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Category Archives: Monday Musings

Premier League Review 18/03

Not match reports, these are some thoughts and observations on the weekend’s headlines, action and talking points.

Wigan 2-1 Newcastle

Horror tackle overshadows much needed Wigan win

Overshadows? Something being overshadowed would be the garbage about City’s defence overshadowing a good Everton win. Overshadowing is something that distracts from the main story. This is the main story.

The exucse making for the officials and McManaman himself by Martinez is nothing short of disgraceful. Maybe Halsey couldn’t see the incident himself, but what about the other 3 officials? None of them saw it? I don’t accept that I’m afraid, as I’m sure most won’t.

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Martinez trotted out the usual rubbish about McManaman not being ‘that kind of lad’. Well he very obviously is because he has shown that he is. It’s not just a ‘poor’ tackle as you sometimes see, it was no different, if not more forceful even, than the famous Roy Keane one. The referee managed to see that at least. Why didn’t he apologise? Why didn’t he check to see if he had hurt his fellow professional?

I also don’t buy the defence that he was fired up because it was his first start. So what? You know what Michu did on debut? He scored twice.

Everton 2-0 Manchester City

Everton ‘ruthlessly expose’ City’s new formation to claim win. I can’t even type that with a straight face. Good luck reading it…

Everton are an odd team. Last week against Wigan they looked like they would rather be doing anything else than playing, this week they fought doggedly to a win with 10 men against the defending champions. So what was different? Firstly, they came up against a City team that seems to have given up. They can’t win the title and it is almost taken as read that they are safe for Champions League qualification. It’d take an incredible collapse for them to lose it but they’re only 4 points ahead of the roller coaster ride that is Chelsea now. The limitations of City’s squad are starting to look increasingly apparent now. They are so devoid of creativity at the moment that they can’t fashion enough chances for their profligate strikers to capitalise on. Silva looks exhausted, Tevez looks jaded and…who else is there?

The media focused on Mancini’s switch to a back 3 as if that is what caused this result. Everton are supposed to have ‘ruthlessly exposed’ City’s 3412. How was this again? Presumably Everton will have scored their goals from defensive disorganisation, or possibly by flooding the City flanks and scoring from crosses? That would justify the hysterical reaction to Mancini fielding a decidedly foreign looking formation.

So how did they score? Oh that’s right, Osman from 25 yards from the middle of the pitch and a 94th minute counter attack, up the middle of the pitch. Obviously.

Aston Villa 3-2 QPR

This is what the Premier League is all about!

A barnstormer of a game that had everything you associate with the Premier League; goals, fouls, tension and abysmal defending. But who cares about that last one right? There were 5 goals!

To be fair, this was actually a very entertaining game. It flowed up and down the pitch as each side surged forwards trying to make up for the defending with goals. It pretty much summed up why both teams are down where they are. Neither of them took control of the game and the defensive play was at times unbelievably bad.

Mind you, this was a critical win for Villa. Paul Lambert was got his young bucks confident that they can get themselves out of trouble. As I predicted last week, QPR’s recent back to wins may have been no more than a blip.

Southampton 3-1 Liverpool

Huh? I thought Liverpool were a top 4 dark horse?!

The inconsistency that plagues Liverpool is almost inexplicable, but I guess I’d better have a try! The main two reasons are; hit and miss attacking and more damagingly, terrible defending.

Liverpool have some big wins on their slate this season. When they click in to gear they can be impossible to stop, particularly if you are a small team at Anfield. When all is well, i.e. Suarez is playing well, they look super. The thing is though, Suarez’s consistency is new to this year and he is still prone to quiet days. Sturridge and Downing are Sturridge and Downing and Coutinho is still finding his feet in this league. Coutinho scored a nice goal but overall Liverpool looked unthreatening.

Defensively they either keep clean sheets, usually against small teams who have been overwhelmed or they leak silly goals. Against Southampton Lucas was way off the boil, probably not fit, so they didn’t have an effective shield. Skrtel is playing his way out of the club and both full backs don’t see defending as their main responsibility.

