Monday, March 26, 2012

Shuffling the EPL Deck

Ball Harambee By Bagga Wilks

The English poet T.S. Eliot wrote in one of his poems that April is the cruelest month. In the English Premier League, March, April and May can either be cruel months or delightful months. For the teams struggling to avoid regulation - Wigan, Queens Park Rangers, Wolverhampton Wolves and Bolton Wanderers - April and May will be cruel months.

The stakes are high but different from those in the title race. Manchester United is beginning to fire on all cylinders as they approach the last eight games of the season. Rooney is in fine form, Welbeck and Young are running at defenders and Paul Scholes has been resurrected.

Mancini’s squad stumbled against Stoke City on Saturday. Their reliable pistons - Silva and Ya Ya Toure - are not the pivotal players that they were at the beginning of the season. Ya Ya scored a stunning goal against Stokes to tie the game, but his dribbling, nigh unstoppable forays have become infrequent. Injury to Lescott and Kompany, the reliable central defenders have not helped as Michael Richards filled in as a central defender and his attacking runs at right full back detracted from the attacking capabilities of the team.

Poor Tottenham. They lost form at a crucial time in the season. The team plays discombobulated. Bale has not been scoring and Modric is missing in action. Tottenham has fallen from grace and are now in fourth place, three points behind Arsenal but ahead of the also fading Chelsea.

Arsene Wenger, unlike Harry Redknapp, is smelling like a rose. Arsenal even when they do not play well, have found a way to win. Last week in the game against Liverpool, they were outplayed but they found a way to win. Against Everton during the week, they emerged with a win in a highly contested game. This week-end against Aston Villa was a walk in the park at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal players have peaked at the right time. Theo Walcott has taken his game to another level. Rosicky has justified Wenger’s faith in him when many like myself thought that he was finished. Arsenal’s midfield of Song, Arteta and Rosicky is now sparkling both offensively and defensively. Arteta is beginning to look like the player he was at Everton. And Vermaelen who missed the entire season last year, has gotten back his swagger and he and Koscielny now constitute a formidable pair. Kieran Gibbs is scoring goals and staying uninjured and Sagna is at the top of his game.

For Arsene Wenger, April should not be the cruelest month but the month when those who dismissed his reluctance to jump into the January market as stupidity, must now recognize and respect his prowess as a manager.

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