Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Three Things We Learned This Weekend

Arsenal May Have Done It Once Before, But It Is Virtually Impossible To Go Unbeaten For the Whole Season

Just a few seconds after 8pm, when Mario Balotelli rounded Cech and slotted the ball into an empty net, even the most die-hard Chelsea fan did not truly believe that the Londoners were going to be ending Man City's status as the only unbeaten side in the country.  Chelsea just did not look up to the job, what with their ludicrously high line and leaky defence.  An hour and a half later, however, and Roberto Mancini was facing his first defeat of the season and questions were being asked of his team for the first time in a while.

Make no mistake, this defeat does little to quell the expectation that City will be champions come May.  You can even argue that, on another day, a referee as good as Mark Clattenberg would have seen the blatant trip on David Silva and given City a clear penalty that would have given them a two goal lead.  Either way, what the defeat did show was that, like any other team in the premier league, Man City have weaknesses that can be exploited.  Just ask Liverpool, who outplayed the Blues for large parts of their game and could also have inflicted a defeat upon them.

One thing the defeat did confirm, however, was that the feat of going a whole season unbeaten is virtually impossible in this day and age.  Arsenal may have done it at a time when a poor Man United and manager-less Liverpool were their only genuine rivals.  Today, with a top seven that is as strong as ever, this is no easy feat and will most probably never be repeated again.

Forget Hart, Reina et al, Michel Vorm May Be The Keeper of the Season

Question: Which premier league goalkeeper has now kept six clean sheets in eight home games?  Reina - no.  Szczesny? - No.  Cech - Hell no!  It was, in fact, Swansea's Dutch keeper Michel Vorm, who has in recent weeks put in such stellar performances that some are talking of him as buy of the season already (cue a million spurs fans shout Scott Parker in unison).

But those who are singing the young keeper's praises do have a point.  Against Fulham on Saturday, Vorm had little to do as Fulham failed to break down a stubborn Swan defence.  When he was called into action, however, he pulled off save after save and ended up being the ultimate hero when he saved Clint Dempsey's late penalty.  If you look at the Opta Stats, as friends of The Urbanite know I love to do, you will see that no other keeper has made more stops from shots inside the box than the Dutchman. Again, ask Liverpool, who failed to score against the Swans after chucking everything including the kitchen sink at them.

If Swansea are to stay up, which is now not looking like a distant dream, they will definitely have one flying dutchman to thank for it.

Referees Are Getting Worse...Much, Much Worse

Who would want to be a referee?  This question is constantly asked, every week, as fans, journalists, players and managers take turns to berate the official in the middle for not giving their team the 'correct' decision.  Being a fully qualified referee myself, The Urbanite knows how hard the job is.  Having to concentrate for 90mins is no easy feat, especially when the game is played at the 100 mph speed that is the premier league (luckily, The Urbanite only had to put up with under-18 Sunday league football, but even that was bloody fast).

Despite the sympathy, it is fast becoming clear that our referees are getting worse.  It used to be every few weeks that we would debate the need for video technology, or a fourth official with access to a screen, but now it seems that every week there are a multitude of terrible decisions that are given out by officials.  Take Jay Spearing's red card against Fulham, where the wee lad only made contact with Dembele after the ball had moved 70 odd yards.  Or the red card that was given against Gary Cahill for preventing a goal scoring opportunity by fouling someone on the half-way line with 2 other defenders around him.

On Sunday, it was Spurs' turn to face the wrath of the bad referee as Chris Foy made mistake after mistake.  Not only did he miss Shawcross' blatant handball, wrongly rule Adebayor to be offside when he scored a legitimate goal and then send off Kaboul for what was hardly a foul, let alone a yellow card, but even the decisions that went in Spurs' favour were wrong (Modric clearly was not touched and did not deserve a penalty).

All us fans ask for is a bit of consistency, which The Urbanite understands can be quite hard when you have 20 odd different referees all with their different personalities and characteristics.  Which can only mean one thing: Robot referees.  You may laugh now, but the next time your team is denied a blatant penalty/goal/free-kick you'll be calling for it too.

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