Kung Fu Panda, Eat My Goal etc
Few of us like a Monday morning, but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.
Kung Fu Panda
Sunday brought yet another game that Super Mario stamped his authority on - shame he chose to do it on Scott Parker's head. We already know that Balotelli operates in his own mental hemisphere, so perhaps that is why his right leg was drawn towards Parker's temple, when our earth's gravity dictated it should have followed his left. The only surprise was that he didn't follow his kick by revealing a t-shirt that read "I heart Kung Fu Panda."
Lord knows if Balotelli's assault had been carried out by a Tottenham player on a City opponent Roberto Mancini's urge to wave imaginary things on the touchline would have grown so great he'd no doubt have unearthed a red unicorn to flash in Howard Webb's face. There was another flashing in of faces from City, as Joleon Lescott unleashed a forearm smash into Younes Kaboul's face that even Pepe would have been proud of.
A barmy nine minutes in the second half proved that Manchester United's best hope of snatching the title away from City could be Stefan Savic, as the Serbian's perfect flick on sent Jermain Defoe away to make it 2-1. He nearly gifted Spurs all three points with a neat lay-off to Modric in the final minute but he could nothing about the fact that Jermain Defoe's teeny little legs aren't suited to poking home Bale crosses.
A blacklisted Russian
At least Arsenal's fans are used to these intertwined feelings of mutiny and uselessness. The Highbury middle classes have far bigger problems than the froth blowing off their mocha-frappuccino these days, most of them revolving around the shell of a man that is Andrei Arshavin and their manager's continued insistence on utilising him.
After clambering their way back into the match with Manchester United, despite allowing their opponent's the freedom of the left flank all afternoon, a chorus of boos met Arsene Wenger's decision to remove the creator of their equalizer, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, in favour of Arshavin, whose confidence is off the scale like Nicklas Bendtner's, only in the opposite direction.
The decision was a little whiffy yes - even Robin van Persie considered launching into a chorus of "You don't know what you're doing" at the man who hasn't missed Champions League qualification in 16 years – but Arsenal's best Ox to Ox midfielder was cream-crackered, had twice signalled to the bench he was cream crackered, and also looked completely and utterly cream crackered.
Arshavin's immediate vote of no confidence from the home support quite possibly led to his pathetic attempt at a tackle on Antonio Valencia, who duly set up Danny Welbeck for the winner. Wenger insisted he had made 50,000 substitutions in his career and didn't have to explain himself, while Van Persie conducted a 1,000-yard stare in the direction of Barcelona at the final whistle. The person I truly felt for was Opa Vim - a 91st birthday ruined.
A rubbish-strewn Reebok
There was rubbish all over the playing surface at the Reebok Stadium and it was largely Damien Comolli's fault. Once again, Andy Carroll performed as if he had just staggered out of a nuclear reactor, Jordan Henderson ran nowhere, but at least did it quickly, while one stat of interest informed us that Stewart Downing has more arrests than assists this season.
King Kenny looked lost as his ramshackle unit were outrun, outmanoeuvred, outfought and outthought by a team with Nigel Reo-Coker at its heart. After weeks backing his errant players, Kenny realised there was no defending this dismal showing, downloaded the latest 'riot act' app and read it aloud in front of a stream of hungry television cameras.
But even his broadsides misfired as Patrice Evra's ears pricked up on Dalglish's insistence that Liverpool always respect other people. The truth is that this was an abject performance straight out of the draw that sits in storage at Anfield marked 'Roy Hodgson-inspired nightmares'. The difference being that that King Kenny has had far more time and spent far more money than his predecessor. Never mind walk on, think on.
Chelsea 0-0 Torres
The other half of the expensive January panic-buy flop-axis was this week toiling in East Anglia, as Chelsea limped to a lifeless 0-0 draw with Norwich, who recorded their first clean sheet of the Premier League season when faced with the top flight's most expensive striker. Torres, again, was about as potent as a thimble of skimmed milk.
At least he looks capable of running about a bit, something that can't be said about Carroll, who plays as if his pony tail is laced with lead. I've a theory - albeit a wacky one - that declares it is unfair to keep such kindred spirits apart. It is the duty of either Chelsea or Liverpool to unite these tortured souls and watch as they throw off the shackles of sluggery and instantly transform themselves into the free-scoring machines of yesteryear.
After a cheeky effort went close in the first half, Torres missed the sort of chance he used to gleefully gobble up in the red of Liverpool in the second, sending AVB into an upper-body epileptic fit. I'll wager the temptation to put him out to pasture in the rolling fields of tractor county was strong, as the home fans reacted to the question of whether Torres would ever find his top form again with a succinct local saying: "Norfolk and chance."
Eat my goal
Aside from the stamping, the lambasting and the booing there was some heavy smoshing of football's into nets this weekend, smearing so much excellent goal pie over an array of keepers they might have to form their own support group to get over the nightmare of yellow Nike swooshes fizzing past their ears at a rapid rate of knots.
Imp-like Robbie Keane announced his return to the Premier League with a smartly taken opener, and a flamboyant second at Wolves, set up by a touch of the football that brought one dangerous close to a state I like to call 'footy arousal' while Akos Buzsaky and Tommy Smith took their frustrations at Neil Warnock out with two exquisite thumps of leather at Loftus Road, ably backed up by Hugo Rodallega.
Danny Guthrie pinged one in the top corner of the onion bag for Newcastle at Fulham, while Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner had their own little 'goal of the season' contest against the new Arsenal at the Stadium of Light. All that and I haven't even mentioned Clint Dempsey's second hat-trick in three games for Fulham or Gareth Bale's stunner against City. This was the weekend when the Premier League screamed at its 20 hapless custodians: "Eat my goal."
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