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Sunday, December 31, 2006

The end of 2006 and the start of 2007

Talking points of the Premiership matches from the last football weekend of 2006. No fixtures spared for today, continuation tomorrow with two matches on Tuesday. I want to know why it is the matches could not be all arranged for Tuesday instead? Being that a Saturday match with one team could be followed by another match on the following Tuesday for the same team, thus ensuring a clear respite of at least 48 hours, is it regarded the players are paid so well and are so physically conditioned that they should be fine to play on a Tuesday after a Saturday performance? What of Charlton and Aston Villa kicking off early on Saturday and now late on Tuesday? Arsenal kicked off late on Saturday, Chelsea played on Saturday and both playing Tuesday evening, are these teams at a potential advantage? Discuss.

In the Charlton v Aston Villa match, Alan Pardew is now two games unbeaten, four points the better. Villa on the other hand have slumped in form, Olof Mellberg allowing, for an international and World Cup defender, quite a poor form of judgement when the long ball came over for Darren Bent to latch onto and head in. When results and form go poorly and there is a change of manager, the change in the players can be much more positive and that looks to be at The Valley where the hosts simply laid seige on Villa particularly with Gareth Barry dismissed. If that is so, the major test is the next match at The Emirates.

Equally the notion on changed management applies at Upton Park. West Ham had a strong victory over Man Utd, drew with Charlton and lost to Man City to a very late but nice finish by the US international DaMarcus Beasley. Coincidence both sides met with a player each suspended after respective failed appeals to the FA. Man City earned the spoils in the end, I understand City are interested in another US international, Clint Dempsey, who impressed me in the WC2006 with pace and passing, someone who I earmarked for Liverpool on the right wing before Jermaine Pennant's arrival. West Ham await Dean Ashton's appearance to further rejuvenate their fortunes, both Charlton and West Ham meet in late February at The Valley.

Referring back to Arsenal, they kicked off at Bramall Lane where the hosts made history with a win against a side unheard of since 1973. It was a superb dummy by Christian Node to outwit Kolo Toure and with Jens Lehmann so far out of goal it seemed to have made up Node's mind on what to do next, as I felt Toure could have recovered to thwart the Frenchman. Defensively, Phillippe Senderos was far away from Toure and should have been nearer to cover but the goal wasn't the main story. Paddy Kenny strained his groin and was replaced with Phil Jagielka with no keeper cover on the bench. So for the last half an hour, Arsenal faced an inexperienced keeper but couldn't get to put him to a thorough test until late with Robin Van Persie's touch tipped over. If Sheffield United become relegated, they will no doubt look on this result with some pride, considering that only Charlton from the teams beneath prospered too.

Then there's the two horse race at the top. The question on the BBC site raised was whether Chelsea would miss John Terry? I felt yes. So far one could argue the writing was on the wall from the Everton game, having to come back twice to eventually win. Superb commitment no doubt but concerningly they were conceding goals. They went to the JJB Stadium to squander a 0-2 lead and again eventually win in the dying minutes, again conceding twice. They have conceded twice now in their last two games, both at home. Jose Mourinho says they cannot defend but the media herald Chelsea for having a 22 of players who would enter into any Premiership side. They had a replacement for any first-team member absent, only that their replacement for Petr Cech in Carlo Cudicini is also injured. So Henrique Hilario steps in but after an initial appearance that seemed to supplement the goal, the keeper has been exposed by the defence. For Terry they have Khalid Boulahrouz but in Terry there was a harmony at the back that appears disrupted now in his absence.

Man Utd in the meanwhile have looked aside at their Upton Park defeat and have struck Aston Villa, Wigan and Reading for three each with only three conceded. They were almost pushed to the limit when Leroy Lita scored but like Leighton Baines' penalty, it came too late. Key to their surge has been Christiano Ronaldo. Last season Wayne Rooney was that player, this season has seen Ronaldo with both Rooney and Louis Saha early on and currently just Ronaldo. He is moving, running, passing and taking chances like someone on a clear mission with one thing in mind, and nothing from anyone outside of that covenant is effecting him. Where Utd have gotten this burst of energy since the season began is questionable considering how they were last season. Little has been added in pre-season, the same players from last season are the ones making a difference currently. Crucial has been Edwin van der Sar, who seems to not only fill Peter Schmeichel's boots, literally, but does so after the list of other keepers in Fabien Barthez, Tim Howard and Roy Carroll though I felt Raimond van der Gouw could have made a good keeper.

