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Title race takes more twists

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Phil McNulty | 11:58 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Sir Alex Ferguson and Martin O'Neill walked off Villa Park with glasses half-empty - only to reach the dressing room and find this most unpredictable of Premier League seasons offering them a refreshing refill.

Ferguson will have felt Manchester United's superiority, even with 10 men after Nani's deserved red card, made the draw against Aston Villa an opportunity missed. Chelsea's defeat at Everton may just have transformed this into a point gained.

O'Neill will have suffered the same emotions about Villa's top four aspirations following the failure to take advantage of United in reduced circumstances until he was cheered by defeats for Liverpool and Tottenham.

Throw in Arsenal's mini-revival with that win against Liverpool at the Emirates and it was confirmation that the only thing that can be relied upon in the Premier League this season is its unreliability. Drawing quick conclusions is a dangerous occupation.

If there is something you can put a hefty stake on it is the form of Wayne Rooney - and he was almost the complete player at Villa Park. Almost, only because a late save from Brad Friedel denied him the goal that would have crowned a masterclass.

Rooney is always prepared to do the work of at least two men. And so it proved as he took it upon himself to make up for the loss of Nani, sent off for a lunge at Stilyan Petrov that was more plain daft than malicious.

I asked O'Neill what he most admired about United's display on a night when they showed ominous control after suffering the numerical disadvantage. After pointing out that "admired" was not the word he would choose to describe what he actually experienced, he delivered a heartfelt eulogy to Rooney.

No introductions or names were needed as he said: "The centre-forward they possess is one of the best players in the world. His ability to control a ball under pressure is terrific and his ability is sensational."

O'Neill then highlighted one incident that encapsulated the essence of Rooney, the current desire allied to discipline that make his absence unthinkable for both Manchester United and England.

With the game entering its crucial closing phase, Rooney left his attacking post and raced back into the left-back position to challenge and win a tackle with Ashley Young in a moment that had even the Villa fans showing their appreciation.

Wayne Rooney races back to tackle Ashley YoungRooney races back to tackle Ashley Young

"He's made the challenge like a full-back," enthused O'Neill. "He wasn't going to be beaten, and all that happened with about eight minutes to go. I've got a lot of players at this club who can definitely play this game, but that was as good an example as anything you will see."

United's menacing pursuit of Chelsea is helped by Ferguson, who ignored the natural caution many would exercise after losing a player by throwing on extra attacking resources in the shape of Antonio Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov in an attempt to claim the victory.

Ferguson will hope the point has not come at too much cost. Nani's ban rules him out of the Carling Cup final, but of even more concern was the sight of Ryan Giggs leaving Villa Park for an X-ray on an arm injury.

Villa barely laid a glove on United after Nani was sent off, although the debilitating effect of the Portuguese winger's tackle on Petrov robbed the home side of much-needed creativity. Rich promise was offered, however, in the shape of Fabian Delph as he excelled before tiring around the hour mark. And four points from United this season is a more than respectable return.

Few could have predicted Chelsea's loss at Goodison Park, given their show of strength against Arsenal at the weekend and Everton's lame effort at Liverpool - but this is a season of surprises, and the Premier League is all the better for that.

Chelsea have looked formidable for large portions of the season, but they will feel United's breath on their neck as the season enters its final lap. Ferguson, however, must pray no misfortune befalls Rooney because it becomes clearer with every passing week that he is pivotal to their hopes of becoming champions for the fourth successive year.

Arsene Wenger's elated, animated reaction at the conclusion of their win against Liverpool suggested he believes what many regarded as some form of Premier League third-place play-off has rejuvenated their own challenge.

Wenger was desperate for three points to reassert Arsenal's authority after morale-sapping defeats against Manchester United and Chelsea - although whether it represents anything more than a brief false dawn remains to be seen. The eternal optimist in Arsenal's manager will demand otherwise.

For Liverpool, elation against Everton was replaced by frustration. Suddenly, Rafael Benitez's "guarantee" of fourth place is under scrutiny once more. If it was ultimately a good night, of sorts, for Villa, it was an even better one for Manchester City.

The Premier League's eccentricity this season has been frowned upon by those who believe it betrays a lack of quality and consistency. There is merit in this theory, but the twists and turns more than make up for those accusations.

Take a trip up and down the table and excitement is everywhere - with West Ham's win against Birmingham ratcheting up the pressure on their closest contenders in the fight against relegation.

It is a drama with several acts still to be played out - but on the evidence produced at Villa Park on Wednesday, Rooney is now emerging as the central character.

You can follow me throughout this season at twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me on Facebook.


Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    First comment! Up the Arsenal. Never write us off. We may not win the title but we will be close.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Rooney is vital but leave off the bloke, don't add added pressure yet!! I think United deserved 3 points against Villa, who I think can forget about a finish in the top 4, Spurs battered them and they played like a team in relegation with all their men back defending (the irony being that Wolves beat Spurs despite being a team in relegation...) Arsenal laid into them and yet they didn't offer anything going forward, you can't play like that if you want to be a top 4 side, there's zero ambition and it's what separates Liverpool, Arsenal, United, Chelsea from the rest.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm almost reluctant to speak about it, not wanting to tempt fate, but as the World Cup draws closer it seems that this is Rooney's time to show the world what he is really made of. Words don't do him justice (though you come pretty close, Phil).

  • Comment number 5.

    Although its all exciting at the moment, this will amount to nothing if, at the end of the season, the top 4 is the same as its been for the last 50 billion years....

  • Comment number 6.

    "Drawing quick conclusions is a dangerous occupation."

    Something you've been guilty of all season. And then there were three.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good blog Phil. I thought Villa were the better side in the first half, but really suffered when Delph and Petrov had to go off. Sad to say Sidwell is a shadow of the player he was at Reading and Carew, well, he just doesn't look bothered anymore.

    There have been plenty of adverse comments about Villa by the media concerning last nights match, glad to see you've not fallen into that trap. We have a very fine first team but our second string doesn't cut the mustard.

    Still four points is as good a return as we've had from games again United in many years.

  • Comment number 8.

    No mention for Wolves? Despite doing the double over Spurs?
    Or i could say no mention of Spurs slipping up against wolves again...

  • Comment number 9.

    Another twist in the tale of the 2009/10 Premier League

    It's just a shame that when the top 2 slip up, the young pretenders don't make the points up when it counts

  • Comment number 10.

    The only shock I noticed was the team you didn't mention, Wolves. But you might still be a bit angry at McCarthy for the team he sent out at United which on further examination were all first team players.
    How anyone didn't see that Liverpool were going to loose to Arsenal and that Everton were about the only club capable of Beating Chelsea given the 3:3 draw earlier in the season and the evidence that they are playing far better football now than then, is a bit strange. United Villa had draw written all over it, it's just a sign of how dismal those teams vying for 4th to 6th can be that they couldn't take advantage and the Spurs lost to relegation candidates and Pool lost to a team that is in your opinion finished. Otherwise I agree it makes for a more interesting season. I am in two minds as to if it's a sign of general improvement or lowering of standards.....OH wait, Ronaldo plays in Spain now so it must be a lowering of Standards.

