Monday, February 04, 2008

Premiership Weekend Roundup: February 2-3

Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland
I was on the verge of declaring this blog a Liverpool-free zone until they got their act together and started winning again. And then they went out and beat Sunderland this weekend. I'm still mad at them, though. I'm mad at the players for being kind of crap -- that 3-0 scoreline was extremely flattering. And I'm mad at Rafa for his ever-more-inexplicable teamsheet. Lucas Leiva on the left wing? Jamie Carragher at right back? That is ridiculous, even if he did set up Liverpool's first goal. At the very least, it implies some rather disparaging things about Liverpool's fullbacks. (I know Arbeloa is injured, but Steve Finnan deserves better than that. He's had some off games recently, but he came on at left back -- yes, really! -- for the second half and did quite well. So.)

I'm also really worried about what is going on with Xabi Alonso. He used to be basically Rafa's second-in-command on the pitch. Now there are rumours coming out of Anfield that he's not happy and wants to leave, Rafa is saying he needs to step it up, and he can barely get a game. Look, I realize he hasn't been at his best since coming back from injury this season. But I think he needs a regular run of games to get his form and match fitness back completely -- not a start in one game, and then not even in the squad for the next. That's for your fringe players, not someone who is supposedly the brains of the team. I also realize that it's not always easy to fit Xabi, Gerrard and Mascherano into the same midfield, but there are ways to make it work. And although going back to Spain may turn out to be the best thing for Xabi's career, I think that Liverpool will be the poorer for it.

Tottenham 1-1 Manchester United
After beating Tottenham fairly comfortably in the FA Cup, United were lucky to salvage a point against them this time. Tottenham played an excellent game, closing down United relentlessly and forcing them into mistakes. Juande Ramos has certainly made them a fitter and defensively better organized team. (He's even made Jermaine Jenas into a good player. Astonishing.) As for United, they might have been tired after that pointless trip to Saudi Arabia. And I think they were unfortunate in the refereeing. But those are just excuses, and I still would've expected them to play better here.

And as for the booking for Wayne Rooney for going down in the area -- which, incidentally is going to rule him out of the Manchester derby -- my initial impression was that it wasn't a dive. There is a middle ground between a dive and a foul, after all; it's possible that Rooney just lost his balance, and based on his reaction, it didn't seem like he was looking for a penalty. But on the other hand, the fact that his reaction to getting booked wasn't to go raging after the ref and try to tear off his balls with one hand suggests that maybe he knew it was a fair call. Who knows. I've only seen it the once, so it's hard to judge. (Although if it was a dive, then of course I don't approve.)

Meanwhile, in the rest of the games, Arsenal won again, unfortunately, so they're now two points clear of United at the top of table. Chelsea drew with Portsmouth in a surprisingly entertaining match, but everything else was pretty dreary. Oh, aside from Jimmy Bullard making his comeback from that horrific injury and scoring a late winner for Fulham against Aston Villa. That one makes me happy, because Jimmy Bullard is awesome.

Other results
Birmingham 1-1 Derby
Blackburn 0-0 Everton
Fulham 2-1 Aston Villa
Newcastle 1-1 Middlesbrough
Portsmouth 1-1 Chelsea
Reading 0-2 Bolton
Wigan 1-0 West Ham

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm terribly worried about Xabi too. And when Rafa is publicly criticizing him, you have to wonder if things are all right with them. I think Rafa likes having Masch in the team because he's more defensive. Rafa's aim has always been to defend first and then attack. But against a team like Sunderland, that is a horrible way to play.Plus, Xabi is suspended against Chelsea, so we can't even say that Rafa was saving him for that game.

Perhaps it would be the best thing for Xabi to leave. He's stagnated at Liverpool because of the way Rafa has chosen to play him. I will be terribly sad to see him go, but maybe it is what he needs to do to get the kind of respect his talent deserves.