Odd that Gameweek 33 has fallen on Easter weekend (if you don’t get the direct correlation, ask someone who celebrates Easter) even more odd that a pesky little Argentinian (who may, or may not be mentioned later) is leading his current club emphatically as his former club and cross town rivals reaaaaaally could have used his services as they languish in second place. Such it is that players and football move on yet remain inexplicably linked.
Was it the game of the week? Probably not, but in all the pre-match hype, analysis and predictions, at the end of the day, Berbatov wasn’t good enough to lead United’s front line against Chelsea. If you play 1 up front against Chelsea, you must put a Rooney or Tevez type player in that spot, and not a player such as Berbatov. The 4-3-3, or 4-3-2-1 (call it what you will) that Ferguson employed on Saturday was never going to work with Berbatov leading it. He’s got skill and worth, but not in that role. United sorely missed Wayne Rooney who could only look on from an executive box and wonder.
The same formation was also used by Carlo Ancelotti but with better results because of the consistent play and ability of Florent Malouda to get past United defenders and provide better service than Ji-Sung Park could for United.
As good as Giggs has been for United in his limited role in the last year, on Saturday, he was largely absent. United looked slow and lacked creativity against a Chelsea team who didn’t play midweek and looked the better for it. Chelsea seemed more the potential Champions when compared with United on the day. In all of their first half dominance, Chelsea’s second and winning goal was clearly offside and never should have counted. Such is football.
I still believe with 5 matches left that the title hasn’t comprehensively been won or lost by any of the three teams in contention.
We have a new fourth place representative in Manchester City. City and Tottenham are on equal number of games played, yet 1 less than Liverpool who could only manage a draw away to Birmingham City.
Honorable Mentions –
Steed Malbranque, Sunderland– Darren Bent got the goals, but Malbranque was the engine that turned the Sunderland gears on Saturday as the Black Cats came out on top of Tottenham, 3-1. Malbranque has caught my eye for the last couple of weeks as Sunderland seem to have re-found some form that’s seen them steer clear of the relegation battle and claim 8 points from their last 5 league matches.
The Belgian-born French midfielder is at his best moving forward in midfield either in the center or on the left. He’s got the ability to run at pace with the ball and can spread and dictate play with good effect. The 30 year old Malbranque’s experience and work for Sunderland is invaluable as Steve Bruce elects to often surround Malbranque with a young midfield including Lee Cattermole and Jordan Henderson.
Florent Malouda, Chelsea– Malouda really could be mentioned in some form on this post every week. United simply didn’t have an answer for him on Saturday and his first half run where he shrugged off multiple United defenders was a game-changing moment that led to Chelsea’s opening goal when he crossed for Joe Cole.
Malouda was the best player on the pitch for either side on Saturday. His consistent play over the season has seen Chelsea re-claim top spot and has made the title now Chelsea’s to lose.
Glen Johnson, Liverpool – Liverpool fans will probably be a bit disappointed with their 1-1 draw on Sunday away to Birmingham City. Although they’re still in the race for L4, and the draw really didn’t help their cause, supporters should take pride in their team’s second half display. Liverpool were in fact quite good, especially in the final 15-20 minutes of the match.
Led by Steven Gerrard and the ability of Glen Johnson to get forward and support the attack, Liverpool created 4 to 5 quality chances that should have seen a second and winning goal for Liverpool. One may question the decision of Rafa Benitez to pull Fernando Torres off in the 65th for David Ngog as a deciding factor in the draw. Regardless, Johnson’s return to form is great news for Liverpool and England. He’s able to torment defenders on the right side with his quick footwork and ability to create space and cross the ball.
Premier League Footballer of the Week –
Carlos Tevez, Manchester City– I’m cheating a little with this one and combining the two games Tevez played this week that saw him contribute 4 goals, 1 assist, and most importantly, saw his team claim 6 valuable points. With Tevez, we all know he brings more to a football club than just goals. His work rate, movement and passion make him invaluable to City, and I believe he’ll be the deciding factor that will see Manchester City finish fourth this season (Yes I said it, City will finish 4th).
Last Monday proved that Tevez, lauded with all his work and running, is still a deadly striker. His 12 minute hat trick finished off Wigan and won a match where City didn’t impress over the full 90. Tevez was the game changer for City and one of the only bright spots that saved City from what looked to be an embarrassing 0-0 home draw with Wigan. On Saturday, City had won the match with in a few minutes as Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor linked well together and with the City midfielders to score 4 first half goals en route to a 6-1 destruction of Burnely.
Tevez, having won the Champions League with United in 2008, will be integral in City’s end of season run that will see them finish in fourth. Even as a United supporter, for some odd reason I’m looking forward to seeing what City can do in the Champions League should my prediction hold true. With players such as Craig Bellamy, Adam Johnson, Adebayor and Tevez himself in attack, Manchester City will strike fear in opposition defenses regardless of who they play.
Author’s Note: After you listen to Richard Farley & Co’s EPL Talk Weekend Review Podcast, the BBC 5 Live Football Daily podcast from April, 4th comes highly recommended. This podcast usually consists of 10-15 minute news recaps from each day. However, Sunday’s show is a 50+ minute special featuring Stuart Hall who presents some incredible interviews from giants of English football such as Bill Shankly, George Best, Alex Ferguson, Harry Gregg and Dixie Dean to name a few.
For American fans of English football, do yourself a favor and listen to this show. Think of it as a sort of “history lesson out of respect” from a time when the game you love was much, much different than it is now.