  • Comment number 11.

    'This comment is awaiting moderation'.

    YAWN

  • Comment number 12.

    'Few could have predicted Chelsea's loss at Goodison Park,'


    Few in your line of work maybe but I know plenty of punters (including myself) who lumped on it. Chelsea's away form is hopeless (or hadn't you noticed), when they travel north of Watford they leave their confidence behind (or hadn't you noticed), and Everton are a very good team - consistently the best in the country over the last five seasons outside the top four (or hadn't you noticed that either).

  • Comment number 13.

    You say, "more twist and turns"? And, "the most unpredictable of Premiership seasons"?

    At the start of the season it's probably either Chelsea or Man U that are going to win the title, and that remains so now. What's unpredictable about that? Where are the twist and turns? There aren't any - it's boring, basically.

    How about blogging on the rest of football from time to time Phil? Now that'd be a twist....

  • Comment number 14.

    I have to admire phil for his essentail qulaities....Anybody else would have fallen ages ago.

    Within the space of a week, his views publicly changes.

    From calling Arsene Wegner delusional to actually considering that Arsenal are yet in the title race is a hard pill to swallow...Looks like he has swallowed it quite well..

    I would live it if Arsenal either win the league or champiosn league and Phil has to make a public apology for his comments about Arsene Wegner

  • Comment number 15.

    Such a predictable blog this, Phil, talking about the big stories from the night before. Only joking - getting in first before the usual culprits complain later.

    I agree, it's a great title race and the battle for fourth place promises to be equally as exciting.

    On a (slightly mischievous) side note... five minutes of injury time at Goodison last night, five minutes at Fratton Park the night before, six minutes in one Premiership match at the weekend - why is it that lengthy stoppage time is only ever deemed controversial when its at Old Trafford?

  • Comment number 16.

    'The Premier League's eccentricity this season has been frowned upon by those who believe it betrays a lack of quality and consistency. There is merit in this theory, but the twists and turns more than make up for those accusations.'

    Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. What is enjoyable? For example, Liverpool's comeback against Milan in 2005 was certainly dramatic but had little of the actual quality of the football in the Chelsea Barcelona 4-2 match that same season.

    I generally don't watch foreign football (only so many hours in the day) so I can't really comment on the comparison of quality and consistency as I only see foreign club sides in the Champions League, but as long as long as I enjoy Match of the Day and as long as there are unpredictable results, then I'll happily keep watching.

    By the way Phil, given your disastrous prediction of Liverpool for the title (sorry, had to mention it again) where is your money now?

  • Comment number 17.

    Neither City, Villa nor Spurs convince me at all they can last the course. I think Liverpool will inherit 4th place without having to fight for it at all. All those teams will look back with regret at the end of the season.

  • Comment number 18.

    I dont see how anyone would look at the 2 games over the weekend and take any info from them Phil.. one was a kick and rush affair lacking in controlled football.. the other was a non event where one team controlled the game with early goals and defensive stability..

    The lack of form of Steven Gerrard and another blatant dive in the last minutes against Arsenal should be mentioned.. The guy dives then watches another team mate take a tumble and stops playing so he can shout at the ref... clear display of cheating..

  • Comment number 19.

    Phil, Does your neck not hurt, lurching from one extreme to the other every week? I know my eyes do reading it.

    I'm also surprised you didn't pick up on Mick McCarthy talking about how " anyone can take points from anyone in this league (except Man u away)"??

  • Comment number 20.

    "Drawing quick conclusions is a dangerous occupation."
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Yet this is what I assciate most with your generally reactive and hindsight approach to your writing. Was it nt just last week you finished a piece with "and then there were two"?

    Maybe the penny has dropped at last that a season is decided over more than just a couple of games.

    And whats this "eternal optimist" accusation levelled at Wenger? What decent manager in their right mind would either publically or privately give up when just 6 points adrift?

    Less of the bold predictions, sweeping statements and a bit more perspective would not go amiss.

  • Comment number 21.

    Anyone think Everton could make the top 6?

  • Comment number 22.

    One has to chuckle at the author's ability to illustrate in the best possible way, the ridiculous short-termism of the British media.

    On Monday morning, a scathing rebuke of Arsenal's title aspirations, which reading through the comments, was condemned by the majority as alarmist at best, and anti-Arsenal at worst.
    And now to Thursday, where the Premier League is crazily inpredictable and wide open.

    May i suggest that the point is proved that reactionary blogs are ill-conceived Phil? And looking at my teams next 6 league fixtures (Sunderland, Stoke, Burnley, Hull, West Ham, Birmingham), to write off Arsenal was not a considered analysis.

    PS. Wolves, you made my evening complete.

  • Comment number 23.

    On the contrary, I did not draw a quick conclusion over Arsenal. I have seen them plenty of times this season and am not convinced by them as title contenders. You could argue saying they are back in the title race after beating Liverpool is drawing a quick conclusion also.

    I was expecting plenty of Arsenal supporters to come back at me after this victory, but we can all make our final judgements at the end of the season - and I have no problem with accepting your criticism by the way. As long as it's constructive it is what this forum is all about.

    Someone's got to wear the tin hat so it might as well be me. My head's big enough.

    And yes, just in case I forget to mention it specifically, congratulations to Wolves on a fine victory and doing the double over Spurs. They certainly needed it after losing at Birmingham, but what a disappointment for Harry Redknapp's team.

    Let's hear from West Ham United fans as well please. How important was that win last night? Do you feel Gianfranco Zola has been helped by the early statements from the new owners?

    Any Premier League team or subject you like.

  • Comment number 24.

    "How anyone didn't see that Liverpool were going to loose to Arsenal and that Everton were about the only club capable of Beating Chelsea given the 3:3 draw earlier in the season and the evidence that they are playing far better football now than then, is a bit strange."

    I'm an Arsenal supporter, and after the matches against United and Chelsea, coupled with Liverpool's fine run of form as of late, I definitely didn't see that result coming. I did, however, definitely see Villa taking at least one point from United (I wouldn't have been at all shocked if they'd won, but I was expecting a draw based on their recent results), and I would have been stunned if Chelsea had won at Goodison. Everton should have won at Stamford Bridge AND (I must admit) at the Emirates as well.

    The title race is STILL wide open, and while I think ultimately it will be Chelsea or United who wins it, NEVER write off Arsenal (or any team in their position, for that matter) based on a couple of lacklustre results.

  • Comment number 25.

    If only there was relegation for BBC bloggers, Phil would be a certainty. Inconsistency, blindness that makes Arsene Wenger look like an official UN obsever, ignorance and an unwillingness to admit he's been wrong that would impress a mule....

  • Comment number 26.

    Arsenal this days have Liverpool just as Liverpool has united as soft spots for easing tensions. I don't think Arsenals challenge is for the trophy but for champions league an that's all.

    Just like Liverpool, City and Spurs whom they are struggling with for the top 4 finish, their inconsistency is just about to climax. The trophy is for the top 2 who have shown ability and maturity to win it against all odds.

  • Comment number 27.

    Throw in Arsenal's mini-revival...

