01 November 2013

Why I'd still rather defend against Suarez than depend on him...

So here we are again about to face a striker we almost signed in the summer, and hands are wringing over the form he's in. I speak, of course, of Luis Suarez, scorer of six league goals in four appearances, a rate that would have him score 57 times in a season. That might be just enough to pencil him in as a Golden Boot candidate—except for the fact that he's already missed five league
matches (and one League Cup match), and he's all but certain to miss more. More pertinently, he's feasted on some rather feeble defenses while all but disappearing in the only match of note in which he's appeared, a 1-0 loss to Man U in the League Cup's third round. Therefore, while all of the talk centers around his "fantastic" return, and of his partnering with Daniel Sturridge, a peek under the hood suggests that he's still more style than substance, and as such, we shouldn't lament missing out on his signing even if he does net against us on Saturday.

First, the League Cup match. Yes, it was "only" the League Cup. However, it was his first appearance since biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April of last season. He surely circled this date on his calendar as one on which he could signal his return in style. However, he fizzled, taking eight shots, putting only one on target, and failing to score. Before you cluck your tongue and say, "well, yes, but what kind of lineup did Liverpool send out to support him?", I'll point out that it looks to be much the same lineup as the one we'll face on Saturday. On top of that, Liverpool had previously beaten Man U without Suarez, a point I'll return to in a minute. Long story short: he failed to deliver in a match that mattered. It was his return from an infamous ban, it was against a high-profile opponent, and it was a chance to help his team advance in the League Cup. He had to know that it would be vital for him to shine, and on all counts, he failed.

To take a broader view, his statistics are admittedly gaudy. He's needed only 23 shots to net six goals in four appearances for a conversion rate of 26%. However, he's done so against Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Newcastle, and West Brom, a slate of teams that sport a collective -33 goal-differential. He's yet to prove that he can deliver against a team that can actually defend. Even against Man U ("only five teams have conceded more goals than us"), he's failed to find the net. He's a chucker. He keeps shooting and shooting until, eventually, something goes in. Unless it doesn't.

I mentioned a return to the two Liverpool-Man U matches. In the first, a 1-0 win for Liverpool, five players combined for nine shots, an intriguing show of democracy (not that democracy is crucial for winning). In the second, a 0-1 loss for Liverpool, five players combined for 17 shots—but eight of those were taken by Suarez. To contrast the two matches, which is about as direct a comparison as we can get given the sample-size, we have on one hand a 1-0 win from nine shots taken and a 0-1 loss from seventeen shots taken. The variable between the two is Suarez's eight shots. I won't claim  that there's a direct, causal relationship there, but it's intriguing. While he's racked up that glitzy 26% conversion rate, it's only a matter of time before he reverts to the mean, a career-conversion rate of somewhere in the 12% range. For perspective, this is a conversion rate for which we lambasted Giroud last year, yet he cost a fraction—perhaps 1/4th—of what Suarez might've cost.

With all of this in mind, it's still possible that Suarez will do some damage on Saturday. He's volatile. This cuts in two ways. On one hand, he could go for a second hat-trick in as many games. On the other, he could implode, racistly abusing or biting someone on his way to yet another ban of ten games or more. I just can't tolerate these mood-swings; I'd much prefer someone who delivers on a more-consistent basis, without the diving, the racism, the biting, and all the rest. Is that too much to ask?

Last but not least, the drum-beat continues. I'm proud to say that I'm one of six finalists in the Football Blogging Awards' "Best New Blogs" category. I'm up against some heavy-hitting, broad-spectrum sites that cover a little of everything, so I hope Gooners will cast their ballots in one (or more) of the following ways:
Thanks, as always for your visit. 'Til tomorrow..

Kos will be key vs. Liverpool

Saturday's match provides us with our first truly stern test in the Prem as, despite our fine form, we still see only two points separate us from 3rd place Liverpool. Had Suarez, scorer of six goals in four games, not missed Liverpool's first six matches, they might have done better than to draw against Swansea or lose to Southampton. As it stands, he and the club as a whole are in fine form indeed, and this looks to be a real barn-burner.

