25 February, 2008

Gameweek 27 – ‘There Will be Goals’

Happy Monday faithful readers, hopefully all is well in the world of water coolers and tea-making. A pretty exciting weekend of action then, albeit one that was marred by a tragic accident up at St Andrews which saw young Arsenal striker Eduardo severely injured after colliding with Blues defender Martin Taylor. Latest is that he underwent surgery over the weekend after breaking his leg in three places, and hopes to be fit again in under a year’s time. Taylor reportedly went to visit the young Croatian yesterday, and Eduardo is staying upbeat and philosophical in the face of career-threateningproblems.

Anyway, having suffered such a horrible incident just 3 minutes into the game on Saturday, Arsenal seemed distracted throughout the rest of the match, going behind to a James McFadden freekick early on. It took a brace from Theo Woolcott to put some smiles back on Arsenal faces, before a 95th minute equalizer from the penalty spot transferred those smiles up to Old Trafford. Spurred on by their rivals dropping points, Manchester United were irresistible once again, blowing a hapless Newcastle side off the field with the genius of Rooney, Ronaldo and Carrick especially. Liverpool too looked rejuvenated after their European adventure midweek, facing an impressive Middlesbrough team who hadn’t lost in 2008. An exciting game ended with the Scousers victorious thanks to woeful defensive mix-ups and a sublime hat-trick from Fernando Torres.

Blackburn, Pompey, Villa and West Ham all won once again to keep the top 10 all in sight of European qualification next season, while down at the bottom Derby, Sunderland, Fulham and Bolton suffered defeats to keep them sweating over their fate come April…

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

Keeper – Rob Green (couple of world class saves and another clean sheet)

Defence – Craig Gardner (rock solid), Glen Johnson (enterprising in attack), Rio Ferdinand (several vital challenges to keep Owen in his pocket)

Midfield – James McFadden (a constant threat), Cristiano Ronaldo (an assist and two goals, not bad for 65 minutes work), Ashley Young (another superlative showing), Stuart Downing (hard working and inventive)

Up Top – Wayne Rooney (unselfish but clinical), Fernando Torres (unplayable), Benni McCarthy (finally returning to form?)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Rooney’s exquisite second at St James’ Park, precisely curling the ball through a crowded penalty box into the far corner past the stranded Steve Harper:

Nutmeg of the Week – Big John Carew gets the equally-big Sonko with a beauty to tee up Agbonlahor who unfortunately blasted over from 6 yards.

Save of the Week – Rob Green defies physics by keeping out a late Jimmy Bullard effort that was smashed low near his right leg.

Skill of the Week – Niko Kranjcar shows his class and outfoxes the Sunderland defence with a perfect Cruff turn to win his side’s late penalty.

Gaffe of the Week – Well take your pick from Middlesbrough’s whole defensive display on Saturday really; Julio Arca had a nightmare generally, but this has to be shared between Schwarzer and Wheater for a bizarre edge-of-the-box collision to gift Torres his hat-trick.

Miss of the Week – Marlon Harewood manages to drag a shot so wide that it actually ends up going for a throw-in, almost behind his shooting position. To be fair, he did make up for it by hitting the top corner a couple of minutes later though.

Effort of the Week – Mario Melchiot shows a bit of flair and was unlucky to have his audacious backheel cleared off the line by Giles Barnes.

Sniper-on-the-roof of the Week – David Dunn has his tail bone blown off to win Blackburn’s first penalty at Ewood yesterday.

ASBO of the Week – Well no prizes for guessing this but let’s be honest, there have been plenty worse challenges this year and Martin Taylor was just totally done for pace. He went in with his studs up, sure, but like Alex McLeish said, he’s not a malicious guy. Get well soon Eduardo, no-one likes to see photos this bad:

Horror Movie Extras of the Week – Everyone else on the pitch at St Andrews looked like they’d just been forced to sit through I Spit on Your Grave as the severity of Eduardo’s injury became apparent.

Controversy of the Week – Nobby Solano’s late late winner for West Ham where he seemed to both clatter the keeper and also eventually feed the ball into the net with his arm.

Place I’d Least Like to Be of the Week – Just anywhere near Willem Gallas. He did not look happy.

Fashion Statement of the Week – Nicky Shorey clearly has little taste in clothes as he delivers a post-match interview in an entirely swamp green suit, shirt and tie combination.

Coolest Scandinavian of the Week – STT favourite Morton Gamst Pedersen (Norweigan) takes this for a great all round performance and also for successfully dueling with close neighbour Jussi Jaaskelainen (Finnish).

Flirt of the Week – Javier Mascherabo and Jeremie Aliadiere would make a lovely couple; both look like rapists.

Broken Jinx of the Week – Reading finally score after more than 9 hours drought, but also lost their 8th consecutive game, an unwelcome club record.

Haircut of the Week – Kudos to Emmaunel Adebayor for ditching the gangsta-braids in favour of a more child-friendly high top, a la Will Smith circa 1987.

Quote of the Week – An understandably vitriolic Arsene Wenger describes his view of Taylor’s red card: “it was horrendous, the guy should never play football again…The answer you normally get after a tackle like that is ‘he is not the type of guy who does that,’ but you only need to kill one person one time, it’s enough.”

Hero of the Week – Just because he’s so often found himself on the Zero side of the coin this season, congratulations to Rafa Benitez this week. Great result against Inter midweek, great win this Saturday against a tough Boro side, and he seems to finally have forgotten all about that pesky rotation problem. Could probably still do with losing that goatee though.

Zero of the Week – Gael Clichy takes this week’s wooden spoon as it was his mistake once again that cost Arsenal points, casually leaving a ball in the box and forcing himself to give away a rash penalty.

Personal Highlight of the Week – I’m not a vindictive man but it’s hard to not take any pleasure from seeing Manchester United absolutely ruin Newcastle for the second time this season, taking their aggregate score to 11 – 1…the days of a Shearer-led magpies shoeing United 5 – 0, and Philip Albert wondergoals, are well and truly past…