Greetings, Internets. The gleeful mockery of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal will be put on pause for today's post-o-rama.
Instead, we'll talk about the events in the Premier League, a strange weekend lacking anything from the Top Five. Chelse, Spurs and Arsenal (league-wise) didn't play, while Manchester United and Manchester City tried to out-snooze each other.
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Manchester United 4, Wigan 0 .. about as predictable as this league gets. All that was missing for a slow-motion shot of Sir Alex Ferguson putting on his glasses and the strains of Roger Daltrey screaming, "Yeeeeeeeeeeah."
This was by the book, paint-by-numbers stuff, like a bad CBS crime procedural in the fact you always knew United were going to win 90 minutes later.
You want to go crazy about Wayne Rooney's early elbow on James McCarthy?
Is it any surprise the league's most marquee star -- even if he's a noted hothead -- gets a free pass from the refs? Add another one to the Manchester United conspiracy theories and move on. McCarthy probably hurt his cause by not going to ground and pretending like he'd just been shot.
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WWCD -- What would Cristiano do?
It's abundantly clear referee Mark Clattenburg caved to Rooney, Sir Alex Ferguson and United. That's sports, though, refs are always going to be biased or give certain teams and players the star treatment. Nobody likes it, but it's the reality of the situation.
Karma, remember, doesn't forget these type of things. If you could bet on Rooney breaking his metatarsal again before the end of the season, it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.
My more relevant question from this otherwise forgettable match is this: Will Nani be the favorite to win the Player of the Year award(s) at the end of the season? You wouldn't think he's been the best player in the Prem. It doesn't feel right.
Then you look at the numbers, first that United are atop on the table and on track to win the league, coupled with his nine goals scored and 13 goals created, which accounts for nearly a full third of the Red Devils scoring output.
For all his errant dribbling, wild shots and failure to pass to teammates (on occasion when the mood strikes him) Nani has consistently been United' best offensive player, making up for Rooney's early struggles with form and Dimitar Berbatov's form, which fluctuates with the severity of the Earth's supposed climate changes. The only other United player would could challenge Nani for team MVP honors is Nemanja Vidic and we know defenders don't get the accolades from writers, do they?
Long story short, if Nani doesn't win Player of the Year, who then? Samir Nasri? Carlos Tevez? Rafael van der Vaart? If he stays healthy and keeps up his goal-scoring rate Robin van Persie?
Nani might get all the POY -- players', writers' and fans' -- by default.
Top of the Tofs, Table Choas:
Due to a deal I made with a co-worker at the end of 2010, I ended up having to work in the office Saturday night. Good times, let me tell you. The Internet on a Saturday tends to suck, Twitter is slow, only your less-cool friends are posting on Facebook. The main news/entertainment sites don't tend to update. Anyway, I clicked on some soccer site and had to do one of those comical eye rubs to see if what I saw was correct:
Everton in the top half of the Premier League table?
Yep, there they were. Los Tofs in 10th place by virtue of Saturday's nice-and-tidy 2-0 win at Goodison Park over Sunderland. A brace from neck-tat aficionado Jermaine Beckford was enough.
Even more impressive for Everton, they scored two goals without Tim Cahill on the field.
Everton's quick rise is a bit of a smokescreen. The table doesn't lie and in May for all the struggles, David Moyes would sign off for 10th. The thing is, take those bottom 10 teams, or place them in a hopper like the old board game "Trouble." There's no way to know how it all shakes out.
Blackpool looked great on Tuesday, beating Tottenham 3-1. Come Saturday the Tangerines, without Charlie Adam, were eviscerated 4-0 at Wolves, which appear ready to put up a real relegation fight. Same thing for West Ham, which looked spry in a 3-1 win over Liverpool at Upton Park. So spry Avram Grant might have smiled for roughly 0.0021 seconds.
Unlike previous seasons there isn't a clear-cut, automatic relegation candidate, meaning the trapdoor to the Championship will basically turn out to be musical chairs between 10-odd clubs. It's unlikely, too, that a team such as Wigan will avoid the drop simply by being slightly less awful than three other teams. It's going to take teams winning games, not just here or there, but sustained no-sucking to stay in the top flight in England. Hell, Carling Cup winners Birmingham are now only two points above relegation, but do have two games in hand.
West Ham and Wolves with players like Scott Parker, Jamie O'Hara and Kevin Doyle in form all of a sudden seem spry, while teams like Wigan and West Brom look on life support. Everton, if you look at the table seems safe. It sounds nice, 10th place, but Everton is a mere five points from relegation.
This will change weekly.
Bored to Death:
Aside from a nice goal from Mario Balotelli in the first half, Roberto Mancini's Manchester City tried to out-boring its August/September form. All that needs to be said, with Fulham pulled equal at 1-1 on a Damien Duff goal, Mancini brought on the calcifying body of Patrick Vieira. Smart.
The less said of this match, the better. Suffice to say Edin Dzeko hasn't hit the ground running against English opponents. Fortunately, Clint Dempsey continues to throw his body on the line every 90 minutes for the Cottagers.
