On the seventh day of Gheorghe-mas, Big Gheorghe gave to me...
Seven Football Stories
Six Bits Worth Reviving
Five Awesome Gifts
Four Smokin' Rock Chicks
Three Blogging Concepts (Sports, Drinking, Elitism)
Two Footie Stories
And a Doofus on a Pony
Yes, we're hitting you up with more football talk. We will focus on EPL action here, as recent events in league play have set the stage for a fascinating Spring in 2012. So without further ado, let's kick it off.
1) The Big 4 is Now the Big 7. The Big 4 have seen some newcomers infringe on their turf at the top of the league tables, and while the title chase appears to be a two-horse race with the Manchester clubs, spots 3-7 remain very competitive. It seemed to be a given that Manchester City was going to run away with the league title, but a 2-1 loss to Chelsea in an intense match ten days ago has shifted momentum. Manchester City, with 44 points, leads Manchester United by two points as we near the halfway part of the season. A quintet of clubs trails them, hoping to climb into the Top 4 to qualify for next year's Champions League. They are Tottenham (34 pts), Chelsea (32), Arsenal (32), Liverpool (30) and Newcastle (27).
2) Spurs Is for Real. So is Newcastle. The biggest surprises of the season have been Tottenham and Newcastle. Spurs have been aided by ageless American keeper Brad Friedel, while Newcastle has seemed to scrape and claw their way through every match, rediscovering their swagger in their second season back in the EPL after being relegated a few years back. They have fallen back a bit of late, but their cool uniforms make them worthy of inclusion.
3) The Return of Landon (Calrissean) Donovan. Landon will be loaned out to Everton again for two months, after a successful stint there in 2010. Everton could sneak up into the top 8 of the standings if Donovan can provide the horsepower on offense to compliment Tim Howard.
4) Will Manchester United Sure Up Their Midfield? The Red Devils have been struggling to put the ball into the net for much of the year. The center midfield position has been an especially weak spot, forcing Sir Alex Ferguson to play Wayne Rooney in more of a midfield role. Michael Carrick is serviceable but not great, Phil Jones is a natural wing player and Darren Fletcher is suffering from a "chronic inflammatory bowel condition" called ulcerative colitis. Sounds unfun. So let's cross our fingers that the Glazers can pony up some casheesh to bring in a talented player during the January transfer window.
5) Will Manchester City's Team of All-Stars and Lunatics Implode the Squad? Since my last post on Manchester City on Day Two of Gheorghe-mas, the team has not disappointed me. Model-banging striker Mario Balotelli got into a fight with teammate Micah Richards at practice. Practice!? We talking 'bout practice. Practice. The club is dealing with the situation by increasing the height of its fences at its training field so the media can't see the dysfunction firsthand. For the record, I wouldn't mess with Micah Richards. Dude looks like he can whoop some ass. But then again, if I was a 20 year-old Ferrari driving multimillionaire, I might do it.
6) The Fall (And Subsequent Rise) of Arsenal. Arsenal shat the bed pretty fiercely out of the gate this Fall, starting the season 1-3-1, which included an 8-2 arse-whooping loss to Manchester United and a 4-3 loss to feeble Blackburn. However, the team has pulled it together since then, going 9-2-1 in its subsequent twelve matches to climb into a 4th place tie with Chelsea.
7) Sports Appetizer This Afternoon. We have a great weekend of NFL and NBA action ahead of us, but you can start your sports viewing this long weekend by watching Spurs-Chelsea at 3 PM. Go get some.
Bonus footage: Ruud van Nistlerooy highlight clip. Mr. van Nistlerooy was a prolific Dutch striker who played for Man U for six years earlier this decade, and then for Real Madrid for four more years. His skills were almost as awesome as his name is, so we are including a clip of him. I admire this clip poster's fandom, if not his grammatical skills.