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Category Archives: Around the League

The Premier League Weekend Awards – Aston Villa dominate the prizes

Stoke-v-Aston-Villa-Matthew-Lowton-celeb_2925584

The Weekend Awards are a somewhat serious, somewhat tongue in cheek affair in summary of the best and worst of the Premier League.

Highlight of the Weekend

Villa teach Stoke a lesson

Even as a neutral I was hoping Villa would be beat Stoke for a few reasons. Firstly, the three points for Villa tightened things up massively at the bottom of the table so that now 14th to 18th are separated by just 4 points. This makes things exciting. T

here’s also the fact that Paul Lambert has his young and very inexpensively assembled side playing a tactically disciplined and creative style of football that finds room for 3 attackers, all of whom have played as a lone front man in the past. Villa are playing fearlessly at the moment and they swarmed all over Stoke. In truth, it could, and should, have been about 5 or 6 goals for them. They came out and attacked, as they have done against everyone of the last month or so and got their just rewards.

Stoke on the other hand were beyond abject in attack yet again. As I seemingly have to write every week, Pulis picked a team that included absolutely no flair. Even the usual loyal Stoke fans are now openly questioning the team selection. It’s all well and good picking hard workers and players that put a tackle in to ruffle the feathers of the likes of Liverpool, their last win, but against teams like Villa it doesn’t work. Villa have been unlocked by flair this year. Suarez torched them last week, Bale got a hat trick and so on. But Pulis picked his usual hard runners and simple passers. It’s not good enough and this rank negativity is coming home to roost. They are in a nosedive.

Lowlight of the Weekend

Liverpool go back to old ways

For the prior two seasons Liverpool have been stuck in a mid table malaise of their own doing caused by extreme profligacy in front of goal. They seemed to have shaken that streak this season with Suarez leading the goal scoring charts and various teams put to the sword at Anfield. But it all went wrong against West Ham.

Brendan Brent bemusingly felt Sturridge’s goal was wrongly disallowed when he was clearly offside but that was misplaced criticism. There’s just something inexplicably inconsistent about Liverpool. You look at them on paper and can’t see how this sort of result, or the the defeats to Southampton and West Brom, are possible when you watch them in full flight. On paper they look good but in reality they are a mile away from the top 4.

Goal of the Weekend

Matt Lowton vs Stoke

How many weeks could this goal have two legitimate contenders against it. In most other weeks Mirallas’ lovely dribble and clean finish would win, and in any other week Loic Remy’s technical masterpiece against Wigan would win but Lowton’s goal has the unbeatable combination of jaw dropping quality and gravitas.

This wasn’t a dead rubber goal, it was the strike that won the game for Villa. At 1-1 they were rocking all over the place but one counter attack that wins a corner, a nodded clearance that drops to Lowton, and one outrageous volley later, and they’re 2-1 up and cruising. That moment of quality seemed to reinvigorate Villa’s young team and make them believe in themselves again.

Really?! Moment of the Weekend

Bobby Zamora gets 3 points for a clean head shot

Bobby Zamora, fighting in the White Tae Kwon Do dobok lands an absolute beauty of a headshot to pick up 3 points in his clash with Jordi Gomez in the blue dobok. Nope, hang on. They’re playing football. Ah…

What are you talking about?

Rafa Benitez: ‘We scored 2 and an own goal, so really we scored 3’

Uh huh, but the first Chelsea goal was an own goal? Plus, Chelsea were abject anyway. That’s not relevant, but it’s true.

Pundit being pushed to the top

Kevin Kilbane

The BBC are clearly trying to freshen up their punditry ranks but Kilbane is not the answer. The thing is, there isn’t an obvious reason as to why he is being pushed so hard. He was a moderate player, isn’t outspoken and also doesn’t offer unique analysis. So he doesn’t doesn’t tick any of the boxes. For all the criticism that goes in the direction of a lot of pundits, at least they have been there done that. Even if they can’t articulate how.

Kilbane seems like a nice bloke but what does he add? When he makes his first pun or reference to an unpronounceable name with a knowing glance to Gary we’ll know he’s made it.

One man team of the Weekend

Dimitar Berbatov vs Newcastle

I’m sure Christian Benteke won’t be disappointed to miss out on this for once and with Gareth Bale down injured, Berbatov gets this unopposed. The MOTD2 highlights package only seemed to mention Berbatov’s name for Fulham. He had their best two chances and also cleared a goal bound shot. And they still lost…

Most bizarre team selection

Romelu Lukaku on the bench for West Brom

What’s the biggest weakness of the Arsenal central defence? They struggle against pace and power. OK. So, obviously you play perhaps the most dangerous physical player in the league in Romelu Lukaku to cause chaos. If you didn’t, it would be crazy. Right? Well…

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A Look at Rafa’s meltdown

Rafa Benitez’s latest comedy press conference has caused quite a sensation. The interesting thing is, his biggest objection was that he was given that title of ‘Interim manager’, as if it was this alone that turned the Chelsea fans against him. Did he think that they would have backed him wholeheartedly if he had been called ‘Manager’ as he insisted last night?

Rafael-Benitez_5

Per BBC Radio 5 Live he said that; ‘He was only given the title so the club could “wash our hands” of him if he failed’. Now, this may well be true, but surely he knew that when he took the job. Everyone knew that he was just keeping the seat warm before a push to get Pep Guardiola to Stamford Bridge. When the news broke that he would be at Bayern next year it is possible that Rafa felt as if he would have a chance at getting the job permanently.

In fact, it is probable that when he took the job after Di Matteo he felt as if he was inheriting a no lose position. If he did well and got Chelsea back in to the Champions League along with the very real chance of winning the Club World Cup and the League Cup, which were both on a plate for him, he could either make a case for himself getting the job permanently or leave with his reputation enhanced.

