Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Weekend Observations 30th October - 1st November 2010: Part Two

Part One here

When it was decided that Blackpool v West Bromwich Albion was to feature as the Monday night game on Sky, no-one in their right mind could have envisaged that a win for the home side would catapult them into the top half of the table nor would they have guessed that The Baggies would be ruing missing on three points that would have put them into the top four.

An entertaining and eventful game at Bloomfield Road on saw the away team play most the match with 9 men having had Pablo Ibanez and Gonzalo Jara dismissed before the half hour mark. Ian Holloway's men wasted a hatful of chances and almost squandered a 2-0 lead when Yousouf Mulumbu grabbed a late consolation. The most impressive aspect of the game was the willingness of both teams to attack. Blackpool could have easily sat back and kept possession with their two man advantage but still went out trying to score more goals even when winning comfortably. West Brom, although forced to set up with a 4-4-0 formation for over an hour still managed to get forward on enough occasions to make a game of it and were almost rewarded in the dying moments for their endeavour. Both teams ought to be praised for their positive attitude and some of their more pragmatic Premier League counterparts would be wise to sit up and take note.

That final sentence would have been a nice segue into discussion of the dull, scoreless West Midlands derby between Aston Villa and Birmingham City but this sentence is about all I could muster on the game. I’ll quickly move on the admittedly only fractionally more exciting game at the Reebok Stadium where Liverpool beat Bolton 1-0. Interestingly enough, despite their terrible start, should the unexpected happen and the scousers beat Chelsea next week, they could theoretically jump up to as high as fifth. However, watching their unconvincing smash and grab victory at Bolton, I would say that Hodgson's team have very little to be optimistic about. Maxi Rodriguez' 86th minute toe-poke merely glossed over what was another poor performance.

Take out Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard and you would struggle to convince many people that the rest of the Liverpool team are any better than their vanquished opponents on Sunday. Speaking of Torres, don't let the assist fool you, his overall contribution to the game was minimal and his lack of interest couldn’t be more apparent if he ran around with a huge neon sign with flashing text which read: "CANT BE ARSED" on it.

Many fingers have been pointed in many directions at Anfield but let's face it, on the pitch is where the main problems lie and the majority of the personnel in that line-up are just not up to the task of helping Liverpool return to past glories. For the likes of Lucas and Konchesky to name but two, their glaring deficiencies were once more exposed as they faced a team who are probably their equals at this point in time. The end result was a turgid, awful advert for top flight football which would have been just as 'entertaining' if all 22 starting players took a sedative pre-match and kept passing out at random moments during the game until the last man was left standing. Even Jamie Carragher readily admitted after the game that neither side deserved to win and apologised to everyone forced to put up with that drab 90 minutes as he realised we all died a little inside. Ok, maybe I made up the bit about the apology but I will never get that time back and that depresses me somewhat. But I digress, on the evidence of the game, any talk of 'turning the corner' ought to be curtailed until a later date.

What made the game look even worse was the fact that the first televised game on Sunday was the Tyne-Wear derby between Newcastle and Sunderland at the Sportsdirect.com@St. James Park Stadium – to give it its full name – which was a cracker of a game. The Magpies rolled back the years and almost looked something like Kevin Keegan's original entertainers from days of yore. The star man in the 5-1 battering was Kevin Nolan who nabbed himself a hat-trick. The rest of the Newcastle forward line weren't too bad either with Shola Ameobi grabbing a brace and Nolan's court-enforced flatmate Andy Carroll at the heart of everything good the home side did. I imagine they are just like Joey and Chandler from Friends except instead of Manhattan based hi-jinks with various members of the opposite sex, Andy Carroll just assaults them (allegedly). And rather than the all too frequent trips to the same coffee shop, I imagine Andy Carroll just decides to glass people (allegedly) irrespective of the beverage of choice or the establishment he happens to be in.

Without trying to take anything away from a Newcastle side very much deserving of a famous victory, they couldn't have had a bigger helping hand form their arch-rivals who looked about as lively as a bunch of red and white striped barber's poles. I guess that would explain why some of the defending was hair-raisingly tragic! Not to mention their terrible tackling which saw six players booked and Titus Bramble sent off. I alluded to the fact that certain teams seem to be over dependant on their star man and there is no greater example of this than at Sunderland where Darren Bent seems to be the only person who actually knows how to find the back of the net. Naturally, it was the England striker who grabbed the Black Cats' consolation late on.

Lack of goals aside, it's difficult to see what Steve Bruce is actually doing with this Sunderland team. They don't appear to have any sort of football philosophy in their approach nor a discernible style of play. They aren't really defensive nor are they particularly dynamic on the attack. They don't lose a lot but don't win a great many games either. Currently in 12th place, there isn't much to suggest that they won't be hovering in and around this position for the duration of the season.

Mid table obscurity has however, has allowed Sunderland to hold the Northeast bragging rights for the last year or so following the relegations of Newcastle and Middlesbrough in 2009. The Toon have returned and you'd think that after the indignity of playing in the second tier for the self-professed big club, you'd want to try and keep well away from that dreaded relegation trap door.

After all the various controversies, embarrassments, managerial changes and general instability down the years, it would surely be sensible to steer clear of anything that may cause more problems at the club, right? Wrong, Newcastle United FC is apparently the first football team to openly embrace it's masochistic tendencies. When no problems are present, the club will actively seek them out.

Despite sailing to promotion last season and maintaining something of a healthy position in the Premier League to date, Chris Hughton continues to be undermined at every opportunity. The growing speculation about his future has been greeted with silence by the board and the reported delay in offering him a new contract all point to yet more imminent changes at the club. A massive derby win will give Hughton some breathing space but a few dodgy results will be the only excuse Mike Ashley will need before turfing him out and doing something daft like bringing back Sweary Joe.



Arsenal 1-0 West Ham
Blackburn 1-2 Chelsea
Everton 1-0 Stoke City
Fulham 2-0 Wigan
Man Utd 2-0 Spurs
Wolves 2-1 City

Aston Villa 0-0 Birmingham
Bolton 0-1 Liverpool
Newcastle 5-1 Sunderland


Blackpool 2-1 WBA

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