04 February, 2008

Gameweek 25 – ‘No Country for Old Sven’

Happy Monday loyal readership and excuse the pretty lame pun in the title, it’s been a long week. Please do go see No Country for Old Men at the cinema though, it’s cracking. As is Cloverfield actually while we’re at it; absorbing and seriously intense, you’ll be surprised at how well the standard Godzilla formula has been flipped by Lost masterminds JJ Abrams and Drew Goddard. But I digress.

Not a lot of goals this weekend but an interesting set of games nonetheless, with the shock of the weekend taking place at Craven Cottage where Roy Hodgson recorded his first victory as Fulham manager, coming from behind to stun Aston Villa and their European aspirations. Elsewhere near the top of the tree, Liverpool finally won a League game in 2008, making a meal of Sunderland and still not playing with anything like the fluidity Benitez would expect. Arsenal on the other hand never really needed to get out of 2nd gear up at Eastlands, with Sven’s reality check continuing for the blue half of Manchester. Chelsea earned a hard-fought point down at Fratton Park, and despite taking the lead through Anelka, were probably lucky to get anything from the game in the end. Manchester United also struggled for the first time in weeks, this time against an increasingly impressive Tottenham side however, who finally have the defensive organization to compliment their attacking talent.

Back down at the bottom, wins for Wigan and Bolton make the relegation battle more interesting, while a dismal match at St Andrews saw Birmingham and Derby share a point. Realistically any three from the current bottom eight could face the drop but you have to feel that maybe Reading, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Bolton and Sunderland have just enough to milk the cash cow for another season…

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

Keeper – Tim Howard (another clean sheet for the Tourrette-tastic Yank and a great save from a late Bentley freekick)

Defence – Bacary Sagna (great showing again, in both attack and defence), Pascal Chimbonda (vital effort in what was a much improved overall defensive performance from Spurs), Jaime Carragher (rock solid at the back and great cross for the game’s opener), Gary Cahill (superb debut to add steel to Bolton’s backline)

Midfield – Tom Huddlestone (answering his critics with a dominating game), Antonio Valencia (tricky and inventive throughout), Mikel Arteta (excellent contribution from the Spanish magician)

Up Top – Dimitar Berbatov (finally looks like his old self now), Carlos Tevez (great build-up play and work-rate, topped with a point-saving poach), Emmanuel Adebayor (unplayable at the moment)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Rapier sharp Eduardo pounced on Adebayor’s cushioned header to swivel and acrobatically volley Arsenal to a 2 – 0 lead at the City of Manchester stadium.

Nutmeg of the Week – The somewhat elusive Elano broke out a bit of Brazilian craft on Gael Clichy.

Save of the Week – The impressive Cerny scrambled to keep out a blistering Anderson shot late on at White Hart Lane.

Gaffe of the Week – Normally reliable, Clichy had his pocket picked to set up Manchester City’s goal as he casually toyed with the ball near his own penalty box.

Gypsy Curse of the Week – Still no league win for Newcastle under Kevin Keegan but at least now they’ve scored a goal. If I learnt anything from that dirty weekend with Jose Antonio Reyes, it’s that when traveling folk are trying to give you a hint, you might as well just bite the pillow and think of England …

Miss of the Week – Gary O’Connor fluffed a header at an open goal from 2 yards out but was thankfully saved embarrassment by the linesman’s offside flag.

Attempt of the Week– Blackburn’s Manuel Fernandes beat Howard with a beautifully curled freekick from long-range, only for it to rebound back off the post

Acrobat of the Week - Peter Crouch's attempted scissor kick before he scored his opener was truly Crouch-tastic. Time nearly stopped, but the gangly guy's attempt was well saved by Craig Gordon. He don't need no step ladder.

Get Out Jail Free Card of the Week – Carlos Tevez keeps Manchester United in touch with Arsenal by poaching a 94th minute equalizer with literally the game’s last kick.

Hand of God…er, of the Week – David Dunn’s miraculously escapes a second booking for one of the most deliberate handballs you will ever see. 5 minutes later, he clears a Jagielka header off the line…

ASBO of the Week – Zurab Khizanishvili reminds Andy Johnson he’s there by flykicking the chrome-domed England man about 3 feet up into the air in the penalty area.

Forcefield of the Week – Rob Green’s jedi training held strong as Ecuadorian international Valencia’s shot rattles off both posts but miraculously stays out at the JJB Stadium.

“You Need Glasses!!” Moment of the Week – Juliano Belletti clearly blocks Milan Baros’ flick with his arm to keep it out the penalty area. Further proof that the big teams always get the benefit of the doubt?

Debut of the Week – Jermaine Defoe offered a glimpse of the talent he had all those years ago at West Ham by scoring on his Pompey debut, in an all-round energetic performance. He has been rewarded with a place in Capello's first 23 man England squad.

Controversy of the Week – This whole debarcle over AJ’s late disallowed goal at Ewood Park. Further proof that not even the officials fully understand the ludicrous active/inactive offside law. Why did we complicate matters so much with this law? If you’re on the pitch, you are intrinsically active, simple as that. Unless you’re Frank Lampard anyway.

Comeback of the WeekSTT favourite and high-jinx specialist Jimmy Bullard reminds everyone how great he was before that horrific injury, with this absolute pearler of a freekick, which is even more impressive, considering he was getting smacked in the face by team mates during the game:

Quote of the Week – Lee Dixon offered this to describe the exciting but ultimately goalless Blackburn vs Everton game: “The linesmen and the referee have to take huge blame for it ending 0 – 0.” Recently this seems a more and more common trait as the officials are eager to be noticed rather than fair.

Hero of the Week – New Argentinian signing Emanuel Villa scored with his first touch in a Derby shirt to save a valuable last minute point for the seemingly-doomed Rams.

Whinge of the Week – Alan Curbishley waxes lyrical about what was admittedly an abysmal mud-bath of a pitch at Wigan: “Its embarrassing to play on a pitch like that in the Premier League…it’s not condusive to anyone trying to get the ball down and pass it.”

Zero of the Week – Ashley Cole celebrated his freedom from living a lie through a predictably average performance at Portsmouth, whose faithful chanted “Where’s your girlfriend gone, WHERE’S YOUR GIRLFRIEND GONE??!!” every time he went near the ball.

Personal Highlight of the Week – Cheryl, if you’re reading this, I have not stopped thinking about you since the first time I saw you in ‘The Drink’ on that now infamous night, I felt something then and I know you did too. The press will try to keep us apart but to hell with them, and to hell with the world if they can’t handle it. You only get this chance once or twice in a lifetime and I can’t let you slip through my fingers a second time. Drop me an e-mail and we can work something out officially, I don’t want another misunderstanding like last year when I had to spend that night in jail after your bodyguard called the Filth. I wasn’t even doing anything! The video camera and the bag of hair were on the road outside when I got there, and as for my trousers, well believe it or not, but I was actually robbed by a pack of street ruffians on the walk. Also, on an unrelated note, I have some of your underwear to return.