Monday, 27 December 2010

Premier League Review - Boxing Day 2010

Only two matches were cancelled today, one involving Blackpool who have now missed three matches since the 'cold-snap/arctic freeze/snow' started. I for one hope Ian Holloway got some under-soil heating for Christmas. We had the first of the two London derbies, a couple of impressive goals and not one draw among them (so far).

ARSENAL 3 - 1 CHELSEA (Monday)
As much as the win, Mr Wenger will like the fact his players didn't get bullied. Both teams started well and it was hard to guess who would win as the play went from both ends. John Terry was his normal boisterous self, barging and pulling Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott respectively. Most of Arsenal's play went the right hand side and Walcott was giving Cashley, sorry Ashley Cole a run for his money. Most of Chelsea's attacks seemed to be the long ball. Arsenal's first real chance was in the 41st minute when Samir Nasri had a nice shot, which Petr Cech did well to send over the bar.

A good team goal gave the home side their goal, involving Nasri, Jack Wilshere and Fabregas before Alex Song scored his sixth goal of the season. Arsenal came out keen to hold their lead in the second half and took the game to Chelsea. Fabregas scored the second and Walcott the third after Florent Malouda had lost the ball in the centre of the park, just three minutes later.
Ivanovic scored the away teams only goal on 56 minutes. Instead of being nervous, Arsenal were committed and resilient while Chelsea were barely at the races.

STAR MAN: Johan Djourou - Showed again that he is worthy of a spot in the starting line-up.
*Special mention for Theo Walcott, who was too lively for the boys from The Kings Road.

Gerard Houllier's starting 11 was questionable with Fabian Delph starting after eight months out. Understandably he has a young team due to injuries but you would've expected him to start with Sylvan Petrov or Nigel Reo-Coker just to give the team some experience. They continue to look lapse at periods when they require concentration and it will be interesting to see what Houllier does come the New Year.

Defensively the home team were somewhat lacklustre and this played straight into Spurs hands. If it wasn't for Brad Friedel the deficit would've been bigger as the visitors had 23 shots, 12 of those on target. Jermain Defoe was sent off with a straight red after a supposed deliberate elbow on James Collins. Mark Albrighton scored eight minutes from time with what appeared to be a cross-come-shot.

Houllier has work to do and desperately needs some experience within his squad. There are a few people who look like they are not sure what they are meant to be doing. And well, Spurs might as well just keep doing what they are doing.

STAR MAN: Luka Modric - The pass to Alan Hutton for the first goal was something special.

Blackburn didn't look good, they looked lethargic and their defensive positioning at times was erratic, not something you would say of a Sam team and this is clearly not his team anymore. The Chris Samba situation needs sorting immediately as they seriously lack something without him.

Although they both had four shots Stoke always looked the team to come out likely winners. Their side had a greater cohesion about them and a stable team clearly works in the Potters favour. Matthew Etherington was involved in the majority of Stoke's attacking work and it was his corner that led to Robert Huth's header. Their second was scored by Marc Wilson, his first for the club. This win took Tony Pulis' men to 8th in the table.

STAR MAN: Matthew Etherington - Was involved in everything.



Peter Odemwingie returned in place of Marc Fortune. Both teams started brightly with West Brom having a few early chances. Odemwingie rushed a shot when he had time for another touch and Somen Tcoyi took a chance when he should have looked around for his team mates. Matt Taylor scored his first goal of the season to give the Trotters the lead after Chung Yung-Lee squared the ball to him from the goalline.

Odemwingie saw another chance go just wide of the post and Johan Elmander's bicycle kick fly over the bar. The latter set up Ivan Klasnic for the Croatian to score his ninth goal of the season. Overall the teams were equal in terms but Bolton's superior league experience got them the win. At the Christmas point of the season, both teams should be happy with their performances and league positions.

STAR MAN: Matt Taylor - Good goal and experienced display.



West Ham were better than normal but Fulham were pretty bad. Devoid of ideas and they need the missing Bobby Zamora like Laurel needs Hardy. Although they opened the scoring with Aaron Hughes' first league goal since August 2004, they just never really got going. They didn't make the chances to increase their lead while West Ham took theirs. The Hammers drew level after Carlton Cole's poacher before Frederic Piqionne came in at the far post to double the lead just on the stroke of half-team.

The visitors came out after the break full of confidence and Fulham never really looked like scoring. There was a fair bit of build up play but no end product. Andy Johnson is coming back from a long lay-off and even though he got himself into great positions, he still hasn't found his goalscoring touch. With the news Zamora is out until Feb, Mark Hughes will be looking for options come next month. A proven Premier League scorer like Robbie Keane on loan may not be a bad deal for the Welshmen to consider.

Cole wrapped up the match on 73 minutes with another goal to collect his first brace in the Premier League. Although they won, I don't see the pressure lifting off Avram Grant just yet.

STAR MAN: Carlton Cole - Worked hard and put himself in good positions, hopefully he can kick off from here.

Manchester United are only the 7th team to reach Christmas unbeaten and only one of those have failed to win the title. It looks like they are finding their form at the turn of the year, as always. The scoreline flattered Sunderland as it could've been much more in the first-half along, but Craig Gordon was in inspired form with Michael Turner, Titus Bramble and John Mensah all out.

Wayne Rooney was in hard-working form, playing deep and linking well with Dimitar Berbatov up front. He set up the Bulgarians first goal while Ryan Giggs' corner set up the second. United look a lot better than they did last month but it will be interesting to see where they sit come the end of the holiday period as they have Birmingham City, West Brom and Stoke City left to play.

STAR MAN: Ryan Giggs - These days he's a quiet little puppet master.

Note to Newcastle; you want might start playing from the first minute, then you wouldn't find yourself 2-0 inside the first five. Admittedly they weren't bad but by the time they woke the match was already lost. Gareth Barry got the first after a Tim Krul error. Minutes later he home team had doubled their lead with a Carlos Tevez goal, this time after some good link up play with James Milner.

Newcastle had their chances with a couple of Andy Carroll headers, one forcing a save from Joe Hart. He finally got the result his hard work deserved when he scored from a corner with 20 minutes left. Hart was seen giving his defense grief after the goal and it's good to see a back four being run by the goalkeeper. City had a little too much for last years Championship champions and Tevez grabbed his second ten minutes later.

It never looked like Newcastle were going to win but they will have less potent visitors than City. Manchester United were given a far too easy start to the match but they will be happy with the three points to take them second.

STAR MAN: Carlos Tevez - I have no idea if he wants to leave but he's still giving his all to the City cause. Surely that's what he's paid to do.
*And a special mention must go to Andy Carroll who ran the line very well for his team.

Another loss for Mick Mac and the boys, taking the total to four home defeats and four defeats in their last six games. Things do not look good for the boys in black and gold and they need to pick points up as they swap places with West Ham at the bottom of the table. They had chances to score but again they couldn't convert them. Steven Fletcher got the consolation, nine minutes from time.

Wigan's win takes them out of the bottom three and again showed they arse so desperate to keep Hugo Rodallega come the January Transfer window. The Colombian midfielder scored one and set the other up for Manchester United loanee, Tom Cleverley. I would say congrats to Mick Mac on his 500th league game as a manager, but I doubt he'll be celebrating much.

STAR MAN: Hugo Rodallega - Another good attacking performance. Hold on tight, Roberto Martinez.

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