Friday, 30 March 2012

Week 26-30: Premier League Tops and Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Month

It has been a while since my last Picks blog and a lot has happened since! So, here are the summary, picks of the best and worst, stats and facts of the last month/5 match weeks of Premier League action:

Top facts:

- 120 goals scored = average of 2.45 goals per game.

- 18 different score lines on the board, top 5 of those were 1:0 (9 times), 1:1 (7 times), 2:1 (5 times), 2:0 (5 times) and 3:0 (4 times).

- There have only been three games without any bookings, QPR 3:2 Liverpool, Fulham 0:3 Swansea and Manchester City 2:0 Bolton.

Top games: These games showed why you should NEVER leave the ground or switch over onto another channel before the final whistle:

Terry Connor (foreground) with Alan Pardew (background)- Newcastle 2:2 Wolves: Succeeding Mick McCarthy was not an easy job anyway. Being down 2-0 at half-time heaped the more pressure on Terry Connor which he mastered brilliantly. His first half-time team talk as Wolves manager worked wonders and saw his side come back on the pitch rejuvinated, dominating possession and eventually pulling two goals and a point back from Newcastle. It was a crucial point gained for the visitors in battle to get out of the relegation, but two points dropped for the home side with their eyes on the top four.

Tomas Rosicky- Arsenal 5:2 Tottenham: With just over ten minutes to go in the first half, Tottenham were on top. 2-0 up, dominating possession, they looked to be on course for the first back-to-back league wins at the home of their arch-rivals for 86 years. Everyone, including Arsenal fans and tweeters, were lambasting Arsene Wenger, his tactics, his lack in big signings, senior players, etc. However, it was Harry Redknapp who ended up being the humiliated manager after seeing the Gunners showing great resilience and character with some breathtaking football, thrashing his side 5-2.

Robin van Persie celebrates scoring Arsenal's equaliser- Liverpool 1:2 Arsenal: As so many times this season, Liverpool looked the team on top enjoying most of the possession and chances. It looked just a matter of time, when not if, Liverpool would certainly score and take the lead. In the end, they had missed 16 chances, including a penalty, only getting one on the scoreboard thanks to an own goal by Laurent Koscielny. Robin van Persie was the man for Arsenal, with the equaliser and injruy-time killer-blow to make it 2-1 and three points to the Gunners. This was a prime example, it is goals that count, nothing else.

Newcastle's Ryan Taylor [l] goes head to head with Kieran Richardson during a heated derby- Newcastle 1:1 Sunderland: This was a brutal one! It was a bad-tempered derby which saw eight bookings (5:3) and one sending off (Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon for elbowing Cheick Tiote), two penalties (one for Sunderland, scored by Nicklas Bendtner on 24, and one for Newcastle, missed by Demba Ba on 82, a brilliant save by Simon Mignolet) and late drama (Shola Ameobi's injury time equaliser and Black Cats skipper Lee Cattermole seeing a straight red after the final whistle). Newcastle will be biting the more sour grape dropping a point after missing 36 chances against Sunderland's 13.

Wayne Rooney finds the net with a header- Tottenham 1:3 Manchester United: If there has ever been a scoreline that reflected the game the least, this is one of them! Tottenham were in command for most of the match, eventhough they were missing key players such as Scott Parker (suspended), Rafael van der Vaart (injured) and Gareth Bale (ill). But thanks to a Wayne Rooney header out of nowhere and two outstanding strikes by Ashley Young against the run of play, substitute's Jermaine Defoe's late goal ended up being just a mere consolation. It was a sobering day for Spurs manager Redknapp after emerging as favourite to replace Fabio Capello as England manager.

Top teams:

Wayne Rooney- Top form: Manchester United (WWWWW =15/15) have overtaken their City rivals and remain at the top of the table, three points ahead of Roberto Mancini's men. Arsenal (WWWWW = 15/15) have also enjoyed a 100% record and have climbed up to third, three points ahead of their arch-rivals Tottenham, shutting up Wenger's critics with this remarkable run and form. Manchester City (WWLWD = 10/15)  are the next best, but after dropping points against Stoke and Swansea, the blue side of Manchester will be disappointed to see their team let the top spot slip, especially ahead of the big Manchester derby end of April.

Arsene Wenger- Top scorers: Manchester United and Arsenal also share this record (with 13 goals scored each), followed by Manchester City and Newcastle (8 each).

- Top defence: Manchester United and David De Gea have seen the least goals leak through (2 goals conceded), followed by Manchester City/Chelsea/Stoke (3 each) and Arsenal/Swansea/Aston Villa (4 each.)

Theo Walcott scores for Arsenal against Aston VillaTop players: Top scorers are van Persie (26 goals scored), Rooney (21), Sergio Aguero (17); there have been hat-tricks for Fulham's Pavel Pogrebnyak against Wolves and Steven Gerrard in the Merseyside derby and not to forget, the old boys Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes impressed too of course whose experience and quality have shown to have lasted past their general sell-by date!

