Monday, 15 November 2010

Weekend Observations 14th - 15th November 2010

Only really one place to start and that's West London with one of the shock results of this or any season. Sunderland marched into Stamford Bridge acting like they own the joint and inflicted Chelsea's biggest home defeat since 2002. Funnily enough, not long before they were being bank-rolled by a Russian Billionaire. I wonder if the two facts are connected in some way... Anyway, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't think Chelsea are one their way to winning their fourth Abraomvich sponsored league title this season having started the campaign like a house on fire. A paper house doused in kerosene.

However, the current champions' league performances in recent weeks have been quite far removed from the thrashings they were routinely handing out back when the sun was shining in late August. Sunday's massacre at the hands of the Black Cats, while unexpected, maybe shouldn't be considered the massive shock we perceive it to be. Of course Sunderland would fancy their chances after looking at the team sheet and seeing that the Blues were missing Lampard, Terry, Alex and Essien. Credit to Steve Bruce’s side for taking advantage. This wasn't a smash and grab counter-attack inspired, shut up shop effort either. The Mackems went out with a positive attacking mentality with two up front and subsequently bossed the game.

3-0 was not an unfair reflection of the match at all. Nedum Onuoha opened to scoring with a superb solo effort that will surely be in the running for goal of the month. Had that been scored by Gareth Bale or Theo Walcott or Wayne Rooney, the simultaneous orgasm from over-excited TV pundits would knock the globe from its axis. Unfortunately the second by Asamoah Gyan was tarnished by Bolo Zenden's tragic attempt at dancing during the celebration. Seriously, there's no place for that sort of thing in the game. I hope the FA look at that retrospectively and ban him from ever cutting shapes like that in a public place again. The icing on the cake came from Danny Welbeck came after an Ashley Cole mistake. That was really sad to see. I was so gutted for him but it seems that the only way I can truly express my sympathy is by laughing very loudly.

Whether this is just a blip or the first signs of decline for Chelsea remain to be seen. They will be slightly concerned seeing that they also lost to easily the worst Liverpool side I've seen in my lifetime. The reds followed up that almighty win at Anfield with a draw at Wigan and a feeble surrender on Saturday at Stoke. After all the talk of turning the corner, it seems like Roy Hodgson's men have switched into reverse gear and gone right back round said corner. Ten years ago Liverpool actually went to the Britannia and won 8-0 but were so bad on Saturday, it's not unfair to say that they made Stoke look like the offspring of the Brazil 1970 team and Superman! This naturally, led to the predictable bi-polar switch in attitude from the scousers who were just last week dancing a merry jig. This week, the conclusion of the match saw the traveling fans shouting themselves hoarse pleading for Kenny Dalglish to be handed the managerial reigns and Hodgson to be put out to pasture. I don't think 'King' Kenny, or any manager for that matter, will be able to do a great deal with the likes of Poulsen, Konchesky and Rodriguez constantly stinking up the place.

In 1995, people around scoffed when Sony entered the gaming market and released something called the 'Play station', U2 topped the charts with "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" (a song infinitely better than the terrible movie which it was the soundtrack for...) and I started getting hair and spots in weird places and as the huge crushing fist of puberty decided to do a number on me!

Also, 1995 was the last time Aston Villa beat Man Utd in the league prompting Alan Hansen's now famous "You'll never win anything with kids" proclamation. 15 years of hurt was that close to coming to an end for the Villains but for the Mancs increasingly annoying penchant for scoring late goals.

So, it turns out that Villa can be quite entertaining despite my previous suggestions to the contrary. The Villa park faithful have seen two goal-packed games with late drama in the space of just three days. What do I know about football anyway?

A few weeks back when Man City were winning football matches, very few people gave a monkeys as to how the results were achieved. Mind-numbingly unadventurous and uninspiring football to make one want to gouge out their own eyes and throw them under the wheels of a speeding bus was a small price to pay for results and there was genuine belief in some quarters that the Premier League trophy would be returning to Manchester this season, only this time to donning sky blue ribbons rather than red.

However, following a run of three home league games without a goal, the natives are understandably getting restless. And why not? Roberto Mancini is so cautious you imagine he wears two condoms and a rubber glove just to masturbate. City are playing by a different set of rules from most other teams right now and as such, will always be judged due to their substantial financial clout. If you're not winning games, performances come under more scrutiny. For the vast, unfathomable sums of money spent, we were expecting a new powerhouse in the game not a side that takes on Birmingham with the sole aim of avoiding defeat.

"I wonder if I can get away with playing TEN defensive midfielders..."

With all their supposed title rivals dropping points, Arsenal's win at Everton sees them within touching distance of the Premier League summit. It's early days but there are those on the red side of North London who feel that the club's six year 'drought' without a league title may well be coming to an end. We'll wait and see if the anticipated New Year collapse takes place yet again. It's been a long held belief that The Arsenal play some magical style of pure football from the heavens but the win at Goodison was not an example of Arsenal at their free-flowing best. Their much-praised style has been supplemented and on occasion even replaced with something us Brits like to refer to as 'grit'.

The contrast in their two goals epitomised this newfound ability to mix it up. The first was a result of a Bacary Sanga shot from a position where you usually expect to see Arsenal players still try a pass rather than pull the trigger while the second was a typically well worked passing move finished by Cesc Fabregas that the team has become famous for. Chuck in the awful disciplinary record this season and it looks like, maybe, just maybe, Arsene Wenger's kids have finally grown a pair and worked out how to grind out results and when even when not at their best.

Next Saturday, they face arch-rivals Spurs at the Emirates. What greater incentive going into the game knowing that a win will send them top of the league? Equally for Tottenham, who themselves remembered how to win a league game this weekend, what greater motivation for the match than to try and halt the gunners' continued ascent?

The liliwhites' first win in five was a Gareth Bale inspired 4-2 humping of Blackburn Rovers at White Hart Lane in a horribly one sided affair, although a late rally from the visitors restored something in the way of respectability to the final scoreline. Given that Big Sam named an ultra-defensive 5-man back line, it was natural that he would be quite pissed off about how much joy and freedom they allowed the Spurs attack. Although both teams would have come into the season with vastly different aspirations, they are currently both among number of teams bouncing around in a very congested looking table that is looking tighter than a gnat's rectum at present. A tiny gap is opening up between the top four and the rest while Wolves and the increasingly dire West Ham are at risk of being cut away at the bottom but between that, only two wins separate 18th placed Birmingham City and Bolton up in the dizzying, nose-bleed inducing heights of 5th.

Speaking of whom, credit to Owen Coyle who would have never imagined in his wildest dreams he would be leading his beloved Wanderers to such a lofty position. Even more credit is due for turning Johan Elmander into some kind of footballer! For two years, the Swede has looked about as useful as tap-dancing lessons for Stephen Hawking but has somehow discovered something resembling a goal-scoring touch. With six goals already this season, the pick of the bunch came in Saturday's win at Wolves. But like Nedum Onouha before him, had this goal been scored by a more high profile player you'd never hear the end of it.



Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United
Manchester City 0-0 Birmingham City
Newcastle United 0-0 Fulham
Stoke City 2-0 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 Blackburn Rovers
West Ham United 0-0 Blackpool
Wigan Athletic 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
Wolverhampton Wndrs 2-3 Bolton Wanderers

Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland
Everton 1-2 Arsenal

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