On a weekend when the top three teams in the Premier League all settled for draws, it is only fitting that we stop and give some respect to one of the surprise teams of the season. Hull City got off to a flying start early in the season, but many skeptics expected Hull to come crashing back down the standings.
Somebody forgot to tell Hull City that. All the Premiership newcomers have done is hold firm in sixth place in the league, doing so with some beautiful attacking soccer and no fear of their opponents. Liverpool learned that lesson this week, going down 2-0 before Steven Gerrard dragged them back into the match in an eventual 2-2 tie.
SBI EPL correspondent James Tyler of The Unprofessional Foul was one of those skeptics who didn't think Hull would last long. He fesses up and gives us his take one of the surprises of the season, while also looking back at all the weekend's matches.
Newcomers are a Hull of a squad
By JAMES TYLER
Where I have been for the last 3 weeks? Not hiding after a string of Liverpool draws, I can assure you. In fact, to prove that, I'll make my reappearance with talk of the Hull visit to Anfield, and just how wrong I've been about the Tigers to date. It's something Ives has successfully called me out on, and I cannot cower in the corner any longer.
Simply put: Hull are legitimate. It pains me to say this, but it's true.
Not that such a revelation is particularly eye-opening to you lot, but it is to me, as normally, these Colaship teams play yo-yo for a couple of seasons before finally regressing to the mean. While Stoke and West Brom are merely treading water, Phil Brown has his squad believing in their abilities, and they're simply unafraid of anyone. They will go anywhere and play football, rather than the 8-1-1 formations most minnows adopt when traveling to Stamford Bridge or Emirates. It doesn't always work for 'em considering they concede goals with ease, but such carefree attitudes to defending is more associated with the golden days of Brazil than with the North-East of England.
That said, they put up two quick goals before my Scousers had even sung a full verse of "You'll Never Walk Alone", and while Gerrard's two-goal response was immediate, the Reds failed to break 'em at the back despite several opportunities in the second half. Another two points dropped for Rafa (who's currently in hospital recovering from kidney stones surgery), but I take solace in the fact that whenever we stumble, so does everyone else. At the end of the day, a 2-2 draw with Hull is not something to be upset about.
The remaining Big 4 sides all drew as well, keeping the point gaps as they were heading into the weekend. All I want for Christmas this year is to be top by the end of New Year's Day.
So what else happened?
Middlesbrough 1, Arsenal 1
Inconsistency, thy name is Arsenal. The Gooners continue their succeed-one-weekend, fail-the-next plan for world domination, taking an early lead through Adebayor's unmarked, near-post header (and bizarre goal celebration salute
), but switching off themselves just 10 minutes later and giving former Arse part-time striker Jeremie Aladiere enough room in front of Gallas for a fine header of his own. All the frustrated gesticulations of Arsene couldn't make a difference in the second half (although van Porcelain should really have done better with his chances), and they drop to fifth in the table. Even Rio Ferdinand
thinks they're washed up.
Stoke 0, Fulham 0
I took a nap instead. I knew this was bad when the match highlights just showed the ref blowing full-time.
Aston Villa 4, Bolton 2
Now here's a team I'm legitimately concerned about. The Babies from Birmingham are getting momentum as the weather gets worse (11 points from their last 15), and the ridiculously fast and dangerous combination of Agbonlahor and Young was simply too much for Megson's lead-foot army.
Manchester City 0, Everton 1
After being felled in injury time last week, it was the Toffee's turn to play last-minute victor thanks to Tim Cahill's towering header. It proves that money doesn't buy you happiness; since being bought out by the megabucks Middle East consortium, Citeh have managed to beat Arsenal and lose to just about everyone else. They're currently one place above the relegation zone on goal difference alone; you heard it here first that Hughes will be the next EPL manager canned (my blog called Ince weeks ago, in case you were curious).
Sunderland 4, West Brom 0
It's the kind of goalscoring performance that could have saved Roy Keane, but it's two weeks too late. The Baggies look quite content to take their parachute payment and settle back down in the Colaship on performances like this, and Kenwyne Jones showed why he's the world's best striker who only plays one game every month.
Wigan 3, Blackburn 0
Ahh, the game that finally got Ince fired
. Losing to Wigan so emphatically will do that to a person's job security. Antonio Valencia looked like a world-beater on the right wing, and Emile Heskey surely upped his price tag for the January window with another goal, this one coming via the backheel.
Tottenham 0, Manchester United 0
Heurelho Gomes is back! Well, he's always been there, but he's finally showing that world-class form that led Levy to spend big for him during the summer. Ronaldo did get the ball in the net though with a handball (he's done that twice now in recent weeks?), but it was all about the goalies as neither side could break through. Huge result for Redknapp, whose White Hart Lane renaissance continues (they're 15th now), but Fergie's ire must be building at yet another missed opportunity. They still have a game in hand over Chelsea and Liverpool, but they're off to the World Club Cup Thing and don't play in the EPL again until Boxing Day. The anger might be enough to give him kidney stones too.
Portsmouth 0, Newcastle 3
Dear oh dear Mr. Adams… this one will sting for a while. Jermain Defoe could/should have scored a hat trick in the first half, but their profligacy in front of goal cost them dearly, thanks to second-half strikes by Owen (who finally got offered a new deal to stay at St. James's), Martins and Guthrie that pulled the Magpies out of the relegation zone. If you're Tony Adams, you have to be worried. Your owner is trying to sell, the new owners will likely fire you, and if they don't, it's a safe bet that most of your stars will look to play elsewhere in the New Year. With juju like that hanging over the club, it's no wonder they've won just twice in their last 10 EPL games.
Chelsea 1, West Ham 1
My favorite result of the weekend. Big Phil and his over-paid cohorts must have chuckled to see Liverpool and Man U stumble the day before, but the last laugh went to former Blues star Gianfranco Zola and his Hammers. Craig Bellamy's resurgence showed in the first half with his smartly-taken goal at Cech's near post (and no, neither he nor Mark Noble handled the ball in the build-up), although Anelka's classy finish just 5 minutes after half-time set up a gripping conclusion in which both sides came close, but neither could finish. A deserved away point for West Ham, whose grit is not to be underestimated in that mid-table dogfight (just 9 points separate 6th from 18th).
Understood. He seems to be better tactically each game…
Who is your club?
he’s growing on me a bit, yes. I am still a little concerned about his experience (as is Hammers legend Geoff Hurst, from yesterday’s papers), but if he’s holding Chelsea to a draw, I am happy with him.
NOT SAYING THIS TO BE A JERK, honest question…
Zola growing on you at all? I know you had concerns with his inexperience…
“just 9 points separate 6th from 18th”
Exactly why Fulham’s tie is basically a loss, now that we’re talking 4 in a row.
Anyone else think that Hull reminds them of Reading from a couple seasons ago? They jump up to the BPL and there is talk about them competing for Europe right away only to be relegated the following season. Sound familiar?
The Man City vs. Everton game was one of the most boring things I’ve ever seen in my life, but had a great ending none the less. City won’t be relegated b/c the owners will buy the world all-star team if the have to during the January transfer window. Speaking of which, I really think they should try to get Tim Howard away from Everton.