What We Learned This Weekend – Week 4

Raul Meireles can be crucial to Chelsea’s trophy ambitions

Raul Meireles may have left Liverpool under somewhat of a cloud – handing in a transfer request at the last minute to forego a loyalty bonus so as to force through the move, whilst also commenting on the board reneging on an agreement to improve his contract over the summer – but the £12m paid by Chelsea on transfer deadline day already looks like a sound investment.

Raul Meireles - Outstanding in the deep-lying playmaker position on his Chelsea debut

The former Porto man emerged as one of Liverpool’s star performers towards the end of last season, as he got used to the frenetic pace of the Premier League. However, with the signings of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, he was not a part of Kenny Dalglish’s first-team plans (in my opinion somewhat surprisingly). Therefore, with the attempt to sign Luka Modric not baring fruit, Andre Villas-Boas eventually turned his attention to the man who he had previously worked with at the Estadio Dragao, albeit briefly.

In the game against Sunderland it was expected that Ramires would play in the central of Chelsea’s three-man midfield, as the deepest lying of the trio. However, reigning in the Brazilian in such a way hampers his game as it holds him back from using his greatest asset: his athleticism. Therefore, Meireles was utilised in that position, much in the same way as Paulo Bento has been using him for the national side.

And he was excellent. Playing much in the way of Andrea Pirlo – in his 2005-8 Milan and Italy prime – Meireles would start attacks both with short, simple passes or with longer ones, switched from one side to the other, to change the point of attack. He used the ball both quickly and effectively, playing a key role in finding Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge in between the lines of Sunderlands defence and midfield.

However, his piece de resistance was his sumptuous ball which dissected the Black Cats backline allowing Sturridge to score Chelsea’s second. All in all, his debut for the Blues was a massive success, with both he and Juan Mata adding a new element of creativity and intelligence to the Blues side.

Emmanuel Adebayor means Tottenham have top four hopes

Last season there was one crucial reason why Spurs were unable to finish in a Champions League place – A lack of goals.

Despite playmaker Rafael van der Vaart scoring 13 goals in the Premier League, Spurs collection of strikers (Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko & Robbie Keane) got nowhere near double figures, and whilst Redknapp’s side were seen as ‘great entertainers’ in the Champions League, they were goal-shy over 38 matches, scoring considerably less than Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City (apparently a defensive side).

Emmanuel Adebayor can make a massive difference to Spurs

However, Spurs now have a striker who will thrive in their preferred 4-4-1-1 formation (or 4-4-2 as was the case on Saturday with the Dutchman injured) in former Arsenal, Man City and Real Madrid man Emmanuel Adebayor.

In the 2-0 win at Molineux against Wolves, Adebayor was at his very best. The 6ft4 Togo striker was powerful and strong in his hold up play, good in the air, whilst he worked the entire Wolves defence with his pace and movement. His link-play wasnt bad either, some tremendous one-twos played between himself and the Croatian duo of Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar a particular highlight. His goal was taken with consumate ease, as he coolly waited for Wayne Hennessey to go down before rounding him and rolling into an empty net.

In short, Adebayor was outstanding. If Harry Redknapp can get that sort of quality and work-rate from him each and every week, then their is no reason why Spurs can’t compete for a top four spot once more.

Fear for the promoted sides and their lack of goals

Queens Park Rangers, Norwich and Swansea have now played 12 Premier League matches between them this season. They’ve scored a grand total of three goals. That statistic tells you all you need to know about why the promoted sides are going to struggle against relegation this season.

Swansea were excellent for the large part against Arsenal on Saturday. An error from Micheal Vorm gifted Andrey Arshavin the only goal of the game. For the rest of the match the Swans defended resolutely, whilst they kept possession and played with no shortage of confidence.

For the above read similar for Norwich City. The Canaries played some decent football in their match against West Brom, working the ball neatly through midfield, with Andrew Crofts and Elliot Bennett both excellent. The central defensive duo of Richie De Laet and Leon Barnett looked very shaky, but in possession they looked menacing.

Similarly Rangers. Neil Warnock’s side played some quite lovely stuff against Newcastle United on Monday evening, with Adel Taarabt’s adventure, Alejandro Faurlin’s excellent passing and the pace and direct running of Shaun Wright-Phillips causing the Toon Army defence problems. From 18 yard-box to 18-yard box, the R’s looked fantastic.

However, all three sides can’t score goals. All had chances to score against their opposition this weekend. Danny Graham firing over from five yards in injury time for Swansea. Andrew Surman and Grant Holt both missing golden chances for Paul Lambert’s men. Jay Bothroyd missed three (maybe more) wonderful opportunities for Neil Warnock’s side (Had DJ Campbell been playing and not sitting on the bench until the 78th minute he would have almost certainly taken one of the chances that seemed to bamboozle Bothroyd).

Danny Graham's miss against Arsenal as Swansea continue to fire Premier League blanks

All three sides are all playing in the Premier League. They all have Championship strikers.

Goals scored by the three sides this weekend – Zero. Points taken – 1.

Says it all about the struggles they will face this season.

And from further afield:

Serie A is going to be exciting this season

If your looking for a league where there will be shocks a plenty and goals galore this season you may be surprised to find Serie A as the place to go this season.

Fabrizio Miccoli was in irrepressible form for Palermo

The Italian top-flight finally got underway this weekend with some terrific matches, most notably Palermo’s 4-3 victory over Inter, which saw Fabrizio Miccoli inspire the Sicillians and prove there is life after the sale of Javier Pastore, and saw Inter’s three-man defence cause itself all sorts of problems, most notably Brazilian international Lucio, who looks to have seen better days.

Elsewhere, Juventus opened their new stadium – not counting the friendly draw with Notts County – in style amongst a capacity crowd with a brilliant attacking display against Parma, winning 4-1. The Old Lady played with a guile and a swagger that hasn’t been seen for quite some time in Turin, Andrea Pirlo rolling back the years with a sumptuous midfield display alongside the hard-running Chilean, Arturo Vidal, who is one of the signings of the summer anywhere in world football.

AC Milan and Lazio played out a 2-2 draw at San Siro, Udinese proved that their production line shows no sign of slowing down with new Romanian Gabriel Torje almost seemlessly picking up where Alexis Sanchez left off, whilst Luis Enrique’s Roma side played some delightful football, but succumbed to a 2-1 counter-attacking masterclass from Cagliari.

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About AA_Richards

Football writer & all-round pen for hire. Can tiki-taka or counter-attack at pace. Differentiates Athletic from Atletico. Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/AA_Richards
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