    One win is a revival, however mini??? Against the worst Liverpool team for years that were set up to draw and never once tried to win the game??

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    .

  • Comment number 30.

    If you ever leave your post Phil, can my 72 year old Dad fill the vacancy? He doesn't know anything about football either and would like to be able to write complete twaddle every week and get paid for it.

    Let us know mate.

  • Comment number 31.

    Is this blog about the unpredictability of the outcome of games or the football prowess of Rooney?? Over 6 paragraphs devoted to singing his praise in a blog titled "Title race takes more twists".

  • Comment number 32.

    Phil Mc'nulty wrote:

    Chelsea's defeat at Everton may just have transformed this into a point gained.

    Phil forget the 'may' word in this passage. This was most ceratinly a point gained. Even without taking into consideration the Chelsea result, a come-from-behind point at Champions league chasing Aston Villa isn't a bad result, - especially when you've played an hour with 10 men. The fact Chelsea lost, just further cushioned that poiint in cotton-wool and made it feel all the more valuable.

    United are beginning to hit the kind of form, I can only describe as an absolute masterclass. I actually think the team are looking more balanced of late, than any time last season, i.e. the fact we went down to men didn't seem to disrupt our rhythm at all, and to anyone that just nipped out the room for a cuppa, probably wouldn't have noticed United where a man light.

    To me the gulf between the sides was more evident last night than ever, even though the points were shared. I am absloutely convinced United would have had a lot more to deal with, - playing with 10 men for an hour, at perhaps 'the Bridge' or Anfield, which to me just highlights the difference. Villa couldn't capitalise on such an opportunity where as I think liverpool would have which is why I still favour them for fourth.

    All Villa manged to cunjour up in an hour with a man to the good, was a tame Milner shot, and a half-hearted shout for a penalty at the death.

    Ultimately however I am certain Villa would have been content with a point, however I just wonder if not only Villa, but City and Spurs, may regret ambition, or lack of it come the end of the season. However Credit must go to United an absolute phenomenal display to not only match but probbly shade Villa, ceratinly in terms of chances, in my opinion they are the only team who would be able to limit a good Villa side so brilliantly playing with 10 men.

    Sure to spark debate.

    On the other games at the top:

    Arsenal v Liverpool. I believe Arsenal were fortunate. The first half was an absolutely bysmal affair, the only excuse I can think off is both teams, didn't want to give anything anyway, or give the other any signs of encouragement. A stalemate in every sense of the word.

    Second half mor elively, end-to-end, without any cutting edge. Great ball for the goal, very poor defending. I tipped that Arsenal would nick it, with Liverpool losing Carragher, who metaphorically speaking acts as the as the shpepherd in that defence and is left marshalling his 3 inadequate sheep, - Agger, Skrtel, and Insua if you where wondering.

    Everton v Chelsea:

    Always a tricky fixture at Everton, United are there next. Licking my lips as I type! Lol. I feel Everton where well-worth the spoils. Malouda's goal could have been dealt with comfortably, Saha fluffed a penalty, and in general I feel Everton just wanted it more, or so it appeared. Chelsea will argue Terry should have dealt with the long ball, that subsequently Saha scored from, especially as he'dbeen warned 5 minutes prior, but in fairness Saha still had a lot to do and he did it well, however on second viewing I can't hep but feel Cech should have done better.

    So to conclude:

    On a rare midweek night, when all the established top 4 were competing, undoubtedly in my opinion, although Arsenal came out of it with the best result in terms of points, United most ceratinly turned in the best performance of the four.

    Your thoughts?

  • Comment number 33.

    Got to love you Phil. A few weeks back you were questioning O'Neils evaluation of players when he descibed Milner as world class. Now you use his opinion on Wayne Rooney as if it was gospel!

    Thought you were a bit quick to write off Arsenal on Monday as their run in is now much easier than the other two with only 2 teams to play out of the current top 7 and Chelsea and Man utd still to play each other!

    For me it's still Chelsea's title to lose but I didn't fancy them yesterday nor did I expect Man Utd to win at Villa so I guess it shows that the Big Four aren't as dominant away as they used to be. I think this year it will be the away form that determines who wins the league.

  • Comment number 34.

    I agree completely with
    #2 Ketakev

    as i was reading "Drawing quick conclusions is a dangerous occupation." I was thinking... and your one to say this

    Your opinion on us (Arsenal) changes every week Phil!

    I'm not going to say that i was proud of Fabregas' handball, this barca thing is really affecting his football isn't it?, but,
    I am definitely proud of how we played, our defense like a unit, and Gallas and Vermaelen seems to remember that tey were centre backs, not strikers, Eboue should definitely start ahead of Sagna

    what i like most was that we looked bothered, unlike the man united match, we chased down all the loose balls, but what really defined the match for me is when arshavin out-muscled Carra in the first half in our penalty area... Carragher must be a full 10 inches taller than Arshavin

  • Comment number 35.

    23. At 1:19pm on 11 Feb 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:
    On the contrary, I did not draw a quick conclusion over Arsenal. I have seen them plenty of times this season and am not convinced by them as title contenders. You could argue saying they are back in the title race after beating Liverpool is drawing a quick conclusion also.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    No Phil, what you did was completelyy write Arsenal off amidst a rather damning article about them and their manager. Basically saying they had no chance - "and then there were two".

    There was little in the article that offered anything other than the judgements was based on the back of that singular week of football - nothing on judgement formed over a seasons worth of watching. Instead just a reactive piece on men against boys etc and a somewhat self deluded manager. This more than anything else is what rankles people. By all means feel free to dismiss Arsenals chances - I dont think they will win it either. But when you go out of your way to produce a damning indictement of a team and its manager seemingly on the back of a couple of games then you must expect a measure of criticism.

    Man Utd won the league last year having the weakest record against the rest of the top 4 proving that it can be done if you dont drop too many points elsewhere. This season Arsenal may well have the worst record against the other top 4 (won 2, lost 4) but they have not dropped too many points elsewhere in comparison. As you say yourself - its dangerous to draw quick conclusions. You might argue that you dont engage in this but your blogs suggest otherwise.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    Phil Wrote

    The Premier League's eccentricity this season has been frowned upon by those who believe it betrays a lack of quality and consistency,There is merit in this theory


    So when Arsenal win the league Phil you will say it was because of a lack of quality???

    Give me a break

    to be fair Phil you show some nerve coming out with statements like "Drawing quick conclusions is a dangerous occupation" considering that appears to be your occupation!!

  • Comment number 38.

    @21. Everton.. quality team and deserve to be in the top 6... arguably more consistant than Tottenham / Villa... but it all hangs in the uncertainty of the early injuries.. Moyes has definitely deserved to be up there...

    @23. Haha.. I hope you got a bespoke tin hat for christmas ?? They're a lot more comfortable, and with your use it would definitely be worth the extra dollar.. The thing is that chelsea and man U are well capable of handling arsenal, which wasn't necessarily the case a couple of seasons ago, but it's against the other teams that we have been able to do well against this season, and I'd say that last night was much more of a grinding out of a win, with Liverpool trying to play the tactics of sitting back and pouncing on the counter that did manchelsea so many favours... but their discipline and ability aren't up to scratch... there was a moment outside our box in the first half that should have been punished, very similar to Drogba's on Sunday.
    Champions league is going to be incredibly interesting because I don't know how we'll fare against the spanish teams... they won't be using the same 'English style' (?) tactics that we lost so convincingly against this season.. but they might get unstuck by them in the same fashion as we did..

