Football in a Winter wonderland

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Blackburn Rovers v Bolton Wanderers - Ewood Park

Michael Foster

Michael Foster

Ah snow! We all secretly love it don’t we? Just ignore the frantic squealing of the media, the groans of BMW drivers befuddled by a gentle incline covered by slush, and the cries of mothers wondering how on earth they’ll have time to bake a quiche when their kids want to be outside sledging when their schools have shut. But nothing beats a good old kick about where you end up kicking more white powder than you do a ball. It’s particularly entertaining to see how the professional game copes as the temperature plummets, particularly as this is the time of year title challenges, European qualification and relegation scraps start to heat up.

Who knows whether Sir Alex is rueing his insistence for the game at White Hart Lane to go ahead? And who knows whether his comments about the referee will see him receive the same treatment that Sam Allardyce did? What is for certain is that for vast portions of the game United were outplayed by a resurgent and organised Spurs, who now are beginning to blossom under Villas-Boas. In the sort of conditions you’d normally see in a Dickensian novel, an attacking minded Spurs came up against a Man United team who seem to have remembered how to defend. Van Persie didn’t need much invitation when, with the grace and agility of a bouncing gazelle, he headed in the opening goal. From then on Spurs never gave up, when in the past they would have certainly done. The fact they beat United at their own game, namely scoring a very late goal, is testament to their new found confidence that has seen them retain fourth place in the league.

It was a surprising statistic to think that before the game Man United had accrued a total number of points after 22 games greater than any other time in their premier league history. That stands out because they have never looked unbeatable at any time this season. But they have been consistent, and preyed on a league full of weakening teams. Manchester City are now their only credible threat, yet their Mancunian rivals have never resembled the team that won the league in such style last year. With that in mind Spurs have done incredibly well to take four points from a foe that has a tendency to thump them. They can reflect on the emergence not of Gareth Bale, but of Aaron Lennon, for that. No longer is the right winger a one trick ‘Look-at-me-run-really-fast’ pony. He has learnt to cross the ball, as well as move inside and pick out pin point passes for the front line (which Defoe, Dempsey and the temporarily absent Adebayor still seem to regularly miss. Putting away chances is still a real concern for Spurs). It is a shame that all the focus is on media darlings Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott, because this season Lennon has been almost as influential as either of them.

Speaking of Theo Walcott, his contract signing saga might be over, but he’s going to have to up his game if Arsenal are going to sneak back into the top four again. Arsenal VS Chelsea was billed as the battle of the London giants. But currently these are giants more prone to falling down the beanstalk as opposed to baking their opponent’s bones into bread. Arsenal are utterly unpredictable, capable of hammering opponents one game and then imploding in the next. Could be worse, they could be as unpredictable as Chelsea, who go from world beaters to awful within a matter of minutes. Chelsea were terrific in the first half, lucky to get given a penalty yes but their dominance deserved a two goal lead.

But this is a Chelsea team that threw away a two goal lead to relegation threatened Southampton. And before you could say frosty the snowman it nearly happened again here. No amount of money spent on Ba, or on haircuts for Torres, will count for squat if they can’t see out games. The unpredictability of these two teams will certainly be their downfall if they fail to meet their targets this season. Man United, Man City and even Spurs and Everton have been a lot more consistent in recent months. Arsenal in particular has reason to be worried. If they don’t get Champion’s League football this season they could end up like Liverpool, a decent team with plenty of bite but doomed to a shift in mid-table.
At least Spurs fans saw the funny side last Sunday, pelting various United players with snowballs like they were in a feel good Christmas film. Many others involved in football wouldn’t have taken much cheer from the snowy weather. But could be worse, they could be playing for Aston Villa.

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