08
Dec
08

What We Learned This Weekend… Premiership Week 16

With the terrible puns, Alex Dimond

E-boo-ue? Oh dear....

E-boo-ue? Oh dear....

 

Welcome to this week’s “What We Learned This Weekend”, where an inquisitive eye is cast over some of the key storylines that have emerged from this weekend’s Premier League action.

 

The Pressure is Getting to Blackburn’s Ince

As the fallout from Roy Keane’s shock departure at Sunderland (verdict: the Irishman is a quitter) begins to subside, the press are obviously keen to whip up a new story surrounding another manager’s precarious position. As a result, the spotlight has well and truly fallen on Paul Ince.

Yes, Ince has not had the greatest starts to life at Ewood Park, but that does not mean he is already deserving of the sack. After all, Rovers lost their most influential player in the summer—David Bentley—and one of the finest goalkeepers in the league—Brad Friedel—without being able to spend much money improving the squad.  

As a result, what could the board and fans expect? Was Ince ever really going to approach Blackburn’s 7th place finish last time out?


Nevertheless, Ince finds himself under incredible pressure—and it seems it is getting to him. He has talked in the last week of elements of the media being “out to get him”, and this may be true. However, having put their faith in Ince at the start of the season, the Rovers board should give the former England international far more than 16 games to make his mark.

Yet, considering they have apparently already met to discuss team results, it doesn’t look like they will.

Saturday’s defeat against Liverpool leaves Blackburn 19th in the table, two points from safety. But for Ince, it has surely confirmed that the next three games—Wigan, Stoke, and Sunderland—will decide his fate, whether people are out to get him or not.

 

The Tribulations of Emmanuel E-boo-ue *

For Arsenal, the most important thing about Saturday’s 1-0 win against Wigan was the three points. The performance might not have been great, but at least did not hand back the momentum gained from last weekend’s victory against Chelsea.

The big storyline from the game, however, was undoubtedly the booing of EmmanuelEboue. Having come on in place of the injured Mikael Silvestre in the first half, the Ivorian was substituted himself in the second half after enduring quite the horror show. A nightmare display of misplaced passes, poor tackling, and indecision led to his withdrawal being treated to a chorus of insults.

For any fans, such behaviour should really not occur. Yes, Eboue had a nightmare—but did he intend to play so badly? Did he want to let down his team?

The 25-year-old must have been as distraught as anyone about his performance, and abuse from his own fans is unlikely to repair his tattered confidence.

On the way to another victory, Arsenal fans showed themselves to be impatient and fickle. No wonder Kolo Toure said the players were “nervous” when playing smaller teams at home. No wonder the team are struggling to live up to expectations.

 

Everton on the Road to Nowhere

A while ago, I argued that if David Moyes signed his long-delayed contract at Everton, it would be a tacit admission that neither he nor the club were going anywhere.

Two months on, that prediction appears to be coming true.

After the weekend’s defeat against Aston Villa, Everton lie in 8th—nearer to Newcastle in 16th than Villa in 5th. They have mixed some good results with some bad, leading to one inevitable conclusion—mediocrity.

They have enough quality in their squad to stay comfortably clear of relegation, but not enough money in the coffers to push on towards Champions League contention.

As a result, they are in an odd kind of footballing limbo. What is worse, it seems thatMoyes and the board know it.

Stuck in no-mans land, with no real ambition, Everton fans should be prepared for a long, hard, and ultimately non-descript season. Only a FA Cup run might save it.

 

Veni, Vidic, Vici *

Manchester United’s match against Sunderland will not go down as one of the classics in Old Trafford history, but it could be hugely significant come May next year.

United dominated the game from start to finish, but just couldn’t break down a resilient Sunderland defence. That is, until Nemanja Vidic popped up deep into injury time to tap in a dramatic winner, after Michael Carrick’s deflected shot hit the post.

While the goal was important, the reaction from the United players was more revealing. Vidic’s delight, and the euphoria also exhibited by his teammates, told us two things—firstly, that United players fully believe that they are still well in the Premiership title race, and secondly, that they also don’t believe they have that much room for error.

Over the last year, United have consistently demonstrated that there is currently no team in Europe that can match them for their ability to win when it matters most.

The Sunderland match served as a timely reminder to their league rivals—regardless of how far behind they are in the league, United should always be feared.

 

The First Nail in the Hammer’s Coffin?

West Ham’s defeat to Tottenham is not in itself a massive problem, but it does not bode well for the future. As has been widely publicised, the club will have to sell players in the January transfer window, and current results illustrate that they really don’t have that much quality to spare.

The match against Tottenham was not a relegation six-pointer, but the winner of the tie would certainly give themselves some breathing space from the bottom of the league. Now, as Tottenham look upward towards the European places, West Ham are forced to look nervously over their shoulders at the league’s trap door.

With Hull doing so well, it looks likely at least one established Premiership side will go down this season. At the moment, West Ham have put themselves in pole position to take that undesirable prize.

 

Referee Should A-Mendy his Decision *

I don’t have Bernard Mendy in my Fantasy Football team, but that doesn’t make me feel so bad considering his “goal” against Middlesbrough was in fact given as an own goal.

This despite the fact Mendy’s strike was clearly (to my eye at least) heading in before Ross Turnbull deflected the ball onto the post, off his back, and into the goal. By standard convention therefore, shouldn’t it have been recorded as Mendy’s goal?

Unfortunately, I do however have David Wheater in my team. The Middlesbroughdefender was surely unlucky to be sent off in the match, especially as the decision led to Hull’s eventual win. A dubious decision, referee Steve Tanner.

For my fantasy team though, it was much more disappointing. Murphy’s Law in action, I believe.

 

 

* Apologies for the terrible puns. I’ve been reading The Sun too much.

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