19 December, 2015

Gameweek 16: Jose's swansong.....again.....

Well the league is showing that there are still some twists and turns left in it. Chief among them being Leicester's win over Chelsea, Palace beating Southampton and Bournemouth winning. City were very lucky to claim all three points, Newcastle beat Spurs and as for Arsenal......well they won but they were up against Villa and there's only so far you can stretch reality before it starts to crack open and the nameless ones can get at us. Yet for all the new spice there is still the old tastes that will never go away; Villa being dire, Sunderland losing, Manchester United being absolute tripe and Jose blaming everyone but himself and getting sacked. SO let's plunge headlong into the this mire of hilarity and mediocrity...............

Norwich Vs Everton: Score draw as Toffees get stuck against the Canaries...........
Martinez lamented after this match that he'd “swap any record for a clean sheet” when asked about his thoughts on Lukaku potentially challenging Vardy's eleven game scoring streak and it's clear that he viewed today results as two points dropped rather than one gained. In fact, Everton should've been put of sight by half time such was their domination of the opening 45 minutes. On another day Lukaku would've netted a hat-trick at least from the glut of chances he was afforded by a particularly porous Norwich defence, today he netted only the once when he met Deulofeu's cross at the back post. The goal was a showcase of hopeless defending. His team-mates were also lining up for chances as Baines smacked the post and Kone had two great chances saved.

Neil stated that he had “good discussion in terms of what's acceptable” with his players at half-time which usually translates to “gave the fuckers the hairdryer” and it worked as Norwich came out of the second half and changed team. The second half ran at a total opposite to the first. Norwich now pressed with intent and Everton found it much more difficult to get through the previously accommodating Norwich backline. Everton also seemed to shift down in terms of workrate and allowed Norwich to run at them and find spaces in the back. This was shown after only the first two minutes of the second half as Norwich equalised. Jerome had found his feet and ran down the right flank, cutting in. His low cross was cut out by Baines but had the two Norwich players in support actually put the effort in there could've been serious trouble. Norwich need not have bothered as the corner led to the goal. Brady delivered a fine ball to Bennett at the back post who thumped a header goalward. It was cleared by Barkley but only as far as Hoolihan who bundled it through Barkley's legs and into the net. The second half played itself out with chances from either side but Everton will be aggrieved to let more points slip away. Norwich will travel to Old Trafford and that pluck they showed in the second half will stand good if they can muster it for 90 minutes instead of 45. Everton will hope to have their defensive lapses sorted by the time Leicester swash-buckle into town next week.

Crystal Palace Vs Southampton: More misery for the Saints as the eagles strike...........
It's been a good last few weeks for Palace. After this win they now sit sixth, level points with fifth and three off the top four. Their performance today was rock-solid from front to back but they really have their goalkeeper, Hennessey, to thank for the three point haul today. For all their lamenting about a lack of a proven goalscorer (which isn't to throw shade onto Wickham's solid workrate, but Palace could do with a forward who can,at least, hit a barn door) they can rejoice more that they've such a proven goalkeeper. Twice today he kept them in it, pulling off the kind of saves that have even the opposition applauding. He superbly backed up a stalwart defence in front of him which ably supports a rampant midfield. A decisive striker would be the cherry on top of this wonderful cake Pardew has going. Not that what he's serving up is bad by any means, yet they still relied on the Southampton defence completely going to sleep to score and they can't be relying on lapses of such a comedic nature regularly.

Southampton had big spells of pressure but, even considering the two great saves, they never seemed like scoring. There was no air of “keep this up and we'll definitely score”. They too, were heavily reliant on their own keeper, stand-in Gazzaniga, to provide some quality saves when his defence and midfield let him down, which they did frequently. There was one particular moment where he had to pull of three saves in quick succession from Cabaye, Bolasie and Wickham. This then led to the goal when a long goal kick from Hennessey was played to Cabaye who released Bolasie down the right. He left Fonte on his heels and dashed to the byline to cross low for Cabaye, who had managed to wander straight through the midfield and defence without a single player noticing him, who couldn't miss from two yards out. The re-start saw Palace pour forward with Cabaye pulling the strings. Gazzaniga had to be wide to a fantastic Wickham shot. He later pulled off a save that defied belief when a Cabaye (who else?) corner fell to Bolasie. It was the perfect height for a volley and he absolutely put his foot through it. Somehow Gazzaniga got a hand to it and kept it out. Long then had the last opportunity of the game when put through one-on-one and opted to try to slot the ball between Hennessey's legs. The keeper got down quickly and saved to secure all three points. Palace are in fine form and will be looking forward to the match against Stoke next week which would put them within a hair's breadth of top four. Southampton need to salvage themselves for the visit of the other major top-four hopeful: Spurs.