Having said all that it was still an excellent win for Southampton, but did they just catch Liverpool on the hop? It’ll still be close for them in the relegation fight.

Stoke City 0-0 West Brom

Erm…

Swansea 0-2 Arsenal

Arsenal’s defence sorts itself out after video session

I don’t know how seriously to take that ‘news’. If they really did only watch tape for the first time after the loss at Spurs then they are the most unprofessional team in the league. If the papers think that teams don’t watch tape of every game then they think it is 1992. Fair enough, Arsenal have tightened up at the back but if that was achieved in one tape session I will be staggered.

This is the kind of result that confuses everyone. Swansea are the current darling side and Arsenal the dogs. But Arsenal won this comfortably, just like they won comfortably in Munich. Huh?

Manchester United 1-0 Reading

Wayne Rooney wonder goal proves Sir Alex was wrong to drop him against Real Madrid

Yep, I’m not making that one up either. I wish I was. If you made it through this unpaid or as a neutral you deserve a medal.

Sunderland 1-1 Norwich

Players turn to volleyball to relieve boredom

That one’s made up. Bunn sent off with arms by his side. Bassong concedes penalty after the ball bounces off his chest on to his arm which he is trying to keep out of the way. Rose concedes free kick after having ball drilled at him, with arms by his side, inside the penalty box.

So, ‘Unwatchable eventless game’ becomes ‘Norwich cling on with ten men in match full of controversy’.

Spurs 0-1 Fulham

Berbatov returns to haunt Spurs

I would have thought ‘returns to haunt’ would be more apt if he scored against Man United. Spurs got £30m for him and didn’t want to sell. Anyway, this was another result that defies explanation. Spurs looked completely done in after their midweek extra time exploits in Milan. AVB ventured in to bizarre decision territory again and the starting XI looked a bit thrown together. Maybe it was an off day, but the suspicion that if Bale doesn’t fire Spurs can’t win won’t go away like this. Meanwhile the almost unmentioned Fulham have secured their place in the league for next year.

This game produced the funniest bit of punditry for the weekend. On Sky Sports News Alan Curbishley said that Gareth Bale ‘doesn’t want to play through the middle. He wants to be out on the left where he can use his pace to run at the full back’. Remember this if you get sent a CV club chairman of England.

Chelsea 2-0 West Ham United

Super Frankie reaches 200

Chelsea did the opposite of Spurs. After making an absolute meal of things on Thursday like their rivals, they went out and won at an unchallenged canter in the league. They really are closing in on Man City now and that second half surge at Old Trafford seems to have instilled some confidence again. Mind you, there’s always next week…

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Monday Musings

Some thoughts on the weekend’s action.

Spurs 2-1 Arsenal

We’ll start with the main attraction.

Before the game Arsene Wenger said that they weren’t going to specifically plan for Gareth Bale. How did that go Arsene? If you were asked for 3 qualities that best describe, it’s fair to say that pace would be ones of those, if not the first one you’d think of. So, how do you combat pace? Is it by playing a high line and trying to play offside. That’s not necessarily the worst strategy in itself. Most of the focus is on the lack of pace in the Arsenal back 4 selected yesterday but that isn’t the problem.

Look at the great George Graham Arsenal defence; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Bould & Winterburn. None of those of quick,, in fact they were all slow. But they played offside, they played a high line. So what’s the difference? How about the fact that they played together for years and years so they understood the system faultlessly. They knew when to drop, they knew when to push up. Arsenal seemed to be wheeling out this defensive system for the first time yesterday and none of the back four seemed to know what they should be doing. Monreal didn’t talk to Vermaelen for the Lennon goal, but then Vermaelen was about 4 yards behind everyone else to start with. So who was at fault? Probably both. There’s no talker or leader of that back 4 so trying to play a difficult to master offside trap was always going to be risky and they got burned twice.

The thing is though, that aside from the two goals they conceded Arsenal more than held their own. They dominated possession but couldn’t quite create the chances they needed to. They came close to prizing Spurs open a few times but misplaced passes or misjudged runs meant various attacks fizzled out.

