Archive for December 30th, 2010

What We Learned From Prem Week 19

Will No One Rid Me Of This Turbulent Prem?

You would have thought that by now, halftime in the Prem as it were, someone, somewhere would have decided that this is a league they can comfortably win. Surrounded by the least inspiring set of challengers and numpty no hopers it’s been our misfortune to sit through for at least a decade, no one, not one team seems to have the collective will to impose themselves on this division. And it’s getting ridiculous.

Man U could win the league and go unbeaten with a team that’s hardly on a par with any of Ferguson’s previous sides. Man City could win it with a team that barely looks like it will see out the season, let alone play into the next one. Arsenal continue to promise much but fail to deliver on such a consistent basis that success is far from a given. Chelski look inadequate and a pale shade of the team that rampaged its way through their first five games. Tottingham just can’t keep the ball out of the net (at either end). None of the others has a realistic chance.

Games, Games, Games

It’s a frantic game every two days period where it’s clear that no one is going to field entirely consistent teams throughout the holiday period and that the smaller squads and those where the strength in depth just isn’t there are going to suffer. Arsenal hardly untypically follow their outstanding win over Chelski with an irritating draw against the free falling Wigan. Admittedly they weren’t helped by having Fabregas serving a one match ban, but Wenger’s decision to rest 8 players, including pretty much the entire defence, doesn’t seem to have been the right one. It’s pretty obvious that while Arsenal’s ‘first’ team are a match for anyone, their ‘B’ team are capable of losing to almost every side even when appearing to be in the lead. You have to feel that players like Arshavin, Rosicky, Bendtner, and Eboue, not to mention the centre back pairing of Koscielny and Squillaci, have yet to put in a decent performance this season. And that’s despite Arshavin and Bendtner both scoring. Even so, it appeared that they had just about done enough before they once again pressed the spastic self-destruct button and let Wigan steal two points off them with some pretty useless set piece defending. However, as with the Sunderland match earlier in the season, this draw is an improvement on last season, so it could actually be positive.

Meanwhile, Chelski were smarting from their thrashing at the hands of Arsenal and needed to get a result from a usually plucky Bolton. However, Bolton are one of those sides whose squad size just doesn’t allow them to compete in this many games this often and they were reduced to having only six substitutes. Chelski weren’t at their best, but their goal recalled the majestic splendour of early Autumn, a grand sweeping move which ended with The Drog putting the ball across the six yard box for Malouda to tap in.  It made you wonder what the hell has happened to the side to make something like this seem like a relic of a bygone era. Still, they’ve got a couple of easy games coming up so maybe it’s the dawning of a new era for the ski-boys. Bolton are discovering the limits of their ambition, held back by the size and nature of their squad. What we enough to maintain a comfortable Prem permanence isn’t enough to maintain a European place position.

Also not enough to support a European position is Liverpool‘s performance against Wolves. Just as in their match against Blackpool a while back, Liverpool’s central defence was bisected by a lovely pass to put a player clear through on goal and that was it, game over. I’m not sure that scab monkey Skrtel and journeyman Kyrgiakos are even as good a defensive partnership as Squillaci and Koscielny and considering that the former pair were both at the World Cup that’s shocking. Uncle Wroy has to find a way to rejuvenate Gerrard and Torres, who seem like diamonds encrusted on a pile of shite, or he’s simply going to be managing a sinking ship. Wolves’ win simply drags a pile of other teams into the relegation dogfight.

Man U failed to press their foot to the championship winning pedal by only scraping a draw with drawbores Boremingham. And although they weren’t at their best, Man U looked like being able to carve Boremingham open any time they wanted. Their problem was simply that they weren’t able to score more than one. Boremingham are looking more and more like a team of nasty, thuggish little shites who aren’t capable of doing anything other than playing arse-ish negative football.

And while a Tevez-less Man City managed to stuff a very poor Aston Villa, they weren’t as impressive as they had been against Bolton where they totally ran the game. And while Balotelli got three, two of them were penalties and one was a tap-in. Admittedly the penalties were outstandingly self-assured and the tap-in was the sort of right place, right time effort you’d expect a skilled striker to get. City are starting to look like a competent, coherent unit, but hardly an unbeatable one. Villa, on the other hand, are starting to look like a team that has forgotten how to play, let alone win, football matches.

Tottingham continued to pressurise the top four by beating the inconsistent Newcastle. The latter’s blue away kit continues this season’s theme of having rubbish, non-traditional away kits. Mind you it is better than their canary yellow one last year. Tottingham are still the best rampaging forward side in the Prem and with Dawson back in their defence, they’re starting to look vaguely stable at the back. It will be interesting to see how they perform during the spring when they will be playing serious matches in the Prem and the Big Cup every week.

Sunderland will be kicking themselves at their performance against Blackpool. They battered the Blackpool goal but couldn’t score, while Blackpool slotted in two on their fabulous counterattacking moves. I can’t help thinking that if Gyan was playing in Darren Bent’s position, he’d be scoring more freely. Blackpool are more interesting, more effective and play better football than Hull did a couple of years ago.

Stoke‘s loss to Fulham, along with Real Blackburn‘s win at West Brom and West Ham‘s draw with Everton simply served to compact the relegation space.

Rob Green Save Of The Day

No real obvious contenders for this. No massive goalkeeping howlers or catastrophic back passes spring to mind. So in keeping with the third fallback position, the Arsenal Memorial Defensive Fuckup goes to Liverpool’s Skrtel and Kyrgiakos for their mind-boggling inability to prevent Wolves from passing between them.  And like the year, there goes the Prem, unspectacular, overhyped and instantly forgettable.