Articles by Kevin King

A listing of all the articles written by Kevin King for the RotoWire Blog.

Premier League opening day a bit of a let down

Two scoreless draws, a bunch of bottom-of-the-table teams playing against one another and an absolute dismantling of newly promoted Norwich City by Bolton made for a sleepy first day of the Premier League season.

The drama of Arsenal and Newcastle highlighted the day, and the drama had nothing to do with actual gameplay….a 0-0 draw. Arsenal’s Gervinho, playing in his first game for the Gunners since coming over from Lyon in France, got into an ugly altercation with Newcastle goon Joey Barton. Barton had been stomped on earlier in the game by Arsenal defender Alex Song. This is what the Gunners do though…there’s not a team in the EPL as temperamental and whiny as the Gunners.

The ESPN2 national game was as dull as they come, with Fulham and Aston Villa running what amounted to a 90-minute practice session together. There were maybe two legitimate chances on goal all game, both coming from Fulham.

Queens Park Rangers embarrassed themselves mightily in their Premier League home debut. Bolton, who hadn’t looked sharp in preseason, absolutely thrashed the Rangers, 4-0.

Wolves claimed three points from Blackburn with their 2-1 win. Every point for a team like Wolves is gigantic, and on the other side, Blackburn could be the shock team to be relegated this season. Zero offense, and they may be on the verge of selling-off their best defender, Christopher Samba.

Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw against Sunderland despite a terrific opening day performance from striker Luis Suarez. Suarez looked every bit of the heir apparent to Fernando Torres for the Reds, who conceded a terrific strike to Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson.

Manchester United and Chelsea both take the field on Sunday, with Manchester City closing out festivities on Monday night with an intriguing match against newly-promoted Swansea.

In the English League Championship, West Ham earned their first win of the season after an embarrassing loss to Cardiff in the season opener. A 1-0 win over Doncaster is nothing to be too proud of, and the historic club from East London have found quickly that their path to promotion back into the Premiership is far from a sure bet.

Your Premier League update

With a scattered schedule, and frankly, with my focus on the Super Bowl and Michigan actually having a relevant basketball team this year, I’ve lost focus a little bit on the Premier Leauge. When you wake up at noon on Saturday, that doesn’t help either…that’s kind of like waking up at 7:30 p.m on a Sunday. All the games are over.

I’ve kept an eye on it, and I’m sure most of you know that Liverpool sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea for nearly $80 million at the transfer deadline. Since then, all Chelsea has done is go scoreless in 180 minutes and fallen out of the top four. At Fulham on Monday night, Torres came off the field in the 70th minute to a wonderfully loud "What a waste of money" tune as the two clubs from West London battled to a scoreless draw.

And thanks to Sportscenter, you’ve probably seen Wayne Rooney’s instant legend-making goal against Manchester City on Saturday. A bicycle kick off of a cross from Nani to win the game? That would be like a 99-yard hook-and-lateral to win the AFC Championship game…or something crazy like Edgar Renteria getting World Series-winning hits for two separate teams in his career!

Elsewhere: Arsenal kept pace with Man United as they recovered from their collapse against Newcastle with a 2-0 win over bottom-dwelling Wolves. Spurs jumped past Chelsea into the fourth spot after more heroics from Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar in their 2-1 win at Sunderland.

Bolton claimed a big 2-0 win over Everton on the strength of goals from Gary Cahill and Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge is an interesting story. Chelsea loaned Sturridge to Bolton after signing Torres, and Sturridge has goals in both games that he has played for Bolton since the loan.

West Ham remains in the bottom three, but they earned a gigantic point, coming back from a three-goal deficit to draw West Brom 3-3. Aston Villa settled for a 1-1 draw with Blackpool, Birmingham City gained some breathing room with a 1-0 win over Stoke City, Liverpool struggled to a 1-1 draw with Wigan, Newcastle and Blackburn danced to a scoreless draw.

The top teams are putting space between themselves and the rest of the pack, while it’s just a mess at the bottom of the table.

Best week since the World Cup:
The classic Manchester United vs. City battle on Saturday started off the best week of soccer since the World Cup.  The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 starts Tuesday and there are some juicy match-ups on the docket.  Tottenham head back to the San Siro, where they faced Inter Milan in the group phase.  This time they take on Alexandre Pato and AC Milan on Tuesday.  Wednesday holds what could just as easily be a Champions League Final match-up when Barcelona travel to London to take on Arsenal. 

