Monday, October 5, 2009

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 7 Review: The End of Liverpool's Title Aspirations?

Oh how different one week makes...last week's review had me raving about Liverpool's form and their attacking potency, I then had the displeasure of watching Liverpool lose in the Champions League against Fiorentina and the gut-wrenching loss to Chelsea, the team I disliked the most. The media is already writing off Liverpool's chances but I will defer my opinions until after the Christmas/New Year matches.

You see, Liverpool typically have a stronger second half of the season and besides, they are only 6 points behind the new leaders, Chelsea. Early days still in my books. For long periods in the game, all Chelsea had to show was Didier Drogba (the world class striker I disliked most) rolling around, clutching his ankles and feigning imaginary injuries. Ballack, Lampard and Deco were rendered ineffective up and until that grave error by Javier Mascherano. At that moment, Lampard intercepts, Essien lays it on, Deco spreads it wide, Drogba peels left and sends in a cross which Anelka scores. In two seconds, the best laid Rafa tactics were shred to bits in one clinical Chelsea move.

Beaten by an x-Red - Image from Reuters

To Rafa's credit, his substitutions were positive and Liverpool started looking more menacing while chasing the game, especially with Benayoun running at the Chelsea defence. Clearly Rafa will have to stop fielding Lucas so stubbornly but instead revert Gerrard to centre midfield and play Benayoun as the 2nd striker until Aquilani reaches match fitness. Give me Gerrard's "Hollywood" passes over Lucas' sideways ball anytime.

What next for Liverpool? For sure, a positive response is expected. None more so than the under-fire Skrtel-Carragher partnership. Jamie Carragher this season is looking past his sell-by date and the sooner Daniel Agger gets back on the field, the better for Liverpool.

The end of Liverpool's title challenge? Sunderland is next and that's a tough match at the Stadium of Light. The Reds shoddy defence will be up against statistically at least, the best strike partnership in the Premiership i.e. Sunderland's Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent. A combination which is quick, pacy, physical and menacing aerially. A currently shaky Liverpool defence will not enjoy visiting Sunderland in their next "must win" match.

The best strike duo currently in the Premiership - Getty Images

Elsewhere, Steve Bruce came within one minute of a maiden win against his mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson. In a game where Sunderland looked good value for three points, Kieran Richardson will not be getting a Christmas card from his manager as he got sent off for acting stupid.

That proved to be THE turning point in the match as United launched wave after wave of sustained pressure on the Sunderland goal area. For me, Berbatov is now at ease with his stature within the United team and he has been turning in Cantona-esque performances for the past two weeks. That overhead kick for United's first goal was a beauty!

Berbatov's overhead goal - Getty Images

West Ham continue to mesmerize and frustrate all at once. Zola must be wondering what he and his coaching team can do to arrest the slump. All talk of a "Cup Final" against Fulham remained just that. The Hammers start games very well but cannot kill off their opposition. Not quite in the Arsenal "walk the ball into the net" standards but the killer instinct is just not there. To make things worse, the loss of James Collins have definitely weakened the defence significantly. Carlton Cole's unwanted record of West Ham not winning when he scores this season lives on but it could easily have been three points dropped instead of one point gained at Upton Park on Sunday.

Carlton Cole scores! and West Ham cannot win - Image from PA

Zola and Clarke will have the international break to figure out how best to boost confidence and concentration. Steel and determination are needed to get out of this rut and West Ham do not have enough leaders in the team to jolt them out of this worrying slump. And where is Guillermo Franco? His prickly style of play could be the antidote to our problems right now.

There is nothing Thomas Vermaelen cannot do - Getty Images

Finally, in their 6-2 thrashing of Blackburn, Arsenal is proving that total football may be back in style. The Premiership's most dangerous defender, Thomas Vermaelen scored his fourth goal striding out of defence and unleashing a killer left foot curler. Van Persie, Arshavin, Fabregas, Walcott and Bendtner proves that one does not have to rely on a specialist striker to be successful so long as total football is the footballing philosophy on show. Over the last few weeks, Arsenal have shown they can play ugly, winning 1-0 and be resolute, coming back from being a goal behind. Perhaps this could be a trophy season after all. Arsenal remains my favourite for FA Cup glory this season.

And so this is how Week 7 Premier League football ended,

Monday, September 28, 2009
FT Manchester City 3 - 1 West Ham United
Saturday, October 3, 2009
FT Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - 1 Portsmouth
FT Burnley 2 - 1 Birmingham
FT Hull City 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic
FT Bolton Wanderers 2 - 2 Tottenham Hotspur
FT Manchester United 2 - 2 Sunderland
Sunday, October 4, 2009
FT Arsenal 6 - 2 Blackburn Rovers
FT Everton 1 - 1 Stoke City
FT West Ham United 2 - 2 Fulham
FT Chelsea 2 - 0 Liverpool

In the armchair of my living room, these are the best and worst of week 7
Peaking At the Right Time: Arsenal, Sunderland, Bolton
Some Soul Searching Required: Liverpool, West Ham, Blackburn

Finally, Portsmouth got their first three points of the season which is great news for everyone at the club. This should give the club a big lift and help them focus on a long struggling season ahead.

Related Articles:
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 1 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 2 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 3 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 4 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 5 & 6 Review

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