Summary of games played w/e 01/05/11
The English Premier League has now moved into the business end and Arsenal really stirred things up at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
With only 4 matches to go Manchester United appeared to be cruising to the title and after Arsenal’s recent run of form, even die hard fans found it hard to see them beating United. But Arsenal upset the barrel by dominating the game and coming away with a one nil victory, in their best performance in many weeks. Comeback kid, Aaron Ramsey scored the decisive goal, after some great work from Robin Van Persie to set him up. Van Persie, for me, was the man of the match. Unfortunately, the win came too late for Arsenal to really benefit themselves, having blown their chances of realistically, although not mathematically, winning the Premiership. Their recent run of 5 draws and a loss from their last 8 league games has consigned them to battling for second, or third place. The win however did give Chelsea a realistic chance of toppling Man Utd and retaining the Premiership title. Chelsea face Man Utd at Old Trafford on Sunday, in game that could decide who wins the title.
Arsenal fans are once again calling for major changes and in many cases Arsene Wenger’s head, after another trophy-less season. I have defended the French coach for a long time, based on his past achievements and his ability to develop young talent. But his loyalty to the players he has acquired and developed, really has cost the club one, or more, of the four trophies that they seriously contested this year. When everyone else could see that Arsenal needed a quality goalkeeper and central defenders at the beginning of the season, he could only bring in Koscielny and Squillaci, who have both come up short of what is required by a club contesting the major titles. Seriously short in Squillaci‘s case. In the January transfer window, when the situation was even worse, with their best defender, Vermaelen possibly out for the season and the second best, Djourou still injury prone, no new blood was brought in. The goalkeeping situation was so bad that a call for help had to go out to retired, 41 year old, former keeper Jens Lehmann. However, let’s face it, Lehmann performed better in the one game he played than Almunia did in many of his.
Up front goals are still proving elusive when really required. Van Persie hit a rich vein of form when he returned from injury, but we all know that he is never fit for a whole season. Chamakh, who started the season well, was told by the coach that he was tired and was finding the pace of the Premiership difficult to cope with. So he believed that and his form dropped off. He has been left to languish on the bench, pretty much since Van Persie’s return. Van Persie definitely needs a strike partner, even though a lot of goals come from the midfield when things are going well.
Talking of that midfield, changes appear to be afoot there too. Fabregas’s long anticipated return to Barcelona seems to now be on the cards, after his recent derogatory comments about the coach in a Spanish paper and his absence from the United game with a mystery “training injury”.
Despite the wealth of talent in the midfield with Nasri, Willshire and Ramsey to name a few, he will be sorely missed. The squad still comes up short in the defensive midfield though, with only Alex Song really able to fulfill that role. How many times did Wenger need to play Denilson in that role to realise that it did not work? Back up for that position will have to be bought in.
As I said, I have defended Wenger for a long time and there has been a lot to appreciate this season. Without a doubt Arsenal play the most attractive football in the Premier League and when it clicks, they are a joy to watch and the goals come in bucket loads. But as soon as there are a few injuries, or the coach decides to rotate the squad, the wheels inevitably fall off. If Wenger can not bring himself to make the required changes in the off season, then it really is time to find someone else to take the helm.
Anyhow, meanwhile back in the rest of the Premier League. Chelsea did their own chances of taking the title a power of good by beating Spurs 2-1. But both of their goals were suspect. Lampard’s shot was completely mishandled by Spurs keeper Gomes, allowing it to slip through his legs, but he did stop the ball before it fully crossed the line. The linesman, who did not appear to be in a good position to see it, decided to award the goal anyway. Saloman Kalou’s decider also looked marginally offside. Tottenham’s own goal came from a magnificent strike by midfielder Sandro from 25 metres out and screamed into the top of the net. Ironically Spur’s coach Harry Redknapp had been trying to tell Sandro to sit back in front of the back four for a few minutes before he scored and finally got the message to him while he was celebrating his goal.
The loss did serious damage to Spurs chances of grabbing fourth place and that vital European Champions League qualifier. Liverpool are even snapping at their heals for fifth. Liverpool beat Newcastle 3-0 in a game that they dominated. “King Kenny” Dalglish has really inspired the club since he came in as caretaker manager and Liverpool seem to have done much better out of the Fernando Torres deal, with replacements Suarez and Carroll making much more valuable contributions than Torres is at Chelsea.
Manchester City improved their chances of securing fourth spot and European football next season by beating struggling West Ham 2-1. Although the Hammers competed well for much of the game, they once again proved they can not maintain the pressure for 90 minutes and look destined for Championship football next season.