Torres, Megson, and a relegation scrap
Another week, another need for a Torres goal. It’s an obvious statement, but it’s starting to show. Of Spain’s 180 minutes of European Championship qualifying action this week, Fernando has played just 45 minutes, coming on as a second half substitute. He has started to receive criticism in Spain for his drought in England.
The Spaniard has had games against Blackpool, Fulham, and two against FC Copenhagen and not scored. Chelsea only scored their two goals in their last outing against Manchester City after Torres had come off the pitch, and that will be worrying for Carlo Ancelotti.
I calculate that Torres has gone 498 minutes without a goal for Chelsea, but Wayne Rooney had a period for Manchester United earlier in the season where he scored one goal in 893 minutes, and that was an 87th minute penalty. But pressure builds, and pressure builds. One thing is for sure: Stoke won’t make it easy for El Nino.
Strange time for Wolves. They have improved immeasurably in their last six games, and even in playing Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United within this period have picked up 11 points. And yet even in a tight Premier League, they remain in the relegation zone.
The worst news possible for Wolves is the injury to Kevin Doyle. Doyle is the one Wolves player (possibly Jarvis aside) who would not look out of place at a top four club. He may only have nine goals and three assists, but this accounts for 37% of Wolves’ Premier League goals.
A trip to an out of form Newcastle at St James’ provides an opportunity, but it would have been a lot easier with the Irishman leading the line.
The international period could not have gone much better for Villa fans. Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Darren Bent all impressed on England duty, surely giving them some much needed confidence for what is now officially a relegation battle at club level.
But it wasn’t necessarily great for Monsieur Houllier. In fact, without managing a game, his reputation has further diminished. Because seeing Ashley Young et al performing so well simply raises the evident question as to why Villa are in such a mess. Improvements are needed, or we may see Rafa Benitez back in the Premier League sharpish.
I probably do treat Gary Megson badly after his haunting spell as Nottingham Forest manager, but it really is not a good managerial record:
Norwich City: 19% games won
West Brom: 42%
Nottm Forest: 29%
Sheff Wed: 15%
So in the last six years, Megson has only won 27% of his games as a manager. When he was appointed as Sheffield Wednesday manager, I shuddered for the club. But here was a sleeping giant. They had slipped to 12th in League One, seven points off the playoffs. Since then they have played five home league games, and taken a single point. They sit 18 points of the playoffs, and just four points off an unthinkable relegation zone.
Another home game this weekend. Is Megson going to fail again? And more to the point, if he does will he keep getting employed?
I’ll state it now: Wigan will go down. This is nothing to do with the whole football town rugby town argument or the lack of support for a Premier League club. But just look at Wigan’s remaining games. They have two away wins all season, and yet of their seven fixtures, only two are at the JJB.
Wigan have to play Chelsea and Blackpool in their next three games (losing the corresponding fixtures 10-0), but this weekend they face Tottenham. In true to form, you don’t know what to expect when the two sides meet: their last four results against Spurs have been won 1-0, lost 3-0, lost 9-1, won 1-0. Wigan need a win, but in truth it may not be enough.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the Premier League (and there are many) is that the biggest games consistently fail to impress. An exciting, incident-filled ninety minutes is the exception rather than the rule. It is perhaps one reason why refereeing decisions become so high-profile.
On the continent, however, things seem to be different. And in terms of epic continental derbies, it doesn’t a whole lot bigger than the Derby della Madonnina.
The two Milan sides go into the game occupying the top two positions in the league, with just two points separating them. If Inter can win, it will be an astonishing turnaround under coach Leonardo, the ex-Milan boss.