The problem was, after a lot of comments about Chelsea when at Liverpool and the fact the he replaced Di Matteo so soon after he was dismissed meant Chelsea fans were against him from Day One. The fact that it was Benitez made it worse for Chelsea fans, but really the protests directed at him are the only way Chelsea fans can direct any opposition to the senior management. Short of Mourinho or an ex-Chelsea player replacing Di Matteo, it was always going to be a very hot seat.

The fact that results haven’t been up to scratch only makes things worse. Some superb performances have been mixed with some atrocious ones, a pattern of performance which is actually very similar to that which was produced under Di Matteo. But, Di Matteo won the Champions League AND played for Chelsea. You can argue the merits of Chelsea’s win all you like, but the trophy is in the cabinet, and it was Di Matteo who lifted it and that is how he is remembered.

The only way he could have won the fans over would have been with excellent results. Sky Sports News is showing a stat that Benitez has only won 52% of his games. He may well blame this on the fans but they were happy to cheer when Chelsea slayed Villa 8-0. Certainly the atmosphere doesn’t help the team but they can’t be blamed for the results.

How about blaming things like; resting Juan Mata in league games but playing him for 120 minutes in the League Cup and 90 minutes in the Europa League, not playing John Terry over Cahill/Ivanovic in important games, stumbling over the ability of David Luiz to play in midfield and then abandoning it , dropping the in form Azpilicueta against City with both goals coming down the same flank he’d be protecting and the big one, playing Torres over Ba despite all form to the contrary. These things don’t help with gaining popularity.

Around the Premier League – 29/01

Click on the links below for a little nugget from each club in the Premier League.

Despite exciting the media, David Beckham will not be signing for Arsenal

Some Aston Villa old boys have been visiting a local Hospice

Are Chelsea lining up David Moyes to be their next manager?

Maroune Fellaini belives the Goodison Park crowd can be a big advantage for Everton

Will his good form at Brentford help Marcello Trotta in to the first team picture at Fulham?

Liverpool’s youngsters have been given a reality check by manager Brendan Rodgers

Will Man City regret it if Balotelli leaves?

A vote of confidence for Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck from an important figure

Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini has a special message for the fans

Norwich get a boost with the return of Sebastien Bassong

QPR boss Harry Redknapp not talking about other teams’ players

Reading confirm their interest in signing Tom Ince from Blackpool

Southampton will play a full strength team against Man United

Stoke need to step things up after a recent poor run of form

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill is confident that he can add to his strike force

Wayne Routledge’s recent good form has seen him sign a new contract with Swansea

Do Spurs need a new striker?

Former West Brom stalwart Darren Moore has joined the Blackburn coaching staff

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce shares his thoughts ahead of the clash with Fulham

Wigan need better performances from their defence

Around the Premier League – 25/01

Click on the links below for a little nugget from each club in the Premier League.

Are Arsenal’s new boys starting to make up for the loss of van Persie?

Aston Villa’s Matt Lowton on his time wasting training as a ball boy at Sheffield United

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard charged by FA for incident with ball boy on Wednesday

Everton’s Seamus Coleman will miss this weekend’s FA Cup tie at Bolton

Fulham manager Martin Jol wants to take some risks in the transfer market

Liverpool’s Stewart Downing discusses his recent improvement in form

In form Pablo Zabaleta has shaken off an ankle knock to return to the Man City first team

Manchester United welcome £15m new boy Wilfred Zaha

Newcastle’s trio of French new boys talk about the second half of the season

Are Norwich looking to Portugal for a solution to their striker search?

Harry Redknapp believes QPR are struggling to attract enough new signings

Reading welcome back popular ex-striker Dave Kitson, now of Sheffield United, this weekend

Southampton’s
Morgan Schneiderlin has made more tackles and interceptions than any other player in Europe’s top 5 divisions

To celebrate Stoke City’s 150th anniversary; an all time XI

Sunderland new boy Kader Magane needs to get up to full fitness

Swansea send Leroy Lita and Jazz Richards out on loan

Some stats ahead of Spurs game against Leeds

West Brom have rejected a transfer request from attack Peter Odemwingie

A chance to buy West Ham’s Ricardo Vaz Te’s boots for the Bobby Moore Fund

Wigan’s Callum McManaman agrees to a new contract through to 2016

Around the League

A daily round up of nuggets from all 20 Premier League teams.

Are Arsenal planning a move for Barcelona striker David Villa?

Paul Lambert responds to last night’s disastrous loss in the League Cup Semi-Final for Aston Villa

If Chelsea win the Capital One cup, will Rafa Benitez be named manager on a permanent basis?

Everton have sold out their ticket allowance for the weekend FA CUP tie at Bolton.

Fulham appear to have missed out on Maarten Stekelenburg

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson is confident his recent upturn in form can continue.

Man City’s Eden Dzeko knocks back interest from Inter Milan

Can Phil Jones be the answer to Man United’s midfield questions?

Newcastle new boy Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is confident the club can pull clear of their relegation worries

Can Norwich prise Gary Hooper from Celtic?

Ryan Nelsen will play his last game for QPR on January 29th before moving to his post as manager of Toronto FC

Reading’s Adam le Fondre wants to continue his run of good form by starting games.

Southampton will look to La Liga for reinforcements.

Stoke thwarted in attempts to sign MLS starlet Brek Shea

Sunderland confirm that Danny Rose will remain on loan for the rest of the season.

Swansea star Michu signs a new deal keeping him at the club until 2016

A look at Tottenham’s quiet start to the transfer window.

A plea for West Brom fans to be patient with Steve Clarke and his stuttering team.

Sam Allardyce is worried by the thin squad at West Ham

Wigan reveal designs for a new academy

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