Tag Archives: West Bromwich Albion

Sunday’s Saturday Recap


wigan soccer football premier league

#wearepremierleaguewearepremierleague

It was an outstanding afternoon of football that saw a resurgent Wigan showcasing a brand more akin to European endeavours than relegation struggles and a mercurial Luis hatrick as the standout results. This is FFTD’s Sunday review:

We’ll start at the Hawthorns where a fledgling Aston Villa visited their traditional rivals with the chance to steer clear of a nervy month of May. Instead, it was the Baggies who looked the more likely, with Dorrans, Brunt and Thomas in particular finding ample space within a disorganised McLeish setup. At times it was difficult to see a holding player for Villa and in the end it was the much maligned Shay Given and a dubious goal line clearance from Hutton that rescued a point away from home. Their 16th draw of the season is a decent away point, but does little to arrest their worrying slide towards a Championship ready to swallow them whole (maybe spitting out the likes of Bent, Agbonlahor and Dunne to fuel the media’s transfer addiction).

Next we travel to Wigan where two of the form sides of the league square off in a match that had bearing on both ends of the table. In any other week, this would be the match of the round, but apparently only Mr Martinez got the memo with his side producing a scintillating opening 45 minutes, a just reward for Dave Wheelan and his managerial stickability. The Wigan front four were dynamic with the electric Moses an ever-present threat. The back 3 was resolute lead by the usual brilliance of their Omani shot stopper allowing a red hot Newcastle collective scant opportunity in front of goal. Wigan have grabbed 15 points from their last 7 outings, including wins over United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Newcastle in that run, to see them surely secure Premier League football in 2013, with winnable fixtures against Blackburn and Wolves to follow.

For Newcastle, it was a day of extreme disappointment; possibly a day that has been looming for some time. After such an emphatic string of victories, a loss was just around the corner, and with City and Chelsea looming, this result could spell the end of their admirable top 4 challenge. Their irresistible attacking quartet were off colour in the final third, producing just the 2 shots on goal for the afternoon. Similarly, their impressive defensive pressure was left on Tyneside in what must surely be their worst day of this campaign. Pardew can look forward to trips to the glamour and glitz of Romania, Poland and the Ukraine next season.

Ironically, the game with no bearing on the league produced a fine spectacle with an entertaining 4-4 for the second time in a week. Swansea and Wolves left their defensive plans on the training paddock and decided goals were a more acceptable option. For Wolves, who have conceded a whopping 79 times, they may have been more accustomed to such a flippant, carefree defensive attitude, but our Welsh brethren looked less than impressed after capitulating from their 4-1 stranglehold. Make sure you get the highlights from this one.

Sunderland and Bolton provided another absolute belter that must be disheartening for the precariously poised Trotters who may have used up any emotional impetus from the fortunes of Fabrice. While Coyle was upbeat about his side’s chances and Davies’ late equaliser may have felt like a point saved rather than 2 that slipped away, coming into the game, many pundits earmarked this as a chance to move clear of serious trouble. Instead, Bolton remain well and truly in the mire of relegation and now three points from a home tie with the Albion may not be enough. Instead, they require possibly more than a point from tough away trips to Spurs and the Britannia to book their place in the league going forward.

In a game less consequential than a UN summit, Liverpool travelled to Carrow road without their glistening starlet in Andy Carroll, but with a rampant Suarez who in the end was the difference between the sides. Rumblings from within the Kop about the outdated Dogleish have been momentarily quashed and a strong finish in the league and cup success could keep King Kenny in a job for 2013 – an unfavourable outcome in FFTD’s opinion. Don’t watch this game whatever you do, but catch that Suarez goal from here.

I hate Stoke – so yeh whatever…


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An Alternate Pecking Order…


How it Works:

This is our attempt at ranking the sides according to their expectations with position 10 being a perfect meeting of predictions with reality, position 1 representing maximum outperformance and 20 signalling quite the opposite. For example, United and City were largely expected to compete for the title, hence they’ll be stuck mid table in our rating system, and Swansea/Norwich were expected to take their parachute payments straight back to the Championship, meaning they’ll feature towards the top.

