Editor’s Note: Guy Bailey will write columns for The Yanks Are Coming throughout the Barclay’s Premier League season where he discusses the happenings overseas in the world’s most popular sports league. Guy offers a unique perspective on the league as a Brit who lived for a long while in the United States before moving back to Teeside in the past year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter all EPL season at@guyrbailey.
A couple of weeks of Barclay’s Premier League action, a World Cup draw, a new Spurs manager– well, we think they’ll hire someone– and a partridge in a pear tree. It’s time for “Whiney Limey!!”
Week of 23/11/13 – Explosive Derbies, International Charlatans and Squirrel Mockery
Occasionally amongst the one-sided beatings and stalemates between evenly matched clubs the EPL throws up some tasty fireworks and Thanksgiving weekend was bookended by just two such great examples. Everton and Liverpool got things underway with a blistering 3-3 draw on Saturday lunchtime with the lead and momentum going back and forth between the two like an overexcited toddler on a swingset. Liverpool taking the lead twice before having to rely on a last minute equalizer to gain a point. Lukaku becoming possibly the best interleague loan signing ever with another two goals and realistically could have had another two as well. This guy will end up with over 20 goals this season which makes his loan out from Chelsea even more confounding.
Crystal Palace won the battle at the bottom with a 1-0 win at Hull overseen by their new manager Tony Pulis, ex-Stoke and pioneer of Drone football – as in putting the ball so high, the TV companies have to employ a drone to find the ball – while their closest rivals Norwich, Sunderland, Fulham and West Ham all lost. Martin Jol at Fulham having a particularly uncomfortable afternoon as his new assistant/successor Rene Muelensteen was sat next to him on the bench. It’s an impossible situation for the Tony Soprano lookalike – if they recover then it’s Muelensteen’s insights and coaching, if they continue to struggle then it’s his fault and he gets sacked. But then a man with two brothers named Dick and Cock will be no stranger to the unfairness of life.
Arsenal beat pretenders Southampton 2-0 with a blooper for the ages for their first as Saints Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc tried on his Cristiano Ronaldo impression on the enigmatic, almost world-class Olivier Giroud in his own box before falling over his own feet and gifting the suddenly prolific Frenchman an open goal. Poor Boruc, lobbed in the first minute at Stoke the other week, now this, he’ll be forgiven for going to the bathroom with a pair of tongs in case another calamity comes from his fingertips.
The main story of the weekend was Sunday’s performances. Manchester United fought back from a goal down to lead into the final minutes at a raucous Cardiff City before the Bluebirds* took a deserved equalizer. The referee missing or choosing to miss a blatant Wayne Rooney kick on an opponent. Across town, Manchester City had a performance for the ages, as did their opponents Spurs who looked less like a £100m team and more like 11 lucky punters who’d won a charity auction to play as Spurs for the afternoon. Actually that’s unfair, as 11 Spurs fans would have gone about their task with more guts, drive, passion and heart than the so-called professionals representing them. It was like a game of Football Manager where your previously unbeatable tactics get sussed by the computer and you get a royal dicking, forcing you to alter them for the next game to maintain your momentum. The only one who hasn’t got the memo it would appear is AVB who will be blaming the groundsmen, the kitman, the tea lady and the sprinkler system before the finger of suspicion comes to rest at his own door. The unthinkable suddenly became plausible Thanksgiving weekend as he shot to the top of the sack race betting odds and with Manchester United the next visitors to the Lane, maybe he won’t be the only one to rue the Cardiff ref’s leniency next weekend.
The weekend set up a trip for Arsenal to Cardiff themselves and on Saturday the bottom received the spotlight as Norwich hosted Palace, West Ham hoped Fulham’s travel sickness includes the District Line trip from Fulham Broadway to Upton Park and Chelsea get a footballing opponent in Southampton.
The ‘only in England’ Story this week involves ex-Scunthorpe manager Alan Knill who returns to the Showground in League Two this weekend as manager of Torquay. The hoo-haa involves a club appeal for Iron’s fans not to dress as Squirrels for the match. Last year, Knill suffered injuries after tangling with a Squirrel while on a bike ride which saw him end up with a bruised collarbone, cuts and bruises, although the poor Squirrel was not so lucky. But at least he doesn’t have to try to mark Lukaku.
* – Vincent Tan can make them play in sky blue pink polkadots and call them Cardiff Moon Clowns and Pie Pigeons for all I care. Their the Bluebirds. End of.