As for Spurs, this was a professional and mature performance. They couldn’t really get Bale in to the game, partly because he was well marshaled by the Arsenal midfield but he still nearly scored twice. Vertonghen was superb and Dawson excellent. Vermaelen seems to be regressing for Arsenal whilst his compatriot is starting to enforce himself on the league. And he never breaks sweat! Before the game whilst everyone else was fidgeting nervously and getting pumped up he just leaned against the wall looking like he could have a nap if necessary. Combining his elegance and game reading with Dawson’s tenacity and ruggedness has seen Spurs really tighten up. Yes Bale is rightly attracting the headlines for his sublime form, but the Spurs defence has been crucial in their 12 game unbeaten run. They’ve only conceded 2 once in that run and kept 5 clean sheets.

Jamie Redknapp made an excellent point (no, really). He said that the Spurs dressing room is much easier to manage than the Chelsea one. AVB has a core of young players and those senior players that there are haven’t ‘been there, done that’ like the high profile Chelsea players he inherited. The ambiance at Spurs is similar to that which he had at Porto. There he turned a talented but as yet unprolific attacker in to a goal machine. Any one heard of this Falcao fella? Yep, that’s AVB’s doing. How about Joao Moutinho? He joined AVB as an unfulfilled talent and last summer was one of the most in demand players in Europe. He also turned Hulk from a J-League striker to someone that the club sold for £50million. Not too shabby.

He didn’t have the opportunity to show any of this whilst working as John Terry’s assistant at Chelsea. Maybe he does know what he’s doing, this bloke that holds the record for the youngest manager to ever win a European trophy, has an unbeaten season on his CV and was so highly regarded by one Jose Mourinho that he was hot routed up to a senior position in his staff and then came highly recommended to Porto. Hmm…

Chelsea 1-0 West Brom

Meanwhile, back to the football. Oh wait, is it about the football at Chelsea? Do some fans really want to Chelsea to fail if it means getting Benitez out the door quicker? Really?! It’s hard to know what will satisfy the Chelsea fans. If they crash out of the Top 4, which they won’t by the way, then are they happy because it makes Benitez look a fool? If they get Top 4 are they unhappy because it validates him? What are they protesting against now? I’m confused.

Right, football. Chelsea won a drab game with a scruffy goal. But who cares about football at the Bridge when there’s drama to be enjoying.

Everton 3-1 Reading

This was one of the most enjoyable games of the weekend. Everton have missed their chance to get in the Top 4, barring double meltdown in London but the win keeps them ahead of a rejuvenated Liverpool. Back to back seasons of finishing above their city rivals is definitely something to aim for. I mentioned in my preview that Everton needed Mirallas and Pienaar to step up to help Fellaini. Well, thank you for reading gents, I’d appreciate a re-tweet. They obviously took my advice on board as they run rough shod over a Reading defence that has lost it’s confidence. Pienaar’s goal was spectacular, lacerating it in to the top corner after a mazy run.

Reading seem to be in a downward spiral at the moment. They don’t give themselves a chance for late game heroics when already 3 goals behind. Unlike last week, at least they were conceding to quality play but it is a worrying trend. Having scrambled out of trouble they’ve slipped back to 19th. I’m afraid that’s where they look like staying.

Man United 4-0 Norwich

Not much to see here. This was always going to happen. United don’t mess about at home and Norwich keep taking heavy beatings from the top teams on the road. It’s good to see artisan’s choice Shinji Kagawa flower in to life. Don’t however, let this have any baring on your thinking ahead of the Real Madrid game. This was a coast in the park against an inferior team. Real 2nd string beat Barcelona at the weekend. Tuesday will be fascinating.

Southampton 1-2 QPR

Huh? Where did this come from? I thought QPR were awful and Saints were going well under Pochettino?

The worry for Saints is that their much celebrated win over City is their only win in the 6 games under the Argentine. More concerning is that the defence is still leaking goals. Only that Everton clean sheet to show for a different defensive style and at 16th they are right in it. So how did they manage to lose to QPR?

