Sunday, November 1, 2009

EPL Review: Red Mist, Red Cards, Rafa's Red or Dead, and False Dawns

It was a red letter day in Week 11 of the Premiership in more ways than one.

For a start, there were more red cards dished out in one weekend than ever before, Rafa and Liverpool were well beaten at Fulham, while Spurs learned what life is really like at the top.

There were a couple of big stories this weekend, the most notable being the Reds succumbing to defeat at Craven Cottage which, in turn, rendered their only victory in October, against Manchester United, almost meaningless.

Their tilt at the title is all over...

Any Liverpool fan who is still trying to convince themselves that the Reds will challenge are deluding themselves.

To win the league they would have to go the rest of the season unbeaten, and after losing for the 5th time in 11 games, that is just not going to happen, while Rafa seems even now to be concentrating on the European Champions League.

For their part, Liverpool contributed two players to this week's red card frenzy in the 3-1 defeat. Both players were deservedly sent off, although Jamie Carragher will most likely appeal his decision.

It would be wrong not to mention Fulham. They seem to be returning to their European chasing form of last year and are a difficult proposition for anyone to beat at Craven Cottage.

Manchester United returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Big Sam's Blackburn Rovers. Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney both combined to put United back in behind leaders Chelsea who put four past Bolton for the second time in less than one week.

The 4-0 win means that Chelsea have now scored 17 without reply in their last four games. Florent and the Machine are back in business.

The ominous cloud on the horizon for Arsenal and United is that Chelsea's appeal will most likely allow them to recruit new players in January.

And while we're talking about Chelsea and January, I wouldn't be surprised to see them win every game in the month, despite them losing at least four players to the African Nations Cup.

Hull (a), Sunderland (h), Birmingham (h), and Burnley (a) are not exactly who their rivals want them to be playing minus some very important players.

Two of those teams met on Saturday in a real 24-pointer, never mind a six-pointer. Hull made the journey to Burnley and Phil Brown's men came away with their tail between their leags, a 2-0 defeat, a man sent off, and a manager who doesn't have the dignity to step down when all around him is falling apart.

There were a number of 2-2 draws as Wolves and Stoke fought it out in the Staffardshire derby, and then Sunderland were surprisingly held to the same scoreline by West Ham on Wearside. Andy Reid scored a sublime free kick but it wasn't enough for Giovani Trappatoni to call him up.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the way Portsmouth took Wigan to the cleaners with a 4-0 win thanks to a hat-trick from Dindane...Dong.

Anyone who has seen Pompey play lately know that a result like this was coming, they hammered both Spurs and Everton but ended up without full points from either game and Paul Hart's team now have an outside chance of survival. Very outside.

Everton and Villa played out a lifeless 1-1 draw, with Russian winger Bilyaletdinov scoring and then getting sent off for the Toffees.

It was a weekend for draws, and Birmingham and Manchester City played out a 0-0 thanks to a penalty save by Shay Given. It was only the fourth 0-0 this season from almost 110 games.

Spurs made their way to the Emirates for the 162nd North London derby. All week Robbie Keane and Harry Redknapp were available for comment to anyone who would listen, talking up their teams chances while putting Arsenal down.

Silly talk in the run up to the biggest North London Derby in years.

With the two teams sitting in 3rd and 4th, this one game would speak volumes of how their respective seasons would go.

Arsenal won 3-0.

For the Gunners it was a big win. Not because they beat their rivals, but because they ground it out and played with a level of professionalism not seen in an Arsenal team in some time.

For Spurs it was a crash down to earth. The White Hart Lane faithful are used to false dawns so you would have thought they would have been more guarded against their teams comments in the run up to the game.

Make no mistake about it, Spurs have progressed rapidly under Harry Redknapp, but not as fast as some have made out.

They possess a team that can expose almost every team, outside the top four.

It was a harsh lesson learned. Only time will tell if it was learned well.

10 Statements after EPL GameDay 11.

1) Phil Brown should do the right thing and resign. Three wins from 31 tells the true story of Hull's demise.

2) Rafa will come under severe pressure over the next week. And Liverpool fans could be singing The Gunpowder Plot next week. "Remember, remember the 5th of November." It could be the day Rafa goes.

3) Spurs have progressed, 4th after 11 games is good, but it means nothing at this stage of the season.

4) Pompey are becoming hard to beat, but an injury to David James could cure that.

5) Manchester United need a central midfielder to partner Fletcher.

6) Ex-Liverpool pro's are beginning to call for Rafa's head.

7) Arsenal are now viable challengers, but the best I can see them doing is 2nd, and only if United don't buy big in January.

8) Marlon King is an misogynistic idiot. Dave Whelan was right.

9) Lorik Cana is very very good.

10) Expect a bidding war to erupt over Matthew Upson. He's available for at around £10m to £15m and the likes of United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Spurs are all interested.

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