Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Weekend Observations 20th - 22nd November 2010

Game of the weekend was quite obviously the thriller at the Emirates which saw Arsenal and Tottenham swap their traditional roles in these games. Usually, it is Spurs who start brightly before self-destructing in comical fashion however this time it was the gunners who decided to piss away their 2 goal half time advantage giving Harry Redknapp's side a famous win. Their first in this corresponding fixture since 1993.

Naturally, the red half of North London were spitting bile at this result with many fans even calling for Arsene Wenger's head. Given the opposition and manner of the defeat the reaction, although not necessarily the right one, is understandable. Without taking anything away from Tottenham, nobody can deny this was more of a case of Arsenal losing the game than Spurs winning it. They threw away a game against their most bitter rivals from a commanding position. Simply unacceptable.

The match seemed to represent a microcosm of the recent fortunes of both sides. The unrest amongst Arsenal fans comes from the fact they are seeing their side spunk away leads far, far too often while Tottenham once again found themselves having to battle back from the dead as it were in a game that looked beyond them. While this new-found resilience is commendable, they wont always be able to recover from regularly giving the opposition a head start. Crazy talk of winning the league need to be put to one side until they learn to start football matches as well as they finish them.

After all the dust settled, Arsenal still remained just two points off the league summit but if they are to retain anything even resembling title aspirations, they need to show far more by way of cojones in big games against the better sides in the league and make no mistake, Tottenham are most definitely one of the league's better sides these days. Their improvement has coincided with their rivals obvious decline over the last five years and on the evidence of Saturday, would suggest that the gap between the two sides – if any remains – has narrowed. The oft regurgitated "let's all laugh at Tottenham" chant is now strictly ironic as they are certainly a side to be taken very seriously.

Arsenal's defeat proved not to be as much of a catastrophic blow to their supposed title challenge as it first appeared thanks very much to 'unstoppable' Chelsea's third defeat in four league games, this week, at Birmingham. Each week, I keep saying that the west Londoners will still be strong enough to win the title but with rumours of unrest behind the scenes and the whole Ray Wilkins nonsense, all may not be well at The Bridge.

Despite dominating at St. Andrews, Chelsea came away with nothing. Bad performances such as last week can be written off as a bad day at the office but playing well and losing is a cause for concern and sows those proverbial seeds of doubt into their minds.

The last month has seen Chelsea's poor form allow Manchester United to creep up alongside them like some pervert at 3am at any South London bus stop atop the league table. Bafflingly, United are STILL unbeaten this season despite looking barely adequate in most of their performances so far. Even Saturday's win over Wigan was laboured at best. The away side had to be reduced to nine men before the reds looked anywhere near comfortable. But as they say, a win is a win, and if they lift the big trophy come May following a string of 'meh' wins, I doubt the Old Trafford faithful will have much to complain about.

One thing the fans did get vocal about was the return of Wayne Rooney following all the shenanigans of a few weeks back. After pretty much spitting on Sir Matt Busby's grave with his disrespectful actions in hankering for a move only to be rewarded with an exorbitant new contract, many wondered if the fans who dedicate so much of their lives to the great club would be fickle enough to simply support him once more despite his treachery. All it takes is one goal and a contrived kiss of the club badge usually. In a bizarre turn of events, United fans actually showed a sense of indignation that didn't involve a nonsensical, misguided scarf protest as the 'White Pele' was actually booed by some supporters as he was brought on late in the game. If and when Rooney hits the goal trail once again, it will be interesting to see if this resentment towards him continues.

Across town, Manchester City fans had reason to smile once again after a convincing win at Fulham. Interestingly, Roberto Mancini sent his team out to attack rather than with the usual 'just try not to lose' philosophy. Seeing his team 3 goals to the good in little over half an hour tells it's own story as City showed more adventure in that short time than in all their preceding games this campaign combined. I maintain that this side has all the tools to win the title this season and if they play like this more often, I can't see any reason why they can't usurp the teams above them over the coming months.

An interesting side note from the game was fact that City were facing a Fulham side managed by the very man that was so spectacularly dismissed to make way for Mancini 11 months ago. Given that Mark Hughes bought most of the players he faced on Sunday, you have to wonder how he managed to get his tactics so badly wrong. Fulham are now only outside the drop zone on goal difference and if Hughes doesn't soon improve on his sides mediocre total of just two wins so far, he may well find himself out of work once again.

The topsy-turvey world of the Premier League also saw Bolton consolidate 5th place this weekend with an emphatic 5-1 win over the predictably inconsistent Newcastle. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, to echo my thoughts from last week, credit to Owen Coyle for turning a team of uninspiring cloggers that were about as appealing as a battery acid enema into a team that actually aspires to play decent football. I'm still scratching my head at how good that man Johan Elmander is looking too. Two more goals this week sees him joint second in the scoring charts this season above the likes of Drogba, Torres and Berbatov. With their precarious financial position leading to rumours of player sales, the Swede's fine form could see a battle for his signature and a pretty decent wedge of cash come in from any potential buying party.

Finally, the quality of Elmander's goals have also been worthy of high praise. Unfortunately, he was upstaged in the goal of the week stakes by Blackpool's Luke Varney who hit an absolute stunner against Wolves which helped the seasiders to a 2-1 win.



Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham
Birmingham 1-0 Chelsea
Blackpool 2-1 Wolves
Bolton 5-1 Newcastle
Liverpool 3-0 West Ham
Manchester United 2-1 Wigan
West Brom 0-3 Stoke


Blackburn 2-0 Aston Villa
Fulham 1-4 Manchester City


Sunderland 2-2 Everton

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