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The EPL – Ince not Keane to Follow Roy’s Example
By Steve MacClare
December 7, 2008


Paul Ince

     As we approach the busy festive season, it’s time to take a look at the current situation in the English Premier League. 

     Surprisingly for many, Liverpool have maintained their challenge although two recent results have cast doubt on their ability to be clinical in those must-win games. An impressive 1-3 win at struggling Blackburn came on the heels of 0-0 draws when Fulham and then West Ham visited in November. Those were four vital points dropped and allowed Chelsea to make up their ground when Liverpool won at Stamford Bridge. Bad results as they were, they completed a run of four home games for Liverpool without conceding a goal, with Marseille and West Brom being the other visitors to leave Anfield with nothing. 

     Chelsea’s pursuit ran afoul when two Robin van Persie goals overturned a 1-0 deficit to take the London derby 2-1 for Arsenal. Chelsea recovered to beat Bolton this weekend but all the buzz is about new manager Phil Scolari’s, inability to win the big games. They’ve lost to both Liverpool and Arsenal, and drawn with Manchester United. They were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Burnley, and were beaten 3-1 by Roma in the Champions League. A 1-1 draw in Bordeaux in the same competition was unimpressive too. Their away record has been their saviour with an incredible eight wins out of eight, scoring 21 goals and conceding just one. 

     Looming over them all are champions Manchester United. The goals have been flying in with 28 in their last 12 league games, and the 1-0 win over managerless Sunderland, while more of a struggle than was expected, leaves them just six points behind Liverpool with a game in hand. What’s more their ‘big’ games have all been the away legs with visits to Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal completed. They now have the big three to come at Old Trafford in the second half of the season. Even recent points dropped have been at Everton And Aston Villa, which a title-winning team can probably handle comfortably in a title-winning season. Their only negative prospect might be a fixture pile-up. They have the club world cup to look forward to in Tokyo which means they will fall further behind in their league program, and if this is compiled with injuries to key players, a few extra points may be dropped. 

     Arsenal continue to blow hot and cold. They beat Wigan on Saturday and were distinctly average in doing so, but the week before they were far more impressive in their 2-1 win at Chelsea. They are hard to predict which makes writing about them difficult without risking looking a fool in later months. So let’s talk about Fulham instead. 

     Earlier in the season, many of my fellow “experts” predicted them to be relegation certainties. However with key striker Andy Johnson now fit and scoring goals (four in the last seven games) and with the underrated midfield powerhouse Jimmy Bullard leading the charge, they have managed to haul themselves up the league to ninth, based mainly on their home form. No-one except Man United have won more home games. Their away form however continues to be drastic with no away wins, a feat only matched by Newcastle and Stoke. 

     On Humberside, Hull’s dream season continues though. With 26 points in 16 games, Phil Brown’s team have exceeded all expectations and are surely only five or six wins from early safety, especially given the logjam that lies behind them. 

     Most of the remaining interest lies at the doom end of the table where giants (in their own minds at least) Newcastle continue to struggle. Joe Kinnear appears to have quieted the tumult at St James Park, but conceding a 2-0 lead at home to Stoke shows how fragile they are, and they have now gone five games without a win. Ab Faye equalized for Stoke a minute into injury time and in doing so prevented Newcastle leapfrogging over Stoke. They remain level on points with local rivals Sunderland and just out of the relegation zone on goal difference. Beneath them in the drop zone lie Blackburn Rovers and West Brom. Paul Ince is quoted in the BBC as having been ‘boosted by his team’s display’ but the board at Blackburn may be less boosted by the league table. Ince may be about to follow Roy Keane as the EPL’s latest managerial casualty if they lose the Lancashire derby at Wigan next week. 

     Well that’s all for this week. We’ll be hoping to have some big news on Sounders FC’s new manager next week and will be taking in the Hinrunde (first half) of the German Bundesliga before the New Year.

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© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited




© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited