The End of Year Soccer Feast
Ball Harambee By Bagga Wilks Manchester City vs Liverpool
Liverpool had entered the sacrosanct home grounds of Manchester City where the EPL champions of two years ago simply defiled their opponents. That is what they did to the mighty Arsenal. They stomped all over Arsenal 6-3. But as Liverpool’s manager, Brendan Rodgers stated, his team had confidence in their own attacking prowess.
The Manchester City vs Liverpool game produced some fascinating match-ups. Vincent Kompany is regarded as one of the best defensive players in the game and Luis Suarez is regarded as one of the top strikers in the world.
Battling in mid-field and fighting for a place in the Brazilian World Cup Squad were Fernandinho of Manchester City and Lucas of Liverpool, both defensive mid-fielders respectively. Lucas was recently recalled to the Brazilian squad, Fernandinho is yet to get a call from Scolari.
The match-up between Kompany and Suarez was won by Kompany as Suarez failed to score. But the Uruguayan was not easily contained and looked dangerous whether running into space or turning and twisting around defenders. Kompany won round one but when Manchester City treks to Liverpool, it will be even a more formidable task for Kompany to thwart Mr. Suarez from scoring.
Fernandinho is a far more versatile player than Lucas. He covers more ground and is a better passer of the ball. One can see his improvement as the season progresses. Scolari will be doing the Brazilian team a disservice if he fails to include Fernandinho in the Brazilian World Cup team.
Liverpool has earned the reputation of being a first half team but against Manchester City, they showed a second wind and sustained their marvelous attacking prowess.
Manchester City came away with an unconvincing 2-1 victory but Liverpool has clearly demonstrated that they will be at the finish line when the season enters the final stretch. Arsenal vs West Ham
Arsenal has been stumbling. That fluidity in attack was not there against Chelsea but in the second half against West Ham they were able to come from behind and defeat West Ham 3-1. Ozil was flat. Much of the playmaking in the second half came from Cazorla.
The substitution of Podolski for Ramsey who has also tapered off added potency and creativity to Arsenal’s attack. Podolski back from a hamstring injury helped his cause by hitting the back of the net. Walcott scored two and appears to be returning to form. The Tables
The fight at the top of the tables is as fierce as the fight at the bottom of the tables. The newly promoted teams have had variegated experiences. Cardiff City fired their manager and Crystal Palace turned to Tony Pulis to avoid relegation. Sunderland and Cardiff City played to 2-2 draw on Saturday, December 28, 2013. Sunderland has shown some improvement but is still wallowing at the bottom of the table.
The surprise of the newly promoted teams is Hull City. Manchester United beat them after they had the defending champions down 2-0. They ended up losing 3-2 as the David Moyes’ Manchester United showed that it is too soon to count them out of the 2013-14 season.
But Hull has bounced back and humiliated the staggering Fulham six goals to zero, scoring all six in the second half. Huddlestone has found a home at Hull City and playing regularly has helped his game immensely. Arsenal vs Newcastle
Arsenal closed out the year with a squeaker over Newcastle 1-0 and returned to the top of the tables.
Both teams showed the wear and tear of the grueling back to back matches to make the end of the year and to signify that the 2013-2014 EPL season is at the half-way mark.
Once Arsenal went ahead with a header from Giroud, the normally attacking Arsene Wenger uncharacteristically went into a defensive shell. Such tactics reduce soccer to a tennis match and makes the beautiful game terribly inartistic. Wenger played with five at the back and held on for dear life to walk out of Newcastle with three points. Chelsea vs Liverpool
The Chelsea vs Liverpool match was exciting for most of the first half. Liverpool opened the scoring when Skrtel scored from a melee in front of Chelsea’s goal.
Chelsea took over the game and the combination of Eto’o, Hazard, Oscar and Willian had Liverpool defending stoutly. Nevertheless, goals by Hazard and Eto’o put Chelsea ahead.
Liverpool does not have the depth of the Chelsea squad. Suarez was not given any space by the compact Chelsea defense fortified by Mikel in the second half. Liverpool never put together the wonderful one touch passes that has been the hallmark of their play for this season.
At the end of the calendar year, Chelsea finds itself in third place and Liverpool drops to fifth place.
The New Year also marks the beginning of the mid-year trading. Liverpool certainly needs an energetic mid-field player. Arsenal needs a full back and a striker to back up Giroud. Manchester City is fully loaded and Manchester United is on the move. Chelsea is also fully loaded and the offense just needs to establish the necessary chemistry.
Thus far it has been a real competitive season and that will be the case for the rest of the season going into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.