England / English Premier League

EPL Round-Up

Another anonymous game for Clint Dempsey in the Fulham midfield. Landon Donovan may be the consensus top U.S. player, but when Dempsey is in form, he lifts this Fulham team from mediocrity. He can do the same for the Americans in South Africa.
The Hull goal came from a questionable penalty call; one of many around the EPL this weekend. There should be few complaints, however, as Jimmy Bullard celebrated by mimicking his manager’s infamous on-field halftime rant (see above video).
Man U’s first goal was a soft penalty; Portsmouth’s penalty was even softer. Congratulations to Ryan Giggs for scoring his 100th Premier League goal, even if it was on a free kick where the wall apparently thought there was a Black Friday sale somewhere to the left.
Remember way back when Wigan was so awful that their players were offering to refund the ticket price to fans? Was that really just last week? Only six days later the Latics pitched a shutout against a Sunderland team that appeared to be cresting after a giant victory over Arsenal. Hugo Rodallega continued his fantastic year with a tight finish, leading many to wonder whether he is this year’s Amr Zaki (he’s better).
Only one week ago I asked whether Brad Friedel was finally slipping off the fantastic-keeper level he has maintained for what seems like 378 years. He responds with a series of unbelievable saves that secured what many will argue is an undeserved point for Villa. Sorry, Brad. I won’t question you again.
Liverpool won in the league for the first time since late October. Was it a convincing win? No. But Pepe Reina can strut proudly this week; there is no better compliment a keeper can receive than an announcer shouting, “Oh! Shades of Schmeichel!”
Eventually we have to wonder if Chelsea has been cutting back on spending because Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich invested in a time machine. The Chelsea squad is perfect for new manager Carlo Ancelotti’s style of play, just perfect! Yet the only player he bought since arriving – Yuri Zhirkov – has yet to see time on the pitch. While a time machine may be a plausible guess, the real reason the Blues are on top of the league and currently miles (kilometers?) better than everyone else is that they have two top quality strikers. The trendy formation (thanks, Rafa) in the EPL is a 4-5-1 that features a single striker playing in front of a flexible three-man center midfield. Since strikers are the soccer equivalent of wide receivers (touchy, prima donnas, demanding of playing time), this has led to a situation where many teams (read: the rest of the EPL) have a single top striker who fits their system and a group of guys who are good finishers but suffer square-peg-round-hole syndrome. Chelsea plays with two strikers. They both get playing time, they’re both great finishers, and they’re carrying the Blues to the title.

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