EPL Weekend Review: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and More

John Terry will be 31 in December. I'll be the same age in November. Somehow it feels like Terry is double, maybe triple my age. Guess years of sleeping with teammates wives/girlfriends, having a terrible haircut, drinking, racial abuse and being a general scumbag will do that do you.

Thirty-one isn't old -- or that's what I keep telling myself -- but Terry, sheesh, he's on like Rolling Stones, smoking meth, hepatitis C time.

At least for ol' Mr. Lionheart there was a girl, no older than 13, at Stamford Bridge with a homemade sign reading, "John Terry: Leader, Lion, Legend," or something to that effect. Not sure why anyone would take the time to craft should a sign considering if you waited outside the grounds of Terry to autograph it, he'd probably rather spit on it than take the 1.3 seconds to scribble his name on it.

Long story short, Terry is such a jerk he's one of the rare cases in sports where you feel good when he fails.

Terry's odious off-field persona was challenging enough. Now on the field, he's almost sad to watch. Not that I felt any sympathy for him after he fell over allowing Robin van Persie to stroll in for an easy goal in the second half of Arsenal's surreal 5-3 win over Cheslea at Stamford Bridge. (Granted, it was an AWFUL pass by Flourent Malouda that triggered the chain of events.)

It's hard to believe shambles Chelsea's once-proud defense currently sits. Terry looks old, slow and prone to controversy. Petr Cech seems to be regressing back too his Euro 2008 form, which is scary to anyone waving the Blue Flag. Branislav Ivanovic only looks useful via headers on set pieces. Jose Bosingwa doesn't really want to defend from the right back spot. David Luiz, even with Andre Villas-Boas in charge, isn't a regular starter for whatever reason. (Anyone got an answer here?)

Granted, 2005 was (in sports time) ancient history, so much so that it might have been played in black-and-white (or possibly sepia tones), but for a long time Chelsea was known for its defense and its invincibility at Stamford Bridge. Don't forget, Jose Mourinho's two title winning sides were accused of being boring -- even if that's a silly argument in the first place. The team sat back, absorbed pressure, beat you up physically and hoped to launch a ball that Arjen Robben or Damien Duff could make something happen on the flanks, or work something with Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. (Carlo Ancelotti's title-winners weren't exactly free-flowing attack-first either, were they?)

And that seems to be the Catch-22 scenario for Chelsea in the eyes of owner Roman Abramovich. Every time the camera flashes to the Russian billionaire it has the air of a detached Roman emperor inside his dais at the Coliseum. Winning is nice, yeah, but it needs to come with panache. With the Blues playing a high defensive line and outside backs who just want to attack, things like what transpired Saturday vs. Arsenal can happen.

Can every team expose Chelsea like the Gunners? No.

Chelsea have only kept one clean sheet -- opening day at Stoke. Aside from a 3-1 loss to Manchester United, Saturday's game was the only time the Blues had given up more than one goal.

Still, however you slice it, things at Stamford Bridge are a far cry from the days of pre-head gear Cech, Terry, William Gallas. Ricardo Carvalho and Claude Makelele sitting in front of them.

It's a different Chelsea, but even in spite of Saturday it doesn't mean the team is any less dangerous ... just not a team, as it transitions and tries to carve yet another new identity, which can probably win a League title this season.

Some sort of Dutch Oven pun:

Couple things to address via Arsenal's side of things.

1. Did Robin van Persie channel his inner 1930s fascist with a goal salute? The Dutchman certainly did make, let's say, an eye-opening salute that looked like something from the Paulo Di Canio playbook.

All I'll say, in van Persie's defense, now granted this isn't exactly a great logic and might be something Terry would use to deflect a criticism, but he did grow up in a multi-ethnic area in Rotterdam, playing soccer in these "cages" with the children of immigrants. Secondly, he's married to a Moroccan woman and has a son named Shaqueel.

So if anything, van Perise is like a lot of professional soccer players -- an idiot with bad judgement.

2. Again, not to toot my own horn since I'm mostly wrong about stuff, but back in August my thought on Arsenal was that van Persie had it in him to carry the club with his goals. He's at something like 27 goals in 27 EPL games in 2011, which is impressive however you slice it.

Gunners fans, though, must worry if another inspirational performance is paving the way for the club captain to leave in the mold of Cesc Fabregas.

It's helped that Gervinho has readily adapted to English soccer and Aaron Ramsey is on the brink of a major breakthrough. (I'll hold off on the Theo Walcott love-fest. Yes, he played well on Saturday, but at this point in his career -- regardless of how young he still is -- shouldn't stuff like that be expected, instead of acting like it's a total surprise when he actually contributes?)

Arsenal's defense, let's remember, still gave up three goals and 99 times out of 100, when you do that on the road you lose.

