Sports

Premier League Weekend Review: Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and More

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This will all, probably, make sense by the time its over. Maybe.

A quick confession, first. Your humble (and ruggedly handsome) author of this little blog-o-rama doesn't read all that much about sports these days. On the surface, how does that make sense? You basically can't click anywhere on the Internet without sports opinion -- or slideshows -- smashing you in the face.

At the same time, as evidenced by the two weeks of hoopla spent hyping up the Super Bowl, after a while you run out of things to say -- unless it's a second quarter dunk in a regular season NBA game, then we can all talk about it for days since its that important. . It all ends a big pile of dross, in one ear out the other. Desperately important, yet instantly forgettable.

My novel, stress novel, approach to sports the last couple years is ... are you sitting down? Watching the games themselves and then forming my own opinions. Crazy, right? Sure I never suited up in the NFL or have ever been to England to even watch a Premier League match in person, yet in the world we live in, the role of analysts is marginalized. Granted there's a lot of screaming and bickering on all forms of social media, which can end up nothing more than a virtual shouting match on the schoolyard playground -- or making fun of Madonna's halftime performance. Either or.

Still, as you guys all probably know, there's nothing quite like watching a big sporting event with everybody chiming in instantly on Twitter, which is usually a meritocracy ... unless you're a famous comedian when everything you write gets mindlessly retweeted. Maybe it's not the best way to form opinions because of the knee-jerk, instantaneously aspect. Still it's a lot more satifisying in a world where a "common" man's opinion can be just as valid -- or wrong -- as some ex-jock in a suit on ESPN spouting the same cliches we've all heard a thousand times.

Or you can be Piers Morgan and somehow parlay your tiresome, self-promoting act into hosting various gigs on American television -- including FOX's Premier League coverage.

But I digress.

That rambling preamble was, in a way, supposed to justify why I have very little to offer or add to Manchester United's famous 3-3 comeback draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. If you watched the game, you saw it.

Do we need to regurgitate the John Terry is the world's biggest piece of shit/has the world's worst haircut angle, again? (Wayne Rooney attempting the 'thick' mohawk look might put even Terry's Supercuts inspired look to shame.)

If anything, this again reiterated the Charles Bronson-like steely determination exhibited by Manchester United. If City is going to wrest the title from them, it'll be after a 20-minute 357 Magum shootout and or whip fight. Love or hate United, coming back from 3-0 down on the road is damn impressive, granted the whistles of Howard Webb had a lot to do with it. Wait, a big showcase game in soccer tinged by the decisions of a referee? I never.

Grinding out a draw leaves United only two points off Manchester City for first, so in theory the Red Devils still control their own destiny since a win vs. City would push them in front, should the two keep the pace with each other until their game in April.

It's coincidental, isn't it, how Arsenal's comeback in the second half vs. Aston Villa was aided by penalties, including one set up by Darren Bent -- a striker -- taking down Laurent Koscielny -- a defender. Sunday at Stamford Bridge it was Daniel Sturridge -- one, if not the only, Chelsea guy I don't dislike -- pushing over Patrice Evra.

Conspiracy theorists are going to go gaga over United scoring four consecutive goals from the penalty spot, I get that. At the same time, no evil and nefarious force controlled by Sir Alex Ferguson was keeping Gary Cahill or David Luiz(*) from marking Chicharito on the game-tying goal, was there?

(*) I'm starting a dance move called "The Luiz." It involves running into the nearest person, trying to juke them and then falling over. In practice, not much different than my personal dance moves already.

These games, from a media standpoint, you have to frame as did United comeback or Chelsea blow it? Probably some of both, though that's certainly an atrocious job by the Blues. It's easy to say if Chelsea had Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole that "veteran" leadership would have seen them through, although they probably missed Ramires in the middle of the field more than anything.

Or you could blame Fail-nando Torres for taking an extra touch and not getting a fourth goal for the Blues.

