Monday, October 23, 2006

Premiership Weekend Roundup: October 21-22

Thanks to the vagaries of scheduling this weekend, I didn't get to see any of the really fun stuff, like:

  • Jermain Defoe pretending to be a wee tiny Mike Tyson and nibbling on Javier Mascherano;
  • Arsenal opening up a big can of whup-ass on Reading; or
  • Andriy Shevchenko scoring his first goal at Stamford Bridge, and getting booked for over-celebrating. And then Michael Ballack scoring, over-celebrating and also getting booked a mere two minutes later. Because footballers are smrt like that.

Instead, I was lucky enough to watch Aston Villa remaining undefeated but not doing so well at, you know, actually winning games. And a performance so abject from Citeh that Stuart Pearce might have been better off naming Beanie the horse in his starting lineup. Thrilling stuff. At least I was spared the snorefest that was Charlton v. Watford. Or Newcastle's defence falling apart again, some more.

And then there was that one game I actually cared about:

Manchester United 2-0 Liverpool
This picture pretty much says it all.

Rio Ferdinand is a twat, but damn if that wasn't a nice finish. And how much do I love seeing Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs playing like it's 1999? More than I love making fun of Steven Gerrard's hair. Which is to say: a whole lot.

Much as I loved seeing United win, I do wish that Liverpool hadn't sucked so much. This is supposed to be one of those tight, hard-fought games...but somebody forgot to tell Liverpool. They got outplayed all over the pitch. I really didn't need to watch Xabi Alonso being repeatedly dispossessed by Darren Fletcher, of all people. I couldn't tell you what the rest of the team was doing, because they didn't seem to be doing anything for long stretches of the game, just watching while United passed the ball around them.

So what's wrong with Liverpool? I was one of the people who got sucked into their pre-season hype -- I thought they'd made some smart buys in the close season and they should have a stronger team this year. Instead, they seem to be doing worse. Everyone's talking about Rafa's rotation policy, which is probably not helping right now, although it'll probably pay off later (assuming they're not so far behind at the end of the season that it doesn't make any difference). I think that switching players around isn't necessarily a problem, but you have to be smart about it.

That means, for instance, not bringing in Jermaine Pennant as a sub on the left wing -- when he's been average at best on the right -- and hoping that'll change the game for you. That means not sticking Steven Gerrard out on the far right of a five-man midfield, because he's not going to see anywhere near enough of the ball, and he's going to get pouty and that crease in his forehead is already deep enough to have its own gravitational field.

Look, I tend to agree with Rafa that Alonso and Sissoko are his most effective central midfield partnership -- when they're playing well, which they're not right now, but we'll ignore that for the moment. But I'd rather see them playing 4-5-1 with Gerrard as an attacking centre mid, proper wingers (two from Gonzalez, Pennant and Bellamy, on the appropriate wings, for the love of God) and either Kuyt or Crouch to hold the ball up front. Leave Garcia as an impact sub, because he's just too inconsistent to rely on in the big games. I know that I complain about 4-5-1 when Man United play that way, but it worked for Liverpool last season and I think it will again, if they persevere.

Other results
Aston Villa 1 - 1 Fulham
Charlton 0 - 0 Watford
Chelsea 2 - 1 Portsmouth
Everton 2 - 0 Sheffield United
Wigan 4 - 0 Manchester City
Blackburn 0 - 1 Bolton
Middlesbrough 1 - 0 Newcastle
Reading 0 - 4 Arsenal
Tottenham 1 - 0 West Ham

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