Premier League Sunday, Gameweek 26: Open Thread

Photo by toksuede.

The stage is set. The actors have rehearsed their lines. Now we’re ready for the play to begin. Except today’s two matches have no script and we have no way of knowing how they’ll turn out. It’s spontaneous theatre played out on the hallowed pitches of Stamford Bridge and the Boleyn Ground.

The first match of the day features two teams who know each other quite well recently. It’s West Ham United against Birmingham City in what is turning into a relegation clash. The reason the two teams know each other so well is that they just finished playing each other in the Carling Cup two-legged semi-final. While Birmingham eventually won that match in extra time, today’s match between the two teams will be a different affair. Believe it or not, but West Ham United are on a run of form right now and playing a more spirited and erratic brand of football that is producing goals. Birmingham City, too, are all fired up after qualifying for the Carling Cup Final at Wembley and giving Manchester City a shock mid-week with a 2-2 draw.

Following the relegation battle between West Ham and Birmingham is a match of a different pedigree featuring Chelsea versus Liverpool. Ignoring the Fernando Torres story for a second, it’s a massive match for both teams. Chelsea needs to win to try to narrow the gap near the top of the table and to get back into consideration for a run for the Premier League title or at least to get into second or third place. Liverpool are on a run right now and three points will definitely help their cause to qualify for the Europa League.

Whatever happens, the game promises to be an exciting affair.

Before, during or after today’s matches, post your questions, rants or observations about the games in the comments section below.

51 thoughts on “Premier League Sunday, Gameweek 26: Open Thread”

  1. West Ham have been playing better recently and I can see them winning today. It will also be a revenge game after Birmingham’s come-from-behind win in the Carling Cup. Should be a good game to watch as both teams desperately need the points.

    Not sure what to expect in the Chelsea – Liverpool game. Chelsea have been playing better recently and while the addition of a top player like Torres will make them an even better team I’m wondering if putting him into the lineup immediately will disrupt their momentum or not. Liverpool have improved under Daglish but their recent wins have not been over any of the better teams. This is a huge game for Liverpool to test their mettle against a top side. Liverpool’s defense is not the best and I can see them struggling to contain Drogba and Anelka, not to mention Torres if he plays.

    Given yesterday’s crazy results and goalfests, I have a feeling this will end in a 3-3 draw.

  2. My fox soccer is cutting out after 30 seconds. anyone else having this issue? first half of the west Ham/Birmingham game, but as soon as halftime hit things went downhill

  3. What a big diference a big studio makes.. The first 11 minutes of Fox’s pre-game show has already run circles around anything they have ever done.

    1. This is what FSC needs more of. Live pre and post games for all major events. Hopefully now that FOX NFL Sunday is done for the season, they can do more from this studio.

      I’m glad they didn’t reinvent the wheel or stick a square peg into a round hole. They went to that set and recaptured what makes the NFL pregame guys so good to watch.

      My only complaint…it’s 2011 and you have Warren Barton showing us the X’s and O’s on a chalk board?!?!

      1. Maybe they will have something a bit more modern in the future but I prefer a chalkboard for now as opposed to some rushed, glitchy software that Barton can barely operate.

  4. It was an improvement, but please dear God no more studio audiences. I didn’t think Liverpool fans could get more annoying, but never say never when it comes to them. And how creepy was it seeing that one Scouser in the ill-fitting Izod leering and trying to cop a feel? *shudders*

    1. Oy! That audience is giving me the creeps and, well, just to be blunt, it’s really stupid. And is it necessary to have 5 people there? I like the Pub feeling better, this whole huge studio just feels cheesy.

    2. just wait till the game is over, they’ll walk out with anything not nailed down. the NFL on Fox’s desk will be on bricks…

    3. I thought the studio audience was a little bit contrived. I thought it spoke volumes though that the Liverpool fans were genuine ex-pat Scousers, but the “Chelsea Fans” were just a bunch of American bandwagon-jumpers.

  5. Yeah…I can go without the studio audience, but I thought the show gave this a nice build.

    I saw them advertise the programming for City/ManUtd will start at 7AM next week, so maybe they will continue this.

    1. “they were trying too hard and it showed” as opposed not trying at all? Shame that you prefer cardboard sets with a funeral palour atmosphere.

    2. “The part where they had the NFL players giving predictions was nigh on offensive.”

      Totally agree. If they don’t care about the game and don’t even know the teams, who gives a damn what their opinion is?

      1. I disagree, the fact that a Premier League question was asked to American Football Jocks on the biggest sports day on the American calender is a good thing, and to be fair – none of them were arrogant or dismissed the sport, and some of them actually knew the clubs. It shows how much the sport has progressed in the States.

    3. Yes, because someone playing in the NFL automatically disqualifies them from being able to talk about the EPL. Rubbish.

      Now if you have something substantive to say other than, “HURR, DUMB NFL!!” then maybe we’ll talk.