Well, Redknapp heeded the criticisms of Adel Taarabt and dropped him. Lo and behold, they weren’t shooting from 40 yards and scored 2 for the first time in nearly 2 months. The team looked united and energised after their break, and far be it from me to suspect that some mainstream media would look to do ‘Arry a favour but this whole Dubai debacle does seem conveniently timed. ‘Look at this garbage lads, go and show them what you’re all about, prove them all wrong’. Maybe?

Anyway, they weren’t that good. Southampton conceded two abysmal goals and even then only a wonder save by comedy keeper Rob Green preserved the win. Incidentally, on the point of comedy play. Re-watch Remy’s goal. What is Danny Fox doing? He ran away from Remy to try and cover the goal line for some reason. You don’t want to try and close the shooter down?

Yeah but that’s because Pochettino can’t speak English Eurgh. Yeah? Firstly, he can, but he clearly doesn’t want to have his words twisted. Secondly, do Premier League defenders need to be told not to run away from a striker baring down on goal?

Still, I predicted this exact score.

Stoke 0-1 West Ham

Me neither.

Sunderland 2-2 Fulham

This was played as if it was the last game of the season and the players had carte blanche to enjoy themselves. Here’s a game for you. Go to a Premier League table and try and find Fulham. If you’re reaction isn’t ‘they’re 10th?!’ then you must be a Fulham fan. They seem to bumble along well enough though. As for Sunderland, the briefly unbreachable defence of a few weeks ago has faded away. In Match of the Day terms, both teams ‘should be all right’ by a combination of having some decent players and more importantly, the number of poor team hovering around the bottom of the table.

Swansea 1-0 Newcastle

The scoreline and MOTD billing don’t really do this justice. It was an enjoyable and quite open game. Some of the usual Vorm heroics and the cross bar prevented various Newcastle players scoring and Swansea brought their usual slick and enterprising football to the party and could have scored a few more.

This was a 3-3 in all but scoreline and was a good advert for the fact that even the middling and lower end Premier League teams can aspire to play nice modern football and expect high standards. Newcastle are still in trouble but they more than enough quality to dig themselves out if they get their act together.

Wigan 0-4 Liverpool

Liverpool continue their relentless steam rolling of bottom half sides. They may still struggle against the really good teams but they have been merciless against the cannon fodder. Rodgers has the makings of a very good team but the big question is whether they can keep Suarez out of Bayern’s clutches. He has always looked spectacular but this year he is matching goal scoring consistency to his general menace. That’s a pretty potent cocktail and Wigan had no answer. The really exciting player on this showing for me though was Philippe Coutinho. His pass to Suarez for the second goal was beyond sublime. The pace and precision of it was something to behold and he seems to have plugged straight in with worry. They’ve got some friendly games on the horizon too so if they can keep this sort of form going they could be a dark horse for a late top 4 charge. They have Spurs and Chelsea at home and then near enough the entire bottom half of the league. If they can get 4 or even 6 points from the London clubs then they really will be in the mix, particularly considering they only have the Premier League to focus on now.

Monday Musings

A few thoughts on the weekend’s action

Man City 2-0 Chelsea

An absolutely dire, borderline unwatchable, first half sparkled in to life in the second half. Pre-match the commentators speculated that Mancini had selected a unit to grind out a result, and that’s exactly how it played out. A shattered looking Chelsea posed no threat at all during the game, despite Benitez heeding the calls to play Ba over Torres up front. Frank Lampard’s recent form deserted him, not just his penalty miss, but in open play he didn’t impose himself on the game at any stage. Only the always effervescent Juan Mata seemed to have any menace in his boots. They look like they need a week without a game, something that isn’t on the horizon for a while yet. The club’s reckless decision to pursue the League Cup with a full strength side is really coming back to bite them. The likes of Mata and Hazard have played an extra 4 games when they might have been resting. It’s all well and good looking to win everything you enter, but when you also take the World Club Cup to be important you are creating an extra 6 or 7 games that your main starters are playing, which translates to an extra month’s worth of action. All of this extra work is catching up with their main players now. This isn’t just a comment on the City game, Chelsea looked lacklustre against Sparta Prague, only just sneeking through with a last minute rocket from Hazard. If, as it seems, they are going to try and win the Europa League then more days like this could well follow domestically.

