Adam’s Premier League Column: Wigan Athletic Confirm Relegation

It’s been coming; we were just too afraid to admit it. After Wigan’s cup heroics at the weekend, there was a possibility that they could perform the ‘Great Escape’ that they have managed on countless occasions, and in fashionable style, too.

It looked like survival was on the cards after some impressive wins and vital draws, although where I think it was lost was after the FA Cup semi-final victory against Millwall. Since that game, they lost to Manchester City, West Ham and Swansea, whilst picking up a point against Tottenham and a win at West Brom. Against Swansea you felt that they were running on pure emotion, and perhaps it was just a season too far for the Latics.

They’ve left a rather big gap in the Barclays Premier League and it is a shame that they’ve dropped down to the Championship after seven years in the top-flight. I reckon that they have the credentials to come back up within their first season, or definitely the second. I do believe however that it all depends on which players decide to stay and of course whether their manager, Roberto Martinez, stays at the DW Stadium.

Since David Moyes has transferred to Old Trafford to replace the retiring Sir Alex Ferguson, who said an emotional goodbye to the club in which he won thirteen league titles, Martinez has been linked with the Everton job. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was lured to Everton and I’m sure he could do a brilliant job there. Martinez will want to remain a Premier League manager, I’m sure of it.

The result that sent them down – a 4-1 loss to Arsenal – ensured that the Gunners can clinch Champions League football if they win on the last day of the season, and Tottenham need a win to clinch the spot, as long as Arsenal draw or lose. It will make for an exciting spectacle on the last day of the season, and these are what makes the Premier League rich in excitement.

Another change in the Premier League has happened at former Premier League Champions Manchester City. On the same date that Sergio ‘Aguerooooo’ scored that infamous injury time winner to steal the title off United, City sacked Roberto Mancini. The decision had been brewing for some time, and I believe that the FA Cup loss to Wigan may have tipped the decision that was eventually made, although I feel that had he won the cup, it still might not have saved his job.

Speculation has been growing as to whom may replace the Italian, with Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini the leading candidate for the notorious job. Whether the former Real Madrid man can lead City to the success that they all crave is another thing. It’s no easy club to manage.

I’d love to see Mourinho take control of the dugout at Etihad, but that may end up just being a distant dream. Time will tell, but it didn’t seem to have an effect on the side as City stormed to a 2-0 victory at relegated Reading with Brian Kidd in charge after Mancini’s assistant, David Platt, stepped down.

David Moyes, whom I mentioned earlier, waved goodbye to the faithful at Goodison Park with the perfect send-off, beating West Ham United 2-0. It was an encouraging performance too.

Norwich ensured survival at the weekend with a telling 4-0 victory against Steve Clark’s West Brom, who have eased off the pace since survival was confirmed. I’m pleased that Norwich haveensured Premier League football for another campaign as they have an English manager in charge. I’ll support any English boss and wish them success.

Newcastle beat lowly QPR to beat the drop when a short Bosingwa ball tricked its way back to ‘keeper Robert Green, and his punt up field found Gouffran who tapped in to hand the three points to the visitors.

Tottenham kept up with Arsenal after Adebayor netted the winner from close-range. Up the other end of the table, Di Canio’s Sunderland drew at home to Southampton, and the Italian has done what was needed to be done. They’ve looked fresher since the change and at times joyous to watch, especially in the Tyne wear derby.

Daniel Sturridge netted an impressive hat-trick, his first in senior football, to beat Martin Jol’s Fulham 3-1 at Craven Cottage. The pick of the bunch was a sublime lob which found the bottom corner, similar to the goal he scored during the 2012 London Olympics for Team GB.

I’m looking forward to what the final day has in store in terms of the Champions League spot. But we all know that there will be far less drama than what we have experienced on the last day before.

 

Written by Adam May

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Adam’s Premier League Column – Lamps sends out message to Chelsea

All of the nine Premier League fixtures survived the snowy conditions, and it certainly didn’t put a dampener on the games. Towards the end of the week, Southampton sacked boss Nigel Adkins, who brought the Saints into the top-flight with two successive promotions.

The footballing world has deemed the decision as harsh and unfair, and I have to agree. Their performances had improved under the former physio, and the sacking came as a shock.

His successor, Mauricio Pochettino, has to win over a lot of people, and it is perhaps too soon to judge him, although I think that the Argentine, who doesn’t speak English, will find it incredibly hard to win over his critics. Welcome to the Premier League, Mauricio!

