The English Premier League: The week that was
As the league nears the midway point, the pre-Christmas fixtures had several talking points.
The most glittering result was obviously at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea ripped apart a hopeless Aston Villa side which lacked quality, leadership and experience all across the field. Villa’s shortcomings should in no way steal Chelsea’s and, to be specific, Benitez’s thunder. An 8-0 win may not be a reflection of a manager’s success nor his job safety (especially at Chelsea), but if the broader aspects are seen, then surely Benitez has made leaps and bounds of progress. The greatest among which is not making Torres score, but making David Luiz resemble anything close to a footballer. It was evident that he cannot be trusted with a central defence role. He is too reckless for that. But then, there is his ability to play the ball, that Brazilian flair to try imaginative/crazy/mental things (whichever way you want to see it), that energy to drive forward, the instinct to score goals and a ferocious shot in his armoury. All of thoe factors result in a perfect formula for an improvement on John Obi Mikel in the middle of Chelsea’s line up. It could very well have been a short term solution to Chelsea’s injury problems, but in this, has Benitez found a long term solution on how to use Luiz and make the defence water-tight at the same time? Maybe we’ll find out more on that in the coming games. And yes, Benitez’s next biggest achievement is making Torres score consistently. He has been spot on to recognize that the creative trio of Mata, Oscar and hazard lack the directness to make Torres work. To add that missing directness and more steel into Chelsea’s play, Moses has been brought in at the expense of Oscar and it seems to work. The irony is that none of this would guarantee Benitez the job post summer. Modern football!
Elsewhere, Fulham are in crisis. Without the injured Bryan Ruiz and Sidwell, they look like relegation fodder. Martin Jol needs to bring in players in the transfer window to prevent Fulham from getting sucked into a relegation fight, which seems likely at the moment. Meanwhile, Stewart Downing’s rare good performance may have come a little too late. Wish he had pulled up his socks much earlier!
United’s draw at the Liberty Stadium keeps the title race more intriguing and reaffirms the point that Michu is indeed the signing of the season/ player of the season so far. Without the distraction of Europe, City have still a solid chance of overhauling their rivals.
Arsenals’ rather undeserved victory at Wigan has helped relieve lot of pressure off Wenger’s shoulders. Wigan thoroughly deserved atleast a point and might feel undone by a rather dubious penalty decision. Now had it been Suarez in place of Walcott, how would the referee and the media have reacted? Just a thought. Wigan displayed some efficient and attractive football, and it is a pity that Martinez does not have the quality of players that his enterprising footballing style deserves. Maybe it is time he moves on to a bigger stage.
Everton are going places. Literally! Barring an injury crisis to weaken their ultra-thin squad, Europe should be a real ambition for Moyes’ men. Meanwhile, Stoke City are ruthlessly focused on taking all fun out of football and setting a new world record for the maximum goalless draws in a season and number of yawns. Seems like Tony Pulis has hit a glass ceiling and with all due credit (no mean feat taking Stoke to where they are currently), it is about time he makes way for a more adventurous and ambitious manager.
With Chelsea back to their winning ways, Liverpool only five points off a Champions League spot and United dropping points, both the race for the title and European spots are just heating up!
And a word of advice. Never ever remove Michu from your fantasy football team, if you take all that seriously! He is your MVP for this season’s fantasy football.