11 December, 2007

Gameweek 16 – ‘Chess not Checkers’

Happy Tuesday peoples and many apologies for the delay in update this week. Due to the excesses of the weekend, our pre-pubescent emo-loving runner was too busy listening to Dashbaoard Confessional to make his vital delivery of the weekend’s action in time, so only last night did the tapes finally arrive at STT HQ for our dissection and digestion.

Anyway, this weekend saw perhaps the biggest upset of the season so far, as the undefeated Arsenal went down 2 - 1 to struggling Middlesbrough following an unusually tepid performance from Wenger’s men. Elsewhere, Liverpool’s undefeated record also went the way of the dodo as they crashed to a 3 - 1 loss away to Reading, in another poor display from Benitez’s men that cannot help preparations for tonight’s crucial Champions League tie with Marseilles. Manchester United and Chelsea kept the pressure on meanwhile, which both of their victories (4 – 1 over Derby, and 2 – 0 over Sunderland respectively) tightening the thumb screws for next weekend’s GRAND SLAM SUNDAY, as Sky so hyperbolically put it.

Outside of the top four then we saw excellent victories for the rising Everton, along with the resurgent West Ham and Spurs sides who are considerably better than their league positions would have you believe. To relieve a bit of crowd discontent, there were wins also for Newcastle and Bolton which put a long-forgotten smile on many faces t’up north, while finally at the country’s other pole, a great 3 – 1 drumming of Aston Villa put Portsmouth dangerously close to a Champions League qualification spot.

Premier League Team of the Week (based on OPTA stats, Fantasypremierleague.com ratings and my own expert eye):

Keeper – Rob Green (couple of phenomenal saves and yet another clean sheet for the in-form Englishman)

Defence – Glen Johnson (superb again), Phil Wheater (rock solid and in consummate control throughout), Habib Beye (defensively strong, and a vital last minute winner), Lucas Neil (excellent once again, in the face of much abuse from his former club’s faithful)

Midfield – Sulley Muntari (performance of the weekend no doubt, capped off by two, count ‘em, wonder-goals), James Milner (aggressive and tricky display from the ever improving winger), Ryan Giggs (masterful showing from the old pro), Steven Gerrard (fired up again)

Up Top – Carlos Tevez (two poaches and some lovely interplay), Yakubu (right place, right time ... three times!)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Mr Muntari’s sublime second at Villa Park, eclipsing even his cracking opening strike…crunching tackle to win the ball, cheeky little meg on walking Atlas Zat Knight, and then slashed into the bottom corner. James Harper’s finish for Reading’s third against Liverpool was not far behind though.

Meg of the Week – See above.

Save of the Week – Rob Green somehow kept Tugay’s venomous volley through the crowded penalty box out at Ewood Park.

Skill of the Week – The aforementioned majestic Turk busts a sweet lift over the West Ham backline to pick out Santa Cruz, who then blasted into Row Z.

Miss of the Week – A couple of Martin Laursen headers in the first half against Pompey that most of the male (sighted) population would’ve struggled to miss; either would’ve made it 1 – 1, and game on. Papa Bouba Diop was close with his 2 yard scuff late on in the same game though.

Speculative Effort of the Week – James Milner rattled the bar at St James Park with a lovely 20 yard chip.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Trotted on to take Chelsea’s penalty and then presumably was re-substituted off again. Another masterclass.

Gaffe of the Week – Unlucky Paul Scharner nestled a perfect near post header past his own keeper within 3 minutes of kick off.

ASBO(s) of the Week – Shared jointly this week between Liam Miller and Emmanuel Eboue, both of whom slapped opponents in the face. Pizarro probably deserved it, and maybe Miller won’t mind the red card, but how Eboue stayed on the pitch is a surely-the-referees-aren’t-still-biased-towards-the-top-four shaped mystery.

“Remember Me?” of the WeekJérémie Aliadière gave perhaps the best performance of his career against his former employers at the Riverside on Sunday.

Wrestling Move of the Week – Garry Barry executed a great blast-from-the-past People’s Elbow on Papa Bouba Diop to retrieve the ball after slamming Villa’s consolation penalty on Saturday.

Sniper-in-the-crowd of the Week – Half footballer, half actor Christiano Ronaldo gets his knee shot out to buy Manchester United’s fourth from the penalty spot at home to Derby.

Conversion of the Week – Nicolas Anelka expertly slotted his penalty over the bar, shame it was during a football match. France probably could’ve done with kicking like that in Rugby World Cup eh?

Egomaniac of the Week – The Portuguese winger takes this too for not letting Tevez take the penalty that would’ve given him his first hat-trick in English football.

Celebration of the Week – Stuart Downing busts out the old Emile Heskey classic DJ celebration after putting his team one up against Arsenal.

Someone’s-getting-Sat-Nav-for Christmas moment of the Week – Arsenal’s bus driver apparently got so lost that the team didn’t arrive at the Riverside until less than an hour before kick off. Not that that’s an excuse.

Someone’s-getting-Glasses-for Christmas moment of the Week – Seriously, how is Rob Styles still a professional referee? Blunders aplenty as usual up in Newcastle, but how he missed Cameron Jerome trying to actually catch Emre’s freekick is mind boggling.

Head Scratcher of the Week – Rafa “Tinkerbell” Benitez yanking Carragher, Gerrard and Torres off (not in that way) early at the Madjeski and just accepting defeat.

Banter of the WeekDerby fans singing “can we play you every week?” at Old Trafford after scoring for the first time in 7 games.

Hero of the Week – Ryan Giggs for becoming only the 11th Manchester United player in history to reach 100 league goals for the club.

Zero of the Week – Arsene Wenger. Presumably there will be crisis talks at the Emarites this week? If anyone else is keen, I shall be holding a “Wenger Out!” protest before the game next Sunday, this kind of result is simply not acceptable.

Personal Highlight of the Week – I’m sorry but it just has to be Arsenal losing. Look at poor Tomas Rosicky’s face, he looks like he might cry. He also looks like a teenage girl.