The estimable David Hirshey argues that Manchester United have locked up the Premier League title. I respectfully disagree. United have a tough run of fixtures awaiting them. They could easily slip and Chelsea, not Arsenal, could be waiting to surpass them.
Arsenal are just five points back, but are reeling and relying on poor excuses. They aren’t a young team. Eight of the players fielded against West Brom, including the back four and goalkeeper, were 25 or older. They are a naive, undisciplined team. They don’t make young mistakes. They make stupid ones, repetitively.
The Gunners don’t have a player capable of rousing them and the manager refuses to make the team accountable. They entered a match they desperately needed to win on Saturday and just eeked out a 2-2 draw. Yet, Arsene Wenger is selling his glass as half-full, blaming the pitch and praising the players’ fortitude for coming back to save face after complete failure.
Arsenal remains mathematically relevant, but only by default. It’s Chelsea who are the true threat. The Blues have leadership, experience and are just rounding into form, with David Luiz and his Sideshow Bob-esque locks providing the missing strength in central defense. The rest of the team is building from that added stability. They assumed the initiative with a commanding win against Man City.
Chelsea can move within six points by winning the game in hand. Beating Man U at Old Trafford would put them within three. Their eight other matches – Stoke (A), Wigan, West Brom (A), Birmingham, West Ham, Tottenham, Newcastle, Everton (A) – are all winnable. With some luck and a win over Man United, Chelsea definitely have a chance, especially if they get anything from Torres.
Old Reliable: A.C. Milan looked like run away champions in Serie A, but a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Bari, followed by last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Palermo has allowed a surging Inter to move just two points from the top spot. The two meet in the derby at the San Siro after the International break, one that may decide the Italian title.
Injury: Bolton and U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden will miss the next six months with a knee injury, following an awful tackle by Manchester United defender Jonny Evans. Holden had been in the midst of an impressive season. The injury will keep him out through the summer, meaning he will not play for the U.S. in the Gold Cup.
Evans will get protected as “not being that type of player,” when he demonstrably is that type of player. A reckless challenge is exceedingly dangerous. It’s like drunk driving. The effect is devastating and predictable, making the intent irrelevant. The Premier League’s tolerance for “non-intentional” challenges is the reason traumatic impact injuries are rare elsewhere, but routine in England.
Standing Up To Be Counted: With Rio Ferdinand’s fitness a perpetual question, Fabio Capello has reinstated John Terry as England captain. Terry has purportedly “learned form his mistakes,” because you can only learn not to sleep with teammates’ significant others through experience.
I have no problem with him being removed or reinstated as England captain. The question is why he’s even in the team. He has been riding coattails and running on pure reputation for two to three seasons. The only notable – non sex-scandal – thing he has done in the interim is try to launch a coup in the middle of a World Cup.
Anti-Semitism: ADO Den Haag midfielder Lex Immers apologized for participating in an anti-Semitic chant. The Dutchman joined fans in a bar singing “We’re going to hunt for Jews” – a song directed at Ajax’s Jewish identity – after the club beat Ajax 3-2 on Sunday. Looking like this won’t help his cause.
[Photo via Getty]
Goal of the Week: Elano (Santos) vs. Colo Colo