Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Weekend Observations 11th - 13th December 2010: Part Two

After the sacking of Chris Hughton last week you would have thought football would wait a few weeks before going completely mental again. No. Just a few days later ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce was relieved of his duties at Blackburn Rovers. A shocking decision on the face of it given the fact he was doing a fairly decent job of maintaining Rovers’ position of mid table mediocrity. Seeing as the Venky’s group – Blackburn’s new owners – recently claimed they were happy in that very position, their complete change of stance is baffling. The fact they don’t seem to even have a replacement lined up makes the whole situation even more nonsensical.

Mind you, having pumped a fortune into buying the club, they probably took one look at the Allardyce’s ‘style’ of football and understandably came to the conclusion they wanted to see something much better.

Allardyce was handed his pink slip off the back of a 2-1 defeat in the Lancashire/Greater Manchester/Somewhere-in-the-north-east derby against his former club Bolton. Given the way Allardyce celebrated his current side’s equaliser in front of the fans who once worshiped the ground he walked upon, you have to say Karma gave him a double dose of whoop-ass. Stuart Holdon’s stunning quickfire response that ultimately proved to be the winning goal was just the starter before the main course of Monday’s dramatic dismissal.

The abovementioned Newcastle played their first game under Alan ‘5 and a half years’ Pardew and what do you know? They beat Liverpool 3-1 and looked quite good in the process. Andy Carroll was on the scoresheet yet again and is proving to be something of a revelation. Credit where it is undoubtedly due for him being able to make the transition from Championship to Premier League almost seamlessly – something many young players struggle to do.

The game also featured a now customary Torres one-on-one miss and Joey Barton... well, being Joey Barton. For the record, I don’t think his ‘gesture’ was that offensive but having just returned from a three match ban and everything that has happened to him IN HIS LIFE up until this point, you’d hope he would apply something like common sense and keep his nose clean. I’m not the first to say it and certainly won’t be the last but if Barton concentrated on his football and stopped behaving like a dickhead at every opportunity, he would actually be quite the player.

Dr. Jackal/Mr. Hyde also scored the key second goal in the game. The Premier League have apparently moved to ‘remind him of his responsibilities’ but it would help if Barton actually what the word responsibility actually meant.

Now, before Geordies start proclaiming Pardew to be their new Messiah, let’s not forget that this is still Hughton’s team.

In keeping with the theme of under fire managers, Roy Hodgson has once again had to come out fighting this week in face of more criticism and speculation over his future. Hodgson is in danger of doing irreparable damage both to his reputation and to this current Liverpool team. A good manager no doubt but as the season has worn on, it has become clear that Hodgson quite simply won’t be able to deliver what the club wants and needs: Champions League football and eventually a title push. His terrible personal away record doesn’t appear to show any sign of improving either.

Sharing their neighbours cause for concern are Everton whose traditional slow start to the season has dragged itself almost to the halfway stage after a 0-0 draw with Wigan. “Some” people might say that you insist on signing AND playing Jermaine Beckford instead of a real striker then you deserve to sit just two points off the relegation zone... some people!

With West Ham putting up about as much of a fight in the relegation battle as an anaemic schoolchild in the UFC, Wolves picked up a massive 1-0 win against midlands rivals Birmingham while across the region, Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa scored a much needed 2-1 win over rivals West Brom. All four of these sides have some sort of dislike or resentment towards one another. Can’t imagine the West Midlands was a fun place to be over the weekend.

Stephen Hunt
’s decisive goal and Wolves’ subsequent win opened up a three point gap on the hapless hammers as well as inching themselves closer to safety. The bottom of the table remains congested as ever and Villa’s welcome victory gives Gerrard Houllier some much needed breathing space after a poor recent run. Those same people who say those unkind words about Jermaine Beckford may also suggest that it is no coincidence that Villa finally won a game after dropping Richard Dunne.



