I finally got caught up on my soccer watching. In 12 continuous hours, I managed to squeeze in five matches in the following order: West Ham United v Manchester City, Aston Villa v Liverpool, Derby County v Portsmouth, Arsenal v Fulham and Manchester United v Reading. Here are some of my observations from the matches:
Times change but team’s habits rarely do. Arsenal still is wasting too many clear- cut chances in front of goal, taking one touch too many or making the extra pass when an earlier shot would have resulted in a goal. Against Fulham the Gunners were guilty once again.
Liverpool is the type of team that needs half a dozen opportunities in front of goal before they can score. Think back to the Champions League final against AC Milan in May and how many chances Liverpool had to win the match, while AC Milan made the most of the very few chances they received.
Against Aston Villa, Liverpool could have won the match 4-1 or 5-1 if Torres, Kuyt and others were more incisive in front of goal. Instead, just like Arsenal, they squeaked through with a 2-1 win grabbing the winning goal near the end of the match.
Watching the highlights of Tottenham’s two matches thus far, the North London team is still guilty of horrible defending and marking. Why oh why does Tony Soprano continue to buy more midfielders when everyone knows they need more quality defenders? Against Sunderland and Everton, Spurs had plenty of defenders in the box to prevent the opposition from having a shot on goal, but even though they outnumbered the attackers, they seemed flat-footed once again.
West Ham’s defensive frailties were exposed once again. How soon we quickly forget that their M.O. last season was to score more goals than they let in and now that Tevez is gone, they need to realize they’ll be scoring fewer goals overall this season, so Curbishley needs to find a way to lock down its defense.
What surprised me the most was Reading’s desire to shut their game down against Man United at Old Trafford. Reading, ever the attacking team last season and everyone’s secret admirer, played a match that Sam Allardyce would have been proud of when he was at Bolton. The disappointing thing for me is that Reading’s performance sets a precedent. Expect the majority of clubs to employ the same tactics this season.
The one thing that came out of this game was the heroic efforts by Marcus Hahnemann. My prediction is that Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger will both keep a close eye on Hahnemann to replace their current goalkeepers. Don’t be surprised if the American goalkeeper will be sold before the end of the August 31st transfer window or, more likely, in January if he can continue to keep his form up.
Congratulations to Derby County, meanwhile, who put together a very pleasing performance in front of their fans at Pride Park. They’re no Reading, but I’m predicting they’ll avoid the drop this season due to their difficult to breakdown defenders and incredible determination and never-say-die attitude.