Manchester City Vs Swansea: The money team lucks out against headless Swans......
An awful game matched only by the weather and the result. City skated the line today in how crap a team can be and still take all three points, I'd have thought United were odds on for that award. Make no mistake, they did not deserve this and probably didn't even deserve the draw that seemed nailed on when Gomis equalised in the 90th minute. Swansea succumbed to a goal they could not prevent having gone behind from a goal they really should have. Monk was sacked after 22 months in which he took them to the premier league and had them mixing it with the “big” teams but was unable to sustain a series of results that his board considered good enough. Why they sacked the manager just before they faced one of the league favourites though is beyond me. Maybe there's no Welsh word for “timing”. City themselves haven't had a good run of form although their results have not suffered too much. They remain firmly in the title race and still have some key players to return yet the paucity of their performance today will not be leaving them too happy. They play like this against Arsenal next week and they'll get shredded.

Swansea, however, started with much more impetus and should've been one up inside of five minutes. Routeledge left Otamendi for dead to leave himself one-on-one with Hart. Unfortunately Hart was equal to his attempt and saved well. Silva remained City's only real source of drive forward and he set up Bony well in the 14th only for the striker to scuff the shot straight to Fabianski. Swansea attacked again with Routeledge found Sigurdsson on the edge of the box and completely open. He took his shot first time and it was straight at Hart. Navas forced a corner in the 26th and he took the corner himself. Swansea completely switched off and Bony was unmarked as he ran onto the ball and scored. The first half ended with Swansea attacking again through Sigurdsson and he found Ayew who hit narrowly over. The second half started with more Swans pressure and they came close when Hart saved well from a textbook Sigurdsson free kick. Hart was, by far, the busier keeper having to make twice as many saves as his counterpart. In the 90th minute, with Swansea still pouring forward, Fernandez hit a cutting long ball right down the middle of the field to leave Gomis with just Hart to beat having left Mangala in his dust. He hit his shot just over Hart but with such power that he couldn't keep it out. The cheers from the Swan crowd were still ringing around the half-empty Etihad when, 90 seconds later, Toure picked the ball up on the edge of the box and his shot bounced off the back of Iheanacho and looped over the helpless Fabianski. Swansea will have made a lot of Arsenal fans happy by making City look really bad today and will be hoping West Ham suffer a similar drop in form next week. City travel to Arsenal and will need a performance much better than this if they are to survive.

Sunderland Vs Watford: Slim pickings at the stadium of light..........
A relegation six-pointer” Sam Allardyce claimed this match to be, which is a bit odd considering Watford came into the match in the top half of the table and, afterwards, now sit in seventh. Whether the comment was a blissfully ignorant assessment or the world's shittest wind-up we will never know. One thing we are closer to knowing is how difficult it will be for Sunderland to stay up this season. As it so often does the slim scoreline betrays the reality of the game, with Watford having more than three times as many attempts on target as their hosts and were unfortunate not to walk away with at least four goals. This was down to a combination of the profligacy of Ighalo (even though he scored) and the skill of Pantillimon (even though he was partially at fault for the goal). Watford have now won three on the trot and five out of their last seven and are starting to play some seriously good football. Sunderland are still mired in the same problems that have dogged them all season although they can look to the strong ending they had today for heart, even though it yielded no points in the end.