Here’s your Premier League table as of February 15:

POS   TEAM P W D L F A   W D L F A   W D L F A   GD Pts
1 Manchester United 26 16 9 1 57 25   13 1 0 39 9   3 8 1 18 16   32 57
2 Arsenal 26 16 5 5 56 27   9 1 3 29 12   7 4 2 27 15   29 53
3 Manchester City 27 14 7 6 43 24   8 3 2 21 10   6 4 4 22 14   19 49
4 Tottenham Hotspur 26 13 8 5 37 28   7 5 1 19 10   6 3 4 18 18   9 47
5 Chelsea 26 13 6 7 46 22   8 2 2 24 8   5 4 5 22 14   24 45
6 Liverpool 27 11 6 10 35 32   8 4 2 23 11   3 2 8 12 21   3 39
7 Sunderland 27 9 10 8 33 33   6 5 3 18 14   3 5 5 15 19   0 37
8 Bolton Wanderers 27 9 9 9 38 37   7 5 2 25 17   2 4 7 13 20   1 36
9 Stoke City 26 10 3 13 31 33   7 2 4 19 14   3 1 9 12 19   -2 33
10 Newcastle United 26 8 8 10 40 38   4 5 4 30 19   4 3 6 10 19   2 32
11 Blackburn Rovers 27 9 5 13 34 42   6 4 4 17 11   3 1 9 17 31   -8 32
12 Fulham 27 6 13 8 28 28   5 6 3 17 14   1 7 5 11 14   0 31
13 Everton 26 6 12 8 33 36   4 5 3 19 18   2 7 5 14 18   -3 30
14 Birmingham 25 6 12 7 25 33   4 7 2 13 13   2 5 5 12 20   -8 30
15 Aston Villa 27 7 9 11 31 46   5 5 3 18 15   2 4 8 13 31   -15 30
16 Blackpool 26 8 5 13 39 50   3 3 6 19 23   5 2 7 20 27   -11 29
17 West Bromwich Albion 26 7 6 13 34 51   5 4 4 21 22   2 2 9 13 29   -17 27
18 Wigan Athletic 27 5 12 10 27 45   3 6 5 16 26   2 6 5 11 19   -18 27
19 West Ham United 27 5 10 12 30 48   3 4 6 14 20   2 6 6 16 28   -18 25
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 26 7 3 16 26 45   6 2 5 17 19   1 1 11 9 26   -19 24

 

Premier League Wrap

Ravens vs. Steelers, Pats vs. Jets?  Not bad, but those match-ups don’t come anywhere near the Liverpool/Everton, Aston Villa/Birmingham or Sunderland/Newcastle clashes that the weekend held in the English Premier League.

The top of the table continues to be owned by Manchester.  Both United and City share the lead with 45 points after City survived a scare from Wolverhampton, winning 4-3 on the strength of two goals by the Premier League’s leading scorer, Carlos Tevez.  Sir Alex and his boys were held to a 0-0 draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane.

Chelsea got back on the winning track with a 2-0 win over Blackburn.  The Blues dominated proceedings, but struggled to convert on their multitude of chances.  Arsenal got a brace from Robin Van Persie and helped to bury West Ham even further into the basement with a 3-0 win over the Hammers.

Outside of what can now be called the big five (Spurs being the fifth team in the mix), Bolton dropped a 2-0 decision to Stoke City, allowing Sunderland to widen their lead in sixth place after the Black Cats got a 94th minute equalizer from United States’ nemesis, Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan in their 1-1 draw with their hated rivals from Newcastle.

Liverpool and Everton threw down like heavyweights in their Merseyside Derby.  It’s always, ALWAYS classic when Liverpool and the Toffees battle, and Sunday’s game was no different.  The Reds and Blues drew 2-2 after Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt converted a penalty in the 68th minute. 

