Not so Big Four
The top of the Premier League is getting tighter than a Lady Gaga bacofoil cocktail dress - and isn't it nice to see? Not one of the big four put over a convincing performance this weekend.
Arsenal proved they're never more vulnerable than when they go 2-0 up. I've a Gooner mate who says as soon as they get a comfy lead they start playing like teenagers showing off to their watching girlfriends. (To be fair, in the Carling Cup at least, that's exactly what they are).
United were almost overhauled by doughty Bolton. Again a 2-0 lead looked comfy, even allowing for Valencia celebrating his first United goal like his dog had just died.
Fergie's not letting on but United are ropey right now. Mind you, they didn't look up to much last season when the Gelled Tumbler was having a bit of a quiet strop and they won the title. And there was no Rooney.
If looks could kill...
Hard to say if Rooney was any more absent than Chelsea's defence at set-pieces. Moment of the weekend was John Terry's almost perfect impression of Yosemite Sam after the Villa winner. ('Oh you Drogba!!!!' ) Not so much zonal as zoned-out marking.
Carvalho was one of them who looked like he was heading back to the Godfather of Schmooth in Milan over the summer and to look at him this season you'd think he had actually gone there.
And in that ridiculous Tango costume and helmet, Cech looks like a Tour de France cyclist who's had his bike nicked. He must be looking for something 'cos it sure ain't the ball.
Terry's losing it in spades, Cech's lost his heart, Lamps hates the diamond and a lot of them might start looking for new clubs if this carries on. Thing is Anelka and Drogba do look good up front and Joe Cole will be back to his best soon . My money looks safe.
Well, safer than Alan Hansen's. He tipped Liverpool. After Saturday, I'd tip Liverpool - into the nearest skip. There are some 'Pool fans who'll deny this - and they must be the ones who watch the matches with a thick red scarf bound round their heads - but take out Torres and Gerrard and there's nowt but journeymen on the park.
It's like ordering a lemon meringue pie without the meringue or the lemon. Just too much bloomin' pastry.
Even them lads that have encouraging cameos every now then - Babel, Ngog - don't seem to be stepping off the conveyor belt and into the team with the ease of say your average Wenger Boy.
It doesn't help if some lad in Liverpool colours chucks a beach ball on to the pitch. I'm annoyed they pixilated his face on MOTD. The lad needs his face up all over Merseyside. Instead of laying low, the chump needs to come out of hiding and have a one-to-one counselling session with Pepe Reina while he tries to explain his 'crime'.
Benitez hasn't been hiding from the truth either. To be fair he's acknowledged how useless they were and hasn't blamed the beach-ball - or the ref for allowing it.
Apparently it should have been ruled out. Well, that's news. We've had a late winner nosed in by a border collie, a goal conceded 'cos the keeper's missus dashed on the field of play to thwack him with a unfamiliar F-Cup bra she'd found under the passenger seat.
And once we carried on even though a 13-year-old farmer's son had lost control of his Dad's tractor and parked it about four yards outside the opposition's 'D'. Ploughing a lone furrow upfront? On his Messi -Ferguson? We heard them all.
So are the top four weakening? Or are the rest of them getting stronger? And, God help us I never thought I'd be asking this question but... is it time to start taking Sunderland seriously? (Not the town, obviously).
Cattermole gets stuck in
What strikes me about the teams that pulled off the wins, Villa and Sunderland, is that the work ethic is strong and the lads making the big difference are English. I never knew why we got shot of Lee Cattermole and I'm still wondering now. He snaps into the tackle like a hungry crocodile, that lad. At Villa, Milner's work-rate epitomised that of the team. He's a top player, that lad.
Whether all this industry will be enough to overhaul the top teams is anyone's guess. But by this time last season, the writing was on the wall for the second tier. This season, we neutrals can hope.
I suppose I should be shelling out some praise for the fairytale victory of Jenson Button and Brawn GP. Trouble is I hate the sport. If it's a fairytale, then it's a Grimm one.
People keep asking pundits what the difference for Button has been this season. I can tell you that. My 6-year-old grandson can tell you that! He had a FAST CAR! How come I can get to the wife's mother in Beverley in under an hour now? I bought a FASTER CAR! I'm not a better driver. OK?
All right, it IS a good story, given that Button didn't have a drive three weeks from the start of the season. But I'd rather read about than put it on the telly and have me ear-drums drilled into by a bunch of billion-pound boys' toys. Well done, Button and Brawn. And welcome back peaceful Sundays. (Sorry, Robbo - there's one more on Nov 1 -Ed).