Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ball Harambee Nov. 7

The Dust is Settling in the EPL By Bagga Wilks

This was a telling week in English football. The results tell us where teams are likely to finish when the fat lady sings. Wigan, at the bottom of the tables with 5 points, lost to Wolves, a team slightly above relegation contention. All the signs are that Wigan will face relegation and one of the two teams sitting in the cellar, Blackburn also lost in this first week of November 1. Wolves, as they did last year, will avoid regulation by a whisker.

What is quite revealing thus far in the EPL is the performance of the three promoted teams, Swansea, Queens Park Rangers and Norwich. Swansea drew this week with Liverpool playing away. Queens Park Rangers gave the juggernaut-like Manchester City a run for their money playing them at home. Norwich lost to Aston Villa in a hotly contested game.

The contrast is fascinating when one compares the three recently promoted teams with the likes of Reading, Birmingham, Hull City, etc., teams that were promoted to the Premier League but were still playing an obsolete brand of football.

A club like Swansea is well coached and plays the beautiful game. Queens Park Rangers got a transfusion of new blood just prior to the opening of the season and there is no question that players like Joey Barton, Sean Wright Phillips and Anton Ferdinand have made QPR a more competitive team.

As we take a FIFA break, Manchester leads by five points. Manchester City has shown that even in tight games they can find that little extra to come away with three points.

Manchester United remains in second place. After an auspicious beginning, Manchester United is now only able to grind out narrow victories. They defeated Sunderland 1-0 and Wes Brown, formerly with Sir. Alex, scored an own goal for his old team.

The surprise of the contenders is Newcastle United. Newcastle finds a way to win. It is far from a star-studded team but they are disciplined, fight for every ball and are impeccable in the back.

Tottenham won again this weekend. Against Fulham, they showed an inability to control the game, particularly in the second half. Fulham was all over the Spurs in the second half and deserved a better outcome.

Arsenal’s nightmare start is now behind them. Arsenal has put together back to back wins and the return of Vermaelen and the improvement of Koscielny have strengthened the defensive line. Arsenal beat West Bromwich 3-0 and kept a clean sheet. Arteta looks like a Gunner and is back to his peak form when he was the playmaker at Everton before his serious knee injury.

Arsenal is in 6th place with 19 points, way off Manchester City’s pace. It is unlikely that Manchester City will stumble but Arsenal has an excellent chance of finishing in the top four.

The January transfer will soon be on us and the canny acquisitions by the top six can make a difference when the tight bottles are underway in the waning weeks of the season. It is quite unlikely that any of the Manchester teams will be seeking talent in the January market. Chelsea’s problem is not the search for new acquisitions but to find the right chemistry. Their dilemma is what does one do with the off-stride $50 million man? Send him on loan to another league until he is no longer a shadow of his old self. For the relegation teams, they wish they had some of Chelsea’s money or Manchester City. Chelsea’s problem is that they had too much and they did not spend it wisely.

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