England's Favourite Premier League 2/3/10 – The Mad Month Ends

As the dust finally settles on the Mad Month, it seemed like the ever expected dust storm was little more than a slight breeze across the Premier League landscape, with very little action happening throughout the week, most of which occurred (as usual) in the waning hours of the market. Let us take a look at the movements of note from each club:

Arsenal

In – Sol Campbell (Free): …Really? Just because he was training with the club does not mean that he needs to be resigned. That has disaster written all over it, and with the signs he showed against Stoke in the F.A. Cup, him taking a spot on the bench cannot really bode well for the players Arsenal need to be available to them in tight contests.

Out – Jack Wilshire (Loan to Bolton), Philippe Senderos (Loan to Everton): Wilshire might be the key to keeping Bolton up in the Premier League. For Arsenal, it means getting him continual first team PL football, as Bolton will use him for all he’s worth. Senderos was out on loan last year, and will have fun trying to compete for places in Everton’s slowly but surely getting healthier side.

Aston Villa

In – None

Out – Nickey Shorey (Loan to Fulham), Craig Gardner (Birmingham, £3 Million): Both players had been fridge participants. It might be a touch odd for Gardner, seeing as he is now in the enemy Blue that Villa fans everywhere hate. Shorey had been at Nottingham Forest for the last month, so his loan move came as no surprise.

Birmingham

In – Michel (Sporting Gijon, £3 Million), Craig Gardner (Aston Villa, £3 Million): Michel had been the target of Alex McLeish since the summer transfer window but just couldn’t quite get things sorted out. He has him now, and the creative influences are needed if they want to continue their European challenge afloat. Gardner is more of the player you would expect the Blues to grab, as his two-way movement will fit in well in the Birmingham system.

Out – Marcus Bent (Loan to QPR), Gary McSheffrey (Loan to Leeds United): It’s been unfortunate for McSheffrey than fitness levels have derailed him since the relegation of Blues two years prior. He has become lost since then, and hopefully he finds some confidence in the Leeds promotion push.  Bent has been at Middlesbrough, though has not scored for the club and will take his show on the road to QPR.

Blackburn Rovers

In – Yildiray Bastürk (Loan from Stuttgart): Having been unable to really secure football as of late, the highly experienced Turkish midfielder is the kind of experienced player that Big Sam needs to put some direction in his club.

Out – Benny McCarthy (West Ham, Undisclosed), Gavin Gunning (Loan to Rotherham United): Few are surprised that McCarthy was on his way out. He wasn’t getting the matches, and wanted out, so Allardyce moved him along. Gunning is a young Rep. of Irish youth defender who will needs some more match experience before challenging for a spot in Big Sam’s schemes.

Bolton Wanderers

In – Stuart Holden (Free), Vladimir Weiss (Loan from Manchester City), Jack Wilshire (Loan from Arsenal): Talk about a coup for Owen Coyle. Three highly talented youths who can inject something resembling attacking play into the Bolton scheme should do them wonders. Wilshire might be the key to whether or not Bolton stay up this term, as they sit a perilous point above the relegation zone.

Out – Nicky Hunt (Loan to Derby County): Iced out by Gary Megson, his time at the Reebok may be done with, even though he was a promising player under Sam Allardyce.

Burnley

In – David Nugent (Loan from Portsmouth), Frédéric Niamani (Loan from AS Monaco): For what it is worth, Burnley have kept hold of one of the few scorers that they have in Nugent for as long as they can hold him (translation: keep him off Pompey’s books). Niamani might be a nice pick up, otherwise, everyone else is scraps from other squads.

Out – None of note.

Chelsea

In – None

Out – None of note. In fact, nothing really happened here. Just as well…we really don’t need to see Ancelloti out and about in the buff, now, do we?

Everton

In – Landon Donovan (Loan from L.A. Galaxy), Philippe Senderos (Loan from Arsenal): Donovan has been a smash hit in the Blue half of Merseyside, and surely there will be fans about the land that will be clamoring for Everton to stump up the cash to get him for good, though it would be expected to be a massive sum, seeing as MLS would likely not let him go on the cheap. Senderos will have to fight for a spot as Everton are getting healthy again.

Out – Lucas Neill (Galatasaray, £750,000): Head scratcher is perhaps an understatement here. Neill had been starting at Everton, then up and decided to pack his bag and head to Turkey. The draw of beginning to partner with Harry Kewell ahead of the World Cup might be part of the deal, but, then again, Jo and Gio dos Santos also headed there, so who knows what the Turkish giants are doing down there.

