Sunday, 30 March 2014

Premier League Round Up: 30th March

Welcome to a Premier League Round-up blog!
All opinions are just that, so... yeah...

1. Man Utd are back!

Another capitulation at the hands of one of the POWER 3 (more on that later), Man City, to go with their similar result against Liverpool rightly led watchers to question 'could it get any worse?' for Moyes' United. Neither Liverpool or Man City had to play with particular verve for their results, so mundane were Utd.  It led me to think of similarities between Moyes & his Simpsons' lookalike Moyes Szyslak, the bartender; both unpopular, both helming businesses with little respect from their customers, both would (erroneously) claim they do not deserve this shoddy treatment & so on but no! Criticism was misplaced, for Mighty Moyes came roaring back to lead Utd to a 4-1 thumping of 1982 European Cup winners Aston Villa with goals from Rooney! Rooney! Mata! & Chicarito!

That's all great if you're a casual fan, but scratch beneath the surface and the usual unpleasantness resides.
They had 9 shots? That all? Yup.
They had zero corners? Yup. A Moyes team? Yup.

Getting Mata and Kagawa on the pitch together is a positive and fun, Fellani contributed solidly & it seems they have withdrawn somewhat from their cross laden 4-4-2 (Only 16 in this game), but the fact remains, Villa are bang-average at best, pretty bad at worst and Utd created very little beyond their goals.
But, it's respite, any 4-1 win is a good one & two fingers to that damn plane.

2. Pulisball.


Pulis has created his own mini-Chelsea; keep things solid, maybe pinch a goal & the points will follow.

But above all: give away nothing.

Mourinho might have noticed this had Palace not perfected their invisibility cloak in recent weeks. You can understand Jose's thinking here, he's still got his Spanish hat on; 'A promoted team? These teams are no good, it's fine. I have one eye on the Champions League!'
So Luiz starts in midfield and Lampard, and that's not quite as good as it could be but it's OK, and Torres is starting & he's doing jack-all & it all turns into a nothing game & Mourinho gets out-Mourinho-ed by Lord Pulis, who'd happily take 0-0 every match from now until eternity. Occasionally that turns into a 1-0 & you look like a genius. This was that occasion.

But beyond that why, Chelsea, why?

3. Chelsea are knackered

I was pondering this after the Villa game but then the cracks got papered over by them wreaking havoc on Arsenal.

A quick perusal of usual sources leads me to believe that Chelsea have over 70 professionals on their books, yet Jose has been predominantly using a core of 17/18 players all year (swap Matic for Mata, Salah not really featured yet).  When you consider 3 of those are misfiring strikers plus a couple of keepers, suddenly you realise he's voluntarily using about 14 Supermen for 9 outfield positions, Champions League included.
This is actually quite nuts, and explains their recent erratic form.  Hazard has played nearly every first team minute available in 2014, ditto Cahill, Ivanovic, Cech, Matic since he came in, Ramires, Terry.  All of these guys play 90 minutes nearly every week, often twice a week.

Regardless, these are largely great players & whilst they can be lethal when it clicks there have been signs to cause concern.
Wanna win the title? Don't lose to Villa or Pulis!
Patiently underperform against Spurs til they start chucking the ball into the net? Not recognised as a tactical scheme but seemed to pan out OK.

They're quite lucky they haven't had more injuries, because one or two key men going down could floor them completely.  We, the viewing public, are so used to Mourinho's underplaying of his side's abilities that we've taken it as classic Jose kidology, but is he telling the truth?
Are they trying to achieve FFP parity? They balanced the books in January & only part balanced the squad.
Just maybe he's been told he's got this enormous pool of players & that's it barring like for like sales.

And yes, I appreciate I was nice about them last week but now WE HAVE MORE EVIDENCE :)  .

4. Swansea turn the corner

I've written about Swansea not getting what they've deserved recently & finally they appear to have turned both the lucky corner (Flamini!) and the results corner (Norwich: perfect dinner guests).  They're safe now & deservedly so. Michu is back too & whilst he'll take time to get up to speed, it's a real boost.

5. Holiday teams

Newcastle have been phoning it in for a few weeks now. They recently lost to Fulham after all.
That Remy has been missing from the team through this malaise is no coincidence, as without him their firepower is nil.
Another trouncing, this time at the hands of always-solid-at-home-Southampton, in which they had 5 shots in total and seemed less intent on running than a latter year Marlon Brando showed a team clearly on holiday. 

Pretty shoddy stuff really, and similar signs that Hull might be going the same way having winkled out enough points to carry on next year. They were entirely toothless against Stoke with another 5 shot total.

There'll be a lot of this in the coming weeks and bettors amongst you could well pay attention.


Half time in Arsenal-Man. City & Arsenal have been generally abject.
THUS! It's clear that the SUPERIOR 7 has a superior subset this year: THE POWER 3.

Man. City, Liverpool and Chelsea routinely destroy other Superior 7 members & stride confidently onwards towards league domination.

Then Arsenal play quite well, City retreat and it ends up 1-1. Not in the script.
Where was the POWER?

Not in Yaya's boots, who had a stroller of a game.

Are Man City tired like Chelsea? Well, judging by the way this game panned out, it's a good theory but it doesn't really hold out. They've played similar line-ups recently, the last 6-8 weeks or so, but have rotated quite well throughout the year, so it probably isn't that.  Arsenal certainly shouldn't be tiring too much given their entire midfield is arguably second string at the moment. Their defence has been flogged a bit too much and poor Giroud has been somewhat called upon, but they were stronger, later in this game.

Maybe it's just March and everyone is a bit tired?  It's the English game after all: fast paced, loads of matches, no rests.

7. The Genius of Tim Sherwood 

Not much can be added to a pedestrian Tottenham showing followed by rumour, gossip, craziness & universal dismissal for Interim Tim's long term claims.

And that's fair enough.  Liverpool dispatch with simplicity & little particular effort because they can; they are POWER 3, Spurs are not.  Trouble for Spurs is where to turn?
A season that has lurched from chaos to crisis can be forgotten & hope restored only with the appointment of another 'right man' and the return of Sherwood to his Technical/Youth hinterland.  One of his major problems is he seems to be relying on the players that were thought to be replaceable to win matches & his tactical nuances are inpenetrable, maybe moreso than Villas-Boas' for the players aren't getting the message; a decent first half has been hard to find for many a week now.

Van Gaal would win the fans back, but beyond that likeable candidates are thin on the ground...

8. Everton efficiency: can it last?

Everton are riding their luck at the minute.
They got conspicuously outshot by Swansea last week (9-21) similar against Newcastle (8-16) and now Fulham, finally buoyed by Magath's military manouvres (14-23).

Yet they won all three matches and seemingly stride on clutching ever closer to Arsenal's coattails.  Their run in is tough though & surely they can't keep riding the shot count like this.
Pity Fulham too.  It's all too late for them but posting 23 shots & 8 SOT whilst making 35 (!) tackles is a very good performance, but they still lost 3-1.  They haven't enough games to make this improvement work for them & they sure as hell haven't got any luck. Magath arrived 3 months too late.

That is all... for now

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