Kudos to Norwich City. The're a team that's been promoted two seasons in a row -- no mean feat, that -- and this season find themselves in the top flight of English football. They're also a side in which only one member of the starting 11 against Arsenal on Saturday had any EPL experience before joining the League this season. And while Arsenal created the bulk of the chances and ultimately won the game 2-1, the Gunners' victory was by no means as easy as it looked. But rather than bore you with my thoughts about the earliest kickoff of the weekend, I'll leave you instead a couple of quick jokes inspired by Saturday's action: Q: How many Arsenal defenders does it take to score a goal? A: Four. One to trip and fall, and three more to stand around and watch the opposition cut through them like a hot knife through butter. Q: Why does Gervinho hate Christmas? A: Because he ends up squandering all the gifts he receives. Ba dah dum! Thanks. I'm here all week.... And now for some more thoughts on the week(end) that was in the EPL:
o Saturday's showdown between Manchester City and Newcastle was the proverbial irresistible force meeting the unmovable object. When the dust had settled, the City juggernaut continued to roll on, as two penalties and a goal by Micah Richards left the Citizens standing alone as the last of the EPL's unbeatens.
o Speaking of Richards, he accounted directly for one of City's goals and created a second through a penalty. Although there are several other viable candidates for this next nomination, I believe the big Englishman is City's most improved player this season: his defensive brain farts seem fewer and further between, and his attacking skills have become even sharper this year, in which he's been given greater license to roam forward by Roberto Mancini. Right now he's big, fast, and oh so dangerous -- so of course he won't make Fabio Capello's starting England lineup.... o Best commentary of the weekend came from Sunday's Chelsea vs. Liverpool match, with Gary Neville remarking on David Luiz' tendency to play all over the pitch: "There are times when I've watched him that I wonder if he's being controlled by a ten year old in the crowd with a PlayStation controller." o It was difficult to tell which was the home side watching Chelsea and Liverpool in the first half at the Bridge on Sunday. Liverpool played with the confidence oozing out of their red kits, and Chelsea looked more discombobulated than anything else. David Luiz epitomized the mess that Chelsea have become, running around like a chicken with his head cut off -- which is an appropriate metaphor, as the Brazilian mostly plays as if he has no brain, trying to dribble his way out of a traffic jam near his own goal, and making rash challenges once he's been beaten.
o Luiz looked a force to be reckoned with when he first joined the League -- remember his home winner against Manchester United last season? -- but has looked more and more like an accident waiting to happen as time has passed. Carlo Ancelotti gave up on Luiz completely by the end of last season, but Andre Villas-Bias seems willing to give the Brazilian another chance.
o Combined with AVB's insistence on playing a high line defense, Luiz' lack of defensive discipline and rash decision making may help convince Roman that the problem is not with the personnel on the pitch, but rather in the judgment of the man in charge of the team. After Sunday's 2-1 loss at home -- the second consecutive game in which the London side has ended up sending the fans home unhappy -- Villas-Boas is on the serious hot seat. Somewhere Jose Mourinho is chuckling while Guus Hiddink licks his lips in anticipation.... o Pete Cech looks vaguely like a superhero with his new nose guard and his old protective helmet. Notice I said 'vaguely.' A real superhero would figure out a way to make Chelsea's goal impenetrable, and Cech sure hasn't done that much of that this season. Formerly a certain bet for Fantasy League specialists, Cech has been as wobbly this season as the defenders surrounding him.