Weekend Premiership action
Wigan v Arsenal
T has written on this game, with particular praise for Wigan and their approach, and I concur his thoughts. I was confused on the rule regarding the quick free-kick. Clearly against Chelsea last season Graeme Poll allowed Thierry Henry to take it quick and he scored; Saturday, he decided against the quick taking, leaving Henry, and myself, slightly bemused as to why. Still, the free-kick was executed by the Frenchman, but what is the rule? It is left up to the referee's discretion?
Spurs v West Ham
Something told me this wouldn't be an away win, more a home win. Yet while West Ham defended against pressure, they were not being executed by Spurs' finishing, found wanting on many occasions. One fan was heard saying they need to pick up on finishing teams more often, Martin Jol echoed those words by stating it wasn't Spurs' day. The thing is if you fail to finish off good chances, the risk increases that you will pay for it. Considering current form, Spurs were to edge this match and worryingly Jermaine Defoe is not scoring, much less consistently, why he managed to only have 10mins or so coming on.
To the West Ham fans chanting at Ahmed Mido, are you now looking to revert to racist chanting? Mido was subjected to racist chanting connected to his Muslim faith. Football fans are better than that, it's had it's day, it's illegal and very tasteless. The Spurs fans applauded Teddy Sheringham.
Liverpool v Portsmouth
From my POV, excellent for Liverpool to finally emerge into the top half after such a while. We are still yet to find the current form we deserve, with the players we have, and so far it is looking very well and still some way to go in the league. We performed as expected against a side who have found their defence and forward line weakened with the departures of Arjan De Zeeuw and Ayegbeni Yakubu and minus their impressive skipper Dejan Stefanovic. Time will come when Peter Crouch will score, the striker needs to avert the media's attention elsewhere and focus on playing, get early into positions and snatch at opportunities, and he will. Nice for Cisse and Morientes to continue to add to our goals, the Spaniard scored for Spain in the break, which lifted him all the more.
It is harsh for Alain Perrin to be given the Anfield game and subsequent games to change things around. Milan Mandaric couldn't have chosen a tougher run of matches to form a miracle from, with Chelsea at Fratton Park next and then Man Utd and Spurs away. Portsmouth do not have a consistent scorer as they did with Yakubu, Lomano LuaLua received little to attack with, Robert wasn't active enough, and it seemed they were not in good shape mentally to come at us as they have done in the past. If they utilise Richard Hughes and Gary O'Neil in central midfield, LuaLua and Lauren Robert wide, Matt Taylor supporting behind the forward man, Stefanovic and Linvoy Primus at the back, it will provide a better shape.
Sunderland v Aston Villa
Difficult to analyse Portsmouth's answer, here it is practically impossible. Sunderland began the season against Charlton at home and should have given better resistence then, instead of gifting Darren Bent too much space. No one is prepared to step forward enough to pressurise the opponent's goal and teams are given time and space to come at them. Surviving 0-0, they seemed to capitulate in the second 45mins and almost completely from the same area, Kevin Phillips and Gareth Barry scored easily when the ball came across behind the defence. They miss Julio Arca's invention and loanee Anthony Le Tallec seems the only player with the potential to score. Dean Whitehead hadn't played enough to deserve taking the ball from John Stead, who himself didn't deserve the penalty, providing little consolation for the North East side. Unfortunately, I cannot see any progress for Sunderland, which is hard to imagine given their best performance against Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough v Fulham
This was a game that played below Premiership standard in the first half, the only enlightening point being Collins John's goal, well taken. Constant squandering of possession from both sides made it frustrating to enjoy even for a neutral in me. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Yakubu threatened with the strength and pace but the end effort was lacking on a number of occasions. But come the second half Boro kept up their persistence as Fulham dropped their focus and this allowed the home side back into the game twice and then go on to win it.
I felt Boro's 2nd goal was legitimate and while the work rate of Moritz Volz and Steed Malbranque stood out the most in the West London side, they held little innovation going forward, with squandered possession accompanied by the number of slips onto the grass while attacking, meaning they only made an impact in the 2nd half from a set-piece. Had Luis Boa Morte been playing he would have made more of the possession Fulham had, particularly in the 1st half.