Top goal: Peter Crouch's stunner for Stoke against Manchester City earned his side a point and himself an unforgettable strike and goal.

Top news: Fabrice Muamba is making a great recovery after collapsing in the FA Cup Quarter Final clash against Tottenham at White Hart Lane which was consequently abandoned on the night. It was great to see how the football world got together for Muamba. The horrifying scenes just put everything into perspective and threw the usual rants and tiffs out the window!

It seemed all too familiar after similar happened to my dear friend Jenny Kerwood a month earlier. She wasn't as lucky as Muamba though and died 22 years young. To find out more and contribute, I attach the following link to the Just Giving page set up in memory of Jenny raising money for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) because they raise awareness of cardiac death in the young. Touch wood, fingers crossed and prayers Muamba is better!

Flop facts:

- 130 bookings made = avergage of 2.65 yellow cards per game.

- 10 red cards shown = average of 0.2 sendings off per game or one player sent off every 5 games or two every week.

- 8 yellow cards = the most shown in one game, which has happened twice, both games ending 1:1 between Norwich and Wigan; Newcastle and Sunderland, the latter also seeing one sending off, as mentioned above.

Flop games:

Darren Bent shoots under pressure from Gary Caldwell- Wigan 0:0 Aston Villa: This goalless draw was everything else but boring. Both sides enjoyed their fair share of chances (20:13 shots, 6:3 on target), especially the home side. But it just showed why both sides are struggling in the bottom half of the table, Wigan in the relegation zone, second from bottom, and Aston Villa in 15th. Both sides created, but struggled to challenge the goalkeepers. On a good note, this was Wigan's first clean sheet for eight matches - and Villa's for seven games. On a realistic note, they will need to add names onto their scoresheet if they want to survive! Only goals can win you games.

Nicklas Bendtner scores against Liverpool- Sunderland 1:0 Liverpool: This was one of those matches where there was not much happening, not much of note anyways. Both goalkeepers had a day off in this cagey affair, Liverpool creating nothing and Sunderland holding back, not to concede. Sunderland took the lead when Bendtner side-footed in Fraizer Campbell's shot after it rebounded off the post and keeper Pepe Reina's head, nearly as bizarre as the beach ball incident two season ago. With that, the game shut down completely, seeing Liverpool fall to their third consecutive defeat. They have not done this since October 2003 under Gerard Houllier

Gareth McAuley- West Brom 1:0 Chelsea: This game was dominated by misses. On 82 Gareth McAuley diverted in Liam Ridgewell's miscued shot to secure the points from an open match which ended up costing Andre Villas-Boas his job. 30-19 was the scoreline, in chances, 19-13 on target, the result was 1-0 to West Brom, Chelsea dropping more points making it only three points out of 12 league games for the Blues. Chelsea were outplayed. Daniel Sturridge missed two fine chances but all in all the Baggies dominated and deserved the win. Roman Abramovich could only take so and so much.

Petr Cech- Chelsea 0:0 Tottenham: It has been over 22 years since Spurs last won at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had made great progress since interim boss Robert Di Matteo had taken over from Villas-Boas, reaching the last eight in the Champions League and the semi-finals in the FA Cup. But the high hopes soon deminished in a very disappointing match which lacked effort, chances, competitiveness and any kind of ambition, from either side. Both sides continually gave away the ball and seemed like they just could not get their act together.

Gary Caldwell- Liverpool 1:2 Wigan: Liverpool's desperate run of league form continued last weekend with Wigan recording their first ever win at Anfield. Shaun Maloney's spot kick gave the visitors the lead before Luis Suarez equalised for the Reds and saw a goal disallowed for hand ball. Gary Caldwell then stunned the Kop with a fine finish to give Wigan the lead back and the win. This defeat made it five losses out of Liverpool's last six Premier League games seeing them fall eight points behind Newcastle in sixth, the Carling Cup win a long distant memory. Wigan meanwhile remain in the relegation zone, level on points with QPR in 18th, one behind Bolton in 17th.

Flop teams:

Former Wolves manager Mick McCarthy with current boss Terry Connor- Flop form: Since McCarthy's departure, Wolves (DLLLL = 1/15) are still looking for their first win under temporary caretaker Connor, sticking at the bottom of the table, three points behind Wigan. Tottenham (LLLDD = 3/15) have also fallen into a bad, winless patch since their 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle after manager Redknapp's connection with the England job to take over from Capello. Liverpool (LLWLL = 3/15) will feel the Carling Cup victory is long gone with only one win in the last five league games which saw them drop eight points behind Newcastle in sixth. Their only win was a comfortable, encouraging 3-0 Merseyside win, with star skipper Gerrard scoring a hat-trick, so you would have thought that would have given the Reds the kick they need, on top of the cup victory. But Kenny Dalglish's men are still looking for answers to avoid yet another hat-trick of defeats!

