1. Arsenal go top of the table defeating Crystal Palace 2-0
Gunners are hoping for a draw when Man City plays Chelsea this afternoon following an Oxlade-Chamberlain brace in a routine possession game against a shelling Crystal Palace at the Emirates. Perhaps Palace shelled because they believed the hype, as all their victories in recent matches have involved maintaining a clean sheet. But we all know that defense involves limiting your opposition chances, and Palace haven’t quite done that in abundance lately. Nor have their numbers changed much since the start of the season. The key may be something else:
@colinttrainor The super low goals conceded total under Pulis is greatly a function of SV%. Palace still allowing a lot of shots and SoT.
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) February 2, 2014
In other words, Pulis’ defensive revolution may have more to do with goal keeper Speroni’s run of form than anything the team as a whole is doing. Not that it matters as far as Palace is concerned. Survival at all costs will be the key in a Premier League where FIVE POINTS separate 10th place from 18th. That is insane.
2. Kolo Toure made an error, cost Liverpool a goal as they drew West Brom 1-1
So I want to use this error to say some things. Elite footballers make countless decisions in the course of a normal match. They are under a great deal of pressure to ensure these decisions are perfectly optimal. They must both ensure the pass is “safe” (ie won’t lead to a turnover) and is also productive (ie moves the ball to a player in a better position to advance the play). Once in a while, very rarely, one of those players will make a simple error. Perhaps in this instance Toure believed the wide player was open and under pressure from two West Brom players took a risk. It happens. It is unfortunate, but using it to malign Toure for whatever reason would be silly. This error was as important to the outcome as any missed Liverpool opportunity to score. Let’s just look at it and laugh a little.
3. Charlie Adam did this for Stoke against Man United
It’s easy to make jokes, and why not? After Liverpool offloaded Charlie Adam to Stoke for £4m in 2012, the Scottish midfielder (along with a few others) became synonymous with the failure of the old regime at Liverpool, the spreadsheet experimentation of ex-Director of Football Damien Comolli finally being righted at Anfield. Stoke was a natural progression for Adam, a team with a midfield less known for mobility than for its near superfluousness relative to bigger sides with bigger ambitions.
And no doubt Saturday was something of an aberration for both the player and the team—Stoke had, previous to this match, secured only a single point in six matches. But aberrations count for everything in the 2013-14 Premier League, as Adam’s moment of brilliance saw Stoke jump from 16th to 11th place. As with Adam Johnson’s scoring feats of late, Black Swans will count for everything in the next four months.
4. Andy Carroll got sent off for this as West Ham beat Swansea 2-0
Um? Uh? So Carroll’s arm grazed Chico Flores’ head? Hey, uhh, let’s see. Gee, man. I dunno…
5. Former Spanish national team coach Luis Aragones died at 75
Well, now we get into the tricky business of lauding racists, who, despite their racism, played an important part of football history. I don’t want to try and poetically work my way through this hornet’s nest, but it stands that the coach who led Spain to win Euro 2008 once said to Jose Antonio Reyes of his Arsenal teammates Thierry Henry, “Tell that black shit that you are much better than him.” I know Marcos Senna defended him once, but you know racism isn’t a negative integer you can cancel out with the help of a friend. Nor am I going to patronize an entire national culture with some wormish relativism. Aragones was an historic figure in the tiki-taka era. Aragones was a racist. There it is.
6. Sunderland defeat Newcastle 0-3 in the Tyne-Wear derby
So the question is: is this regression or progression? On October 22nd, only a couple of weeks after Gus Poyet took over as Sunderland manager after the Di Canio train wreck finally came to a halt, Sunderland posted a decent shots ratio of .476, but also had a low PDO (shot plus save percentage) of 787 (median is roughly 980-1020). Before Saturday’s derby result, the Black Cats shot ratio was .428 with a much improved PDO of 937. Now, I’m not going to discount the influence of Poyet here, nor am I going to make the ludicrous argument that Di Canio should not have got the sack (he shouldn’t have been hired). But PDO is heavily influenced by random variation, so it’s possible that Sunderland may have just kept on keeping on, and are showing some of results in key matches of late. They at least shouldn’t have been a dead cert for the drop. Just beware of this when you read about the “Poyet project coming good.”
7. Barcelona lost 2-3 to Valencia, Real Madrid drew Athletic Bilbao 1-1, and Atletico Madrid beat Real Sociedad 4-0
Corruption in the Neymar transfer deal! Sandro Rosell resigns as president! And now this! A 2-3 loss at home against Valencia, including a pair of poorly defended goals, one of which was a header from the smallest man on the pitch in Pablo Piatti. And it comes on a weekend in which Atleti punish Sociedad, going a full three points clear on top of the table.
But then we look at the shot ratio from the defeat: 20-8 for Barcelona. The shots on target were closer (5-4), but using this loss as some sort of evidence of unrest would be ill-advised. If you don’t believe me, have a gander at the highest shots ratio and PDO in the entire league. This is not the 2012-13 Barca by any means, though the relative improvement of Real Madrid and Atletico have also exacerbated the team’s failings.
Still, why take anything away from Atleti? 18-3-1. The duopoly narrative now has a lovely twist.
8. Ronaldo gets a straight red for…something?
Yeah you guys, I dunno. Again.
9. Roma vs Parma was suspended after 8 minutes
Floods in Rome put into question whether the match would go ahead at all, and yet they tried. Oh they tried. And it was a sight to see. Thankfully referee Andrea De Marco came to his senses after demonstrating to the players that the ball would not bounce on a lake of muddy water. The quote of the game though goes to Roma keeper Morgan De Sanctis:
#RomaParma Gk Morgan De Sanctis told ref: "I won't gamble with the Scudetto on a waterlogged pitch."
— footballitalia (@footballitalia) February 2, 2014