Sports

EPL Weekend Recap: Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Everton and More

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Yuuup (tm) ... Yakubu, yes, that Yakubu scored four goals Saturday for Blackburn Rovers in a 4-2 win over Swansea City. That's one of those great sports photos that tells the entire story, as the Swansea players are seemingly in as much shock as everyone else on planet Earth. Alternately, the standing still, jaw dropped, eyebrows raised defense probably (stress probably) isn't the best way to go about business.

Fortunately for Swansea, allowing four goals to Yakubu -- who amazingly is only 29 years old -- isn't an instant Willy Wonka Golden Ticket back to the Championship.

It was that kind of weekend.

Whistling Dixie:

Is soccer the sport most affected by the whims of the referee's whistle? American football, at least you have replay. Baseball? There's so many calls over the course of a season the umpires mistakes only make up a tiny fraction of them. Basketball? It's close since calling fouls tends to be a major judgement call.

Saturday a major talking point in England was Mike Dean (him again) failing to send off Chelsea's David Luiz early in the Blues' eventual 3-0 win against Newcastle United. All Luiz did was bust out a WWF-style bulldog on Demba Ba when he was the final defender in front of Petr Cech's goal right on the edge of the penalty area.

Alan Pardew said Dean didn't send off Luiz because he was unsure Ba had control of the ball. Umm, okay ...

Would Newcastle have found a way to win with Chelsea pinned back to 10 men? Who knows. The decision to allow Luiz to stay on the pitch certainly played a role in the match, but it didn't mean the Mapgies couldn't defend Didier Drogba (yeah, him) went he leap in the air and smacked a powerful header past Tim Krul.

It's just interesting to contrast to Tottenham's 3-0 win later in the day over hapless Bolton when Stuart Atwell sent off Gary Cahill for a tackle on Scott Parker basically two steps inside the halfway line with Spurs already ahead 1-0.

Do referees wield far too much arbitrary power in matches? It seems like every weekend in the EPL there's at least one flashpoint via the refs where they make a bad call that directly effects the game.

What's the alternative? Replay? Robots?

While we're talking about these teams, Chelsea finally kept a clean sheet so that's a positive, right? Let's not talk about all of Daniel Sturridge's wasted chances. Instead maybe let's focus on how good a player Juan Mata appears to be on a weekly basis.

The bubble might have finally burst on Newcastle's balloon. Fabrico Colocinni limped off with an injury and later Steven Taylor had to leave with what turned out to be a ruptured Achilles. He'll likely done for the season. Chieck Tiote remains on the sidelines with a nagging injury, too. Maybe the Magpies make a move for Cahill now in January. Could happen. The alternate is James Perch who was among the worst Premier League players who saw constant minutes last season.

Spurs registered their team-best 11th straight game without a loss in the league. Tottenham is rolling and seems like the only team in England that is playing consistently well at the moment, which is strange. They even got a goal from the widely inconsistent and mostly wasteful Aaron Lennon.

Nice tribute by Gareth Bale after his goal to take off his shoe in honor of fallen compatriot Gary Speed.

Also, a great game in goal by Bolton's bearded veteran and king of the untypeable characters in his name, Jussi Jääskeläinen put together a tremendous display at White Hart Lane to keep the game respectable for Owen Coyle's sinking bunch.

Mr. Mediocre:

A thought dawned on me trying to stake awake during Manchester United's thoroughly forgettable 1-0 win over Aston Villa -- is Stephen Warnock the most average, mediocre player in the Premier League at the moment.

This isn't meant to disparage Warnock, far from it.

Believe it or not, this is supposed to come off as a compliment.

Warnock doesn't play for England internationally. He doesn't win trophies (minus some winner's medals with Liverpool early in his career). All he really does is turn up week-in, week-out, do his job, put in a solid 90 minutes. There's no flair or memorable moments or even the occasional golazo out of nowhere.

Warnock is what he is, which is somewhat commendable these days where in any walk of life the working man seemed to be less-and-less appreciated.

Any other guys that fall into this category?

Pure, class:

This video might be deleted by the time I publish, but I submit the majesty that is Emile Heskey. The guy has taken (maybe an unfair) beating during his career. Either way, behold this piece of beauty.
 


Change of Pace:

It's hard to gauge what goes into Fox Soccer's mind when it picks which Premier League games to show live every weekend. On the one hand it wants to show one of the "marquee" teams, regardless of the opponent. Makes sense. People in America want to see the big teams more than games that look to be potentially interesting on paper.

Saturday FSC and FSC Plus ended up with a pair of duds, with Manchester City cruising by Norwich City 4-1 and Arsenal crunching Wigan 4-0. Both games saw the favorites score early, sucking any potential late drama away from the proceedings. Hey, it happens.

Facing this situation Saturday I opted to dust off GolTV and enjoyed the second half of Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchagladbach's 1-1 draw, in a game that was a meeting of teams No. 1 and No. 2 (at the time) in the Bundesliga.

There's just something about the Bundesliga. It's always entertaining. Maybe it's all chalked up to the fact Germany has great, fan-friendly stadiums with the fans standing and singing the entire match.

It's a shame GolTV looks like it's being broadcast on my old local public access channel, with the sound fluctuating on an entirely different audio range than any other channel on my system. Still, a game broadcast -- solo -- by Phil Schoen is a pleasure.

The game ended up a 1-1 draw, but it was nice to just watch a game and enjoy it for what it was, despite the absence of Gladbach's rising German star Marco Reus.

And it didn't hurt that Manchester United's on-loan Norwegian strike Joshua King was wearing an Oakland Raiders snapback cap in the crowd.

Around the League:

Chicharito is now out for a couple weeks, too, with ankle ligament injuries. Rio Ferndinand limped off for United, too. He deserves the mockery usually reserved for Robin van Persie with his frailty. ... Shay Given got hurt as well, meaning Brad Guzan got to play in his second ever Premier League match for Aston Villa. ... Arsenal cruised by Wigan 4-0 in a game that was for diehards only. Robin van Persie made sure to get on the scoresheet, late. ... Stoke City won 1-0 at Everton with an early Robert Huth goal standing up. Everton brought on that guy they bought from Argentina with a name too long for me to even attempt to type. Fact is, he looks a lot like Carlos Tevez sans burn marks. ... Wolves vs. Sunderland was a totally forgettable match for about 75 minutes on Sunday morning, then Seb Larsson drew a phantom penalty -- missed -- and Stephen Fletcher scored a goal on the other end immediately and later the winner in the final 10 minutes after a no-call on a handball. Bottom line it was better entertainment, if ever brief, than the NFL pregame shows. ... Oh and apparently Mario Balotelli scored a goal with his shoulder. Never change, bro.

Fantasy Team O' the Week:

Couple big scores this week (so far) including a league-high 91 for Mark Chamber's Nott Real FC. Robin van Persie, Gareth Bale and Phil Jones lead the way for him.