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.
So this year’s clash of civilizations occurred without the rupturing of the space-time continuum last Monday Evening. The Rooney sideshow notwithstanding, both Manchester United and Chelsea I secretly suspect would have been happy with a point apiece with clean sheets and pride to show for their efforts. I wasn’t surprised at Rooney’s reception from the United fans either, who for all their talk show bluster about disrespect of the shirt and the club, are as pragmatic as the rest of us and know that selling him to one of your two biggest rivals for the Championship is a non-starter, so what else are you going to do but back him?
The main excitement from the prior weekend didn’t even happen in England. Cardiff marked their first match in the Premier League with a 3-2 win over Manchester City. A lot has been made on the romance of the smaller team knocking off the bigger scalp but it’s more a case of the plaything of humble Malaysian millionaires trumping Dubai billionaires rather than a bunch of park cleaners, school games teachers and milkmen dumping the holders out of the FA Cup. Cardiff fans are still conjugating their own deal with the devil from last season when the Malaysians took over; dumped their previous colours of 100 years and rendered the Bluebirds nickname obsolete overnight, changing their kits to red, changing the badge and nickname to Red Dragons (the symbol of Wales) and then proceeding to deliver promotion back to the top flight for the first time in 55 years. It’s an interesting parlour game – what would you give up or accept for a trophy for your team? Until 2004, I might have offered myself in a demonic three-way similar to Homer Simpson in the latest Halloween Special but as I grow older and more cynical, I do find myself getting pickier on which imaginary sexual favours I’d be doling out to mythical creatures. Barbra Streisand is just the same, apparently.
The Red Dragon thing doesn’t exactly go down well 20 miles down the M4 where last season’s League Cup winners Swansea hail from, going down unluckily to Spurs. It would be like the Chicago White Sox changing their colours to red, white and blue and changing their name to the Americans and somehow hoping that Cubs fans will fall in line as it’s good for the city and country.
Newcastle continue their stuttering start to the season with a goalless draw at home to West Ham, managed by former manager Sam Allardyce whose record against them since he left is so impressive, had he replicated that form whilst in the home dugout, would still be there. Despite a setback in Week three against Stoke, West Ham supporters have to be pleased with the entertaining football they are playing. Meanwhile, Arsenal confounded the relegation naysayers with an efficient 3-1 demolition of everybody’s second team, Fulham, allowing Arsene Wenger to crow a little bit. He did finally break his transfer embargo this week with the resigning of former midfielder Mathieu Flamini which begs the question, how long until Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell get the call to get their boots? More on what occurred as the window closed — a stunning coup d’état for the Gunners– after the week two wrap.
The League Cup saw literally no shocks this week, unless you count Newcastle winning. The main drama came at Yeovil who were trailing the visitors 1-2 with minutes left to play. A Birmingham player went down and their goalkeeper put the ball out so he could receive treatment. The wily Yeovil players kept the ball and scored an equalizer rather than return it to the Blues, ensuring extra time would be played. After the mayhem had calmed down, and to add insult to non-injury, Yeovil went ahead 3-2,. At that point, heir manager made the decision to allow Birmingham to score a makeup goal straight away. The game went to penalties and Birmingham went through to face holders Swansea. Cup drama is like no other.
Despite this Birmingham are complaining to the FA about unsportsmanlike conduct but surely it should underline in red ink the maxim – play to the whistle. Unless the ref blows, stick it in the net and let him make the decision. You’d be amazed the number of offside goals allowed to stand because the forward had the wherewithal to actually put it in the net.
5/9/13 Deadline Day
Before we get to the excitement/horror of Deadline Day – let’s look at the last round of EPL matches which now take a break for a week as the European round of World Cup Qualifiers come about.
I guess we’ve got to start with the surprise package of the EPL this season, at least from my couch, Liverpool. A middling, good-on-their-day outfit with a couple of real stars in Gerrard and Suarez, who is still suspended lest we forget, rather than an eleven man juggernaut. Yet here they are, top of the league, three wins from three with no goals conceded and in Daniel Sturridge a striker who literally can’t stop scoring. The man with the golden touch struck again at against Man Utd from virtually the goal line and further enhanced his reputation in a World Cup year. Maybe the stars are aligning for him and England in an area of the pitch where the Three Lions are no over blessed. And maybe John Henry, the devilish American who spends most his time across the pond at Fenway, isn’t crazy to think his side can finish in the top four this year.
