Football Round-Up (EPL Week 14)

Another two games down, another two wins. But the problems persist.

West Ham, riding high enough in the table, were never going to go over easy, and it was lucky enough that RVP bagged the early goal. West Ham defended very well for the rest of the game, severely limiting United’s attacking options, with Rooney looking like an especially frustrated figure. The defence held well enough, but it was later on in the week that they would be shown up. United were just a shade too good for the Hammers to get something off of, but another day it could be a very different story.

The Reading game was something else though. With Lindegaard and his back four flapping about under the crosses that were raining in, it could easily have been a disastrous game. Evans, Ferdinand and the keeper all had especially terrible matches, with Smalling’s introduction helping to stem the tide a little bit. Rafael’s withdrawal was an overly-harsh decision for a player who has been in good form recently and was hardly the worst defender on the pitch. His booking was for an innocuous foul (his second, the first being an utter dive by the Reading player) so hardly a sign of a player who had lost his temper. His substitution over others must have been a humiliating moment, one that Ferguson should have refrained from.

Anderson has also been in good form, and was running the show before his injury, with Phil Jones unable to really make the same impact when he came on. Reading’s own defence, truly dreadful in their lack of positioning intelligence and calm tackles, made scoring goals easy in the first half hour, and it really could have been six or more. Easy to see why they are stuck in the relegation zone.

4-3 up, it seemed like United and Reading committed to improving their defensive prowess over their attack in the second half, resulting in a somewhat dour final 60 minutes or so. Better than the shoot-out they were having before that I guess.

The last Champions League game during the week, a dead rubber, before Manchester City away. The champions aren’t in the absolute richest vein of form for their part, dropping points to a determined Everton at the weekend, but will fancy their chances of putting the punishment on their cross town rivals, with United’s defence in the bits that it is. The return of Vidic, still lacking match practice, is unlikely to really help matters to a noticeable extent.

What else? Arsene Wenger must be straying dangerously close to the edge after the weekend, giving up two late goals at home to Swansea. Great for the away team and the impressive Michu, but Arsenal? They weren’t exactly stingy during the summer but things haven’t gone according to plan. RVP’s absence is obvious, and the replacements aren’t cutting it. I actually think the writing has been on the wall for Wenger and his era since that 8-2 drubbing last year. RVP’s form delayed the inevitable, but the Gunners problems are being exposed frequently nowadays.

And Rafa Benitez’ start for Chelsea has taken a dip, with West Ham well worth their 3-1 win in the London derby. One goal scored, two points won, in three games. Torres is back to his form of last season it seems, and the Chelsea team just looks somewhat shell shocked with the way things have gone in the last few weeks. Now lagging behind the Manchester clubs it isn’t clear if they can effect a sufficient recovery before it is too late. There is so much talent in that team that they should be capable of playing well under Benitez, so maybe they just need some time to gel under him. It would have been better if Di Matteo was never sacked in the first place, but that’s football for you.

Spurs continue to win, though Gareth Bale being injured could well be a decisive blow to any aspirations they have of breaking into the top four. Liverpool are righting the ship, slowly, but are still mired well down the table. Sunderland are staring into the void at the moment, and Martin O’Neill will be gone in a short while I would imagine.

A gap has already opened up in the Premier League. United are ten points clear of third, and City are seven. This is not an unexpected turn of events, though maybe the early nature of it might be. It would seem, barring an unlikely string of results, that this will be confirmed as a two horse race by Christmas.

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