Aston Villa 2-1 West Brom
Everton 0-0 Wigan
Fulham 0-0 Sunderland
Newcastle 3-1 Liverpool
Stoke 0-1 Blackpool
West Ham 1-3 Manchester City


Bolton 2-1 Blackburn
Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea
Wolves 1-0 Birmingham


Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal

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Weekend Observations 11th - 13th December 2010: Part One

Big Story of the weekend comes from Eastlands where Man City’s Carlos Tevez has handed in a written transfer request. Aside from despairing billboard manufacturers in the city, the club’s fans can’t be too pleased either. As recently as last month they were lording it over their neighbours from Old Trafford when Wayne Rooney did something similar before changing his mind. Rooney stayed and now it is City’s talismanic striker who wants to leave Manchester. You have to wonder what is wrong with the place...

This situation however, differs in a number of ways from that of the potato-headed Scouser. Tevez, currently pocketing a reported 280 grand every 7 days, has never been backward in coming forward to express his feelings of disillusionment about the game. The Argentine has even been vocal on the subject of quitting football altogether. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that he is one unhappy bunny at the minute. Last week’s touchline spat with Roberto Mancini was just an indicator of his current state of mind.

Tevez, despite claiming repeatedly that money is not his primary concern, has cited a breakdown of a relationship between himself and ‘some executives’ indicating a potential contract dispute with those at board level. The City hierarchy have intimated that this is indeed the case but my suspicions are that they are simply looking to besmirch the striker’s character by painting him as just another money-grabbing mercenary.

Whether this is true or not, remains to be seen. I expect a lot more name calling from both sides before the saga draws to a close. From what I understand, homesickness rather than money is the main reason for this dramatic decision. Tevez and his babymother have split up and she has taken their children back to Argentina. Tevez is understandably unhappy at being so far away from his family so maybe his request to leave is not that unreasonable. Putting two and two together, I’m thinking that the club has maybe reneged on certain promises to allow him time off to go home every so often. The likelihood of any Argentinean team being able to afford to rescue him is another issue completely though.

In stark contrast, Tevez’ continued impressive performances give off no impression of any external problems. You won’t find many people arguing that the captain hasn’t been City’s best and most consistent player over the last year or so. Whatever you think of this whole mess, his professionalism on the pitch has to be commended. Unlike wantaway players of days gone by, Tevez says he will still play for the club. Despite his obvious displeasure, he still puts the effort into every game as if it is his last – which of course, it may well be.

If he does leave, it would do serious damage to any potential City assault on the title although, in his absence, Saturday saw the blues stroll past Abject Avram’s West Ham with Yaya Toure taking centre stage. Then again, this is West Ham we’re talking about. They are to football what Sepp Blatter is to gay rights.

City’s win momentarily put them joint top of the league alongside Arsenal until the gunners were replaced by Manchester United who beat them 1-0 on Monday night.

You have to wonder though, what is the point of Arsenal? Yes, great football, financially stability and a commitment to the development of young talent is all very commendable and certainly a model you’d hope many others will follow before the inevitable day in the not too distant future when the completely unsustainable nature of football finances sees top clubs start toppling like dominoes.

But what good is any of that if it can’t be converted into success on the pitch? Nobody supports a club because they have a good bank balance. Arsenal fans have not seen their side win a trophy for over five years and based on Monday’s predictable surrender the drought, as far as the league is concerned, sees no sign of abating.

Admittedly, they are going good guns (no pun intended) in the Carling Cup but you have to ask if winning the football’s second least prestigious competition (behind the SPL) is good enough for one of England’s so called biggest clubs.

It looks like they’ve balls’d up their Champions League campaign this season and defeat at Old Trafford has left them trailing their old rivals who now also have a game in hand. More than that, having lost against Chelsea already this season, Arsenal’s continued failure in these big Championship six pointers looks once again to derail any rumoured title challenge. Arsenal have now lost 10 and drawn one of their last 11 games in all competitions against United and Chelsea – a recent record worse than the likes of Birmingham and Fulham respectively.

