|Next opponent: Zangief|
"This is shit ... AND I ATE IT!!!!!!" -- Gordon Ramsay
Somehow my brother has gotten me to start watching "Kitchen Nightmares" on BBC America. I'm not proud of it, yet it's dumb, don't think, entertainment that doesn't tax the brain at odd hours of the night.
Sort of like the Premier League the last couple weeks, except in the early morning and midday.
It's possible this Saturday morning, for those who got up to watch, the Premier League bottomed out on televisions across America.
Bolton vs. QPR on ESPN2, no matter how hard Ian Darke tried to polish it, was going to be a turd. Relegation scrapes can be fun, if only for the rank desperation of the 22 men involved, but neither of these teams are all that pleasing to watch or feature must-see players, especially since the idea Adel Taarbt is a star seems to be a myth on par with the Yeti.
Then, of course, the game itself (won by Bolton 2-1 on a late Ivan Klasnic goal) features another awful goal-line call, with Clint Hill's clear headed goal not counting thanks to some Suarez-ian quick hands by Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan. (Go Team Ginger!) Long, tedious, story short -- in the year 2012 there's no reason for a mistake like this to happen in a league watched by some billion people as it's executives would have you believe.
A goal-line sensor, a fifth official upstairs, brief replay. Whatever. It shouldn't be hard.
Not sure which is worse, these type of controversies or referring controversies, since it's always something with English soccer, isn't it?
The straight red-card issued to Ricardo Fuller in Stoke City's 1-0 loss to Chelsea was more cut-and-dried, though it didn't make the game any more watchable. Nice for Chelsea, who rested some players ahead of the Champions League game with Napoli in the midweek, but I couldn't watch that game. Just couldn't. Watching Chelsea broadcasts these days feel akin to taking a car ride with somebody in the backseat who polished off an army ration of baked beans for lunch.
Sunderland's 1-0 win over Liverpool wasn't much better, it was probably worse. Think we've seen that performance from Liverpool, what, a dozen times so far this year? No point saying any more, is there?
There are a lot of times when I stumble home on a Friday after 3 a.m. and wonder why I'm going to get up in four hours to watch soccer played thousands of miles away. More often than not, despite losing sleep, the payoff is there. The last couple weeks? Duds.
Time to find a new hobby? I have always felt I'm make an excellent bird-watching blogger.
Same as it ever was:
In the end, Sir Alex wins ... doesn't he?
Sunday morning was a little better from the Premier League. A little.
Manchester United dutifully took care of West Brom, 2-0, at Old Trafford, while Manchester City saw first place slip through its fingers with a 1-0 loss at Swansea.(*) United are now a point ahead of City in the table with 10 games to go. No shame in City's loss to Swansea in Wales, though, as the Swans were excellent throughout and recaptured that form they had around the turn of the year.
(*) Worth pointing out that, almost for once, an offical (this time lineswoman Sian Massey) got the call right, ruling Michah Ricards would-be equalizer in the 86th minute offside.
As unremarkable as United have been -- especially in Europe -- their Premier League form since the start of 2012 has been unrelenting. Sir Alex is leading his own Sherman's March, with the Red Devils winning eight of nine games since Jan. 1, with the only hiccup that 3-3 draw with Chelsea, in his tradtional end of the season march to the sea.
While the season as a whole hasn't been the stuff of champagne dreams -- aside from small isolated moments -- it seems like Wayne Rooney is warming up right ahead of the Euro in June. (Meaning he's inevitably going to get hurt, although he's missing two games for that dumb red card anyway.) Rooney is now over 20 goals on the year, but are they the quietest 20 goals we've seen in a while? Or since Dimitar Berbatov last year?
Wait until you see United's remaining schedule, too. Aside from the April 30 showdown at the Eithad, it's tissue soft: at Wolves; v. Fulham; at Blackburn; v. QPR; at Wigan; v. Aston Villa; v. Everton; at City; v. Swansea; at Sunderland. Couldn't draw it up much better, no?
City, it might seem simplistic to say, but the team looks tired. We all laughed at Roberto Mancini when he said he needed more players, maybe he was right. For one, Yaya Toure -- maybe the team's most important cog -- had the extra burden of the African Cup of Nations with a few 120 minutes affairs tossed in down there. The injuries to Vincent Kompany have tested the defensive depth with Stefan Savic a huge step down when he has to play.
Then there's David Silva looking like he's lost a little bit of the magic he had at the start of the year.
