Not match reports just some thoughts on the weekend’s Premier League games.
QPR 0-0 Norwich
Both teams look seriously short of innovation in attack. QPR in particular looked nonthreatening and a glance at the selected offensive personnel shows why. Redknapp started with a front 4 of Townsend, Taarabt & Wright-Phillips in behind Mackie. Who is scoring the goals in that? Mackie is hard running but is not a goal scorer. He also doesn’t bring any height or pace so that was a weird selection. Taarabt is seen as the creative force that can pull them out of trouble but a lot of the time his creativity amounts to a few drag backs before smashing a shot in to the crowd. Townsend looked lively but the flaw in the 4231 is that you need goal threats in the front 4 a la van der Vaart and Bale as Harry had at Spurs or it just looks a bit one dimensional.
Norwich looked compact and tidy and in Snodgrass they had the best player on the pitch. His craft and driving runs gave them menace but their lack of a genuine goal getter looks starker each game. They are one of those teams that look OK and should have enough about them to stay up but they need to start scoring multiple times in a game.
Arsenal 1-0 Stoke City
Arsenal lurch from free-flowing and potent to slow and cumbersome yet again. Wenger decided to rest Cazorla for the first time this season and the results were immediate. Even with (because?) Arteta back Arsenal struggled to break down a recently porous Stoke defence, despite (because?) Wilshere moving forward behind Giroud. Wilshere is a nice footballer but he doesn’t offer that edgy attacking threat so perhaps needs to be deployed further back.
Tony Pulis complained that Wenger doesn’t like teams that work hard and run about but said nothing of Shawcross’ latest x-rated lunge or Michael Owen throwing the lamest punch ever thrown at Arteta.
On a side note, this game had more examples of ‘Really?!’ behaviour from certain players. When Arsenal’s goal was laughably ruled out the players ran over to the linesman. He talked to the referee who confirmed to his little friend that if the ball hits a Stoke player with no Arsenal player not only not in the vicinity but not even inactively offside then they can give a goal. All the Stoke players saw what happened and yet Shawcross was ranting and raving. Sigh…After Owen had stroked Arteta, Jack Wilshere ran over to push the ex- England captain hard in the chest. Why? His action was far more forceful and absurdly over the top.
Everton 3-3 Aston Villa or Everton – Heitinga 3-0 Villa
11th July 2010; Jonny Heitinga lines up in the starting XI as Holland nearly overcome Spain in the World Cup final.
2nd February 2013 15:00; Jonny Heitinga as reigning fans’ player of the year lines up for Everton against a Villa side in terminal decline.
2nd February 2013 17:00; Jonny Heitinga sobs alone in the Everton dressing room wearing a dunce hat.
So, Heintinga had a bad game you say? Well only if you consider being singularly at fault for all 3 Villa goals a bad game. Benteke was at his flat track best plundering goals on another unfortunate.
Newcastle 3-2 Chelsea
Moussa Sissoko is the best signing in the history of the Premier League. Martin Keown added his pearls of wisdom on Alan Pardew’s transfer strategy on Match of the Day. He knew what he wanted and went out and got it. No wonder they struggled over the first half of the season with all that time he was spending in France personally finding all these players. Mmm hmm…
That aside, Newcastle look good as is unsurprising given the quality of the players they’ve brought in. Back when France was the in vogue country to shop in, Sissoko would cost you £18m and Gouffran something similar but they both arrived for a combined £3.5m. The inter-rail pass that Mike Ashley bought Graham Carr has been put to superb use.
Chelsea meanwhile lurch from funny to hilarious. With only Mata and Lampard playing well at the moment Benitez’s options are limited. Despite all the fuss around them they are still in 3rd and show signs of being excellent. They scored 2 beautiful goals and should sort themselves out soon enough.
Reading 2-1 Sunderland
How are Reading only 17th? They seem to have been churning good, and particularly late, results for a while now but their awful start has bogged them down. Their late game comebacks are now getting so common place that you take them for granted. A team of players all pulling in one direction that look fit, organised and full of desire is a good cocktail but they can only make up for their lack of quality for so long. Surely?
Sunderland looked wretched again. Another game passed them by without generating any sustained attacking menace. Statistically Sunderland are a very efficient attack but that is only because they register painfully few shots. They don’t really have a style. They can’t pass it well enough to move it quickly and both wingers like to beat their full back as many times as possible to avoid crossing it on time. They don’t have the pace to break rapidly and the central midfield are plodders. A couple of recent big wins have masked over some more fundamental attacking issues.