Arsenal barely showed up at Old Trafford and spent a lot of the second half passing the ball from side to side in what could only be described as an attempt to bore the United defence into conceding somehow. Of course, this didn’t work. Having conceded to a fortuitous Park Ji Sung header just before half time, a little more urgency would have been welcome in the second 45. It didn’t come and Arsene Wenger’s side got exactly what they deserved from the game: nothing!

The one positive they will take from the game was the performance of debutant Wojciech Szczesny (15 minutes to verify the spelling!) in goal who pulled off some decent saves and showed a safe pair of hands on a number of other occasions. A competent Arsenal goalkeeper? Who would have thunk it?

The scoreline could have been more emphatic when everyone’s favourite referee awarded United their Annual undeserved penalty at Old Trafford (The fifth they have ‘won’ in eight seasons against Arsenal). Wayne Rooney summed up his mediocre season by ballooning the ball straight to the moon.

2-0 would have flattered United. For Arsenal, one of the most frustrating things about this defeat for the gunners was that fact that the home side weren’t actually any good. Thanks to the powder puff nature of any Arsenal attack, it’s not unfair to say that the Reds deserved their win but only by default on account of simply being ‘less worse’ than the visitors. United played the way that secured them the win and fair play to them for being smart enough to do so but I don’t think I’m out of order for suggesting that the tactics they employed after scoring were not dissimilar to a League One side protecting a lead against Premier League opposition in some sort of cup match. Yes, the mighty Manchester United were reduced to defensive long ball merchants, AT HOME! How they are top of the league and still unbeaten is anyone’s guess.

Whether they stay there or not is different story as they head to Stamford Bridge to face a Chelsea side they have failed to beat away from home in the league since 2002. Funnily enough, a year before The Blues were doped up to the shinpads by Roman Abramovich’s roubles.

Chelsea themselves are still going through a somewhat dodgy period and a 1-1 draw against Tottenham in Sunday’s big game could be seen as another stumble as they attempt retain their crown. Despite going behind, Chelsea will look at this as an opportunity lost given the circumstances at the end of the game when Didier Drogba’s ego cost his side two points.

Having been dropped, Drogba set out to prove a point to his manager by burying the equaliser right through the apparition of Heurelho Gomes. However, Drogba’s insistence on taking the last minute penalty ahead of the returning Frank Lampard that could have won the game bordered on selfish and by missing it, he could well have hindered Chelsea’s championship ambitions even further.

For the record, Gomes did not go from ‘villain to hero’. He gave away the first goal and conceded the penalty. Ultimately, it was his fault Spurs dropped the points all he did was prevent his team paying a further price for his ineptitude. Saving it did not vindicate him in the slightest and hopefully ‘arry gave him an earful at in the changing rooms afterwards.

Chelsea may have stuttered in recent weeks but are still very much in the race. Their ‘spine’ of Terry, Essien, Lampard and Drogba is just about complete once again and a win against Manchester United at the weekend should give them the momentum to kick on in the second half of the season. Their second half performance at White Hart Lane was ominously good and it seems only a matter of time before they are battering teams up and down the land as they were at the start of the season.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Weekend Observations 4th - 6th December 2010: Part Two

Part One Here

On Monday, Gerrard Houllier, former Liverpool manager of early noughties plastic treble winning fame returned to Anfield with his new club Aston Villa. The home side were missing their 'spine' of Jamie Carragher, Stevie Gerrard and Fernando Torres through a combination of injuries and impending childbirth but any hopes of a shock evaporated in less than 20 minutes as a makeshift forward line of David N'Gog and Ryan Babel gave the Scousers an early two goal lead.

Given their form this season, it wasn't really a surprise to see Villa concede two goals that any defence not consisting of James Collins and Richard Dunne may have prevented. Although, in fairness, there was a big shout for offside with Babel's goal.