It took a mere four minutes for the Sunderland defence to concede and it came from a routine looking passage of play. Nyom galloped down the right flank, as he would continue to do the entire match, and crossed low for Ighalo who had gotten in front of a dozy Coates at the near post. His connection to the ball wasn't great but with the Sunderland defence and Keeper still asleep, it didn't need to be. The ball squeaked past Pantillimon at his near post. Seven minutes later the lead should've been doubled when Ighalo turned O'Shea inside out and just skipped past him and fired into the goal. A last ditch slide from Coates cleared the ball off the line and the ensuing goalmouth scramble ended with Jurado glancing a shot off the post. Allardyce scrapped his five man defence idea after 20 minutes to try to stack the midfield and see more of the ball and it somewhat worked, well, at least they didn't concede again. The second half started off with more of the same but Sunderland were beginning to play themselves into the game. It all turned when Defoe came on and prompted fevered questions as to why he wasn't put on earlier. He had the ball in the net from practically his first touch, although it was ruled out for offside, and he spurred Sunderland into a frenzy in the last twenty minutes. They pressed the life out of Watford and fired ball after ball at the goal with Gomes required to produce a brilliant stop to deny Defoe. Watford will be pleased with their point haul so far and a win over Liverpool next week will be incredible for them, even if they'd take a point at this stage. Sunderland have a long slog to continue and have the beleaguered Chelsea next week.

West Ham Vs Stoke City: One hell of a scoreless shoot-out...................
In one of the most entertaining 0-0 matches you're likely to see (ever) we caught a glimpse into Bilic's mindset with regards to his team and how he wants them to play; attack! In the second half he slung on Valencia and Jelavic for two attacking substitutions at 0-0, when he's got a sizeable amount of his first team missing. The man has got balls I'll say that. Yet his plan very nearly worked. That Hughes also had the same plan with Stoke and it nearly worked too made for some compelling viewing in a fixture that, in the past, could've been used as a riot suppressant. West Ham left this match grateful, again, to their goalkeeper Adrian for keeping Stoke's few chances at bay and Stoke were grateful that Butland was more than equal to the horde of chances West Ham had to score including a heart-wrenching moment in the 43rd minute when Shawcross his pass straight to Noble who surged past him. Thankfully Shawcross got back in time to foul Noble off the ball and walked away with the goal kick.

The match started off brightly with the Hammers having first chance with Koyate absolutely plastering a ball from 30 yards out. It took a slight deflection but Butland got to it. Stoke got into it afterwards to start off their only spell of serious pressure in the match when Van Hinkel fired narrowly wide with the goal at his mercy and Arnoutovic latching onto an excellent Afellay cross only to have mis-judged where he was and his first-time shot flew wide. The half ended with Antonio somehow missing from two yards when he slid onto a Cresswell cross that had everyone fooled. The second half started off well too with Antonio coming close with a volley that was straight at Butland. The last 20 minutes saw both teams make ever increasingly attacking subs and the match began to really heat up. Arnatovic smacked a free-kick off the crossbar on the 67th minute and Cresswell had a good shot ten minutes later which Butland needed to be alert to keep out.
Then the moment of the match came when Zarate was allowed to jink the ball around the entire outside of the box without a single tackle being put in and his crisp shot cannoned off the post with Butland well beaten. The last kick of the game was a corner which pin-balled it's way around the Stoke box unitl it got to Koyate who headed it on goal only for Butland to punch away as the ref blew the final whistle. Stoke will need to continue their renaissance next week against a team who are in the midst of their own revival, Palace. The Hammers travel to a headless team in Swansea next week that really should be three points for them if they play like this again.

Bournemouth Vs Manchester United: United's sleepy play finally gets its' just desserts.........
I've banged on about United's stodgy play for months now. I mean, who hasn't? Van Gaal and his team of Diazepam players have been playing god-awful horrendous football for a while now. But they still sit in the top four. The fact always remained that, yeah they're playing shit, but they're not losing. That's the key. Until now. It seems this match could turn out to be something of a turning point. After today, United can no longer sleep-walk their way through games. They were comprehensively out-hustled today by a Bournemouth team that was buoyed by their win over Chelsea last week and have now added Manchester United's name to their kill-list. It's been a great few weeks for Bournemouth, even if some of their players haven't had the best of times. Bournemouth's best performer was Arter, who elected to play despite losing his baby daughter a week ago, and he could've been forgiven for not showing up to play. It speaks volumes about this team and their spirit that such a tragedy actually binds them closer together and makes them stronger.

