Sunday, December 16, 2007

From the Predictable to the Unpredictable

On Friday, I posted about how "Grand Slam Sunday" was never likely to live up to the hype, and that there were some other fixtures that had the potential to be lively, fast-paced, and exciting.

Through one half of the "Battle of the Big Four", it's been exactly as anticipated. Manchester United eked out a goal from Carlos Tevez to beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield and move to the top of the table pending Arsenal's date with Chelsea later today. The Liverpool-United game was clearly full of passion from the players, but it was an incredibly dull affair. Liverpool had two clear chances in the span of three minutes in the first half but other than that, were completely bottled up by United's back four. United, for their part, really didn't threaten at all during the 90 minutes and it took a set piece for the Red Devils to score (Rooney and Tevez combined for the goal; haven't I been saying for some time now that they are the best strike duo in Europe??).

We'll see what happens with this Chelsea-Arsenal game but with key players missing from both sides, I'm not expecting much. Chelsea play some of the most sleep-inducing soccer known to man anyway and they'll be without their best goalscorer, Didier Drogba, and Arsenal may not have the services of midfield playmaker Cesc Fabregas, who won't be 100% even if he does play.

I did say that there would be games yesterday that would be much more exciting than the ones we'd see today, and I was right. The games I picked out, however (Derby-Boro, Portsmouth-Spurs, and West Ham-Everton), didn't exactly deliver for me. It was the Wigan-Blackburn game that proved to be yesterday's best, with two players, Marcus Bent for Wigan and Roque Santa Cruz for Blackburn, racking up a hat trick for their respective sides. Wigan won the game 5-3 and even that is a bit misleading as Marcus Bent didn't score Wigan's 5th goal, the one that put Blackburn away, until the 81st minute.

For as much as I criticize the Premier League for its predictability, its games like these that keep me coming back for more. I love attacking, free-flowing soccer and games between teams that have so much more to gain than they have to lose, like the four teams (and two boring games; one for sure so far, the other likely) we'll see today. The Premiership is the most entertaining league in the world; you can argue all you like about the level of soccer and the players' technical ability, whatever, all of that may be higher in other leagues. This league has the best value for money and is the most exciting, and there shouldn't be any debate about that.

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