Lots of games this weekend with some meaning to them for the title and relegation races. Chelsea play first, hosting West Ham with the chance to go 1 point clear of United at the top of the table. With only 6 points dividing the folks in the relegation zone West Ham are going to be desperate to get something from their game. West Ham are no Wolves, they will be playing their first team and flying in hard on the Chelsea boys so, that one could be a real tense match, with lots of chances for Scott Parker to injure someone.
After that, Arsenal travel to Hull on the Phil Brown special, to face foot of the table Hull City FC. While Hull’s home record is poor, having won 5, drawn 5, and lost 3 with 18 GF and 20 GA, they love to think of themselves as Arsenal killers. They fancy themselves the team which “got up Arsenal’s noses” that one time back two years ago when Geovanni scored one of his rare goals for Hull. The reality is that an unfocused and over-confident Arsenal side let a team coached by a used car salesman get 3 points off them.
After that, Hull devolved into a team which makes unfounded accusations about spitting and tells lies about Arsene Wenger not shaking hands or fancies themselves as fashion consultants for the opposition’s bench. No matter what happens, you expect Hull’s manager, Phil Orange, to go on the radio and give an incendiary interview post match. He’s done it every time the two sides meet, with the accusations from that side growing ever more desperate as each match passes.
It’s no small wonder either, what with Phil being an acolyte of Sam “I hate Rafa” Allardyce. These two men are so petty and so full of delusion they actually think that the press are taking them seriously when they hold their press conferences. But the truth is, this is all they have in the relegation battle. They don’t have the ability to keep their teams together, reports are that Hull players are fighting each other in public, so they manufacture outrage as a means of “geeing up” their team. With Allardyce, he’s probably non-stop talking about “showing Benitez” what the team can do. And with Brown he’ll probably have Stephen Hunt on one of those collars like that Jet Li movie “Unleashed” and he’ll whisper “Arsenal, get ‘em boy” in his ear before letting him off the collar.
This is one of those games, which I highlighted before, where the team could come out and actually injure someone through their deliberate fouling tactic. Stephen Hunt in particular needs someone to watch over him as he has a reputation for targeting keepers with wild challenges. The good news is that Hunt might not be available because he has something wrong with his foot. That should make Andre Marriner’s job in the referee seat slightly easier, though Craig Fagan is returning from suspension and in the last match he’s the one who set things off.
For Arsenal’s part we’ll be missing Cesc (the boss describes the chance that Cesc will return as .05%) and Rosicky faces a late fitness test but the rest of the team from the Porto match has recovered well. This means that Sol Campbell might play two games in a week and buck my prediction that he isn’t up for it. Sagna is a late fitness test because of an ankle knock but it’s not serious and Eboue is in fine form so no matter what happens that position is covered.
An interesting stat from the BBC match preview says that “Arsenal have scored more goals in the last 10 minutes of league games than any other Premier League side (14), while Hull have conceded more than any other top-flight team (13).” If I were in England and could have a punt, I might put a £5-er on that.
Even if Chelsea win their early game, Arsenal could still go top for a day based on goal differential — not that I’m predicting Arsenal will blow out Hull, I wouldn’t jinx them like that.
On Sunday, Man U will have a real opportunity to get back in the lead with a game against a Fulham team who played a hard fought game against Juve yesterday while Man U have an extra day of rest after their stroll in the park against AC Milan. Fulham are dead middle of the pack and have no chance of either getting into Europe or making the drop so I don’t expect much of a fight from them. The game is at Old Trafford and you could see a really puke-inducing score line, if I’m to be honest.
The Arsenal match kicks off at 9:30am our time and is on Fox Soccer Channel here in the States. I don’t think I’ll do a liveblog tomorrow, because the last time I did a liveblog Ryan Shawcross broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg and I just don’t want to do that again quite yet — especially as we’re facing an increasingly desperate and delusional Hull side. That said, I will put up a thread so you all can comment, I know how you like to do that!
Anyway, I know I didn’t post my top 11 list yesterday, I got side-tracked enjoying my last day off before I go back to work. I do have some articles scheduled for later today, maybe the top 11 list will be there? You’ll have to wait and see!