Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Weekend Observations 5th-6th February 2011: Part Two

Part One here

Sandwiched between the resurgent scousers and Chelsea are Tottenham. They always say the repeating success is harder than achieving it and looking at the way things are panning out this season, it will be a tougher task for Spurs if they are to emulate last season's top four finish.

However, they did such ambitions no harm with a 2-1 win over Bolton thanks to a late Nico Kranjcer screamer. It's one of this season's great injustices that Kranjcer doesn't see much in the way of game time for 'arry's side given how influential he was last season in making sure Spurs actually qualified for the Champions League. Much has been said about how this goal 'proved a point' to 'onest 'arry but in reality, we know this is not the case. For everything he has achieved, Redknapp could find himself undoing his good work if he doesn't fight his worrying addiction to always trying to buy players. With what is already a very good squad at his disposal, you have to wonder why he enters the transfer market with a ridiculous scattergun approach looking to literally sign anybody rather than someone he actually needs. Last week's farce was a prime example. What would Charlie Adam add to the Spurs team the Kranjcar cannot provide already? Perhaps more importantly, why was he looking to sign half the strikers in Spain when his defence is in so much trouble?

Again, refereeing controversy took centre stage in this match as Mark Clattenburg continued to make a fool out of himself with some baffling penalty decisions. Having already inexplicably forced a retake by Spurs' Rafael van der Vaart for encroachment (something you will see on every penalty from now until the end of time), the second half saw the dullard ref fail to award Gary Cahill one of the most nailed on spot-kicks you are ever likely to see and instead decided to book the Bolton man for diving.

Owen Coyle is apparently going to compile a second DVD of all the decisions that have gone against his team this season. At this rate we could be looking at a full box set before the season is out.

Contributing to the weekend goal-fest was Carlos Tevez who bagged a hat-trick in Man City's comprehensive 3-0 win over West Brom at Eastlands. City's title challenge has stuttered in recent weeks with some indifferent league form over January but having seen Chelsea, Arsenal and crosstown rivals United all drop points this week, Roberto Mancini's team are right back in the race.

This match may have turned out to be the last one in the Baggies dugout for Roberto Di Matteo who was sent out back to go and sort out his bergonias as he was later placed on gardening leave by the club. It's funny that this is the term they use when people are put into this state of purgatory. Who's to say that Di Matteo doesn't already have a gardener? Or what if he lives in a penthouse apartment?

But I digress. It's a bit of a head-scratcher this one. Admittedly, West Brom's recent form hasn't exactly been promising but back in September, following that famous win at Arsenal, people were talking about the possibility of the Baggies pushing for European spots. Yes, it has been something of a rapid decline since then but some of the team's home performances would have suggested that they would have had enough to just stay up this season allowing Di Matteo the opportunity to push on next year.

Given that this is Di Matteo's first attempt at Premier League management and taken into account the fact that last year he successfully led West Brom to promotion from the Championship in his first season at the Hawthorns, you have to think that this reaction by the board is both hasty and unfair. Even if he did get them relegated, his employers ought to be far more grateful for the job he's done so far.

"We'll be needing the scarf back too, Roberto"

Tony Pulis is a prime example of what can be achieved by having patience with a manager. All of a sudden, people talk about Stoke City as an established Premier League side and not have to worry that they have lost their marbles.

No matter what your opinion of the City, team or style of football, Pulis deserves credit for what he has achieved. That said, they still remain a horrible, horrible team to watch. Yes, they contributed to this weekend's goalfest with an apparently emphatic 3-2 win over Sunderland but Christ almighty, you couldn't possibly imagine three uglier goals than those that ultimetly won them the game. If football was a fairly tale, the 'beautiful game' would be in direct contrast with Stoke City who would be playing the part of 'Beast'.

The fact all three came from set pieces launched into the box tells you everything you need to know. Their first two goals, both highly contentious and might have been disallowed on another day, featured the kind of goal mouth scrambles that wouldn't look out of place in a game of 60 seconds in any primary school playground. Still, 3 points is 3 points as they say and a perfect counter argument to any football 'purist' who will try and tell you that football has to be 'pretty'.

Everton has been the epitome of inconsistency so far this season and their 5-3 win over Blackpool was a microcosm of their whole campaign. Had it not been for the drama at St. James' Park, people would be hailing this relentlessly back-and-fourth match as the standout game of the weekend.

There's a lot of talk on merseyside at present about the 'Return of the King' but if you cross Stanley park to get away from all the Dalglish hysteria, Everton fans will be talking about their own regal monarch in the shape of King Louis Saha. Having seemingly gotten over the injuries that have caused havoc with his career so far, the Frenchman had been steadily returning to form netting 4 goals in his previous 6 matches before single handedly matching that total on Saturday to make it 8 in 7. The new hairstyle has him looking like a Duracell Battery and guess what? He's playing like one too...

If he continues like this then you imagine that Everton won't remain in what many would say is a false position down in the the lower reaches of the Premier League but then again, if history has taught us nothing else it's that there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and a Louis Saha injury. While not wanting to jinx him, is it likely that he will be able to go on a run of games without his muscles turning to play-dough once again?

Despite contributing to such an exciting match – it's not often a team will score three goals and end up on the losing side – Blackpool's poor run of form continues and relegation becomes more and more of a realistic possibility with each passing game. Coinciding with the Tangerine's free-fall is the fact that teams around them are picking up whatever few points they can like some ruthless scavengers in a some kind of dystopain wasteland while Ian Holloway's side go hungry. Wins for Wolves, Birmingham and bizarrely enough, Wigan, see The Seasiders sit just two points off the drop zone.

I don't see them getting much change out of their next four games against Villa, Spurs, Wolves and Chelsea so it's with a heavy heart I feel I must pre-emptively mourn the loss of Ian Holloway and his regular bouts of insanity from our screens.

Match of the Weekend: Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal

Goal of the Weekend: Kranjcar v Bolton

Worst Refereeing decision: Stoke's second v Sunderland (Two offsides AND a handball!)

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