As for City, a side that seemed to be purring only a few weeks ago is spluttering along. They just don’t have that same zing as last season when Aguero, Silva, Nasri and latterly Tevez formed a lethal front 4 with the physical presence of Yaya supporting from behind, and this is what won them the league. However, only Tevez has hit any kind of form this year. Even then, he lost that during a 10 game barren spell in front of goal. Silva looks like the 5 years of consecutive football are affecting him now. Mancini himself criticised Nasri for resting on his laurels and Aguero has lost the potency of last year, indeed of his career up to this point . City really should have won this about 4-0 but Aguero spurned some unmissable opportunities. Maybe ex-Athletico Madrid strikers can only play in England for so long before forgetting how to play? Are you paying attention to this Falcao?

Arsenal 2-1 Villa

I’ve written about Arsenal this week and their problems haven’t changed since then. Giroud is not a top calibre striker which he demonstrated again with a hat load of misses, Szczesny is not an elite goal keeper as his pathetic attempt at saving Weimann’s decently hit strike showed yet again, Mertesacker is too slow and cumbersome, Vermaelen has forgetten how to defend, Arteta is not a holding midfielder, Jenkinson is not a Premier League player, etc. etc. etc. Yes, they won, but since when do Arsenal only beat relegation fodder 2-1 at home?

Fulham 1-0 Stoke

This was chosen as the TV game? Interesting…Incidentally, interesting is not a word that could be used to describe this. Aside from Berbatov’s lovely volleyed goal there was precious little quality. Indeed, the main story of the game was two red cards which weren’t shown. Berbatov’s elbow which re-arranged N’Zonzi’s face was sly and should have been punished, before he scored as well. N’Zonzi lost his head at that point and then responded by punching Bryan Ruiz, Which was also unpunished…A great advert for the World’s Greatest League TM

QPR 0-2 Man Utd

Two words; Champions, performance. Redknapp’s strategy of trying to draw his way to safety has seen QPR hold City and Spurs at home and win at Chelsea, all without conceding. So, with this in mind it was always going to be a tricky game for United, but in the event it wasn’t. They were untroubled throughout, with only a Rafael goal line clearance of any note. Rafael’s annihilation of the ball in to the top corner of Cesar’s net was good, but his pass which van Persie narrowly failed to convert was even better. The man of the match in this game only had one candidate, indeed, Rafael could claim the man of the weekend award.

QPR continue to struggle in front of goal, part tactics, part lack of quality. An unusually illuminating piece of analysis on Match of the Day highlighted the myth of Taarabt as the magician to pull QPR out of trouble. No magician can perform tricks without taking the stage and he doesn’t grab hold of games at this level. They are doomed.

Reading 0-3 Wigan

Even despite a couple of beautiful goals from Wigan and a truly appalling lunge from Pogrebnyak to get himself sent off, the highlight of this match was Brian McDermott’s analysis. He somehow got confused on the story of the game, thinking Pogrebnyak had been sent off before the 3rd went in. Although by no means at Steve Keen levels of saccharine positivity, he is starting to increasingly head that way. The passing resemblance doesn’t help.

Wigan though seem to be on their usual late season charge. Although Reading defended unbelievably badly Wigan punished them with some technically proficient and very well taken goals. The returning Arouna Kone in particular gives them some much needed quality and composure in front of goal.

Newcastle 4-2 Southampton

French day at Newcastle but luckily for them, they didn’t repeat the performance of the French rugby team this year. Their shopping spree in January has really stood them in good stead, with Moussa Sissosko heavily involved yet again and Debuchy rampaging forward from right back to great affect. Papiss Cisse returned to wonder goal scoring form, but Pardew needs him to contribute more consistently to help them continue to pull away from trouble. Their horrible slump left them as something of an outlier in the table and this resurgence is seeing them return to a more realistic position.

Pardew knows the French market better than Wenger! Seriously? We’re still doing this? Comments in various places to this extent have evidenced themselves again. So yes, Pardew DOES don a beret, hop on the Eurostar with his copy of ‘French for Beginners’, string of onions around his neck before sleuthing around some Ligue Un outpost to spot his latest bargain, the signing of which he then personally negotiates. Happy now ‘The Media’?