 

#toonarrific

#toonarrific

1. Newcastle.

It’s difficult to recall the seemingly dire context that the Geordie’s season was facing from the outset. With the departure of Barton, Carroll, Enrique and Nolan (amongst others) prior to the season and the arrival of almost no one, save for unknowns such as Cabaye, many were predicting a difficult period for Mike Cashley and his boys. Further, there were murmurs of discontent around the tactical nous of Alan Pardew, who had been labelled as dour and unimaginative pointing to a season of discomfort on Tyneside. Much has been written around the Moneyball renaissance of the club having laid the blueprint for those perennially facing the malaise of mid table to step up as realistic challengers to the traditional top 4. See more around about here:

2. Norwich

I’ve revisited a feature in fourfourtwo from July 2011 that included all 10 football “experts” tipping the Canaries to face the drop. Not so. Mr Lambert has combined the three elements of a successful first season in the top flight: a goal scoring striker (Holt), Solidity at the back and Determination/Self Belief. Norwich have epitomised efficiency; beating the teams below them at home, and turning Carrow Road into a tricky encounter whether your name is RVP or Gary Caldwell.

3. Swansea

In a similar vein to Norwich, the Swans have proven that Welsh football does deserve its spot in the English top flight. Bringing a fluid style to the League, Brendan Rodgers has given supporters a refreshing change from the typically drab brand served up by some of the sides adjacent to the Welshmen on the table. As with Norwich, they’ve secured their defence first, with Ashley Williams surely developing into one of the more underrated players in the league. Next they’ve added proven creative quality all over the pitch, particularly with the mercurial Sigurdsson since January. Lastly they’ve made the Liberty into a place of respect and trepidation for visiting supporters.

4. Arsenal

The North Londoners were coming off a somewhat tumultuous summer and were facing constant taunts about their youth and lack of physicality when that 8-2 happened. The Gunners displayed a resolve that many believed they were incapable of, to turn their campaign into a success having ensconced themselves squarely into European football for next year. They’re just a decent centre back and a Wilshere away from a serious title challenge in 2013. While 4 may seem a tad high, rewind to September and you’ll recall the back pages awash with the demise of the Emirates and Mr Wenger.

5. Tottenham

While Spurs now have a veritable title contending squad on paper, their current disappointing standing should not undermine their outperformance for the majority of the season. Much maligned in recent times, the Yids have surely been distracted by off-field managerial developments, undoing the considerable progress made in the first 2 thirds of the league. With the easiest run in, the Londoners could still secure the coveted fourth position that could be crucial in retaining the spine of their carefully constructed side.

6. West Bromwich Albion

The Baggies have avoided second-season-syndrome with aplomb under the masterful guidance of Woy. They continue to operate within the tightest of budgetary constraints and have uncovered even more quality free-bees in Gareth McAuley and Billy Jones. They look to have established themselves as part of the Premier League furniture; the way it should be for a club with such a richly developed history. Improving on 11th and 47 points from last time around will be an outstanding achievment.

7. Manchester City

I’ll put the blue half of England’s footballing capital just ahead of their red counterparts, as even though several pundits predicted Tevez et al to win from the outset, actually following through, and putting the title within their own grasp with 3 fixtures remaining is another story all together. Distracting European struggles and the oft unfathomable off field antics of Super Mario and his golfing buddy in Tevez couldn’t sway Mancini from his own rights of passage. Most importantly, the Blue Moon Rising looks set to continue, with a 2013 that could see further development both on and off the pitch.

8. Manchester United

Sir Alex and his boys are tracking squarely to where we expected and slot neatly into the striker’s jersey. Disappointing cup and European adventures have marred a season that has produced results, but has been enveloped by a pervasive backwards looking bias with the continued dominance of Scholes and to a lesser extent Giggs. A major plus is the flourishing partnership between Welbeck and the hairy-again Rooney – but their season hasn’t been anything spectacular.

9. Chelsea

With an ageing squad many feared the worst, but the revelation of Mata, the obvious benefit of experience and the defiant change in fortunes under Di Matteo, has seen Chelsea finish the season in a strong manner. While missing European football would be nearly calamitous for our favourite Russian oligarch, the Blues have beaten Barcelona somewhat convincingly in Europe and could still lift the much sought after symbol of power that is the European Cup. So much relies on the final month of the playing year for this side that will surely undergo a rampant reconstruction through the summer.

