Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 9

We will start off this edition of "The Keeper" with a pair of quotes, both from Sir Alex Ferguson, regarding the Manchester Derby between United and City:

Saturday, Pre-Match Press Conference:
"There could be goals, but it could also be disappointing, it is a major game. It is very seldom in major games that you get a lot of goals."

Sunday, Post-Match Press Conference:
"There’s a lot of embarrassment in the dressing room right now and we will react. That’s the worst defeat in my history ever, I don’t think I have ever lost a match 6-1 in my life, even as a player, so it's a challenge for me too."

What more can be said about the result? A 1-6 win for City at Old Trafford, the worst defeat in the Ferguson era and the most goals conceded at home since the 1930's. What we saw on Sunday was not a thrilling back and forth match as we all had hoped for; instead it was a changing of the guard of sorts. I can best describe it as that first time your younger brother beats you in basketball or golf; you're still going to be competitive, but it has taken a little bit of wind out of your sails. United will rebound and from the match and still are the money favorite to win the title this season. However history is full of impact matches, ones which leave a lasting, lingering feeling in the hearts of their fans. For both teams, this was one of those matches.

45 minutes after the final whistle in Manchester, when the world started spinning once again, Fox Soccer carried their second derby of the day; the West London scrum between Queen's Park and Chelsea. Chris Foy, referee for the match, clearly did not want his derby to be overshadowed by the events that unfolded in Manchester. You may have thought you were watching the World Series of Poker with the number of cards that were handed out during the match, 11 total including 2 reds in the first half for Chelsea. Only 3 of the starters for Chelsea escaped the match without receiving a card; I would be surprised if the FA didn't look into the match. One would argue that David Luiz's hard tackle in the box in the 8th minute leading to the penalty conversion for the 1-0 QPR lead left Chelsea steaming. The Blues clearly played with a chip on their shoulder from that point forward, and although they were aggressive seeking the equalizer, Foy saw things differently. The tackles that sent both Bosingwa and Drogba off in the first half were borderline at best, but considering Chelsea was already down a goal you would hope Foy would have limited the red cards to just one. Regardless, Chelsea came out in the second half with all the energy, even though they were playing with just nine men. Patrick Kenny was magical in net for QPR, fighting off all the attempts on net that the Blues could throw his way. In what can only be described as a scrappy finish, a mix of yellow cards and shots filled the final minutes of the match with QPR escaping with a 1-0 win.

Don't tell anyone, but Arsenal up to 7th place and just 3 points out of 5th (Europa League) following a 3-1 drubbing of Stoke City. It wasn't more than just a few weeks ago that the Gunners were sitting in 17th place in the table and Arsene Wenger's picture was pasted to dart boards across North London. Perhaps the 8-2 loss to United was a bit of a wake-up call for Arsenal, but I would argue that the "leftovers" from the sell-off this summer are finally starting to gel and play as a team. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Robin Van Persie coming in off the bench, when both teams seemed to stall out following a 1-1 first half. RVP (not to be confused with RVD of wrestling fame) did not disappoint, scoring just 6 minutes in and then following it up with a splendid completion off a Gervinho cross. For Stoke, it's been a bit of a slide the last few weeks, though they have been facing stronger teams than earlier in the season. For Arsenal, 6 wins in the last 7 matches across all competitions, perhaps Wenger has been saved from the gallows once again.

With both United and Chelsea losing, City find themselves 5 points clear at the top of the table with a massive goal differential of 26 after just 9 matches. Newcastle continues to hang tough with the big boys, still undefeated on the season, but their upcoming schedule will really test the might of the Magpies. Here is a breakdown of the top and bottom of the table.

1. Man City – 25 pts, +26 GD (8-1-0)
2. Man United – 20 pts, +14 GD (6-2-1)
3. Chelsea – 19 pts, +10 GD (6-1-2)
4. Newcastle – 19 pts, +6 GD (5-4-0)
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17. Fulham – 7 pts, -1 GD (1-4-4)
18. Bolton – 6 pts, -12 GD (2-0-7)
19. Wigan – 5 pts, -9 GD (1-2-6)
20. Blackburn – 5 pts, -10 GD (1-2-6)

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