Here are my top three games of the weekend-

 

Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1

This was truly a game of two half’s. Arsenal’s first half performance was sloppy, lacking passion, drive, and their players were non-existent. Young midfielder Jack Wilshere was the standout performer for the Gunners, and their defence was shaky at the best of times. Sagna had the worst game I think I’ve seen him play, and Santi Carzola went missing throughout the first forty-five minutes.

Chelsea, on the other hand, looked threatening with every attack. Hazard’s trickery, Mata’s dribbling and Ramires’ energy and drive was a joy to watch. It didn’t take long for the hosts to get over their 2-2 midweek draw at home to Southampton when they let slip a two goal lead.

Juan Mata’s driven shot sailed past ‘keeper Szczesny to send the hosts in front on six minutes, although the Gunners should have had a free-kick during the build-up. Ten minutes later, the home side were awarded a penalty after Ramires was brought down by the outstretched leg of Szczesny, although replays suggest that the Brazilian midfielder took a dive. Frank Lampard stepped up and slotted coolly into the bottom right hand corner to send out a message to the club that he’s not finished yet.

Torres struggled throughout the game and had a couple of chances to send Chelsea out of sight, but he didn’t take them and the second half was a different story.

Arsenal were a different team in the second half, they looked more up for it and were winning far more second balls, and they forced Chelsea to concentrate. Walcott halved the deficit on 58 minutes with a clinical finish, but it wasn’t enough to take a share of the points. Chelsea put in some terrific last ditch tackles, and based on their first half display, thoroughly deserved the three points.

Arsene Wenger reflected, “We gave them too much room in which to play in the first half. We had the first chance but missed it. I thought Coquelin was injured for the first [Chelsea goal], and I’m not convinced at all that it was a penalty on the second one.”

 

Liverpool 5 Norwich 0

It was a comfortable victory in the end for Liverpool against a team who they have memorable experiences with in recent outings. It took twenty-six minutes for the home side to break the deadlock, and it was Jordan Henderson’s top corner strike that separated the two sides.

Ten minutes later, Luis Suarez then netted at the far post to double their lead after he ran through on goal after Daniel Sturridge cleverly left the ball, and from that moment on, the Canaries were just left chirping. Suarez and new boy Sturridge linked up well throughout the game, and they seemed to just understand each other’s movements and playing styles right away.

Sturridge then converted himself on 59 minutes, becoming the first player since Ray Kennedy in 1974 to score in each of his first three games for Liverpool. Steven Gerrard’s drilled effort seven minutes later made the score 4-0 before Raheem Sterling’s cross-cum-shot ricocheted off of Ryan Bennett’s leg and into the empty net.

A game that Norwich will want to forget quickly and it will be interesting to see how they re-group next week when they play host to Non-League side Luton Town in the F.A Cup, although I expect a much changed Canaries side.

 

West Ham United 1 Queens Park Rangers 1

Okay, perhaps not the most glamorous of ties, but it was certainly an entertaining match. It was a much needed point for Harry Redknapp’s QPR, and it was debutant Loic Remy who popped up with the goal from outside the box to give Rangers some much needed impetus.

West Ham continued to fight, and had around forty-six crosses in the match, and their persistence finally paid off as former Hammers’ player scored his first goal on his return to Upton Park, after he pounced on a re-bound.

A point dropped, maybe, for the Hammers, and with the amount of chances they had, they could have won 10-1, but it wasn’t to be.

 

Team of the Week

Results in full:

Liverpool 5 – 0 Norwich
Man City 2 – 0 Fulham
Newcastle 1 – 2 Reading
Swansea 3 – 1 Stoke
West Ham 1 – 1 QPR
Wigan 2 – 3 Sunderland
West Brom 2 – 2 Aston Villa
Chelsea 2 – 1 Arsenal
Tottenham 1 – 1 Man United

 

Written by Adam May

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Adam’s Premier League Column: Week 16- Villa ace Benteke stuns Anfield

This wasn’t the most memorable Premier League weekend to date, although there were three matches that really caught my eye.

 

Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 3

Brendan Rogers’ reign as Liverpool boss took another step backwards as Paul Lambert’s Villa took to Anfield. Lamert’s men didn’t enjoy the best opening to the 2012/13 season, although their form of late has increased slightly. That has been thanks to two players; Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke who have scored five and eight goals respectfully this season in all competitions.

Weimann has really stepped up to the plate this season, and I have been wholly impressed with the Austrian forward. He has the knack at the moment of being in the right place at the right time, coming up with three crucial goals for his team so far in the league. His all round play is improving from game to game and is a joy to watch.

