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Monday, August 27, 2012
Gunners fire blanks, one-eyed Sam

The Fifth Official

Few of us like Monday 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.

Let it AVB

Good news Liverpool fans, you're out of the drop zone! LOL! Had it not been for two defensive lapses, you would have had three points to go with the most promising performance I've seen since about 2007. Things have been spruced up at Anfield; new seats, new red nets and a new advertising slogan that seems totally at odds with their new manger's philosophy, boldly declaring "We come not to play." Of course, it did cause more than a few sniggers that Brendan Rodgers' insistence on sticking to his fluid football principles cost his side three points against the champions as Martin Skrtel laid on another perfect assist for Liverpool's opponents. Had he hoofed it down the field he may have got a mild ticking off from his gaffer, but that very gaffer would certainly have been celebrating his first Premier League win in charge. The other top flight big cheese with plenty to prove is England's most famous acronym, but he's still waiting for his first victory at Tottenham. West Brom rained on his home parade, with a certain Romelu Lukaku prominent in their last-gasp draw. Signed by AVB then shunned - like any form of common sense during his time at Chelsea it seems - Villas-Boas already has the look of a paranoid, worried man. It is a look we are all very familiar with.

Boring boring Arsenal

It is now over 2,500 hours since Arsenal scored a Premier League goal and watching their lamentable attempts to find the net against Stoke, it isn't hard to see why. Flogging your best striker and the Premier League's top scorer is all very well, as long as you fill that big goal-shaped hole in your armoury. Sadly for them, Olivier Giroud looks to have all the potency of a castrated hamster, Lukas Podolski just looks confused while Gervinho has reverted back to his habit of running up more blind alleys than an inquisitive fox. Santi Cazorla oozes class but keeps possession far too long, as if he doesn't deem any of Arsenal's forwards worthy of having the ball. Of course, up the road in Manchester, Robin van Persie got the goal the little boy inside him had been screaming for - presumably, ever since he was pictured in an Arsenal shirt as a youngster. He displaced Wayne Rooney and thanks to a deep gash, it looks like he'll be strutting his stuff as chief striker for a few weeks yet. Rooney's gash made me quite squeamish, and I bet that's a sentence you'll never hear again.

Michael Laudrup 8-0 Premier League

Saturday's clash at the Liberty Stadium was an encounter laced with contrast. Even the name of Swansea's home gives a large indicator as to how Michael Laudrup insists they operate, zipping the ball around the Liberty Stadium with as much sizzle as the seven rashers of Danish bacon Sam Allardyce eats before training. The freedom Swansea are afforded within the confines of the football pitch transform the turf into a gay meadow, as they all merrily skip round like Julie Andrews. The Hammers meanwhile, treat the field like a prison under Allardyce, each player regimented in his role, punished for deviating from the script and seemingly under orders to chop down any attempt at fluent football from the opposition. No surprise then that the biggest contrast came in the quality offered up by both teams, and the explanation from both managers upon the full time whistle. Laudrup, who has now registered eight unanswered goals in the Premier League in two games, complimented the Swans on their elegant display. Allardyce, whose side had operated like a newborn lamb being gently clawed in the corner of the room by a leopard for 90 minutes, insisted West Ham had been in "complete control." One of these men is talking out of his arse and it isn't the Great Dane.

Hi, I'm Paul Lambert

The only way Paul Lambert could have stunk Villa Park out worse than this was if he'd taken to the stadium's tannoy before the match to announce he'd appointed Alex McLeish as his new assistant with former Birmingham midfielder Robbie Savage as his new morale coach. The latter's prediction Villa would go down this season was scoffed at initially; perhaps it is now being given gentle consideration. Just 45 minutes into this brave new world for Aston Villa, they were trailing 3-0 to Everton; even Big 'Eck didn't inflict that on the Villans in his 12-month crusade to drive any optimism out of a set of supporters who have been known to air the odd grumble from time to time. Lambert had barely parked his rear on the bench before they went behind and that was about as good as it got. He may have the finest moniker of all the Premier League's owners but Randy Lerner doesn't seem to be living up to his name, neglecting to spend any money a full year on from flogging all his best players. If Villa's fans thought last season was a slow, depressing crawl to the Championship, this campaign might just outdo it.

Wearside rain on Fletcher's parade

It took the weather Gods in Sunderland less than 24 hours to register their verdict on Martin O'Neill's signing of Steven Fletcher. A decent player he may have been in what was a pathetic Wolves side, but upon hearing that he came with a price tag of 14 million, the Sunderland fan in the skies cried his eyes out and ensured the great unwashed will have to wait a little longer to see just how overpriced he is. Wolves must be killing themselves laughing having secured 25 million for old #headsgone Fletcher and Matt Jarvis. I'll wager those aren't the last ridiculous deals we'll see before the week is out as Friday's transfer deadline approaches, sending several media outlet into Armageddon mode. Seriously, it is like countdown to the end of the world in some quarters. By the next time I put pen to paper, Luka Modric will finally have sulked his way towards a move to Spain, Tottenham will desperately be trying to smear the cash all over Europe to patch up their threadbare squad and Andy Carroll will be turned loose by Liverpool and in all likelihood, end up half naked on the M62 trying to thumb lift back to Newcastle after a big night out. Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Leon Knight at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial


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