The life had been sucked out of the game and for the next 25 minutes the most entertaining thing going on was the creative swearing coming from the dugout area where the TV crews seemed to have inadvertently placed one of their microphones. Unfortunately, this was moved in the second half so all us fans of needless profanity were left disappointed.

Instead, we got a great example of how to offer nothing to a football match by Villa before Maxi Rodriguez iced the Liverpool cake with a sublime third. Forgotten signing of the season Joe Cole came on as did random signing of the season Robert Pires who did nothing but still looked more accomplished than worst signing of the season Stephen Ireland.

The 3-0 win saw Liverpool shoot up the table to the dizzying heights of 8th place – Interestingly, 3 points closer to top spot than at the same stage last season. Villa stay just two points off the relegation zone.

Just when you thought that peace had broken out at St. James' Park, Newcastle United leaped out from the shadows and soared to the top of their own self-erected pedestal of incompetence as if to say to the rest of us, "Hey, you've forgotten what a massive joke we are. We could no longer allow this. Point and laugh til your belly's are sore for we are the laughing stock of all of football!". Yes, following Sunday's 3-1 reverse at West Brom, Chris Hughton was sent packing from the Magpies managerial hotseat by trigger happy Mike Ashley and his cronies.

At the time of writing, Martin Jol seems to have cast aside his Ajax shackles and is primed to take over on Tyneside. As a fairly decent manager with the 'experience' they seem to so desperately desire. IF he does get the job, this will look like a good appointment on the face of it but you have to ask if changing a manager who was popular among players and fans alike is going to cause at least some level of disruption? What Hughton seemed to provide was some much-needed stability; something more important than a big name.

The West Brom defeat coupled with the recent humiliation at Bolton may well have contributed to the sacking but given the fact Hughton not only masterminded last years successful promotion campaign, but also this season's a 6-0 battering of Aston Villa, the emphatic Tyne-Wear derby win, wins at Everton and Arsenal and most recently a draw at home to the current league Champions (who they also beat in the Carling Cup), one would think he'd done enough to deserve a little more respect and his much sought after contract extension. Sadly, only in football do these kind of achievements get 'rewarded' in such a way. Needless to say, the reaction has initially been one of anger and disbelief. As a result, many 'neutrals' wouldn't be too disappointed to see the Loony Toon Army plummet down the table once more and find themselves back in the Championship where they were when Hughton was originally appointed caretaker manager.

If Newcastle are to be drawn into a relegation battle, they will have to go some way do wrestle the wooden spoon away from either West Ham or Wolves. You have to wonder if these sides are actually trying to finish last following a bizarre weekend when West Ham moved off the bottom of the table on goal difference despite not playing on Saturday thanks to Wolves' 3-0 defeat at Blackburn. However, the Hammers returned to the foot of the table following their 1-0 defeat at Sunderland 24 hours later.

Wolves can feel hard done by given the fact they were by far and away better than their Lancashire conquerers but due to a fetish for pinging the ball off the goal frame and making Paul Robinson look like a competent goalkeeper (a crime worthy of relegation in itself) they instead came away on the wrong end of a hiding. Another good performance from Mick McCarthy's men but no result to match. The annual hard luck story of at least one side doomed to the dreaded drop.

West Ham haven't won away from Upton Park in the league since the first day of last season and this most recent bout of travel sickness has piled yet more pressure on Avram Grant. The winning goal from Jordan Henderson capped off a fine team move and was worthy of winning any game although in truth, I'm not sure many people realistically expected West Ham to get anything against a Sunderland side who are quite formidable on home soil. Any 'extra' pressure on the diminutive Isreali is not really justified in my eyes.

That said, the Irons are looking something of a shambles in the league and you imagine that if it wasn't for last week's hugely unexpected victory over Manchester United in the Carling Cup, Sir Avram would be standing alongside Chris Hughton in the dole queue right about now.

