21 October, 2008

Gameweek 8 – ‘Nothing but a Big Butt and a Smile’

Happy Tuesday folks and apologies for the lack of review last week. Events conspired against us, and to be fair it’s a miracle we haven’t missed a gameweek wrap-up before then. Anyway, Sunday morning saw the top-4 in place in the league table for the first time this season, and you could almost feel collective eyes roll around the country as things seem destined to never change. However, by the end of the day this order had already been disrupted, as one little team from Yorkshire dared to play with the big boys. Yes that’s right, Hull are third in the Premier League, above Arsenal and above European Champions Manchester United. Pinch yourselves chaps, because this is all too real.

Starting at the top then, and in the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday, Chelsea were pretty sublime despite missing 7 regular first-team starters, blowing Middlesbrough off the park without really breaking a sweat. You know something’s not right when Malouda and Kalou actually look decent, but pulling the strings in the middle, Belletti and Lampard proved a decent partnership. The only positive for Boro is that they can’t possibly be this bad again.

To keep pace, Manchester United needed a victory against a West Brom side who are enjoying their best ever start to a Premier League season. After an ominous (but goalless) first-half, United shifted effortlessly through the gears as Wayne Rooney continued his superb recent form. Him, Berbatov and Ronaldo eased through the Baggies defence as the second-half went on, each netting goals, before little Nani came on to finish off the rout in the 90th minute. Never fear Baggies fans though, you don’t have to face teams of this quality every week. On a personal note, I like how Ronaldo just doesn’t even celebrate or even break stride when he scores these days; if anything, he just looks a bit upset with himself.

Arsenal were able to stay in touch too, with a decent victory against an Everton side who seem completely clueless at the moment. Despite going behind early to an Osman poach, Arsenal were able to rally together and pushed on in the second-half to what was ultimately quite a comfortable victory. Robin van Persie still being fit is a good sign, verging on the miraculous given his glass-legged past, and Woolcott is clearly enjoying his football at the moment, but in the long run you have to wonder about the little hiccoughs the Gunners have already suffered.

There were three other games on Saturday, not including our ‘Game of the Week,’ and guess what: there wasn’t a single goal between them. As such (ever the professional), I didn’t bother watching the proper highlights, so not sure if anything exciting happened, but have pulled out a couple of discussion points below for your enjoyment.

Sunday then, and a chance for Hull to continue there incredible start to the season, hosting West Ham in what was a very winnable game for the Tigers. The Hammers started well in truth, with Carlton Cole and Herita Ilunga both missing decent chances to open the scoring, before the latter even put the ball in the net, albeit in a somewhat controversial manner. Hull bagged the only goal of the game just after the break, Turner heading home Dawson’s corner, but still West Ham threatened as Carlton Cole saw a great close-range effort rattle the bar.

And to the Britannia, for the so-called Super Sunday clash between the league’s bottom two. With two red cards, two penalties, numerous chances and eleven minutes added time, this game had basically everything. Stoke will be over the moon to have recorded their second win of the season, even if by the end the score-line flattered Tottenham somewhat. The Potters dominated much of the first-half, going ahead from the penalty spot after Gareth Bale chopped down Tom Soares, and saw red for his indiscretion. But after that, City eased off and allowed Spurs to play, standing static as Darren Bent ghosted in for the equalizer. Second half though belonged to Stoke, as Soares, Sidibe and substitute Ricardo Fuller shone in attack. In the dying minutes, Fuller hit both posts with his penalty after Soares was dragged down again, before second goal-scorer Rory Delap rattled the crossbar with the rebound.

Game of the Week – Liverpool vs Wigan

Finally then, Liverpool's impressive win against Wigan, coming from a goal down, takes this weekend’s crown. Rafa Benitez’s men continue to show that finally this season they might just have what it takes to genuinely contend the league title, twice coming from behind to seal the points at Anfield. Zaki put the visitors ahead early on, capitalizing on a stupid error from Daniel Agger, but the Dane made up for his mistake by driving forward almost straight after the restart to feed Kuyt for the equalizer. A quite magnificent volley from Zaki put Steve Bruce’s men ahead once again in the second-half, but as Liverpool poured forward a new-found resolve seemed to emanate from the men in red. Albert Reira’s netted his team’s second after a delightful dummy from Gerrard, before in the dying minutes Kuyt latched onto a Pennant cross to steal the game. Bruce will moan that Antonio Valencia’s suspect sending off ruined the game, and he has a point, but still kudos have to go to Liverpool.

Player of the Week – Wayne Rooney

There were a few contenders for this award this week, but Rooney's tireless work-rate and sheer talent drove his side forward as he was involved in everything his team created. His deadlock-breaking goal was pure class, but he looked dangerous all match, linking up nicely with Berbatov and causing fear in all the Baggies defenders. Best form of his career? Who am I to argue with that.

Goal of the Weekend – Amr Zaki

Any other weekend, Juliano Belletti’s long-range wonderstrike at the Riverside would take the biscuit, but Zaki’s second at Anfield was a quite sublime piece of execution and timing, precisely firing a scissors-kick into the bottom corner of Reina’s goal with the ball seemingly behind him. Can Wigan hold on to him? That remains to be seen…

Gypsy Curse(s) of the Week – Forwards wearing red and white stripes

Between them, Ricardo Fuller and Kieran Richardson hit the woodwork 6 times and had a goal disallowed. Richardson’s freekick struck the posts 3 times itself, which has to be some kind of record, while Fuller saw a penalty ricochet off both posts and out, before a beautifully curled long-range effort rattled the bar. Someone out there can clearly cast force-fields. If you’re reading Mr Jedi, can you cast one that keeps my boss trapped in his office all day so I can sack off work and just go down the pub?

Miss of the Week – Some angry Villa fan

While everyone else seems to be getting bent out of shape about linesman Phil Sharp being hit by a coin, someone has to take action against the Villa fan who threw the coin for not being able to hit a target as big as Harry Redknapp from all of ten yeards. What do they teach kids in schools these days? It’s all la-di-da rubbish like ‘French’ instead of good old-fashioned situational street fighting. I despair.

Job Vacancy of the Week – Spurs

It’s easy to take a pop at Spurs, and it’s even easier to take a pop at Juande Ramos. However, as much as I hate seeing managers fired off the back of a poor run of form and reactionary journalism, something is clearly wrong at White Hart Lane. This is their worst start to a season since the Titanic sank, and with difficult games up next against Bolton, Arsenal and Liverpool, Spurs could conceivably find themselves still without a win after more than ten games. Based on their performance yesterday at the Britannia, there is serious work to be done in literally every department, with actual football at the bottom of the list below professionalism, discipline, determination, confidence and teamwork.


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