Weimann and Benteke are like chalk and cheese. Weimann has neat footwork, low centre of gravity and is 1.88 metres. Benteke is a strong, powerful 1.91 meter powerhouse who is becoming even more reliable upfront.

It was Christian Benteke’s powerful display against Liverpool that helped them gain an all-important three points which lifts them further away from the relegation zone.

Benteke’s first goal of the afternoon came after just twenty nine minutes. The Belgium forward found himself some space 22 yards from goal before unleashing a thunderous strike which beat ‘keeper Pepe Reina at his near post. It was a sign of more things to come for the Villa.

Andreas Weimann doubled their lead eight minutes later. A slick back-heel from Benteke found its way into the path of the on-running Weimann who slammed the ball under Reina to shock the Kop.

Liverpool were on top prior to the two goals, but just couldn’t find their rhythm, however they found themselves 3-0 down five minutes after the interval. Christian Benteke showed some great footwork to make Agger look like a stranger to football before he calmly slotted past the goalkeeper to ensure that Villa headed back home with three points in the bag.

Two minutes from time, veteran Steven Gerrard reduced the deficit, although it was a mere consolation goal.

All in all, a great win for Villa. The three points were well deserved.

 

Newcastle United 1 Manchester City 3

Manchester City were simply brilliant, especially in the first half. Their slick build-up play made for an enjoyable watch, and the score could have been much more in favour of the Sky Blues. The Citizens made a great start when Yaya Touré picked up a brilliantly weighted ball from Nasri, who set up Sergio Agϋero who tapped-in from close range in the 10th minute.

Tevez and Nasri both had chances during the first half to double their lead, but ‘keeper Tim Krul was at hand to deny Man City. City’s second goal came four minutes prior to half-time.

Javi Garcia’s initial header took a slight deflection off the head of Santon who couldn’t prevent the header from crossing the line. Newcastle started the second half brightly, and were rewarded for their efforts. A Fabricio Coloccini cross found the head of Senegalese striker Demba Ba who turned it in to give the Toons a glimmer of hope.

From then on the game was much more even, but I feel City had plenty of opportunities to wrap the game up earlier. They did however score a third after Pablo Zabaleta’s cut back found the feet of Yaya Touré who slipped the ball past Krul to ensure they had three points in the bag with just over ten minutes spare.

A strong performance from City and despite Vincent Komany missing from the line-up as a result of an injury, their defence stood firm and in particular, Kolo Touré impressed me. He’s had a limited number of games this season as either Kompany, Nastasic or Lescott usually get the nod. However his tackling, heading and all round play was rather impressive.

Newcastle need to rediscover their form quickly if they want to finish in the top half of the table, if they don’t, then it may be a struggle, especially as they will no doubt lose some key players to the Africa Cup of Nations in the New Year.

 

Queens Park Rangers 2 Fulham 1

Harry Redknapp picked up his first win as QPR boss after taking over from Mark Hughes at Loftus Road. Redknapp seems to have injected Rangers with a bit of life after this impressive display against their London rivals, Fulham.

It was a pretty even contest in the first half, with both teams playing some good football. The second half was completely different and Adel Taarabt put in a fantastic sole performance. On 52 minutes, the Moroccan midfielder found some space before unleashing a shot which took a wicked deflection off Fulham defender Brede Hangeland to wrong foot Mark Schwarzer, and he couldn’t prevent the ball from crossing the line.

QPR really pushed on from there, and on 68 minutes, Taarabt doubled their lead with a wonder goal. He picked the ball up from inside his own half before dribbling past countless Fulham players, albeit with a couple of ricochets. Adel then showed a wonderful piece of skill as he did a roll-over and then poked home a fierce shot with the outside of his right boot from the edge of the box.

QPR had to hold on towards the end though, as two minutes from time Petric’s shot from distance looped over the head of Robert Green to give the Cottagers a life-line.

Green then showed late heroics as he was forced to make a superb save in the last minute to seal QPR’s first win of the 2012/13 campaign.

 

Team of the Week

 

Results in full

Newcastle 1 Manchester City 3
Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 3
Manchester United 3 Sunderland 1
Norwich 2 Wigan 1
QPR 2 Fulham 1
Stoke 1 Everton 1
Tottenham 1 Swansea 0
West Brom 0 West Ham 1
Reading 2 Arsenal 5

 

Written by Adam May

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Adam’s Premier League Column: Week 15 – Late drama at Etihad as RVP steals the show

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It was goals galore in the Premier League this week, with some top-class football played over the weekend.