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Arsenal 2-1 Fulham
Birmingham 1-1 Tottenham
Blackburn 3-0 Wolves
Blackpool P-P Manchester United
Chelsea 1-1 Everton
Man City 1-0 Bolton
Wigan 2-2 Stoke


Sunderland 1-0 West Ham
West Brom 3-1 Newcastle


Liverpool 3-0 Aston Villa

Weekend Observations 4th - 6th December 2010: Part One

There is a terrible epidemic amongst football fans, pundits and commentators alike to label any new, young, exciting talent as some sort of modern day incarnation of great player from days of yore. Any half-baked tabloid, broadcaster or blog that dares to indulge in often fruitless transfer speculation will almost certainly refer to a player as the 'new' version of someone else. When a young French player of Algerian heritage signed for Arsenal a couple of summers back, there was a laughable suggestion that he was going to be, like Bruno Cheyrou before him, a 'new Zidane'. This particular comparison is just an example of laziness due to ethnicity rather than footballing ability. ZiZou was one of the finest players to ever play the game and to heap that sort of pressure on an unproven Samir Nasri was both unfair and unwarranted.

Of course, it remains to be seen if he can actually live up to these expectations but certainly this season Samir has sparkled in Arsenal colours playing in a way that the great man who he is said to have succeed would be proud of. Nasri's fine form culminated in a fantastic performance in the 2-1 win over Fulham on Saturday when his two jaw-droppingly brilliant goals fired the Gunners to the top of the Premier League table.

This past summer saw the mind-numbingly boring transfer tug of war between Arsenal and Barcelona over the Gunners' talismanic Captain Cesc Fabregas. Such is his importance to Arsenal, the typically hyperbolic reactions from many suggested that if the North Londoners did lose their man then the team would falter, the Emirates would be sucked into some kind of a vortex and the club would cease to exist or something.

While quite obviously the team's most influential player over the last 5 trophy-less seasons, Fabregas' recent ongoing injury problems have meant that the team have had to cope without him for much of this campaign and given their lofty league position this morning, you have to say they have coped quite well.

It is of course, foolish to suggest that Arsenal don't need Fabregas but even if he was to leave to warm the bench of the world's best club side, it wouldn't quite be the disaster some would hope.

Whether Arsenal can stay top is another matter. Defensively, problems still remain and reached something of a nadir in the Fulham game when centre backs Sebastian Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny actually ran into each other and smashed heads in some kind of hilarious footballing Keystone Cops moment during the build up to Diomansy Kamara's equaliser.

For most teams this kind of thing would be written off as a freak occurrence but the regularity in which stupid/clumsy individual errors and acts of incompetence lead to the concession of goals by Arsene Wenger's team, you just know this won't be the last time we see something like this happen this season. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, defensive frailties will undermine any title ambitions the team may have.

That said, they may well win the title by default as Chelsea stuttered once again this week drawing 1-1 at home to Everton. There's not really much else to say that I haven't said already in weeks gone by. Yes, their form is dodgy but they are still just two points off the lead and you cannot imagine they won't find that magical winning formula again.

It baffles me that so few people are questioning that decision to award the Blues the penalty in this game which was nothing short of farcical in my opinion. For Tim Howard to be penalised for simply standing his ground and having Anelka clatter into him defies all logic. Howard had no way of avoiding contact without actually disappearing into thin air - an attribute I very much doubt he has in his arsenal. Even after Lee Probert awarded the penalty, shouldn't he have produced a red card for the keeper? Admittedly, Nicolas Anelka hasn't scored a lot recently but had he made it past Howard, there's no denying that it would have been a 'clear goal-scoring opportunity'.

's equaliser was scored by Jermaine Beckford who doubled his tally for the season as he tries in vain to convince me that he isn't ought of his depth playing Premier League football. I would be kinder to the former Leeds man if he didn't follow up his goal by attempting a shot from outside the area that is still traveling down the King's Road as we speak.