Chelsea v Newcastle
I wondered if the international break would hit Chelsea more than Newcastle. Coming down to Stamford Bridge without Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, Newcastle still provided a gutsy approach through Shola Ameobi's presence. What was Claude Makelele doing with his foot so high??? Replay showed he looked at the ball and then sensed Scott Parker coming forward and aimed his foot at him. Nonetheless, he came off the worse, with Michael Essien replacing him. Didier Drogba suspended, Hernan Crespo had a chance to shine after the international friendly. So did Eidur Gudjohnsen, ahead of Essien.
While Newcastle have added to a sturdy midfield and forward line, their defence is very questionable, the central partnership of Titus Bramble and Jean-Alain Boumsong needs to sharpen up, considerably. They miss Stephen Carr, all of which left Shay Given with little chance against Chelsea's goals. Crucially without Shearer and Owen, they fared very little against a renowned Chelsea back line. If Shearer finally quits and Owen becomes unfit too regularly, Graeme Souness may have to rely on his midfielders for goals.
West Brom v Everton
To think Everton would come away with a point seemed the least of probable results as they enjoyed a draw against Chelsea and two consecutive wins against Birmingham and Middlesbrough, whereas West Brom lost their previous three. But as people questioned Nathan Ellington's arrival from a side now currently Chelsea's best rivals for the title, and his scoring rate of 0, the striker came good twice to coincide with the birth of his baby. His and Albion's first came from a very dubious penalty decision, Tony Hibbert making contact with Ellington clearly outside the box, the right-back even had his feet in position, in good view of Dermot Gallagher. A cool penalty followed.
Everton followed with some good attacks, seeking the equaliser but come the 2nd half they were snuffed out when Neil Clement headed in and Ellington completed a brace with a left foot curling finish low past Nigel Martyn. The usually reliable Kevin Kilbane compounded the woe as he awfully passed back to David Weir, the Scotsman had no chance as the pass went by into empty space and Robert Earnshaw's pace set him up for Albion's 4th.
Man City v Blackburn
Man City are very stubborn to get a win over at the City of Manchester Stadium, ask Sam Allardyce. One defeat and a draw is all from 6 home games, so Blackburn, coming from a 4-2 finish last week, still had their work cut out for them. Despite the majority of the attacks going City's way, they couldn't penetrate Blackburn. It was a non-eventful score draw, the highlight of which was Stuart Pearce. With his attitude he is a prime candidate for England coach by the time Sven Goran Eriksson relinquishes the role. Steven Reid held onto the ball for too long in Pearce's opinion and after attempting to get the attention of ref Martin Atkinson to the issue, Pearce simply sprinted on towards Reid to get the ball, with Reid duly and quickly obliging before Pearce could get to him. Later, a free kick was given to Blackburn and as it seemed they were taking too long to set it up, Pearce came on again to pick up the rolling ball and place it where it should be, to the smiles of Robbie Savage. Atkinson came over for a quiet word, which Pearce respected.
Charlton v Man United
I would estimate Arsenal and Man City would be pleased at Roy Keane's departure from OT for good. Well, practically anyone not connected to the club. But where there were questions regarding the shape of the squad as a result, they were answered well at The Valley. I question Ruud Van Nistelrooy's leadership, but he is the appropriate person in Gary Neville's absence. Wayne Rooney provided enough supporting play for VNR, when he emerged into the box to flick across for the Dutchman to chest and turn then volley in. Great goal. Two in a row, the consistency will be monitored with immense scrutiny by the media.
Keane surely wouldn't come back in the Premiership, and that would rule him out of the Championship too. If Celtic prefer a wage cut to sign him, it could well happen. Currently, talk says Juventus are interested. Tying him up alongside nemesis Patrick Vieira?!? He maybe able to play for a further 5 years, the Italians appreciate veteran players more than the Premiership, and his desire for the game would be an asset to any side. But I can't see it.
Legend George Best enters into a critical 24 hr period in his battle against a lung infection, a second setback coming after the development previously of a kidney infection. It's critical in terms of his survival and the consequence on his health as a result. Needless to emphasise EFT's wishes to him and his family and friends during this critical moment.