|Don't fuck with the Moses.|
It's safe to say Saturday's EPL goal-eruption (via Eddie van Halen) further drove home the point that the marathon English soccer season, which begins in the heat of August, runs through the bleakness of winter and concludes, once again, in the ginger-baking heat of May is like eight or nine different mini-seasons in one. This is only further emphasized since there aren't any playoffs at the end to put a stamp on the preceding months. Look at the NBA and NHL, where the playoffs have basically already, in their first and seconds rounds rendered the bulk of the regular season moot.
Take the season of any of the 20 Premier League teams, have any of them been what you'd consider consistent? Aside from the first three matches, Wolves were essentially awful. Manchester United were brutally efficient from January through mid-April, too. That's about it, though.
More common, though, were teams like Arsenal, who went from, over the course of the season: embarrassing -- okay -- all is lost -- Arsene is the man with the plan -- just okay. Or their North London rivals, Spurs: terrible -- unstoppable -- what the fuck is wrong? A less drastic chart might be Sunderland: really bad under Steve Bruce -- great under Martin O'Neill -- just okay down the stretch.
As the season winds down, how do you judge it? Does the start in August mean more than the congested Christmastime fixtures? Should teams that excel during the muck and mire of March get more credit than a team who was, "on song" in October?
Most baffling to classify, this last month or so of fixtures? Is it basically on par with September baseball when the rosters expand?
How to take stock of clubs who finally turn up, or give up when they know precisely what they need to do in order to qualify for something, avoid relegation or have the best distinction in the world -- finishing 11th in the Barclay's Premier League?
Look no further than Wigan Athletic, who likely are going to stay up and avoid relegation -- yet again living up to the billing as the cockroaches of the PL. The Latics were nothing short of awful from August through March 11. Now, since that game they've won five of their nine matches on the season, taking 17 of their 37 points on the year since then in that condensed period.
So who is this team, how do we frame it? The team that was pure crap in January or the one that put four past in an in-form Newcastle United on Saturday, winning 4-0 to push their survival chances to an all-time high?
Or take favorite Internet whipping boy Fernando Torres and the nefarious Luis Suarez, each embroiled in controversy and inconsistent form since their comings-and-goings to Anfield last January. Neither, you'd say, had excellent seasons, but Torres -- ahead of the Euro no less -- appears to be showing glimpses of the player he once was, including a hat trick vs. QPR Sunday morning.
Suarez's rough season is mainly chalked up to his behavior and the Patrick Evra incident. The Uruguayan still has 11 goals, but seems to have missed so many if he converted half, he'd be right there with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney at the top of the scoring charts. Still, his brilliant display in Liverpool's win over Norwich City -- including the 40-yard chip of John Ruddy -- is probably going to be the image we remember him going forward into the summer. (As you can see, his first two finishes -- with either foot -- were almost more impressive than the long strike.)
How to classify Everton? Forgettable for the first half of the season, great for the second half thanks to some fresh blood, namely Nickala Jelavic, coming to Goodison Park. Maybe this gets an asterisk, since a slow start and strong second half has become the David Moyes MO in recent years. Nice 4-0 win over Fulham, though.
It's weird, too. Spurs' season looked all but a waste with their recent horrific form -- one league win in nine games since the start of March -- then Blackburn rolls into White Hart Lane and rolls over, gifting Harry Redknapp's team a much-needed three points. (Kyle Walker, take a bow, son.) Now Spurs are in the drivers seat for the Champions League, maybe, thanks to Wigan.
In the end the table doesn't lie, but it doesn't tell the entire story of the season, either.
Around the League:
In a morning of goals galore, West Brom and Aston Villa finished 0-0. Never change Roy Hodgson and Alex McLeish, never change. ... Robin van Persie ended his goalless drought, which dates back to March. Wasn't enough for Arsenal to beat Stoke City. The 1-1 draw leaves the door open for Spurs, Newcastle and Chelsea to creep into third place and the automatic Champions League group stage berth. ... Bolton fought back to draw Sunderland 2-2 on the road Saturday, but couldn't pull out all three points. Kevin Davies, remember him, saved the day here. ... Some people might give Wolves credit for coming back from an early hole to draw Swansea 4-4. Not me. Where was that fight weeks ago? Easy to play that loose with nothing on the line.
Fantasy Team of the Week:
I suppose Justin Telesford would be pissed if I omitted this space considering his team, Sporting Clube Itali put up an astounding 91 points behind Walker, Jelavic and Juan Mata.
The Tuesday games, unless you're on Merseyside are pretty much irrelevant, the Wednesday matches, boy howdy, are humongous.
* Stoke City v. Everton -- (Live, FSC, 2:30 p.m.) Hate to take my favorite human being on earth, Ian Darke, to task but he and all other EPL announcers need to drop the charade that Stoke at the Britianna Stadium are unbeatable. A 7-6-4 mark, good for 11th in the league is nothing special, regardless of a couple results against the Top five teams. All the matches count the same, and it's not like Valencia had trouble going there in the Europa League, did they? ... Stoke City 1, Everton 1
* Liverpool v. Fulham -- (Live, ESPN2, 3 p.m.) Considering the FA Cup final is four days after this match, Liverpool could start a reserve team against Fulham. Here's hoping they start history's most handsome midfield -- Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing. These dudes are like Crockett and Tubbs. Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham better beware, because these two are going to steal their underwear endorsement contracts really soon. ... Liverpool 1, Fulham 0
* Chelsea v. Newcastle United -- (Live, FSC, 2:30 p.m.) Thank you Liverpool. After the "Miracle in Instabul" (still awesome, by the way), the Reds didn't qualify for the Champions League but stamped their feet loud enough for UEFA to let them in via the long road of qualification. Think their first game was against Welsh Champions CSI Information Systems or something to that effect. Anyways, that ruling is going to mean a great season by Newcastle United, underline great, is going likely result in nothing if Chelsea win in Munich later next month. Life and English soccer just aren't fair. ... Chelsea 1, Newcastle United 1
* Bolton v. Tottenham -- Is there a worse phrase in sports media than, "controlling your own destiny"? Probably not, however each club here has a huge game that basically will decide their future as either a team in the Championship or a team in the Champions League. Spurs were gifted a lifeline by Newcastle and looked lively vs. Blackburn. Then again, Spurs will probably now finish fourth but Chelsea will win the Champions League rendering the chase for the final place a pointless endeavor. ... Bolton 1, Tottenham 2
Last round: 4-5 (Manchester Derby pending)
One Other Thing:
For whatever its worth, think I might ramp up my Tumblr-ing if only to declog my Twitter of stupid links and such. Are people into that? Is it easier that way? Here's the URL. Not a lot there except some pictures/links/videos/quotes usually dealing with my internal existential angst -- essentially every other tumblr on the planet. If more people are looking at it, maybe I'll start posting good stuff and reblogging the quality, especially as we get closer to the Euro. It's a thought. Lemme know if this is something you guys (and gals) are into.