Posts Tagged ‘Barclays Premier League’

I suspect most of you are familiar with Andy Gray, commentator, analyst and Scotch of great and undeserved renown.
Well you may have also heard that he has just been shitcanned by Sky who provide us (via Espn) with our Premier League fix.

"Hi, I'm an idiot, and I no longer have a job"

The circumstances of his dismissal are fairly simple. Think of the Dean Jones-Hashim Amla fiasco and replace Jones with Gray and Muslims with Women.
The idiot thought his mike was off and said some stupid things(YouTube it if you wish to hear).

Gray and his colleague and fellow brainless idiot Richard Keys basically questioned a woman’s ability to understand anything as ‘complex’ as the offside rule and trotted out the general “they belong in the kitchen making me soup” attitude. The context being the officiating of Lineswoman Sian Massey in the Pool-Wolves game

She got it all right actually

However sexism is not the only thing that fills up Andy Gray’s cup of idiocy . Gray is one of the most shameless proponents of Xenophobia in English football, and unlike Racism or Sexism there is an institutionalised approval almost bordering on encouragement of xenophobia in the modern game, from the media, the FA and from talking (sh*t)heads like Gray.

Anyone who has watched Premier League football over the last few years shoud be able to recall the numerous times when British and Foreign players have been given differential treatment by all quarters.

Consider the instance when Eduardo dived in the Champions League against Celtic, there was an immediate queue of people forming to formally condemn him as the worst human being since Hitler. Contrast this with the studied ignoring of Steven Gerrard’s oft repeated and frankly badly acted gamesmanship. These double standards extend beyond diving.

Rooney’s vicious (and hilarious) attack on some Portuguese bugger’s nuts were explained away as the evil foreigner Ronaldo’s fault, just because Ronaldo was supposed to have been making fun of him. If I attacked someone’s genitals everytime somebody poked fun at me…well I’m pretty sure society would frown upon it.

This xenophobia seems quite often to go hand in hand with another moronic attitide prevalent in England today. The notion that Leg-breaking assaults are “part and parcel” of the game. Well. No, they’re not. The two trends often tie together withpPoor, innocent English “He’s not that kind of player” types like Martin Taylor and Ryan Shawcross are painted as Freaking victims of the tricksy, dishonest foreigners who have no business to be skillful or have quick feet.

Xenophobia is now visible even in the treatment of managers by the English press. Contrast the treatment good old uncle Woy got from the press with what Rafa recieved. Contrast the furore over Sam Allardyce’s dismissal with the sneering treatment of Avram Grant.

Andy Gray who was always quickest to jump to John Terry’s defense for a cynical foul or to Gerrard’s defense for a dive and just as quick to condemn a foreign player as “one of those types” i.e. Cheats is/was but one of the symptoms of a general malaise infecting English football, one that is particularly odious to us foreign supporters of the PL.

1) Man United defended really well, not allowing Arsenal any space through the middle and forcing them out wide where they don’t have the same kind of penetration. For example, Sagna on the right had acres of space at one point to put in a cross with atleast three people to pick out and yet all he could do was put it straight at Vidic. It could also be because Vidic wins almost everything in the air. I dunno.

2) Arsenal have added a certain “dark side” (to quote Arsene Wenger) to their game and you can see some niggling fouls they commit on their opponents. I wouldn’t say its wrong, because its not, occasionally you have to foul for the team, but this just means that Wenger can no longer go around calling other players cheats. I’m sure that won’t stop him though.

3) Rooney didn’t have an extraordinary day, he was okay, but that penalty miss will surely go against him. What on earth was that penalty anyway? Where was he aiming for? I suppose its poetic justice because I don’t think the penalty should have been awarded in the first place. Especially since the ref didn’t give the one before because Chamakh hadn’t intentionally handled the ball.

4) The atmosphere for a Man United versus Arsenal game is fantastic. You can hear the crowd singing so loudly and spurring on the players. Its magical.

