Click through to read my conclusions from this weekend’s Premier League action (barring Monday’s game between Hull and Villa) which saw little change at either end, as the top teams won and the bottom teams lost.
Grabbing the headlines instead wwas Joey Barton, for all the wrong reasons as usual. And after all the recent talk of penalty decisions, one was given to Arsenal at Portsmouth that Arshavin almost seemed to turn down in a display of sportsmanship rarely seen in football these days.
Meanwhile, in the match that I watched live, Everton strolled to a win over Sunderland to take 5th place at least temporarily, but I was surprised to see how little Sunderland seemed to care about the match, given their current plight.
1. “Oops I did it again”
I wrote an article on Joey Barton way back in October 2008 (back before my posts all had pictures) when he expressed an interest in becoming a role model after his stint in prison. I argued that we should maybe give him one final chance in football, so as to let the legal system’s ultimate reformal tool have an impact on him.
However, after yet another reckless and dangerous tackle at the weekend, even I have to concede that there is simply no place in football for Joey Barton. He did in fact get the ball in his tackle on Xabi Alonso, who was lucky to escape with his leg intact, but there was certainly a lot of intent and malice in the way he dived into the tackle that any contact with the ball was probably accidental.
There was simply no need for such a challenge, Alonso was going nowhere, into the corner of the pitch, there was little time left on the clock and Newcastle were already soundly beaten. Yes, Barton may have been frustrated at seeing the Magpies stumble further towards relegation, but that is no excuse for such malicious action.
Barton is surely one of the players that, should Newcastle be relegated this season, the club will look to offload as quickly as possible, but I don’t think they will get a fee for him. Surely no manager now will be foolhardy enough to take on such a liability, and if Barton is indeed to bow out of top flight football, he won’t be missed.
2. From Russia with love.
Andrey Arshavin is really beginning to light up the Premier League with his performances after settling in at Arsenal, but in their match against Portsmouth on Saturday he displayed another admirable facet of his game. When Sean Davis slid in from behind and he tumbled to the ground, the referee pointed to the spot but the Russian signalled to the referee that there was very little contact.
Strangely, in the face of such honesty and a blatant admission for Arshavin, referee Lee Mason decided to uphold the award of the penalty and Niklas Bendtner duly slotted the penalty home, giving Arsenal a two goal lead. And while replays suggest that Davis may indeed have clipped the diminuitive strikers heels as he ran through, it was a rare but welcome sight to see a player not make the most of the tiny contact.
Whether Mason was justified in giving the penalty or not, given Arshavin’s signal that seemed to imply he felt the award was harsh, credit must be given to Arshavin for such a display of sportsmanship. These days it is all too common to see theatrical tumbles from players when little or no contact has been made, so it was good to see with Arshavin that some players at least, still have some gentlemanly conduct in them.
3. Black Cats laze in the sun.
A sunny day at the Stadium of Light saw Everton meet a Sunderland team fighting for their lives, and I must admit that as an Evertonian who has seen his side in that very position numerous times over the course of my lifetime, I was expecting us to be given a tougher test.
Sunderland didn’t really look too bothered about the match they were involved in, putting in a very casual performance. They were unwilling to really pass the ball or look to run at Everton’s defence in the slightest, and whenever they had possession they were content simply to punt long straight ball after long straight ball upto Jones and Cisse, who got no change out of Lescott and Yobo.
Everton never really got out of second gear either, but cruised to an easy victory, the mrecurial Steven Pienaar running the show and Jo and Felliani also impressive. On this showing Sunderland may well be Championship bound at the end of the season, though arguably the showings from Newcastle and Middlesbrough were just as apathetic. If staying up is a case of who wants it most, maybe we should just send them all down?