As I see it, the key match-up—at least the marquee one, as it looks on paper—will be Suarez against Koscielny. Sturridge may lead the team with 8 goals, but he's less mercurial or volatile. Blunting Suarez's runs, dribbles, and shots will key, and Koscielny will be the man who puts his shoulder to that wheel (although gently, as we all know that gravity pulls extra hard on Suarez, especially in the opponent's box). Koscielny explains his approach to man-marking thusly:
On man-marking, I don’t let the striker breathe. I love one-on-one challenges...my aim is to never let the striker open on his good foot to go towards goal. You have to be very intelligent.
I have faith in Kosicelny's intelligence and ability to stay close to Suarez. Who to pair with Kosicelny, though? Although Vermaelen played tolerably well on Tuesday, and conventional wisdom suggests Mertesacker should return, I might go out on a limb to call for Sagna to pair with Koscielny in the center. Between Sturridge and Suarez, we haven't seen two such quick forwards together, and I worry that Mertesacker, for as great as his positional awareness is, will not be able to stay close should one of them slip past Koscielny.  However, that still leaves Sturridge to account for, which is why I'd prefer Sagna's mobility over Mertesacker's positioning.

While Suarez is fleet of foot and can be lethal, I have a lot of faith in Koscielny's ability to stick tightly to him. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Suarez gets frustrated at how difficult Kos will make things for him, not that this would prompt another Suarezian meltdown, but it could be enough to unsettle and distract him. A frustrated Suarez is an ineffective Suarez. After all, for as much as been made of Suarez's goal-scoring form, it's been a while since he's faced an individual defender as tough as Kos.

Of course, it's not a one-on-one match, and each player will depend on those around him for support. Liverpool will likely overload the midfield with five men, and it's there where the match will be decided. Whoever controls the midfield will, of course, control the outcome. With Flamini out, of course, we'll certainly see Arteta and Ramsey pairing in the defensive midfield. Reminding Ramsey not to overcommit to the attack should provide more cover for the defense. With Flamini, Ramsey has had more license to roam, but Arteta lacks the pace or tenacity to allow Ramsey so much freedom to press forward. Having said that, playing Wilshere through the middle with Cazorla left and Özil right should offer us the creativity and incisiveness needed to both control possession and unlock Liverpool's back three. Between Skrtel, Toure, and Sakho, there's a great deal of height but not a lot of pace. They'll sit back so as not to concede pace behind them, but they may struggle to prevent the dribbles and shots that our midfielders can create for themselves, for each other, and for Giroud.  Giroud may not see many chances for aerial duels between Skrtel and Sakho. Then again, he could see some nifty opportunities coming from our left flank, coming near-post (as he so often does) to beat Toure. Truth be told, though, he might be most dangerous at creating chances for teammates to run onto.

I know that there's a certain degree of doubt about our form. Despite having started so strongly, there's the nagging doubt borne from having played a soft schedule and from losing our two highest-prolife matches. Let's put that to rest in two ways: one, we were unlucky against Dortmund and fielded a tossed salad against Chelsea. By contrast, Liverpool have feasted on similarly skimpy fare. It's true that they beat Man U at Anfield, but this is not the Man U we remember from years past. I think we'll see a return to form for our boys—I'm going to go out on a limb to call for a 2-0 win. I think the squad is ready to shake off the doldrums of the last ten days or so and reclaim the form that put us top of the table, simple as that.

Before we part ways, I apologize for beating this drum, but I hope you'll take a minute to vote for me in the Football Blogging Awards. I'm proud that Woolwich 1886 is one of six finalists in the Football Blogging Awards' "Best New Blog" category. I'll drop the "it's just an honor to be mentioned" charade—I want to win. Therefore, I'm hoping that fellow Gooners will take a moment to vote:
Thanks, as always for your visit. 'Til tomorrow...

30 October 2013

Don't be too hard on yourself, Carl. No man is an island.

Some men, however, get left on them.