    Plenty of praise for Wolves, but more importantly Zola.. award for the nicest guy in the league ??

  • Comment number 39.


    Interesting blog, Phil. I am surprised you did not spot how terrible Chelsea were defensively. I thought the media darling Terry had a shocker last night but you probably "didn't see it from where you were standing". Good to see it wasn't your less favourite Rio doing this for once.

    Good blog anyway, keep it up.

  • Comment number 40.

    Throw in Arsenal's mini-revival with that win against Liverpool at the Emirates and it was confirmation that the only thing that can be relied upon in the Premier League this season is its unreliability. Drawing quick conclusions is a dangerous occupation.
    --------------------------
    Fair point Phil but I think its been pretty obvious for several months now. Those that ever thought Arsenal were out of the title race with still over 40 points on offer were probably the same ones that thought Manchester United would struggle this season and that Liverpool would be in with a chance of the league title.

  • Comment number 41.

    phil, somehow Im not sure how I feel when u state the casd for Rooney so well. Obviously, you are impressed as we all are... And hope he remains as he is. But this seaon could not have been more thrilling.

  • Comment number 42.

    My instinct is that the Chelsea Man U game will sort it out one way or another. If either side win, the boost could give them the edge. If its a draw expect Chelsea to just shade it because Drogba gets better service than Rooney, but only just, and seems to be in slightly more selfish form than United's new left back!

  • Comment number 43.

    'Night of suprises'? The only real surprise was Wolves beating Spurs, but then most Spurs fans would argue that's not much of one given their well known ability to fall apart when it looks like they might achieve something..

    Chelsea's defeat was no surprise to me having seen the game on Sunday and witnessed a Chelsea side who, far from giving a 'show of strength' looked extremely unbalanced and incapable of maintaining possession. You can talk about the 'counter attack ploy' til the cows come home but if you allow the opposition that much time and space any side with anything up front will take advantage. Unlike Arsenal, Everton don't stand on ceremony and aren't in the least bit shy of getting the ball in the box. They'd been on a good run and this looked to me at least like a tricky game for Chelsea, and so it proved.

    As for Rafa's '4th place guarantee', I believe that's a pretty secure one. He, like most of us who've followed the Premier League this season, can see that their is no-one of sufficient quality to challenge them for it and a Torres-return inspired run of a few wins on the bounce towards the end of the season will secure the CL cash-cow place once more for him.

    Villa are the most frustrating side of all this season. They looked for a while like they might be the ones to break into the top four after wins against the big boys, but they appear to be happy just to be challenging, content with their place, and delighted with a point at home against 10 men when if they'd actually taken a chance and gone for it, 3 points and a double against Man U would have given them and their fans such a boost it could well have been a springboard for greater things. As it is, you can see their season petering out into a struggle for the poisoned chalice that is the Europa League. All because of a lack urgency and, indeed, attacking options at the vital moments...

    For me, no amount of 'twists and turns' can cover up the fact that this is the lowest standard of Premier League fare since it's inception. You only had to look at the Arsenal-Liverpool game last night. Nothing on display their would have made you believe that these were the 3rd and 4th best sides in England.

  • Comment number 44.

    Phil @ #23 wrote: "Let's hear from West Ham United fans as well please."

    I think that's what I was alluding to earlier (#13); if you blogged about other teams a little more often Phil, then perhaps you would get some feedback from other fans too?

    But since you ask - given West Ham have upcoming away games at Man U, Arsenal and Chelski, I think last night's win was vital. Saturday's home game against Hull is a must win too.

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi Phil,

    Arsenal fan here. Much needed victory for us last night. I would say that yes we are still in the title race, but we are playing on the edge. We can't afford any more slip ups if we are to push for the title. Our run in is easier than either Chelsea's or Utd's, but I have got a feeling our away trip to Stoke could be huge banana skin.

    As for 4th place, I am tipping Man City for fourth. I just feel they have a stronger squad than either of their rivals and with the two games in hand over Liverpool I think they are in a very strong position.

    With regards to the Villa-Utd game, it showed that when Villa had a chance to take the game to the opposition they were unable to do so. This was also seen with Everton against Liverpool at the weekend. I think Villa are a quality side, but to be a top four team they are going to have to be more than just a counter attacking team.

  • Comment number 46.

    Where have I changed my opinion on Arsenal? Not sure I can see that. It is exactly the same as it was after Sunday when they lost deservedly at Chelsea. If Arsenal win the league I will be happy to revisit my comments. Until then...

    As I said I can understand the frustrations of the Arsenal fans after two such losses against Manchester United and Chelsea, so I also understand your relief and joy after beating Liverpool.

    To Royalty in the Championship...There is a difference between Martin O'Neill calling James Milner a "great player" and Martin O'Neill saying Wayne Rooney is "one of the best players in the world".

    It is that Milner (and I stress once again that this is not a criticism of Milner because he is a very good player but you raised the point) is not yet a great player whereas Rooney is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world.

    On another point away from the title race. There was another strong anti-Glazer protest from Manchester United fans at Aston Villa last night. The green-and-gold scarves have proved a very effective method of registering concerns and they were out in force again.

    It does not appear to be having any adverse affect on the team, but it does seem to be something that will not go away in a hurry and if anything seems to be gathering strength.

  • Comment number 47.

    "Drawing quick conclusions is a dangerous occupation."

    I hope the Arsenal fans are listening, because they were really not much better than us for much of the game. Short of the move that led to the goal and Gallas' tackle against N'Gog (probably the best last-ditch challenge this season) there was little quality on show. Despite our best efforts to give you ball every two minute, you conspired hand it back more often than not. Webb refused to give clear and deliberate fouls at the end of both halves which could've seen a very different conclusion. But having said that, you weren't great, but you were better than us, and I can't begrudge you that.

    As for Rafa, he was right, to beat Arsenal defend deep and narrow and hit them on the break. It's just a shame we can't counter attack for toffee. A left wing may have helped.

  • Comment number 48.

    Where have I changed my opinion on Arsenal? Not sure I can see that. It is exactly the same as it was after Sunday when they lost deservedly at Chelsea. If Arsenal win the league I will be happy to revisit my comments. Until then...

    As I said I can understand the frustrations of the Arsenal fans after two such losses against Manchester United and Chelsea, so I also understand your relief and joy after beating Liverpool.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Same old mantra. Any criticsm must be from "frustrated" Arsenal fans as opposed to your "frustrating" blogs. I am not an Arsenal fan but simply find your knee jerk reaction blogs to be shortsighted, lacking balance and perspective and completely reactive. If you are going to dismiss Arsenal (or any other team for that matter) then why not try a balanced well thought out blog on it rather than a vindictive blog on the back of a bad week for the team.

    To Royalty in the Championship...There is a difference between Martin O'Neill calling James Milner a "great player" and Martin O'Neill saying Wayne Rooney is "one of the best players in the world".