At least we got a little spark at the end of the match when Mark Hughes blew off Roberto Mancini's handshake, pointing to his eyeball as he walked to the tunnel. It was pretty awesome. These two won't be exchanging Christmas cards any time soon.
One other thought, what to make of Balotelli. He's certainly a fascinating player, a combination of Dennis Rodman (craziness), Cristiano Ronaldo (skill/immaturity), Kevin Garnett (chip on shoulder) and Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno character (fashion sense). Throw in his Jackie Robinson-like story about life as a black/African Italian and breaking into the Azzurri national team set-up and there isn't anyone on the globe quite like Balotelli.
He could either end up on a list for the world's best, or in the police blotter for punching his teammates all in the face.
Cynically, at least the unpredictable emotional, melodramatic rollercoaster of Balotelli gives City some sort of personality outside their usual sky blue blandness.
Dumb and Dumber:
So... Ashley Cole shot a Chelsea intern in the leg with an air rifle.
Sounds about right. Is it any surprise a spoiled, renowned jerk like Cole would pull something like this, intentional or not?
One thing we tend to forget in America, since we barely ever hear these Premier League talk outside of brief postgame interviews is how disturbingly unintelligent most of them seem to be. You wouldn't think of it, since he's English, white, captain of England and all that jazz, but John Terry might be the dumbest (or at least sleaziest) pro athlete around. His brain seems to only be able to operate the following functions: playing soccer, playing video games, driving a car, sleeping with teammates girlfriends and crying.
I've railed a lot about how the American soccer system, which includes high school, sometimes college doesn't help develop elite level players. On the other side, it doesn't produce complete intellectual morons, either.
Fair trade off?
Upside of Cole's stupidity, coupled with the Fernando Torres signing Chelsea are back to being patently unlikeable. So there's that, at least.
Around the League:
Four goals in four games for Daniel Sturridge at Bolton. Mostly a forgettable 1-1 draw between Newcastle and Bolton Saturday. The Magpies got a goal from Kevin Nolan and finished the match with 10 men. ... Blackburn might be the least-watchable team in the Premier League. Another yellow card for Jermaine Jones. ... Jean Makoun was suspended for Aston Villa, and Michael Bradley still never saw the field. Panic! Villa, since adding Darren Bent and some sort of a consistent lineup do look much better. Stewart Downing playing much better as of late. Ashley Young scored twice, including his first goal from open play in quite some time. ... Speaking of MVPs, if West Ham survive, you could make an argument Scott Parker has been as valuable as anyone to his club during the season since for long stretches he was the only Hammer that wasn't a complete failure. Nice toe-poke goal to beat Pepe Reina, too.
Tuesday Night Football:
* Chelsea v. Manchester United -- (Live, FSC, 2:30 p.m.) Another midweek gem in the seemingly endless string of weekday games.
As odd as it sounds, this is probably a more important game for a team not participating -- Arsenal. If the Gunners are going to have a chance to win the Prem title, it'll be this week with United playing at Chelsea and Liverpool back-to-back. Will a win by the Blues make up for Arsenal's failure in the Carling Cup, no, but it'll open the door for Arsene Wenger's team to make up a four-point gap.
This will be a pretty good test for the much-maligned Torres, at Chelsea, since he seems to own United defender Nemanja Vidic. Without a healthy Rio Ferdinand, a front line of Torres and Didier Drogba would be tough for United to stop. That said, Nic Anelka seems to be Carlo Ancelotti's automatic choice to start for Chelsea.
United, you don't know what you're going to get from either Rooney or Berbatov, which is probably the key to this game since the midfields on both teams likely won't push the tempo, with tackles ruling the day. Expect a lot of fouls and a lot of set piece chances for both teams.
There are probably two ways this goes. This week the buzzards in the press are circling above Stamford Bridge, saying that the core of the Blues -- Drogba, Lampard, Terry and Cole -- are all too old and that their time is through. Maybe they rally and show they're not quite dead yet. The other option is United, as they've done all season, continue their smoke-and-mirrors campaign and find a way to pull out a result.
Oh right, there's also the likely option of a draw. United will likely keep the oars in, knowing a point on the road here won't kill them and keeps the pressure on Arsenal. If United do score, figure it to be late in the first half. ... Chelsea 1, Manchester United 1
Fantasy Team O' the Week:
Friend of the blog, Luke Sebastian's Paddy's Pub takes top honors with 77 points this week thanks to 22 from Rooney, 18 from Ashley Young and a lot of balance everywhere else.
One Other Thing:
The best comedy you've never heard about -- "Trailer Park Boys" -- is now on the NetFlix "watch instantly" list. All seven seasons of the show are available. Can't recommend it highly enough. First season is a slower burn, though it's only six episodes. You won't be able to stop by season two or three.
There are a few reasons, which become abundantly clear early on, why this Canadian gem hasn't become a bigger hit across the border.