In the aftermath of the league cup loss to Chelsea, a great deal of criticism has fallen on the slender shoulders of Carl Jenkinson. After all, he did commit an error that led to the opening goal, and it's hard enough to score before a team digs in to protect a lead. Yours truly joined the parade yesterday saying of Carl that "He is still limited, still too weak with his left and in the air." I'll stand by those comments because I still think that they're true, but I neglected the fact that he's still only 21 and has a lot of learning to do. With that in mind, it's well-worth asking ourselves why he was stranded as much as he was on what amounts to one the most important sequences of the evening—the game-winning goal. For as cringe-inducing as Jenkinson's attempted header back to Fabianksi was, it only came to pass after a series of other bad tactics or decisions that drew less attention only by being less glaring.

After all, other, more-experienced players surrounded Jenkinson: both Vermaelen and Koscielny as center-backs, and Ramsey and Wilshere in the defensive midfield. Each of them should have been aware that Jenkinson was one of the rawest players out there. However, the unfortunate reality is that, among those four, only Koscielny is known for a thorough commitment to his defensive responsibilities. We've long lamented how Vermaelen will bomb forward without getting back, how Wilshere similarly neglects his defensive responsibilities, and how Ramsey, though deployed in the defensive pivot, has grown into more of an attacker. Knowing that Chelsea frequently look for counter-attacks, it seems that there should have been stronger emphasis on caution, especially
on set-pieces that lure our defenders into the opponent's box. Instead, once the corner-kick broke down, we only had three players behind the ball to stave off the counter, and as the ball crossed midfield, it was Nicklas Bendtner who had dropped down deepest, as shown in the first screen-shot. Ramsey, Koscielny, and Vermaelen are each several yards behind Bendter. Wilshere had been drifting left behind Monreal, leaving Jenkinson alone in acres of open space with two attackers and the ball bearing down on him. Only Ramsey joined the play, breaking up the attack, if only briefly as his tackle sends the ball skyward.

Making matters worse, our two center-backs took this opportunity to break off their runs, slowing to a trot instead of getting back into position. While the attack looks to have been blunted, it should have been clear that the threat was still very much alive as Azpilicueta and Willian continued their runs. In this second screen-shot, we can see that Vermaelen pulls up to the point that he's actually leaning backward a bit to put on the brakes, and even Koscielny, who's at least still in stride, has slowed to a jog. On its surface, though it looks like Wilshere and Jenkinson might be bringing the situation under control, it still strikes me as odd that our two center-backs all but finished tracking back a good 40 yards from goal while the ball is still very much a 50-50. By doing so, they've stranded two teammates who have to turn their backs to the attackers and still make a good decision under pressure. Monreal, though the play has flowed away from his side, has at least stayed in position and is available for an outlet pass. The same is not true of Vermaelen or Koscielny.

By the time Jenkinson has to make a play on the ball, Azpilicueta has built up his momentum and can anticipate what Jenkinson will do. It's a no-risk decision, really: stay on-side and guess that he'll play the ball back to the keeper. The decision was made even easier by Jenkinson's telegraphing and poor judgement of the ball, which was moving so slowly that only an assertive header would do. Jenkinson, however, didn't put enough on it, and the rest is history. A more-experienced defender might have seen Azpilicueta running forward and brought the ball down to let him pass by harmlessly, but that's a lot to ask. It's certainly true that Jenkinson should have done better, but so too should have Vermaelen and Koscielny, if not Wilshere, Ramsey, and Monreal. Hindsight is of course 20-20. Perhaps Monreal should have shephered Eto'o wide instead of leaving the passing lane to Essien open. Maybe Wilshere should have stayed more central to close off that lane before Essien could receive the pass, or he could have obstructed Azpilicueta's run into the box. Maybe Ramsey should have stayed on his feet instead of going in for the tackle. Maybe, maybe, maybe. The point is this: Jenkinson's flub was only the most-obvious. He got stranded in a dangerous situation and couldn't find a way out. I said in my post-match that there weren't many broader conclusions to be drawn, but maybe there is—maybe we're playing too aggressively, committing defenders too far forward either by playing a high line or by allowing them to get too far upfield. It's similar to what happened for Dortmund's second goal, when defenders were unable to get back in time to stop the counter.