From one maligned Spaniard, to another, it was a bit of a day of redemption for David De Gea. Sure he let in three goals -- including a thump by Juan 'M83' Mata -- but his full-extension save in stoppage time to deny his countryman from a free kick was probably the save of the season.

All-in-all, one hell of an entertaining game.

But you already knew that, didn't you?

Horrible Morning:

I often question my sanity. Often. Never more than getting up after a night of drinking on four hours sleep on a Saturday to watch the Premier League early kickoff on ESPN2. The irony, at the bar I actually had a conversation with a friend about Albert Einstein's definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Regardless, usually "Sir" Ian Darke and Steve McManaman are the perfect cure for the Miller Lite, err, some fancy craft beer blues, but Macca was absence since his wife gave birth. That mean waking up, with Arsenal already up 1-0 on Blackburn and me staring at my bedroom ceiling hating life in general ... which is pretty much a standard morning, but whatever.

Arsenal did give up an equalizer on a sick free kick by Morten Gamst Pedersen, but it didn't matter. Robin van Persie notched another hat trick and the game ended 7-1, snapping the Gunners four-game league winless streak. Newsflash, that van Persie fellow is pretty good.

Of note here, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seems poised to enter the English media hype cycle. Are the journos fighting each other with knives over who can pen the first AOC for Euro 2012 article? Or have those already been written? 

Something tells me, should Blackburn, Wigan, Wolves or Bolton get relegated, few will mourn their depature.

Ice Station Impossible:

Soccer needs more games in the snow. Even if it was (red-hot) Sunderland at Stoke City, it was absolutely glorious to watch. Less so for Manchester City's boring 3-0 win over Fulham later in the day.

Have to admit it's a bummer Clint Dempsey didn't score at the Etihad and celebrated with a snow angel. 

It's Real:

Newcastle United are now the smartest run team in England. The only rational explanation for this is that future Mike Ashley found a discarded sports almanac in the trash and used a souped up Delorean to give it to his current-day self.

Even with Chelsea's result, the Mapgies are only a point off fourth place. With 24 out of 38 matches played, it can no longer be called a fluke.

Sunday Newcastle handled Aston Villa without Yoann Cabaye and Chiek Tiote in the midfield, with Danny Guthrie picking up the slack. The all-Senegal strikeforce scored with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse -- with an absolute cracker -- returning from aplomb from the African Cup of Nations.

We've all expected Alan Pardew's club to backslide, yet as we speak this morning both Arsenal and Liverpool need to leapfrog the Magpies if they want a slice of that Champions League C.R.E.A.M.

Around the League:

Poor Tim Howard, a bad deflection and ensuing English caused him to let in a howler vs. Wigan. Wigan couldn't hold on and drew 1-1, condemning Roberto Martinez's team to the foot of the table. ... Wolves got three massive points, coming back from 1-0 to win at QPR in a match that saw Djibril Cisse sent off for trying to put Roger Johnson in the Million Dollar Dream. ... Norwich City and Swansea City are now 9th and 10th in the table and seem safe enough with so many other crummy teams below them. Personally, just happy to have Gyfli Sigurdsson in the mix again. ...

Fantasy Team O' the week:

Big scoring week, especially if you got 46 points for captaining van Persie. Top marks go to Brendan McGuire's 'Shooting for Row Z' with 95 points, mainly to RvP, Kun Aguero and a savvy 11 points from Sunderland's in-form winger James McLean.

One Other Thing:

English soccer players truly had me in stiches during the Super Bowl for stuff like this ...

What a bad start Patriots....fouls galore....
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) February 5, 2012

Then again, considering I broke my own pledge not to use Twitter late night after drinking on Friday/Saturday maybe I shouldn't be having a laugh at Rio.If you happened to see those -- frankly -- pathetic dispatches, my apologies.

If not, pretend you never read that last paragraph.

Enjoy Liverpool/Spurs.