Norwich 2-1 Everton

How did Everton not win this? David Moyes will be asked the same thing, and contrary to his post match comments, I’m sure he doesn’t blame the referee. If he does, he’s looking in the wrong place. They throw away so many leads late in games, for two reasons. Firstly, they simply don’t score enough goals. Jelavic has joined the ‘forgotten how to score’ club this year and whilst there are pretty touches from Pienaar, Mirallas and Osman, they’re not able to make up the deficit. They score near enough every game, but usually only in 1s. Because of this, late in games they find themselves dropping back to defend increasingly direct play from opponents. But, they can’t defend balls in the air. Despite the height and power of Distin and the experience of Heitinga, and ‘he’s English so he’s good’ Jagielka, they simply don’t defend them well. Look back at the goals they concede late and it’s the same thing each time; long ball pumped forward, Howard frozen to his line, defence let it bounce or don’t get anything forceful on it, opposition pounce and score. This very turn of events happened in the reverse fixture, and Norwich took it one step further to win this one.

West Brom 2-1 Sunderland

It’s ridiculous that Chelsea would loan out Lukaku when they need a striker, typical Benitez!

Where to start? Chelsea loaned Lukaku out because they didn’t feel he was ready to play for them and would benefit from first team experience. Lo and behold, it’s working! He’s playing games, scoring goals and getting better. Imagine he played for West Brom and wasn’t on loan. He’s going to end on around 20 goals this year. How much would Chelsea pay for a 19 year old who scores 20 Premier League goals? Would he be considered an upgrade on Torres, and maybe even Ba? The answers; at least what they paid, and yes, a big upgrade. So, welcome back to Chelsea next year, ready to lead the line Romelu. They’ve also got the best young keeper in the world out on loan and doing amazing things with Athletico Madrid. The point is though, he wouldn’t be getting the game time he is now, and the point of the loan was the ready him for next year. Mission accomplished by Chelsea.

Oh and Sunderland really are appalling in attack.

This weekend’s awards will be coming later.

Monday Musings

No match reports here, just looking for the interesting bits.

Liverpool 5-0 Swansea

Liverpool could make a charge for the top 4 based on this Erm…no. Taking anything about Liverpool’s current stock from this is a fallacy.

But Swansea are the first team in the top 10 they’ve beaten all year and are the Carling Cup Finalists?!

Yes, but not this Swansea team. There were only 4 regular starters in Michael Laudrup’s team as he heavily rotated before the afore mentioned cup final. This meant they had Kyle Bartley (2 Premier League starts) and Garry Monk (Garry Monk!) in central defence and with no Michu upfront they lacked any physical presence to bother the out of form Liverpool defence. Agger in particular will be grateful for a quiet afternoon after he was bullied by Romelu Lukaku against West Brom. Similarly, without Ki in midfield and with an uncharacteristically awful showing from de Guzman the usual Swansea midfield passing carousel ground to a halt.

But surely it wasn’t just Swansea playing badly? Liverpool must have been good? Well, yes and no. They registered 33 shots, 18 of which were on target.

Wow, that many shots?! Yes, but they only scored 5. Only one in 7 shots on goal went in and just about 1 in 4 of shots in target found the net. If they are going to get that many shots every game then they can afford that kind of profligacy but in game where they need to be clinical and efficient it costs them. Just look at the game in Russia on Thursday. They only managed 6 shots in that game, only 2 of which were on target. Going at the rate they did yesterday they’d have needed a few more shots before scoring, but how often are they going to get good shots away against top defences? With their defence leaking badly at the moment they need to be scoring at least twice per game, and as shown at City and Arsenal even that might not be enough. So to be getting 2 goals, they need to have about 14-16 shots. A dangerous pattern to be getting in to.

