football climate: is greed really that bad?



Hello, football world.

This is a tester more than anything.
But while I'm here,
Fergie has announced today that Rooney wants out. He's told the club that he no longer to wants to wear the United shirt, and the suggestion is he's already got his exit route planned. Personally, I can't see the Rooneys, or more likely if it came to fruition, Rooney, on the continent. An episode of Corrie on the Costa Blanca springs to mind.

Closer to Corrie and closer to home: City. For the cynics, the irony almost tastes too sweet.
I'm off Michael!

But why does he want to move?
After displaying an increasing lack of moral and footballing responsibility, Rooney, despite what Ferguson says, will have, without doubt, have received the hairdryer treatment. Is he doing a Beckham and throwing his toys out of the proverbial?

Money. City are likely to be the only team who could outbid all others, including United.

A new start? Madrid, Barce, Milan, maybe even as close as London. All would represent a new hunting ground for Rooney. On the pitch too.

All seem reasonable explanations. It’s likely that all have played a part.  Rooney’s attitude suggests he’s been hurt by a lack of support from within the club and now wants out. With City close to home, undoubtedly offering more money and signalling a new start, the lad sees an easy option.

Tevez has become a legend. Captain in fact. But he didn’t have so much baggage. A giant poster was erected in the city declaring the move. With Rooney, it would undoubtedly be bigger, much bigger, but hopefully with fewer erections involved.