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Friday, February 24, 2006

Crunch time for West Brom and Birmingham

Assuming that two of the three relegation places will be filled by Sunderland and Portsmouth, the favourites to take the unwanted final relegation position are currently Birmingham and West Brom. These two teams face each other at St Andrews in a fortnight, and require a good momentum going into what promises to be a massively significant match.

18th placed Birmingham are six points behind West Brom with a game in hand. Steve Bruce's team has been decimated by injuries, and it is clear that confidence within the club has been shaken by a sense of being in real relegation trouble.

The purchase of the vastly experienced Chris Sutton in the January transfer window is a good one. His partnership with Heskey promises a lot of strength and aerial power, and they are good targets for the wing-play of Pennant. Jarosik also has a big physical presence and is unafraid to effectively support the strikers and get shots in on goal.

With players of this calibre, plus the likes of Melchiot, Upson, Forssell, Dunn, and Butt, there is definite scope for Birmingham to pull out of the relegation zone. But they are leaving it late, and need results now to prevent being stranded. Playing Sunderland at home tomorrow is a MUST WIN game, and with Heskey back after suspension I like their chances to get the win they need to boost their confidence for the upcoming West Brom match.

West Brom are in 17th position. They pulled off a great escape to secure Premiership status on the final day of last season after being bottom for much of the season, so they do have valuable experience of knowing what it takes to beat the drop. Bryan Robson has assembled a hard-working team capable of great results, but they are really inconsistent. I watched them beat Wigan at the JJB and was impressed by their determination and spirit. The next Premiership game, however, they lost at home to bottom-placed Sunderland.

They are at home to momentum-gathering Middlesborough on Sunday, knowing that a win will not only help massively in their cause to hold off Birmigham, but will also see them leap-frog Steve McClaren's team.

In West Brom's favour is they have had a two week break to rest and regroup for a crucial period of the season, while Boro have fitted in three extra matches in the same period. The fatigue factor must be exploited by Robson's side who will have Kanu and Kamara back to boost their goal-scoring potential. West Brom are generally a difficult propostion at home - which as a Gunner I can personally testify too - and I see a positive win for them as Robson will drill into his refreshed side the importance of maintaining their current points advantage over Birmingham.

Weekend score predictions:
Birmingham 2 - 0 Sunderland
West Brom 2 - 1 Middlesborough

P.S. Thanks to the anon commentator who pointed out the error to my previous post!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No problem but I wish you could have predicted a draw, cos I'm a Blue Nose and a draw would suit us best!!!

2/24/2006 2:41 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Good article, T. I mentioned previously that Birmingham may be dragged into a relegation fight with West Brom for who will hold the coveted 18th place. Not only do the Blues have Sutton and Heskey but I'm sure fans want to see how DJ Campbell is to fit into the fight. Crucially, as T stated, strength and aerial power is pivotal with Sutton and Heskey, supplies from the wings need to be stabilised and made plentiful, Pennant is proving very well at this.

With Sunderland, I sense a big area will be central midfield and influential Julio Arca. Sunderland are quite enterprising from the middle, where they aim to spread play quickly to the wings. Not only does John Stead owe them some return but playing him alongside Anthony Le Tallec, with Liam Lawrence supporting behind them, means they could go to hit the home side if confidence plays as the major card. In all, the difference is a Maik Taylor busy afternoon or a sight-seeing one. I go for the former, and with Sunderland enjoying their wins away from home predict a 1-2 home defeat. Sorry, Anon (2.41PM)!

West Brom does have the advantage of resting their players as Middlesbrough continue good form from their Chelsea victory. Last night they were down but went through on aggregate, and I presume that was partly the reason why they weren't too pressurised against Stuttgart. This depends on whether Steve McClaren picks the same side and encourages them to go for the jugular or Bryan Robson plays Campbell and Ellington to get greedy and finish off their chances.

Ellington has to improve, currently a far cry from his Wigan days with Jason Roberts. Yakubu and Hasselbaink should start together, far more formidable than a Viduka inclusion, but the European night could nonetheless take it's toll. Boro's travels have not yielded much progress, I'm going for a 1-1 draw.


2/24/2006 7:13 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Nice posts as usual guys.

I think Sunderland are due for another win as well - unfortunately they are not helped by a manager who is nor liked by the fans...especially for announcing "relegation" is part of the game plan to have a strong squard in the Championship (mis-quotes deliberate but he DID say something to that effect!). They really did look ok at the start of the season....but just can't get ANY good result. A draw seems like they best thing in the world to them! Crazy!

I wouldn't bet my house on it...but I feel Middlesborough are a bit tired...but they have some quality. West Brom have been getting better...but I think they will fall foul of the pressure of I'm going for:

1-0 to Sunderland
1-0 to Boro

2/25/2006 1:27 am

Blogger T said...

Thanx anon, Redsman, and Nturtle.

Sorry anon for tipping a West Brom win... I hope your team gets the right result today.

Redsman, Nturtle... I reckon it's brave of both of you to tip Sunderland getting the victory at St Andrews. If this does happen I will be very impressed by your predicting powers!

2/25/2006 12:42 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Good call, T, got the result correct to the delight of the Brum fans.


2/26/2006 12:50 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks Redsman, but totally miscalled the West Brom match with Boro running out comfortable 2-0 winners. Nturtle got this one right, so he's equal with me with one good call each.