If the result for Liverpool brought confidence and self-assurance, then it brought further gloom and self-doubt to Old Trafford as they went scoreless for the second game and never really got out of second gear themselves. Like a highly tuned sports car that has just had a new type of gasolene and is spluttering and finding its way again, Man Utd are not so much a work in progress as an extension to a well-established structure. Does it even need to be done in the first place? Contrary to most commentators, I think Felliani is a good buy for them, his 7ft (afro included) frame will cause distractions in both boxes and if/when Rooney returns motivated then they will still be the team to beat. And who knows, maybe David Moyes will win his lifelong battle against losing to Liverpool constantly by the next turn.
The difference a week makes in football cannot be underestimated. Arsene Wenger has gone from Inspector Clouseau to Jason Bourne following their 1-0 win against spendthrift neighbours Spurs and then matched them in the quality and spending stakes with the signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. This coup cannot be understated. The most prolific goal maker in the top European Leagues over the past couple of season and not even in his prime yet. Despite looking like the lost son of Peter Lorre, Ozil is the perfect, floating No.10 to unpick even the steeliest defence (which lets face it, are not exactly abundant in the EPL), so expect a double figures goals return and at least double that in assists. This guy is going to blow up as many Fantasy leagues as he will the real one. The law of averages dictates that Spurs will come good once the new signings start to bed in and realise that rolling around on the floor and crying will not necessarily get the referee’s attention or largesse in England. One has to wonder this about Tottenham, who played at a snail’s pace in attack Sunday: if you were going to play slowly to begin with, why rely on the sometimes dire Townsend when you had Clint Dempsey? That’s a serious question asked by serious folks here, not just in the States.
Bale is a great talent and exciting player but his performances and talents, more like the man he’s going to play alongside, Ronaldo, are more skewed to the individual and the highlight reel than the team. The annual big-splash signing at the Bernabeu doesn’t always work out as planned though, as Kaka, slipping out the service exit on his way back to Milan, two years to the day when it was him waving a replica shirt and playing keepy-up in front of a rentacrowd would testify.
At the other end,, West Brom and Sunderland continue their troubling starts. Sunderland bedding in their 14 new players and Di Canio continuing his traditional Italian practice of selecting a scapegoat to pin all misfortunes on rather than the manager. His target in this case was Ji Dong Won who appeared to duck out of a header in the first half within the six yard box which would have brought his team level. West Brom are a solid if unspectacular team that do enough at home to secure their status and produce the odd eye-catching result through a ferocious team ethic with no real out and out superstars, discounting the erratic Nicolas Anelka if he decides to continue playing after mulling retirement last week, days after signing for them.
Deadline Day has always attracted a share of attention as details of deals leaked out toward the cut off point of 11pm GMT before the days of rolling news and the internet. Now the whole thing is a choreographed performance with a time ticker, rolling spending chart and breathless announcements of League One players going on loan to each other.
Sky reporters are stationed at the stadia of teams doing the biggest business surrounded by exciteable idiots clearly with nothing better to do to hype up whatever purchases their club is about to make. This years Kieron Dyer Memorial Award for idiocy has two finalists. A blonde twassock raving outside of St Marys in Southampton and this physical denial of evolution theory from, where else?, Sunderland.
Even my own team, Middlesbrough, got in on the breathless action bringing in Sierra Leonean international and Buritto lover, Kei Kamara from Sporting KC. I like the cut of his jib – he has an uplifting story, is 6ft 3” tall, which we need and has a forehead the size of a garage door. If he is going to make a big splash on Teesside, he could repeat the stunt with our own local delicacy – The Parmo. He also does the type of thing that matters when the Championship starts sorting the playoff qualifiers- finds the post and scores garbage goals late in tight games. It’s a safe bet he’ll be missed by Graham Zusi at Sporting Kansas City.
Until next week.
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.