Monday, January 22, 2007

Premiership Weekend Roundup: January 20-21

Arsenal 2 - 1 Manchester United
If you had told me on Friday that United would still be six points ahead of Chelsea by Monday, I would've gladly taken it. But the way things turned out -- losing in the last minute of the game to a Thierry Henry header, which happens roughly once every millenium -- was really disappointing.

I have to wonder if United could have pulled off the win if they hadn't resorted, as they do all too often in big games, to a stultifying 4-5-1. You can move Rooney, Giggs and Ronaldo around behind the striker all you like, but it's still far too negative and it doesn't suit the team's strengths -- because if there's one thing they've demonstrated this season, it's the cliché that the best defence is a good offence. I think that if they'd gone for a second goal, it would have killed the game off, or at least kept Arsenal penned back a bit more for the last half-hour.

I think that United were hampered, also, by Gary Neville having to hang back and guard Henry, so he wasn't able to get forward as much as he's been used to doing this season. And the game certainly showed how deadly a good cross can be -- all three goals came from using the wings, after Arsenal realized their usual strategy of walking the ball into the net wasn't going to work (and in that respect, having five United players across midfield may have made sense).

It was a good performance from both teams -- not like the reverse fixture back in September, when United were crap -- and I think a draw would've been a fair result overall. But nevertheless, there is a little bit of solace from the fact that Robin Van Persie broke his toe while celebrating Arsenal's equalizer. Ha.

Liverpool 2 - 0 Chelsea
Hundreds of millions of pounds they've spent on players, and wow, Chelsea are really bad at the moment, aren't they? I know they've got a bunch of injuries, and it was compounded by Ricardo Carvalho being stricken by a bout of assholitis or whatever right before the game, and yet I have no sympathy. I am going to be gloating about this game for a while. Yes, it's bad luck to have all three of your centre-halves unfit to play, but as far as I know, all the other top teams have at least four players for that position. And even if they didn't, they would patch things up somehow and go out there determined to do their best. Rather than conceding defeat before you've even kicked off, which is basically what Jose Mourinho did on Saturday.

There's no denying that their defence was terrible -- Liverpool looked like they didn't even have to try very hard out there -- but that's no excuse for the rest of the team being equally useless. If you know you've got a weak back line, that means the midfielders and strikers should be working even harder to hold the ball, give them time to breathe, and try to get the team a goal or two as a cushion. But with the exception of Michael Essien (out of his depth at centre back) and possibly Didier Drogba, Chelsea looked like they just didn't care.

Contrast the energy of Liverpool, and especially Steven Gerrard, who was snapping into tackles all over the pitch, with this, which is one of the most unintentionally hilarious free kicks I've ever seen. That 130,000 a week on Ballack is really well spent.

Finally: If Chelsea would stop trying to break Xabi Alonso, I would really appreciate it. Thanks.

Other results
Wigan 0 - 2 Everton
Aston Villa 2 - 0 Watford
Fulham 1 1 Tottenham
Manchester City 0 - 3 Blackburn
Middlesbrough 5 - 1 Bolton
Newcastle 2 - 2 West Ham
Portsmouth 0 - 1 Charlton
Reading 3 - 1 Sheffield United


Mal said...

Don't know how you support Man Ure and Liverpool. Leave the dark side behind and step towards the light. YNWA.

linda said...

Man Utd frustrate me with their tendency to sit on a 1-0 lead even though the team is not built to defend (no holding players, attacking full-backs, etc). Then there's the hated 4-5-1, especially with those players.

But at least they aren't Chelsea. It always puzzles me how Mourinho can have only 3 center-backs in his squad. And then what's their alternative to Makelele (ideally someone who would also be able to cover center-back when needed)?

I've defended Mourinho on the injuries front before (despite being not very fond of him), but what's he going to do if he gets far in the Champions League, and injuries and suspensions mount up? (E.g. in one of the knock out games last season Barca had to play a holding midfielder at center-back. In another game we had no attacking midfielders left.) How's he going to deal then?