31 January, 2008

Gameweek 24 – ‘Trousers Down’

Happy Thursday then everyone, and just when STT thought it could enjoy a whole fortnight vacation from the weekly Premier League grind, up snuck a full midweek program to ruin our cryogenic rest. Focusing on WAGs for this past week has been so nice and one can only hope Sepp Blatter’s dream of a women’s football league full of busty blondes in bikinis comes true.

Anyway down to business. In a seriously drab week all round, Arsenal and Manchester United were once again a treat to watch, blowing their opposition out of the water with thrilling attacking displays. Chelsea too were excellent first half, creating chance after chance with some admirable forward ambition, before the dogged Reading got stuck in second half and perhaps even deserved a point overall. Liverpool though…well, what is there to say? Torres and Gerrard aside, I just can’t ever see them scoring from open play, and in this form, the Scousers are certainly not worthy of a top 4 finish when teams like Villa and Man City have been so impressive since August.

Down at the bottom, Middlesbrough and Sunderland bagged crucial wins against close relegation rivals, while based on their performances, Bolton, Fulham and Derby already seem to be certainly doomed.

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

KeeperRadek Cerny (another clean sheet with several priceless saves)

Defence – Paulo Ferreira (adventurous going forward), Matthew Upson (marshaled Liverpool with ease), Phil Wheater (solid as a rock, continuing a great season for the big guy)

Midfield – Ashley Young (another impressive showing in front of England boss Capello), Matthieu Flamini (great goal to cap a superb performance), Claude Makelele (perfect game full of beautiful passing from the Premier League’s most chilled out man), Mark Noble (willed West Ham to victory and a cool penalty sealed the 3 points), Manuel Fernandes (excellent display from the tricky Portugeuese winger)

Up Top – Emmanuel Adebayor (seems to love playing against Newcastle), Cristiano Ronaldo (27 goals in all competitions and its not even February)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Some prime contenders this week but the crowning glory has to be that Ronaldo, once again, with this inch-perfect freekick:

Kudos as well to Young for his pearler of freekick and Flamini for an absolute screamer of a shot too though, either would probably have taken the top prize most other weeks…

Meg of the Week – Ok so it was in the FA Cup last weekend, but this diamond meg on Nicky Butt and piledriving shot from Adebayor against Newcastle is always worth seeing again.

Save of the Week – A superhuman double save from David James, first from Park and then Nani, helped save further Pompey blushes at Old Trafford last night.

Miss of the Week – Luis Boa Morte in the same game managed to twice fire over and then wide from literally a yard out. We would like to suggest that it’s maybe because he looks SO DAMN ANGRY THE WHOLE TIME.

Skill of the Week – Freddie Ljundberg shows us a little of the old 2001 magic, flicking the ball over Jaime Carragher’s lunging tackle to win West Ham’s last seconds penalty at Upton Park.

Speculative Effort of the Week – Steed Malbranque skillfully juggles the ball to tee up a very ambitious bicycle kick, in an attempt to break the deadlock at Goodison.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Not one of Frank’s more noticeable performances, but really grafted hard in the middle of the park to give Ballack the space to go forward. World-class as ever.

Fancy Dress of the Week – 16,000 Bolton fans took the audacious step this week of attending the game dressed as empty seats. Mind you I wouldn’t fancy Bolton vs Fulham either, even if it was free and in my garden…

Jinx of the Week – Liverpool haven’t secured a league win since Boxing Day and are rapidly losing hopes of even EUFA Cup qualification this season.

ASBO of the Week – Brazilian Tank Alex absolutely hammered Steve Harper with a two-footed jump but amazingly doesn’t even get a yellow card for it. Call me cynical, but that woudn’t have anything to do with the fact that it was at Stamford Bridge would it?

Pantomime Villain of the Week – Stephen Hunt was booed any time he went near the ball on his return to Stamford Bridge for the first time since fracturing Petr Cech’s skull.

Sniper-on-the-roof of the Week – Semi-professional semaphorist Andy Johnson takes a bullet down low to the leg, as he trips himself up in an attempt to buy a penalty at Goodison Park.

Quote of the Week – "The only way we will get into Europe is by ferry!"
For once a sensible comment from Kevin Keegan, acknowledging how unrealistic a decent finish is for Newcastle this year.

Hero of the Week – Got to be local Hammer Mark Noble I guess, for calmly slotting a 94th minute pressure penalty past prime-stopper Pepe Reina to add to Liverpool’s woes.

Zero of the Week – And on the flipside of that coin, Rafa Benitez is surely on is last legs despite the recent public backing of the Anfield owners. As much as I like the guy, with the amazing squad they have on paper, it can really only be him holding them back from greatness…

Personal Highlight of the Week – Again, technically not Premier League, but Havant & Waterlooville’s incredible effort at Anfield last weekend was a pleasure to see, playing the 5 time European Cup winners off the park in the first half. Also great to see the reception they got from The Kop at the final whistle, and it really made me smile that they treated Jaime Carragher to a curry out on the town afterwards!