5) Man United’s top scorer this season was dropped. Quite a surprising decision by Sir Alex, but it sure seemed to have worked.

6) I really thought brining on Van Persie and Fabregas would make a difference for Arsenal, but they couldn’t add anything to the plate either. Therefore you have to commend the entire United team for keeping their focus and defending really well.

7) Szczesny was given a start, quite surprisingly, and he’s did decently well. Whenever he was called upon to do something, he performed. There wasn’t too much he could have done about the goal, though. A couple of clearances astray, but nothing major.

 

Before I start of my weekly entry, I have to apologise to Dimitar Berbatov for not putting one up last week. I’m sure he’ll feel really bad that his 5 goal haul against Blackburn wasn’t mentioned on the illustrious blog that is Fever Pitch.

I’m sorry, Dimi.

The reason I didn’t update last week was because I thought I would do it after the Carling Cup ties and after the mauling United took at West Ham, I think I was just too depressed. Arsenal are now clear favourites to go on and win the Carling Cup and just as I predicted are on course to win a trophy, unless they really screw up like United did.

On to this week’s action though..

Manchester United’s tough game at Blackpool

I am, of course, joking. There was no game at Blackpool because their ground was frozen and they do not have under soil heating. I had read reports about this early in the week, last week and I was hoping they’d thaw it out in time. I think its ridiculous that Blackpool do not have under soil heating and and since they don’t, United should be given 3 points and consider the game a walkover. This is just my two cents of course, Ian Holloway will tell you something else.

Super Samir

Arsenal were playing at a place they’re not very comfortable playing at against Fulham this weekend. Most Arsenal fans were worried since the game was at the Emirates. Eventually the match was settled by two super strikers by Samir Nasri who showed such fantastic composure that you would be forgiven for thinking that he was an out and out striker.

Superman

Arsenal started off really well and created chance after chance after chance but failed to put them away until Samir Nasri’s strike gave them the lead. Fulham shockingly equalized very quickly after Kamara found himself onside and one on one with the keeper. It was quite amazing, both center backs just switched off and the score was 1-1. Arsenal looked like they might throw away a lead at home again.

Arsenal, however, managed to grind out a win, something they haven’t been able to do in previous seasons. Winning matches like this keep you in contention for the title. Van Persie played a gentle ball to an oncoming Samir Nasri who danced past the defence and maybe should have taken a shot, but then he made space for himself after luring out Mark Schwarzer but kept his cool and finished from a really tight angle. Any football fan should definitely watch the two goals.

That win propelled Arsenal to the top of the table since United didn’t play this weekend and now next weekend when Arsenal take on Man United at Old Trafford its a 1st versus 2nd clash like back in the good old days.

Champions still struggling

Another title contender and current Premier League champions only managed to pull of a draw at home against Everton. The last ten minutes or so of that game felt like they were playing at Goodison. Its rare that you see Chelsea on the back foot at Stamford Bridge, unless you saw the Sunderland game, that is, but here they were getting pushed back and back by Everton’s attack. Drogba put Chelsea in front through a penalty after Howard brought down Anelka in the box. Jermaine Beckford equalized for the Toffees and Everton earned a very good point at Stamford Bridge, but that makes it their 6th game without a win.

Serie Ahhh

In Italy, current European champions and league holders Inter Milan slipped to 6th place after losing to Lazio. Lazio are now in second place and AC Milan are top courtesy of a crushing victory over Brescia. Rafael Benitez has managed to screw things up at Inter Milan so lets all give him a big round of applause and a pat on his back. All I hope now is that he becomes the next Barcelona manager.

The one man who can screw up any utopia

Speaking of Barcelona..

What about the Clasico piece you ask? Well, what’s there to write about? Madrid got hammered and humiliated and Jose Mourinho claimed otherwise. Who is he kidding? It definitely was a humiliating event. If that isn’t humiliating, I don’t know what is.

But they managed to brush off their defeat to the Catalans and overcame Valencia thanks to a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo. However, Barcelona too won their match against Osasuna 3-0 courtesy of a brace from Lionel Messi and one from Pedro.