If that's the case, perhaps we should play a bit more conservatively against incisive counter-attacking sides like Chelsea and Dortmund and Liverpool. It seems then that we haven't been outclassed in these two losses as much as we've been caught out. I'm sure that Bouldie and the boys will be looking over the game-tape to prevent similar break-downs in weeks to come.

In other news, I'm honored that Woolwich 1886 is one of six finalists in the Football Blogging Awards' "Best New Blog" category. I'm facing some stiff competition from some general-interest blogs that cover a little of everything: transfers-rumors, betting, etc. I'm hoping that fellow Gooners will take a moment to vote:
Thanks, as always for your visit. 'Til tomorrow...

Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea. Meh.

So it seems we're done with the league cup, and this apparently means that Ramsey is shite, Wenger is will be sacked by the end of this sentence, and we're going to get relegated to boot.

Oh. Wait.

It's just one match, and one in which we sent out a fair number of second-string players. It's true that Chelsea did the same, but when your second-string includes the likes of Mata, Essien, Mikel, and Eto'o, you have a right to expect a result like this one. There's been some hand-wringing from the idea that this is the second time in two weeks that we've come up short at home against elite competition, and there's an element of truth in that but only on the front end. Losing to Dortmund at home in the Champions League is one thing, but losing at home to Chelsea in the League Cup is another matter entirely. On a night when our attack, such as it was, consisted of a striker we've tried to unload in almost every imaginable way and a 20-year old winger who's made a mere four appearances on the season, well, we're going to struggle to score, especially against a defense that includes the likes of Cahill, Sideshow Bob, and Azpilicueta. It's our first time failing to score all season, a string of fourteen matches. Silver linings and so on.

I just don't think there are very many broader conclusions to be drawn from this result, at least not about the squad as a whole. Regulars did fairly well for themselves, but none really left his mark on the match, and that's to be expected when playing with players they rarely play with. We didn't look quite as disjointed as we did when we faced West Brom, and that's actually encouraging despite coming out on the short end of things when you consider the quality of the opposition. No, the only broader conclusion to be drawn is one that we've known about the whole time: the squad is thin. By 10 November, we should have Podolski, Walcott, and Ox back, and our attacking options will thus look that much stronger.

As to individual players, no one truly stood out although Cazorla, despite the fact that he's still finding fitness and was the only real attacking threat for the defense to worry about, had some chances and very nearly scored late on. At the other end, Jenkinson had a difficult night all around, punctuated by the error that lead to Chelsea's first goal. He is still limited, still too weak with his left and in the air. His header back to Fabianksi was telegraphed for an eternity, giving Azpilicueta plenty of time to anticipate (so much so that I wondered if he might have run offside) and beat Fabianski to it, and Jenkinson headed so feebly that Fabianski had no chance. Jenkinson is not doubt devastated by this flub, but I hope he doubles down and comes back more determined than ever to answer his critics.

Between Cazorla's decent display and Jenkinson's difficult night, most everyone else played a fairly average match without much to say as far as highlights or howlers. We muddled through, and as nice as a win would might have been, let's not mistake the quality of the opposition for the importance of the match. In years past, we've crashed out in sometimes shocking fashion to lower-tier teams. Once this fixture was announced, it took on more glamour and more symbolic power than it really deserved. It was a fourth-round League Cup match, one in which we would normally play quite a few more Academy players, see what happens, and shrug, more or less, whatever the result is. Last year, we sent out a full-strength (ish) squad and still lost to League Two Bradford. This time 'round, we would face Chelsea, a hated rival and contender for the Prem League championship, and this inflated but didn't raise the stakes. So we threw on a few first-teamers and second-stringers, left the Academy kids on the bench (for the most part), and got what we got.

So it goes.

