Man City v Referees – The Race for Public Enemy #1

So after the shambolic display of England at the World Cup it was almost pleasant to see the barrage of foreign exports strutting their stuff back in the Premier League. There is nothing to compare to it. I was excited to see my beloved Gillingham back to competitive football, naturally, but nothing whets the tastebuds more than United and company bashing ten bells out of each other week in, week out. And although only one week has elapsed several issues have already been raised.

As with most people, I have been watching the activities of Manchester City with more than a tinge of jealousy. Sheikh Mansour has already pumped more than 1 billion pounds into the club on everything from transfer fees to infrastructure and it wouldn’t surprise me if the tea ladies and cleaners are wearing gold crusted pinnies. But how much of it has actually been well spent? Especially considering before the Sheikh came along, they shelved out a mighty £600,000 to sign who ultimately might be their best signing of all, Joe Hart.

Based on their performance against Tottenham, the jury is still out on their array of signings. As I watched them struggle their way to a draw, I noticed how slow their play was in comparison to Spurs’. Mancini is most certainly an Italian, flooding his midfield with defensive minded players to make sure they were solid and slow passing across the back line. True, Spurs away is a tough opening and may have prompted a defensive outlook, but it was still a negative strategy, especially considering how Blackpool defied the odds with free-flowing attacking football away from home. James Milner, if he actually gets a game, will provide a more attacking presence in the midfield, so things could still change. Otherwise there could well be a lot of boring 1-0′s heading to Eastlands.

Never mind the spendings of the bigger teams. Based on the first weekend the best signing of the Summer may well end up being 30-year old Marlon Harewood. Ian Holloway has bemoaned the lack of transfer activity at Bloomfield Road, until half a team’s worth of players arrived at the same time. Several of them were thrown into the deep end against Wigan, but such is Holloway’s talent, they looked as though they had been playing together for years. Wigan were woeful, granted, and a massive struggle looks on the cards for the Latics, but nothing can be taken away from the bravery of Blackpool’s play. Elliot Grandin, potentially, looked another wonderful signing.

And finally, the Premier League would not be what it is without the wisdom of the humble referee. We had to wait until Sunday before they stepped into the limelight again. Anfield provided the first clash of the season, with former ‘Big 4′ member Liverpool taking on Arsene Wenger’s ever promising but still unfulfilling Arsenal. In what had been an otherwise uninspiring stalemate, Joe Cole brought the game to life with his less than graceful lunge on Laurent Koscielny. In my opinion, the ref got the decision right. But Koscielny’s afternoon was not over as he was the victim of the officials ever increasing level of inconsistency. Having not shown a yellow to David NGog for his ‘deliberate’ handball, Koscielny fell foul of a card for an almost identical offence, eventually conspiring to end his debut slightly prematurely, and for Wenger, his annual central defenders problems are already off and running.

The referee is human, of course, and everyone makes mistakes. And in many ways poor decisi0ns are an essential ingredient as to what makes our changing game always dramatic and never dull, unless it’s your team on the end of one. Premier League, welcome back. .

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