And to finally round off things..

Reigning Champions aren’t doing too well anywhere except in Spain. In Germany, Bayern Munich suffered another defeat and are in 7th place with 23 points. Leaders Borussia Dortmund are on 40 points, a good 17 points clear. So one good season and thats it?

North East London Derby

You have to credit Harry Redknapp for the victory at the Emirates. After watching his Spurs team go down 2-0 against Arsenal in the first half, he had the courage to change things around and go with a more attacking formation. The goals for Arsenal came from Samir Nasri who is fire for Arsenal and from Maroune Chamakh, a striker’s finish – the second goal.

The introduction of Jermaine Defoe at the start of the second switched Tottenham’s formation from (the generally used in tough games) 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2, a formation which Redknapp loves (given that he used it at the Inter Milan game at the San Siro). However, over there he was criticized for using the formation and maybe he realized himself that he made a mistake cause he switched it at half time.

Got it Right

I didn’t see Spurs coming back into the game. I didn’t think they had the will to do it. I thought they would in a sense “do a Spurs” and end up on the losing side, but they showed great heart and great urgency to come out on top. Rafael van der Vaart, Spurs’ signing of the season, played well for about 5 minutes during his entire time on the pitch, but what a difference he made in that time.

His first contribution was controlling the ball brilliantly and toe poking it to Gareth Bale who finished past Fabianski. His second was converting the penalty Fabregas gifted to Spurs. And his third was delivering the free kick which Kaboul headed past the Arsenal goalkeeper. Then he was taken off.

I do not understand what happened to the Arsenal players in the second half that they performed so abysmally. They were cruising in the first half having scored two and all they had to do was was keep possession of the ball, contain the Spurs offense and counter quickly, things they’re good at. Except perhaps containing the Spurs offense was a little bit too difficult and you have to credit the Lilywhites for that.

I read an interesting article on the Republik of Mancunia about the power shift in North East London, comparing it to the power shift in Manchester and perhaps the article has a point. Spurs have finished closer to Arsenal than City have when compared to Man United, yet nobody talks of a power shift in North London.

Spurs have another interesting fixture coming up, at home against Liverpool and it’ll be interesting to see if they can come up with the goods there as well – and I really think victory is possible for Spurs next week given they’re playing at White Hart Lane.

Rooturn

Excuse me for the really bad title for this one. It sounds like something right out of the Daily Mail. Nonetheless, the point is, Rooney returned and the fans didn’t boo him, nor did they ecstatically cheer him on as they would have if he hadn’t gone around whoring himself.

Oh yes, sorry. All this happened during a football game. Manchester United were playing Wigan at Old Trafford and Wigan were giving United some very nervous moments. N’Zogbia got the better of Rafael time and again and it was quite scary to see him charging down our right wing. After Nani started on the right, he was switched to the left, and Obertan played on the right.

Hernandez and Berbatov both had a poor game last time out at Villa Park and therefore Macheda got the nod. I do not understand why he has been played up front and alone. He really hasn’t thrived in that position. Macheda does well when he’s got a strike partner with him – which in this case was apparently Obertan, but nobody can really say for sure.

United did go ahead in the first half after Evra headed the ball into the goal post – a rare sight, that one. In the second half, Alcaraz chose to leave his common sense in the dressing room and unnecessarily tackled Darren Fletcher to pick up his second yellow card and he was off. Rodallega decided that Alcaraz shouldn’t feel lonely and decided to follow him after a two footed tackle on Rafael just a couple of minutes later. Wigan were down by one goal and down to nine men.

But they held on. Two seasons back if the same thing had happened you would have expected goals galore! But it didn’t happen. While United did boss possession (as you would have expected them to), and created chances, they really didn’t hammer Wigan for 5 (which they did twice last season when Wigan had 11 men!). Evra got a fantastic chance. Rooney did as well. Once the threat from the left had reduced, Rafael got up quite well and delivered some really good crosses in.

