Posts Tagged ‘newcastle united’
Continuing from my earlier post concerning yesterday’s Premier League game between Newcastle United and Liverpool, the most unsavory aspect of the afternoon other than Liverpool’s performance was James Perch’s involvement in the sending off of Pepe Reina.
Watching the incident as it happened, it looked like a gentle headbutt by Reina and a massive overreaction by Perch. Even so, I expected Reina to be dismissed because regardless of how much contact may actually have been made, there was clearly some violent intent and the laws of the game demand that a red card be issued for such an action.
But the replays also confirmed the exaggerated role played by Perch, with one angle even appearing to show the possibility that there wasn’t even any contact at all between the players.
Whether the reaction by Perch – instantly throwing himself to the ground and rolling around as if punched by a heavyweight boxer – had any bearing on the referee’s decision or not will be known only to the official himself.
There have, however, been similar instances when players have touched heads and only a yellow card given – one example being Liverpool’s league fixture at Fulham earlier in the season when Clint Dempsey reacted aggressively to what had actually been an entirely fair challenge by Bellamy. Dempsey clearly aimed a headbutt at Bellamy during a heated exchange between the pair but was only cautioned, perhaps because Bellamy had stayed on his feet.
So could Reina have escaped with only a caution yesterday had Perch not feigned injury in a manner which unfairly did a fellow professional no favours? Again, only Martin Atkinson could answer that question.
But given there was no need to go to ground holding his face, there should also be measures in place to issue retrospective punishment to players such as Perch who can clearly be proven to have reacted dishonestly. Had he stayed on his feet and Reina not been dismissed, there would have been ample opportunity for the FA to review the decision after the match and issue a suspension if it was felt that one was warranted.
On the whole, the FA have done well in their aims of stamping out dangerous two-footed challenges and elbowing and have recently stepped up their anti-racism campaign, but playacting is an area which the FA have never properly addressed. Too many players know that if they can get away with it at the time then there’ll be no further repercussions.
It’s one of the last forms of cheating that is simply accepted by the nation’s football authorities, and a change in approach to dealing with the problem by those at the FA and the Premier League is long overdue.
How many footballers would roll around pretending to be injured despite not having been touched whilst watching on as an opponent is sent off, if they knew that that their own actions would be scutinised and could themselves lead to a lengthy ban?
Perhaps it’s time to find out.
The stuttering race for the fourth Champions League place continues in the Premier League and although four teams remain in contention, it is Liverpool who are looking most in danger of being left behind.
It’s safe to assume that Spurs will finish at least third because they, along with the two Manchester clubs, have looked a far better team than any of those in the places below them in the table.
And so there is realistically only fourth place for Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool to play for.
At present, I would consider Arsenal to be favourites due to the way in which they’ve fought their way back into contention following an awful start to the season. The momentum, albeit one which hasn’t been free of a few stumbles, has seen them move above Chelsea and they currently occupy the all important fourth place in the table.
Almost the opposite is true of Chelsea, and after an encouraging start to the season they have been hugely disappointing. Even the ongoing troubles of Fernando Torres no longer make a great deal of headlines because there are many of his other team-mates at Chelsea who are performing below what would be expected of them.
Chelsea’s form hasn’t caused a great deal of personal surprise, mainly due to the unconvincing manner of some of their early season victories, although it is also said that the mark of a title-winning side is one that can take points from games without performing in top form. Chelsea were certainly doing that in August before losing ground on the leaders which they have never since looked like making up.
Meanwhile, Newcastle continue to surprise. Alan Pardew and his players have done a fine job to be where they are, and even though most wouldn’t have expected the Magpies to sustain their incredible form which they began the season with, Newcastle have consistently took points in the games they are capable of taking points in.
Even though I don’t see them having enough to claim Champions League football, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Newcastle secured Europa League football through a fifth placed finish.
In contrast, Liverpool have found it difficult to take points that their performances may well have deserved. Goals have been less frequent than would be expected from the players they have and the volume of chances that have been created in the vast majority of games.
Progress in both domestic cup competitions and off-pitch controversies have turned attention away from Liverpool’s league form which reads two wins in their last nine games, which included fixtures against all of the bottom four teams in the Premier League. Only one of those games resulted in a win.
The opening day draw at Anfield against Sunderland – a match which should have been wrapped up by half time – has had seven further repetitions and if performances don’t start producing points there remains a possibility that Liverpool could, in the same season, enjoy only their second ever unbeaten home Premier League campaign but endure their worst return of home league wins for 58 years.
It’s all to play for the four sides involved, although it is safe to predict that there’ll be more plenty more drama, twists and turns before everything is decided in May.
So, with a third of the season played, what better time to look at how the Premier League has unfolded so far – and to check out how those predictions are looking!
In terms of the title, it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that Man City look almost unstoppable at the moment. Man United and Spurs are reasonably close behind but both have had to scrap for points in certain games and look likely to drop more points than City, who have brushed aside virtually everyone they have faced. Including both Man City and Spurs.