 

Top three games of the weekend-

 

Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3

Sunday saw the arrival of the much anticipated Manchester derby. Of course titles cannot be won in December, but it enables the winner to send out a message to their rivals of what is to come. Manchester City started the game better, settling into the game quickly and passing the ball about with confidence and fluidity.

United made the Citizens’ possession count for nothing though, as Wayne Rooney’s sliced effort trickled into the bottom corner of Joe Hart’s goal to turn the game in favour of United with sixteen minutes played. The Citizens’ chances of getting back into the game took a further step back, as influential Captain Vincent Kompany was forced off through a groin injury, and was replaced by Kolo Toure, who has had a limited number of games this season.

Wayne Rooney further doubled United’s lead, as he scored his 150th Premier League goal.

The game looked to be out of reach, but there was more drama to come in the second half. Controversial forward Mario Balotelli was given a rare start, and was replaced by Argentine forward and former United player Carlos Tevez after the break, and this signaled a change in approach for Man City.

Yaya Toure installed some hope for City on 60 minutes after he calmly slotted in after some impressive saves from custodian De Gea.

United were then restricted to very few chances, and City finally drew level after right-back Pablo Zabaleta drilled home from just inside the box with four minutes left.

City then had numerous opportunities to snatch a win, but it was United who stole the three points. In the 92nd minute, Manchester United were awarded a soft free-kick, and van Persie dispatched it into the top corner, albeit with a hefty deflection off the boot of Nasri, to send the league leaders six points clear.

Man City were very impressive in this game, with David Silva and Zabaleta putting in crucial performances. This suggests City have enough about them this season, and there is certainly a lot of football to be played.

As for United, they managed to win without putting in a top notch performance, but I still fancy City to clinch the title due to the strength in depth they have in their team, and perhaps their exit from the Champions League will help improve the all-important league results.

 

Swansea 3 Norwich 4

Chris Hughton’s Norwich are all of a sudden enjoying life in the Premier League this season after picking up some very important wins, and this was a great result against a strong Swansea outfit who are impressing all in the league so far. Defender Steven Whittaker opened the scoring with a well struck effort, before Sebastian Bassong headed in on 40 minutes.

Holt then ensured that the Canaries went in at half time with a strong lead as he made the score 3-0 with a well-timed header. The first half performance was rather unlike the Swansea of late, but in the second half they almost staged a spectacular come-back!

Five minutes after the interval, Michu struck to give the Swans a lifeline. Eight minutes later, Canadian midfielder Jonathan de Guzman slammed in from inside the box to make the home fans start to believe. That belief was cut short though as Robert Snodgrass’ fee-kick found its way in to make the score 4-2 in favour of the away side with thirteen minutes left to play. Michu then halved the lead on 92 mins, but it was too little too late and it was the Canaries who took the three points back to East Anglia.

A reassuring attacking performance from Norwich, and against Swansea, they can take a lot of confidence from this game. It will be interesting to see how Swansea recover from this, but I’m sure manager Michael Laudraup will not let their heads drop.

 

Everton 2 Tottenham 1

David Moyes’ Everton have enjoyed a good start to the 2012/13 season, and continued in winning fashion against AVB’s Tottenham. Tottenham weren’t at their best, and they didn’t play very impressive football.

It was the second half though that will get everyone talking. On 75 minutes, Clint Dempsey sent the away side cheering with a stunner from long range. Spurs’ defence was still shaky, and could only hold on until the last couple of minutes.

Former Spurs’ man Steven Pienaar scored a rare headed goal for what he thought secured a point for the Toffee’s. However, Nikika Jelavic felt like Everton could snatch all three points, and in the 91st minute sent the home fans into raptures as his shot found the bottom left hand corner of the goal to leave manager David Moyes very pleased.

He told BBC Sport Football, “It is as good a finish as we’ve had. We’ve had a few like that where we’ve lost and felt low so we were due one. The position we are in the table doesn’t shame the way the players have been playing, they have been doing that well.”