In the end, United won 2-0, not an outstanding display, but the result was fantastic considering the other results across the Premier League.

It really is Roman Abramograd FC

Carlo Ancelotti was looked on the bright side after losing their game to Birmingham. Then he was later quoted as saying that he doesn’t have as much control in Chelsea as Ferguson does at Man United. Contrast this to Ferguson’s statement “I am the most important man at this club and that’s the way it has to be”.

Not the most important man at Chelsea

At Chelsea, Abramovic is the most important man at the club and any manager working there should realize that they will never get full decision making powers. One third of the way into the season, your assistant manager may be sacked. Then you will have no say in the replacement either. After sometime you may get sacked, but then you just have to accept this as the hazards of being Chelsea manager.

Goal Fest in Spain

United couldn’t hit more than two past a 9 man Wigan, whereas Barcelona put 8 goals past Almeria. Madrid scored 5 against Athletic Bilbao. You have to compare the teams in Spain and England because I think eventually there may be a clash in the Champions League.

Look at the teams that are playing in the Champions League from England – Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and Spurs.

Spurs – First timers in the Champions League and doing really well. Is their squad big enough though? They really don’t have enough center back cover when Michael Dawson is out. King is pretty much out all the time and Gallas can be very injury prone. Take out Van der Vaart from the equation and their creativity in midfield suffers. Pavlyuchenko, Keane and Crouch are all good strikers but none of them are World Class.

Man United – United have a decent number of strikers – Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez, Macheda, Owen – all good players. Its the width that matters at United. With Valencia out till February, no real wingers are available for Sir Alex. Giggs is an option, but he’s getting old and can’t play every game. Obertan has shown good skills at times, but isn’t really good enough for the Champions League in the knock out rounds. Nor is Bebe for sure (at the moment anyway). Park isn’t a winger, only he knows what he is.

Arsenal – They have a decent squad – Fabregas, Wilshere, Ramsey, Diaby, Denilson and Song in the center. Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott wide. Chamakh, Van Persie, Vela, JET up front, but then they are Arsenal and they might just screw it up nonetheless. I still feel that Arsenal has the best squad from England to compete in the Champions League, it’ll be interesting to see how they do compared to the other English teams.

Chelsea – Not a big enough squad. Full stop.

And now Spain –

Real Madrid – Attacking options – Ronaldo, Ozil, Higuain, Di Maria, Canales, Granero, Benzema. Midfield – Diarra, Diarra, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Gago. Defense – Carvalho, Pepe, Albiol, Marcelo, Ramos, Garay.

FC Barcelona – Attacking options – David Villa, Messi, Iniesta, Pedro, Krkic. Midfield – Xavi, Keita, Mascherano, Busquets. Defense – Puyol, Pique, Alves, Milito, Maxwell, Abidal.

I’m just highlighting the difference in quality in depth of the squads of the English teams and two Spanish teams playing in the Champions League. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare in the knock out rounds (assuming they all qualify, that is). Will a Man United team filled with Bebe, Obertan and Park be capable of knocking out a Real Madrid team with Ronaldo, Higuain, Ozil, Alonso? Even as a United fan I have to say that it is highly unlikely. Can Chelsea’s Josh McEachren and Gael Kakuta plot Barcelona’s downfall? I doubt.

Of course, the players I mentioned aren’t the first choice for their teams when it comes to European fixtures, but the fact of the matter is that in certain areas, both Madrid and Barcelona have better second choice players than English teams have first choice players.

Ps — All is not well in Inter Milan. They lost to Chievo 2-1 this weekend.


Dear fellow football crazy people,

This weekends action has not been the best if you’re a fan of any of the so called big four (no, City not included) unless you’re a Chelsea fan that is.

Arsenal get the Blues

The biggest fixture of the weekend ended 2-0 in the favour of the champions. Goals from Didier Drogba and an absolutely stunning free kick from Alex ensured that the Champions won comfortably against a depleted Arsenal side.

