EPL Week Two: A Look Back

EPL Week Two: A Look Back

European Soccer

EPL Week Two: A Look Back

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If you jumped on that Tottenham bandwagon before the season began, chances are you have already puked at least once.

A summer of spending and laundry list of high-profile acquisitions had the Spurs thinking of the Big Four and their fans thinking of more cup-winning glory under manager Juande Ramos. The only problem is that someobody forgot to tell Tottenham that they still have to win games. Losers of two straight, the folks from White Hart Lane are probably feeling a bit shaky as they try to figure out just what the heck is going on.

Tottenham’s stumble out of the gates is just one of the storylines that SBI EPL correspondent James Tyler of The Unprofessional Foul touches on in this week’s installment of ‘A Look Back’, our regular breakdown of the recent week’s EPL action. Here is his take on Week Two:

Dream season off to nightmare start for Tottenham

By JAMES TYLER

The EPL is a lot like college. You have the eighth-year seniors in the Big 4, who act like Van Wilder, all full of power over the student body. You have the anxious newcomers at the bottom, many of whom fall right back down once their first year is over. And then you have teams like Spurs, the angst-ridden sophomores who can’t seem to strike a balance or find an identity. This semester, they’ve begun in much the same way as last: too much summer confidence, too many keg-stands at the first party back and now they’re in the ER with alcohol poisoning about to take the fall off.

It’s troubling on a number of levels, but are we really surprised? Their limp performance on Saturday against Sunderland in their home opener was a testament to their continual identity crisis: No Huddlestone to ease the strain on their physically-weak midfield, Zokora, a midfielder, getting time at right-back when they just spent money on an understudy to the injured Alan Hutton, and putting new man David Bentley anywhere other than the wing, a position he was born to play. It doesn’t add up! It’s more confusing than Lost Highway!

It’s just poor management by a guy like Juande Ramos, from whom a lot is clearly expected. His pedigree from La Liga was never questioned, and since Spurs chairman Daniel Levy loosened the purse strings this summer to bring in Modric, Bentley and Dos Santos (among others) while also shedding a lot of their existing squad, the pressure has never been higher. And with 2 losses to 2 mid-table sides that Spurs should really be beating, the tension is rising at White Hart Lane, and I’m not going to lie, I’m really excited for the explosion that will surely ensue. Oh, and let’s not forget the sullen Bulgarian hit man himself, Mr. Dimitar Berbatov. His lingering, malcontented presence is ripping the squad’s morale to shreds, and it’s clear that the game of Chicken currently being played over his transfer price tag should have been wrapped up weeks ago for the good of the team, not the club’s bank balance. As it is, Ramos keeps putting Darren Bent up front all alone, where’s he’s scored exactly as many goals as Andy Johnson.

Meanwhile, across North London, a similar problem, albeit with slightly different mitigating factors. Wenger has spent next to nothing on improving or reinforcing his army of young, suave, precocious talent, and his seriously thin squad got soundly beaten at Fulham, 1-0. The scoreline doesn’t reflect the beating, but watch the highlights: the photogenic midfield wearing Arse red getting bossed around by the ugliest, most unsavory combo in the league, Danny Murphy and Jimmy Bullard. Denilson is no replacement for Fabregas, who’s still nursing some injuries; however, the young Brazilian’s passing accuracy is akin to using a fire hose to fill a teaspoon, and new signing Samir Nasri is busy perfecting the Frogger approach to soccer: keep moving sideways back and forth until you see the opportunity to take one step forward. There’s no cutting edge to this team whatsoever, and with only 7 days left until the transfer window closes, you can’t exactly foresee them bringing in 5 new strikers and a midfielder with the cojones necessary to fix the problem.

Liverpool continue to be classic Liverpool, stealing wins where they shouldn’t, with a deflected equalizer in the 86th and an injury-time winner that absolutely made my weekend. I won’t hide my Liverpool birthrights or allegiances, and honestly, it’s nice to be the team for once who plays like utter rubbish and still manages to rack up wins and points that are completely undeserved. Manchester United made quite an MO of it last season, poaching several valuable draws and away wins in the last 5 minutes of games, and it worked out pretty well for them, didn’t it? In truth, we’ll soon be back to our old ways, dropping points away to Wigan and needing late heroics to snatch a draw at Portsmouth. It’s Liverpool. It’s what we do.

The other highlights of my weekend, which I spent huddled over the laptop watching choppy stolen feeds instead of drinking at the pub, were the Stoke and Hull performances. To hold Blackburn to a draw at Ewood Park is a superb result, especially when one considers the emotional outputs of last weekend’s 2-1 win in their first EPL match ever. Hull manager (and former Bolton Wanderers defender) Phil Brown has forged a crafty, resilient squad that is well suited to a season’s worth of toil and struggle in the bottom half of the table. It’s in stark contrast to the inexperienced Stoke City, although you wouldn’t have thought it from their last-minute 3-2 win at home to Aston Villa. Seeing Martin O’Neill look unhappy is high on my list of current hobbies, especially after his antics over the summer in trying to keep Gareth Barry in Birmingham. He looked rattled after Mamady Sidibe’s last-gasp header off a long throw-in, which, if you think about it, is an especially cruel way to lose. I hope for many more such scenes at Villa Park this season.

Two weeks in, we’re still nowhere close to knowing who the true front-runners are this season, but it’s clear which sides haven’t gotten summer off their minds just yet. For Arsene and Juande, the biggest problem is knowing where to begin.

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