Redsman, back to the drawing board for you... especially after seeing your prediction (which was not disclosed on EFT) for the Carling Cup final! :)

2/26/2006 8:11 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Oh, I'd say that's rather Draconian in balance against that which I have predicted coming true - but my estimation of the Carling Cup score is up there maddenly with those of Boro beating Chelsea at home and Arsenal beating Real Madrid. Had anyone said those scores would follow before the respecitve matches played, I'd imagine they too would be candidate for the loony bin!!

On the Final itself, Wigan fans enjoyed a day that they never would have guessed becoming true, especially in their first Premiership season ever. I think their defence had shot themselves in the foot and Utd took advantage well, but with Utd potentially in the Champs League place, Wigan should be seeking out their passports shortly for their European trips!

Congratulations to Utd, well played and the goals were excellently executed, nice touch of the T-shirts tribute to Alan 'Smudge' Smith, and well done to Wigan, who have given the Premiership, and their fans, a great season to reflect on so far for a side doomed for relegation.


P.S: I thought Wes Brown make even more of a case for his inclusion in the England squad for Germany, much less Anfield on Wednesday night.

2/27/2006 1:16 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

LOL T - we're even I guess...too bad for Sunderland...didn't figure on their depths of poor form...I guess I should have tipped an Arsenal LOSS as well...*sigh*

Middlesborough lost in their UEFA cup tie (but of course still went through) but did draw from that experience and was probably stronger for it...

Good comment Redsman...Jewell was quoted as saying he's something like 16-0 down in four matches against United...and when Rooney is playing like he did...can't really help it can you?

2/27/2006 12:36 pm

Blogger T said...

Redsman, surely you are aware of the supreme principle that you are only as good as your last prediction! :)

Nturtle, indeed we were level top of the Weekend's Predictions table but we both know we'd rather have had an Arsenal away win (Redsman, this is where you had your advantage.. well done the Pool!)

For me I can't state enough that up to now this is a Premiership season to forget, and I hope that Ashley Cole somehow gets rid of his injury jinx and makes his return ASAP (I will not be surprised if he breaks down again, such is his luck this season). Get RVP back too to partner Henry, and there's still a hope (well at least with me) that we can turn things around... but we have to start the turnaround now otherwise it'll be too late as far as Champs league qualification is concerned....

Must say that its odd to be looking out for Bolton's, West Ham's and Blackburn results... plus I even hoped for an Everton loss against Newcastle such is Arsenal's current plight! Yep, this is a crazy season!!

2/27/2006 8:22 pm

Blogger T said...

P.S. Redsman, your comment above suggests that if Man Utd finish in the top four (which they will!) then Wigan - as runners up - will be given the UEFA cup spot that Man Utd earned yseterday by winning the Carling Cup. Can you confirm this is the case?

2/27/2006 8:32 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Only as good as your last prediction?? Gulp!! "Football is a funny old game."

I cannot confirm it but I certainly believe it is the case - as Utd will take up a Champions League place rather than the UEFA Cup one, that choice is bestowed onto the runners-up, similar to the runners-up of the FA Cup, as in Millwall in 2004. If it isn't the case, well that would be a bizarre decision.

RE Ashley Cole - it seems you may have spoken too soon, T - I've read today he has suffered yet another setback through an ankle injury, said to keep him out for a further three weeks. I can imagine for the fans and Cole and the club the frustration this is raising, and as such see the brave Flamini to continue his interim role.


2/28/2006 9:35 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Well...can't agree more Redsman...T - I think you need to change your desktop again...Ashley sprained his ankle I think...*sigh* And the reserves were beaten by a setback as well!

It's just not going well...but then again...better than Real Madrid where there looks likely to be turmoil after Perez stepped down as President today (he brought in Beckham and some other Galacticos)...

2/28/2006 12:28 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete asks......Can anyone explain why our (AFC) injuries have been so disastrously long term? Why, so many have been re-injured during comeback training etc? Why AW is supposedly interested in buying Curtis Davies for approx £5 mill, when I wrote to him over 14 months ago recommending Davies, who he would have got for £500,000?

All I can say about my last point is it is obvious to me, and other UK Gunners, that AW only sees UK potential when other managers have taken a chance on them. For me, this is so negative, and very annoying! I am STILL fuming over the Uturn he made over Carrick, who was dying to come to Highbury. Sometimes, I cannot help thinking that one of our old stars ie; Tony or Bouldy, can give AW the hair dryer treatment, and tell him he look nearer home for a while.

't' sorry to ask again, but is there any other way we the anonymousers can start a debate on Elite?????? Or do we have to arrive via the comment section?


2/28/2006 5:47 pm

Blogger T said...

GunnerPete, did you get any reply from AFC?

I know your concerns about Arsenal not buying English players, and I must say that it would be good to see more in the squad set-up.

At the moment we have Cole and Campbell as established (and constantly injured!... yep, there's mild frustration Redsman!!!) first-teamers, and then you have the rising talents of Gilbert and Walcott... it's really not enough.

Personally I would love to see Darren Bent (I'm sure I've heard he is an Arsenal supporter which makes me like him even more... on top of doing the business for me in my fantasy football team!) and possibly Reo Coker added to the Arsenal squad in the summer... they have pace, strength, stamina, and heart for the battle.... and would be a better bet for away matches at the likes of Bolton and Blackburn than some of the players we currently have.

One day later this year I'll post an article asking who Gunner's want on their Arsenal summer wishlist.. and I'll make a few suggestions of my own to kick-off the debate.

GP, no probs for asking (although I don't recall you asking before?),unfortunately we don't have a special section for people outside of EFT to start debates... the design of the website by Blogger doesn't allow for it.

3/01/2006 11:01 am


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