It was a huge week in the English Premier League with Manchester United beating Chelsea and Spurs dropping back into the relegation zone. Here are the weekends winners and losers.
With games against Wigan in midweek and Bolton next Saturday, United could be back on top of the Premier League before Liverpool play Everton next Monday. Sunday’s second half display was the best that United have played all season and that must be worrying to the other title contenders who all have to visit Old Trafford in the second half of the season,
With the Club World Championship already secured and Derby standing in the way of a Wembley trip in the League, United fans are starting to get excited about wining the ‘Quintuple’ this year. There is still a long way to go before that happens, but I expect Ryan Giggs to be adding to his winners medals this year.
The United Defence
For all Man United’s attacking options, the cornerstone of the team is its defense. Since losing to Arsenal on November 8 they have not conceded a goal in the league.
When healthy, Owen is still the best goal scoring forwards in the Premier League. His goal against West Ham means that Owen has eight goals from thirteen starts this season, 17 in his last 29 appearances, 26 in 60 overall for Newcastle. With that kind of goal scoring ratio, their is no doubt that Michael Owen will be playing European football again next season.
With the win over Spurs, Wigan are up to 7th place in the Premier League and over the last six games only Manchester United and Aston Villa have gathered more points. Steve Bruce has done a fantastic job at Wigan in the 12+ months that he has been in charge.
When you go on a four plus minute tirade against the manager of your biggest rival you had better back it up. After keeping pretty much a set line-up in the beginning part of the season, Rafa is reverting back to his tinkering self. Playing 5 in midfield with just one up front might be a good tactic against Real Madrid away, but not against Stoke.
If Liverpool fail to win the title this season, everyone will look back to this weekend when Rafa started to crack under the pressure.
After a great start to the season Hull and sliding the wrong way. With juts 4 points from their last six league games Hull are only a couple more loses from being drawn into the relegation fight.
Back in the bottom three with only 5 points from their last six league matches, Spurs are really struggling. With upcoming league games against Portsmouth, Stoke and Bolton, Spurs need at least six points or the spectra of relegation will start to grow over White Hart Lane.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
After a brief honeymoon period, Luiz Felipe Scolari has failed to impress me this season. In big games this season Chelsea have been a major disappointment. It is not the one point four games against the rest of the Big Four that should concern Chelsea fans. It is the fact that after producing just one half-chance against Liverpool and a solitary shot to trouble Arsenal, having no shots on goal at Old Trafford is a troublesome trend.
Arsene Wenger has taken a lot of criticism over the last couple of seasons for Arsenal’s inability to deal with crosses. Chelsea have taken that weakness to a new level. That aspect of the game used to be a strength under Mourinho and Grant. No more. With nine goals conceded from set-pieces in their last eight matches, Chelsea have conceded a higher percentage of their league goals this season than any other team in the league. Scolari’s Portugal were eliminated from Euro 2008 after three of Germany’s quarter-final goals came from free-kicks.
Scolari’s only tactical plan seems to be to use his full-backs as wingers. One teams learnt to neutralize this threat, about six games into the season, Scolari has failed to come up with a plan B. He might be a World Cup winner, but Scolari is not a world class manager.
It was a shocking display for a Chelsea team at full strength expect for the injured Michael Essien. Gone is the swagger, imagination, spirit, flair, pace and ambition that were hallmarks of the Special Ones tenure. Instead they look like an old team who is devoid of passion, one who is happy to collect their sizeable paychecks every week and go through the motions.