    It is that Milner (and I stress once again that this is not a criticism of Milner because he is a very good player but you raised the point) is not yet a great player whereas Rooney is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The point is if you dismiss a quote from a manager as being incorrect or exaggerated - such as O'Neills evaluation of Milner and then use the same managers quote on another player as an attempt to reinforce your opinion it lacks a degree of credibility.


  • Comment number 49.

    This year the competition is on a knife edge. ManU and Chelsea are practically level on points after 26 games. Whoever of the two can now manage to win 30 or more points out of the 39 available will take the title. Arsenal may well have been in the picture but for Van Persie's injury. Still they have coped manfully. All three teams have been rocked by unfancied teams from time to time and it can happen just as easily again.

    Avoiding critical injuries to vital components is all the more important now but remains a matter of luck. Rooney is much more vital to his team than say Drogba is to Chelsea.

  • Comment number 50.

    Man Utd will win it again simply because the other teams are not up to it, and that frankly is an indictment of the paucity that is afflicting the teams below them.

    Villa playing against 10 men what a joke. O'Neill got touchy when Wenger threw some verbals at Villa, Utd could have played with 8 and still not really been troubled.

    Spurs - 2 defeats to Wolves, say no more though credit to Wolves.

    Liverpool - as poor a squad as I recall in its recent history

    Arsenal - pretty but not effective enough. Shame because given Portsmouths woes at one end and the debts of Man U at the other , they seem a club well run, I am not an Arsenal fan but wish they could just find it in them to win it for the good of football both on and off the pitch

    Chelsea - you feel they are an accident waiting to happen at the back, Cech and Terry of 2010 are problems and they are too reliant on Drogba

    Utd - Take Rooney out and they are lost

    All in all, not a convincing bunch, added to which given the general paucity in Europe does mediocrity now rule ?

  • Comment number 51.

    First thing Phil, you're right based on the last number of blogs your head certainly is big enough. On the results this season you and the lazy red top hacks (one can only imagine the criteria to become a tabloid sports journalist) are some of the most jaundiced band wagon jumping individuals I have ever come across. Wenger always supports his team and attempts to protect and defend his players and style. As a long suffering Arsenal supporter this annoys me at times but not quite as much as the press cherry picking his (and for that matter many other managers) remarks and taking them completely out of context. On last nights results, Arsenal were lucky to win the game, Clichy has forgotten how to defend and some of the cover play and decision making by Diaby is dreadful. The handball at the end should have resulted in a penalty however as the free kick for the "foul" should never have been awarded justice may have been served, talk about inconsistency, if Bentner was booked for diving why was Gerard even on the pitch at the end of the game?

    I can't see Arsenal winning the title but on the past few weeks results you just don't know. As for Rooney, pure class, his positional sense is awesome, he should be held up as an example to all young players as the standard to be attained for endeavour and workrate, never give up spirit.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    as a villa fan last night was very frustrating, but was exactly what i expected. on any other night a point against manchester united would've been a good result but considering spurs and liverpool dropped points it is now deemed a failure. even against 10 men, i feared a lack of ambition and it was clear for all to see. not looking forward to the carling cup final judging by last nights perfromance.

    completely agree with Steve Huckle, would be refreshing to have something other than the so called top 4 to discuss....

  • Comment number 54.

    43. At 1:53pm on 11 Feb 2010, 4-5-none wrote:
    'Night of suprises'? The only real surprise was Wolves beating Spurs, but then most Spurs fans would argue that's not much of one given their well known ability to fall apart when it looks like they might achieve something..
    ------------------------------------------------------

    4. Liverpool
    5. City
    6. Villa
    7. Everton
    8. Spurs

    :-( *sob*

  • Comment number 55.

    To thecomer...in fairness I would have had trouble seeing John Terry's error from where I was. I was at Villa Park. Saw it on the television though and he was caught out of position twice and punished twice by Louis Saha.

    Arsenal fans are particularly lively on this blog today. Interesting if we hear from the many supporters who were critical of Arsene Wenger after those two defeats. Or was it just me?

    What about the other half of north London? What are we to make of Spurs? A bad night for them in the chase for fourth place.

  • Comment number 56.

    "Drawing quick conclusions is a dangerous occupation."

    Except if you're writing a blog for the BBC i guess, since there are no risks except to your reputation, and thus none for you after backing Liverpool for the title for the Nth season in a row.

    Arsenal lose a couple, they're written off. Now they've beaten the title favourites, and have a run of "easy" games, its back on. Except we know the likes of Hull and the supposed lesser teams will cause them problems. Then it will be all over again, why didn't Wenger buy, cry moar.

    Liverpool, written on, written off, on, off, no chance of 4th, maybe in with a chance of 3rd, no chance of Europe.

    United, will threaten the title leaders, have lost too much ground (but you can never write them off), amazing class and dominance, weak and over reliant on one player (just, a different one player to last season, eh? funny that).

    Chelsea, will struggle without Drogba, don't need Drogba, Terry the hero, Terry the villain.

    It's great that the title and top places are so much more open this year - even United fans have craved that for years. But stop trying to be SSN where everything has to be BIG NEWS, JUDGEMENT DAY, TITLE DECIDER and other such rot.

    If you can't a blog without that, don't write one at all.

  • Comment number 57.

    The green and gold anti-Glazier protest is a brilliant one, I fully support it. My fear is that some supporters are talking about more extreme protests, not violent, but potentially ones which will affect on field performances.

    There has been talks from some quarters that the home game against AC Milan they will have a 'walk-in' protest, getting into the ground ten minutes after the game has started.

    All this would do I feel is affect the performances of the team, they have not done anything wrong and deserve our support.

  • Comment number 58.

    As a united fan the only team i'm goin to praise here are everton! It amazes me how time and time again football pundits, yourself included im afraid phil, fail to notice david moyes's teamsability to beat pretty much anyone on their day! i was shocked at their result at anfield on saturday as i completely expected an everton victory, especialy after liverpool were reduced to 10 men early on. I think it showed their brilliant team spirit to rally together and get a win last night! It wouldnt surprise me to see Donovan as one of the best loan signings of the season, reasonable pace off the mark and good skill, just what everton needed to pair up with the brute force of players like felani and arteta. Make no mistake, david moys knows exactly what hes doing and if the teams around 4th-7th keep dropping points definatly expect everton to be right up there come the end of the season!
    Im dreading our trip to Goodison a week on saturday!
    Oh, and no matter what any arsenal fans say, the title race is a two horse race. there is no way arsenal have the conistancy or mental strength to win it. It has been plainly evident how vulnerable they can be when counter-attacked against, and although no teams in the premiership can match united and chelsea for all over quality, plenty of teams can defend well enough. Although by no stretch of the imagination will it happen every week, teams will defend and counter againt arsenal, it wont always work, arsenals class for the main part will show through, but they will drop points. The league is beyond them yet again im afraid!

  • Comment number 59.

    I love your blogs Phil! Not so much the article (which is sometimes very good, sometimes OK), but the comments you get! Class, and they call you reactionary, hehe!
    So you are "reactionary"? Show me one football supporter who isn't, and I'll show you 10,000 who are!

