Saturday, December 04, 2010

England: Make or Break Month

The Scottish Football Blog, unlike the 2018 World Cup, is going to England. To the land of Manchester's United and City, of Newcastle and Bolton, Chelsea and Blackpool.

Why? Because there's only one Scottish game on this weekend. And because regular English Premier League guest blogger, Mark Briggs is back.

A cracking weekend of EPL action last weekend actually. Much to enjoy. Something of a shame for those who still insist that it is the best league in the world that Saturday and Sunday's goalsfest was overshadowed by the ridiculous brilliance of Barcelona on Monday night. Ouch.

Actually this season has confused me a bit. Sky's bombastic claims of the best league in the world seem at odds with all these experts telling me that this is the worst Manchester United team in the history of the world, EVER.

Sky of course would prefer us to stick with the pretence that football, and thus the whole WORLD, only began in 1992.

So probably United aren't really that bad and the league is going through a bit of a dip. Apply a bit of moderation to your world view and the INEXPLICABLE suddenly become explicable.

Anyway, I'm rambling now. So here's Mark:

Some clubs have set season objectives. A good start or a bad start sets the benchmark for success or failure going into the second half. West Ham will be hoping not to go down, Spurs will be looking for Europe again. But what of the clubs who have snuck under the radar and those whose seasons hang in the balance.

Firstly the under the radar section. At the time of writing Bolton sit sixth. I opened up the league table to check some of the details for this article and found Wanderers sitting pretty, just 3 points off a Champions League place.

Capable of playing flowing football (see their second goal against Blackpool at the weekend) but are not averse to knocking it long to the big man Davis up front and playing the old fashioned way. Could it be that a good December will see Trotters beginning to dream?

There is enough about this Bolton squad to suggest this isn’t unthinkable. They have a goalie who, back in the days when his team were lower mid table patrons, was playing beneath himself. Jussi Jääskeläinen

has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers over the last decade. And now in front stands an international centre-back in Gary Cahill.

A fresh and energetic midfield operates behind a spearhead of captain Kevin Davis, a man deservedly called up for England and then overlooked, inexplicably, for Jay Bothroyd. Alongside is the player Bolton thought they’d brought last season as Johan Elmander begins to show his quality. Again I refer you to a goal, this time against Wolves. YouTube should see you right on both counts.

At the other end, shorn of strikers and struggling for goals Everton and Fulham have so far not had seasons they would care to buy the DVD of. Just above them, Aston Villa are also looking over their shoulders.

So to the people whose season hangs in the balance. Namely Newcastle and Blackpool. Trouncing teams while being just as likely to get themselves humped is entertaining to watch but a run of either over the next month would really set their stalls out.

Andy Carroll is obviously the Geordies big hope. A local lad made good, knocking in goals in the big league as he wears the No9 shirt. That’s football like it used to be. Well almost, there is the small matter of some night time brawling and the disgusting issue of the girlfriend beating incident hanging over his head. We might, rightly, have moral issues with this behaviour. But, if it starts to affect his form, however unlikely that seems at this point, Newcastle could be in trouble.

So there we go, these look to me to be the teams to watch over the next few weeks. And with six games coming for most teams in December a loss of form now, or a little run, could make or break this season.

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