Blackburn's Bradley Orr is tackled by Aston Villa's Marc Albrighton- Flop scorers: As mentioned above under flop games, when Aston Villa (2 goals scored) and Wolves (3) met, it was no surprise it ended goalless. They both kept clean sheets which was a first in a while for both of them, but as stats show, both teams have scored the least in the last five games, hence the problem. You cannot win unless you score. And especially Wolves will feel it the hardest, at the stone-cold bottom of the table. Wigan/Bolton/Norwich/Everton/Tottenham (4) are next on the list of lowest goal scorers, the blue side of Merseyside getting the most out of the goal drought with 7/15 points.

Pavel Pogrebnyak- Flop defence: Wolves (16 goals conceded) and Tottenham (10) unsurprisingly top this list having recorded the least points of the lot as noted above. QPR (9) are next on the list and since taking over from Neil Warnock in January, Mark Hughes has only recorded two wins, only making four points in the last five games, which keeps his side in the relegation zone one point behind Bolton in 17th. Hard times for the Welshman which will definitely not get any easier, quite the opposite with eight games remaining.

Grant Holt celebrates scoring his first goalFlop players: When players see red after scoring, it turns them from hero to zero in anyone's eye, but especially the fans. Norwich's Grant Holt became the third player this season having done exactly that, scoring and then being sent off for a stupid offence, joining Fernando Torres (Chelsea) and Joey Barton (QPR). Djibril Cisse is another QPR culprit, having been sent off for the second time this season after fowling Sunderland's Campbell and seeing his side fall to a 3:1 defeat and into the relegation zone.

Clint Hill's disallowed headerFlop goal: QPR's Clint Hill saw his goal disallowed against Bolton eventhough goalkeeper Adam Bogdan's body was clearly inside the goal, seeing the ball over line before making contact with it. This is just another example, one of many, of where technology would and could be crucial and solve the problem, if only it could be used and thereby finally come to effect! This has been going on for so long, I am sick and tired of talking about it and by the time FIFA/UEFA/FA finally introduce it, we will most probably be able to beam the ball over the line anyway, more likely! Pathetic!

Flop news: A student who admitted posting racially offensive comments on Twitter about footballer Fabrice Muamba has been jailed for 56 days. I couldn't believe what I read! Not such a hard guy now, are you? How moronic can you get? He obviously doesn't have a clue and has not learnt what life means - yet. Hope this has opened his eyes!

My predictions - Useless! - Actual results:
Week 26:
Chelsea 1:1 Bolton - 3:0
Newcastle 3:1 Wolves - 2:2
QPR 1:1 Fulham - 0:1
West Brom 1:0 Sunderland - 4:0
Wigan 1:4 Aston Villa - 0:0
Man City 3:0 Blackburn - 3:0
Arsenal 3:3 Tottenham - 5:2
Norwich 0:2 Man United - 1:2
Stoke 2:1 Swansea - 2:0
Liverpool 1:1 Everton - 3:0
Week 27:
Liverpool 1:1 Arsenal - 1:2
Blackburn 0:2 Aston Villa - 1:1
Man City 3:0 Bolton - 2:0
QPR 1:1 Everton - 1:1
Stoke 2:2 Norwich - 1:0
West Brom 1:2 Chelsea - 1:0
Wigan 1:1 Swansea - 0:2
Newcastle 4:1 Sunderland - 1:1
Fulham 2:1 Wolves - 5:0
Tottenham 1:1 Man United - 1:3
Week 28:
Bolton 1:1 QPR - 2:1
Aston Villa 2:2 Fulham - 1:0
Chelsea 3:0 Stoke - 1:0
Sunderland 1:1 Liverpool - 1:0
Wolves 1:1 Blackburn - 0:2
Everton 1:1 Tottenham - 1:0
Man United 2:3 West Brom - 2:0
Swansea 1:1 Man City - 1:0
Nowich 2:0 Wigan - 1:1
Arsenal 3:0 Newcastle - 2:1
Week 29:
Fulham 1:1 Swansea - 0:3
Wigan 1:2 West Brom - 1:1
Wolves 1:2 Man United - 0:5
Newcastle 3:0 Norwich - 1:0
Aston Villa 2:1 Bolton - P:P
Blackburn 2:2 Sunderland - 2:0
Man City 3:0 Chelsea - 2:1
Tottenham 2:0 Stoke - 1:1
Everton 1:2 Arsenal - 0:1
QPR 0:3 Liverpool - 3:2
Week 30:
Chelsea 2:1 Tottenham - 0:0
Arsenal 2:1 Aston Villa - 3:0
Bolton 2:1 Blackburn - 2:1
Liverpool 2:1 Wigan - 1:2
Norwich 2:1 Wolves - 2:1
Sunderland 2:1 QPR - 3:1
Swansea 2:1 Everton - 0:1
Stoke 2:1 Man City - 1:1
West Brom 2:1 Newcastle - 1:3
Man United 2:1 Fulham - 1:0

In case you are wondering about the 2:1 predictions I made in all games last week, that was because I forgot to predict and the auto-predictor put all predictions 2:1. Told ye USELESS! ;-P