My predictions about Chelsea come to pass, Liverpool slip further away from fourth spot, and Man Utd win convincingly. What a weekend.
Top of the Table
I predicted a draw between Chelsea and City, and if it wasn’t for that Shay Given character, I’d be celebrating another accurate prediction this week.
A Frank Lampard missed penalty is about as rare as a Bobby Zamora goal, which in turn is probably just a bit more rare than a Mrs. Redknapp 40-yard screamer. Let’s just say it doesn’t happen very often.
Anyhow, a Chelsea loss is good news for me too because my general prediction for Chelsea, and I’m really going out on a limb here, is that they will NOT be champions.
Back to the game itself, Chelsea just weren’t playing well enough to have deserved that draw, even though City seemed intent on gifting it to them in the last half hour or so. Their lack of experience started to show and they gave away possession far too cheaply.
Nevertheless, City were the better team for most of the game. All Chelsea could muster was an Emmanuel Adebayor own goal, and a penalty which they won during that 30 minute period when City were trying desperately to prove their consistency by getting a draw.
Even then, Chelsea lost. Now we’ll see if they really have what it takes to be champions, and personally, I think they’ll come up short.
Player of the Week
Nigel de Jong was an absolute beast in midfield against Chelsea, cutting out the supply chain to Chelsea’s destructive front two of Drogba and Anelka. Deco for one didn’t seem to enjoy playing against the tough-tackling Dutchman; and just as we saw in their games against United in the Charity Shield and the recent match in Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s midfield diamond can be over-run if the playmaker behind the front-two is marked out of the game. Perhaps the more industrious Joe Cole would have done better against de Jong.
It’s funny how for all their big name signings, the less glamourous trio of de Jong, Shay Given and Gareth Barry seem the most useful now. But seeing as their defence is causing them the most headaches, de Jong’s selfless work in front of the back four was what made the difference in this game.
Goal of the Week
The were quite a few scorchers this week, but Daron Gibson’s thunderous drive has to be the best. After Giggs had played an intelligent one-two with Rooney out left on the halfway line, he charged forward and laid the ball off to Gibson whose shot was so fierce the camera barely followed the ball into the back of the net.
But special mention must go to James Milner’s sublime lob against Hull City. Hull keeper Matt Duke had rushed out needlessly to the left of his penalty area to clear a ball out to touch. But Steve Sidwell, who was warming up on that sideline, quickly grabbed another ball and shoved it into Gabriel Agbonlahor’s hands. Gabby immediately tossed the ball to Milner, who still had a lot to do to lob the Hull back four from his position wide on the right, before Duke could rush back to goal, but he certainly made it look easy, volleying up and into the back of the net.
A player not even on the pitch having a part in the setting up the goal – now THAT’s what you call a team goal.
It’s hard to trust a goalkeeper…
… when he falls on his butt after trying a summersault celebration. Tomasz Kuszczak’s place in the side was only starting to look steady after two decent performances, but he then threw away all that hard work by attempting one of Peter Schmeichel’s famous front summersault celebrations – and ended up sprawled on the pitch after an undignified landing on his bum. The only consolation was that his team had just scored against West Ham.
Goalkeepers need to be calm, and exuding confidence to deliver in what is probably the most high-pressure position on the pitch. It’d be a bit hard to inspire that kind of confidence when an entire stadium full of people, and millions around the world, have watched you make a complete @$$ out of yourself, right?
You’d imagine Ben Foster to be having the biggest laugh out of everyone watching…
The Rafa Conundrum
I’ve said before that I believe Rafa Benitez should stay on in Liverpool. He’s had a horror season; but after the miracles he’s done at the club, and the way he’s brought out the best in Torres and Gerrard, he’s obviously the right guy to rebuild the team next season. Forget about this season – just save up, buy one or two more world-class players, and Liverpool will be back to their best next year.
But it seems like Rafa is just begging to be sacked now. Another draw against Blackburn, and another limp performance. It’s like he’s not even trying anymore, and that can not bode well for Liverpool. The last thing the players need now is to think that their manager doesn’t mind losing. They’ve already seen him shrug at goals, now they have to bear with his emotionless, passionless post-match interviews where he keeps insisting everything will be fine, no matter how many games they lose or draw. Saying it enough won’t make it come true Rafa…
Maybe he’s tired. Maybe he’s throwing in the towel. Maybe he doesn’t wanna quit because if he forces the club into sacking him, he’ll get a huge pay day proportionate to the remainder of his recently signed 5-year deal. That would be typical of the man, actually…