  • Comment number 60.

    no mention of gerrards world class diving display? bendtner dived and gets booked. gerrards goes unpunished for 3 blatent dives. english players get away with it all the time. another perfect example is darren bent against portsmouth. if that would of been an arsenal player i bet you any thing he would of been booked, but as he's english the defended gets red carded and sunderland get a penalty. carrager (i don't care how it's spelt), another english player who couldn't give a penatly away if he tried. let's not get started on rooney and his love affair with the floor.

    makes me laugh every time arsenal lose a game we're out the title race. let's say the ski/united game ends a draw and we beat wolves on that weekend (pretty likely results). that'll leave us 3 and 4 points behind with another 11 games to be played. yes, we're really out the tile race.

    i also believe wenger's decision to play a B team in the FA cup was correct. we now have a whole week to recover before porto, while chelsea get more tired playing non stop weekend-midweek games.

    people always bang on about arsenal's lack of depth. erm, excuse me we've had worse injury problems than united and chelsea and we're still here fighting for the title. i'd love to how chelsea would cope without drogba for half a season (like van persie). some how i don't think they'd be top of the table right now.

    "Although its all exciting at the moment, this will amount to nothing if, at the end of the season, the top 4 is the same as its been for the last 50 billion years...."

    i don't think the big 4 are going to give up their champions league places just to entertain you and the old excuse of "they only dominate because they spend the most cash" is gone now. city spent 180mill or w/e over the last 18 months, a sum which would have any 'big 4' club accused of "only getting in the top four through cash". i fully expect liverpool to get 4th spot. spurs are dropping so many points vs relagation teams, villa will fall a bit short imo and city have a brutal run in. pretty much all top teams for 2 months. they will fall away.

  • Comment number 61.

    Hi Phil - the green and gold scarves may be a visible way of registering protests, but I doubt it's effective. The Glazer family didn't become such successful businessmen by running away from a crowd of people waving scarves in the air. I doubt they hardly notice.

    It will take a lot more than that to dislodge them - such as a half empty stadium every week, a huge boycott of brand goods and a serious takeover bid.

  • Comment number 62.

    "55. At 2:28pm on 11 Feb 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:
    What about the other half of north London? What are we to make of Spurs? A bad night for them in the chase for fourth place."

    If it didn't take so long to get a comment published on this blog you'd have the answer to that already. What's going on? Has someone phoned in a text based terror threat to the BBC?

  • Comment number 63.

    Phil, I see you STILL aren't willing to say anything positive about Wolves - or perhaps just to say anything at all about Wolves! Have you decided we aren't worth mentioning just as a matter of policy?

    ....and this stubbornness of yours about refusing to admit your major volte-face about Arsenal is almost laughable. You'd make Jack Straw proud!

  • Comment number 64.

    I'd have thought the only people really happy with the flurry of green and yellow scarves at Old Trafford are those who run the Norwich City Supporters Shop.

  • Comment number 65.

    To MrBlueBurns...I am keeping my money in my pocket thanks. As a wise man once said, he who makes "disastrous" predictions and backs them with cash ends up skint.

    Liverpool fan pidgeGULL says Arsenal were not much better than Rafael Benitez's side. Is this true? For both sides it was all about winning at the Emirates and Arsenal got the job done.

  • Comment number 66.

    23. At 1:19pm on 11 Feb 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    Let's hear from West Ham United fans as well please. How important was that win last night? Do you feel Gianfranco Zola has been helped by the early statements from the new owners?..


    1, Phil, do you really need West Ham supporters to tell you how important three points are, not only to West Ham, but to every team in the division? I thought not.....


    2, Sullivan made some comments about the troubles he had uncovered with the clubs finances and some suggestions as to how they could be solved.

    Zola told Sullivan in no uncertain terms that he was not pleased with the timing of those comments.

    Sullivan agreed that the timing could have been better and said that he respected Zola's opinion and comments.

    I know this is not worthy of selling newspapers or getting tens of thousands logging into a blog site, but it is what happened. Nobody cares what I think about it, nobody cares what you think about it, (yes really, it is true) people are not hanging on your every word.

    It is the type of thing that can happen at any club, except Chelsea of course, when their owner says jump, the only response is, how high boss.



    Some West Ham supporters like myself are reluctant to post on your blog site because of your over zealous moderators....I posted my last 'moderated out' contribution to your blog site on various football related sites and received some interesting replies, some agreeing with my points, some not, but none complaining about the post....

    Your moderating team might like to consider allowing constructive criticism, rather than just claiming to allow it.

    I suppose I have just wasted more time on a BBC site, never mind, hopefully the moderators will read it before dumping it...

  • Comment number 67.

    You'll forgive people for doubting your conclusions Phil, after all you tipped Liverpool for the league and raved about Owen being the signing of the season!

  • Comment number 68.

    The title debate could rage on for a long time.

    However, one thing I think is unquestionable is that right now Wayne Rooney is the best player in the world. At this moment in time, I see no-one, including Messi and Ronaldo, showing the consistency he is (allowing for Ronaldo's ban).

    We'll still not win the World Cup though and I have a horrible feeling his injury free run could haunt us as Junes approaches....

  • Comment number 69.

    "On the contrary, I did not draw a quick conclusion over Arsenal. I have seen them plenty of times this season and am not convinced by them as title contenders. You could argue saying they are back in the title race after beating Liverpool is drawing a quick conclusion also."

    My god, you have to be, in fact, the WORST journalist I have ever seen on this site! First of all, yest you did draw a quick conclusion over Arsenal. You remember "and then there were two"? Do you remember saying this or not after one game Phil? We didn't even know the Chelsea result at that stage! Just one example in a host of others and you are trying to lie about it now. I don't care if you admit it or not Phil, but there is a certain lack of class in your journalism that lowers the BBC and epitomises everything that is wrong with the British media.

    You are harping on about Rooney again as you have been all season and bigging and hyping him up for the world cup. You would almost think he is the best striker in the world the way you and the media go on. Its an apple with a rotten core every english team that goes to a world cup and actually looks like a good team.

    And Phil, "any topic you like"? I wouldn't take to you about any other matter outside the top 4 because you never report on this news and I suspect this is because you don't know much about football otherwise.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 47.

    Agree... Our passing was all over the shop, but am still ecstatic about the win.. was absolutely crucial. Though the calls for a penalty are a bit off.. he was outside the box wasn't he? Also it was right at his head, not like it was hanign losely away from the body.. but obviously could have been given so was lucky with that...
    though given Stevie G's attitude recently... he's definitely gone down a few pegs in my book.. and that's after he started practising for the Diving events in 2012... but i think his performances add to his frustration ..
    http://www.castrolfootball.com/rankings/rankings/player/702/S.%20Gerrard

    what a nose dive !!! .. though I wish they did team scores for a match, that way you could see what each team actually deserved.

  • Comment number 71.

    @sevenseaman - "Arsenal may well have been in the picture but for Van Persie's injury."

    -------------------------------------------------

    I just don't buy that.

