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Observations of Premier League Saturday Matches, Gameweek 22


Oh my gosh, what a mish-mosh of Premier League football we saw on television on Saturday. I’m still making my way through the matches I’ve recorded, but we’ve seen one of the scrappiest games in the league featuring Stoke City against Liverpool, followed by an unconvincing display by Manchester United in their tense match with Burnley, and a match that was so one-sided that it looked more like an exhibition friendly between Chelsea and Sunderland.

I’ve been dealing with one of my children being sick on Saturday morning so I wasn’t as attentive to the games as I usually am, but when I was watching the Stoke game this morning, it felt like I was watching Stoke City against Stoke City. Liverpool, desperate for a win, seemed to have an attitude of “If we can’t beat them, join them” in the way they played by matching Stoke City’s direct style of play that resulted in plenty of air-time for the ball and up ‘n unders into the box.

It was a game that was lacking in class at Britannia Stadium but full of drama and excitement. When Sotirios Kyrgiako scrambled in the opening goal of the game for Liverpool, it was one of the scrappiest goals you’ll ever see. The goal gave Liverpool a lift but with Stoke City continuing to push forward, I thought it was only a matter of time before a deserved equalizer came and it did in injury time when Robert Huth knocked the ball into the net from the far corner and sent the Stoke City supporters into hysterics.

At Stamford Bridge, the game between Chelsea and Sunderland was so one-sided that it looked more like an exhibition game to raise funds for charity than a competitive Premier League match. Sunderland’s defending was juvenile. Their team were extremely poor in marking Chelsea players and gave the Blues far too much time on the ball and allowed cross after cross to come swinging in from the wings.

The 7-2 scoreline to Chelsea was kind to Sunderland. Chelsea, playing like Premier League champions, could have easily scored a half dozen more goals but were denied by the woodwork, near misses and last-gasp clearances by the Sunderland defenders. Michael Ballack, especially, was pivotal in midfield and made the win look easy by threading through clinical passes to Nicolas Anelka, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda and others.

In the Manchester United game, the Red Devils made hard work of trying to beat Burnley. The lads from Turf Moor could have easily scored two or three goals but were unable to get the ball into the back of the net after their dangerous counter attacks. But Dimitar Berbatov finally got the decisive goal for Manchester United, Burnley crumbed and two additional late goals from United put the game out of Burnley’s reach.

A special note should be made about Mame Biram Diouf who opened his Premier League scoring for Manchester United with a beautifully taken header. Judging by the positional sense that Diouf has as well as his hunger and natural ability, don’t be surprised if you see Diouf being the preferred striker over Berbatov sometime soon.

What were your impressions from the early games on Saturday? Share your opinions by clicking the comments link below.

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  1. anonymous cool man

    January 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    is there anywhere i can see the observations on just Sotirios Kyrgiakos ?

    • The Gaffer

      January 18, 2010 at 3:17 pm

      Cool man, no specific articles on him yet, but I’ve written a little about him and how bloody awful he was during his first few games for Liverpool. However he showed some promise against Stoke and is showing more hussle and confidence. Still too early to call him a success or failure though.

      The Gaffer

  2. Cheyne

    January 16, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    It’s nice to hear a Man U fan admit that Berbatov isn’t good enough. I spent the late game talking to a Red Devils fan who was in complete denial over Berbatov not being good enough. As a Chelsea fan, I’m really glad Tevez moved to the blue side of Manchester and left the bumbling Bulgarian to try (actually the word “try” is an exaggeration as he exerts less effort than Robinho) and fill the boots Sir Alex undervalued. But as a football fan, it is sad to watch a team of United’s caliber struggle with only one quality striker. If Rooney goes down, United’s position on the table is sure to follow.

  3. jilld

    January 16, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Brad — you may have a point. But fair play to Dempsey and Dolan in the Setanta studio for balancing that up. In fact these guys are stand outs — week in week out and in a different class to anything in the States right now. Go get em Fox or ESPN !

  4. IanCransonsKnees

    January 16, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Stoke would have beaten Liverpool if Pulis had played Liam Lawrence and Ricardo Fuller (his introduction gave us the impetous we had been bereft of) and Glen Whelan instead of Sailf Diao. Beyond the goal (we cannot defend set pieces this season) and Kuyts header, Sorenson didn’t have a save to make.

    The big Greek played well for Liverpool and snuffed out our hoof it up to Mama Sidibe tactic. Ngog is WANK.

    Chant of the day from the Stokies “your dad’s going down, your dad’s going dow-w-n, Jamie Redknapp, your dad’s going down!” He was in the box doing the punditry for Sky.

  5. eplnfl

    January 16, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    The best came early and late, with the stars of the day being Stoke and Everton. I guess we could have predicted the Stoke result. Liverpool is really hurting on and off the field.

    Everton with the win has to be thought of as a better then average team who is now climbing up into the upper half of the table. Ok, I’m not unbiased on this but David Moyes bringing in Donovan has changed Evertons level of play. Again other managers would have changed Donovan’s game but Moyes left his game alone and let Landon help his team with it. So well done.

