Sports

EPL Weekend Breakdown: Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and More

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We're back after the (welcome) international break, so let's take a couple quick hits around the world before settling back in for the long haul leading up to Christmas.

* This topic will be explored at length at a future date, but if you were starting a Premier League team from scratch tomorrow, who would be your first pick? In the past, that answer was pretty easy since you'd likely opt for a two-way, hard-charging midfielder in the Cesc Fabregas/Steven Gerrard mold, or go with the chalk pick of Wayne Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Nowadays, it's not necessarily so clear cut.

If you had to pick the best player in the EPL at the moment, most would probably opt for Manchester City midfielder David Silva or maybe an in-form Robin van Persie. As skilled as both of these attackers are, would you make them your No. 1 pick? You'd have to do a lot of filling in around them, ie defensive enforcers in order to let them do their thing.

It's something to ponder since fewer teams are playing a straight 4-4-2 where you needed that true, two-way midfield warrior in the center of the field. More-and-more Premier League teams seem to be defined by speedy hybrid wing/attack players, which also -- as written at length on the Web -- means the death knell for the classic English two-man strike tandem.

Curious, basically, if you guys had that No. 1 pick to build a team who would you take?

* Only the self-loathing England fans could bemoan a 1-0 win over Spain, since stylistically it wasn't very pleasing.

* If you're going to bet on Germany to win Euro 2012, do it fast because the odds are dwindling by the day. Right now the Germans are 5-to-1, basically right at Spain 4-to-1. Don't love any of the the other longshots, either. Maybe, don't laugh, England at 10-to-1.

* Felt like it was necessary to throw in one or two thoughts on the USMNT via there loss to France and 3-2 win over Slovenia, without overreacting to either result.

Let's just say the U.S. defense needs a lot of work and nobody's spot should be safe. Carlos Bocanegra has about zero pace now, what will it be in three years? You can't expect Tim Howard to stand on his head every match.

Fabian Johnson looked good and (buzzword alert) composed on the ball. Yes, it's my cynical nature, but I'm not going to go gaga over one game for a player. If there's one thing as U.S. fans were guilty of, it's overrating players off one game. Let's see how it all shakes out.

Considering there doesn't seem to be a lot of overflowing talent in the U.S. ranks -- across the globe in fact -- this team might have to continue to grind to get results like the Bob Bradley era. If this is ever going to change, Jurgen Klinsmann is going to have to make good on his seemingly mythical plan to overhaul the U.S. youth development program.

* Finally, what is there to say about Sepp Blatter. The FIFA boss is a jackass in the truest sense of the word. His latest gaffe via his solution to solve on-field racist abuse between players -- a postgame handshake -- is so beyond dumb even George W. Bush is laughing at it. Seriously. Could you possibly be a bigger fool?

Then again, you may have to lay off Sepp just a little bit. Your mind would be warped, too, if you'd attention as many "Eyes Wide Shut" style parties as he probably has in his life.

Saturday:

* Norwich City v. Arsenal -- (Live, 7:45 a.m., ESPN2) Be honest, Gooners, you're just a little bit worried about Grant Holt throwing his burly gut into Laurent Koscielny, running him over and scoring a late winner. Or Leon Barnett sliding in studs up on Aaron Ramsey. Never change, Gooners, never change. ... Norwich City 1, Arsenal 2

* Sunderland v. Fulham -- This is among the most nondescript games we're going to see this season. Sunderland aren't very good at home, Fulham still have troubles on the road. Neither side seems to have a lot of "juice" this year. ... Sunderland 1, Fulham 0

* West Brom v. Bolton --Aboslutely no idea what to make here. West Brom isn't very good, but neither is Bolton. How's that for crackerjack analysis! ... West Brom 1, Bolton 1

* Wigan Athletic v. Blackburn Rovers -- I'll try note to make a joke here because I like Roberto Martinez. I can make a case for Blackburn at least being frisky because they have a knack for scoring goals -- even in losses. Wigan? There's just not that much there anymore. Wonder if both sides in the Charles N'Zogbia deal to Villa would like to do a do-over? ... Wigan 1, Blackburn 2