Fulham

In – Stefan Okaka (Loan from Roma), Nickey Shorey (Loan from Aston Villa): With attacking options somewhat limited, getting Okaka after the deal had appeared to have fallen through will be a big boost. Shorey will add some midfield depth should the Cottagers opt to do some 4-5-1 play, assuming Zamora is healthy.

Out – Seol Ki-Hyeon (Free), Chris Smalling (Manchester United, Undisclosed), Diomansy Camera (Loan to Celtic): Ki-Hyeon has been a disappointment for Fulham, so his departure was not entirely mourned. Camera has just gotten back to health, but would find it hard to break into the side right now. While Smalling will not leave until the completion of the season, it will be a spot that will need to be filled later by Fulham.

Hull City

In – Amir Zaki (Loan from Zamalek): If, by some miraculous device, Phil Brown can keep Zaki’s head screwed on, the Egyptian can be a big plus for the side. Conversely, this could be a hell of a ride for all parties involved.

Out – Daniel Cousin (Loan to Larissa): Well, you bring in a striker, you got to get rid of one. Cousin is about fourth or fifth in the pecking order, and Zaki would instantly jump him. The last thing Hull needs is bad player vibes going on, and unused players are known for giving them out.

Liverpool

In – Maxi Rodríguez (Atlético Madrid, Free): Considering the circus at Liverpool, getting a player of Maxi’s quality on the cheap is no small feat, but, is certainly not what many think is enough for Liverpool to hang in for the rest of the fourth spot haul.

Out – Andrea Dossena (Napoli, £4.25 Million), Andriy Voronin (Dinamo Moscow, £1.8 Million): Probably both players are happier to be permanently disassociated from the Reds than one would think. Finding opportunities in short supply, they were often played in sub appearances, while never getting the starts around players such as Torres, Kuyt, Johnson, and Aurelio.

Manchester City

In – Patrick Vieira (Inter Milan, Free), Adam Johnson (Middlesbrough, £8 Million): Not sure where Vieira will fit into the picture, outside of a third defending midfielder in case someone is hurt. Johnson will have to fight through several players to get to the pitch, but certainly has future potential.

Out – Jô (Loan to Galatasaray), Vladimir Weiss (Loan to Botlon): Jô seems to make many a man unhappy wherever he goes, but maybe the Turks have an answer. Weiss, meanwhile, needs more first team football, and Bolton will surely give it to him in a bid to stay afloat/

Manchester United

In – Chris Smalling (Fulham, Undisclosed): Another future prospect for SAF to tinker with. Won’t be available until the end of the term.

Out – Danny Welbeck (Loan to Preston North End), Zoran Tosic (Loan to Cologne): While Welbeck has seen some time playing inside Old Trafford, Tosic has been a recluse due to the multiple defensive options available to SAF. Both will more than likely be used with aplomb by their new respective units.

Portsmouth

In – Jamie O’Hara (Loan from Spurs): Getting him back will give them some flexibility in the midfield again, though it might be a little late considering what they’ve had to do since O’Hara’s initial loan spell ended.

Out – Younes Kaboul (Tottenham, £8 Million (approx.)), Asmir Begovich (Stoke City, £3.25 Million), David Nugent (Loan to Burnley): In order to keep the team afloat fiscally to give them at least a chance to fight to stay up, they had to offload two better players, in security blanket Begovich and much improved Kaboul. Go figure that Harry Redknapp’s last favor to the club would be to help them stave off financial ruin.

Stoke City

In – Asmir Begovich (Portsmouth, £3.25 Million): The Stoke goalkeeping merry-go-round will continue, now that Sorensen has to contend not with David James but his Pompey understudy Begovich. This, of course, leads to the point: what exactly has Sorensen done to deserve the daft treatment?

Out – None of note.

Sunderland

In – Matt Kilgallon (Sheffield United, Undisclosed), Alan Hutton (Loan from Tottenham): Hutton shows up because Sunderland apparently can’t get enough Spurs players on their roster. Kilgallon acquitted himself well against a gritty Stoke side on Monday, and looks to be a solid defender pick up for the club.

Out – None of note

Tottenham Hotspur

In – Eidur Gudjohnsen (Loan from AS Monaco), Younes Kaboul (Portsmouth, £8 Million (approx)): Kaboul makes a load of sense, as the Spurs reunion tour 2009/2010 continues on. With the defense thinner than usual, Kaboul can be a stop gap in several spots. But when Gudjohnsen hit the books, you knew someone had to go. Who you ask? Well….

Out – Robbie Keane (Loan to Celtic), Alan Hutton (Loan to Sunderland), Gio dos Santos (Loan to Galatasaray), Jamie O’Hara (Loan to Portsmouth), Kyle Naughton (Loan to Middlesbrough): Keane ends up being the big winner, with Pavlyuchenko probably the big loser. Many players are off to ply their trade for some time before they get the band together back for what will likely be the Spurs 2010/2011 reunion tour.