Our starting XI still strikes me as one the best, if not the best, in the Prem. Peeking past that, of course, reminds us of our thinness, and that was the factor tonight. However, taking the League Cup off of our list of fixtures makes it a little easier to focus on the Prem, the Champions League, and the FA Cup. The League Cup was always lowest on my list of targets for the year. I know I'm not alone in feeling that. In fact, here's my list of targets for the year:
  1. win the Prem. 
  2. Advance past the Champions League group stage (further? why not?).
  3. win the FA Cup.
  4. win the League Cup.
Winning the Prem strikes me as the most important target for the year. We talk of a trophy drought, and winning the League Cup might have been the most-winnable, but I don't want to end the drought in the easiest of ways. No, I want something bigger and, yes, more-difficult. Let's say we made it to the League Cup final and defeated Bradford 5-0. That might feel a bit anticlimactic even if it did put an end to the drought. No, I want to emerge as champions of the Premier League. I want to say that we were best of the best. We have the quality to do it. Of course, there are quite a few tough fixtures coming up, starting with Liverpool on Saturday, so we'll know a lot more about our ambitions and our prospects a month from now. We're bound to drop points sooner or later; we'll probably relinquish our top-of-table status as well. However, the key is to keep calm and continue taking care of business. I'm sure we'll bounce back from this one soon enough.

In other news, I'm proud to announce that this blog is one of six finalists in the Football Blogging Awards' "Best New Blog" category. I'm facing some stiff competition from some general-interest blogs that cover a little of everything: transfers-rumors, betting, etc. I'm hoping that fellow Gooners will take a moment to vote:
Thanks, as always, for your visit. Let's put this result aside and get ready for the Mugsmashers! 'Til next time...

29 October 2013

Frimpong gets it wrong on racism

Despite my desire to see Frimpong play in today's match, he wasn't named to the squad, after which he promptly put his foot in it by tweeting, in response to a follower's question about why he wasn't playing, "Sometimes I wish I was white and English #realtalk".  Sigh. While I'm hoping that he was just being glib about the issue, it's
fiendishly hard to be glib about anything as complicated as race and racism, especially in light of the tempest Jack Wilshere found himself in regarding who should play for the Three Lions or Jack Jebb's four-game ban for racist abuse. It's even harder to say anything sophisticated or nuanced on twitter, so putting this issue in front of a 21-year old and asking him to leave no wiggle-room for misinterpreting his comments is a fool's errand. That said, Frimpong looks foolish for having stated himself so carelessly, and I again hope that this again proves to be another molehill made into a mountain.

Let's use a few statistics to refute Mr. Frimpong's claims, if only for a moment to acknowledge the gravity of the racism row. According to census data released 27 March 2011, 3.48% of England's population is categorized as "Black/African/Caribbean/Black British" (report available by clicking here). At the risk of making broad assumptions about the racial identities of men I've never met, contrast that against the demography of Arsenal's first team, which is 27% black. Gibbs, Sagna, Frimpong, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo, Diaby, Gnabry, and Zelalem can all authentically claim some degree of blackness. Fudging our math if only for the moment, this means that Arsenal's first team is almost nine times blacker than England as a whole. What's more, when fit, five of these men rightfully have earned and can expect to start more games than not (let's not get into the glut on the right wing with Walcott, Ox, and Gnabry).

While the following has nothing to do with the current squad or manager, one of the first black players to appear in the Prem was Viv Anderson, who made his Arsenal debut in 1984 after playing ten years for Nottingham Forest. In other words, then, Arsenal seems more than comfortable with the idea of ethnic diversity. Bringing things back to Arsène, here's a manager renowned (or infamous) for bringing players for far beyond England's shores to play for Arsenal. It's ironic to then suggest that he's somehow opposed to playing someone because of his race.