 

Results in full-

Arsenal 2 – 0 West Brom

Aston Villa 0 – 0 Stoke

Southampton 1 – 0 Reading

Sunderland 1 – 3 Chelsea

Swansea 3 – 4 Norwich

Wigan 2 – 2 QPR

Manchester City 2 -3 Manchester United

Everton 2 – 1 Tottenham

West Ham 2 – 3 Liverpool

Fulham 2-1 Newcastle

 

Team of the Week

Written by Adam May

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Adam’s Premier League Column: Week 14 – West Ham breeze past Rafa’s Chelsea

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It’s been a brilliant weekend of football yet again, with plenty of goals and drama for us all to get excited about. QPR are slowly improving with the appointment of Harry Redknapp, who took charge after Mark Hughes was inadvertently shown the door. Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembélé enjoyed a successful return to Craven Cottage, as Spurs recorded a comfortable 3-0 win over Fulham.

Stoke also won at West Brom, and were only the second team to win at the Hawthorns this season, the other being Manchester City. The Citizens themselves earned a respectable draw against their bogey team Everton, but Mancini will have wanted to take home all three points.

Onto my three top games of the weekend fixtures, and it was a hard job to choose!

 

West Ham United 3 Chelsea 1

Rafa Benitez’s reign as the Chelsea interim boss hasn’t started too great really, has it? First there was the fan’s revolt, unhappy about the squad rotation, and now losing against West Ham. Take nothing away from the Hammers though as they fought to the bitter end.

However, Chelsea were dominant throughout the first half, and they were rewarded with their efforts. Fernando Torres pulled the ball back for fellow Spaniard Juan Mata who fired past Irons ‘keeper Jussi Jääskeläinen to give Chelsea a deserved lead.

So half time approached, and the game was completely changed by Big Sam’s substitutions at the interval. Mohammed Diame and Matt Taylor replaced James Tomkins and Gary O’Neil. The Hammers looked to have something else about them, and showed glimpses of what they have done in previous Premier League games. Their resilience and physical presence has been truly impressive and at times, a pleasure to watch.

It took until the 63rd minute for West Ham to break the defence, and Carlton Cole headed against his former employers to make the scoring level. Cole then became provider as he set up Diame who smashed his shot from deep inside the penalty box which provoked the travelling Chelsea fans to sing “There’s only one Di Matteo”, but it was only greeted by the Hammers belting out “Your’re getting sacked in the morning”. You’ve got to love the banter!

Modibo Maïga then made sure there was no way back for Chelsea, and he scored moments after coming on from the bench to secure the Hammers’ first victory against Chelsea in the Abramovich era.

A great result for West Ham, and how long will Benitez last?

 

Reading 3 Manchester United 4

This seven goal thriller was epic. Manchester United are now infamous for conceding early goals, and that came true again in this match. Robson-Kanu fired the home side into the lead on eight minutes, but unfortunately for them, it didn’t last too long.

A neat one-two with Ashley Young resulted in Anderson’s shot beating Adam Federici at his near post to level the scoring before Wayne Rooney, who was criticised earlier this week for not scoring enough, converted a penalty which was needlessly given away. Reading did well to get in front, but they didn’t do the basics in defending to keep United at bay. They simply gave away too many chances.

Despite the mediocre defending, Reading levelled, this time through Le Fondre’s headed goal, and that set them on their way. Reading miraculously went 3-2 up after Morrison scored, and that made the fans at the Majeski Stadium dream of a famous win.

Seven minutes later, Rooney scored his fourth league goal to yet again level the score. Reading couldn’t pull anything else out of the locker though and as a result found themselves 4-3 down thanks to Robin van Persie’s 34th minute winner.

Reading were incredibly unlucky here, and Man Utd were a tad fortunate, really.

 

Arsenal 0 Swansea 2

Arsenal fans seem to be losing patience with veteran manager Arsène Wenger after their recent league form. They seem to be missing that little spark that can win matches, and RVP has really been the missing piece.

Swansea however, have been very impressive this season under Michael Laudrup, especially after the signing of Michu, who scored a brace against the Gunners. The Swans had to wait until the 88th minute to score though, but it was well worth the wait.

Michu’s side footed effort was a joy to behold, and that sums up the sort of player he is. Reliable. Michu then doubled the Swans’ lead after Nathan Dyer pounced on a loose ball after some poor defending by Gunners full back Jenkinson before playing a well weighted through ball into the path of Michu, who then placed his shot past Szczesny.

 

Results in full

Norwich 2 – 1 Sunderland
West Ham 3 – 1 Chelsea
Arsenal 0 – 2 Swansea
Fulham 0 – 3 Tottenham
Liverpool 1 – 0 Southampton
Man City 1 – 1 Everton
QPR 1 – 1 Aston Villa
West Brom 0 – 1 Stoke
Reading 3-4 Man Utd
Newcastle 3-0 Wigan

 

My Team of the Week

Written by Adam May

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