10. Everton

It still bemuses to watch the Toffees struggle through January, leading to rumblings about the Moyes’ use by date and the shoestring budget, before predictably embarking on their customary second half run that includes big team scalps and persistently positive results. Lower-top half with a decent cup run is getting a little predictable and if marked improvements aren’t forthcoming over the next 2 seasons, the Blues will begin the slide downwards. This is not a league for standing still.

11. Sunderland

The Wearsiders have made progress under O’Neill but have somewhat failed to capitalise on their outstanding vein of form over the festive period and sit in a disappointing lower half position. Not too much to report here – bang on average for me.

12. Fulham

Fulham could easily be lower, but expectations of a realistic European push should be tempered with the addition of a new manager and an array of fresh faces gracing Craven Cottage. In promising signs for the future, many of their signings have shown enough to suggest an optimistic outlook. The continued development of Dembele into a proven talent (should progress to Ben Arfa next year), Dempsey into a genuine top-liner (should progress to Arteta next year) and Pogrebnyak into a prolific sharp-shooter (should progress into Ba/Cisse next year) could spell a strong challenge in 2013 from the noisy neighbours from London.

13. Wigan

In Roberto Martinez, Wigan has one of the finest young managers in football and their apparent survival for another season can be largely attested to the gaffer and his swelling reputation in the game. On paper the worst squad in the league, Wigan haven’t really progressed, nor digressed through 2011/12 and could find themselves feeling a form of final day deja vu.

14. QPR

The Premier League new boys were expected to be the strongest of the sides coming up, but for much of the season the R’s have struggled to build any form of momentum. In saying that, their best run has developed at the pointy end and Mark Hughes is using every reserve of his managerial experience to build a case for 2013 in the top division. With serious financial investments being made, it is disappointing to see the side still scrapping for survival, but in the end, 17th and up will be acceptable.

15. Bolton

Bolton’s primary objective from the outset will always be 40 points as quickly as possible and a team of their calibre should not be struggling as they are. Bolton have been entrenched in the relegation doldrums for more than 50% of the footballing year and if they return to the first division, it will be due to inept off-field dealings that saw the departure of Elmander and Sturridge without replacements – leaving an attack devoid of quality in Klasnic, N’gog and Kakuta. Could easily be lower than 15th.

16. Stoke

The Potters invested heavily with a number of seemingly astute purchases of proven top-flight quality. Tony Pulis’ fantastical ride may be grinding to a halt, however, with a year of taking steps firmly in the wrong direction. Europe was simply too much to ask for a seemingly ageing and threadbare squad. Their no-frills and, more than occasionally, dour style has lead to more detractors than supporters, as the likes of Swansea have shown it is possible to survive without wasting on average 13.8% of your games on Rory Delap’s arms. Distinctly below average.

17. Blackburn

When it emerged that Steve Kean’s new employers were unaware of the possibility of relegation, the tone was set for an overwhelmingly forgettable campaign for all those involved. There have been few protagonists from this sorry saga to emerge with any flicker of credibility, maybe Hoilett and Yakubu are the only ones, and while still undecided, relegation seems deserved for this season of underperformance.

18. Aston Villa

Villa were a difficult team to place. Almost everyone questioned the arrival of the Big Eck to the Midlands, but I’m sure few could sincerely predict the woeful events that have followed. Watching the Villians is a truly difficult thing at current, with consistent fan discontent from the terraces juxtaposed with a non-existant goal threat on the pitch. Villa Park has become the worst place for football and is a crude characterisation of everything that is wrong and outdated with the English game. Too many quality departures over recent years.

19. Liverpool

So much has been written that any expansive comment feels unnecessary. In a year that produced such rampant, flagrant spending and such inept on field performances only Liverpool and their continued arrogance could ensure they dominate footballing rhetoric. Welcome to mid table anonymity Mr Dogleish.

20. Wolves

In the end, it wasn’t third time lucky with the West Midlander’s challenge whimpering into submission with the shambolic Terry Connor at the helm. Wolves were devoid of creativity up front, apart from the sometimes dangerous Fletcher, and were woeful at the back with summer signing and captain Roger Johnson becoming the home fan’s boo boy early on in the piece. With stadium expansions well underway, the club could face serious financial struggles over the next 5 years.