No silverware is handed out in November, however, and although most of the off-pitch distractions have had no bearing on Man City’s league form, there remains a potential for self destruction with so many volatile characters amongst the squad. They face a tough set of fixtures during December and January, and their credentials will be thoroughly tested over the next few weeks, or even earlier than that should they be eliminated after this week’s final round of Champions League games, a situation which may affect the mood within the club.
With Spurs enjoying a strong start to the campaign, Chelsea have found themselves coming under increasing pressure and not only look like they’re out of the title race, but they’ve been less convincing than usual in cup competitions, and suffered an uncharacteristic slump in their home form.
Liverpool remain a work in progress and will have mixed feelings over the first 14 games. Denied injury time victories thanks to world-class goalkeeping in games against Norwich and Man City, and highly contentious decisions to disallow goals against Sunderland and Fulham may have cost further points. But it hasn’t all been down to bad luck, and the reason why Liverpool are in 7th place is also because they simply haven’t helped themselves often enough with their finishing. Amongst the obvious progress remains plenty of potential for more.
The surprise package of the season has without doubt been Newcastle. I am doubtful whether they can pose a serious threat to the top five or six come May, but at the start of the season, a top seven position might have sounded a little optimistic to the St James’ Park faithful, though it is certainly within their capabilities after the start they have enjoyed.
At the bottom, Wigan really look like a team in trouble. I’m a great admirer of what they’ve achieved since gaining promotion to the Premier League, but each season appears to present a tougher challenge to their top flight status. Roberto Martinez worked wonders towards the end of last season in keeping Wigan in the top flight, but few teams manage that twice in a row and they’ll quickly need to start picking up points to avoid being in a similar boat this season.
The one positive is that a handful of teams are within reach. Lancashire rivals Blackburn and Bolton look just as likely as Wigan to be in a relegation scrap, having shown nothing to suggest that they are currently in a false position. Sunderland, too, could be a surprise candidate for the drop, although a managerial change in bringing Martin O’Neill to the club should improve the mood amongst fans.
Two of my other tips for the drop – QPR and Swansea – have begun life at the top level in impressive fashion, and neither look out of place.
It goes without saying that there will be plenty of twists and turns as the season goes on, and if Man City can be prevented from running away at the top of the league, it promises to be a fascinating year from top to bottom.
It’s difficult to see beyond the two Manchester teams and Chelsea for the 2011/12 Premier League winner.
Man City weren’t entirely convincing last season and have the added challenge of Champions League football this time around. But they have the most expensively assembled squad in the league and one which should have enough quality to compete on two fronts. If Roberto Mancini can keep most of his team happy then Man City will almost certainly be competing for trophies and I could see them as title winners.
But this is Man City. A club who don’t do things smoothly, and still have too many of the game’s most temperamental characters on their books. There is bound to be unrest of some sort, and reluctantly leaves me opting for Man United.
Arsenal may not have enough to overhaul all three sides already mentioned and claim the title, but they will still be expected to finish within the top 4, though Spurs and Liverpool will both provide strong competition for a Champions League place.
Spurs have experience of playing in Europe’s premier competition but it’s difficult not to think that they missed an opportunity to consolidate their domestic position when they missed out on a second successive top four finish, caused by a dramatic dip in league form following their European exit.
Liverpool start the season with a far stronger squad than they had available when Kenny Dalglish took over in January. The lack of European football may be seen as an advantage but will be hoping for extra games in domestic cup competitions. If the likes of Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam can add the creativity they were signed for, I predict Liverpool will be strong enough to claim fourth place.
Should both the League Cup and the FA Cup be won by a club who have already qualified for Europe through the league, a Europa League place will be on offer for whoever finishes 7th.
Aston Villa were at a similar level to Spurs only a couple of years ago, but after squandering two good opportunities to secure Champions League football they have appeared a side in decline ever since. A fact emphasized by the sale of two star players which leaves them looking too weak to compete for a European place.
Sunderland are another side who have looked to be on the verge of reaching the next level in terms of league performance only to fall spectacularly when the season entered its most crucial stage.
All of which leaves Everton as the most obvious contender. Notoriously slow starters, but David Moyes’ team are usually amongst the most consistent teams around once they’ve got themselves going.
The newly promoted trio are likely to start as favourites to go down, but rarely have the same three teams returned straight back to the Championship after only one season in the top flight.
As with last season, I expect up to seven or eight sides to be involved and there’s always a surprise or two amongst those fighting for survival.
Newcastle could be one of those, given the loss of some key players, and I don’t think Blackburn will fare much better than last season which would put them at risk of the drop, too.
Picking the three teams to be relegated before the season has started is always risky, but to avoid sitting on the fence I’ll go for QPR, Swansea and Blackburn to finish in the bottom three places.