Saturday, March 5, 2011

Five Things We Learned From Saturday's EPL Action

1. Manchester United aren't the only team the referees have it in for- Following United's controversial midweek defeat at Chelsea, all the media has been talking about is Martin Atkinson's woeful performance at the Bridge. However, Saturday's action provided a new target for all the media's pent up animosity: Anthony Taylor. Having already wrongly refrained from awarding Arsenal a penalty for a push on Andrei Arshavin, Taylor and the rest of his team incorrectly disallowed a goal for offside, again the victim was Arshavin. Post- match Wenger claimed he was too "disgusted" to talk about the calls, and I doubt that his mood will be helped by the knowledge of Manchester United's similar plight last week.

2. Cup winners need to concentrate- Hark your minds back to 2008, and Tottenham's Carling Cup victory over Chelsea. Having taken over for Martin Jol earlier that season, Juande Ramos was working miracles with his Spurs side, and their victory over The Blues at Wembley was seen as just deserts for a manager who would surely lead Tottenham to even greater triumphs. Fast forward nine months and Ramos was jobless, as a struggling Spurs side sat bottom of the Premiership. Following that cup win, The Lillywhites had struggled to maintain any kind of consistency, and that poor form had carried over into the new season. To make matters worse, Spurs' two best players, Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov, had left for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, leaving the cup winners bare in the striking department. As we all know, Harry Redknapp then took over and led Spurs out of their slump, but one wonders whether a similar managerial miracle worker will even be available to Birmingham. Following their terrific cup win over Arsenal, Birmingham looked lethargic in their loss to West Brom, and Alex Mcleish will know that better will be needed if the team are to stay in the top flight for next season.

3. West Ham aren't going down- As premature as this statement may seem, a review of The Hammers' last two games makes it look quite accurate. Since Thomas Hitzelsperger's return from injury West Ham have been rampant, mauling Burnley in the cup, before claiming three goal wins over both Liverpool and Stoke City. With a fluid midfield trio of Noble, Parker and Hitzelsperger, and Demba Ba seemingly unstoppable upfront, West Ham don't look like a team in danger of relegation. Avram Grant will now know that his team are only a couple wins away from almost certain safety.

4. Players fancy scoring against their old team- How sweet it must be to celebrate a goal against the employers who wronged you, or the fans who booed you. Well, it appears that it was sweet enough to propel both Gary Cahill and Damien Duff to goals on Saturday. Cahill scored twice in a dramatic 3-2 victory over The Villains, and Duff netted his third and fourth of the season against former club Blackburn Rovers. Both players' goals helped their teams to tight victories, making their strikes all the more special. To make matters even better, neither player marred the occasion with the classic "refusal to celebrate."

5. Robert Green isn't the worst keeper in the Premier League- As David Silva wheeled away in celebration having watched his low shot shockingly squeeze through the legs of Bolton keeper Ali Al Hasbi, one man breathed a big sigh of relief. Since his blunder against the USA, Green has been dogged my the memories of Clint Dempsey's equalizer, which squirmed tragically under his hands. Had Green not allowed that shot, England would have gone through on top of their group, setting them up for a routine path to the semis. But it wasn't to be, and ever since Green's howler has been the benchmark for all judging of goalkeeping mistakes. But, happily for Green, he has been replaced at top of the "most useless goalkeeper list" by the unfortunate Al Hasbi who, to be fair, had been superb up until now.

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