As long as van Persie stays healthy -- he's probably due for at least one injury-free season, right? -- Arsenal will be a dangerous team, albeit one with major flaws. Van Persie is simply that good, good enough to turn the slightest opening or misstep into a goal.

Lucky Seven:

If Arsenal is, indeed, "back" and if Newcastle United is for "real," then we can say there's a pretty serious separation from the top seven clubs and the rest of the league. Logic would say the Magpies won't be able to stick around in the penthouse all year, so it should be an fun four-way dance between Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool for the final two Champions League spots.

A quick word on Tottenham, which beat QPR 3-1 in the lone game on Sunday.

Last year I postulated that Charlie Adam would be an excellent fit for the Spurs midfield, since he's a consistent week-in, week-out presence ... even with his oft erratic passing. Tottenham's high-wire act (which was surprisingly weak offensively in the second half of last season) needed a calming presence.

Instead of Adam, they got the anti-Adam in Scott Parker, in the fact Parker wears a collar, seems polite and might have good table manners. Parkers has seamlessly meshed with Luka Mordic in the middle, doing a little bit of everything, allowing Rafeal van der Vaart to do his "Dutch" things, in essence Parker quickly became the rug in the Dude's room tying everything together.

Although Parker seems altogether too polite and cultured to smoke weed and listen to Creedence tapes. (Thus completes by bi-annual Lebowski reference quota.)

Also, (sssh) Boom, Boom, lemme hear you say Bale, Baaaaaaaaale.

Around the League:

Turns out, if only for a week, Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez can play together for Liverpool. Against recent form, the Reds scored twice in the first half at West Brom and didn't cough it up. An early penalty drawn by Suarez and converted by Charlie Adam made sure of that. Roy Hodgson didn't rub his face, thereby greatly disappointing me. Jerk. ... Norwich City and Blackburn are the only two clubs without a clean sheet, so no surprise their game ended 3-3. Blackburn will be mad for giving up a deflected goal and a penalty in the final 10 minutes. ... Tried watching Aston Villa and Sunderland. It ended 2-2 at the Stadium of Light. Both these teams are just so grim, nothing seems to come easy for them. It's all such a grind. All the shaved heads on Villa maybe just make it feel that way. Sunderland did get a goal from alleged wunderkind Connor Wickham, though. ... Not usual to dump Manchester United into the "notes" section, but considering the game was played super early Saturday morning for (I think) an Internet-only audience, we'll leave it at that. Chicharito scored a vintage Chicharito goal -- letting it hit him in the foot -- and David de Gea made a few nice saves as Everton as hit the post. ... Manchester City took care of Wolves in the second half as Wayne Hennessey gifted Edin Dzeko a goal. Vincent Kompany did get sent off. ... Clint Dempsey scored a really easy goal in Fulham's 2-0 win at Wigan, that Wigan almost turned into a 1-1 draw with a nice second half assault. Post saved Fulham, allowing Moussa Dembele to score the clincher.

Question of the Week:

Twitter user Chiperskee, asked me if Bolton being relegated would be good for Stuart Holden? In short, no. For one, Holden is probably going to end up missing somewhere in the range of 12-15 months. If Bolton does get relegated, does it keep Owen Coyle, who basically personally recruited Holden to England? And would a team take a chance on a guy -- as good as he was in 2010-11 -- is coming off such a long time on the sidelines?

(Want to toss in that Swansea is looking pretty spry. Leon Britton completed something like 75+ passes without a mistake vs. Bolton. There's something fresh with the Swans, compared to the staleness that's set-in across the bottom clubs in the league, a la Bolton, Wigan, etc.)

Fantasy Team O' the Week:

Paul McCabe's "McCabe's Pride" put up 85 points, even with two players contributing zeros. Van Persie, van der Vaart, Juan Mata, Luis Enrique and Luis Suarez were the big points guys here.

One Other Thing:

This might be Internet heresy, but Serie A isn't such a dirty word anymore. Maybe a lot of people at home in America like to handwave the offerings from Italy on Fox Soccer, but you're selling yourself short. Yeah, yeah, yeah there was the weekend when the 20 clubs combined for about three goals, but hear me out.

This year six clubs are within five points of first, with Juventus, Udinese (Antonio di Natale always worth watching), Lazio and AC Milan all two points apart. Don't forget about a fun Napoli team as well as an intriguing Roma team if it ever figures out how to use all its parts, plus Inter Milan, languishing in 17th, still have Maicon and Wesley Sneijder.

More than that, with Juventus' new home arena, there's actually some sold-out, loud atmosphere at games. The players might be aging, but it's not as bad as people would have you believe. True, some of also ran teams like Lecce or Siena are imminently forgettable, but so be it.

If all else fails, where are you going to see saucy female fans ripping cigarettes at halftime?

Ask yourself this too, would you diss Serie A to Michael Bradley's face?


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