Monday, November 20, 2006

Premiership Weekend Roundup: November 18-19

Middlesbrough 0 - 0 Liverpool
Ok, new strategy: Bring in someone to hypnotize Liverpool and make them think they're playing at Anfield every week. Because I'm starting to run out of good explanations for why they can't win away from home. (I do still blame those ugly yellow kits, but they haven't worn them every week.)

The thing is that they weren't bad against Middlesbrough -- aside from the first 15 minutes, where the defence looked like they'd never played football before in their lives -- but they just weren't good quite enough either. There's not one single thing I can point to as the problem right now; it's a little bit of everything, I think. The wingers looked better this week, but they still need to work on their crossing, and Pennant in particular needs to learn how to play with his head up and pass the ball, rather than just running into defenders and hoping to get fouled. For all the debate leading up to the match about whether Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard can play together in the middle, though, that was sort of a non-issue. They controlled the midfield well, but I think they needed more movement from the other players, including the fullbacks getting forward more.

Oh, one other thing: corners. Because I'm a dork, I checked the stats, and Liverpool had 12 corners in this game. Of those, almost half didn't get past the first defender. Another third were played short or to a man at the top of the 18-yard box, where they ultimately went nowhere. And another was taken by John Arne Riise. That means there were two or maybe three that actually got into the 6-yard box, and none of those came close to troubling the keeper. They must practice these in training, right? So why are they so utterly terrible at it? Can Rafa really be telling them to do it this way? Because it seems like a complete waste to me, and I imagine it's pretty frustrating for the players, too -- not least for the centre backs, who have to come all the way up the pitch for nothing and then hustle back to cover because they've lost possession too quickly. I know last season I wasn't too impressed with Steven's corners, but at this point I'd almost rather see him taking them again. Plus, it'd give him something to do, so maybe he'd stop looking so sulky all the time.

Sheffield United 1 - 2 Manchester United
When Sheffield United scored in the first 15 minutes, all I said was "Ohhh, see, now you've just made them angry." I wasn't worried at all that Man United were going to lose, despite going behind so early. Sheffield played pretty well, and they worked hard, but Man U still look very, very good. Probably the only weak link was Patrice Evra -- at least, defensively, although he was good going forward and he's been much better this season than last. Oh, and Cristiano Ronaldo's inexplicable bout of Liverpool-itis which made him miss a sitter from three yards out.

We'll see how well they hold up against Chelsea next weekend, but for the moment, I'm cautiously optimistic.

Other results
Blackburn 1 - 1 Tottenham
Wigan 0 - 0 Aston Villa
Manchester City 3 - 1 Fulham
Arsenal 1 - 1 Newcastle
Chelsea 1 - 0 West Ham
Everton 1 - 0 Bolton
Portsmouth 2 - 1 Watford
Reading 2 - 0 Charlton

And in other news, the good people at are running a contest to send two bloggers to Japan for the Club World Cup next month, and I've been chosen for the short list of candidates. If you think I should win, please go here to vote (and ignore the little blurb about me, because if I'd known they were going to post those I would've made it slightly less lame).

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