* Manchester City v. Newcastle United -- (Live, FSC, 10 a.m.) We wait and we wait, sometimes, for a match that is actually intriguing. This one is it. City, as we know, are very talented and barring an asteroid landing on their training ground, are in prime position to win the league. Newcastle United might be good. We really don't know if the Magpies undefeated start is a mirage or the work and planning of Alan Pardew paying off. If you doubt Newcastle, it's mainly down to the fact the defense -- Fabrico Colocinni, Ryan Taylor -- are the same as last season and they're really nothing special. A team like City could and should expose them. That said, even if Newcastle do lose this match, it's doubtful the club implodes since they seem to be on the same page and have an actual leader in Yohan Cabaye. Really looking forward to this one, shame I have to work right about the time it kicks off. ... Manchester City 1, Newcastle United 0

* Everton v. Wolves -- (Live, Fox Soccer Plus, 10 a.m.) It's too early to call this a "must win" but if you're Everton ... you have to win this game. ... Everton 2, Wolves 0

* Stoke City v. QPR -- Bloom is off that Stoke City, rose, eh? Guess if it's any consolation, England's win over Spain was labeled "Stoke-esque," naturally it wasn't a compliment. Stoke are Stoke. The Potters will finish between 8-13th and go about its business. Nothing less. Nothing more. Granted, he never would have co-existed with Tony Pulis, but Joey Barton is the type of player Stoke have lacked since coming up to the top flight in England. Stoke still lacks that creative midfield spark, which sometimes holds them back to their one-dimensional, bludgeoning routine. Think we'll see some goals here. ... Stoke City 3, QPR 2

* Swansea City v. Manchester United -- (Live, FSC, 12:30 p.m.) Now it's time to see if all this Swansea is Welsh Barcelona is real, because as we know Barca ran circles around United last time the teams played. A lot of this game probably goes down to how motivated Sir Alex gets United. Are they ready to run around and chase the Swans possession game? We can assume Swansea won't be ready to bow down and kiss the ring, right? In the end the hodge podge in the middle of Anderson/Michael Carrick/Darren Fletcher can do enough in the middle. It might work against Swansea, probably not against Barcelona. ... Swansea City 1, Manchester United 2

Sunday:

* Chelsea v. Liverpool -- (Live, FSC, 11 a.m./replayed before or after NFL on FOX) For once I'm not totally turned off by this match before it even kicks off, and that's not just because I can make who's a bigger racist -- John Terry or Luis Suarez jokes all game on Twitter. (It's Terry, by the way.)

These are two teams with plenty of talent on the books, but it's talent that doesn't seem 100 percent assured of itself as both sides are still working in a lot of new players.

If there's something to watch -- which I'm sure FSC's newest commentator Piers Morgan (really?) will tell you -- Chelsea don't play defense any more, while Liverpool have these weird games where they have about a million chances but can't score. Oh right, there's the whole cross-pollanation between the teams with Fernando Torres and Raul Mereirles moving from Anfield to Stamford Bridge in the last six months.

However this result breaks, it shouldn't be cataclysmic for either side. Chelsea probably aren't good enough to win the League anyway, while Liverpool should hang around the Top Four for a Champions League place regardless. This is more about hanging one on a team that you hate. ... Chelsea 2, Liverpool 1

Monday:

* Tottenham v. Aston Villa -- (Live, ESPN3.com so we can watch Colin Cowherd instead, 3 p.m.) No Rafa? No Arry? No worry for Spurs? Guess Emmanuel Adebayor takes the sting away from selling off Darren Bent all these years ago. Another one of those games with a lot of crossover on both rosters (Kyle Walker, Jermaine Jenas, Alan Hutton, Brad Freidel, Bent). Spurs are due a clunker, but probably not here. Odd Villa stat, they've drawn four of their five away matches, yet have conceded nine goals in those games. ... Spurs 3, Aston Villa 1

Last round: 7-3 Season: 59-50