      1. Steve,

        Maybe you guys saw a different part of the program than me. The part I saw went like this:

        Fox Soccer: “Who do you think will win today?”
        NFL Player: “I don’t watch soccer and I have no idea who Liverpool or Chelsea are. I’ll just take a random guess and say Chelsea.”

        Repeat about 5 times.

        I’m not saying that playing in the NFL disqualifies you from being able to talk about the EPL. I’m saying having no clue at all about the EPL disqualifies you from being able to talk about the EPL.

        I understand the point about getting the sport out there and whatnot but it seemed silly and forced to me.

      2. No-one is saying that being an NFL player disqualifies you from being able to speak about the EPL. There may be some NFL players who are fairly knowledgeable about soccer. Just that those guys they asked were not! As such, it was a pretty pointless segment (“uh I dunno….Chelsea??”).

  6. Yeah, thought it was weak and cheesy– bringing the worst of the NFL to the EPL. Then again, it wasn’t aimed at us, but at NFL fans who are ignorant of the game. I don’t think you bring those fans to the game, but you do bring more by staying true to the culture of the game. Pandering always cheapens the product. But, that’s Fox!

  7. The audience is crap…the hot brunette cheapens the show…Soccer Am showed plenty of babes in football shirts but the presenters knew their stuff…
    The whole look of the show is an improvement for sure…get rid of that idiot martineo and bring in Bobby Mac to do it along side Warren Barton and you have a show worth watching but the amount of ads and ad placements is making my head hurt!!! Still though, a noble effort

  8. Today’s production is certainly an improvement over the usual, but when is FSC going to finally learn that there is no need for the gimmicks and filler that they just insist on adding to every single one of their productions. Rogendino didn’t add a thing, neither did the Lane or the studio audience. We didn’t need Wynalda with the USC kicker either. The interview with the Liverpool owner and the Sky Sports reporter with the FSC mic were maybe the only salient extra bits FSC produced for this whole thing. Now maybe the Fox Sports execs decided that the cross promotion was requisite given what remains to occur today, so fine. But, FSC has to learn to cut the bullshit when it comes to their big matchdays and focus on the match.

  9. Could the ref be more biased in his calls in the Chelsea v. Liverpool game? Chelsea had 2 stone cold penalties denied. In addition to that, Liverpool got the softest calls.

    1. I saw these comments coming a mile away.

      The “hand-ball” was the definition of unintentional.

      The “foul” is something we see week-in week-out in the Premier League.

      Unlucky? Yes.

      Referee bias? No.

      The reason they lost today? Absolutely not.

      1. Well said Gaz- it is an air of desperation after a club spends 70 million pounds and loses a home match, they will be blaming the physio next. Now Torres can go destroy other defences in England and Europe the rest of the season; Liverpool got their 6 points.

      2. Glad to see that we can have an intelligent conversation on this site with proponents of the opposition without resorting to name calling or demeaning each other.

        As for the handball non-call, whether it was intentional or not is irrelevant. His had was away from his body inside the box. Therefore it was in an unnatural position. Unnatural position is a handball call. Period. I never understood where this whole “unintentional foul” thing came from. Intent has NEVER been a part of the rules.

        Then we get to the body check. That is the definition of obstruction, and we saw two penalties for basically the exact same thing yesterday. Obstruction is interfering with another player’s attempt to play the ball without attempting to play the ball yourself and is a foul. If it happens inside the box it is a penalty.

        Two calls that Marriner bottled.

        Was this the sole reason that Chelsea lost? Not at all. My team played like garbage, and Liverpool were the better side on the day. We attempted a new system with Torres, the 4-4-2 diamond, and it didn’t work. I saw a lot of potential in the 4-4-2 diamond, but it needs more work. That only comes with time.

        Full credit to Liverpool for taking advantage of a defensive mistake of Chelsea. Honestly, Liverpool were unlucky that it only ended 0-1. How Maxi could miss that sitter is beyond me.

        1. Absolutely wrong on your comment about the handball. Law 12 specifically states that a player must DELIBERATELY handle a ball in order to draw a foul. All UEFA referee guidance states that the handball must be intentional, as well. (“Intentional” is, in fact, in big bold letters.) The “natural position” rule does not work the way you think. A deliberate handball is allowed so long as the hand is in a natural position – i.e., protecting your crotch when you are in a wall.

          I think the check may have been a penalty, though. However, Gaz is correct that you see those kinds of fouls quite often in the Premiership and it’s no surprise it wasn’t called.

          1. This is just incorrect. Law 12, page 115 under “Cautions for Unsporting Behavior” states “handles the ball to prevent an opponent gaining possession or developing an attack (other than the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)”. If intent was actually required for a caution, and thus a foul, then refs would have to be psychic. Intent is purely subjective to anyone other than the person doing the action.

            Additionally, after giving the earlier handball against Meireles the ref HAD to give the second handball in the box. Not giving the second handball was either 1) bias or 2) bottle. Given Marriner’s propensity to handle larger games I’m assuming he isn’t going to bottle a call, especially not against the home crowd.

