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.
Three weeks of Barclay’s Premier League, Europa and Champions League to cover so let’s dive right in. We’ll start with the week that just was and what’s to come this weekend…then you can move backwards through the retro-diary.
2/4/14 – Balance of Power
The EPL is resembling a 1970’s Heavyweight Boxing clash right about now where bruisers used to take a beating then get their second wind, bounce back of the ropes and become ascendant themselves. So it is with Liverpool finally hitting the top as their rivals stumbled. First Chelsea went across London to Crystal Palace but you’d have had to go a lot further to find anyone who would have backed a 1-0 scoreline to the Eagles before the match. True to form, it wasn’t scored by them either as John Terry put through his own net to leave his own side on the verge of a knockout and Palace continuing to plot their unlikely escape. Man City couldn’t hold on to their lead at Arsenal as the Gunners held on with their dying man’s grip to 4th which left Liverpool to pummel a mentally and physically weak Tottenham side 24 hours later like a light bag. The quintissential ‘and they were lucky to get nil’ peformance. Rumours abounded after the match that fisticuffs were involved when Tim Sherwood made his way to the dressing room to conduct what might have turned into an actual post-mortem, although the real thing did occur at the Hawthorns as West Brom and Cardiff carved out a mutually destructive yet highly entertaining 3-3 draw. Albion leading until the last 30 seconds when they sprung downfield with a four on one situation in their favour yet England Under 21 international Saido Berahino thought he was too good and clever to run the ball to the corner flag and kill the game, ended up giving it to the lone defender who set up a late counter charge, which led to the inevitable corner and last-gasp leveller. Albion’s captain James Morrison reacted the way the crowd would and allegedly laid one on the upstart who’s form has dipped since he signed a new contract in November and went from £850 a week to £15,000. Morrison’s from Middlesbrough and we know how to treat fancy dans who take the piss.
Sunderland failed to capitalise losing 2-1 at home to West Ham in another abject Monday Night performance. In 12 years they have failed to win one of 19 televised MNF games, and they’ve got another coming up next week at Spurs. The whole affair was dire, and Sam Allardyce was roundly booed by proud Hammers supporters despite the win. West Ham look like they’ll avoid the drop with negative football, but they aren’t exactly doing so with Bobby Moore applauding somewhere. The good news? Liverpool come calling and if Big Sam is right and West Ham can “upset” the giants- the booing will stop, cynical football or no.
Man Utd looked something like the team of old midweek holding Bayern to a 1-1 draw while Chelsea’s bad week continued going down 3-1 to an ominous looking PSG in Paris. I do think Barney Ronay at The Guardian is correct to say the draw with Bayern deserves the utmost praise, especially if you consider this: Bayern had not had two consecutive non-winning results since 2012. Remarkable. And a good night in a year of dark nights for David Moyes. One of the few times anybody looks forward to seeing Stoke is when they turn up at Stamford Bridge this weekend and the Special One tries to put his title train back on the track. Pole sitter Liverpool go to West Ham, Man City welcome Southampton and the battle for 4th is a straight contest at Goodison between an Everton who won’t stay down and an Arsenal who won’t pull away. Two more six pointers at the other end as Norwich host West Brom and Cardiff really do have one last chance at home to Crystal Palace. At least until the next one.
27/3/14 – Goals, Goals, Goals (are looking for a good time)
Funny how some weekends, pretty much every game follows the same pattern. Some weeks see nothing but dour draws and doughty rearguard actions, then there are weeks like this where the floodgates open and even Noah couldn’t keep dry above the goalrush – 15 games, 58 goals.
Arsene Wenger was celebrating his 1000th game in charge of Arsenal – 500 without a trophy but I digress, and I bet he wishes he was managing in any other one of those by 3:20pm last week as already trailing 0-2, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain punches the ball off the line but escapes a sending off as the nearsighted ref sent of Kieran Gibbs instead. Chelsea then put another four past the once Invincibles to finally put their championship chase to bed. Man City tried but could only hit Fulham for five while Liverpool went to south Wales and put Cardiff to the sword with six although the hosts hit three of their own. At kickoff, any of their fans would have given their right arm to score three – be careful what you wish for. Man Utd saw their mini revival continue with a Wayne Rooney first half wonder goal from just inside the halfway line although it proved a false dawn when City came calling midweek and went in front after two minutes. Two goals more and for the first time, Sir Alex himself felt the wrath of fans for being the protector in chief of ‘the chosen one’. The fans realise the truism that as long as Ferguson is protecting his fellow Glaswegian, then Moyes is going nowhere. Ferguson is made of stronger stuff however and won’t renege although what the board will think if Champions League or even Europa League football is not forthcoming in 2014/15 is a different matter.
At the other end, Norwich put some valuable breathing space between themselves and the bottom three with a 2-0 win over an insipid Sunderland who rallied themselves midweek to look a little like a football team in a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool, even threatening the title chasers for the last ten minutes but the idea of a team with Jozy up front putting one containing Suarez and Sturridge to bed is fanciful. The reality is the Sunderland move couldn’t have gone any worse for the American, who now sees his manager Poyet turning to a youth prospect in Wickham who wasn’t even that highly thought of as just that- a youth prospect. Altidore is running out of time to get it right.
20/3/14 – Hell to Heaven or staying put? – The United Way 2014
Some results are genuine shocks and surprises. It’s one of the beauties of football, when one inferior team takes the blows and punches of it’s superior rivals then lands a clinching one of their own. Infrequent those these occasions are, you know they are lying there under the surface of every season, like sea mines in a congested wartime shipping lane. Chelsea struck one on Saturday night at Aston Villa, bossing the game comprehensively before losing their discipline and their heads ultimately losing the inevitable goal. Manchester City dodged theirs at Hull despite losing talisman Vincent Kompany after only nine minutes and Arsenal struck one that failed to go off as they took a 1-0 lead at Spurs and then held out against a dogged and determined Spurs team whose supporters must have been as surprised as they seemed to be at the range and frequency of chances Arsenal supplied them with.
Sadly for Manchester United, they spotted their explosive obstacle a 100 yards ahead and ploughed into it at full speed as every Manchester United fans recurring nightmare came true as a revitalized and revenge driven Liverpool humiliated them at Old Trafford 3-0. The only saving grace was that Steven Gerrard missed a hat-trick penalty that would have made the score even worse. What was most shocking than anything wasn’t the scoreline but the performance from so many Manchester United players. In a season of lowlights, this had to be the absolute nadir. A modicum of respect and resilience was showed 72 hours later as they overcame a 2-0 deficit to Olympiakos with a Van Persie hat trick but even then the margin was wafer thin and a better team would surely have taken advantage of the space and time afforded the Greek’s wasteful strikers. And they surely will come up against one in the quarter finals. as they drew the European champions Bayern Munich.
Chelsea made their passage through a mite easier with an early goal against Galatasaray allowing the Didier Drogba mutual appreciation society annual party to get underway, Drogba being so ineffective he might as well have been Chelsea’s mascot. PSG will be a tough out for Mourinho but you’d have to look at Bayern and Manchester United and say that if a Barclay’s Premier League side are in the Champions League semifinals, it will be the Blues.
Fulham enjoyed a dead cat bounce as they beat Newcastle 1-0 and West Brom rallied from an early deficit to enjoy a 2-1 victory over rightfully worried Swansea City.
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.