West Ham United

In – Aruajo Ilan (Free), Hossam Mido (Loan from Middlesbrough), Benny McCarthy (Blackburn, Undisclosed): West Ham needed attacking help. They certainly found some in the aforementioned trio, though getting them onto the pitch may prove a bit strenuous at times for a clearly stressed Gianfrano Zola, who missed his real target, Eidur Gudjohnson.

Out – None of note

Wigan Athletic

In – Victor Moses (Crystal Palace, £2.5 Million), Gary Caldwell (Celtic, Undisclosed): Wigan did themselves well in securing Palace’s brightest star, while also grabbing some defending help in Caldwell, part of the Tony Mowbray Celtic firebombing project.

Out – Olivier Kapo (Loan to Boulogne), Daniel De Ridder (Loan to Hapoel Tel Aviv): Two gents who came with Stevie Bruce. Two gents who have been somewhat anonymous since Bruce headed to Sunderland. Two gents who will probably not be back at Wigan next term.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

In – Adlène Guédioura, Geoffery Mujangi Bia (Loans from Royal Charleroi SC): Apparently, if you believe gaffer McCarthy, the pair are pre-built for the English game. Whether or not the first tackle they absorb changes that remains to be seen. The club, Royal Charleroi, for those not in the know, is third from bottom in the Belgian Jupiler League.

Out – None of note

Now that that insanity has been dealt with, the Premier League did decide to play a match or twelve lately (and nothing was cancelled due to weather!).

January 26th

It was an evening of toothless attacks, perhaps save Tottenham. Spurs nabbed a three spot when Fulham decided that Bobby Zamora was there for effect after he completely blew a chance to give the Cottagers an early lead and things went downhill from there. Pompey and West Ham went to a 1-1 draw in the bottom dwellers cup, while the Owen Coyle Memorial Match went the way of Bolton, though I imagine Michael or John Bolton could have scored in this contest, such is the inept attack of both sides. The real mind assault was at Molineux, with Wolves and Liverpool putting a walloping two (!!!) shots on target. Let’s face it: when the closest thing to a forward is Kevin Doyle, you know aesthetic football is going to take a beating.

January 27th

Fortunately, the following day provided all the goals that the people craved the day before. Unless, of course, you were an Arsenal fan. The Gunners bludgeoned the framework of Brad Friedel’s goal but couldn’t actually pocket a goal against a “long ball” Villa side. Blackburn kept the goal tap open as they got two more drops in the bucket to pick off a Wigan side who decided to go back into “who are we again?” mode. Everton slapped Sunderland around some more after they 7-2 whipping they took against Chelsea, granting Amurican Landon Donovan his first Prem goal in the process. And speaking of Chelsea, they did the unthinkable: they beat Birmingham.

Does that not sound like the most oddball statement in the world?

Of course, there was this other match at Old Trafford that seemed to have some attention on it. Something about a place in the Carling Cup final, perhaps. Maybe both Manchester squads were involved? They were? Who would have thunk that?

Anyway, this was actually quite an interesting bit of football, as United clearly dominated the possession in the first half but City dogged them everywhere. It was the counterattack that sprung United into the poll position (and perhaps a fired coin or two) when Bellamy got hit by something, City’s concentration and corner were beaten, then United roared down field, with Scholes getting the eventual goal. United proceeded to go for the jugular, and thought they had it when Carrick fired in, then promptly when from ecstasy to despair when Rooney decided to dance on the ball inside the six, only to watch Tevez hit a dainty flick to level matters. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Manchester derby of importance unless United scored in Fergie Time, Rooney deciding his head was better suited for the win. On the whole, United deserved the win, though City put up a marvelous fight.

Relatedly, anyone notice that at the end, the aggregate was 4-3 United with a Fergie Time winner? Just saying.

January 30th

Ah, the weekend, and many a fine match still to be played. Birmingham started their newest unbeaten run, though it was quite late in proceedings when Liam Ridgewell saw that Spurs went into 90+ defending (read: none) and equalized for the Blues, who had been fairly substandard after their 3-0 shellacking midweek. Meanwhile, Villa took the opportunity to put themselves into a position to get ahead of Spurs at the weekend when the two meet at White Hart Lane by handling a suddenly suspect Fulham 0-2, who have now dropped five straight on the trot. Agbonlahor hit both five minutes before the halftime interval, beating both Smalling and, in particular, Hangeland, whom he abused quite absurdly on his way to goal number two.