Sure, the departure of players like Alex Song, Gael Clichy, Ashley Cole, or Gervinho have lightened things up a bit, as has the chronic inavailabilitiy of Abou Diaby. Still, the suggestion that Frimpong isn't playing today because he's not English or because he's not white is beyond ridiculous. Let's hope that Frimpong had tongue planted firmly in cheek and the the subsequent reactions from been overwrought. Society has come a long way from the days when Anderson saw lesser players named ahead of him and had bananas and monkey-chants shower down on him when he did play—but those days still plague us, as I've discussed previously, here and here, for example. The real shame of Frimpong's gaffe is that it will make the next racist incident easier to racists to get away with, as they and their defenders can say, "every time something doesn't go their way, they just cry 'racist'". It's just another version of the boy who cried wolf.

Come to think of it, maybe Manny should be made to read that story and complete a worksheet or two on how the story relates to his comment.

It's probably closer to the truth to suggest that Frimpong just isn't quite good enough to feature for us. Had we drawn a lower-tier opponent, things might be a bit different. As it stands, though, we'll face a sterner test from Chelsea, and Frimpong is one of few odd men out this time 'round. Unless his ill-advised tweet really blows up in his face, he's bound to get a chance to prove his critics wrong—on and off the pitch.

Right. Well, there's a match to be played. Let's hope Frimpong has learned a lesson about what's worth saying and confine his tweets to "good match today" or "check out my new shoes". The deeper issues deserve a forum bigger than 140 characters. #realtalk.

Chelsea league-cup preview

To go for the jugular or to play it closer to the vest? Tuesday's clash with Chelsea presents a high-profile match, at least on the surface, but what will we really see? In years past, we've crashed out to the likes of Bradford (despite fielding a very strong squad) and Birmingham, two clubs in lower divisions that nonetheless managed to pull off famous upsets. Which of the two was more devastating is hard to say; the loss to Birmingham happened in the final, of course, but the quarter-finals loss to Bradford might represent the largest upset in either club's history. It's with memories like these in mind that we go into Tuesday's match, one against a very different kind of club.

Squad-selection will, of course, be crucial. Jose Mourinho had this to say about the league cup after advancing to the fourth round back in September:
Probably my decision is that the under-21 team will have a very good experience to play in the Capital One Cup. We play Sunday against Man City, and we play Tuesday against Arsenal. When the people that decide the fixtures play us on the Tuesday after a Sunday match and Arsenal play on the Saturday (against Crystal Palace), it’s something that I have to accept, because I have no other option, but I have to prioritise.
Much as I hate to admit it, he has a point. Many of our players will have had one more day's rest than anyone who features for Chelsea. Then again, Chelsea has quite a bit of depth to draw on; between that and The Specious One's passive-aggressive mind-games, we'd do well to be on our guard. He's also suggested that he "has also to respect [Chelsea's] fans", which may mean that we'll see a number of first-team players like Mata, Torres, or Willian. A number of our players looked sluggish or jaded against Crystal Palace on Saturday. Whether that was down to the Eagles' poor form or our fitness is another matter for another day. While our quest for silverware has reached quixotic proportions, there are other considerations at play here. Looking down the road, we see a difficult gantlet of matches that includes a visit from Liverpool, a trip to Dortmund and to Man U, and a visit from Southampton (before you laugh, consider that they've conceded a mere three goals and sit 5th on the table).

Looking a bit further ahead, December sees us play seven matches in 31 days. Getting through the next two months, then, looks a bit tetchy. Come January, we have two choices of what to say to players looking to make a move: "we've advanced in the league cup!" or "we've advanced in the Champions League!" Without disparaging the league cup, we do have to prioritize. As much as I hate to admit it, I believe that we have to rotate. We didn't do it until we had to against Crystal Palace, and now we have little choice but to do so against Chelsea, regardless of their priorities. The good news is that we have a number of rested players who could still claim a first-team role, and so the dilemma isn't entirely unsolvable.

After all, a backline of Monreal, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, and Jenkinson is hardly factory-seconds. Keeper is somewhat less of an issue, fitness-wise, and I would much rather see an in-form Szczesny over Viviano or Fabianski.