    You could just as easily say that Chelsea would have been further ahead with Joe Cole fit from the start of the season and Man United could have been ahead with Owen Hargreaves fit.

    Similarly, the African Nations Cup robbed Chelsea of important players, United have had Rio Ferdinand out for a long period and Van Der Sar was at home in Holland nursing his wife for a month.

    The Van Persie point (and Rosicky if anyone mentions him) is eradicated by the fact that the top teams have had important players missing.

  • Comment number 72.

    "You could argue saying they are back in the title race after beating Liverpool is drawing a quick conclusion also. "

    I don't think people are drawing a quick conclusion based on one game, in fact I think the point of it is that Arsenal were never out of the title race as people were so eager to suggest on Monday.

    Having watched this season Arsenal have appeared to be more clinical in dispatching with the teams in the lower reaches of the league, where as Chelsea and United have sometimes struggled a little, particularly away from home. They have also now completed their games against the traditional top 4, which leaves them with a more comfortable run in.

    In a one off game you would fancy Chelsea to steam roller Arsenal and United to also dispatch them, however a league isn't won and lost over 4 fixtures, there are 34 others to worry about!

    In saying that I don't think they will win it, I backed Chelsea at the start and stand by that, but they have a much better chance than others seem to give them.

    I also think that fourth spot is City's to lose. All they need to do is improve their away form and they'll walk it. Fortunately for them they have 8 home and only 6 away left to go. Liverpool look like a team in disarray. I really enjoyed the derby on Saturday but at no point would you have thought that Liverpool were a good side. Spurs and Villa can both play good football, but they lack the necessary consistency. Without Lennon Spurs lack the cutting edge and Villa just aren't clinical or creative enough up front which is shown by their return of just 32 goals.

    Try using some actual analysis in your blogs Phil, rather than just drawing quick conclusions. I know I'm being harsh but your blogs typify tabloid media and I'd expect better from the BBC's Chief Football Writer.

    Pleased to see a West Ham win, although I like what McLeish is doing at Brum.

  • Comment number 73.

    Jesus Phil gets alot of abuse, I don't always agree with everything he says, but I think if most of these posters who are slagging him off put their opinions on a blog just as many people would be having a go at them!

    Phil I don't know where these gunners come from, they always pop out now and again when we lose a game and have a pop at wenger, I think there a minority though. I think the vast majority of us though still give him our whole hearted support because we know what he has done for the club. To be honest I think the margins between winning and losing are quite thin when your competing with teams like united and chelsea, and of course the top clubs in the champions league. All these fans want there teams to win but not everyone can, people just want instant success, im sure ours is coming though.

  • Comment number 74.

    "Chelsea - you feel they are an accident waiting to happen at the back, Cech and Terry of 2010 are problems and they are too reliant on Drogba

    Utd - Take Rooney out and they are lost "

    Seriously, I mean, seriously!?!

    How did Chelsea do without Drogba during the ACoN? Last year United relied completley on Ronaldo (apparently), this year it's Rooney. If Rooney was unavailable, someone else would step up. You can't keep using the same tired excuses. If you take the best player out of a team, the work get's shared around the others that remain.

    The only team reliant entirely on one player is Liverpool, and that player is Torres not Gerrard. Look how they've crumbled without him.

  • Comment number 75.

    How can we have a discussion here. The only post I can read from 51 to 72 are two from McNulty.

    Wake up mods, is reading something new to you?

  • Comment number 76.

    The moderation time on this blog is a joke!!!

  • Comment number 77.

    Yikes Phil... I'll draw a quick conclusion now and assume that some Arsenal fans will not read my post before lambasting me. :P

  • Comment number 78.

    P.S. Sorry I didn't notice your acknowledgement of Wolves' fine victory last night! Well done!

    P.P.S. See, it isn't that difficult to admit that you've made a mistake....... If I can do it, why can't you? Does the BBC Bloggers' code of practice say 'never admit to a mistake'?



  • Comment number 79.

    Afternoon.

    Great evening of football last night. Always like to see Chelsea lose and having had a soft spot for Everton for as long as I can remember I was happy to see them deservedly beat the egos. Terry was awful, he always has been pretty average and last week I invited people to highlight a match winning or saving performance in a game of importance for Chelsea or England. None were put forward.

    Phil, you wrote off Arsenal and that has well and truly come back to haunt you, much to my satisfaction. I really hope they can push on and go on another unbeaten run, people are saying they have the easier run in but unfortunately Arsenal are liable to get beaten away from home against a physical side eg Stoke.

    Utd although gained a point on Chelsea last night probably felt they should of got all three. It was a great performance especially after having Nani sent off, it seemed to galvanise them. If Arsenal can't do it then I hope Utd can finish strongly like they usually do and win the league.

    ANYONE BUT CHELSEA

  • Comment number 80.

    a few more slip ups from the others that dont seem like they want to come 4th and everton will be in the race for 4th.

  • Comment number 81.

    I am writing on behalf of fellow bloggers, however obviously the point I'm about to mention will affect the time it will take for you to be able to read my comment but so be it.

    Stuz359 commented at 2.31 (14.31), and at 3.05 (15.05) on my my computer) he is still having his comment moderated. Absloutely ridiculious.

    This is your job, okay you could argue I shouldn't be spending my working day participating in a football blog, but joking aside, I think the blog should be changed to the format of Robbo's blogs, where comments are moderated after they are posted, because lets face it, the majority of posters comments are perfectly acceptable to be viewed.

  • Comment number 82.

    'alwayslastpicked'

    And they still have to come to OT too!

  • Comment number 83.

    @ 56 ... But stop trying to be SSN ...

    If it's going to be SSN... at least have the celebrity watch .. otherwise I agree.

  • Comment number 84.

    Phil

    I'm a Gooner and even I can see that all the flak is a bit over the top. The issue you highlighted before about Arsenal being vulnerable to a counter attack when they were attacking at a corner is valid. They bring the centre backs forward to get a head on the ball. I do not know why Wenger has not changed his tactics on this, but equally why haven't other opponents made more of this? It had not occurred to me that the Arsenal players were small, and that the lack of height could be a problem.

    By all accounts the game last night was poor and Arsenal did enough, but Wenger will be pleased that the team slugged it out - the last 10 days will have weighed heavily on the squad. My own theory is that Arsenal tend to do better on pitches that are not water logged, so they can play what the BBC sports team on 5 Live call "pretty football". Is it just me, but every time Grham taylor says it, is there just a hint of envy?

    To all the othe bloggers here carping on at Phil, note that Phil extends the courtesy of replying to your posts which makes this blog a bit special and makes it more interactive and interesting. Very few other blogs on the BBC have such an interaction, so good on you Phil.

  • Comment number 85.

    60. At 2:35pm on 11 Feb 2010, Magic_Arsenal wrote:

    people always bang on about arsenal's lack of depth. erm, excuse me we've had worse injury problems than united and chelsea and we're still here fighting for the title.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Get a grip lad. Our defensive injuries have been beyond a joke. We had every defender in our squad bar one unavailable for two games. Remember Carrick and Fletcher in at CB? How can you say you've had worse injury problems than us?

  • Comment number 86.

