Firstly, sorry for not posting yesterday, Christmas is a busy time of year and I was making the most of spending time with people before they jet off for the festive season. Here’s a few quick points on this weekend’s fixtures (or some of them anyway). Feel free to add your own, how do you feel about your club going into Christmas? It’s often a telling time of year, the top club at Christmas often (but not always) wins the league, and the bottom team usually (but not always) gets relegated. How do we think it will pan out this year?
1. Phil Scolari is tougher than Rafa Benitez.
Both these managers had operations to remove kidney stones last week, but while Rafa watched his side’s crunch clash with Arsenal from the comfort of his own home, Big Phil braved the cold of a Monday night trip to Liverpool to see his side scrape a point against Everton. Yeah, Phil had a day more to recover, but one may question Rafa’s commitment to his team’s cause. Would the result have been different if Rafa’s inspirational presence had been on the sidelines? Thinking about it, maybe he should stay away more often…
2. Chelsea frustrated by a quality Everton side – with no strikers.
Speaking of Big Phil’s trip to Goodison, what a game it was. Though Chelsea started brightly and had the majority of possession, they hardly threatened Everton before JT got his marching orders. The game changed considerably then, and only one team was going to win as Everton played some lovely football in their attempts to get three points. Some controversy too, but here’s the facts. John Terry had to go (no matter what Scolari says), studs up + boot a foot off the turf + contact on Osman’s shin = only one option for the ref. The disallowed Pienaar goal was probably the correct decision too, he was marginally offside, though Ballack played a decent part in getting the ball over the line, I can hold my hands up and accept it. Just. Also, full marks to Phil Dowd for booking Michael Ballack. The German was persistently protesting the wall’s 10 yards, so the portly official marched exactly 10 paces to the wall, then turned on his heel, marched back, and whipped out a yellow. Scolari was in stitches, well played Mr. Dowd.
3. Adebayor didn’t deserve to go.
His first booking was very harsh, yes there was contact but not much, and if refs were to give yellow cards for every one of those tackles in every game, then almost every midfielder in the country would be roundly suspended every five games (if they made it through ninety minutes). The second was perhaps more deserving, the arm made contact but it wasn’t vicious, more just the momentum of the joint, and the Red Shite player didn’t half make a meal of it. Still, Adebayor, in coming out and criticising Arbeloa for play-acting makes him a huge hypocrite because Adebayor is quite prone of dropping like the proverbial fly himself when it suits him.
4. Arsenal – Fabregas = ‘Big Four’ Compromised
Cesc Fabregas’ approximated four month lay off is a massive dent in Arsenal’s season. The little midfield maestro simply makes them tick and one wonders where that sort of creative inspiration is now going to come from for the Gunners. Wenger will need to invest heavily in some reinforcements to try and fill the gap he has left in January as to expect Aaron Ramsey or one of his other kids to step up and fill his boots is completely unreasonable. If they don;t replace him with someone top class then Villa (and hopefully Everton) are in with a good shout of pipping them to the 4th place spot, and their Champions League campaign may stutter at the next hurdle. Diego, from Werder Bremen, would be my own personal choice for a replacement (sorry Felix), but we will see who Wenger picks, if he picks anyone at all.
5. City in Ruins.
MAn City’s magnificent empire, their rising star, seems to have burnt itself to the ground/out (respectively). In the relegation zone over Christmas, their only consolation must be that they aren’t occupying the dreaded ‘bottom at Christmas’ spot (bye bye West Brom?) and that there is a massive wad of cash burning a hole in their owners’ pockets. Whether or not Mark Hughes will be around to spend it has now become a very interesting question indeed. Personally I think he can still take them a long way, if he has control of the transfers come January, as I feel that the unsettled atmosphere around the squad regarding the instability of their futures at the club has played a major part in their poor form. Once the transfer window has come and gone, those still there will be reassured and should be able to settle down and concentrate on their football, and maybe their season can be rebuilt, though it can surely now have none of the splendour that some envisaged when Robinho spectacularly joined them on transfer deadline day.
That’s all from me on Christmas Eve, let me know if you agree or disagree, and how do you feel your club is poised at this point in the campaign? I hope everyone around the world is enjoying themselves and have a good holiday season.
Many thanks for reading.