There were quite a few battles going on this weekend, some very real, some very much the product of my over active imagination, but it was another eventful weekend in the Barclays Premier League. Some of things I noticed this week were;
1. When the going gets tough – The big question of the weekend is, has the penny dropped for Arsene Wenger yet? It’s all very nice and commendable to take the moral high ground and play the purists game, but not if no one else is playing along. Another defeat for Arsenal against one of their major rivals surely now spells the beginning of the end of their title challenge. Possibly not of course, but only if Wenger can finally admit that he has to adapt to other teams styles of play, especially when loosing, if he ever wants to lift the title again. Unlike last week, Arsenal dominated for long spells yesterday but still didn’t really achieve anything, and with a certifiable midget up front on his own, and Arsenal bafflingly playing a crossing game, it never looked for one minute like the result was ever in doubt from the moment Didier Drogba slid in from a yard to convert an unmarked John Terry’s header. Furthermore if there was one man everyone was keeping their eyes fixed on this weekend it was Terry, but this didn’t seem to apply if you were an Arsenal player, who seem to be playing, and living, in a world of their own. I also noticed a number of pro Terry banners at the Bridge, one of which seemed to have been written crudely in spray paint on a bed sheet.
2. You shall not pass! – An epic battle of Tolkien-esque proportions was taking place at the KC colossuem in the fields of East Riding. Or at least it was in my head. Whenever I see Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink play I always think he should be taking home the opposition players wives in victory, carrying them off over his shoulder as a trophy in a manner befitting a Viking warrior. However with Wayne Bridge returning for his opponents it probably wouldn’t have been that appropriate this time. Well, slightly less inappropriate than raping and pillaging would ordinarily be on a football pitch at any rate. In fact I got completely carried away with this notion and couldn’t stop seeing a possibly epic work of Ye Olde fiction forming in front of my eyes. So as the mighty warrior of Hesselink assisted the noble Altidore of Freeland to take charge of this titanic battle between the humble knights of Hull and the assembled worldly warriors of Manchester, lead by their fearsome battle scared goblin king, I was irreversibly lost to whimsy. I could write a novel on that match alone, honestly.
3. Firey across the Mersey – As epic battles go however, you’d probably have been better served by watching the 182nd Merseyside derby at Anfield where, for once, the ugliest thing on display wasn’t Everton’s disastrously pretentious Trompe-l’œil kit (which is actually growing on me now to be honest.) Before any football was given a chance to flow Marouane Fellaini had managed to kick Dirk Kuyt in the face, (though as luck would have it he was probably the only player who it wouldn’t have affected much), stamped on Kyrgiakos but managed to get his opponent sent off whilst Steven Pienaar, having been elbowed into oblivion by Jamie Carragher within 14 seconds, somehow escaped a red for attempting a DIY amputation on Javier Mascherano. He was eventually sent off though, after 88 minutes of fighting and a couple of briefs moments of football. The bruised face of Kuyt won Liverpool the match after Tim Howard failed to save it purely because he was still in the process of pushing the Dutchman. In a way, that’s what you want from a derby really isn’t it?
4. Still haven’t found what I’m looking for – Over at Burnley, a proper football match was taking place where West ham seemed to be playing themselves in a parallel universe. Years of associating claret and blue with the ‘Ammers can’t really be broken in my head so I spent a good deal of time struggling to work out who was doing what to whom with the what now? Watched over by new owners David’s Gold and Sullivan, inexplicably dressed as a Cossack and a pimp respectively, West Ham continued to fail completely in the task of scoring goals despite buying about 15 strikers in the January transfer window. One of them did eventually score but it wasn’t enough to prevent Burnley’s ridiculously salvatory home form continuing
5. Staus Quo – Something I noticed last week unfortunately dissipated this. Those noble teams fighting for fourth have all somehow conspired, yet again, to keep the Big Four in their accustomed places. Tottenham somehow didn’t beat Aston Villa despite having about 50 chances to do so and, as always, the Premier League table 2010 read like the Premier League table circa 2005. Time may change me, but I can’t change time.
6. I’m, having the time of my life – As Own Goal continues his great run of form for Manchester United after forming a telepathic understanding with Nani over the past few weeks, (though he’ll have to sweat over he decision of the dubious goals panel to see if he’ll be awarded a hat-trick for Saturdays game) the rest of the side seem to be doing their usual thing of coming into form at exactly the right time. They were clearly playing the most deflated opponent since Liverpool were beaten by a beach ball, but so comfortable did United look that even Dimitar Berbatov decided to join in the game. As brilliant as his finish was however, it should be noted that the Pompey defense seemed to be playing a new ‘non touch’ version of football for United’s 4th. It’s a lovely idea boys, and I’m sure Arsene Wenger will love it, but I don’t think it’s gonna catch on.
7. You can leave your hat on – Whilst Arsenal were busy trying to remember how to play like Arsenal against the bigger teams, Stoke were doing their best impression of Arsenal against the smaller teams down at the Britannia stadium. No longer relying on Rory Delap to throw some points their way, there’s even rumblings of an England call up for Matthew Etherington. It’s almost enough to make Tony Pulis take his cap off to salute them. Almost.
8. I’m still standing – Kevin Phillips is still alive! Still scoring in derbies, still scoring against the man who sold him, and still sporting the same buzz cut and stubble style he did when he won the golden boot 10 years ago. Birmingham are now only 6 points behind 5th place Spurs and have a game in hand. How on earth has this happened and how come no one seems to have noticed?
9. I want to break free – Despite all their potential and early season promise, Sunderland still can’t escape from the fact they’re seemingly doomed to be a relegation scrapping side. Despite dominating a Wigan side who seemed to have borrowed their away kit from a local amateur 5 a side team who’d had it made by their mate Phil in the back of a JJB sports in 20 minutes, they couldn’t find a winner, eventually evening out their beach ball karma when Darren Bent’s shot was deflected away from goal by a prone team mate. Steve Bruce’s broken nose seems to have gotten worse since he stopped playing, which makes absolutely no sense, and I still can’t work out why none of the big boys have taken a chance on Kenwyne Jones yet.
10. Whatever will be will be – Another bore fest at Bolton was almost reprieved when Kevin Davies headed home a last minute winner, only for it to be disallowed for absolutely nothing at all. Presumably the referee, and Fulham, were under the impression they were playing Pompey’s version of non touch football?