Fulham, who have done just enough to keep themselves outside of the bottom three all season, did it again on Sayurday, earning another lazy 1-1 draw with Wigan.  And then there’s Aston Villa, who two years ago were legitimate challengers to the top four.  They remain out of the relegation zone only because of goal-differential after taking one point away from their 1-1 draw with Birmingham City.  Things were much more tame this time around in the Villa/Birmingham game, but the last time the two took the pitch, riot police had to make an appearance post-game.

It’s anybody’s guess: As it stands now, the oddsmakers in England have Manchester City and United as dead-even favorites to win the league, but really, it could be any of the top five.  City struggled to beat Wolves, lost ugly at home to Everton, and they still don’t play with much of an identity.  United are what they are, and they’ll be a factor all the way through the last weekend, but I’d throw a couple bucks on Arsenal to win the league if you forced me to bet.  They have a ton of depth, and they’re only going to get healthier.

And you thought Rafael Soriano’s contract was idiotic: Sunderland are perched to sell English international striker Darren Bent to Aston Villa for a staggering £24 million.  Villa are desperate to stay out of the relegation zone, but Darren Bent is the equivalent of Carmelo Anthony.  He will get his numbers no matter where he plays, but he plays outside of the system.  He’s a freelancer who doesn’t do any one thing great, and tends to be a malcontent if he doesn’t play all 90 minutes, every game. 

Goal of the week: Easy one this week.  Carlos Tevez making it look like AYSO vs. Wolves.  http://www.newstime.co.za/Sport/VIDEO:|UNDER|Tevez|UNDER|Stunner|UNDER|For|UNDER|Man|UNDER|City|UNDER|Versus|UNDER|Wolves/18890/

This is what the table looks like after the weekend’s full slate of games:

  Overall   Home   Away    
POS   TEAM P W D L F A   W D L F A   W D L F A   GD Pts
1 Manchester United 21 12 9 0 43 19   10 1 0 29 7   2 8 0 14 12   24 45
2 Manchester City 23 13 6 4 37 19   7 3 2 18 10   6 3 2 19 9   18 45
3 Arsenal 22 13 4 5 45 22   6 1 3 22 11   7 3 2 23 11   23 43
4 Chelsea 22 11 5 6 38 19   8 2 1 24 7   3 3 5 14 12   19 38
5 Tottenham Hotspur 22 10 7 5 31 25   6 5 1 17 9   4 2 4 14 16   6 37
6 Sunderland 23 8 10 5 26 23   6 5 1 15 8   2 5 4 11 15   3 34
7 Bolton Wanderers 23 7 9 7 34 31   5 5 1 22 13   2 4 6 12 18   3 30
8 Stoke City 22 9 3 10 28 26   6 2 4 16 12   3 1 6 12 14   2 30
9 Newcastle United 22 8 5 9 35 32   4 3 4 25 14   4 2 5 10 18   3 29
10 Blackpool 21 8 4 9 31 36   3 2 3 14 14   5 2 6 17 22   -5 28
11 Blackburn Rovers 23 8 4 11 29 37   5 3 3 15 10   3 1 8 14 27   -8 28
12 Everton 22 5 11 6 25 27   3 4 3 12 13   2 7 3 13 14   -2 26
13 Liverpool 22 7 5 10 27 31   6 3 2 19 10   1 2 8 8 21   -4 26
14 West Bromwich Albion 22 7 4 11 29 41   5 2 4 16 17   2 2 7 13 24   -12 25
15 Fulham 22 4 11 7 23 25   3 5 3 14 14   1 6 4 9 11   -2 23
16 Birmingham 21 4 11 6 21 26   3 6 2 10 11   1 5 4 11 15   -5 23
17 Aston Villa 22 5 7 10 24 39   4 4 3 15 13   1 3 7 9 26   -15 22
18 Wigan Athletic 22 4 10 8 19 34   2 6 4 11 21   2 4 4 8 13   -15 22
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 22 6 3 13 24 38   5 2 4 15 15   1 1 9 9 23   -14 21
20 West Ham United 23 4 8 11 22 41   3 4 5 14 19   1 4 6 8 22   -19 20

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year in the Premier League

Remember in school, the token assignment on the first day back from Christmas vacation was the "what I did on my Christmas break." As much as the assignment stunk, it was a chance to reflect on the crazy going-ons that the holidays can be.