With tomorrow being their fourth game in 10 days, Liverpool narrowly lost out to Blackburn previously before having to go to a tough venue in White Hart Lane, where to my recollection Spurs have not lost at home in all competitions since Everton. Though both sides have good chances in the first half, Spurs came looking for the equaliser in the second and simply laid on the pressure in the last twenty minutes that we struggled to restrict. How Spurs didn't score is something, how the ball didn't go in off Steve Finnan's head is something else. With Bolton coming tomorrow to Anfield, the Reds are looking to continue their good home form to hopefully overwhelm their visitors and climb into 3rd place. It will be tough but such games are seldom not between top half teams.

Still on Merseyside, Phil Neville deserves a mention for his sweet finish against Newcastle to record his first for Everton, leading the side and since scoring for Man Utd four years ago. While Everton are missing the contributions of Tim Cahill, it was a ball from Mikel Arteta to Neville that provided him the opportunity and although he mis-kicked it, the ball went up and almost over but for a fingertip touch by Shay Given to little avail. Meanwhile Andy Johnson is still being a nuisance with his pace and his determination to go anywhere and pressurise defenders, while Arteta is the dead ball man who should simply be a contender for the Spainish national side.

And there you have it, it is 23.36hrs, 20 minutes plus to the end of 2006 and I thank all those who contributed to this site, thank you for 2006, from the EFT members to the commenters, for this is the sport we love, containing the teams we support indivdually, containing the special players that make them up, managed by those who aim one day to be the top of the league, the number one at the end of the season particularly in the Premiership, the indecisions, the streakers, the goals, the misses, the clangers, the chanting, the frustration, the half time break, the bad injuries, the competitions, the Football Association and lack of, the shirts, the pride that makes football the sport it is today, from the sport it began so many, many years ago.

Happy New Year 2007,


Anonymous Nturtle said...

Thanks Redsman!!

A Very Happy 2007 to all at EFT and those who visit here!

1/01/2007 8:10 am

Blogger T said...

Excellent commentary Redsman and fantastic last paragraph!!!

Yes, we at EFT have a big passion for football and as we enter the third calendar year that this site has been up and running we hope to continue to put that across to anyone who visits the site.

And to ditto Redsman and Nturtle: Happy New Year to all contributors and readers of EFT!

I agree that Arteta has the quality to be considered for the Spanish national team - to me he is very similar in style to Fabregas and seems to be involved in all Everton goals.

I will also keep my eye on Clint Dempsey!

A few words on Chelsea (and I think I repeat what Redsman has said): really interesting to see them lose three points in recent matches after they were snatching them in the matches immediately previous because this erratic version of Chelsea is not one we have seen in the previous two and bit seasons under Mourinho. Minus Terry and Cech and the goals against ratio have rocketed upwards.

1/01/2007 8:07 pm

Blogger BlindJak said...

HNY ALL! Chelsea were always going to miss Terry, as I think would any team. Not just for his do or die defending but his leadership and organisation of the back line. I had hoped that Carvalho would step up in this regard and assume the status of defensive leader but this appears not to have happened. The second goals conceded against Fulham illustrated how no one was taking control and moving other players round as necessary and why we really miss Terry.

So far as the draws go, the writing was on the wall as we rode our luck against Everton and Wigan. However, rather than limit blame to the defence, midfield and attack should also shoulder some responsibility. In the first half of both the Reading and Fulham games Chelsea were in control, created a number of chances which they failed to convert, failing to kill the game off. Consequently both teams came out for the second half confident and the midfield failed to match their step up in intensity and ceded control of the game. And against Fulham we were probably lucky not to lose.

Still, we’re comfortably second, and if (fingers crossed) we win to night the game is back down to a not too imposing four points, we’re in the last 16 of the CL with a favourable draw, are in the semis of the league cup with a favourable draw, and also have a favourable draw in the FA cup. The press always look to spin any run of results into a crisis but personally I’m still happy and confident that we have the time to iron out the kinks in our current performances. If this is a crisis I’m sure many other clubs would welcome just such a situation!!

1/02/2007 10:46 am

Blogger T said...

Lol... must agree with your last sentence Blindjak!

Cannot be a crisis with your squad, manager and resources. And with the transfer window now opened there is the opportunity for Chelsea to bolster their defensive department if they so wished.

Question: in Mourinho's first season Ferreira was ever-present and looked to be a reliable right-back. Why then in the last season and a half has Mourinho looked to have lost faith in him instead playing Gallas, Bouhlarouz and Geremi at RB? I never quite got why he was dropped... he didn't look to have done anything wrong.

And is it then any surprise that when called back into the team at centre-half (definitely not his position and perhaps too small to be effective there) that Ferreria looks decidedly suspect.