West Ham 1-0 Swansea
As exciting as the scoreline suggests but some positives for both teams. With Carroll back in the attack Nolan suddenly looked dangerous again for West Ham and Swansea’s impressive away defence continues to be strong.
But maybe they’d have scored if they’d kept Danny Graham! Yeah maybe, he has scored 3 goals this season after all.
Wigan 2-2 Southampton
See, I told you they shouldn’t have sacked Nigel Adkins. Well yes, clearly that was a bizarre decision but Pochettino is getting the usual bash him because we don’t understand sackings treatment. Sir Alex said that Southampton were the best team Man Utd had faced at Old Trafford this year but they conceded sloppily and couldn’t score twice. They dominated Everton but couldn’t score in his first game, and this time they scored twice but conceded two appalling goals. Saints out passed and out pressed Wigan, a style which is their stock in trade and should have won this about 5-0. Very positive signs for Southampton but they need to put it all together in the same game.
Fulham 0-1 Man Utd
A pretty lively game with both sides hitting the woodwork with Suarez like accuracy. Craven Cottage’s audition to host a Superbowl went to plan with a power cut just before half-time. Chris Waddle was impressed by Van Perzee. Man United grind out a 1-0 away from home.
United looked much better for having Evans back in central defence but that will not get the headlines like the Rooney goal. Although he took it well, I’d like to hear Senderos’ explanation to Jol. ‘I didn’t want to mark my sparkling head boss’. United roll relentlessly on to reclaiming the title.
West Brom 0-1 Spurs
Gareth Bale was speaking in the week about modelling his game on Cristiano Ronaldo and this was certainly in evidence in this game. Deploying Bale in the middle of the pitch was a good decision by Villas-Boas who has got Spurs looking rock solid at the back but is still trying to find some spark up top. For the second game in row it was a Bale wondergoal that won it in an otherwise lackluster effort from Spurs. That was until the hugely impressive Lewis Holtby was brought on. He brought directness and relentlessness and also meant that the West Brom defence had something other than Bale to deal with. Before the Popov red Bale had been marshaled two at a time by West Brom but with the extra space he had Bale took over the game. If they can harness him fully, and note to Dempsey; this doesn’t mean you shooting instead of Bale, and also get Holtby buzzing around him they could overhaul Chelsea in 3rd which would be sweet revenge.
Popov provided the ‘Really?!’ moment in this one, sent off by the eagle eyed Mark Clattenburg for spitting at Kyle Walker his immediate response was ‘What for?’. Please deal with this Steve Clarke…
Man City 2-2 Liverpool
4 excellent goals in one of the best matches of the season. It’s hard to imagine many games where Sturridge’s goal would only be the third best of the day with Gerrard’s technical masterpiece and Aguero’s sublime genius sharing the honours for best goal of the weekend.
In truth though, City weren’t really in this one for most of the game as for the second time this week Liverpool dominated a game against a top team away from home. On the other hand they managed to squander two wins this week. The signs are positive though as Rodgers has started to get them purring in attack. Defensively however, they look wobbly again.
There will be concerns for Mancini who chose to criticise Dzeko and Aguero after the game but this seemed misplaced. Aguero was at his rampant best, showing that Suarez’s current form is an imitation of him rather than vice versa. However, their midfield lacked ideas and couldn’t really get in the game. Garcia and Barry are OK at what they do but they won’t scare teams and combined with an incredibly off colour David Silva City just couldn’t get in to the game. City verge from looking incredible to listless incredibly quickly.
Highlight of the weekend
The best moment of the weekend was Liverpool’s first goal. Not because of the quality of strike but because it struck a blow against players cheating and feigning injury at convenient times to stop opposition attacks. Why should Liverpool kick the ball off just because Dzeko is sat on the ground? He clearly wasn’t injured as was evidenced by his sprint to berate the linesman after the goal. Sure it should have been a foul but kicking the ball off needs to be for injuries not because a player is lying on the ground. Let’s hope we see more of this.
Lowlight of the weekend
Popov. Spitting at a player? Seriously?
Illogical punditry of the week
From a few days ago but it raised it’s head again. Will City miss Balotelli now that he’s gone? Erm…no? This was a strangely widely asked question for a player that pundits and media have been queuing up to get rid of over the last couple of years.
Honorable mention to any reference to Pardew’s work in the transfer market.