Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 4

Fresh off the international break, the teams of the EPL were back in full action ready to shake off the jitters of the first few matches and figure out their places in the standings. Below is a review of some of the highs and lows from the weekend.

We’re not going to say, “we told you so”, but in our pre-season look at how to pick an EPL team to follow if you were new to the league we suggested Blackpool. By far the smallest team in the league based on payroll, stadium size, and fan base, they seemed like the feel-good promotion team that would be fun for any new fan to follow. Their primary team color is tangerine, not orange, but actual tangerine; isn’t that enough of a reason alone to root for them? Well Cinderella continues to dance into the evening at the ball as Blackpool scored twice to beat fellow promoted team Newcastle on Saturday and now sit alone in 4th place in the EPL standings. Blackpool has gone 2-1-1 to gain seven points, with their only loss coming in a 6-0 blowout at Arsenal. They face Chelsea next weekend on the road, so we’ll have a chance to see how they can do against the best. Even with a loss against the Blues, Blackpool probably won’t fall out of the top ten and they have the advantage of already completing their trips to Chelsea and Arsenal by Week 5 of the season.

Prior to the start of the season a number of reputable sport sites and soccer blogs conveyed a common theme, paraphrased as “ the championship will not be decided by the number of points, it will most likely come down to the goal differential.” Of course this statement was tied to Chelsea and Manchester United, but you have to step back now and ask if even goal differential can help Man U. Chelsea is sitting at 4-0-0 with twelve points at the top of the standings after what was as close to a loss as they have come, allowing their first goal of the season in a 3-1 over the lowly Hammers of West Ham. The Reds undoubtedly had the biggest gaff of the weekend when they went into stoppage time with Everton behind 3-1 only to allow a goal in the 90th minute by Tim Cahill and the equalizer in the 94th minute by Mikel Arteta. In lieu of collecting 3 points and moving into a tie with Arsenal for second place in the standings, Man U suffered their second draw of the season. So to the pre-season analysts, the first tie breaker will always be points, please keep this in mind for your future predictions.

In the biggest twist of fate for the week, and perhaps the season, we look to the case of Bobby Zamora of Fulham. On Friday Zamora signed a new four-year deal, reported as the largest ever by the club, which will keep him at Craven Cottage through the summer of 2014. On Saturday he rewards his club by scoring the opening goal in the 35th minute against the Wolves; this could only be the start of better things to come throughout the season. Not so much. In a fairly innocent tackle by Karl Henry in the 59th minute Zamora went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury but a replay clearly showed his leg completely breaking under his own weight. Zamora underwent surgery on Monday morning and is expected to be out for at least 6 months. What’s a bad break (literally) for Zamora may be a good break for USMNT member Clint Dempsey who could take over in an attacking mid-fielder role.

4 weeks into the season and here’s where we stand:

1. Chelsea – 12 pts, +16 GD (4-0-0)
2. Arsenal – 10 pts, +10 GD (3-1-0)
3. Manchester United – 8 pts, +6 GD (2-2-0)
4. Blackpool – 7 pts, 0 GD (2-1-1)
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17. Wigan Athletic – 4 pts, -9 GD (1-1-2)
18. Everton – 2 pts, -2 GD (0-2-2)
19. Stoke City – 0 pts, -4 GD (0-0-3) (Playing Monday against Aston Villa)
20. West Ham United – 0 pts, -10 GD (0-0-4)

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