29 April 2006

Prem Falls Into Focus

Lots of news in the Premiership today. First, I feel honor-bound to offer my congratulations to Chelsea, who won the Premiership with a 3-0 defeat over Manchester United. Chelsea are not my favorite team in any way, and I certainly don't enjoy their style of play. But I have to give them full credit for their back-to-back titles. Around Christmas it seemed they'd have the league title in March, and it's good to see that they're no longer such a juggernaut as they were in 2005. Yet still they have done more than enough to win the title, and securing it with a 3-0 win over their closest rivals only underscores that fact.

However it may be a costly afternoon for England. Wayne Rooney left injured in the second half, and he was clearly in a lot of pain. It's difficult to see what the injury was, but my uneducated guess at this stage would be either a severe ankle sprain or a broken foot. If it's the latter, then there's a major chance that he will miss the World Cup, an absence that England can hardly afford. In addition, John Terry was in obvious distress through much of the match, and near the end could scarcely kick a ball. Terry should have come off in the first half, or at the interval at least. Clearly he didn't want to go, but it's the manager's job to make the right long-term decisions, and Mourinho didn't in this case. Perhaps it's only a short-term thing, but I'm sure that Sven-Goran Eriksson is anxiously awaiting the reports on two of his key players.

Meanwhile, the other end of the table also solidified. Portsmouth beat Wigan 2-1 to ensure their survival, dooming Birmingham and West Brom in the process. I'm pleased for Pompey, as they play an inviting game that deserves to be in the Prem. However I would rather have seen another manager at the helm. Not being English, I can't understand the Harry Redknapp fascination, and his dodgy Portsmouth-Southampton-Portsmouth saga left me cheering for him to take another team down, hopefully destroying his 'great escape' myth in the process. It was not to be. But Pompey are always good for a game, so I won't be sad to see them in the Prem again in the fall.

And finally, it's farewell to Alan Curbishley, who is quitting the helm at Charlton after nearly fifteen years. He's a class act and a good guy, but Charlton frankly could use a shakeup. Since winning promotion in 2000, they've finished as follows: 9th, 14th, 12th, 7th, and 11th, and they'll find themselves somewhere similar this year. Charlton are a team stuck in the middle, consistently staying clear of relegation while never really threatening to become a Premiership power. It's fine as far as it goes, but it smacks of stagnation and fresh ideas are called for.

The sad part is that a manager such as Curbishley is a serious candidate for the England managerial vacancy. Don't get me wrong; Curbishley has done a respectable job with a tiny budget. But he's also not done anything worthy of acclaim. I would even understand bringing in a new, unproven talent like Stuart Pearce, but with so much Prem experience you can't expect Curbishley to surprise anyone. Of course, the FA have really made a dog's breakfast of the whole selection process, and clearly they're almost to the point of picking someone -- anyone -- just so they can end the circus.

So a big match for Arsenal fans tomorrow, as Tottenham host Bolton. It's the biggest chance for Spurs to drop points in the remaining matches. Even a draw would give Arsenal hope. Bolton still have a thin chance at a UEFA Cup place, so it should be a hard-fought game. So let's see the Wanderers win one, followed by an Arsenal victory over Sunderland on Monday.

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