United, on the other hand, look like a disparate group of strangers who just all happened to show up to a speed-dating session all wearing the same clothes. They also look like they don't know what their supposed to be doing, whether as a group or individuals. Van Gaals claims that injuries have severely weakened his team will fall on deaf ears as he faced a team who have not a tenth of the resources yet have just as crippling an injury list. Nevertheless Bournemouth had sought to go at United from the off, knowing that sitting back was to invite danger, and promptly got their reward after two minute with a sublime rarity: A goal straight from a corner. Stanilas had helped win the corner from a free kick and his whipped in delivery to the far post was flapped at by De Gea who could then only watch as the ball pinged in off the post. Boruc kept this lead for as long as he could, making a superb double save from Fellani and Carrick two minutes later and Martial firing an inch wide on the 18th minute. On the 24th a floated ball in from Carrick left Menphis on and his shot was well saved by Boruc. He could do nothing about Fellani and his follow-up however and United were level. The second half brought more Bournemouth pressure with Francis running virtually the entire pitch and through the whole midfield and defence only for De Gea to save well. The corner was fired low to King who slapped home to make it 2-1. United got desperate in their hunt for a second and left themselves wide open at times, with Murray missing a golden chance late on. The match ended as it should have, with the better team winning. Bournemouth now travel to West Brom and will hope for three on the bounce to really give them a huge boost in the league, Manchester United have a lot of questions to answer before Norwich arrive.

Aston Villa Vs Arsenal: Gunners coast to victory over lifeless corpse otherwise known as Villa
Most Arsenal fans would say that these are the types of matches they need to win to be title-contenders. And they have to be won convincingly. It's no good crawling past a team like Villa, devoid of any kind of spirit and cohesion, and expect people to give you a chance against teams like Manchester City. And that's just what they did. Despite starting quite slowly, which is odd considering the “pure speed” output of a lot of the players, they grew to dominate utterly a team that expects to be so. In Villa they found a nice resting game before a week long break and the match against City. Villa had the opportunity to show that they've got some pluck if people are willing to believe in them and while they did play much better in the second half, they were never in this game and always looked worse off.

Arsenal have had to re-jig their lineup in recent months thanks to a plethora of injuries which gave rise to the sight of Walcott back on the right wing and Ramsey in his preferred central role. Ramsey was a machine today. Full of running and energy and drive, yet it was Walcott who secured the early first goal when his run onto a brilliant Flamini ball resulted in him being hauled down in the box by Hutton. For all the “controversy” surrounding how Friend took so long to make up his mind it remains that he made the correct decision, it still begs the question why he began by running away and then blowing up for the penalty. Giroud stepped up and fired the ball to the right to make it 1-0. Arsenal then went full counter attack mode, ceding possession knowing that they really couldn't be hurt unless they fucked up major styleee. Giroud came close to adding a second with a header only for Gestede to clear off the line. Their toying with Villa culminated in a scything counter attack in the 38th minute which saw Ramsey tackle Gana to release the ball to Ozil who fed Walcott. Walcott waited for Ozil to run by him and played a superb through-ball to leave Ozil one-on-one. Make that three-on-one as he had Ramsey and Giroud to his left. He got close to Guzan and squared around him to Ramsey who had an open goal. The second half saw Arsenal shift right down in preparation for City on Monday and they played well within themselves, comfortable in the knowledge that Villa had nothing left. Villa have a trip to Newcastle and will need to show more fight to hope for anything, and it's the two favourites on Monday as Arsenal host City.

Liverpool Vs West Brom: Good times and bad tempers.................
Klopp's much celebrated tenuous grip on reality was pushed to the limit today. He wound up celebrating Origi's 95th minute equaliser (at Anfield, no less) like he'd just won the world cup and stood staring at the West Brom bench with a manic, near-insane, look in his eyes. Had he pulled out a chainsaw and set about carving the backroom staff up into sandwich meat I don't think anyone would've been surprised, they'd probably be surprised that it hadn't happened sooner. He then ended by refusing to shake hands and leading his team in a group bow that left everyone confused as to what the fuck was going on and running for the exits lest they hear the sounds of a chainsaw buzzing. West Brom, in the meantime, will rue the momentary lapses that allowed Liverpool to snatch a point in what would have been a landmark victory for them this season. They conceded horrific amounts of possession (probably the lowest in the league so far) and had only two shots on target. Thankfully they scored with both of them.

