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.
So the tag of crisis club heading into last weekend fell to Manchester United from Chelsea as – shock and awe – they lose a home match for the first time ever*. Say nothing for the fact that they had 59% possession, more shots and on target efforts than the opposition and that West Brom are an accomplished, disciplined outfit that executed a game plan to aplomb. No, Manchester United don’t lose at Old Trafford apparently and this must all be the new managers fault. Poor David Moyes is on a bit of a hiding to nothing and it might be best to get this first defeat out of the way now because this was always going to come. Throw in a midweek Champions League draw and a narrow victory over hapless Sunderland, and you have promises of a winter spending spree and a guy no one at Old Trafford used to like, Nani, urging the team to collectively harness a fighting spirit. Fascinating stuff.
Arsenal, who lost on the first day and have looked like the Invincibles of old ever since march on at home and in Europe with impressive victories over Swansea and Napoli, neither of whom could be mistaken for a miners XI– but then, just to point out how absurd Moyes criticism is at this juncture, they too were held by West Brom; Man City demonstrated that it’s a game of 90 minutes and that dominating for 85 of them simply isn’t enough as Aston Villa enjoyed a smash and grab home win with the winner being reminiscent of any goal scored by a junior high team – punt up front, let the defenders worry about it bouncing, then the other teams striker, the biggest guy in the school normally, just toe ends it past the helpless goalkeeper. City had their balloon punctured further with a thorough seeing to by European Champions Bayern Munich who really didn’t need the goal start Joe Hart gave them but accepted it anyway. England’s no.1 by default now looking as shaky as David James in his blue-haired Liverpool pomp.
Chelsea and Spurs clashed at White Hart Lane lane if clash is the right word. What’s the sound when two pillows fall into one another? Use that. The main talking point came when Fernando Torres reappeared from captivity and took the place of the imposter who has been misrepresenting him for three seasons with a scintillating display of centre forward power, pace and passion. Too much of the latter as he was shown a yellow card for his Lady Gaga impression in the face of Jan Vertonghen who then rolled around to get Torres a less-deserved second Yellow and a red. Everton fan’s weren’t surprised in the least at the catfight clawing by Torres: “he’s half a boy and half a girl, Torres, Torres…” could be heard across the blue portion of Merseyside watching on tele.
After Paolo Di Canio’s sacking the man in the hotseat, and presumably straining it to its very limits is Martin Jol whose lack of form with Fulham could not have come at a worse time with an excitable foreign owner coming in – Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and a man therefore synonymous with sporting excellence and supporter entertainment.
Everton realised that letting the intern design your new badge wasn’t the best PR strategy and unveiled a new/old one that is keeping the natives happy – although if the only thing you have to complain about as a supporter is your new badge, then the team must be doing pretty well, which they are. They did, however, forget to play the second half at Etihad Stadium Saturday and were punished with their first defeat of the year, leaving the aforementioned Invincibles to their champagne, alla the 72 Dolphins. It was an encouraging display from City, who almost never defeat Everton and absolutely never look good when they play them. Every rich oil tycoon has his day, I suppose…
Meanwhile, Fulham played Premier League bouncers Stoke City, who make the San Jose Earthquakes physical style of play look like Holland’s total football, and they grinded (not even close to right, meat cleaver better) out three points that were desperately necessary. It was enough to nearly give them team of the week honors except for the fact that West Brom drew Arsenal, leaving West Brom in the pole position for that award until we received genuine needle at Upton Park where the visit of west end dandies Spurs was greeted with the trademark good humoured ribbing and joshing associated with West Ham and their chirpy fans, and the play on the field was even more chirpy, including Winston Reid, scoring and subsequently staring down every Spurs player within staring distance. The call on Spurs radio of the final thirty minutes, with Tottenham desperately trying to avoid a humbling derby defeat. was pure magic– a combination of “maybe here!” speculation every time Spurs strung together two passes and “if we only had a tough guy, a gritty guy, a Clint Dempsey!” High comedy and high marks to the Hammers, who dominated Spurs thoroughly enough to produce a “how to” video.
WORLD CUP SPECIAL- Brazil Beckons But Can England Deliver
So, yes, West Hammered Spurs, but beyond that game, we saw a fairly routine weekend last round of EPL matches – Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool all win, Sunderland and Crystal Palace lose and you can cut and pace this paragraph if you are writing your own EPL summary this season for approx. 75% of the fixtures. The only deviations will be when they play each other, sharing the points among the big boys but Sunderland v Palace looks like becoming such a fulcrum of awfulness that the laws of Physics themselves may be inverted and a black hole of stumbling, poorly executed offside traps, weak backpasses, sleepy defending at set pieces and comedic own goals could open above the Stadium of Light itself. Or perhaps they’ll just ground out a sterile 0-0 draw. Either could happen really.
The focus fell on two incredibly talented young footballers but for different reasons. David Moyes is getting the plaudits again for unleashing mercurial balkan Belgian Adznan Januzaj on Sunderland’s comical defence although two excellently executed goals still had to be taken. This then unleashed a tidal torrent of speculation among the English press on whether the new new new Michael Owen would forego any of his multiple nationalities (Belgian, Albanian, Kosovan, Turkish) to play for his adopted country when eligible in four or five years. Credit to the young man himself who is keeping his counsel but through intermediaries is letting it be known that his choices are Belgium, the country of his birth, or Albania, his dad’s country. Jack Wilshere, the old new young thing found himself shoehorned into the argument too. Spotted puffing on a cigarette in a nightclub earlier in the week, he probably sought to deflect some negative attention and bring it back onto him, especially as he is likely to have a pivotal role in England’s crucial forthcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland this week.
Wilshire replied to a press question about the eligibility process of foreign players in England to play for the national side and gave his own opinion that you should probably only play for the country you were born in. By the time it hit the morning papers, WIlshire had morphed into the spokesperson of the British National Party and wanted to deport all foreigners. It’s unfortunate that the storm is breaking as the FA is launching a commission to look into how more English players can get playing time in the EPL as their numbers fell to a record low of 31% of all EPL players in the current season. Quota systems are being mentioned but the EPL themselves have neglected to join the panel itself so it may find itself swinging in the wind. Wilshire himself needs a couple of good performances this week to silence critics who question his right to represent England recently on the basis of a couple of shaky performances and also the arrival of a real international superstar in Mesut Ozil in the Arsenal midfield alongside him. As for the political criticism surrounding his comments– and this goes for his form too, really– it is of assist to remember the lad is twenty-one years old.
Poland in World Cup qualification games always raises a dark spectre in English hearts. Back in 1973, still managed by Sir Alf Ramsey who brought the World Cup home only seven years previously, England had to defeat a Polish side with experienced but limited goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski in between the sticks. In a football fable in reverse, Tomaszewski, labeled ‘a clown’ by legendary English manager Brian Clough, had the game of his life making miraculous save after save. Poland scored on a breakaway and while England equalized late on, couldn’t get the breakthrough and were eliminated after drawing 1-1. England would not qualify for a World Cup again for another decade and while England will be assured of a place in Brazil 2014 if they win both games, as they should on form and talent but should doesn’t win you football matches and we have to rely on Roy Hodgson, the only international manager who looks like he should be delivering mail somewhere in outer London, to deliver the ultimate prize package and join the USMNT on Copacabana Beach next June.
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. Also– a very special Happy Yanks Are Coming Birthday to Guy’s son, Vince. May ‘Boro deliver this year for you, young man.