08 April, 2008

Gameweek 33 – ‘Displacement’

Happy belated Tuesday then loyal readers, and apologies as ever for this delay of your usual Monday afternoon fix. Due to circumstances beyond STT’s control, everything has had to take a backseat for the last couple of days but hopefully we are back in our stride now.

With just five games to go the title race took another twist this past weekend, with Manchester United uncharacteristically dropping points, but given the way Boro actually played, I think Ferguson would have been happy just to get anything from the game. Arsenal and Liverpool shared another 1-all draw in the second part of their epic trilogy this week, but once again Wenger was left bemoaning what he saw as a stone-wall penalty not given to his side. Chelsea meanwhile quietly got on with their business once again to close the gap to just three points on Manchester United, with the two teams due to face off in a little over a fortnight’s time now.

The scrap for fifth and sixth place also took a further turn, with form seemingly out of the window on a week-to-week basis between all the teams in contention. With Liverpool and Everton seemingly set to finish fourth and fifth respectively now, this week it was Villa’s turn to assert their right to European football next year, with a performance that was back to what we’ve come to expect from Martin O’Neil’s side after a month or so of poor showings. Manchester City lost yet again, Blackburn and Spurs shared a point, while Pompey and West Ham face each other tonight.

Down at the bottom Wigan, Newcastle and Sunderland continued their fine form of late, each recording convincing wins to help them breathe considerably easier as April ticks on. Finally, as far as I can see, there is literally no way Fulham and Bolton won’t be joining Derby in the real league next year after both lost once again this past weekend…

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

Keeper – Tim Howard (excellent when required)

Defence – Jaime Carragher (top class), Danny Collins (dominated everything aerial), Habib Beye (exciting going forward), Martin Laursen (back to his confident best)

Midfield – Ryan Taylor (cracking brace), Gareth Barry (the pick in a sublime all-round midfield display), Leon Osman (enterprising)

Up Top – Peter Crouch (a real handful in a critic-silencing performance), Obafemi Martins (instrumental in everything), Alfonso Alves (the Brazilian seems to have settled nicely now and was unlucky to not bag a hat-trick)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – In terms of showmanship, David Healy’s delightful left-footed curler takes all the plaudits, however both of Alves’ goals against Manchester United are also worthy of mention for their expertly clinical finishing.

Nutmeg of the Week – Wigan’s tricky winger Valencia was on fire at the weekend, nailing Matty Taylor with a lush meg in the build-up to Taylor’s second goal at the JJB.

Save of the Week – Joe Harte earns further kudos this year with an instinctive point-blank reaction save from an Anelka header.

Skill of the Week – Hats off to Gabby Agbonlahor for his delightfully deft outside-of-the-foot finish against Bolton on Saturday.

Miss of the Week – The normally-deadly Yakubu somehow managed to sky a tap-in from literally under the crossbar against Derby

Attempt of the Week – Only an inspired Carlo Cudinci stood in the way of Martin Petrov scoring a wondergoal at the weekend, his vicious long-range effort just tipped over by Chelsea’s number two.

ASBO of the Week – Damien Johnson gave Mike Dean no choice with an absolute horror of a challenge on Kevin Kilbane. Amazingly Kilbane jumped almost straight up again, but if anything, this was worse than the tackle that broke Eduardo’s leg.

Controversy of the Week – Another week and another couple of strange penalty decisions, or rather lack of penalty decisions. This time around, Spurs defender Gilberto blatantly knocking a marauding David Bentley over was the most obvious, with Lucas’ shirt-pull to take Fabregas down not far behind.

‘No pressure mate’ Moment of the WeekLiverpool’s French midfield prodigy Damien Plessis getting his first-team debut away at the Emirates.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Is it surprising that Chelsea’s resurgent form of late has come with Frank’s return to fitness? No not at all, it’s pure coincidence.

Training Ground Move of the Week – Petrov and Elano both tactically ran over a freekick expecting the other to take it. Mind you, I doubt Elano’s Bulgarian and Petrov’s Portuguese are too hot.

Statistic of the Week – Ronaldo has now scored 36 goals in all competitions this year. As a team, Middlesbrough have only managed 35.

Quote of the Week – Keegan orders Mark Viduka to keep single-handedly supporting the Newcastle branch of Burger King: “With all the movement we've got up front, we need someone to stand still... and Mark's that man!”

Whinge of the Week – Arsene Wenger lives up to his reputation and endears plenty more non-Arsenal fans to his cause with this stroppy comment: “We don’t expect penalties to be given to us anymore.”

Hero of the Week – You know what, as much as it pains me to endorse him, Kevin Keegan has to get some credit for turning Newcastle around and recording his third consecutive win this past week. The front-3 finally look to be firing as a unit so with some astute summer signings, Newcastle would be back up there as genuine European contenders next season.

Zero of the Week – No standout losers really this week so I guess the closest has to be Arsene Wenger for staring down the barrel of yet another trophy-less season at Arsenal. Obviously tonight is the deciding factor but should Liverpool get a result then it’ll take a miracle for Arsenal to bounce back and challenge for the Premier League crown.

Personal Highlight of the Week – Seeing all four of our highlighted FA Cup mascots enjoying a grand day out at Wembley this weekend. Just a shame they didn’t have time to get together for an impromtu race or boxing match to decide superiority once and for all…

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