Editor’s Note: “Get Stuck In” is EPL Talk’s weekly column featuring review, analysis and opinion on all the happenings in the Premier League each week from different EPL Talk bloggers and podcasters. If you currently write for EPL Talk and would like to contribute to “Get Stuck In”, contact Jesse Chula at JesseChula(at)gmail(dot)com.
A Time For Concern In Manchester? – Matt Hackenmiller
Manchester United’s unconvincing win against Norwich City did nothing to calm the nerves of fans after the Red Devil’s Champions League draw against Basel midweek. The return of Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez failed to spark the attack as was expected for the defending champions. Moreover, the back line continued to look shaky and uncertain against the Norwich counterattacks. I won’t even get into the Krispy Kreme felony that forced a change in goal. Three points is three points, but most Manchester United fans were expecting a more dominate performance.
What is more troubling though is the trend that United has started to play down to its competition. They played well against the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal, but have not looked their best against West Brom, Stoke City, and now Norwich City. This is something that most top clubs go through at times and if not corrected, it can cost United a chance at their twentieth championship. The international break is often looked upon as an annoyance for most clubs, but this one seems like an opportunity for the Red Devils to regroup before fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester City later this month.
Match Between Tottenham And Arsenal Proved That A Shift In Power Is Upon North London – Jesse Chula
Spurs are back and there’s no doubt about it. After enduring a slow start to the season because of some difficult early fixtures and the distraction that was the Luka Modric transfer saga, Spurs have rebounded themselves up to sixth in the table with four wins in a row and still hold a game in hand. While not convinced they were at their absolute best at the Lane on Sunday, Spurs were still able to gain three points against their bitter rivals through solid play from Rafael van der Vaart, who scored the game’s classy opener, Gareth Bale, who blitzed both Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson on the left wing, and from a brilliant wonder strike from Kyle Walker which proved the winner.
Question marks still hang over Arsene Wenger, his job safety and 15th spot Arsenal in regards to just where the current version of the Gunners will ultimately finish in the table. Where there aren’t question marks, however, is where the power in North London currently rests. All arrows point to White Hart Lane, Redknapp and Spurs while Arsenal fans are left scratching their heads wondering where it all went wrong as they endure an early season of struggles watching a lesser version of The Arsenal. On Sunday, Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie, Per Mertesacker and to a lesser extent, Mikel Arteta, all failed to deliver in the North London derby. For now, at least, Arsenal continue to be a work in progress.
David Moyes Has A Right To Feel Aggrieved In Loss To Liverpool But Must Also Look At His Team Selection – Jesse Chula
The sending off of Everton’s Jack Rodwell at Goodison Park in Saturday’s Merseyside Derby was easily the weekend’s most contentious moment. Referee Martin Atkinson botched a massive call when he should have simply awarded Liverpool a free kick, or at worst, cautioned Rodwell in the 23rd minute. Instead, Atkinson sent off young Rodwell with a straight red stemming from a challenge on Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Saturday’s highest profile match was instantly changed. Suarez was guilty of making a meal out of the challenge and definitely played his part in the sending off of Rodwell which left Atkinson with a tricky decision that he got terribly wrong.
However, neutrals and supporters alike have asked questions of Moyes’ team selection, specifically questioning the Scot’s decision to leave out club stalwart Phil Neville in central midfield. Moyes also selected Seamus Coleman in favor of the recently acquired (on loan from Real Madrid) midfielder Royston Drenthe. On Saturday, Moyes selected a decent enough squad, but could it have been a bit stronger? Although he has a right to feel aggrieved by Atkinson’s performance, Moyes may want to rethink his team selection next time out against the league’s elite.
Gloom over Lancashire – Kartik Krishnaiyer
While the two big Manchester clubs have gotten the headlines, the early part of the 2011-12 season has not been kind to the other Premier League clubs close to Manchester. In fact, it hasn’t been a great start for most of the traditional Lancashire clubs.
Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table. The clubs which are within a 25 mile radius of one another have all fallen on hard times together, just as local neighbors are in their ascendancy.
All three clubs have managers who advocate an open style of play, in direct contrast to their immediate predecessors (less so in the case of Wigan where Steve Bruce was a pragmatist). Yet, the results for the three clubs are extremely worrying. Bolton supporters hounded Gary Megson based on the aesthetics of play, but Owen Coyle’s results have simply not been much better. In fact, it can be strongly argued that Megson’s teams were better equipped for the grind of relegation battles and tough road matches.
Under Roberto Martinez, Wigan has entertained and played a mouth-watering passing game. But the club continues to struggle to achieve results and many of Martinez’s buys have not stood up when compared to similar buys by Steve Bruce.
Blackburn under the naive leadership of Venky’s is destined to record one of the worst seasons of the Premier League era. Steve Kean is nothing more than a figurehead manager, representing all that is wrong with the new ownership group.
The gloom gets worse in the area. Burnley, Bury and Rochdale all got off to rough starts in their divisions (although the Clarets have recently recovered). Preston is outside the Championship for the first time over a decade and Stockport is outside the Football League for the first time in over a century.
Football has fallen on hard times in neighboring Yorkshire, with both Sheffield clubs in the third flight, Bradford City near the bottom of League 2, and Leeds United outside the top flight for eight consecutive seasons. During this period, Lancashire has been the most successful region of the country in footballing terms, but that seems to be changing before our very eyes.
ESPN Shows How to Broadcast the Premier League The Right Way (Once Again) – The Gaffer
A message to ESPN: Don’t. Change. A. Thing.
Saturday’s live broadcast by ESPN2 of Everton against Liverpool was a perfect example of how the “Worldwide Leader In Sports” is running away with a superior TV production of the world’s most popular sports league.
First, you had the wonderful opening with Ian Darke walking outside the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and bringing some historical perspective to the Merseyside derby (as well as something that most Americans can relate to: a love of The Beatles). Second was the usage of aerial shots, which gave us TV viewers at home some wonderful shots above Goodison Park. If anyone didn’t realize how close the terraced homes were that encircled Goodison Park, now you know.
Third and finally, viewers in the US were able to watch pre-match interviews with Graeme Sharp and Tim Howard. By the time the match was ready to kick off, the excitement level was at a fever pitch.
Let’s hope ESPN sticks to their proven formula of bringing soccer to US viewers.