Chelsea hope to stop the rot next week with a trip to a Tottenham side down in fifth could only manage a 1-1 draw at St. Andrew's with Carling Cup semi-finalists Birmingham City. Obviously, the only logical conclusion to draw is that Spurs had taken the lead and didn't have to come from behind so hence were unable to implement their newly discovered "playing possum" tactic. An interesting stat courtesy of the must follow OptaJoe on Twitter, for all their heroics this season, Spurs have only won one game outside of London.

Tottenham's draw meant that Man City's 1-0 win over Bolton helped The Citizens consolidate their place in the top four. Every week there seems to be another story of unrest within the City dressing room. Following Vincent Kompany and Emmanuel Adebayor getting into an on-pitch spat and the reported tunnel trouble with James Milner and Yaya Toure, Friday saw training ground fisticuffs between Jerome Boateng and Super Mario Balotelli before match winner Carlos Tevez blew the proverbial gasket after being subbed by Roberto Mancini on Saturday. Apparently, I'm told, this kind of thing happens at every club and while that may be true, I wonder why it seems to happen so frequently at Eastlands. It certainly doesn't seem like a happy camp and we can only be thankful that Craig Bellamy is currently out on loan. If any title challenge is to be maintained, the big egos will need to put in check.

The blues were unfortunate that the scoreline was not more emphatic but will be happy for the three points that allows them keep pace at the top of the table. December sees Arsenal, Chelsea and cross town rivals Manchester United all play one other in what some might call old fashioned championship six pointers. City will be hoping to capitalise on the inevitable points dropped by at least two of the teams above them and strengthen their own title-chasing ambitions.

Part Two to follow...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Weekend Observations 27th - 28th November 2010

So, Dimitar Berbatov ended something of a goal scoring drought by hitting FIVE as Manchester United publicly violated Blackburn Rovers in an encounter that proved to be about as evenly matched as a pack of hungry mountain wolves in a classroom full of anemic schoolchildren.

'Berba' has divided opinion amongst the Old Trafford faithful for a long time now with many deeming him a waste of money given the £30million transfer fee it took to bring him from White Hart Lane way back when. However, his form at the start of this season, culminating in a spectacular hat-trick against Liverpool, had some crazy people comparing him to a United legend of years gone by.

Since that day over two months ago, karma being what is would dictate that the Bulgarian would fail to find the net again until his deluge of goals on Saturday. These non-scoring matches meant of course that fans would do an about turn and once again suggest that Berbatov doesn't perform well enough, is clearly not good enough for United etc etc. This has ultimately led to possibly the most underwhelming reaction to a 5-goal haul and a 7-1 win ever.

Not much in the way of sycophantic praise this time around but rather the simple realisation that players have good days and bad days. Of course, sublime overhead kicks and hat tricks cannot be expected every week but as these strikes currently see Berba at the top of the Premier League scoring charts, United fans and commentators need to realise how good they've got it particularly when Wayne Rooney continues to perform worse than a deaf mute trying to win some kind of popular televised signing contest.

Amusingly, the team on the receiving end of the humping were Blackburn, managed by Big Sam Allardyce. Yes, the very same Sam Allardyce who recently suggested he would be better suited to managing Inter Milan or Real Madrid (although, given their own pasting in Monday's El Clasico, maybe Big Sam may not be so out of place!). I would say something about him eating humble pie right now but it probably wouldn't be the only pastry based snack he'd be stuffing down his large, insufferable throat.

United reached the Premier League summit at the expense of Chelsea who continue to stutter, this week only managing a 1-all draw at Newcastle. Like last week against Birmingham, the blues were unable to fully recover from conceding a sloppy early goal and capitalise on their possession and chances.

The one talking point of an otherwise unremarkable match however was the fact that Chelsea's often lethal strike force failed to get the better of the evergreen Sol Campbell who once again, refuses to be written off and continues to perform at the top level. Yes, the game was that uneventful.

