Archive for December 28th, 2010

What We Learned From Prem Week 18


Life In The Old Dog(s) Yet

Obviously when we said that Arsenal were a dead dog with no chance of winning anything other than the Not-So-Useless Cup and that Arsenal Wenger still had much to learn and that his team mirrored his benign innate politeness and would never be able to cope with The Drog, what we actually meant was that he was breeding a team of steel-hearted killers who now seem to have the mental qualities necessary to take on Chelski, if not Barcelona, at their own game and boss them off the park. Hopefully, this win is the start of a long and successful period. Next stop the FA Cup third round and a win in the Not-So-Useless Cup.

Man U continue on their merry way, not necessarily playing fantastic football, but not losing the plot either. Over the recent Xmas period, they’ve cynically dismantled Arsenal, given Fat Sam Allerdiché the kicking that got him the sack, done for Bolton and even had a week off while Blackpool defrosted their pitch and Chelski worried about snowy pavements. Their last match, against Sunderland, saw another away team roll over to be tickled by a side that still hasn’t really bothered (or needed) to find its form.

Sneaking up on the outside, both Tottingham and Man City continue their merry progress, Tottingham blithely leaking goals at one end while scoring more at the other, Man City merely playing drole football and relying on Leetle Carlito for all their nous and inspiration, if not all their goals.

Or Maybe Not…

Chelski, meanwhile, seem intent on playing an active part in the increasingly exciting ‘Race For Third And Fourth’ alongside Man City and Tottingham. Despite the return of all their key players, they now look like half the team they were at the start of the season and if they continue this form there is now the very real possibility that they will be the team forced out into fifth.

Games, Games, Games

 

Avram Grant stalks the corridors of Upton Park searching for another win.

Arsenal’s game against Chelski put down an impressive marker for Arsenal. Admittedly they are irritatingly inconsistent, but now, at last they have the reassurance that they have actually beaten one of the big teams. They may not go on to win the league, which is looking like Man U’s to lose at present, but they should go into the serious half of the season with the confidence that they could win something. Obviously it was essentially that Fabregas was back in the side and providing the mental stamina that the side appear to need.  Chelski now have the sort of eminently winnable fixtures coming up that they had at the start of the season, so they should return to their previous form next week. Their really critical matches are now against Man City, Tottingham and Man U later in the season.

Man U continued the highly predictable tradition of teams managed by ex-players or friends of Alex Ferguson rolling over for them. In this case the Sunderland team which gave Chelski such a pasting were themselves given a hard time and reduced to chasing shadows for much of the match. So much so that it’s hard to reconcile them with the team of a few weeks ago. Man U still haven’t begun to show their proper form, but with Chav Wanker looking menacing out wide and Berbatov scoring relatively freely and playing some beautiful little flicks and kicks, things are starting to look ominous.

One day this season Tottingham will actually go through a game without gifting the opposition a goal (or two). This wasn’t that match. Nevertheless, their player of the year and still transfer of the season Van Der Vaart popped in a couple before Jermaine Offside Trap was sent off. Villa really hadn’t got much of a response and seem increasingly lacking in firepower up front. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ashley Young leave in the January transfer window, but equally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Villa bought a striker then too.

Man City are something of the opposite of Tottingham, they don’t concede too often, even if they conspired to illustrate some of Andy Carroll’s finer points as a striker. And when Leetle Carlito scores, they usually go on to win. Even if Ballotelli didn’t manage to do anything except get booked. Newcastle continue to blow hot and cold. They weren’t terrible, but so far they haven’t shown us anything under Pardew that they hadn’t under Hughton. They looked to come back from the kind of nightmare, mistake ridden start that combines horror and  comedy in equal measures, but were utterly floored by City’s third goal.

The remainder of the matches merely continued the Prem’s subtext of decreased quality and increased tedium. Admittedly West Ham scraped a win from Fulham, with Carlton Cole scoring twice for the first time since the Prem started. Given he is West Ham’s big striker, that stat says something about the team’s chances. Fulham look a shade of the side that went to the Little Cup last season and while the loss of their entire strikeforce to injury can’t have helped, Mark Hughes’ management doesn’t seem to be doing much.

Wolves dropped into the bottom place relinquished by the Hammers thanks to a loss at home to Wigan. Again, their problem is they simply can’t score goals.  Neither of these sides looks too good to go down. And, frankly, neither would be missed.

Bolton did for West Brom, who are fast becoming the most inconsistent team in the Prem. Still their goal this season remains to avoid relegation and there are at least three teams beginning with W who are worse than they are. Like Sunderland, Bolton show that good football, rather than painful defending is the best way out of the mid-table mediocrity and towards Prem stability.

Real Blackburn are beginning to really struggle. There will be those who say that Fat Sam would have kept them up, but I’m not so sure. While they don’t often lose heavily (except to Man U), they don’t have quality goalscorers either. Money bought them the Prem title a while back and it may be the only way to save this season. Stoke haven’t got a lot of quality either, but they’ve got enough to comfortably beat Real Blackburn.

Rob Green Save Of The Day

I don’t know what it is about the backpass rule that has keepers and defenders so flummoxed, especially this season. It seems pretty simple, you pass the ball back to your keeper in plenty of time and not directly at the goal and your keeper hoofs it if under pressure or passes it out to a clearly unmarked defender if that’s an easy pass. The worst thing that should happen is you concede a corner. This season we’ve seen a parade of catastrophic back pass failures some of which defy belief. Think of Phil Neville’s painful attempt to  gift a goal to Chelski or Chimbonda’s elegent set up for Berbatov’s second and inwardly wince. This time, however, it was Newcastle keeper Krul (who sounds like an extra from Star Trek only with a first name of Tim) who managed to make a mess of things. With three City players on the edge of his area, circumstances called for a hefty hoof n hoper. Instead he attempted to pass the ball out, only to see it intercepted and boffed into his own net. Five minutes in and almost game over.