The time around Christmas and boxing day truly is the best time of the year in the Premier League with most teams playing three times in an eight day period. A lot of ground can be gained or lost — so here’s what happened over Christmas break:

No better sound was heard around the Premier League than the 24 hours when Chelsea dropped out of the top four after a dreadful defeat at Arsenal on Monday night. It didn’t last long as the Blues defeated Bolton on Wednesday one day after dropping into fifth place, to get back into the top four, but to hear "fifth place Chelsea?" was music to a lot of ears.

Chelsea briefly fell into fifth because of the impressive run of form that Tottenham experienced over the past week. Spurs beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park on Sunday before quickly turning around and downing Newcastle 2-0 on Tuesday. In both contests, Tottenham was reduced to playing with ten men, after a red card to Jermain Defoe on Sunday and Younes Kaboul on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Arsenal, who were fantastic in a 3-1 win over Chelsea on Monday, fell on their face with a 2-2 draw against lowly Wigan on Wednesday night.

Manchester United held their own in a business-like 2-0 win over Sunderland on Sunday before conceding a late goal to draw Birmingham City 1-1 on Tuesday night.

Manchester City bounced back from a brutal home loss to Everton on December 20th with a 4-0 trouncing of Aston Villa on Tuesday, which followed a 3-1 dumping of Newcastle the day after Christmas.

And now for the sour storylines of the Boxing Day slate. Liverpool, who only played once over this hectic schedule, fell to Wolves 1-0 at home, and stones are being thrown all over Liverpool. Fans and the media are calling for Roy Hodgson’s head, and Fernando Torres looks ready to move back home to a Spanish club in January.

Then there’s Aston Villa, who I’ve glazed over a bit earlier. They lost 2-1 to a ten-man Spurs side before getting demolished 4-0 by Man City.  The Villans are staggeringly just one point ahead of the drop zone as we head into the new year.

As bad as it is for Villa and Liverpool, things are taking off for Blackpool, who soared into eighth place on the strength of a 2-0 win against Sunderland on Tuesday. The Tangerines were the only other team who only had one game scheduled, and with a couple other postponements earlier in the month, they have three games-in-hand on a bunch of teams, and two in-hand against most other teams in the EPL. Manager Ian Holloway can already start clearing off mantle space for that Manager of the Year Award.

Wolverhampton, West Ham and Fulham remain in the bottom three. Wolves, who lost 2-1 to Wigan over the weekend, stay mired in 19th place despite their win over Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday.

How bad is it for West Ham? They took four points out of their two games, a 3-1 win over Fulham and a 1-1 draw with Everton.

And what to make of Fulham, who could be in sell-off mode as January falls upon us. The Cottagers dropped that clunker to West Ham on Boxing Day before earning some redemption with a 2-0 win over Stoke City.

Newcastle have lost that loving feeling after an emotional win over Liverpool on December 11th. The Magpies were dismantled by Man City and Spurs over the holidays, who have fallen within three points of the relegation zone, where they sit tied with West Brom, Everton and Liverpool.

Blackburn gained ground over West Brom on Tuesday with an impressive 3-1 victory over the Baggies on the strength of two goals by Nikola Kalinic.

Silent Night
: On paper, Sunderland have a better strike force than the majority of teams than the Premiership with Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck combining for 17 of the team’s 19 goals this year. But the Black Cats went through the holidays playing 180 minutes without putting a ball in the net.

Too Much Egg Nog: Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli had a memorable holiday campaign, netting the first hat-trick of his Premier League career in a 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa. Balotelli went on to state that he is the second best player in the world, only behind Lionel Messi. He isn’t even the second best player on his team.

New Year’s Resolution: There is not a professional soccer player on the planet who wants it to be 2011 more than Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Leaving his off-the-field issues off the field, Rooney will be looking for a rebirth with the dawn of 2011. It started at the World Cup, and has carried over to his performance. Nobody with a clue would have believed it when you said Rooney would have one goal at Christmas.

