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Premier League Odds and Sods 12 Feb 2008

It was night of black armbands and barren kits in Manchester, which only served to emphasize the sponsorship everywhere else as Man City shocked Man United 2-1 at Old Trafford.  It is no coincidence that most of Man U’s losses come without Wayne Rooney on the pitch.  Ronaldo can score goals but even he with the fleetest of foot needs space to exploit, which only Rooney appears capable of providing.

Neither of City’s goals was very impressive, coming more from good luck and poor defending.  United supporters obviously reflected the solemn occasion by “saluting” Benjani after he put through the second on his debut.

Carrick came through with a fine goal at the end, which, though meaningless, proved a point.  His goal was no stroke of magic but rather pedestrian, a product of practical opportunism rather than a hair-raising blitz from the back.  Carrick is not as flashy as Hargreaves, but that’s not a weakness for a holding midfielder.  Carrick may not pose as much of a threat going forward, but his conservatism keeps things tight at the back.  Were it not for the 2006 World Cup, would Carrick be starting in his stead?

The United loss opened the way for Arsenal to take a five point lead in the Premier League, with their 2-0 defeat of Blackburn.  The victory for Arsenal proved important, but hardly impressive.  Despite dictating play for much of the game, Arsenal failed to create chances for much of the game, and largely failed to capitalize upon the chances that they did have.

They still have no genuine threat on the wings, which Wenger acknowledged by fielding four central midfielders (Hleb, Fabregas, Gilberto, and Flamini.)  The approach limits their angle of attack on goal and affords teams the opportunity to defend less of the field.  To get any pressure whatsoever on the wings, Wenger’s gents rely on overlapping fullbacks to create any width, leaving the defense vulnerable.  Against Blackburn, who cares?  However, that strategy may be exposed if they try it against A.C. Milan.

Elsewhere, Aston Villa throttled Newcastle 4-1.  Toon supporters, you’re gonna need a bigger boat.  The extended decrepitude of Keegan’s tenure has dried up the market for “exciting football” and “soccer circus” jokes.  Newcastle are just terrible.  With Keegan’s 2 pts since taking over the club, they are now a mere six points from the drop zone.  If Michael Owen scores in an empty championship ground, does Fabio Capello hear it?

If it is possible to have an unflattering hat trick, John Carew accomplished it.

Here is all you need to know about Liverpool 0 – Chelsea 0.  I fell asleep during the highlights.  The only thing productive that happened was that it killed Chelsea’s title hopes, 8 pts behind with two teams to overcome and it increased the probability of Liverpool being knocked out of the Champions League places.

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