03 January, 2008

Gameweek 21 – ‘08 Till Infinity’

Happy 2008 then everyone, and apologies for the lack of updates recently but the party season has well and truly taken its toll on the overworked/underpaid STT writing staff. Business shall return to usual as soon as possible but in the interim please luxuriate in the following New Year’s Day gameweek review.

As expected, Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea continued their excellent Christmas form, each recording hard fought victories against battling opposition. Liverpool meanwhile dropped points again, this time at home to resurgent to the Wigan, leaving fourth place to be snapped up by Manchester City, who added to Newcastle’s misery by dismantling them 2 – 0 in front of 50,000 booing Geordies.

Aston Villa, Blackburn and Everton also pushed on towards the UEFA Cup spots, maintaining their excellent recent form, while Portsmouth seem to have gotten over their temporary goal drought with a convincing away performance at the Riverside. Finally, please spare a thought for poor Derby. Rooted at the bottom of the table with just 7 points, they were beaten by a 92nd minute route one goal at Bolton by substitute Stelios. I guess that sums up why they’re in the position they’re in though…

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

Keeper – Chris Kirkland (on top form against his former employers, only beaten by a slice of Torres-shaped perfection)

Defence – Martin Laursen (great partnership with Mellberg continues plus another vital goal), Juliano Belletti (probing forward play), Sol Campbell (commanding in defence and right place, right time for the opener), Richard Dunne (immovable time and time again), Titus Bramble (he’s still a joke, but to be fair, defended pretty well and was a decent finish to ruin the Scousers’ night)

Midfield – Matthieu Flamini (pulled the strings and dominated the midfield), Stylian Petrov (excellent return to form after being sidelined), Michael Ballack (inspirational showing given the captain’s armband)

Up Top – Carlos Tevez (busy as ever), Emmaunel Adebayor (constant threat and a seemingly impossible finish for the Arsenal second)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Tevez’s winner at Old Trafford was just sublime; pace, movement, trickery and cool finish (from 3:35 on the vid):

Nutmeg of the Week – Former trickmeister turned water carrier Anderson busts a little something out in the second half on Tuesday.

Almost Nutmeg of the Week – Gael Clichy got extra lucky when a deflected shot rebounded off both his legs and still stayed out at the Emarites.

Save of the Week – Tourettes-tastic Tim Howard denies Gary O’Neil by superhumanly smothering what looked like a tap in for the ex-Pompey man.

Skill of the Week – Christiano Ronaldo’s backheel in the above Tevez goal.

Gaffe of the Week – American badboy Marcus Hahnemann let a bread-and-butter Krancjar cross go through his hands for the Portsmouth opener.

Miss of the Week – If someone can explain how Kevin Nolan skied it from literally under the bar I’ll buy them a Zinger Tower meal. It wouldn’t have counted but still.

Sniper-on-the-roof of the Week – Mr Ballack is making a habit of this, going down very easily to buy the winning penalty at Craven Cottage.

Speculative Effort of the Week – 1980s Michael Jackson look-a-like Nani drifted in dangerously from the leftwing and slashed a shot just wide of Maik Taylor’s goal.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Steve Sidwell stepped in to deputise this week in Frank’s continued absence. He touched the ball twice and was then subbed off at half time. I expect his England call-up any day now.

ASBO of the Week – The Brazilian maestro gets in on the action, going in knee-high on Newcastle ‘playmaker’ Faye.

Controversy of the Week – Birmingham fans will moan that Tevez’s goal was scored while their man Cameron Jerome was down but would he really have made any difference at the back? Play to the whistle, as they say.

Jinx of the Week – Is it me or do Derby seem to concede within the last 5 minutes of literally every match?

Naivety of the Week – Roy Hodgson turned down a return to Inter Milan to take the Fulham job. He knows which one Fulham is right?? I’ve always said Danny Murphy was the new Figo…

Dance Celebration of the Week – John Utaka busting out a combination of the 70s classics The Jive and The Hustle after scoring at the Riverside.

Bizarre Celebration of the Week – A certain Argentinian hardman celebrating his goal by putting a dummy in his mouth. The best thing about this is that he had that thing stowed in his shorts for about half an hour beforehand! Unless we’re talking about something stored down Cheryl Tweedy’s shorts (steady now), after that long running around, there’s no way I’m putting anything in my mouth.

Banter of the Week – Responding to claims from the West Ham fans, Arsenal’s support mockingly shouted “handball” every time one of their players touched the ball.

Quote of the Week – Arsene Wenger speaks the truth: “We would rather be hunted than hunting, that way you live and die by your own performances, a huge luxury in our sport”

Hero of the Week – Few contenders for this after several teams have produced excellent unbeaten Christmas form, but for masterminding Manchester City’s break into the top four, Sven Goran Erikson has to take the plaudits this week.

Zero of the Week – Sorry but once more it has to be ‘Big’ Sam Allerdyce. Three straight defeats, last night in front of more than 50,000 fans, continue to turn the pressure screws. Lose in the FA Cup Sunday night to fourth placed Championship bruisers Stoke and surely he’s gone.

Personal Highlight of the Week – A homage to the old Romario/Bebeto routine at Blackburn last night to celebrate the birth of Chris Samba’s kid. Clearly no-one told Carlos Tevez that was an acceptable way to dedicate a goal to your child.