It was Liverpool who opened the scoring first though. In the 21st Coutinho was afforded some rare space and he floated a sublime cross for Lallana. Everyone expected him to go for goal with the header and, as he was some distance from goal, everyone backed off him. This meant no-one tracked the run of Henderson who was Lallana's actual target. He dinked his header straight onto his feet and Henderson's first-time shot was unstoppable form around six yards out. It was a brilliantly worked team goal. The lead lasted only nine minutes however when Rondon won a corner and Brunt sent it to him at the far post. Mignolet came out to punch away and missed it completely, leaving him badly out of position. The ball fell to Dawson who fired in to level the score. In the 45th minute Olsson latched onto Gardner's free kick and volleyed it home, the flag staying down despite there being four Brommie players offside. The celebration went on and as the player jogged back into their half, the flag then went up and the goal was correctly ruled out. The second half saw Olsson get his goal for real this time, on the 73rd minute, when he glanced home a Brunt corner. The 75th minute saw Lovren stretchered off after a tackle with Gardner saw his follow-through end up on Lovren's knee. The extra time from this tackle would prove decisive. Myhill saved well from Lallana and when eight minutes added was signalled, everyone knew this match was going down to the wire. Origi, subbed on in place of Lovren, picked the ball up in the 96th and ran through a blatant foul. He got the advantage and his shot looped in off McAuley to seal the point. Liverpool will hope they don't need as much added time next week against Watford and West Brom will hope to seal up the defensive gaps when Bournemouth come to town.
Spurs Vs Newcastle: That's it, it's official, McClaren is some kind of sorcerer..............
Newcastle went into this game looking to win two-in-a-row for the first time since last Novemeber. This against a team that had only lost once so far this season. Safe to say, it wasn't looking good for McClaren and a draw was considered the best he'd get from this, if not avoiding a humbling would be second.. A win was not on the cards. Spurs were hoping to capitalise on Manchester United's slip up to Bournemouth and a win would have put them level on points and establish them as a top-four team finally. Dier's 39th minute opener seemed to cement that notion until it all fell apart in the last half hour. This result makes it three in a row at White Hart Lane for Newcastle. Though they arrived at the win via the very hardest route, typical Newcastle fashion, it was well deserved by the end and they can thank whatever gods they want that Spurs did not take full advantage of the entire first half of domination to really put them to the sword and round out the half much more that the 1-0 they did. For that, they have Elliot to thank as he made some unbelievable saves with one from a looping Lamela shot being the most eye-catching.

Spurs started the half on top and it stayed that way until midway through the second. Dier's goal was your typical front-post delivery from Lamela and the Newcastle defence ignored both of the Spurs players there. Dier was first up and he thudded his header across the goal and over Elliot who could do nothing. Mitrovic came on and the whole dynamic of Newcastle's game changed. They started to build towards the Spurs goal and, on the 72nd minute, they got their equaliser. Rose stupidly stopped a Janmaat cross with his hands and the free-kick was slung in by Colback to the back post where Colocinni headed back across. Mbemba got down and stooped towards the goal where Lloris could only half save it. Mitrovic, from around three inches out, poked home. Newcastle smelled blood and went on the offensive. Mitrovic narrowly missed a Sissoko cross which would've settled it in the 90th minute. Then, in the 94th minute, Mitrovic headed over to Perez who seemingly over ran it and his angle was too tight for a shot. Or so we thought. His shot was low and hard and Lloris, again, couldn't connect cleanly with the ball and keep it out. Newcastle will have some new challenges to overcome next week against Villa as it'll be the first time in a long time that they'll be clear favourites heading into a game. Spurs will need to analyse where they went wrong and patch up for their visit to Southampton.

Leicester City Vs Chelsea: Hahhahahahahahahahahahaha...........................
hahahahahahahahahahhahahahaahahahahhaahahahahahahahhahahahah...... 2-1 to Leicester.....hahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahaahahhahahahahaahahahahaaahaha
hahahhahahahaahahahahhaahahahahah. Chelsea now a point off the relegation zone......ahahhahahahahaahahahahaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahaaha
hahahahahahahahhahahahaahahahahhaahahahahah Jose has been sacked!!!!! haahahhaahahahahhaahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhaahahhaahaahahahahaha
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