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 email@example.com and you can follow him on Twitter all EPL season at@guyrbailey.
Two weeks to rattle through, and we begin with that glorious vice: gambling.
What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a bet?
A days pay? your dignity? a round of drinks?
Two Ugandan fans went the extra mile two weeks prior as one wagered his house on Arsenal getting a result in Manchester while his Red Devil’s supporting pal put up his wife and car. Both class acts but he duly had to hand over the keys after Robin Van Persie delivered a sucker punch to his old pals. At least his pal has somewhere to lay his head once his wife kicks him out of the house when she finds out.
You’d have gotten long odds on a North East double on Sunday November 9 too but that’s precisely what happened as Newcastle won 1-0 at Spurs, who dominated proceedings yet couldn’t find a breakthrough to answer Loic Remy’s well taken opener, and the even more surprising Sunderland, who won 1-0 at home over Manchester City, putting some much needed life into their relegation battle. The goal scored by David Bardsley, ostracized and labeled a Traitor by his previous manager Signor Di Canio after tweeting out disparaging remarks after Sunderland lost their opening day game against Fulham. Regular readers recalling Bardsley being suspended for that game after taking a picture of himself on a casino floor surrounded by £50 notes. Classy guy.
The previous day, one of English football’s longest records very nearly came to an end last week as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea needed the softest of injury time penalties to equalize against a spirited West Brom who themselves had come back from 0-1 down to lead 2-1 with seconds remaining. An unassuming, hard-working team with no real stand-out superstars, unless a fading Nicolas Anelka counts– a massively underappreciated Shane Long is by no means a star even if he should be– but incredibly disciplined and tactically astute. All of a sudden their win at Old Trafford earlier in the season doesn’t look like a fluke anymore. Chelsea of course will play worse and win but it’s still an ominous sign that they can pick up points from the toughest of positions.
Southampton’s fringe England players Adam Lallana (though it was nice to see the joy on his face at Wembley this week as he warmed up in the England shirt) and Jay Rodriguez did their chances of full caps against Chile and Germany no harm with good performances in the 4-1 demolition of Hull City* and Liverpool similarly took no pity on Fulham who like Norwich the week before look like the template of a relegation struggling team, specifically, not having a 15 goal a season striker. Norwich themselves started poorly after their 0-7 mauling at Manchester City, trailing West Ham 0-1 at the break at home but credit to Chris Hughton who put something special in the tea as they rallied to win 3-1 and go above the Hammers.
Crystal Palace remain marooned at the bottom and saw no.1 choice of new manager, Aitor Karanka, former Spain U15/U16 coach and Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid for the past three seasons choose the Championship and Middlesbrough although on reflection, a six month relegation struggle will hardly appeal when set against perennial Premiership residents.
Boro with a bigger stadium, wonderful training facilities albeit in a down phase but with some talent on the books and an intriguing January transfer window ahead, overdue good times possibly around the corner for the Boro faithful.
This week saw a break for Internationals and the chance for fringe players to stake their claim for a place on the plane to Brazil. For the fans, it’s a chance to get the Christmas shopping started early.
* – Hull City will always be known as such in this column regardless of which ridiculous names the owner decides to call them this week.
And then there was this week…
21/11/13 – Is the World Cup over yet?
So after the fireworks of World Cup qualification, England’s two warm-down friendlies against top opposition provide an appropriate autumnal damp squib to see off the international season with a pffffft. Firstly a motivated and talented Chile came by the Home of Football last Friday Night and set about England as a starving man would a tender T-Bone. Direct, incisive and strong, England were not at the races and it wasn’t an ideal showing by Southampton’s Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez or other pretenders for a seat on that plane next summer.
A lot of people wonder why England seem to struggle at home so much and there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, their best spell of home form coincided with the period when Wembley Stadium was being rebuilt between 2003 and 2007. The England team had a roadshow and played at the top club grounds teams all over the country, allowing provincial audiences that chance to see their country in the flesh, many for the first time. This parochial and partisan audience closely mirrored your average EPL crowd so gave them a bigger boost than the corporate day trippers to Wembley. Also, it’s a known fact that your average foreign footballer is only going to play at Wembley once so is going to raise his game for the occasion, especially knowing the eyes of English scouts and coaches are on the game.
Alexis Sanchez, hardly an unknown quantity seeing as he plays for a small Catalan outfit called FC Barcelona, turned up the dial to 11 and scored both goals in a comfortable 2-0 win for the visitors. Four days later and it was Germany’s turn to dole out similar medicine. Often described as one of the most heated rivalries in international football, it’s one sided in the same way that the Bills/Patriots ‘rivalry’ is. Germany treats games with Italy and Holland especially as rivalry games, the latter with real venom and hatred between the countries, whereas once the WW2 glasses have been taken off , England and Germany are quite similar in style, climate, temperament and thirst.
Not as expansive as their South American predecessors, the German’s didn’t need to be, once the maligned Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker morphed into Der Kaiser himself for 90 minutes and headed beyond a rejuvenated Joe Hart, there was only going to be one result and so it proved. A sign of diminished/realistic expectations perhaps that there aren’t major calls for an inquest after two back-to-back home defeats in four days, England and their fans know we’re just along for the ride next summer – happy to be there.
After Steve Mcclaren was appointed England manager in 2003, a friend of mine ruefully suggested that under the dead hand of the former Boro boss, Sven Goran Eriksson’s efficient and effective England team would look like the Harlem Globetrotters, and was proved right, I feel the same criticisms could be leveled at Roy Hodgson’s current crop.
The hurly burly of the EPL resumes this weekend with top billing going to the Merseyside derby on Saturday lunchtime as Liverpool pretty much walk to Everton. The first in a decade not to feature David Moyes, Everton will be hoping that Martinez enjoys a better record than the previous incumbent against the rampaging reds. Leaders Arsenal entertain dangerous Southampton, Chelsea travel to the East End and West Ham for a tough if unequal encounter while Man City welcome Spurs on Sunday for the purists choice of game this weekend. West Brom play Villa on Monday night in the third derby of the weekend to assume the mantle of top club in the West Midlands. A title as easy and dubious as best dressed man at a GWAR concert. Though the match would do well to be as entertaining as…
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.