    #13:

    Agree with you. Twists and turns? I've seen more twists and turns in a ruler. Same old top 4, Manure and Chelski vying for top spot and rest fighting for the scraps. Jeez, it's like groundhog day only more boring. Oh, and by the way, my team is in the top 4 - YAWN!!!!

  • Comment number 87.

    @60.
    If English players get away with diving all the time then maybe its time Arsenal got some in?

  • Comment number 88.

    Amazing Phil and his kick in the balls to Arsenal again. How can you say that we are not in the running? 6 points seems like a mountain to climb but we clawed back 11 points to sit at the top of the table (very briefly).

    As your good friend Asrene has said, consistency is the key. take a note of out his book there Phil, you are losing creditability.

    PS - who do you actually support? Man U no doubt?

  • Comment number 89.

    Good blog Phil. I have to say that if United, for any reason, lost Rooney(fingers crossed that doesn't happen) it would seriously dent their title chances. I just can't see Berbatov and Owen producing the same sort of magic Rooney conjures week in week out. I'm not saying that Berba and Owen aren't good players but they're too inconsistent.

    As a United fan I'm over the moon that Wayne is in such fine form, but also as an England fan I'm a little worried that all the strains of the season may take its toll and could well affect England's chances of winning the World Cup. I hope this is not the case.

    I think at United we need another world class striker, perhaps David Villa? Do you think that United can continue playing just one of their three strikers on a regular basis, surely at this rate Rooney will have to retire at the age of 28! Let me know who you think.

    Cheers Phil

  • Comment number 90.

    How exactly is there meant to be any kind of discussion on this blog when the most recent comment I can see to reply to was submitted almost an hour ago and I have no idea what the 18 user comments posted between then and now say?

  • Comment number 91.

    Magic_arsenal - Agree with your assesment of Gerrard. Dives all the time along with many other english players like Rooney etc, but it hardly gets highlighted. When you consider the whole eduardo fuss and the amount people talked about ronaldo diving its just not right. Eduardo will struggle to ever get a penatly again now! Not saying its ok that he should dive but just that english players should be treated the same. Especially when Rooney comes out and says he is an honest player that never dives.

    On the injury front we have had pretty bad luck the last few years, and id like to see how united would cope with rooney out for the season, which is the equivelent to what we had with RVP out. However I have to say united have had pretty bad luck with injuries this season in the defensive department and coped with it. Although I suppose its fair to say we always seem to suffer long term injuries to our important players.

  • Comment number 92.

    Im a West Ham fan and was really impressed with our performance last night, we are still in big trouble in my view and playing Man U, Chelski and the gonners over the next 4 games will see what this squad, manager and owners are made of, i never wanted Zola but he has won me over, Sulivan and Gold should keep quiet and do everything they can to help Zola not discourage the manager and the squad!?

    Phil who are your teams to go down..? do you think west ham have enough to stay up bearing in mind our squad was 10 times better the year we did go down?

  • Comment number 93.

    Number 3. Where's the ambition in the 'Pools 4-5-1

  • Comment number 94.

    Are the moderators napping, if not, why is it taking so long to get comments up, it is ruining the blog.

  • Comment number 95.

    Phil, as always I thought a very good well balanced blog. Just to slightly balance some of the rubbish on here, I always tend to enjoy your stuff and realise it must be hard to write articles to suit everyone.

    To all the scathing Arsenal fans, I notice a lot of you talking about being judged for how good you have been over the last few seasons. As an impartial fan (I support Newcastle, sad I know), you have been very dissapointing this season and only seem to play well against bad opposition. While I realise that these are the types of games you must win to be Champions, you can not hide behind them when the level of football you play simply isn't as high as it used to be. I do think you will be in the top 4, but please lets not criticise a journalist for telling the truth.

  • Comment number 96.

    #65 Phil

    Fairplay. I'm not a betting man either so I'm not going to stick my neck out.

    All I will say is that Chelsea attracted some criticism during December and they got caught out last night. Despite that and whatever people have said, it is still Chelsea's to lose from their vantage point at the top of the table. I'll settle for that. :-)

  • Comment number 97.

    I beleive it is so obvious Man United will win the league.

    With the inevitable suspensions/injuries kicking in from a long season United will win it with the quality/depth of their squad, i.e Owen/Giggs/Scholes/ etc who can all come off the bench and win the game. Chelsea simply don't have as strong a squad.

    The fear of losing the 3 year winners experience combined with the lack of negative influences e.g Jung si Park not sleeping with Edwin Van der Sars wife will ensure the team spirit and confidence is maintained.

    Chelsea will also falter away from home (at home they appear to be unbeatable), notably at Old Trafford. I can see United winning the title by 5-6 points.

  • Comment number 98.

    66. At 2:47pm on 11 Feb 2010, mambo wrote:
    Let's hear from West Ham United fans as well please. How important was that win last night? Do you feel Gianfranco Zola has been helped by the early statements from the new owners?..


    1, Phil, do you really need West Ham supporters to tell you how important three points are, not only to West Ham, but to every team in the division? I thought not.....

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    You are an angry man! The blog is here to be read, if you don't like it don't read it mate. Simple. Maybe read something else like Heat magazine, you big jessy!

  • Comment number 99.

    Firstly, why is everyone having a go at Phil for his opinions on Arsenal? I'm afraid I can't recall a time when he's ever backed Arsenal for the title! I don't see what's wrong with looking at a team being convincingly beaten by their title rivals and saying that they don't look up to the task! Also what's wrong with admitting that, now within 6 points of the top, they could be considered by some to be back in the title race. At no point has Phil 'lurched from one extreme to the other' in regard to Arsenal...he's pretty consistantly said he doesn't think thy can win the league.

    Phil: Rafa's comments about being the better team made me laugh...i seem to remember people jumping all over Wenger for quoting possession stats etc! Bottom line (and i hate to agree with Ballack) is that the result is the most important thing, and we managed to salvage a win from a near disasterous week. I'm a passionate gooner and my biggest criticisim of Wenger for a few years now has been our inability to get results without playing well. Nobody wants to sound like Hanson but that's what wins championships.

    "Although its all exciting at the moment, this will amount to nothing if, at the end of the season, the top 4 is the same as its been for the last 50 billion years...."
    Well all can say to that is that the 'big four' are the 'big four' for a reason, and that reason's the ability to finish off a season strongly and consistantly...I don't think any of the pretenders have shown nearly enough to seriously expect to finish in the 'promised land' as it were.

  • Comment number 100.

    Us Spurs fan haven't been overly optimistic about our chances of making fourth spot all season. The competition is incredibly strong this year and we're too inconsistent.

    I've always had the feeling that Liverpool will go on a strong run when Torres returns, and that they will get fourth. However, Man City are level on points with two games in hand, so it will certainly be close.

    I think Spurs and Villa will slug it out for sixth and seventh, although this may be academic as it is likely that seventh will be good enough for a European spot (depending upon who wins the FA Cup).


    Magic_Arsenal:
    If Phil didn't mention Bendtner diving, why should he mention Gerrard doing the same? Also, Bent clipped his own heels by accident. Not a penalty, but not a dive.

 

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