Here is your table as we head into 2011:

2010-2011 English Premier League Table
  Overall   Home   Away    
POS   TEAM P W D L F A   W D L F A   W D L F A   GD Pts
1 Manchester United 18 10 8 0 39 17   9 1 0 27 6   1 7 0 12 11   22 38
2 Manchester City 20 11 5 4 32 16   5 3 2 13 7   6 2 2 19 9   16 38
3 Arsenal 19 11 3 5 39 22   6 0 3 22 11   5 3 2 17 11   17 36
4 Chelsea 19 10 4 5 33 15   7 1 1 19 4   3 3 4 14 11   18 34
5 Tottenham Hotspur 19 9 6 4 29 23   5 4 1 16 9   4 2 3 13 14   6 33
6 Bolton Wanderers 20 7 8 5 32 26   5 4 1 21 12   2 4 4 11 14   6 29
7 Sunderland 20 6 9 5 21 22   5 4 1 11 7   1 5 4 10 15   -1 27
8 Blackpool 17 7 4 6 26 29   2 2 2 11 11   5 2 4 15 18   -3 25
9 Blackburn Rovers 20 7 4 9 26 31   4 3 3 12 9   3 1 6 14 22   -5 25
10 Stoke City 19 7 3 9 23 24   4 2 4 12 12   3 1 5 11 12   -1 24
11 Everton 19 4 10 5 21 22   2 4 3 10 12   2 6 2 11 10   -1 22
12 Liverpool 18 6 4 8 21 23   5 2 2 15 7   1 2 6 6 16   -2 22
13 Newcastle United 19 6 4 9 28 31   3 3 4 20 14   3 1 5 8 17   -3 22
14 West Bromwich Albion 19 6 4 9 25 34   4 2 3 12 13   2 2 6 13 21   -9 22
15 Aston Villa 19 5 5 9 20 34   4 4 2 15 12   1 1 7 5 22   -14 20
16 Wigan Athletic 19 4 8 7 17 31   2 5 3 10 19   2 3 4 7 12   -14 20
17 Birmingham 18 3 10 5 18 21   3 5 1 9 7   0 5 4 9 14   -3 19
18 Fulham 19 3 10 6 19 23   2 5 3 11 14   1 5 3 8 9   -4 19
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 19 5 3 11 20 32   4 2 4 14 15   1 1 7 6 17   -12 18
20 West Ham United 20 3 8 9 20 33   2 4 4 12 16   1 4 5 8 17   -13 17

Crazy Weekend in England Hasn’t Ended Yet

Wow.  Where to begin? 

It was a weekend with loads of on-the-field drama, and things off the field were just as intense in what was the craziest weekend so far in the Premier League season….and it’s not over yet, with Manchester United and Arsenal set to battle for the top spot in the Premiership on Monday.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is widely regarded as a clown in the British media, and also to the Newcastle supporters.  In American terms, he could best be likened to a mix between Mark Cuban and Daniel Snyder.  An owner with delusions of grandeur, who runs his club like it’s a video game. 

After a loss last weekend to West Bromwich Albion, Ashley hastily fired Newcastle’s well-respected manager Chris Hughton and the decision caused an uprising…and that’s not and understatement.  The entire week was filled with vitriol for Ashley, coming from fans and media alike.  With that serving as the backdrop, Newcastle were home to face Liverpool on Saturday.

The players and supporters came together as one, creating an inspiring scene as the Magpies thoroughly dominated Liverpool on their way to a 3-1 win.  And while the supporters exploded with every goal, they also let their feelings be known, in no uncertain terms, about how they feel about their owner, as well as new skipper Alan Pardew, singing "Get Out of Our Club" and "We Hate Ashley" (along with other chants that aren’t exactly family friendly).  An incredible scene, and the drama continued after the game when Newcastle’s Joey Barton dedicated the win to ex-boss Chris Hughton.

And then there’s Manchester City, who continue to roll on the field, but cracks are starting to develop on the foundation.  City drubbed West Ham 3-1 on Saturday, with YaYa Toure starring in the show, but Carlos Tevez stole the headlines after the game.  For months now Tevez has voiced his concerns about a loss of passion for the game, and being homesick.  He travels back to his home country any time he gets more than a day or two off from training, and he dropped a bombshell Saturday, telling the media that he has more than once formally requested a transfer away from Man City, and it hasn’t been granted.  He wants out in January…desperately.  His exit, if it happens, could change the entire dynamic of the top half of the table.