So there we have it:

Newcastle, Norwich, Swansea, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Brom take the European places with a season of outperformance. City, United, Chelsea, Everton, Sunderland, Fulham and Wigan are aligned with pre-season hypotheses. QPR, Bolton, Stoke, Blackburn, Villa, Liverpool and Wolves end a diffcult season.

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oooooooo balotelli


Just a quick review of a famous night that saw yours truly pick all the winnerzz. But who’s bragging? Me.

Norwich 1 vs Arsenal 2 (ed: RVP)

It’s really gone past laughable…

Everton 2 vs Wolves 1

Drenthe is starting to prove that if you have an awesome haircut then you’ll succeed in English football. If you have a name that conjures images of dragons and superhuman strength then you’ll endear yourself to the blogging community as an added bonus.

Man City 3 vs Newcastle 1

City royally fucked my fantasy team by resting Silva, but then giving him enough fresh air to attain the solitary point. Thanks Roberto. As a tribute to the Balotelli, it is reported that blue Mancunians will fold their arms for the entirety of their must-not-lose midweek Champions League adventure. Oh, and additionally, normal service is restored on Tyneside – back to the pack for you lot. Disregard this post please….

why always looking at me?

why always looking at me?


Stoke 2 vs QPR 3

omg this fixture actually exists?

I really just wanted to write the above question for this fixture, but if anyone can inform me the last time 5 goals were seen at the Britannia I’ll give you nothing…. But I still wanna know pweeaazzeee.

Sunderland 0 vs Fulham 0

Man oh man this game looked dull. From the score that is.

West Brom 2 vs Bolton 1

boing boing boing boing boing

This game well and truly lived up to the infectious hype that was generated on this website and swelled to the 3 replies garnered on the west brom and bolton forums. The first half was an even affair, but apparently at half time, Owen Coyle instructed his lads to forfeit as a mark of respect to the home of English Football: West Bromwich. The baggies seemed to have their own revolution at the half time break, with Nickey Shorey, who had previously never performed a positive action in the blue and white stripes, transfiguring into Lionel Messi and Jerome Thomas staying far enough away from his own box to avoid the “instant penalty” token he seems to afford the opposition every week. God amongst men, Zoltan Gera, was at the forefront of WBA’s cathartic awakening, adding a fluidity and imagination that Roy Hodgson will surely attempt to quash in the forthcoming week. Interestingly, Woy plagiarised his post match interview verbatim from the previous two losses against Liverpool and Arsenal, proving the PRIDE OF THE MIDLANDS would field an under-8 side against anyone in the top 16 if they were allowed. Bolton still haven’t realised that Klasnic/N’gog/Kakuta aren’t Ellmander/Sturridge, but I suppose they’ll be adequate Championship resources.

Wigan 3 vs Blackburn 3

For anyone still supporting a side in the top six, abandon ship and get around a battling cellar dweller. This was less about football, and more about entertainment. Many pundits have debated the ideal formulaic approach to the perfect Saturday afternoon, but if “goalkeeper going forward in the 98th minute gets kicked in the face to earn point-winning penalty” wasn’t included in the decided upon amalgamation, then alteration will be required. Blackburn will be thanking their lucky Ganesha, particularly S Kean, who ranks second behind Justin Beiber as the most hated and unqualified person on the planet. If Wigan can’t put away a 10-man Venky’s, I mean Blackburn, then it appears they can put away their season, into a drawer marked: how to encourage relegation for dummies; a 1-2-3 step guide.

Let’s see if we can get this trending: #goalkeepergoingforwardinthe98thminutegetskickedinthefacetoearnpoint-winningpenalty

Swansea 0 vs United 1

So, just quietly (sic), I said Gigss would be a promotional tool and the Ded Revils would win 1 nil. Soccernet, FourFourTwo, are you reading this shit?

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The 0-6 Predicament: A thing of Pure Beauty


The supporters of Wigan, Blackburn or West Bromwich Albion understand the searing pangs of incompetency that they face at least 10 times a year, when their sides are drawn against the remodelled top 5. Away at Man City for a team like Wolves can give serious impetus for such a fan to abandon their halfway tickets and choose the theatre with the missus. Away at Old Trafford is an unspeakable; too appalling to comprehend.

