13 March, 2008

Gameweek 29 – ‘Business End’

Happy Thursday then readers and since a third of the week’s games took place yesterday, we decided to save the weekend review till today for the sake of completeness.

The race for the title continues to remain interesting then, as following such glory in the San Siro midweek, Arsenal were unable to re-capture the same form against Wigan on an admittedly poor pitch. Kudos though to Steve Bruce’s men, they actually gave the Gunners a good game, with STT favourites Valencia, Palacios and Scharner on top form. Chelsea capitalized on these dropped points by destroying Derby last night, in what turned into a rout, to close the gap on Manchester Untied in second place to just 3 points.

Similarly tight is the next pack of clubs vying for UEFA Cup qualification this year, with Everton in pole position should they miss out on Champions League football. Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Blackburn and Manchester City are all scrapping it out, but Pompey look like the form team at the moment, spurred on by the January injections of Jermaine Defoe and Milan Baros up front. Further down the table, things remain as tight as ever with Newcastle now truly in the midst of a relegation battle. Although on paper they should be fine, the teams around the Magpies just seem to be showing considerably more fight than Keegan’s spineless side so with under ten games to go now, anything can happen as they say.

Finally, for all you statos out there wondering why there were only 9 games this week, Man United and Bolton took some time off and they will both play two matches in Gameweek 30.

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

Keeper – Chris Kirkland (outstanding showing, book-ended by two worldclass saves to keep out Adebayor and Fabregas.

Defence – Martin Skyrtl (impressively solid), Paul Scharner (excellent reading of the game), Gael Clichy (enterprising in attack but played the tricky Valencia well), Andre Bikey (great showing from the big chap)

Midfield – Steven Gerrard (inspirational as ever), Antonio Valencia (exciting and inventive), Tom Huddlestone (sprayed the ball around nicely), Frank Lampard (well he scored 4 goals…)

Up Top – Fernando Torres (outstanding effort once again from the league’s best rookie), Dimitar Berbatov (class and poise)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Jimmy Bullard slots home another super-sweet free kick to give Fulham a point at Blackburn:

Sebastien Larson scored an almost-as-nice one against Pompey last night too though.

Nutmeg of the Week – Kevin Kilbane gets in on the action, expertly catching Clichy sleeping with a backheel.

Save of the Week – Tim Howard reaches for the stars to claw out Andy Reid’s dangerous freekick.

Skill of the Week – Torres’ sublime shot faint on Steve Harper to capitalize on a lovely Gerrard pass. The phrase Pele-esque springs to mind…

Gaffe of the Week – Clumsy Zat Knight gifts Stuart Downing an opener at Villa Park to silence the home fans early on.

Miss of the Week – Quite how Vedran Corluka conspired to sky a shot from 3 yards after Elano had gifted him an open goal is mind-boggling.

Speculative Effort of the Week – Obafemi Martins signals his intent after coming on at Anfield by crashing the bar from 40 yards out of nothing:

ASBO of the Week – Professional bruiser Chris Samba lets Eddie Johnson know he’s there by kicking the American square in the head.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Wow Frank was everywhere this week, really raising his game against such a strong side as Derby. He scored a penalty which was amazing, and then tapped in three more from under 3 yards out, it was just incredible! This gives you an idea of how ace he’d be in the Championship.

Played-for-and-got Genius of the Week – Jermaine Pennant was always trying to deflect Luis Enrique’s clearance back over Harper’s head, he practices it in training and everything.

Unexpected Acrobatics of the Week – Who would’ve thought Herman Hreidesson had the forward flip in his locker?

Hardman of the Week – Richard Dunne is impervious to pain it seems.

Wrestling Move of the Week – James Harper pulls out the classic leg sweep to bring down Michael Johnson in the Reading penalty area.

Slapstick of the Week – Steven Taylor takes a Riise power-drive square in the cubes. Funny for everyone but him.

Mismatched Beef of the Week – Who else would really like to see Emile Heskey and Cesc Fabregas throw-down properly? Ideally stripped the waist in a pub carpark.

Flirt of the Week – George Boeteng saw something he liked in Olaf Mellberg and wasn’t afraid to ask for it.

Leg Break of the Week – Phil Bardsley and Damien Johnson did their best to bring Eduardo-esque pain to Steven Pienaar and Pedro Mendes respectively. Do these guys just never learn?

Whinge of the Week – From who else but STT close friend Arsene Wenger: “The pitch is a disgrace, it is disrespectful for the fans that paid their money.” Either that or it’s the last true leveler Arsene, just ask Chelsea what they thought of the surface at Oakwell…

Quote of the Week – Paul Jewell speaks the truth: “It’s embarrassing to sit there squirming for 90 minutes.” Now he knows how I felt watching Showgirls the other night.

Hero of the Week – Fernando Torres. What more is there to say about him? 5 goals in a week including a hat-trick against West Ham and a killer blow at the San Siro, February’s Player of the Month, and finally Liverpool have found the perfect foil for Steven Gerrard’s vision.

Zero of the Week – Kevin Keegan again, and it’s gonna continue to be until either they win a game, or more likely, another manager gets fired for being a kiddy-fiddler or something.

Personal Highlight of the Week – I’m still riding the wave of seeing three Championship sides in the last four of the FA Cup, it’s great for football. It’s also quite good if you’re a Portsmouth fan too I’d guess.