Going into Sunday, Tottenham vs. Chelsea was on the marquee, and it lived up to the hype, as the two sides played out a thrilling 1-1 draw.  Didier Drogba equalized in the second half, then had the chance to be the hero with a penalty kick in stoppage time.  Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes stuffed the attempt and the two sides ended up level.

But at the end of the day, Sunday’s headlines (at least on this side of the Atlantic) were stolen by an American when U.S Men’s National team member Stuart Holden blasted home a dramatic winner for Bolton against Blackburn.  Blackburn had just drawn even in the 87th minute before Bolton put together a short string of passes off of the ensuing kick-off to score less than a minute after it looked like they had just had three points ripped out of their grasp.

Elsewhere, Wolverhampton jumped three points clear of bottom-dwelling West Ham with a 1-0 win over Birmingham City.  Aston Villa downed West Brom 2-1, earning three big points of breathing room from the relegation zone.  Blackpool jumped past Stoke in the table with a 1-0 win over the Potters.  Fulham drew 0-0 with Sunderland, as did Everton and Wigan. 

Fire Up the Rumor Mill

The January transfer window opens up in three weeks, and the rumors are flying already.  Harry Redknapp blasted the notion that Tottenham are in for ex-Arsenal striker, and current Man City bench dweller Emmanuel Adebayor.  Staying with Tottenham, it seems a sure bet that midfielder David Bentley and Irish striker Robbie Keane will be out before the window closes.  Man City also appear to set to sell Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz.  Feel free to play this game at home too.  Just mention a player’s name in the same sentence as Manchester City, Real Madrid or Barcelona and VOILA — you’ve made a transfer rumor!

All Eyes on Chelsea

December could very well sink Chelsea’s hopes at another title run, or thrust them back into the spotlight.  Starting with Sunday’s draw at Tottenham, the Blues enter a three week stretch where they take on four of the top six teams in the Premiership (Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Bolton).

After 17 games, this is what your table looks like, keeping in mind Manchester United play Arsenal tomorrow night, and United and Blackpool were snowed out last weekend:

  Overall   Home   Away    
POS   TEAM P W D L F A   W D L F A   W D L F A   GD Pts
1 Arsenal 16 10 2 4 34 18   5 0 3 19 10   5 2 1 15 8   16 32
2 Manchester City 17 9 5 3 24 13   4 3 1 8 5   5 2 2 16 8   11 32
3 Manchester United 15 8 7 0 35 16   7 1 0 24 6   1 6 0 11 10   19 31
4 Chelsea 17 9 4 4 31 12   6 1 1 18 4   3 3 3 13 8   19 31
5 Tottenham Hotspur 17 7 6 4 25 22   4 4 1 14 9   3 2 3 11 13   3 27
6 Bolton Wanderers 17 6 8 3 30 24   4 4 1 19 12   2 4 2 11 12   6 26
7 Sunderland 17 5 9 3 20 18   4 4 0 10 5   1 5 3 10 13   2 24
8 Newcastle United 17 6 4 7 27 26   3 3 3 19 11   3 1 4 8 15   1 22
9 Liverpool 17 6 4 7 21 22   5 2 1 15 6   1 2 6 6 16   -1 22
10 Blackpool 16 6 4 6 24 29   2 2 2 11 11   4 2 4 13 18   -5 22
11 West Bromwich Albion 17 6 4 7 24 29   4 2 2 11 10   2 2 5 13 19   -5 22
12 Stoke City 17 6 3 8 21 22   4 2 3 12 10   2 1 5 9 12   -1 21
13 Blackburn Rovers 17 6 3 8 22 27   4 2 2 11 6   2 1 6 11 21   -5 21
14 Aston Villa 17 5 5 7 19 28   4 4 1 14 10   1 1 6 5 18   -9 20
15 Everton 17 3 9 5 18 20   2 4 3 10 12   1 5 2 8 8   -2 18
16 Birmingham 17 3 9 5 17 20   3 4 1 8 6   0 5 4 9 14   -3 18
17 Fulham 17 2 10 5 16 20   2 5 2 10 11   0 5 3 6 9   -4 16
18 Wigan Athletic 17 3 7 7 13 28   2 4 3 8 17   1 3 4 5 11   -15 16
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 17 4 3 10 18 30   4 2 3 13 13   0 1 7 5 17   -12 15
20 West Ham United 17 2 6 9 15 30   2 3 4 11 15   0 3 5 4 15   -15 12

Premier League Roundup

We’ve seen this movie before with West Ham.  To paraphrase Rick Pitino "Carlos Tevez is not walking through that door" this year though.  After Arsenal seized first place on the strength of two incredible goals by Samir Nasri on Saturday, West Ham grabbed the headlines on Sunday for all the wrong reasons.

