12 February, 2008

Gameweek 26 – ‘Remembrance’

R.I.P. Robert Bailey aka Stan, a good school-friend of ours who died one year ago last weekendHappy Tuesday, and once again we decided to wait an extra day to digest this weekend’s action, while also taking in last night’s clash at the Emirates for completeness’ sake.

We start as ever at the top then, and all 4 big hitters seemed this week to struggle to really put anything together. Manchester United faced an excellent Manchester City side, who basically just stopped them playing and never looked in any danger. All the City players deserve an enormous amount of credit for an enterprising yet professional performance to spoil what was to be a glorious tribute to the great United players of the past. Following on from this, Sunday also saw the 3rd and 4th placed teams square off in what was one of least entertaining matches of the season. Neither Chelsea nor Liverpool did anything of note and on this showing certainly don’t deserve to be as high up in the table as they are; let’s hope with Champions League knockout approaching, it was a one-off for both their sakes eh. Finally then, Arsenal seized their chance to go 5 points clear at the top of the tree last night, despite a nervy showing against the always-competitive Blackburn. With few decent chances for either side, the fluency normally associated with Arsenal seemed bizarrely absent, while Blackburn themselves lacked the innovation to really create anything either, with Bentley faltering somewhat against his old club.

Along with Man City, Everton, Villa and Portsmouth also continued their fine form this weekend to heap pressure on the top 4 for those vital European spots, while Spurs too picked up another decent victory at struggling Derby. Staying at the bottom, wins for Sunderland and Middlesbrough help alleviate some of their relegation concerns, but the sheer waste of chances in front of goal displayed by Wigan and Bolton must be a real worry for their respective managers.

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

Keeper – David James (an absolute brick wall for not the first time this season)

Defence – Richard Dunne (the whole defence was outstanding but the Irishman was the standout), Phil Jagielka (excellent defensively and bagged the winner at the other end), Younes Kaboul (more of an attacking force against such weak opposition, the big Frenchman was superb throughout)

Midfield – Gelson Fernandes (again, the whole midfield was sublime, but this Swiss youngster was the pick), Shaun Maloney (tricky and pacey), Dean Whitehead (big performance from the Jaws look-a-like…the Bond villain, not the shark, mind), Lassana Diarra (ran the midfield against tough opposition), Alexander Hleb (on song once again, some spell-binding dribbles)

Up Top – John Carew (huge hat-trick from the STT favourite), Jeremie Aliadiere (why can’t he play like this every week?)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Daryl Murphy unleashes this thunderbolt to put the game beyond Wigan at the Stadium of Light. Check the sweetness of Andy Reid’s pass to set it up too…he might be ridiculously fat and not worth £4mill, but he can still play a bit!

Nutmeg of the Week – Ashley Young shows Damien Duff what a real winger’s supposed to do.

Save of the Week – David James made two contenders for Save of the Year, first to deny Steinsson and then Cohen, both from close range and late on at the Reebok.

Skill of the Week – Lassana Diarra busts some Henry-esque magic in the build-up to his winner, deceiving Guthrie with a step-over while playing the ball simultaneously past him off his standing foot.

Miss of the Week – Matt Taylor somehow blasts well over from 5 yards, with an open goal gaping against his former employers.

Attempt of the Week – James Vaughan tries an ambitious bicycle kick from outside the penalty box.

ASBO of the Week – Lee Carsley really tries his hardest to break Stephen Hunt’s leg with a knee-high stamp but amazingly gets not even a yellow card.

Rabbit’s Foot of the Week – Craig Gordon clearly has someone on high smiling for him as time and time again Wigan hit him or the woodwork from golden opportunities.

Debut of the Week – Benjani picks up where he left off at Manchester City, sealing the points with a deft little dreadlock flick past van der Sar to ruin the party at Old Trafford.

Slapstick of the Week – Mike Riley shan’t want reminding of this week’s action where he spectacularly tripped over a pass from Javier Mascherano. While it’s admirable that he didn’t want to get megged, it was still pretty ungraceful.

Hot Date of the Week – It was really nice to see Robin van Persie treating fellow Dutchman Ryan Babel to last night’s game at Arsenal. I wonder if Babel puts out on a first date? Not that it matters to van Pizzle… (sorry that was too easy)

Image of the Week – Old Trafford at Sunday lunchtime was a fitting tribute to last week’s Munich Air Disaster anniversary.

Quote of the Week – Kevin Keegan unusually lets a nugget of truth through his spray of bullshit: “With this football club, there’s enough talent to keep us in this division, and then rebuild around some of the talent, not all of it though.” Taylor, Given, Milner and N’Zogbia aside Kev, let’s be honest, you’ve gone nothing.

Carry On Quote of the Week – New MOTD commentator Dan O’Hagan hopefully starts as he means to go on with this gem, describing Gregor Rasiak: “He’s a real handful that big Pole.”

Hero of the Week – John Carew for a hat-trick to top off what has already been a great second season for the big Norwegian. Extra kudos too for being handed the last minute penalty to complete said hat-trick and literally just hammering it as hard as he could!

Zero of the Week – Joey Barton. I’ve kind of run out of things to say about him, he’s just such a piece of shit. This week though he punched Shaun Maloney and kicked Ashley Young as hard as he could, about 10 seconds after the ball had gone. Ban him, put him in jail, ship him to Australia, I don’t care anymore.

Personal Highlight of the Week – The very smart throwback kits employed by Man United in this week’s derby. If only all kits could go back to this primary colour old-school style, with no sponsor or badge, and numbered simply 1 to 11…