    The margin of Chelsea’s victory was huge but other than the above it was business as usual.

    • eplnfl

      January 17, 2010 at 6:21 pm

      After Sunday you have to say a another very entertaining weekend of football in the Prem. While Everton is the big news on Sunday, is Arsenal the real story. With a game in hand this week that you can expect 3 points from the Gunners are right there near the top.

      Another interesting game for the American fans in the Villa-Hammers game. You want to see the Hammers stay up just to see Jon Spector have some stability in his side. Yet, the news from Fulham was not so good for the Yanks with the Dempsey injury. Lets hope it is not as bad as first thought.

  6. John

    January 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Not sure why some folks are sticking up for Liverpool. They did play very well today considering who was sidelined, but they stopped playing their game with about 10 minutes left.

    I understand the desire not to play defense and hold the lead, but considering how well Liverpool played to that point (and how poorly they defend set pieces), it seemed a curious move to try and play “prevent.”

    Stoke pushed them hard at that point and deserved it, I feel.

  7. Jason

    January 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Everton needs some sort of motivation to keep on this run of good form. Europe maybe beyond their reach. A good goal for the rest of the season: Catch Liverpool in the standings. If they hold on to beat Man City then they will be within 8 points of Liverpool. I think all of the Man City for championship talk can stop now eh?

    Still no real spectacular result today. It wont be the most memerable match day in a while. In fact we’ve had some medicore match days in the last few weeks. Today was kinda so so. Last week stunk with the cancellations. And the holiday fixture period was terrible with so many draws. The EPL has kinda gotten boring in the past month or so. Thank goodness we had Man Utd and Liverpool get upset in the FA Cup to keep things lively.

    As far as next week goes: Upsets baby. I will be cheering for Birmingham, Stoke, Preston, Leeds Utd, and Brighton in partictular. Every year I always cheer for the teams who have never been relegated from the EPL in history (7 teams now) to get beat. So far two of them have lost (man utd, liverpool), 5 more to go now (Chel, Ars, Evt, Tott, Ast V).

    • Pete

      January 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm

      Everton vs Man City game was good one. Everton played well.

      • The Gaffer

        January 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm

        I agree Pete. A very entertaining game to watch particularly in the first half. And the second wasn’t bad either.

        This was a true test for Roberto Mancini and Manchester City to see what they were made of after going into the dressing room at half-time two-nil down. We got our answer.

        The Gaffer

  8. Brad

    January 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    For anybody watching the Manchester United game on Setanta, did you find the commentating to be really obnoxious especially in the second half?

    The guy, can’t remember his name, kept going on and on about Valencia passing the ball instead of running at the defender. It would be one thing if his passes were bad, but cross after cross from Valencia landed at the feet or head of strikers in dangerous positions.

    I also think he was overly critical of Nani. Sure he didn’t have the greatest game, but to say he had a nightmare of a game was far a little bit of an exaggeration. He had one of the only good chances in the first half and provided some decent passes in the second.

    Overall, it was nice to see some good attacking play from Manchester United in the second half. They still have to get the defense sorted out if they want to challenge Chelsea.

    • Jesse

      January 16, 2010 at 1:51 pm

      The commentators for the United/Burnley match were Des Curran and Lou Macari. I agree with you on Macari, he’s a former player at United and did in fact seem a little hard on Valencia who United constantly shifted the ball to out on the right flank through the first half.

      Valencia, for me was man of the match for United. His crosses into the box kept United in the game, albeit barely, until Berbatov found the opener and Rooney the decisive goal.

      Chuffed to see Diouf score to cap off a not so impressive 3 points.

  9. Simon Burke

    January 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Harsh on Liverpool – i dont think Stoke necessarily deserved the draw, especially when you add in Kuyt’s chance. Stoke created very little and resported to high hoofs from corners and throws but it paid off.
    I felt sorry for Rafa at the equaliser as I felt Liverpool just about deserved a win and Rafa looked very disconsolate.

  10. Peter

    January 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    A deserved equaliser for Stoke.

    It came in the dying minutes. Stoke played well in the first 10-15 minutes of the game and the last 10 minutes of the game, but overall Liverpool were dominant. They were comfortable for most of the game and all Stoke did was go Route 1 and try and score from set pieces. Didn’t seem deserved to me.

  11. John

    January 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Probably for the best that you ignored the Spurs/Hull match. Tottenham had several chances (Keane and Crouch each had attempts where I jumped out of my seat, I was so certain they’d be goals), but couldn’t cash in.

    Wolves and Hull have laid out good approaches for shutting down Spurs. While Tottenham had chances, the game wasn’t as free-flowing as they usually like to play.

    • LI Matt

      January 16, 2010 at 4:25 pm

      Stoke, Wolves, Hull.

      Three home games. One point. Zero goals scored.

      That’s why Spurs won’t finish in the top four.

  12. Joel

    January 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Dang, Gaffer! Your observations come so quickly after the end of the 3 pm kickoffs.

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