The Hammers 1-0 loss to Sunderland on Sunday put them into dead last in the table, a full three points behind Fulham, and Wigan who sit tied at the 18th spot.  Fulham, who have only managed two victories so far this season, stayed in the danger zone after conceding a late winner to Samir Nasri in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Arsenal. 

Up top, Arsenal sits in first place, one point ahead of Manchester United, who were snowed out for their match against Blackpool.  Chelsea struggled once again, drawing with Everton 1-1 on Saturday ahead of next weekend’s showdown with Tottenham at White Hart Lane.  Spurs conceded an 81st minute equalizer to Craig Gardner and were held to a 1-1 draw at Birmingham City.

The middle of the table did not clear up whatsoever, with Bolton losing 1-0 to Manchester City, Blackburn thrashing Wolves 3-0, and Stoke drew 2-2 against Wigan. 

Best performance of the weekend:
Samir Nasri, Arsenal.  Again, Nasri has been so much more than anybody could have expected.  He has outplayed Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott in the midfield.  Nasri has formed a dangerous one-two punch with Andrei Arshavin providing the help, and Nasri supplying all of the class.

What happened to the strikers?:
Of the 15 goals scored in Saturday’s action, only three came off of the foot of strikers.  Dider Drogba, Carlos Tevez and Jermaine Beckford did what they get paid to do, but there was a noticeable absence of strikers getting on the score sheet otherwise.

No consolation for Dempsey: Clint Dempsey is enjoying the most successful year of his Premier League career, and again he made things happen with a gorgeous pass to Diomansy Kamara to set up Fulham’s lone goal on Saturday.  Clint has been brilliant this year, scoring five times, and setting up countless chances for the Cottagers.  He seems to be proving English analyst Jamie Redknapp right when he claimed that Dempsey is the best American player to ever play in the Premier League. 
 
Must see TV: Check out Nasri’s virtuoso performance against Fulham here — http://tinyurl.com/2etcw2o

The table as it stands with Liverpool left to play Aston Villa on Monday night:

  Overall   Home   Away    
POS   TEAM P W D L GS GA   W D L GS GA   W D L GS GA   GD Pts
1 Arsenal 16 10 2 4 34 18   5 0 3 19 10   5 2 1 15 8   16 32
2 Manchester United 15 8 7 0 35 16   7 1 0 24 6   1 6 0 11 10   19 31
3 Chelsea 16 9 3 4 30 11   6 1 1 18 4   3 2 3 12 7   19 30
4 Manchester City 16 8 5 3 21 12   4 3 1 8 5   4 2 2 13 7   9 29
5 Tottenham Hotspur 16 7 5 4 24 21   4 3 1 13 8   3 2 3 11 13   3 26
6 Bolton Wanderers 16 5 8 3 28 23   3 4 1 17 11   2 4 2 11 12   5 23
7 Sunderland 16 5 8 3 20 18   4 4 0 10 5   1 4 3 10 13   2 23
8 West Bromwich Albion 16 6 4 6 23 27   4 2 2 11 10   2 2 4 12 17   -4 22
9 Stoke City 16 6 3 7 21 21   4 2 2 12 9   2 1 5 9 12   0 21
10 Blackburn Rovers 16 6 3 7 21 25   4 2 2 11 6   2 1 5 10 19   -4 21
11 Newcastle United 16 5 4 7 24 25   2 3 3 16 10   3 1 4 8 15   -1 19
12 Liverpool 15 5 4 6 17 19   4 2 1 12 6   1 2 5 5 13   -2 19
13 Blackpool 15 5 4 6 23 29   2 2 2 11 11   3 2 4 12 18   -6 19
14 Birmingham 16 3 9 4 17 19   3 4 1 8 6   0 5 3 9 13   -2 18
15 Everton 16 3 8 5 18 20   2 3 3 10 12   1 5 2 8 8   -2 17
16 Aston Villa 15 4 5 6 17 24   3 4 1 12 9   1 1 5 5 15   -7 17
17 Fulham 16 2 9 5 16 20   2 4 2 10 11   0 5 3 6 9   -4 15
18 Wigan Athletic 16 3 6 7 13 28   2 4 3 8 17   1 2 4 5 11   -15 15
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 16 3 3 10 17 30   3 2 3 12 13   0 1 7 5 17   -13 12
20 West Ham United 16 2 6 8 14 27   2 3 3 10 12   0 3 5 4 15   -13 12

