Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The EPL: The Beginning of the Sorting Out

Ball Harambee By Bagga Wilks

Most of the teams in the EPL have played six matches and as the winners and losers are sorting out themselves, there are, hitherto, some surprising results. Chelsea is at the top of the tables with 16 points after beating Arsenal 2-1 on Arsenal’s home ground. To everyone’s surprise, Everton is riding high in second place with 13 points. Manchester United who lost to Tottenham at home is in third place with 12 points. Defending champions, Manchester City are in fourth place with 12 points. Tottenham is beginning to look as if they are for real and they are in fifth place with 11 points. Again surprisingly West Brom is in sixth place, ahead of Arsenal, with 10 points. Vanquished by Chelsea over the weekend is the inconsistent Arsenal with 9 points.

Newcastle, who finished with a flourish last season and had a chance to play in the Euro Championship League, is off to a slow start in 2012. They are in ninth place and drew this weekend top against Reading. Liverpool has had an un- Liverpool start and are in fourteenth place. But Liverpool won this week spearheaded by a Suarez hat-trick and a handsome and sorely needed 5-2 victory against Norwich City.

The three teams in the regulation zone are Norwich, Reading and Queens Park Rangers. QPR, who barely escaped relegation last season, has not reaped much dividend on all the money spent in the off-season.

Arsenal vs Chelsea: A Battle of Coaching Wits

Di Matteo seems to have settled on Chelsea’s starting eleven. Lampard will have difficulty breaking into the starting eleven. Oscar’s play on both sides of the ball has forced Di Matteo to include the Brazilian who has also forced his way into the starting Brazilian National Team.

Rather than playing Ramires on the right wing where he played most of last season, Di Matteo has brought Ramires into the center of the mid-field, playing in front of Mikel, Chelsea’s defensive mid-fielder.

Chelsea’s mid-field is formidable, both offensively and defensively. Mata, Oscar, Ramires and Mikel constitute a hard running and creative force, with Hazard behind the improving Fernando Torres. The back four has become somewhat impregnable with the charismatic David Luiz making less mistakes in the back and ably supported by John Terry, Ivanovic and Cole.

Arsenal had their chances. Unfortunately, Abou Diaby, who was hurt while performing for France, had to be removed in the 20th minute.

Arsenal failed to live up to expectations. Poor defending on set pieces gave Chelsea the match. And Arsenal’s strike force with the exception of Gervinho did not look sharp. Cazorla did not have any impact on the game. Podolski was equally innocuous. Giroud came on as a substitute but late in the game missed a crucial scoring opportunity which would have changed the outcome.

Wenger keeps trying with Ramsey but the Welsh captain has not been a positive factor. The find for the season has been Kieran Gibbs and Jenkinson in replace of Sagna has played well.

Arsenal’s dilemma is the 4-3-3 formation. Their style of football means that they have to maintain possession and cannot be outplayed in mid-field. The Chelsea four outplayed them in mid-field yet Arsenal’s wing play with Chamberlin and Walcott presented Chelsea with problems. Throughout the game, Chelsea controlled the middle and Arsenal controlled the flanks.

Di Matteo has settled on his starting eleven. Wenger is still sorting out his starting eleven. Arsenal’s fortunes for 2012 will depend heavily on avoiding defensive lapses like what occurred against Chelsea and the durability of the resurrected Abou Diaby.

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