Arsenal didn’t look too bad though, especially in the second half, Chelsea were under the cosh a lot but Arsenal didn’t manage to finish. Final ball lacking? Perhaps its because of the absence of both Fabregas and Van Persie. One thing is for sure, Arsene Wenger wouldn’t have gone to Stamford Bridge expecting a win.

Check out the highlights

http://www.mysoccerplace.net/video/video/show?id=2413390:Video:205120&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_video

Sunderland steamrolled United, but the final score was 0-0

Off to the Stadium of Light where Steve Bruce almost got his first win over Sir Alex. But it was not to be. United managed to hold on and keep a clean sheet. The worrying thing about the United team was that there was absolutely no creativity in the squad.

Almost - but not quite

Scholes was back for this fixture after missing out against Valencia and was kept really quiet in my personal opinion because United not only lack a (young, before you point out Scholes) creative midfielder, but also lack a good defensive midfielder. Fletcher is a good midfielder, but isn’t a defensive midfielder, he likes to get forward and make runs into the box and he’s useful to have because he tracks back and gets a good tackle in. But there’s isn’t anybody who’ll just sit and play the square balls to Scholes and Fletcher who then drive the team forward.

I don’t really subscribe to the policy of playing Scholes deeper either, we all know he’s not a great tackler and is very susceptible to get carded. So for the sake of my Fantasy Football team and also for the betterment of United I hope Sir Alex plays Scholes in a more advanced position.

And also, I’m just going to talk about Nani for a bit. He always does his best when the pressure is on him. Even if he’s trying to cross the ball, if he has three players next to him, he’ll put in a brilliant cross. When he has acres of space, he’ll cross it right into the keepers hands. And for God’s sake, PLEASE stay on your feet! Losing Valencia is clearly a big blow for United’s season.

Bebe came on. I just had to add it as an afterthought.

Sunderland should have actually won the game, but they failed to take their chances. Its heartening to see that United aren’t conceding goals, but I hope that they also realize that you need to score atleast one to win a game.

Trouble at Merseyside

After getting knocked out by Northampton at home, you would expect Liverpool would try not to lose to another small club (with no offence to Blackpool). Well, they didn’t learn their lesson clearly and things are troubled at Merseyside.

One of the hazards of maintaining an all round football blog is visiting Blogs of other teams (Arsenal, Chelsea and even Liverpool and City). Most of the posters on Liverpool’s blogs aren’t too happy with the way Roy Hodgson is handling things.

I like Roy Hodgson, but lets be clear, I wouldn’t be too happy if he was managing United. And he does seem pretty clueless at times as to where to play his midfield trio of Gerrard, Meireles and Poulsen.

Then again, the other side of the coin is that he’s inherited a crap team, some really crap players and he’s just come in, its bound to take time for him to change things. Also they really didn’t have an easy fixtures list for sure.

Fans are all calling for Kenny Dalglish to be appointed as manager of Liverpool and sack Hodgson, which doesn’t seem very unlikely if their recent results continue.

Anfield - A crazy place to be

Credit to Blackpool for their win.

Elsewhere on Merseyside, Everton registered their first win over Bimingham which meant that Ben Foster dropped points in my Fantasy Premier League team (Yes, I’m slightly obsessed about it)

League Table after this weekend

P Team Pld GD Pts
1 Chelsea 7 21 18
2 Manchester City 7 6 14
3 Man Utd 7 7 13
4 Arsenal 7 7 11
5 Tottenham 7 2 11
6 WBA 7 -3 11
7 Stoke City 7 -1 10
8 Aston Villa 7 -3 10
9 Blackpool 7 -4 10
10 Fulham 7 1 9
11 Sunderland 7 0 8
12 Bolton 7 -1 8
13 Blackburn 7 -1 8
14 Wigan Athletic 7 -9 8
15 Newcastle 7 0 7
16 Birmingham 7 -3 7
17 Everton 7 -1 6
18 Liverpool 7 -4 6
19 Wolves 7 -5 5
20 West Ham Utd 7 -9 5