For once a manager might be pleased to open the newspaper and find that his team's victory is being reported first and foremost as the opposition's loss; after a hair'em scare'em 4-3 win over Arsenal on Saturday, Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean will be glad of all the kudos and none of the forensic examination. Before kickoff, a couple of hundred supporters had marched to the ground in monsoon weather calling for him to be sacked, and the ludicrously thrilling match was the second thing to rain on their parade.
"We showed what we are all about," said Kean to reporters. "We dug in and struck on the break. I was disappointed that people felt the need to demonstrate, but hopefully we sent everyone home happy." Two of Blackburn's four goals were scored by Arsenal defenders, but it would nonetheless have been difficult for Rovers fans to leave Ewood Park without feeling a rush of elation given the grandstand finish. Besides, Yakubu's debut double -- the first an excellent instant finish -- and the increasingly influential form of players such as Ruben Rochina urge at least a stay of execution.
The pressure on Kean is interesting -- his whole reign, in fact, is riddled with contradiction and intrigue. The owners, Venky's, sacked Sam Allardyce in December last year, saying it was part of their "plans and ambition for the club." "[Venky's] must have a plan to have made decision like this," said team captain, Ryan Nelsen, at the time. "It's ruthless." Blackburn won 21 of 51 available points under Allardyce last season; under Kean they took 22 of 63, yet the man who was only supposed to take temporary charge is still in the job.
Kean's assessment of his side is often comically suspect, too, finding positives in the least accomplished performances and spotting brilliance in the merely mediocre. Yet co-owners Balaji and Venkatesh Rao have urged the fans to get behind Kean, and made a point of raising their arms to salute the manager at the final whistle against Arsenal. "We have not doubted his ability at all," Venkatesh Rao said after the game, which perhaps raises questions about his own judgment; it isn't difficult to imagine that under different ownership, Kean might have been slipped his P45 a while back.
Is it too contrary to almost admire the club holding its nerve? The average soccer manager lasts less than two years in a job these days -- only five managers in English professional soccer have been in post for longer than five years. What will please Kean most is that he evidently has the support of his players, who worked incredibly hard in difficult conditions to preserve this win. True, Arsenal helped as much as it could, but it also used a lot of its 69 percent possession in Blackburn's half, peppering Paul Robinson's goal with 23 shots from near and far. Blackburn could so easily have surrendered to what at halftime had seemed its destiny -- as a superior Liverpool squad often did under Roy Hodgson. Perhaps Kean is no better a fit for Blackburn than Hodgson was for Liverpool, but maybe fans shouldn't give up on the man in the dugout before the players do.
Manchester United's 3-1 win over Chelsea had everything, even a couple of stonking misses to confirm it as a barnstormer. But while
"I think if we were playing tiddlywinks he'd want to beat me, make no mistake about that. If you take that out of him ... let's be fair, he wouldn't be with us if everything was rosy; you can't tell me he can't get in one of the top four or five clubs in the country on a Bosman. I think we've swum the channel, me, it's a great signing" -- the Queens Park Rangers manager Neil Warnock on his new captain Joey Barton, who scored his first goal for the club in a 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, then taunted Wolves fans by gesturing three-nil and blowing them a kiss.
Emmanuel Adebayor's home debut for Tottenham was thoroughly impressive, two goals against Liverpool taking his tally to three already -- not quite in Rooney/Sergio Aguero territory, but only one off the four Peter Crouch scored in 34 league appearances last season. His second was a superbly taken volley. Perhaps more important is the relationship he seems to be forming with Jermain Defoe and others around him; in contrast to Crouch, Adebayor never stayed in the same area of the pitch for too long, dropping into midfield and popping up on the left and the right and showing off some lovely footwork. It took a deft touch to pluck the ball out of Pepe Reina's reach and set up his first goal.
They know better on Tyneside than anywhere else the kind of saves Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given is capable of making, but Newcastle United fans must still have left Villa Park wondering how Yohan Cabaye was thwarted. Cabaye, whose central midfield partnership with Cheik Tiote looks promising -- even allowing for Villa's weaknesses in that area on Saturday -- had already hit the woodwork when Given pushed away a powerful volley struck just outside the area and apparently destined for the net. Given, who spent 12 years at Newcastle, is guilty of the occasional one for the cameras, but it looked a bona fide good'un from this angle.
It's been a bit doom and gloom on the blue half of Merseyside recently, but Everton's 3-1 win over Wigan gave reason enough for cheer. It wasn't quite as swashbuckling and rapacious as the score line might suggest, and David Moyes' decision to start without an out-and-out striker didn't go down too well with Louis Saha, who didn't even make the bench. Saha would later tweet: