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EPL Week 14: A look back

ArsenalScrap (AP)  

Funny how quickly things can go from so promising and good to shaky and in danger of falling apart.

Thus is the situation at Arsenal, where the young and talented squad went from flying high after beating Manchester United to being in danger of imploding as word of infighting and locker room unrest has created an environment that has played some role in the Gunners suffering the cruel fate of falling out of title contention in November.

SBI EPL correspondent James Tyler of The Unprofessional Foul gives us his take on the situation at Arsenal, as well as the one at Manchester City, where the club is dealing with the weight of expectation and the unfamiliar situation of having unlimited resources. Tyler focuses on these, as well as providing his weekly recap of the action in the English Premier League:

Unfamiliar roles for Arsenal and Man City


Soap operas and soccer don't really work well together. Footballers' Wives wasn't very good (I did give it an episode or so, embarrassingly), and neither was Dream Team, but this season, we have two dramas playing out in the EPL, and this weekend, we got to watch them both on the same pitch.

In one corner: the emotionally bruised aesthetes of Arsenal, manned by the Frenchman who's afraid of the transfer market. In the other, the Manchester side with an inferiority complex that's now richer than everyone but not sure what to do with it. Both wonderfully complicated stories considering the pressure on both sides to perform.

Arsenal aren't used to losing (they're only 4-5 seasons removed from being the Invincibles), and Manchester City aren't used to having unlimited resources. How it shakes out over the long-term is anyone's guess, but what's clear is the result on Saturday. A 3-0 defeat for Arsenal, a team who's struggling with injuries and a dressing room malcontent in deposed captain William Gallas (you can already see the "For Sale" sign being hung in the window at Emirates), from which they could take nothing positive. Actually, that's not true. They should be happy it wasn't four- or five-nil.

Benjani's early unmarked header was put well wide of the post, Robinho had a goal disallowed thanks to a questionable offsides call, the Brazilian then had another effort cleared off the line, and with just the Swiss Miss Nicolas Bendtner up front (I'd mention van Persie, but he was nonexistent so what's the point?), they had no response.

The first goal from Stephen Ireland, a man in the form of his life, summed up the Arsenal season perfectly: two Gooners attempting to clear the ball ended up clearing each other, giving Ireland an easy chance with Almunia horribly out of position. The style council, for all their flair and beauty, are giving up plenty of ugly goals this season. Robinho's 56th minute effort was pretty, lobbing Almunia after being put through by Shaun Wright-Phillips' wonderful run and throughball (another man who's in the form of his life). A late Sturridge penalty completed the pain.

For Manchester City, it was pure joy, but Mark Hughes has to wonder how his side can lose to Bolton and Middlesbrough but then decimate a Top 4 team a couple of weeks later. It's baffling; the team selections are virtually the same from week to week, so why the glaring inconsistency in performance? Once the elation subsides, it's a conundrum he'll need to figure out before it costs him his job. Remember; at Eastlands, money is no longer a problem. You think if Jose Mourinho manages successfully to get himself fired at Inter Milan (and recent conduct suggests he's doing well so far), how long do you think it'd take the Sheikh to make an offer?

In Arsenal and Man City, you've got two decent teams that are heading in two different directions. Man City will spend in January, and spend big, whereas the Gunners will surely suffer another transfer season without making the reinforcements so desperately needed, such is the unflinching self-belief that Wenger has concerning his squad and youngsters. When he does reach his hand in his pocket, will it be for a proven defender, or yet another 19-year-old prospect? Whatever happens, we're certainly looking at someone new in the Top 4 by the end of the season. All evidence points to it getting a lot worse at Emirates before it gets better.

Here is a rundown of last weekend's action in the EPL:
Aston Villa 0, Manchester United 0
Ashley Young's phenomenal from-behind tackle in the box stopped Ji-Sung Park from a clear shot on goal, both sides had a penalty shout waved off (Villa's shout was much stronger; Vidic practically climbed inside Agbonlahor), and in the end, a deserved point. An awful miss from Rooney (goalless in a month now) could have stolen it late in the 2nd half, but the points were shared, not really helping either side gain ground after Chelsea and Liverpool failed to win earlier in the day.

