10 March 2014

Week in Review: We're Going to Wem-ber-ley, Que Sera, Sera

'The Raven' silenced his critics this
(CC Licence / Wikimedia)
WIGAN! They only went and bloody did it again! When I saw the draw for the semis - before the Man C-Wigan game had started - my first thought was "Of course. We would draw Man City. We've dared to hope and now the FA have torn it away from us." But then lightning struck for the second time, and Wigan became just the third side to win at the Etihad this season. The Latics beat Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday to extend the defense of their trophy and book a return trip to Wembley, where they will face Arsenal in the semi-finals.

On to the Arsenal then. The Gunners beat Everton 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday morning to book their place in the final four of the FA Cup. The final score was a little harsh on the visitors, who once again came to North London to play, unlike most sides. Mesut Özil scored after seven minutes, and immediately every football journalist marveled at his return to form. Özil may not have been playing brilliantly recently, but he was never terrible (the Bayern game might have been close to that). It was just better for narrative and for selling papers if he was described as 'fatigued' and 'struggling'. I wrote a few weeks ago about how random goals can be, and assists can be just as random. One of the stats writers were so happy to trot out was that Özil had only got 1 assist in his last 12 games, which is a very blinkered way of looking at a player's effectiveness. This season, Özil has still created the most chances of any player in the top 5 European leagues; there just wasn't anyone converting those opportunities during the time-frame they selected (another example of selective us of stats). In the era of advanced statistics, just looking at goals and assists is the soccer equivalent of only tracking runs and hits in baseball 1; you ignore all of the circumstances and events around that one single moment of play.

Back to the match, then. Everton equalised through Romelu Lukaku, setting up a tense start to the second half, until Mikel Arteta dispatched a penalty (twice) to restore the Gunner's lead. After that, Arsenal didn't really look like losing, and while Everton made the hosts work hard, substitute Oliver Giroud's two late goals added a gloss to the performance and scoreline.

Last week also featured everyone's favorite pastime - the international friendly. As usual, the matches were awful and supplied what they always do: injuries. Jack Wilshere sustained a hairline fracture on his right foot, ruling him out for at least six weeks and possibly impacting on his World Cup hopes. There really isn't much more to say, which reflects just how pointless these fixtures are.

Arsenal fans will hope that the performance and result against Everton will boost the confidence and morale around the club leading in to a huge week of fixtures. The Gunners travel to Munich for the second leg of their Champions League round of 32 fixture looking to overturn a 2-0 aggregate deficit, before making the short journey across North London in to an area full of irrationally confident, coin-throwing idiots who always claim "this is our year" before their club spectacularly fucks it all up late in the season (more on that later). A win in the derby will keep Arsenal's title challenge alive and make St Totteringham's Day that little bit closer.

With only 5 Premier League games being played this weekend, don't expect the club-by-club round-up to be too detailed...

Aston Villa: Villains boss Paul Lambert is hoping to turn the loan of Chelsea's Ryan Bertrand in to a permanent move in the summer.

Cardiff City: The Bluebirds earned an important win, beating Fulham 3-1 at home. Bond villain owner Vincent Tan walked on to the pitch to celebrate before being quickly booed off by the home fans.

Chelsea: On a weekend when none of their title rivals were playing, Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the league to seven points with a 4-0 win over Sp*rs.

Crystal Palace: Eagles' winger Jason Puncheon has been fined £15,000 by the FA for Twitter comments he made about former manager Neil Warnock.

Everton: The Toffees have earned a new fan this week, despite the loss to the Gunners - WWE 'star' Fandango. Everton initially refused to play his theme music at Goodison, but have since relented and Fandango says they are now "tight".2

Fulham: John Heitinga has warned his fellow players that is "five past midnight" in their struggle to beat the drop. Does that mean he's admitting that whatever they do, it's already too late? Hardly awe-inspiring stuff there, John.

Hull City: Hull advanced to the FA Cup semi-finals with a 3-0 win over Sunderland. The Tigers will face League One side Sheffield United.

Liverpool: The Anfield club reported losses of £50million for 2012-13, largely due to not playing in European competition for several seasons.

Manchester City: I tried to find some news other than the defeat to Wigan, but it's pretty impossible. So, I guess I'll just say that their quadruple bid is over.

Manchester United: A 3-0 win over West Brom at the Hawthorns has Man Utd in the lofty position of 6th. Also, a witty England fan has set up a petition for Mr Mediocrity himself, Tom Cleverley, to be banned from the Three Lions' World Cup squad.
Newcastle United: Profits at Magpies' owner Mike Ashley's company doubled over the last year. Meanwhile, manager Alan Pardew admitted charges of improper conduct after his headbutt on Hull's David Meyler.

Norwich City: The Canaries were held to a 1-1 draw at home against Stoke. The result leaves Norwich just 4 points off the relegation zone.

Southampton: Southampton maintained their chase for a European spot with a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace.

Stoke City: In typical Stoke fashion, they are appealing against the three-match ban handed to Charlie Adam for his challenge on Giroud. It seems that attempting to break a player's leg is still viewed as an acceptable footballing practice in that black hole.

Sunderland: The Black Cats' hopes of getting anything out of this season were dashed, with consecutive defeats in cup competitions. They lost to Man City in the COC final before losing 3-0 to Hull in the FA Cup.

Swansea City: The Swans want to sign Ecuador midfielder Jefferson Montero to boost their squad after a tough second season in the top flight.

Tottenham Hotspur: HAHAHA! 4-0! That's how you want to prepare for a North London Derby!

West Brom: Pepe Mel could be sacked by the West Brom board after failing to win any of his 7 games in charge. It is the thought the Baggies board want a British manager to see them through the last 10 games of the season. The club are currently in 17th place.

West Ham: In a slow news week for the Hammers, the biggest news seems to be that they have dropped their complaint to the Premier League over Fulham's approach for midfielder Ravel Morrison.

Please correct me if I'm wrong. I really didn't put any research in to that analogy.
2 Is this really a story? Why would Evertonians want a tier-3 WWE wrestler's theme playing anyway?

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