Slakr moans, groans and celebrates a pretty dire weekend of football. Two weeks. I’ve got to keep telling myself that its been just two weeks. I often get critisized for only seeing things through Liverpudlian eyes, coated in a sheen of red. Well two weeks ago was the greatest advertisement for Premier League football I’ve seen in ages, and thats despite Liverpool losing to a heartwrentching goal. This week? Not so great, at least in the marquee games. The Champions-Elect were a disgrace (again). The Merseyside derby resembled a battleground at times. And United-Brum is being hailed as a success for Brum. With a 3-0 loss in a game they never had a chance of taking a point from. Disgraceful.
So lets start with The ‘Pool. And lets be honest here – Stevie G cannot complain about the red card. I disagree with the commentators who claim he went in with two feet — his left was actually a decent distanceaway from contact, but it was a wild lunge that caught the man, and right after a mandatory yellow for kicking the ball away there was really only one possible outcome. But thats about all the Phil Dowd got right in this game. Garcia clearly dodged a bullet (how that was missed is beyond me). The ref completely failed to take control of the game, brandishing cards but without stamping any authority at all. Crouch was essentially a climbing gym for the Everton defence and the game completely lacked any fluidity to it. That said, Liverpool showed tremendous character to play 55 minutes with a man down, and be up a goal at the end of it. Harry Kewell’s goal was a stunner, though I think he loses a bit of the credit for how easy it looked. What the Everton defense were doing giving him a shot that belonged on a training pitch is beyond me. He had time, space and a view of goal. Great finish and take, but seriously assisted by some shocking defending. The Lesser Neville scoring an own goal adds a bit more joy to this victory, and the team performance was brilliant but the game was certainly not a classic.
Onto the Champions. The Drog continues his incredible trend of showing himself to be a world-class talent at the same time as showing himself to be a world-class prat. City were poor, but with the resources that Stu had at his disposal, it was hardly surprising. General consensus last week was that Chelsea’s “goal” against Fulham would never have been disallowed at The Bridge (or in the Soviet National Stadium in Stalingrad). General consensus is usually smarter than we give it credit for as this week proved. It was completely unneccesary, and it rankled more after Drogba had kissed his Fair Play badge right after scoring the (excellent) first goal. United were hated because they were so dominant with a team that had risen from the ranks. The Arse were hated because they played with a style that was so beautiful to watch until they beat your team (which they always did). Chelski are hated because they actually are a team of the most loathsome players and officials ever seen. Yes, everyone cheats. But few people do it with the swagger and arrogance of The Champs. At a point where they are the standard bearers for English football, they’re a disgrace. Fortunately, they were shown up by Liverpool last year, and hopefully (yes, I want them to win) this year Arsenal will do the same.
Sir Alex showed he has a heart when he admitted that a 3-0 victory for his Red Devils was “agony”, given the pressure it put on his long-serving former captain Steve Bruce. That two formed United greats are battling each other for survival makes an interesting side story to what is shaping up to be an interesting last few weeks at the bottom. Maybe not as great as last year, but epic nevertheless. Bryan Robson was one of the two United players I find it impossible to hate, and so I’m hoping that with Gera back that Brom can maintain their place from last season. The other was responsible for making this game a non-event. Ryan Giggs is a staggeringly good player. Had he been English, he would have been the poster child of the dominant United teams instead of Beckham. At least as skillful, and with a lot more heart, he’s been the personification of this club through all its successes. Keane, Bruce, Robson and Becks were all great in their time (and there are a lot more in that list of couse), but for my money I’d have taken Giggs to ‘Pool over them all. The game was essentially over after 3 minutes thanks to Giggles. Heskey and Dud Campbell didn’t seem to want to get Brum back in it and Giggs had killed the game off by half time. That Steve Bruce talked about this game as a success shows (a) how poor he’s been with a fairly expensive Birmingham team, (b) how completely they were destroyed in midweek by my rampant Reds, and (c) why they’re going to be one of the two that joins Sunderland in the “Championship” next year.
Blackburn beat Sunderland. I refuse to watch the train wreck that is Sunderland. And Blackburn’s success pisses me off because its the one team that has more loathsome footballers than Chelsea does.
Bolton and Boro had an entertaining little game that Boro came away with at the last. A fine seven goal thriller, with the additional entertainment of Big Sam’s commentary on the England manager’s position. I don’t think that anyone believes Sam when he says he thinks an English manager should be appointed. Between the lines (and actually on them at times), all Big Sam cares about is Big Sam becoming the next England manager. If not him, I don’t think he would give a rats left tit if Scolari took over the reigns instead of the Curbs man. But the game was pretty fine. Some good work by a couple of much maligned forwards in Jimmy Floyd and The Aussie Who Likes Pie. I’m an admirer of Stelios, and Jay Jay has long been a favorite (though he has seriously diminished of late, and I think its the right point to call time). Not the best defensive showing of the weekend, but an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
As opposed to anything on display at Villa Park. O’Leary is on his way out, its not completely undeserved, and Villa are my current pick for surprise relegation next season.
The two promoted sides who weren’t Championship Champions (what a fucking joke) have been incredibly impressive this season. While Wigan started out brilliantly, West Ham have been mighty impressive of late and came away with this one. West Ham are likely to win the FA Cup final with about as much ease as Wigan won the Carling Cup, but that shouldn’t take away from anything these two sides and managers have achieved this season, with squads primary made up of players who everyone thought belonged in the Championship. A late winner from Reo-Coker (after a great feed by the magically timeless Teddy Sheringham) took the points into Alan Pardew’s chest, and Wigan have not had a great 2006 so far, but 9th and 10th (assuming Everton leapfrog them both at some point on form) would be highly creditable. A good game, but meaningless in any grander scheme since no-one believes either of these teams will finish in the European slots.
Another meaningless game was Charlton’s 3-1 victory over Newcastle. Newcastle’s defense is still in shambles. Scott Parker may have scored a wonder-goal, but still shouldn’t be going to Germany in the summer. Glenn Roeder is not a magician and has not turned a very ordinary Newcastle side into anything spectacular. And no-one who doesn’t support one of these two teams cares at the moment.
Arsenal may complain, but its only to their benefit that they get additional rest before Juve midweek, and avoid a hot Portsmouth team that may have a thing or two to say about the race 17th place.
The current holders of that position are playing Spurs on Monday. This year there are four teams competing NOT to finish fourth. Blackburn are the form team with 15 points of the last 24 available. Spurs have the spot to lose now that Bolton have lost one of their games in hand. Brom are good at the most unusual times, and with Gera returning I think they could make the escape again. Its been 22 years since they won at White Hart Lane, and 24 since they did the double on Spurs. I’m going to go for the longshot and give all three to Bryan Robson this week.