31 March, 2008

Gameweek 32 – ‘The Shape of Things to Come’

Happy Monday loyal readership and I think you’ll all agree that God owes us an hour in bed today. Ever the professionals though, we at STT keep on trucking, whatever that means.

The title race continues to twist and turn but surely Manchester United must feel that it’s theirs to lose now with a five point lead over Chelsea and a six point lead over Arsenal. United were at their free-flowing best on Saturday, blowing a normally-decent Villa side off the park with unparalleled movement and interplay. Arsenal came from two goals behind against Bolton though to just about stay in touch with the Champions, but Gary Megson’s side must be kicking themselves after a dominating first-half performance that limited Arsenal to very little going forward. Chelsea meanwhile struggled against a resurgent Middlesbrough side that twice hit the woodwork, but an early Carvalho header was enough to keep the Blues in contention, and a point above Arsenal in the table.

Elsewhere, the Merseyside derby was a slightly flat affair unfortunately and Liverpool easily controlled the match despite the narrow one-goal win. Gerrard was excellent first half and as ever, Torres proved a huge handful for the Everton back-four. Portsmouth look set to solidify the final European spot after a confident display at home against Wigan, while fellow contenders Villa, Manchester City and Blackburn all dropped points. Spurs too look out of the hunt, but with their EUFA Cup spot already secured they have little to actually play for except pride, something which will have taken a serious hit after going down embarrassingly 4 – 1 at home to Newcastle yesterday. Down in the relegation scrap, Bolton and Fulham look doomed with Birmingham and Sunderland recording decent home wins.

Finally, say goodbye to Derby, it’s been inevitable since day one but being the first club ever relegated in March is still pretty humiliating. At least Paul Jewell should be used to that by now.

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

Keeper – David James (imperious as ever)

Defence – Andre Ooijer (commanding), Martin Skrtel (superb reading of the game and marhsalling of the Yak), Ricardo Carvalho (big in defense and cracking header for his goal)

Midfield – Matty Taylor (ran the first half), Cesc Fabregas (ran the second half), Cristiano Ronaldo (*insert superlative here*), Steven Gerrard (inspirational)

Up Top – Jermain Defoe (can’t stop scoring), Mauro Zarate (class from the Argentine), Wayne Rooney (frighteningly good when playing with other good players)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Simply has to be that man Ronaldo for a finish that was audacious and almost physics-defying. Is there another player in the league that would even attempt this:

Nutmeg of the Week – I swear one week literally every award will go Ronaldo, such is the man’s irrepressible nature, but this time around he’ll have to settle for just the big two. His deft flick round the corner to set-up Rooney’s second caught Reo-Coker napping, expertly megging the out-of-position right back.

Save of the Week – Craig Gordon saved the day once again, miraculously clawing out a Carlton Cole curler which looked bound for the top corner all the way from his boot.

Skill of the Week – Kenwyne Jones bites a bit of Ronaldinho’s style by expertly controlling a long ball on his back.

Gaffe of the WeekBolton’s defending in the build-up to Gallas’ goal was amateur to say the least; static and not man-for-man, things were made worse when Campo’s near post header actually went straight to the Arsenal captain.

Miss of the Week – It’s bad enough to miss a penalty, but to then also miss the follow-up from 5 yards in pretty unforgivable. Sorry Ryan Taylor, but that was rubbish.

Attempt of the Week – Frenchman Frank Quedrue busts some acrobatics and came seriously close with a long-range bicycle kick early on at St Andrews.

ASBO of the Week – Diaby received a straight red for a bit of a horror challenge on Saturday, but to be honest, Carsley’s early tackle on Torres yesterday was no better.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Frank was excellent pulling the strings for Chelsea in a competitive midfield yesterday. His vision and quick feet were the difference between the sides.

Broken Jinx of the Week – Arsenal finally overcame their ‘bogey team’ Bolton.

Sniper-on-the-roof Moment of the Week – Yakubu took one in the shoulder to shamelessly try to win a penalty late on at Anfield. Surely if it’s not a penalty then it’s a booking?

Played-for-and-got Moment of the Week Derby striker Emmanuel Villa expertly deflected a shot with his knee for their opener despite looking the opposite direction. He does it all the time in training too.

Pinball Wizard of the Week – Fabregas’ late winner at Bolton ricocheted off Campo, O’Brien and Samuel before finding he back of the net. As the saying goes, they all count.

Controversy of the Week – Two decidedly dodgy penalties given at St Andrews, first to Benjani laying down and then inexplicably to McSheffrey for trying to shoulder-barge Sun Jihai.

Banter of the Week – Everton fans hanging a banner saying:

Everton FC welcomes all Liverpool fans to Merseyside’ before kick-off. I think that’s what’s called “Scouse humour” for those unfamiliar this ancient and sporadic phenomenon.

Suck Up of the Week – Mike Ashley sporting ‘King Kev : 1’ on the back of his Newcastle shirt. You’re a billionaire mate, you can do what you want!

Quote of the Week – Wayne Rooney gets it spot on when talking about the treat that is watching United when they’re on song: “The football we play is similar to Brazil. It’s an honour to play in this team, I love it.”

Hero of the Week – He might be a walking buffet-radar, but Andy Reid can still play better than most. His 96th minute goal is probably enough to keep Sunderland up, and you know you’re doing something right when you can coax a smile out of Roy Keane.

Zero of the Week – For the dignity-stripping form that seen them already relegated, the finger has to be pointed at the majority of Derby’s staff and players. You wonder whether they even have enough to do well in the Championship next year…

Personal Highlight of the Week – Paul Ince tasting his first success as a manager with MK Dons as they won the Johnsons Paint Trophy 2 – 0 against Grimsby. I give it two years before he’s doing well with a Premier League club.