So what does an away trip to The Library, or Emirates as it’s more affectionately referred to, mean to a club battling for its television revenue in 2012?

The diversity of revenues and spending predicates the most nauseating of images for those fans that follow the proverbial beggars of English Premier League football. And it is this diversity that can lead to a trip to United becoming an envy-filled 90 minute ogle at the rich merchants of our town; where diatribes will bemoan Nani, Rooney, Vidic sitting on their racing-car-seat viewpoints. But, undoubtedly, the most dissatisfying feature of this whole painstaking ordeal is the petulant arrogance of the opposition fans who belittle, as if their choice of stock gives them privilege over you (you = Neanderthal preferring self-deprivation and perennial unfulfillment them = accustomed to victory and other unimaginable glories).

When your side is worth around 0.84% (West Brom vs Man City) of the opposing squad’s historical book values, it is certainly difficult to feel anything but abject despair, but nevertheless, the human psyche seems to demand a certain optimism. This cruel disposition is the result of the transient nature of the sport itself; for football is surely the one sport in which an upset is more commonplace than most (the rarity of goals ensures this fact). And indeed, this unfledgling positivity, or should I saw fantastical musings, is to some degree warranted by historical performances. It was points against the supposed top 5 that invariably kept a number of clubs afloat last season – most notably Wolves who beat City, Liverpool, Chelsea and United in a simply unbelievable turn of events. Under this milieu, the dream of Grant Holt’s thunderbolt from closer to the circle develops; nay flourishes.

While a match up such as Gareth McAuley vs Sergio Aguero is simply terrifying for any self-respecting Baggie, it surely would be a thing of great savour for the Irishman. For him, and his playing mates, the pressure is largely off. It is one of the few occasions all year where a 3-0 loss could be met with shrugs and despondency from supporters, rather than rage or ridicule on any other Saturday afternoon. Further, with weights of expectations amounting to a paltry feather, what better chance to upstage the young Argentinian with a grumbling studs up boot crusher, or a neat flick of the elbow when rising for a clearance. The risks really are skewed to the upside.

For the gaffer, the prospects are slightly less perfect. Looming camera, radio and print media interviews must be at the forefront of his balding head. Placid dismissal of the result as unimportant, or good experience, could be met with the perpetual lambasting from supporters that the side is unambitious, while an honest appraisal (“they were simply better”) is never a welcome soother for those same fans. For him, the downside is not as negligible, but even the Neil Warnocks or Brendan Rodgers of our universe can appreciate that the scales of expectation are well in their favour.

For the less perceptive of you, playing the biggest teams on the biggest stage is simply the best – for everyone. A cathartic experience for some, a chance to let your wildest fantasies develop, a chance to herald an arrival, or simply a chance to prove to your girlfriend in Sydney that your team actually exists. There really is nothing like an underdog grasping to a 1-0 lead in the 89th minute with all 11 players flooding back to thwart F Lampard et al. A sort of ironic admittance of inferiority that makes the whole sugar-coated predicament all the more delectable. And devouring this satisfying meal is more than enough fuel to last at least a season of drubbings from the burgeoning class of foreign-owned English beneficiaries.

These are the days that fans relish most. Where a loss won’t ruin their evening plans or squander their job performance throughout the “days off football” each week. (Sunday to Friday).  While a loss against Bolton midweek could conspire to make living itself a task of extreme difficulty until the next match day. Watching your team defend a lead against Liverpool, where you would have snatched at a point 2 hours ago, is simply incomparable to defending a lead against Blackburn when Formica has space down the right…(even this example is making me uncomfortably shift in my chair).

There is only one scenario where Arsenal (A) breathes a sort of terror into any fan’s perusal of the fixture list. For everyone knows that the last game of the season, where invariably you’ll need points to survive as a newly promoted nobody, is not a time for a team in the big four, top 5, super 6 or even fantastic 15. Give me 20th on the final day every year; please and thank you. But otherwise, give me top of the league each week!

PS: If you don’t believe me and need further proof, see Wolves fans’ reactions when they lost to West Brom. QED.

PPS: Any Spurs fan that thinks it’s a top 6 – fuck off and come back when you’ve won something. QED.


		
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