By Kevin Koczwara
It was a predictable and wild weekend in the Premier League. Let’s look back at some of the action and future implications of the results.
Manchester United Run Rampant At The Emirates
Arsenal looked poised to open the scoring against Manchester United on Sunday. Arsenal was controlling play early and Andrey Arshavin was running circles around Wes Brown and the United defense. He had two early chances, but missed wide twice, and those missed chances cost Arsenal. If they could have taken the early lead and played the controlling football they are capable of, then the game might have been out of reach for Manchester United.
But United went on the score sheet first with blistering pace in a counter-attack. Nani, of all people, crossed in a chip shot through the Arsenal box searching for Ji-Sung Park on the back post only to have it tipped in by Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia.
The 1-0 lead for Manchester United didn’t relieve the Arsenal pressure. Arsenal had a few chances and controlled play for four minutes after the goal. Then came another blistering counter. Nani lead the charge again exposing the overlaps of the Arsenal wide defenders. In his run he created a chance for Wayne Rooney who came up the middle of the pitch with power and a finishing touch. The 2-0 lead was a shock for the Arsenal fans who thought they well deserved the lead.
With the 2-0 lead Manchester United used their strength in the midfield to control the game and slow down the Arsenal attack, they no longer had to rely on their strong defending and could explore a little more and posses the ball better as the Arsenal left and right backs stopped straying so far forward. The game became a Paul Scholes showcase. He controlled the midfield in the attacking end with his pinpoint passing and in turn ended Arsenal’s chances to turn the tide quickly.
Ji Sung-Park’s goal after the break put the game out of reach and Arsenal could only cheer after Thomas Vermaelen put in a consolation goal in stoppage time.
For all of Arsenal’s early pressure it was obvious they were missing a big time striker with power and strength that would navigate in the Manchester United box and put in a decisive strike. If Wenger was sure his squad could win the Premier League title this year then he would have surely spent some money in the transfer window to secure a fit and powerful striker to help out the likes of Arshavin and Cesc Fabergas get space and opportunities.
As for Wayne Rooney, he is the top striker in England right now. He is powerful, dedicated and skilled. What makes him better than the likes of Torres, well he isn’t as flashy but he stays on the pitch for longer periods of time. If Torres could stay healthy he would surely be the top-scorer, but he doesn’t have the same work-rate as Rooney.
And Manchester united is nipping at Chelsea’s heels again, watch out they will make a run here and may take over the top spot sooner than later if they keep playing the way they did on Sunday.
Birmingham City Stun Spurs
Tottenham had the game in the bag. They were up 1-0 going into stoppage time after a beautiful goal from the Crouch and Defoe pairing in the 69 minute. But Tottenham couldn’t hold off the Birmingham attack and the relentless push forward.
Birmingham’s work rate will impress anyone that watches the club play. They work hard on the defensive side and then juggernaut their way forward with not so much class as good positive football with movement, short passing, and a big supply of power. Birmingham makes you work and they wore out Tottenham and in the 90 minute they put in an equalizer, keeping them in contention for European football next year and putting a slight damper on the high spirits at White Hart Lane as the fourth spot in the EPL looks harder and harder to hold on to.
Birmingham is a stingy squad, they are letting in 1.00 goal per game and at home they are conceding less a than a goal a game (.566 GAA). But they struggle to score goals themselves, and it showed during the Tottenham match, they didn’t have a finishing element to them. Birmingham is averaging less than a goal a game and it is the main reason why the club was going after strikers during the transfer window. Sadly for the Birmingham fans the club was unable to grab a top-flight striker and will have to keep up on the defensive effort for the rest of the season. It won’t be pretty, but the club will be around next year and may be able to grab a few players come the summer to help expand their strike force.
Oh John Terry You Hound
Is John Terry England’s Manny Ramirez? I won’t go that far but the rumors about Ramirez sleeping with teammates wives around Boston weren’t short on supply. And it is no surprise that he isn’t the only professional athlete sleeping around when he was supposed to be focused on playing the game. It isn’t any of our business as fans to care what players do int heir romantic lives (unless it is illegal and unsafe, we spend tons of money to watch them play, they better be on the field when we watch), but it will always make headlines.
I am on Wayne Bridges side here with his teammates because when your friend sleeps with your girlfriend (now his ex) it can turn your stomache and cause huge ripples in all parts of your life. You lose faith in your friends and the people in your life. I think it was a great statement by his teammates at Manchester City to support him in such a warm way.
As for Terry, it doesn’t surprise me he slept with Bridge’s ex. What surprises me is that after she chose Terry over all the other eligible men on the squad. And no sex scandal can be anything like the what Tiger Woods got caught doing at Thanksgiving, because not many people will have those type of stories in such abundance, I don’t care who you are.
As for Terry’s captaincy for England, I think he should keep it as long as the other players on the squad see him as the captain. It isn’t a manager’s decision or an FA board’s decision. It is his teammates decision, they are the one’s he is representing and playing alongside. Fabio Capello should let them chose who their captain is like a high school team because the drama of high school apparently never goes away.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com. Follow The Soccer Guys on Twitter for all your updates @TheSoccerGuys