Football: Prem 2011 Week 6

Was That A Hospital Pass Or What

Week 6 saw, among other things, the return of the hospital pass, or if not the hospital pass, then the reemergence of suicidal defending. And we’re not talking the kind of moron quality backpassing we saw last season from the likes of Phil Neville. In some cases these are even worse.  Wigan squandered a perfectly good start against Spurs when Adebayor was gifted the ball and set up their first, while Everton’s new boy Roysten Drenthe isn’t going to be playing any crossfield balls any time soon.

Where Are Your Glasses Ref?

We also saw a return of that familiar fan bugbear, inconsistent refereeing. You have a player through on goal for a one on one with the keeper and the defender behind him brings him down from behind. Clearly a foul and a booking/red card for the defender. Certainly at Arsenal, where Bolton’s Wheater brings down Wallchart and gets a yellow, but not apparently at Stoke, where Woodgate gets away with leaping into the back of Hernandez. Pretty obviously the same situation, albeit the Woodgate foul was far more blatent, yet patently different results. Shurely Shome Mishtake.

That Is The Sound Of Consolidation

The table takes shape. All the top six, bar Man U, won, while the bottom seven, bar Fulham and West Brom who drew against each other, all lost. Meanwhile, Arsenal continued their slow climb out of the bottom by winning. The Manchesters aside, no one has opened any clear gaps as yet, but you feel that the clubs at the bottom are going to be strugglers, while the clubs at the top are going to be fighting for the big four finishes. Only Bolton, whose unfortunate fixture list has seen them face both Manchesters, Arsenal and Liverpool already, Arsenal, who clearly can’t have become that crap that quickly, and Newcastle, who may be punching above themselves, look likely to make any serious moves on their current positions.

Overall it was a poor weekend’s football, with few, if any, really good matches. Certainly none on a par with last week’s Spurs/Liverpool or Man U/Chelski ties. Maybe all the big boys were saving themselves for the Big Cup. Far too many matches reminded us that most of the Prem is still low-grade journeyman dross. You know things are bad when neither team is capable of playing the ball on the ground. It’s called football for a reason. Mind you, below Real Madrid and Barcelona, the Spanish league isn’t much more engaging.

Ahh I Love The Smell Of Football In The Morning

Man U should have been one up and Stoke a man down as early as the fourth minute as Woodgate launched into Hernandez, who had picked up a long ball and was running at the Stoke keeper. As clear a penalty as you will see. However, it was double bonuses for Stoke as a foul was avoided and Hernandez was forced out of the match through injury. Stoke then proceeded to foul their way through the game before Nani popped up with a great solo goal only for Crouch (Crouch!?!) to level things up with a header from a corner.  Who would have thought that Man U’s makeshift defence couldn’t defend set pieces?

Chelsea managed to repeat their defensive frailty from last week, conceding to an identical free kick that cost them at Man U. You have to wonder whether someone at Swansea had been doing their homework or had someone at Chelski been neglecting theirs? Still it wasn’t all bad, Torres continues his flip-flop redemption, scoring a great goal, then being sent off for a terrible tackle. Getting a three match ban is not a great thing to do as Drogba returns to fitness. Ramieres, presumably keeping Frank out of the side, looked very dangerous, his first goal was a great team move, although they were playing against a poor defence.

Like Liverpool under Benitez, Chelsea are building an Iberian spine. Interesting that the best players nowadays are coming from Spain and the Spanish league rather than the French league, which, along with their increasingly uncompetitive wage structure may explain Arsenal’s declining form. Chelsea’s new(ish) spine of Mata, Meireles and Torres looks far more fluid, if less obviously direct than the aging Lampard, Malouda, Anelka and Drogba one. Swansea were poor. Easy Chelsea win.

Man City weren’t as fluent as they have been at home to Everton. Maybe they are better away, when teams have to come at them thereby creating space for City to move into – certainly they played their best football once Everton had gone behind and had to come out and chase the game. But it seems as if this year’s City have been found out and once again it was clear that if you stop Silva, you stop City. Things didn’t really spring to life until he started to free himself.

