Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Premier League Update

1. LIVERPOOL 11-1-4 +15 GD
Recent Form: 12/1 D v. West Ham 0-0; 12/5 W at Blackburn 3-1
Off the pitch issues are swirling around the Premiership's first place team, and they seem to be taking at least a small toll on its play. Liverpool had gone 2 matches without scoring (or conceding, to be fair) a goal, and they were matches against Fulham and West Ham, who aren't exactly league titans. They got on track with a 3-1 win over a Rovers team that can't beat anyone lately. This is going on while Liverpool's manager, Rafael Benitez, has been fighting off rumors that he has demanded a very large raise and very long extension to keep him at Liverpool. The club also continues to spend time denying that they are set to sell Robbie Keane, who they bought from Tottenham in July, in the upcoming transfer window.

2. CHELSEA 11-2-3 +29 GD
Recent Form: 11/30 L v. Arsenal 1-2; 12/6 W at Bolton 2-0
Mixed results in the past couple of weeks for Chelsea. They ended November with a disappointing 2-1 loss at home to Arsenal, but rebounded nicely the next week by winning their Premiership record 11th straight away match by beating Bolton. Nicolas Anelka, who has 5 more goals than anyone else in the Ship, scored his 99th career goal in the win over Bolton, with Deco scoring shortly after to give Chelsea an early 2-0 lead which they held the rest of the way. The win was much needed, as the loss to Arsenal touched off some jibber jabber that Chelsea's players were getting bored and disinterested under manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, and that Scolari had been unable to incorporate both Anelka and injury-hampered striker Didier Drogba into the offense effectively.

Recent Form: 11/30 W. at Man City 1-0; W v. Sunderland 1-0
They haven't been playing dazzling football, but you can't argue with six points out of six. The Devils fought thru a red card to Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Manchester Derby 1-0 thanks to Wayne Rooney's 100th career goal with Man U. The goal was Rooney's first in a month. United followed this up with a 1-0 win at home against a Sunderland side playing its first match following the unexpected exit of their manager, Roy Keane.

4. ARSENAL 9-5-2 +9
Recent Form 11/30 W. at Chelsea 2-1; 12/6 W v. Wigan 1-0
Could the Gunners finally be getting their act together? A big 2-1 win at Chelsea would indicate that maybe they are. A pair of second half goals by Robin van Persie gave Arsenal the huge victory, which they followed up by grinding out a 1-0 home win over Wigan. Emmanuel Adebayor scored early in that match, and Wigan was unable to equalise. Adebayor said in a recent interview that at this point the Gunners need to just worry about winning, and not "playing with elegance".

5. ASTON VILLA 8-4-4 +7
Recent Form 11/29 D at Fulham 0-0; 12/7 W at Everton 3-2
Villa had gone two matches without scoring a goal, and three without conceding a goal, heading into its match at Everton last week. That all changed against the Toffees, as both sides combined to find the net 5 times. Villa got the one that counted, getting their second goal of the game from Ashley Young moments after Everton's Joleon Lescott had equalised with his second goal. Young fought thru a calf injury that was hampering him during the week to be the star of the match.

6. HULL CITY 7-4-5 -2
Recent Form 11/29 D at Stoke City 1-1; 12/6 W v. Middlesbrough 2-1
The Tigers trailed at home against Boro with only 10 minutes remaining, but then got a pair of goals, one an own goal and one a penalty kick, to pull yet another 3 points out of the fire. When it's your magical, enchanted year, it is your magical, enchanted year.

7. PORTSMOUTH 6-5-5 -4
Recent Form 11/30 W v. Blackburn 3-2; 12/7 D at West Brom 1-1
Pompey's got kind of a Cleveland Indians in Major League thing going on right now, as they continue to move up the table despite organizational chaos. First, they sold their manager to Tottenham weeks ago. Now their owner, 32 year old Alexander Gaydamak, has confirmed that he is trying to sell the club, and the new manager, Tony Adams, has had to deflect rumors that the team is going to start selling its best players during the January transfer window. On top of that, there is an actual criminal investigation going on looking to apprehend a group of fans who were shouting racial and homophobic slurs at defender Sol Campbell during a HOME match against Tottenham. For the record, Campbell is Jamaican, and presumably at least kind of heterosexual since he has fathered a child.

8. EVERTON 6-6-4 -3
Recent Form- 11/30 W at Tottenham 1-0; 12/7 L v. Aston Villa 2-3
Manager David Moyes got a win in his 300th match in his current gig at Everton when the Toffees won at Tottenham 1-0. It came at a heavy price though, as they lost star and leading scorer Ayegbeni Yakubu to injury. The Yak ruptured his Achilles, and he is done for the season. That's a tremendous blow to Everton, and probably will put the kabosh on any designs they had of crashing the top 4.

9. FULHAM 5-5-5 +1
Recent Form- 11/29 D at Aston Villa 0-0; 12/6 D v. Man City 1-1
Sure, they may be draw specialists, but ninth place is a whole lot better than the 17th place showing Fulham had last year, so this will work. Only one club, last place West Brom, has scored less than Fulham's 13 goals this year, but no team outside of the top 3 has given up less than Fulham. Defense alone may not win championships or Premierships, but it will keep you out of the relegation zone.

10. BOLTON 6-8-2 -1
Recent Form- 11/29 W at Sunderland 4-1; 12/6 L v. Chelsea 0-2
Johan Elmander is finally beginning to justify the club record 11 million pounds Bolton paid to import the Swede from French club Toulouse. He got a pair of goals in a 4-1 spanking of Sunderland, giving him 3 in his last 2 matches after having only 1 up until his current hot streak. The win completed a very strong November for Bolton that moved them out of relegation danger and into the top half of the Premiership.

And the Rest..
Rumors were flying around about Roy Keane's job at Sunderland, so Keane basically said, "Screw you guys, I'm going home" ala Eric Cartman, stepping down with the Cats in 18th place. The next manager to go may be Blackburn's Paul Ince, who's first season with Rovers has been a disaster that finds them in 19th place with a -13 goal differential. This from a club that has finished in the top 10 of the Premiership each of the last 3 seasons. Wigan continues to drift in and out of the top 10, all the while fending off speculation that a cadre of its players, including their leading scorer, Amr Zaki, will be sold to Chelsea during the upcoming transfer window. Middlesbrough managed only 1 point out of a pair of matches against Newcastle and Hull City, blowing a good chance to give themselves more breathing room than the 3 points they currently have clear of relegation. There are currently 6 clubs who find themselves in a full on relegation fight. That's not counting last place West Brom, who is almost definitely going down. In addition to Sunderland, Stoke City is a club who nobody is surprised to see in this group. Tottenham, West Ham, Man City, and Newcastle, though, are all top 4 strivers who have had miserably disappointing campaigns so far.

1. Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea, 13
2. Cristiano Ronaldo, Man U 8
Robinho, Man City 8
Amr Zaki, Wigan 8
5. Peter Crouch, Portsmouth 7
Jermain Defoe, Portsmouth 7
Darren Bent, Tottenham 7
Robin van Persie, Arsenal 7
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa 7

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