Oh right, I hadn’t thought of it like that. But I read that Suarez was unplayable? He was. He torched Monk (!) and was roaming wild and free in the space he was afforded. His finish for his goal was expert and his pass for Coutinho’s goal was sublime. However, he has caught ‘Dempseyitis’. Symptoms of this affliction cause the sufferer to shoot when given any opening or a favourable bounce of the ball. This is caused by being surrounded by team mates that have inferior ability to you and a belief grows that you need to do everything yourself. However, this isn’t last year and Suarez now has capable team mates to pass to. You could forgive him last year for looking up, seeing Carroll, Downing or Henderson and just putting his head down and shooting in to the crowd. Coutinho could prove to be his medicine, the two of them linked up consistently and menacingly.

Although seemingly suffering from the same affliction, Daniel Sturridge is dealing with a case of ‘Bendtner’s’. Unlike ‘Dempseyitis’ which is born of being a superior player and not adjusting your game when playing with good players, ‘Bendtner’s’ causes the afflicted to believe that they are the superior player when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The diagnosis is ‘Well at least he…’ followed by the relevant redeeming quality.

Oldham 2-2 Everton

Everton held by giant university student
Football’s bizarre fascination by players who have been to university resurfaced with Oldham striker Matt Smith heading in a last second equaliser. The idea that because a player goes to university he automatically brings brains and intelligence is so ingrained that it goes unchallenged every time it is wheeled out. Although most got it out of the system after his performance against Liverpool, there was still mention of it. As both a tall player and a fairly well spoken ex-student Smith makes for an obvious headline. In fairness to him, he seems like a genuinely smart bloke, and he went to a really good university. It’s also nice to see a player talk confidently and coherently on camera after a game. Hopefully his cup heroics will go some way towards removing the sense of mystery around the educated in football. The really bizarre thing is that nowadays all top level coaches have been in education for longer than an average university student and even the densest footballer knows a lot more about diet, nutrition, exercise and application than any student ever would. They’re probably better at computer games too.

Luton 0-3 Millwall

This was a really interesting one for the neutrals. ‘Which one of the teams do I want to lose more?’. In the event it was Luton through a combination of dire defending and some good play by Millwall winger James Henry.

On a side note; When did Luton start playing in orange? Last time I saw them, in the Championship, they were in white. That was the 2005/06 season when Watford were promoted the Premier League, a feat they are threatening this year. Watford’s kits that year; Yellow and Red. What colour do yellow and red make? Coincidence?

Arsenal 0-1 Blackburn

Why is Wenger picking a reserve team in the only cup Arsenal can win?!

Szczesny; Coquelin, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Monreal; Diaby, Rosicky, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Gervinho

7 first choice players. Now, their 3 key players were on the bench but let’s get this straight; that team should be beating a mid table Championship team at home without any difficulty. And I mean any difficulty. They slashed Blackburn 7-1 in the Premier league at this time last year, a game in which 7 of this team started. Sure, there’s no van Persie now but so what? The simple question to answer is this; Does this kind of thing happen to Man United? No? OK, let’s move on.

Blackburn defended manfully, but they were lucky not to get beaten heavily again. Arsenal had 26 shots, 13 on target. That should equal an easy win. However, praise where it’s due, they didn’t give away anything soft. Manager Michael Appleton who is playing his version of the 92 grounds game by trying to manage every club in the country got the signature win he needed to win over the fans. And just to get these out of the way; Arsenal played like chickens which meant Blackburn avoided getting fried like last year.

Man City 4-0 Leeds

This is how it feels to be City, this is how it feels to be small, you sign Phil Jones,we sign Kun Aguero,
Kun Aguero, Kun Aguero.

Ouch, Leeds fans have to listen to City mock Man United for signing a player they couldn’t possibly dream of signing. And the worst thing is, the United/Leeds rivalry used to be red hot, but now Leeds know that United don’t care about them. At all. Instead, they have to watch their team get trashed by City, United’s actual rivals, whilst those same City fans taunt United. Did you enjoy the game Colin?

Huddersfield 1-4 Wigan

The ‘I’m not going to sacrifice my TV allocation for that’ game that actually had some really good goals. I can’t imagine the TV audience was much bigger than the ‘crowd’ at the ground though. #Magicofthecup.

Coming soon, now in it’s own segment, ‘The Weekend Awards’.

Monday Musings

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.

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