            Yes, you see the body check not being given frequently, on the continent. However, in the EPL you do see the that penalty given quite frequently.

          2. Read the laws more carefully, Up the Chels!

            Law 12, page 115 under “Handling the ball.” It doesn’t require the referee to be a psychic, just to make a judgment call. (And good judgment is the key to good refereeing, right?)

            “Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm.

            • the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
            • the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
            • the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
            • touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement
            • hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc) counts as an infringement”

            Thus, the definition of handling the ball is that it must be deliberate. Furthermore, you can see in context that “to prevent an opponent gaining possession” as you quoted implies intent, which the referee must discern. Moreover, Law 14 states that a penalty kick is ONLY awarded for one of the ten offenses for which a direct free kick is awarded while inside a penalty box. Law 12, page 32 states: “A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player … handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)”

            UEFA offers guidance to referees on determining whether or not a handball is deliberate. You can read it here:


        2. From the FIFA laws of the game:
          A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following three offences:
          • holds an opponent
          • spits at an opponent
          • handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

          It states, explicitly in the rules, that hand-balls are called for intentional handling of the ball. Referees sometimes *interpret* a player placing their hands where a ball is likely to strike them (e.g., putting your hands up in the air when defending a free kick) as deliberate handling. That is not a rule though, and I don’t think a players hands simply being away from their waist would qualify (try running with your hands at your waist).

          As for the push on Ivanonic, yeah, Liverpool got lucky. It was a foul, but one that frequently is not called.

          1. Yup – it has to be interpreted by the referee as deliberate.

            I understand your point about the earlier hand-ball but we all know there is (and always will be) a difference between in-box calls and out-of-box calls.

            “Yes, you see the body check not being given frequently, on the continent. However, in the EPL you do see the that penalty given quite frequently.”

            I think you’re paraphrasing something the commenter said here but you got his words backwards. In Spain and Italy that was a foul any day of the week. In the EPL, we see that kind of foul all the time with no call. I clearly remember a similar situation with Torres during his last Liverpool game with the same result.

            Chelsea will get themselves back up and Torres will be part of that. To see Torres at his best, wait until the Champion’s League – that’s why he was brought in anyway.

            Today, however, Dalglish got his tactics perfect and the Liverpool players did a much better job of playing as a solid unit. Chelsea, conversely, were separate units trying to find each other. Nit-picking referee calls that are up to interperation doesn’t at all tell the story of the 94 minute match.

          2. On the continent I was more referring to the northern countries than to Spain and Italy. Looking at the Dutch or German league, both typically just as physical as the English league. In Netherlands or Germany, it would be called and a penalty given. However, in England, it is typically not given, even though it should be given.

            I do fully agree that Chelsea were outplayed in this game. However, it was not by the magnificence of Liverpool’s game, but the fact that Chelsea played the worst game I have ever seen them play. We played negative, slow, uninspired football against an opponent that came out with a defensive formation set up to counter what was an obvious tactical choice by Chelsea. Full credit to Liverpool.

            However, based on the way Liverpool played and the horrific job of the referee, a 1-1 result would have been a much more accurate result based on what happened on the pitch.

          3. “Yes, you see the body check not being given frequently, on the continent. However, in the EPL you do see the that penalty given quite frequently.”

            Again, I think you got that backwards. Your elaboration confirms it.

            “I do fully agree that Chelsea were outplayed in this game. However, it was not by the magnificence of Liverpool’s game, but the fact that Chelsea played the worst game I have ever seen them play. …based on the way Liverpool played and the horrific job of the referee, a 1-1 result would have been a much more accurate result based on what happened on the pitch.”

            Wow. I’ll be sure to use this line of thinking next time Liverpool lose.

          4. UTC, How can you say that Chelsea played negative? They rolled out all three strikers, plus Lampard, and even Essien got forward on a few occasions. It wasn’t a negative display. It was sloppy, though. Chelsea lost because they lost the midfield to Liverpool. Dalglish’s tactics were excellent, and the Liverpool defense was surprisingly quick to the ball. Chelsea was second-best today in just about every spot on the pitch.

  10. I’ll be the first to admit how wrong I was about the Hodgson sacking / King Kenny hiring. I thought it was nonsense at the time, but Liverpool looks like a completely different club. What a shame! 😉 (j/k. Sort of)

  11. was problematic again today during the West Ham- Birmingham game. Had similar problems with Genoa-Milan game as well. Not sure what’s going on with but they are getting from bad to worse.

    After Torres was sold to Chelsea, everyone assumed that the immdediate impact would be that Chelsea would get better and Liverpool would take until the summer to bring in new players and improve then. After today’s performance it looks like Chelsea are a work in progress while Liverpool have figured out how to win now. Credit has to go to Kenny Daglish for the way Liverpool have been lining up and playing. Goes to show that managers do make a difference.

  12. Nice one Malcolm. I was surprised Agger didn’t get a card for that. That and his missed opportunity when Carragher blocked his shot were the only noteworthy things on his debut for Chelsea.

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