Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Premiership Weekend Roundup: September 1-2

Manchester United 1-0 Sunderland
Like the game against Tottenham last week, once again United had a buttload of possession but couldn't do much with it. Once again, they didn't play all that well but still managed to squeak out a win. Sunderland played much better than the week before against Liverpool, when they seemed to be overawed by the occasion. I didn't think Sunderland were ever likely to score this week, but they did look very likely to stop United doing so. Last year, even if the other team scored first, I didn't worry, because I figured that United would just go out and score more; this year, I don't have that same confidence in their ability to find goals.

If we've learned anything from the past couple weeks, it's that Carlos Tevez cannot play up front on his own. I don't have a problem with the 4-2-3-1 formation, actually; the problem is that you need a different sort of player as the 1. Alan Smith, for example, may be a less talented footballer than Tevez, but he was more effective last year playing with his back to goal, whereas on Saturday Tevez just dropped deeper into the midfield and ended up being invisible.

So: How good is Louis Saha looking right now? He made all the difference when he came on at halftime, not only scoring the goal -- and he'd almost scored before that, a beautiful turn and volley that unfortunately went right at the keeper -- but opening up the play so that the rest of the team had room to manouevre. I'm still not convinced that he's going to stay fit, though. Also not convincing: Chris Eagles in midfield. NOT TO MENTION THE SCULPTURED MONSTROSITY THAT IS HIS HAIR.

Liverpool 6-0 Derby
Oh, wow. That was fucking awesome. And yes, I know that Derby are very very bad, but Liverpool are also looking very very good. Fernando Torres, in particular, has responded to all those people (me included) who wondered whether he'd be able to adapt to the Premiership by saying, essentially: Bitch, please. Aside from the goals, and the link-up play, and the passing, you know what I like about him? I'd read comments criticizing him for diving and whatnot, and maybe he does fall down a little too easily, but there's no whining to the referee if he doesn't get the call. It's a foul in Spain, but it's not here. Right, on with the game.

The team doesn't appear to be missing Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher at all. Despite bringing in quite a few new players over the summer, they've gelled well so far. Actually, one of the things I liked best about the game this week was seeing Xabi Alonso get forward more -- if it had been Gerrard instead of Mascherano partnering him in midfield, you'd never have seen him on the edge of the box to score his second goal. Chances are it would have been Stevie G there instead, but that's not the point. The point is that I *heart* Xabi, and I would dearly love for those people talking about how he's been in a slump to just shut up.

Sorry about that; rant over. Let me finish by pointing out a few other good things in the wake of this game:

  • Ryan Babel's goal. Babel's been hit-or-miss so far -- lots of skill, but he too often gets stuck in dead ends -- but the little shimmy to take the defenders out of the play and send the keeper the wrong way was sublime.
  • Another goal for Andriy "Shevchenko who?" Voronin.
  • Liverpool are top of the league, and look at their goal difference: nine for, two against. And those two goals against were both from penalties.

Aston Villa 2-0 Chelsea
Now I remember why I like Villa! And no, it's not just my random affection for Gareth Barry. It's the way they keep taking points off Chelsea. Say what you will about Martin O'Neill, but he's got Jose Mourinho's number. Villa did a good job of stifling Chelsea's midfield, and then using their pace to counterattack quickly. As for Chelsea, how much do they miss Frank Lampard? The thing is, though, that when I've seen him play this season, Lampard hasn't seemed to do very much. So I'm not actually sure what the explanation is for Chelsea's current haphazard play. I suppose you could put the blame on the staggeringly hideous combination of those retina-scorchingly yellow away kits and Jose Mourinho's combed-back new hair. Why he wants to suddenly look 10 years older is beyond me, but maybe he's been gazing jealously at Rafa Benitez's goatee and decided that the route to success involves radical new choices in follicular management.

Arsenal 3-1 Portsmouth
Last year I picked Cesc Fabregas for my fantasy football pool. He scored four goals all season, and I got royally screwed. This year I didn't bother entering the pool, and he's already scored four in half a dozen games. The little brat. The rest of the team around him is looking pretty good too, although perhaps not quite as good as the commentary team made them out to be; I can't be bothered looking up who it was, but they very nearly had an orgasm in the booth. Still, it's hard not to admire a team that can play a man down for almost half the game, and make it look like it's the other way around. I do feel bad for Philippe Senderos and his droopy bulldog face, though. Poor thing. It's not his fault that he's kind of clumsy; he's brainy, after all, and everybody knows that there's an inverse correlation between grace on the pitch and the ability to read books without pictures.

Other results
Blackburn 1-2 Manchester City
Bolton 1-2 Everton
Fulham 3-3 Tottenham
Middlesbrough 2-0 Birmingham
Newcastle 1-0 Wigan
Reading 0-3 West Ham

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I watched the Chelsea/Villa match in a pub in Edinborough this past weekend. Was in there with the few Villa fans that live in Edinborough I guess because the place was going nuts. Now that's some serious fun!