02 March 2022

Weekend Wind-up #28: feeling a bit cheeky, so here we are...

So the missus is out for the evening, which means that your loyal correspondent could take more than a wee nip. With the evening free, I thought we'd have a go at our rivals in a bit of a preview of the weekend's action. It's not as if there's been any notable midweeks news to prompt this, after all. As for the title, "Weekly Wind-up", I'll admit that I kind of painted myself into a corner with the whole "Rivals' Roundup" angle, and regular readers, should they exist, will know much of a sucker I am for alliteration (and, I might add, in general. Ask the wallet inspector). Plus, we get to thrown in the idea of winding up our rivals, should any of their fans find their way here somehow. Well, that's more than enough throat-clearing. Let's get on with it.

Burnley v. Chelsea
At first blush, one might chalk this one up as a cakewalk to Chelsea. 39 points and sixteen spots above their hosts, having scored twice as many goals, and yet...Burnley have shown that they're more than the average banana peel. I'm not referring to them upending Tottenham. That, after all, is child's play. In recent weeks, they've drawn at home to Man U and lost to Liverpool, conceding just goals in the process. With Brentford, Everton, and Leeds above them but coming apart at the seams, Burnley are going to do what Burnley do: sit back, pack the box, and dare you to score. They no longer have to find points quite as desperately as they might have a few weeks ago, and I might just go out on a limb to suggest that the Chelsea squad may, for whatever reason, feel a bit unsettled. Maybe that's because a close-to-full-strength side barely fought its way past Championship side Luton Town (they were so desperate that they asked both Werner and Lukaku to score. The scenes...). Maybe...just maybe...it's because Abramovich, for no earthly reason imaginable, has decided to sell the club. Apparently, money-laundering just isn't as easy as it was a week ago. Fancy that. 

Man City v. Man U
Quite the derby we have here. At one end, we have the hosts, showing a bit of a wobble after barely besting Everton before somehow finding a way to lose to, of all opponents [checks notes]...[double-checks], Tottenham. No one loses to Tottenham, not even Middlesbrough [checks notes again]. Okay, I stand corrected. At the other end, we have the visitors, fresh off the kind of thumping of a hated rival that should propel them to—oh, wait. That was quite a while ago that they battered Leeds. Surely, that result propelled past a more-recent, superior opponent. Oh. A home draw to Watford. Hm. I, um, should conduct a bit more research beforehand, it seems. It's getting harder to feel optimistic about Man U's chances here, not that I mind that in the least. Man City are almost cartoonishly comical in their dominance of the Prem, so it's hard to get riled up about them. With the exception of Raheem Sterling, I don't even find myself hating on any of them (and I don't "hate" Sterling, but I thoroughly dislike his aversion to remaining vertical once he's inside the area). Man U are very much the antithesis: almost as free-spending, but without any of the success and with plenty of players to despise. Setting aside such spiteful feelings, let's hope for a win for the hosts.

Liverpool v. West Ham
West Ham got themselves dumped out the FA Cup, perhaps on purpose, but at least it was to a Prem side. Given the thinness of that squad—something nobly exacerbated by Moyes's decision to allow Ukrainian forward AndriyYarmolenko time off to assist his family in escaping Ukraine—that loss will probably play to their benefit. They still have a tough Europa League clash with Sevilla to plan for, but it will still sting that Moyes named an essentially full-side squad against Hasenhüttl's heavily rotated side and still crashed out. There may be some weary legs and dispirited minds going into Anfield, and you don't need a genius to tell you that's a toxic combination. Fortunately, instead of a genius, you have me. Liverpool are nipping at Man City's heels; they've won their last eleven, with City heaving a sigh of relief at those being spread across four different competitions. Liverpool have a glimmer of a chance at a quadruple despite Klopp trying to lose in the EFL Cup and FA Cup. Trailing Man City by six but with a game in hand, they'll surely want to take all three on Saturday. Fine by me.

Watford v. Arsenal
At first blush, this would be the proverbial cake-walk. However, we'd do well to remember that Watford just recently scraped a draw at Old Trafford. The resulting confidence, along with the afore-mentioned implosions of Brentford, Everton, and Leeds above them, Watford surely smell a chance at escaping relegation. As with Burnley, they may feel somewhat less pressure to find three points; sitting back and playing for a draw, especially in a match in which they're decided underdogs anyway, might suit them just fine. Let's not overlook the fact that we struggled to overcome them at the Emirates back in November. Make no mistake: this has all the makings of a being a classic banana-peel (the quintessential counterpoint to the proverbial cake-walk, complete with questionable hyphenage). I won't even go into what could happen to the table given the correct set of results. You can do the maths on your own, I'm sure. Around here, we have a perfectly logical and not-at-all superstitious aversion to saying certain things out loud. Let's leave it at that and move on.

Tottenham v. Everton
Oh, Tottenham. So, so proud of Son and Kane setting a new record for goal combinations that you've missed the main course. Despite naming a full-strength squad, Conte's Cock-upsTM needed a full 90 plus added extra time to lose to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. Apparently, battering Leeds just isn't what it used to be, and Tottenham join Man U in battering Leeds and losing to Middlesbrough. Surely, that sets some kind of historic precedent. That loss ends any chance Tottenham of winning a trophy. Silver lining, part one: they've had plenty of time to get used to that sort of feeling. Silver lining, part deux: they get an extra day to rest up before facing Everton, a club that looks just about ready to end its 118-year in the top flight. As if their performance on the pitch hasn't been abysmal enough, their billionaire owner Usmanov has had his assets frozen and his b£550m ($600m) yacht as a result of Russian's invasion of Ukraine. Good thing none of us Gooners wanted that oligarch associated with this club, am I right? Cough. On the upside, Everton did get an apology from the PGMOL after Man City's Rodri got away with a handball in his own area, so they have that going for them. Come on, Everton. Shock the world. Well, "shock" is a strong word when requesting that they defeat the likes of Tottenham, but still...

Wolves v. Crystal Palace
Wolves have shown enough of a wobble that I'm almost ready to leave them off, and that may or may not come down to their performance against all-over-the-place Palace. Having lost three of their last six, Wolves risk dropping out of the fight for a top-six spot. They're one of the few clubs who struggle more at home than away (1.41 points per match at home, 1.64 points per match away), so that does throw a spanner in the works or sand in the vaseline, depending on your own particular...idiom. Combine that uncertainty with Palace's own ability to thrash Watford, draw with Brentford and Norwich, get thrashed by Tottenham, and narrowly lose to Man U, and you have a recipe for chaos—if by "recipe" you agree that we mean "throwing a bunch of Mentos into Coke bottle". A loss to Palace would not necessarily be fatal to Wolves' ambitions, but it would mean that they could be as many as eight points off of fifth having played one match more than Tottenham and two more than Arsenal. I'm sure that we at are end will be hoping that Vieira does his best, just because he's a Gooner and all and not at all because a Palace result plays right into our hands.

Right. That's that, then. We'll see how this new little weekly bit does. At a minimum, I hope it does something to fill that empty spot that we used to fill by getting battered by Bayern or Barca (ah, alliteration. Soothes the...suffering?). Thanks for persevering to this point. As long as you've made it this far, why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?