Chelsea 0, Newcastle 0
For those at the top, this weekend was definitely the most frustrating yet. The Blues dominated possession, but came up empty against a Newcastle side that is growing in confidence under Kinnear. About time too; Joe Cole had a goal ruled out for offside (another dubious call), Lampard, Cole and Branislav Ivanovic all went close, but Shay Given brought his vintage to earn his side a valuable away point. 

Liverpool 0, Fulham 0
This concludes the Big 4, none of whom scored a goal on Saturday. Robbie Keane missed yet another chance, and despite piling on the pressure in the last 30 minutes, honors deservedly ended even.

Portsmouth 2, Hull 2
A hard-fought draw for the Tigers, who equalized 4 minutes from time with a goalmouth scramble. Tony Adams is still winless at home, but shouldn't be; Glen Johnson's phenomenal header-chest-volley from 30 yards should have counted double!
Middlesbrough 1, Bolton 3
A convincing away win for Bolton, a team that looks like they'll be quite comfortable in mid-table despite every pre-season curse I tried to apply to a team I loathe more than any other.

Stoke 1, West Brom 0
The Potters get a leg-up in the "Which Colaship side is going right back down?" stakes, but honestly, they'll both be packing their bags by season's end. Mamady Sidibe's 84th minute winner leaves West Brom without a win since the beginning of October. On the bright side, at least neither side will end up worse than Derby County's performance last season.
Tottenham 1, Blackburn 0
Redknapp does it again! To be fair, they dominated this game, requiring no voodoo or mojo to win at home, the scoreline a lot closer than it should have been. Paul Ince needs to channel his mid-90s rage to right his sinking ship; the game was over long before Martin Olsson's sending-off 5 minutes from half-time. Poor lad — he was skinned time and again by Aaron Lennon, and his 2nd yellow was sweet relief for a dismal performance. Blackburn are winless in their last 8 EPL fixtures, while Spurs haul themselves to their highest league position of the season at 15th. Thanks to the parity of everyone from Everton in 7th on down, they are still in with a strong shout at the UEFA Cup. (I refuse to say that they'll be Top 4, although Arsenal aren't showing any desire to stay there)

Sunderland 0, West Ham 1
Last week I copped a lot of flak for attacking Zola and the Hammers (who hadn't won in 8 games until yesterday), but their performance at the Stadium of Light fully deserved the three points, and could turn out to be their defining win of the season. Valon Behrami's deflected goal midway through the 1st half proved to be enough, and their defense held strong despite two decent penalty appeals for Keane's side and several wasted efforts by Djibril Cisse. It should have been easier for West Ham had Behrami not missed a wide open goal right before halftime. The win gives Zola and co. a 4 point cushion from the relegation-bound.


  1. Oh yeah, that load deal makes so much sense. The kid is behind a bunch of players at Stamford Bridge so if he can get some good teaching, game experience, and West Ham can get some good service from him, it’s just good management.

  2. Mig,

    I disgust myself with what a homer I am, but I can’t help it!

    Mig, you hear the rumor of Mancienne being loaned to Hammers in January? I’d be more than happy to have Steve Clarke mold the youngsters there, just in East London and send them back!

  3. lol Danny. It’s so much easier to be reasonable when the Hammers win, isn’t it? 🙂 Go Zola…as a Chelsea legend, I’m pulling for him.

  4. James: Refusing to say that Tottenham will not be top-4 is not exactly…a stretch…I think think your caution is more than warranted. 🙂 Villa takes 4th this year and the question for the North London circus is whether they finish 5th or 6th. Wow, is it fun to watch a team that I loathe implode. The fact that it now appears that Gallas is a Chelsea-plant, a virus, a mole makes it all the sweeter.

  5. Jay-Z, the announcers debated that call for quite a while but eventually came to the right (and kinda obvious) conclusion that JCole was offside. As a Blues fan, I was annoyed but it was the right call.


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