1/02/2007 11:40 am

Blogger BlindJak said...

Goodness knows why any manager suddenly loses faith in a player but Jose has previously commented in a game against (I think Everton) that he decided to play Gallas RB as Ferrer was not as strong in the air and Gallas would deal better with (I think) Beattie. So the decision to play him CB does seem some what odd as that’s usually the place for an ariel battle.

I always thought Ferrer was a safe, if unspectacular, pair of hands and was happy to see him in the starting XI. The loss of his place appears to have affected his confidence as when he has played RB on some occasions in the past 18 months, let alone CB, he’s not put in the assured performances I’d come to expect.

1/02/2007 2:29 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I may reiterate something here but I noticed that too. Ferreira followed JM from Porto and being of the same nationality, as with Carvalho, I felt their positions would be quite cemented. You may recall Carvalho was not always first choice with Terry and now he has cemented his spot. With the defence, it runs at something like 85-95% perhaps at full efficiency. Terry 25%, Carvalho 25%, now that Cole is there he is 25% and the right back is currently 10-15%, and that is due to the changes between Ferreira, Geremi and Essien. Not a problem with the collective 75% of Cole, Terry and Carvalho, but then Terry is absent and there is now 50% with Cole and Carvalho, Boulahrouz has given 10-15%, and the right back slot is the same so that's anything between 70-80% stability which is still superb provided it is not under substantial pressure.

This is maybe why JM said Fulham knew Chelsea could not defend, maybe Reading sensed it too. Tonight they were probed on occasion but not troubled by Villa's rather lacklustre approach to attack them, but Boulahrouz is a doubt now for potentially a month, whereas Ferreira started at his usual right-back and seemed unfazed, he was moved across. Slight drama for Chelsea because Terry, Robben and Cech could be round the corner waiting to come back. Terry seems to be the lynchpin, Carvalho is comfortable taking his cue but tonight he had hardly put a foot wrong albeit, as I said, Villa were at times lapsidaisal and others not applying much of a threat.


1/03/2007 1:27 am

Blogger BlindJak said...

As I watched a rather toothless and uninventive performance last night my words about the midfield and attack (Drogba and Lamps aside) not chipping in enough goals to kill games off seemed strangely prophetic! A head from Cole aside only the aforementioned pair looked remotely dangerous. The defence did their job and keep a clean sheet (aided by a Villa side determined not to cross the halfway line) so other players had the chance to win the game for us…….. except they didn’t. And didn’t look likely to.

According to the club both Robben and Terry will be back for the Wigan game a week Saturday (assuming not training ground injuries) and Cech not too far behind them. Terry might be able to sort out the leaky defence but will Robben be the answer to all our problems in attack? I fear not, but only time will tell.

Players such as Sheva, Ballack, SWP (if he’s still with us) and on occasion some of the defenders need to start weighing in with goals if we are serious about shutting down the 6 point gap. And come to that holding off ‘Pool and Arsenal.

1/03/2007 9:46 am

Blogger T said...

Thanks Blindjak and Redsman. A clean sheet for Chelsea last night should be satisfactory after the recent period.

1/03/2007 9:51 am

Blogger T said...

Just seen your comment about Chelsea's midfield and attack. For me they have not yet reached their full potential by not integrating Ballack and Shevchenko (both players I expected to be quite prolific) while SWP (whatever he says to the contrary) looks to lack the confidence of someone who obviously has not got the full confidence of his manager. Joe Cole and Robben are missed because they created a lot of chances thru their pace and creativity.

1/03/2007 9:59 am

Blogger Abdul said...

Redsman, thanks for your round-up of the year. Happy new year everyone!

BJ, have to agree with you that defence does not seem to be the only trouble with Chelsea. Kalou, Sheva and Ballack just have not gelled and if Drogba picks up an injury or has a patch of bad form, Chelsea seem likely to really struggle for goals.

I think Chelsea have missed Joe Cole more than people and maybe even Mourinho realise. JC was a pivotal attacking player last season and has the ability to create goals and chip in with a few himself.

1/03/2007 10:39 am

Blogger Abdul said...

Redsman, thanks for your round-up of the year. Happy new year everyone!

BJ, have to agree with you that defence does not seem to be the only trouble with Chelsea. Kalou, Sheva and Ballack just have not gelled and if Drogba picks up an injury or has a patch of bad form, Chelsea seem likely to really struggle for goals.

I think Chelsea have missed Joe Cole more than people and maybe even Mourinho realise. JC was a pivotal attacking player last season and has the ability to create goals and chip in with a few himself.

1/03/2007 10:39 am


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