12/12/13 – Carry On UP The Jungle
After spending a delightful four years in Atlanta, having an American wife and half American son, I owe some allegiance to the USA and are firmly in their camp as my second team for the World Cup. So imagine my dismay as not only England but then my adopted country get drawn into not one but two ‘Groups of Death’ in the World Cup Draw last week.
For what it’s worth, I think the US will get through behind Germany – Ghana ain’t all that and if you can successfully shackle you-know-who, then there’s every chance of going through even though, I said it four years ago and I’ll stick by this assessment, you go into a World Cup Finals with Jozy Altidore leading your line, it’s walking into the OK Corral with a supersoaker. And that’s still true despite the considerable improvement (and overadulation on the American homefront) of the South Florida product.
England hardly fared any better if any pundit is to be believed. Facing previous nemesis Italy and Uruguay on their own continent is tough enough, and… you’ve got wildcard Costa Rica to content with which no Englishman old enough to remember Scotland’s exit at their hands in 1990 will take lightly. England were initially scheduled to play Italy at 2am GMT which guaranteed a heavy Saturday night session for any fan but after pressure from the TV companies, has now been brought forward to a more manageable 11pm GMT. Locally however, this is moving the game from early evening to bang into the middle of the day in an already humid Manaus. Depending which media outlet you watch or listen to, England will be playing on an Island in the middle of the Amazon not dissimilar to the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with tarantulas and Boa Constrictors swooping down from overhanging tree branches to swallow unwary wingers. Lot’s more of this to follow in the intervening six months.
Back in the EPL last week you’d have been forgiving for being able to hear the outpouring of vitriol and bile following Manchester United’s 0-1 home defeat to a surprisingly resurgent Newcastle. Manchester United of course have never lost consecutive home league games for a while and whilst temporarily falling to 9th place in the EPL, every Utd hater from Leeds to London to Lahore and back is enjoying a 20-year-brewed Schadenfreude festival. Yes they are underpowered at the moment and not looking imperious when Van Persie and Rooney aren’t working in harness together but honestly, what team would?
And, truth be told, there’s no harm in losing to Everton, who look every bit as good as their place in the table. Roberto Martinez is turning saltine-signings like Brian Oviedo (speaking of Costa Rica) to gold at this point and his midfield, led by sturdy holders Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, can do no wrong. They are threatening on the overlap, move the ball better than any Everton team since Mikel Arteta played so well every xenophobe in England wanted him to start for the national team, and their defense, led by the steady Phil Jagielka and the ageless Sylvain Distin, rarely puts a foot wrong from a positioning standpoint. And oh by the way, when they do, Tim Howard is having his best year in three years. It all adds up to a formula to dominate Manchester United at Old Trafford and earn, not steal, a point from Arsenal at the Emirates.
Everton’s draw, 1-1, with leaders Arsenal proved indeed that the Toffees are the team-of-the-moment, with Ross Barkley taking the spotlight and plaudits with everybody talking up his World Cup Chances. Last week of course it was Ravel Morrison and last year, Jack Wilshere so the merry-go-round will turn again soon but Barkley is certainly a rising star, temperamentally as well as skillfully.
Man Utd weren’t the only top side with problems last week. Chelsea going down 3-2 to manly Stoke and Man City only able to draw 1-1 at Southampton. At the other end, West Ham teeter on the edge of rebellion as a 4-1 defeat at Liverpool, injury to influential Stewart Downing and still no sign of the mysteriously absent Andy Carroll brings them firmly into the relegation mix, which Crystal Palace now look like crawling out of with Tony Pulis masterminding a 2-0 win over similarly sleepwalking Cardiff City.
This week sees the first six pointer of the Championship Chase as Arsenal visited Man City and were clobbered, meaning it’s time to halt the brakes on all the Gunners love, for now. Speaking of clobbered, Liverpool crushed Spurs in the best of the rest, thus, as I predicted above writing two weeks prior, ending the AVB tenure– though you wonder why, given that Spurs appeared to have no backup plan. Daniel Levy making a rash firing doesn’t seem befitting of the shrewd businessman, but these things happen. Meanwhile, West Ham didn’t lose at home to Sunderland, which I suppose proved, for the time being, they aren’t deliberately trying to get the manager sacked, which of course would never happen in any sport, ever (WINK).
As noted, Guy Bailey writes on the Barclay’s Premier League for The Yanks Are Coming. Want more Guy Bailey? We highly recommend his new book, Blessay From America, a collection of writings made while living in America, where he married a southern belle and saw his son born, which you can purchase here.
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