It's in front of them that decisions get a bit dicier. Arteta is of course unavailable due to his red-card, and Flamini is out for a few weeks after injuring his groin. Why not summon Frimpong to pair with Ramsey? We could do worse. Frimpong may be raw, but he's had some first-team experience, and pairing him with the in-form Ramsey looks to be a stable compromise, given our scant resources. Hayden is available, but he's 18 and untested, so I'd prefer that he watch the match...

Ahead of them, Cazorla, Rosicky, and Gnabry offer a nice blend of creativity, flair, and work-rate. Gnabry has shown that he can provide some high-quality performance, creating chances at one end of the pitch and disrupting attacks at the other, and Rosicky, while not quite as sexy as Özil, has been known to make a thing or two happen when he's on. If nothing else, he's tireless. Cazorla, in addition to needing some match-time to get fit, can make a bit of noise of his own, and I rather fancy the idea of the three of them running at a Chelsea defense that looks increasingly creaky even if it does send out first-choices defenders. Bendtner is, well, Bendtner, but I maintain that we can get by with him even if his only contribution is to linger around the box to try to head down crossers, corners, and set-pieces. Giroud needs a rest at some point, and if it has to come on Tuesday, so be it.

Of course, I have no role in who gets named for either squad, so we'll have to wait and see. I don't think either manager rates this match very highly, but the rivalry between the two of them might prompt some interesting decisions, to say the least. It's hard to find a sharper contrast between managerial styles, whether it's Arsene's preference for developing players versus Mourinho's penchant for purchasing superstars, or it's Arsene's ability to maintain a low profile versus Mourinho's grandstanding. I reckon it'll be a barn-burner regardless of which players take to the pitch.

In other news, I'm proud to announce that this blog is one of six finalists in the Football Blogging Awards' "Best New Blog" category. I'm facing some stiff competition from some general-interest blogs that cover a little of everything: transfers-rumors, betting, etc. I'm hoping that Gooners will take a moment to vote:
Thanks, as always, for your visit. Let's hope for a victory over Chelsea that comes from some unexpected, here-to-fore rested players!

27 October 2013

Prem League Power Rankings: Week 9

We're trying out a new feature here, one that measures the top contenders' recent form as a way of gauging where each club falls. It's one thing to be atop the Prem, for example, but form and position don't always align. This table will attempt to rate each club based on its most-recent results with an eye to assessing momentum and likely future prospects. Therefore, a club's position on this table may or may not match its position on the official Prem table. For example, Arsenal's win over Crystal Palace was a tough one, while Chelsea's 2-1 win over Man City was more-vital, so Chelsea leap-frogs Arsenal here. Keep in mind that this only reflects Prem matches, so results in the Champions League, Europa League, league cup, and FA Cup have no bearing. This table will expand or contract based on my estimation of who's a legitimate contender, so Man U, despite languishing in 8th position, will continue to appear here until further notice.

Team
Latest Result
Record
Table
Comments
Chelsea
2-1 Man City
6-2-1
2 (20)
Eked out a vital victory at home over Man City to claim all three points, the club’s third win in a row.

Arsenal
2-0 Crystal Palace
7-1-1
1 (22)
A dominating run slumped a bit as the club slogged to victory over Crystal Palace when a more-dominant performance was called for.

Liverpool
4-1 West Brom
6-2-1
3 (20)
Twelve goals in their last four matches have Liverpool on a nice run of form. With Suarez back, they look ready to move up.

Southampton
2-0 Fulham
5-3-1
5 (18)
Sneer if you want, but the Saints boast the stingiest defense in the league (only three goals conceded).

Spurs
1-0 Hull City
6-1-2
4 (19)
Needed another dubious spot-kick to dispatch newly-promoted Hull City; a still-sputtering offense has yet to find any form.

Everton
2-0 Aston Villa
5-3-1
6 (18)
Adapting well to Martinez’s ways and look likely to make a pus h for the top four.

Man City
1-2 Chelsea
5-1-3
7 (16)
Bit of a bitter pill to swallow in the away-loss to Chelsea as a 90th-minute goal denied them the point.

Man U
3-2 Stoke
4-2-3
8 (14)
Still staggering and stumbling despite a comeback win over Stoke.