Everton’s game plan was to defend en masse and when that failed, they didn’t have the strength/quality to really do any damage. Mind you they didn’t help themselves for the second goal. Royston Drenthe hopefully won’t be playing many passes as poor as the one he played to David Silva, from which Silva shimmied past a trio of defenders to fashion Milner’s winning goal.

These are cruel times for Arsenal, so they’ll take any little piece of luck they can. But you have to ask why Bolton made it so easy for them. Traditionally an Arsenal bogeyman, why leave Kevin Davies on the bench? Obviously there are plenty of acceptable football ones, he’s not very good and gives too many fouls away to name but two, but on a psy-war level, that was almost like giving Arsenal a one goal lift. Inexplicable.

Szczesny. Was. Excellent. A fantastic one handed stop to effectively neuter Bolton’s attack for the entire match when it was nil – nil. You begin to see why Arsène didn’t want to spend big (or even small) on a keeper last season. Song was quietly great in midfield. I suspect that, just as in the mid ’90s, Arsenal’s defensive solidity has to start at the front of the midfield rather than at the back. Once they determine a solution for the absence of Fabregas and Nasri and the injury to Wilshire, the defence will perk up too.

It was the same old Arsenal: 27 goal attempts, 3 goals, restricting Bolton to 3 shots all game, you end up feeling if they were just a little more clinical in front of goal Van Persie would be celebrating his 150th goal instead of his 100th and they would be winning matches like this 6 or 7 – nil. Wallchart was similarly inconsistent, some nice wingplay, but yet another one on one that he’s not converted. Bolton were very poor.

Newcastle continued their quietly excellent run by taking apart a surprisingly muted Blackburn, who displayed none of the pacy wingplay they showed against Arsenal. For some reason they didn’t seem as up for it. Newcastle’s Best creates chances, both for himself and others, but his finishing is poor. You feel he is a 10+ a season striker rather than a 20 goal a season winner. Ba showed his strengths, scoring a nice hattrick. Very much a Drog of a striker, although again probably in the 10+ mould rather than anything higher.

More suicidal defending as terrifyingly poor marking by Newcastle allowed Blackburn to grab a goal. As with the Arsenal match, it appeared very much against the run of play. Nice to see Ben Arfa back. A year after he was put out of the game by De Jong.

Wolves continue their quiet plummet to the depths, failing to muster much effort against a still poor Liverpool. Great goal from Dirty Suarez. Did Henderson play? Apparently yes, but he continues to demonstrate a genuine talent for anonymity. New boys Downing and Adam also conspicuously innocuous. The returning Gerrard was like a new signing. Only he almost made an impact.
Wolves never really looked threatening. Except when they scored. Especially that 11th minute bullet header that made it 1 – 0. To Liverpool. A bit like Blackburn.

Spurs really couldn’t have wished for an easier ride at Wigan. A stunningly inept mid-field pass gave the ball to Adebayor, who passed it to Van Der Vaart for a tap in. And that was that. Interesting to see that Defoe was absent. You wonder how many games he will get while Van Der Vaart and Adebayor are fit. None would be my guess.  Maybe in the Europa League.

A classic, ho-hum nothing of a game between Uncle Wroy’s West Brwom and his former charges Fulham. Nil – nil flattered both sides.

A game of two halves on Sunday. First half QPR were dominant, although never as much as in their previous two matches, but inexperience, unfamiliarity and lack of a striker let them down. Neither Boothroyd nor Campbell look to be regularly dangerous, more in the Carlton Cole 6+ goals a season mould, which is going to hurt QPR in the long run. Villa were awful in the first half.

Things couldn’t continue. In the second half, Villa realised they were in a match, while QPR never really came out of the changing room. Triore, whose attacking runs had pinned back Villa, spazzed out, letting Villa move forward and getting himself sent off once QPR had conceded. Good to see manager Colin W return to form by publicly slagging the player. You can’t buy class like that. A point each was about the maximum either side deserved, but if both sides could have been given none that would have been a more accurate reward.

A classic Monday Night Football when it’s big cup week and all the decent sides have played on Saturday. At least Naarich looked like they wanted to play. Sunderland were ghastly. As they capitulated, you had to wonder how they beat Stoke 4 – 0 last week. Again neither side really deserved to be rewarded for their efforts.

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