In contrast, the later game on Sunday provided tons of incident as Tottenham come from behind once again to beat Liverpool 2-1 at White Hart Lane. Once again, comeback specialists Spurs showed they don't know when they are beaten as Aaron Lennon secured the three points in stoppage time, despite missing their fourth penalty of the season and the visitors missing a hat-full of chances to put the game out of sight when leading. This wasn't like limp Liverpool performances of earlier in the season as they took the game to the hosts. But for some 'charitable' Paul Konchesky defending and if Fernando Torres and Maxi Rodriguez had invested in some shooting boots, we may well be sitting here talking about Liverpool being back on track and laughing heartily when people suggest Tottenham could challenge for the title.

Speaking of getting back on track, after a week to forget, Arsenal beat Aston Villa 4-2 at Villa Park in a game that only differed from last weekend's North London Derby in terms of the final scoreline. Like last weekend, Arsenal bossed the first half. Like Last weekend the gunners were 2-0 up and half time. Like last weekend they allowed the opposition a way back into the game early in the second half but unlike last weekend they were able to kick on and make the game safe but not without a scare or two. The most interesting assessment of Arsenal I read (somehwere) this week was the conclusion that the only way Arsene Wenger's team can ever be sure of winning a given game is by scoring at least 4 goals. Anything less and the opposition will back themselves to find a way back into it.

Controversy and the confusion over offsides reared their respective heads when Villa scored their first and ultimately fruitless goal as Big John Carew was gingerly meandering about the penalty area while injured and quite obviously blocked the view of Arsenal “goalkeeper” Luckaz Fabianski as Ciaran Clark struck to reduce the deficit. Whether Carew was 'interfering' or not was the debate but alas, given that this isn't the first incident of this type this season alone, it's safe to say that the officials are going to almost always give the benefit of doubt to the attacking team. More goals, fun game, right? Difficult to see how defending teams can combat it.

The weekend saw a record number of goals scored. 41 in total as all 20 teams managed to find the back of the net somehow. And that my friends, is the most goals scored in any weekend of a league season since the Sky-Sponsored, money-driven, commercial entity that is the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams in 1995.

's hit and miss seson continued as they totally capitulated in a 4-1 defeat at home against West Brom. This shock scoreline was partly down to Mikael Arteta being controversially sent off. However, the outcome was rarely in doubt thanks mostly to tormentor in chief, the vastly underrated Chris Brunt whose free kick to score the Baggies' second on the day was as good you are ever likely to see anywhere in football.

That said, even Brunt's amazing strike was nothing compared to the simply stupendous team effort from Bolton when Mark Davies finished off an incredible passing move to score the equaliser against Blackpool. Honestly, the result may have dented what small aspirations Wanderers have of playing in Europe next season, but Davies' goal and the passage of play that preceded it would not look out of place in the Champions League such was it's quality.

Finally, down at the bottom of the league, Wolves dramatic late winner against the ever unpredictable Sunderland will have taken a bit of pressure off of Mick McCarthy as his side closed in on the teams above them. Credit to the big dopey Yorkshireman for keeping the spirits up and continuing to get the best out of what is, let's be honest, a team of slightly above average Championship players. They have played well enough in recent games and it was only a matter of time before these performances were rewarded with results.

This would have wound up those cheeky cockneys from Upton Park. Ebanks-Blake's last gasp winner means that West Ham remain bottom of the table despite their first league win since forever against their direct rivals for the league's wooden spoon Wigan who themselves look nothing short of hopeless.



Aston Villa 2-4 Arsenal
Bolton 2-2 Blackpool
Everton 1-4 West brom
Fulham 1-1 Birmingham
Man Utd 7-1 Blackburn
Stoke 1-1 Man City
West Ham 3-1 Wigan
Wolves 3-2 Sunderland


Newcastle 1-1 Chelsea
Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool

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