Blackburn’s rampant offense (?) was stymied at Upton Park, where the only thing more offensive than West Ham’s offense is their new owners, uh, “former business ventures,” if you will. Either that, or Liverpool’s football, though it has to be said that they were clearly dominant…against Bolton. Elsewhere, Wigan decided not marking Tim Cahill on a corner was a good idea, but not scoring was better in a 0-1 loss to Everton. John Terry popped up in the end (take it however you want to) to score a header (again) late against Burnley. Surprisingly, Hull and Wolves played the most dramatic of affairs, with Jozy Altidore effectively assisting both goals, sliding in a perfect ball to Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (greatest last name ever) and drawing a penalty after he convinced Ronald Zubar to play a game of leap frog that he could not possibly win. However, they were undone by a brilliant chip shot from Anthony Gardner (oddly, Boaz Myhill was not impressed) and Matt Jarvis, who only got the ball after everyone else stared at it rolling across the 18 yard box.

January 31st

Even a third rate City side is better than Pompey, as evidenced by their 2-0 win over the southern coasters, who, barring the greatest miracle since the birth of Christ, will be heading down to the Championship. At least, they might get paid on time for February, but I wouldn’t bet on that.

In the marquee match up, United rolled Arsenal, though that might be giving too much credit to Wenger’s side. Outside of Arshavin’s early misses, the Gunners did little to induce much panic in the United defense. Once Nani (who is playing, you know, well) out did himself by splitting two defenders and beating a third dinked one that Almunia seemingly failed completely to do anything about (like, you know, finger-tip throw it over the bar) and instead pushed into his own net, United began the steamrolling, thanks to Rooney giving Gunner defenders the B.A.D.D. treatment (breaking ankles, destroying defenses…just ask Eboue). Park’s goal capped off United’s dominance, as they have now gone into “beat the piss out of all in front of us” mode and looked determined to go for the fourth title this term. Arsenal did get a goal, though Vermaelen’s side volley was aided immensely by the thigh of Johnny Evans.

It’s becoming clear that Arsenal are having problems without RvP leading the line. Nasri was utterly worthless on the left, the defense was more inclined to make the runs down the flanks (not necessarily a good thing late while United were rolling) and if Fabregas is cut out of the offense, they suddenly lose all attacking imputes, save for Arshavin. They might want to figure this out pretty soon, because they could be shoved out of the title race by the weekend, and, depending on the next few City results, may be dragged into a battle below them for the 3rd/4th place spots.

February 1

The less said about Sunderland v Stoke, the better.

February 2

Hull managed to drag Chelsea to a draw, which, unfortunately, means we have no good reason to make any more John Terry popping up again quips. Damn.

Perhaps more worrisome on the afternoon was Wigan getting busted by Notts Friggin’ County (0-2) and Dan, Dan, Butterfield! Butterfield! (American Civil War reference) getting a hat trick against Wolves. Did we mention yet that Butterfield is a right back that was playing as forward in the contest? Both Prem outfits played strong sides and yet were swept away by a League 2 and administrated Championship sides.

This brings us to the future. Like, today, for example.

Fulham and Portsmouth will tangle at Craven Cottage (yay) while further down at the Road, Leeds and Spurs will take two in deciding who goes on to face the probable fodder of Bolton. Can’t imagine anyone will show up at Elland Road today, let alone the decibel level that the joint will make. (This does not include the yelling that will be done by Ken Bates when he sees the receipts list at the end of the contest, which is sure to add 10 decibels to the final whistle roar)

Come the weekend, three more dandy matches await, of which Burnley/West Ham and Sunderland/Wigan will certainly not be included. The second installment of the Merseyside derby will kick the weekend of right, and should be a reversal of team strategies from the last go round. Tottenham and Villa will cap the day, with fourth place on the line for the victors and worrying times ahead for the loser. In between feature the other two aforementioned mental assaults, along with Bolton/Fulham (wait, maybe three), Hull/City, Stoke/Blackburn (maybe four?) and United/Pompey (perhaps the physical assault to compliment the mental insults).

Sunday will grant us a Birmingham/Wolverhampton pseudo-derby (they’re in the neighborhood) and a possible title eliminator match in Chelsea v Arsenal. Arsenal have to win this match to stay in contention, or at the very least nick a point. Six points back right now, a loss would send them nine back and with United in between them and Chelsea, there is probably no realistic way the Gunners could climb back into contention, and would have to stave off the wolves underneath them. I stated earlier than January would be a big month for the Gunners, and they only hit half of the points available (8). Dropping any points in the next two matches will probably write them out of the title challenge, even if their closing schedule is deathly weak (Spurs, City, and Birmingham are the only real challengers after Liverpool).

A win, though, would set them four points behind leaders United (given that they’ll probably bury Pompey) and would keep the heart beat going for a little while longer, anyway.

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