And for all that's written, said and done by Mario Balotelli, when he's not contributing by scoring goals he's one of those strikers who doesn't do much else unless you really zap him with a cattle prod.
City are still nearly unbeatable at home and they welcome Chelsea next week. City's schedule isn't as easy at United's, as it includes a trip to London to play Arsenal and a potentially tough game at Newcastle. (City also plays at Stoke, Wolves and Norwich.)
Anyways, expect plenty in the coming weeks to be written about "mind games" and United's pedigree.
While that's true to some extent, this race to the finish might be more about which team's legs are a little less leaden, so oddly enough if United aren't able to turn it around this week at the San Mames vs. Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League it could be the best thing for them.
An abstract thought: any idea what Everton manager David Moyes does for fun in his limited moments of spare time? I haven't a clue, or even a guess. He seems cut from the Bob Bradley/Jon Gruden obsessive coach mold, where every waking moment of his life is devoted to the club.
Do you think, after the Toffees dispatched Tottenham 1-0 at Goodison Park he celebrated? Perhaps with a nice, cold bottle of Crabbie's Alcoholic ginger beer? Most likely, no, as Everton travels to its ancestral home -- Anfield -- on Tuesday for the Merseyside derby.
For whatever kernel its worth, as long as I've followed the Premier League intently, I've always held Everton in high regard. Not sure if that's 100 percent down to Moyes, however in that span he's been the one mainstay in the Prem after Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. However the amount written about the latter two managers in the previous week probably dwarf the words compiled on Moyes, hence my questioning about what he does for fun.
However you draw it up, a decade in one place in one of the most cutthroat leagues in the word is a proud accomplishment, albeit one lacking any real trophies. No one is going to hold the lack of wins against Moyes, who's operated on a shoestring budget in comparatively.
Since I'm not that great at purple prose, maybe the best thing to say about Moyes' Everton is it's a team very difficult to dislike, even if it's employed guys like Duncan Ferguson, Thomas Gravesen, Lee Carsley, and
Maroune Feliani.There's something to be said for, in such an ego-driven, flashy, league, that Everton has carved out its niche as, "The People's Club." A team that by all accounts is everything you'd want in a club, hard-working, honest, commmitted.
Well, except for the money.
Best call Mark Cuban, sooner rather than later, eh?
A word on Spurs and their recent three-game losing streak, which has seen their double-digit gap ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea shrink to four points. It brings to mind the words of Lloyd Bridges in "Airplane," as in Harry Redknapp picked the wrong time stop (or maybe start) sniffing glue.
Redknapp's always been laughed at for his lack of tactics and his free-wheeling transfer activity. Now it seems, whether it be because of the lingering talk of the England manager talk, he's trying too much.
Spurs were rolling with a fairly set lineup, with Emmanuel Adebayor operating up top alone, with Rafael van der Vaart roaming behind. Now Redknapp is trying to play Adebayor with a partner -- Jermain Defoe or Louis Saha -- which worked in the 5-0 win against Newcastle, but not since.
Tinkering with the Son of Man, err, Gareth Bale and trying to play the natural left footer on the right is something that sounds hatched out of the brain of some soccer tactics blog, but in actuality is a disaster like seeing a national treasure like Nicholas Cage acting in "Season of the Witch." Wait, nevermind.
Opponents do adjust, however, it wasn't broken for Tottenham, but Redknapp decided to try to fix it. The last two weeks Spurs have looked like the toothless, rudderless club it was down the stretch of the season last year. If teams aren't allowing Spurs' to stretch them out, they seem to lack any idea -- even with Luka Modric in the side.
Tottenham has time to right the ship, welcoming Bolton and Stoke City to White Hart Lane. Spurs need six points from these games because a trip to Stamford Bridge looms on March 24. They've chewed through their margin for error already.
Around the League:
Bolton, Blackburn, QPR, Wolves and Wigan all probably deserve to get relegated. As I've said before, Blackburn might survive if only because it can score goals from multiple players -- this week getting two from Junior Hoillet in a win over woeful Wolves. ... Brutal loss for Fulham in stoppage time to Aston Villa.
Fantasy Team O' the Week:
Low-scoring week, but for the second round in a row, Michael Coury's North Oakland FC takes top spot this time with 48 points, mainly due to Rooney.
One Other Thing:
Here's Noel Gallagher's 14-minute sit down interview with Mario Balotelli. Enjoy it.
Song of the Week:
Didn't realize April from "Parks and Rec" was in this video until I went to grab the embed code on YouTube. A friend of mine might need a minute after watching this.
Those eye whites, damn.