Premier League Wrap

Putting together my Premier League fantasy preview in August, I needed to come up with a sleeper pick at forward.  As a Spurs supporter, I have felt the agony and the ecstasy that is Dimitar Berbatov.  Last year it was almost all agony with Berbatov for Manchester United supporters.  But there hasn’t been a player in the history of Spurs who has provided more transcendent moments of brilliance than Berba, and I have always maintained faith that the Bulgarian superstar is one of the most talented players on the planet.

So I picked Berbatov as my sleeper pick, and after watching one of the most sublime performances by a striker in the history of Manchester United on Saturday, I patted myself on the back just a bit.  He tallied five goals against a Blackburn Rovers side that doesn’t give up a lot of goals as United won 7-2 on Saturday.  Berba leads the Premier League with 11 goals.

And the Red Devils jumped two points clear of Chelsea at the top of the table after the boys from Stamford Bridge we hell to a 1-1 draw with Newcastle on Sunday afternoon.  Arsenal’s 4-2 win over Aston Villa in the first game of the weekend slate gave the Gunners 29 points, putting them even with the Blues on the table.

Manchester City stayed in fourth position, but threw away two points in the process when they conceded a stoppage time equalizer to Stoke City’s Matthew Etherington.  Tottenham capped off a dream week with a 2-1 comeback win over Liverpool at White Hart Lane, with Aaron Lennon’s brilliant effort in the 92nd minute sealing three huge points for Spurs.

Bolton continues to fight, and are becoming the darlings of the Premier League in 2010-11.  Following the theme of the weekend, they earned a dramatic 2-2 draw with Blackpool on the strength of a late goal by Mark Davies, who only found himself in the lineup because American Stuart Holden was sidelined with a thigh injury.

The middle of the table stayed bunched up thanks to Sunderland’s 3-2 loss to Wolves, Newcastle’s draw, and Liverpool’s loss.  Blackpool won’t go away either, as the Tangerines stand tied for eighth place with 19 points. 

The bottom of the table holds all of the suspense as we enter December.  West Ham dwell on the bottom of the table, with Wolves and Wigan slightly ahead of the East Londoners.  It’s the three names treading water ahead of the relegation zone that are huge surprises. 

After a disgraceful 4-1 loss to West Brom on Saturday, Everton find themselves just two points from the drop zone, while Clint Dempsey’s Fulham side only have one point of breathing room separating themselves from the bottom three. 

Aston Villa may be the biggest stunner of all however, as their post-Martin O’Neill nightmare continues.  The Villans fell to Arsneal, and stand within three points of the bottom three.  Any relegation talk is extremely premature before March, but it still raises an eyebrow to look over the table and see those three names, Aston Villa, Fulham and Everton flirting with the drop zone.

  • Man of the Week: Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester United.  Safe to say that the Man U faithful now have fully embraced their number nine.  Get yourself over to YouTube and check out some Berba videos.  IBerba plays a different style than Ronaldo or Messi, but he does things that nobody else on the planet can do with the ball.
  • Turn the Page: Tim Howard, Everton.  Ouch.  It’s been pretty tough, and Saturday’s 4-1 loss to West Brom is definitely rock bottom, which is never a good place to be…but it’s an even worse place to be when you have a very, very cranky Chelsea team on the schedule next. 
  • Dreamland: Tottenham. In eight days, Spurs have earned comeback wins over Arsenal and Liverpool, while finding time to dismantle Werder Bremen 3-0 to advance to the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League.  Michael Dawson returned to full training and the club was given the green light to proceed with plans for a 56,000 seat stadium where White Hart Lane currently stands.