Rants and musings from the magazine team
Carlos TevezIt would be overly simplistic to cite Mario Balotelli’s absence as the key contributor to Manchester City’s sudden rediscovery of cohesion, but his omission allowed another of their ‘lovable’ goal-scoring ‘rogues’ to show the Premier League what it’s been missing. There was so much to admire in Roberto Mancini’s side’s 6-1 win at Carrow Road, but Carlos Tevez’s energy, link-up play and goals have added a spark to a season that looked to be winding down to a feeble surrender.“We’ll fight to the end,” sang the away crowd as City lay siege on the Norwich penalty area, their angles of attack ever-shifting, their intensity out of possession relentless, and their goals increasing in quality with each notch on the scoreboard. City seemed to be in a one match goal of the month competition. Was it Tevez’s wicked swerving drive that opened the scoring, Aguero’s rifle into the top corner which came after a telepathic team passing move or Aguero’s second, a marvellous solo effort that was capped with a measured finished from the edge of the area that was the best goal of the day? City fans won’t mind picking over the goals again to aid their decision but for the rest of the league, it was a terrifying reminder of just how devastating City can be when they play without the handbrake on. If only Carlito’s golfing holiday had finished a month earlier…
Insert lame golf pun here
Manchester UnitedThey might start every match at Old Trafford one goal up at the moment but United produced again when the pressure was on them. Sunday’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa was as comfortable as we’ve come to expect and the perfect reaction to their disappointing 1-0 loss to Wigan in midweek. It seems almost perverse, given the scoreline, that this was another underwhelming showing from Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, but perhaps that has been the difference between them and their city neighbours. United can still stick four past another Premier League side without being at their devastating best. Wayne Rooney perfectly illustrated this point by turning in another sub-par performance yet still managing to find the back of the net twice. City are running out of matches to claw back United’s lead, and at present it looks like they might just have done enough to walk away with their 20th league title.
Terry ConnorWolves put-upon boss has looked like he’s needed a good hug for the past two months, but his team’s hard-fought 0-0 draw with Sunderland stopped a run of seven straight defeats. Stephen Fletcher could have won the match with a header which was well saved by Simon Mignolet, but the endeavour that was on display will have heartened Terry Connor. For much of the last seven or eight weeks, Wolves have been far too easy to roll over, and perhaps they wouldn’t be five points adrift had Connor been able to get this much out of his team earlier. Whether it’s too little too late remains to be seen, but at least there’s a suggestion Wolves will go down fighting: "Things seem to go against you when you're down at the bottom but the lads have kept going and we'll keep going until the end,” said Connor after the match, thankfully not on the brink of tears this time.
The joy of snatching a point at Sunderland was clear to see on....oh
Gylfi SigurdssonSwansea’s on-loan midfielder put in another match-winning performance as Swansea ended a run of three-successive defeats in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Blackburn. The former Reading man has now scored seven goals since joining the Swans on loan from Hoffenheim, leading Brendan Rodgers to complain that his value was going up with each passing week. Sigurdsson has so far stated his intention to remain in South Wales next season, but will he still feel that way should one of the Premier League’s top sides come calling over the summer?
Ashley YoungAfter Young’s theatrics were put under the microscope in United’s 2-0 win over QPR last weekend, you’d have thought that the ex-Villa winger might try and keep a low profile this weekend. Instead, he produced an even more cynical act of deception and referee Mark Halsey bought it, pointing to the spot after just seven minutes. This was United’s ninth penalty at home this season, the most any team has had since Arsenal in 2006/07.Young’s card will surely now be marked, and referees might think twice before pointing to the spot for even the most blatant of fouls. A reputation such as the one Young is quickly developing is a tough one to shake.
Not the worst thing Young's been caught on camera doing, let's face it
Bobby ZamoraWith matches against Man City and Tottenham among their remaining four fixtures, QPR have left themselves with the toughest possible assignment in preserving their Premier League status. Saturday’s defeat at the hands of West Brom has left them just two points clear of the relegation zone, which is troubling when you consider Bolton have two games in hand and Wigan appear to have found some semblance of form in recent weeks. Bobby Zamora was signed as the answer to the Rs' goal-scoring woes, but in truth it’s a transfer that hasn’t really worked out so far. Deprived of his strike partner, Djibril Cisse, to perpetual suspension, Zamora was inept in this latest defeat, unable to provide the cutting edge in what appeared an eminently winnable fixture at the Hawthorns. Most worrying for QPR fans will be the lack of a big push at the climax. West Brom were probably expecting the fight of their lives in the final 10 minutes, but instead were allowed to stroke the ball around and actually looked the more threatening as the game wound down. A short spell of domination either side of half-time was the best they could muster and it’s looking increasingly likely that the London club could be on their way back to the Championship.The Four Year Plan Part 2, anyone?
Steve KeanThe tongue-in-cheek "Steve Kean for England" chants are a distant memory now and the rumblings of discontent from Ewood Park are once again increasing in volume. Who are the real Blackburn Rovers? Is it the team who battled to credible wins against Arsenal and Manchester United, or the hopeless cluster of losers who crumbled so meekly at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday?Kean faces a mammoth task to keep Rovers in the division as their form seems to have deserted them at the worst possible time. They’re now three points adrift of safety after a self-destructive performance which featured a nightmare afternoon for Scott Dann. Not only did the former Birmingham defender make a complete mess of a clearance to gift Swansea their second goal, he also deflected in their third.It’s difficult to see Blackburn escaping the drop now, with trips to Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane to come. Their hapless manager may be heading for Venky’s industrial deep fat fryer.
Defeat was one in the eye for those who thought Rovers could stay up
The scoreline may have flattered Mancheser City a touch, but the way in which the
Canaries wilted after the Blues’ third goal was uncharacteristic given their
performances so far this season. Norwich had their tails up after
Andrew Surman’s goal had given them a foothold early in the second half,
and they looked the more likely to score the game’s fourth goal until
Carlos Tevez nodded in City’s third.
It may seem harsh to criticise John Ruddy having earlier lauded the
standard of City’s goals, but he won’t be happy to have been outleapt by
a 5’ 7” striker, and definitely should have avoided being beaten at his
near post for City’s first, despite the mid-air deviation on the
The Norwich fans may have serenaded their custodian with chants of
“England’s Number 1”, but on this evidence, he has some way to go before
he can think of deposing his opposite number on the day.
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