Sunday, December 23, 2007

pre-christmas premiership wrap

Another weekend in the Premiership, another string of predictable results and events. Arsenal winning it late again, the relegation dogfight still jam-packed, and Chelsea putting me to sleep. Here’s a quick rundown of what I noticed this past weekend:

  • Although this applies to all candidates, if Fulham doesn’t want to get relegated they need to win matches against clubs lower than them. Last season they collected 9 points against those sent down to the Championship, and barely survived. So far this season they have a meager 4 points – out of four matches. Whoever feels like managing this squad needs to not only improve their overall form but also figure out the (somehow) tricky task of defeating teams worse than you, particularly at home.
  • Maybe Viduka forgot to give Sam Allardyce an actual gift for Christmas, but his late goal against Derby was more than Big Sam could've ask for. Believe it or not, he’s still on the hot seat and if they lost to Derby he probably would have been shown the door. A month ago everyone had him sacked, but Big Sam has been assisted by getting points during a lull in their schedule - albeit unconvincingly. Although they’re away to Wigan on Boxing Day, the next few weeks will really test Allardyce’s staying power.
  • Speaking of canning, Rafa Benitez needs to go. Yes Liverpool just dismantled Pompey, but that is part of the problem: he's the son you ask to mow the lawn, but instead washes the car and hangs up the laundry. You’re not entirely angry at him, but he didn’t do what you told him to. When the season began, one could sense there was a strong push amongst ‘Pool fans to win the Premiership. They may not have said it outright, but its almost 20 years since the club has lifted that trophy and the fans were yearning to. In part because of the rotation system, the title dream was all but over by mid-October. Getting a combined 6 points against Tottenham, Pompey, Wigan, and Birmingham is no way to keep up with Arsenal and Manchester United. Now, they’re 10 points off the pace and even with a game in hand, Rafa cannot defeat the other riders of the Premiership’s four horsemen. And what makes his position all the more frustrating is the squad’s ability to effortlessly romp through The Champions League, and handily defeat the also-rans (excluding Reading, when he practically gave up). He was asked to do one thing, but seems intent on doing another.
  • Blackburn are in a tailspin. They haven’t won a match since before Halloween, and probably wont until the eve of New Year’s Eve. Chelsea not only defeated them at home, but completely frustrated them without even seeming to try or care. Come January they need another striker to compliment Santa Cruz, who is doing everything by himself not because he is selfish, but because McCarthy, Pedersen, et al are not performing well this season. It may sound crazy, but I have a odd conviction that Bentley made be bought by another club in January for a lot of money.
  • I didn’t get the color announcers name of the Spurs/Gooners match – but wow was he a homer. I think he said “we” in regards to Tottenham at least a half-dozen times, and I turned on the match right before Keane missed the penalty.
  • A whopping 6 clubs have zero road wins this season, and 5 of those only have two points. Even Reading, who sit somewhat comfortably at 12th on 21 points, are one of those. Although pundits seem to put Megson’s Bolton squad technically out of the relegation fight, they need to improve their away form. Fulham haven't won away from the Cottage since September of 2006, so there's no reason to believe they ever will again. Sunderland's been suffering from bad luck via the referree's both away and at home. Even with three wins at the JJB, Wigan arguably always play away as they dont have any fans. And Derby are just terrible. Oddly enough Birmingham are 1 point away from the drop and Boro 3, yet both have two away victories.
  • And finally if ever there was a gap between the top-flight and the Championship, newly promoted Bristol City's recent victory places them just one point away from automatic qualification into the Premiership, and three points from leading the Championship. I really don’t know whether to commend the Robins or show my dismay at the CCC’s utter mediocrity. I'll let you decide.