Posts Tagged ‘Sunderland’

The Six Pointer – Wounded Challenges, Slippery Slides & more…

07/03/2011

1. Liverpool convincingly dealt with Man Utd yesterday and Dirk Kuyt will never, ever score an easier hat-trick. It was very surprising to see Fergie start with Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in central midfield – recent history has normally seen him go with three in the middle in big matches in an attempt to gain control and stop the opposition playing.

Neither Scholes nor Carrick are particularly energetic or mobile in the way Darren Fletcher is, but with the Scotsman left on the bench after his shift against Chelsea (he can only do one big game a week)  it meant United were unable to gain a foothold on the game.

As you can see in the Chalkboards below, between them they won only one tackle and the likes of Meireles would consistently run or pass around them.

Only one interception between them too.

The decision to give Carrick a new contract during the week was greeted with some derision but at the same time I don’t think Ferguson considers him a first choice player. He’s not bad against weaker sides and he has long been found out against the best – playing him yesterday was more out of necessity than want.

Still, with his continued mediocrity, Scholes’ potential retirement, Fletcher’s one game a week effectiveness and Hargreaves and Anderson’s consistent injury problems, Man Utd’s midfield will certainly need some work in the summer.

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2. Yesterday’s match could have easily seen two red cards, and probably should have. Carragher went in high on Nani and created quite the wound (see below) while Rafael was similarly lucky to stay on the pitch following his wild lunge on Lucas. There is something to be said for a referee to take into account the situation and the context, but really Phil Dowd made errors in giving both players just a yellow.

Red drawn, yellow given.

Interestingly, Rafael is developing quite a reputation as someone who may not have the temperament (or indeed the positional sense) to go with his natural talent.

A red card would have meant his third in under a year, while he was nowhere near where he should have been when Suarez tip-toed through the United defence for the opener.

Recently Ferguson has seemed to prefer someone more dependable in tough matches, with Rafael being omitted against Man City, Chelsea and Marseilles. It will intriguing to see when the Brazilian next plays again, I imagine he might find himself out of the team for a few weeks.

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3. In the context of yesterday’s result, it is difficult to say whether Arsenal’s draw against Sunderland is a point gained or more likely two points dropped.

Wenger’s team have struggled in recent seasons against Sunderland having won only one of the last six games, so it was always going to be tricky without out several players and against one of the best defences outside the top five.

Wenger had a similar problem to Fergie in that first choice midfielders weren’t available so he was forced to play Denilson and Diaby alongside Wilshere. They can usually get away with one of those in the team but having to play both meant it was one of those days where the team struggled to get going, Wilshere unable to do all the tempo setting himself.

The weight of the other two on his shoulders...

Sunderland were lucky to get away with Bramble clearly fouling Arshavin in the box and a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside but having said that they also had their moments and drew a couple of very smart stops out of Szczesny.

I would think that once Aaron Ramsey has a bit more fitness under his belt, he will swiftly move ahead of Denilson and Diaby in the pecking order. He might not have the same experience but he makes things happen, and in a game like Saturday’s and indeed for the run in, that could be priceless.

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4. Momentum at this stage of the season is key so it’s fascinating to see who is making a move at the bottom end of the table.

Just nine points separate ninth place Newcastle from bottom placed Wigan but realistically it’s looking like everyone from Blackburn downwards are the ones who should be worried.

Things are swiftly grouping together for a climatic last few games and as the old cliché goes, a couple of wins and “you’re right back in the mix” (© every pundit going).

I’m willing to condemn Wigan already to be honest, they’re tough to beat but they don’t win many either. As I’ve written here many times before, draws can be rather useless at times and a team like Blackpool who either win or lose has a far better shot and getting the points needed to stay up.

Almost good enough, but not quite.

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5. Of the teams not in that bottom group, Stoke are looking a little vulnerable. They’ve won just one of their last seven and still have to play four of the top five. They seem to have a slightly resigned air about them at the moment – certainly away from home where they’ve lost their last six (and not even scored in the last five).

The earlier point about momentum is key – they face Newcastle, Spurs and Chelsea next. Fail to win the first one and you could be looking at mid-April before they are favourites in a match, by which time they could be in a much more serious position.

I do think they should be ok, given the cushion they have, but it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see them need something against Wigan on the last day.

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6. Jermain Defoe has only just scored his first league goals in a year. If he fulfils Harry Redknapp’s wish and gets to ten by the end of the season, then it will go a long way to ensuring Spurs finish in the top four again. As it is, the lack of a striker in double figures for 2010/11 may be what costs them. Van der Vaart’s ten goals should complement not lead.

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Asamoah Gyan

23/11/2010

A tricky theme in this week’s Guardian photoshop challenge – Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan. The main two options seemed to be a pun on lawnmowers or some kind of Strictly Come Dancing effort following his goal celebrations with Bolo Zenden. Never one for the obvious (unless strapped for time…) I went for this:

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If Obama's presidency is anything to go by then we have the initial euphoria of Sunderland finding themselves a previously unknown hero. This is followed by mid-season flirtations with the idea that occasional right winger Frazier Campbell is a better option, before culminating in the eventual realisation that Gyan is the best way forward...

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Catchy caption as I’m sure you’ll agree. More here.

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T.

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Archive.

Weekly Photoshop – Stuart Attwell

05/10/2010

SUCCESS! Everyone’s favourite referee is this week’s theme. Stuart Attwell has been involved in more controversies than Nigel De Jong has made dirty tackles.

The most recent was getting a free kick being taken confused with a player passing back to a keeper allowing him to take it in the Sunderland Liverpool game a week or so ago.

Having seen him first hand make loads of poor decisions when watching Arsenal v Bolton earlier this season, I definitely think the guy is well out of his depth. Anyway, the entry below won 2nd place this week. Huzzah, it’s been a while!

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Though originally classified as a comedy, Attwell is now considered by some critics to be one of Shakespeare's problem referees...

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More here.

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T.

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Archive.

Season Previews 2010/11 – How They’ll Finish

13/08/2010

Based on all the predictions written, here’s how I see the Premier League finishing up in May.

  1. Man Utd
  2. Arsenal
  3. Chelsea
  4. Man City
  5. Liverpool
  6. Tottenham
  7. Everton
  8. Fulham
  9. Aston Villa
  10. Stoke
  11. Blackburn
  12. Birmingham
  13. Bolton
  14. Sunderland
  15. Wolves
  16. West Ham
  17. Newcastle
  18. Wigan
  19. West Brom
  20. Blackpool

A few more thoughts. I think the top four are quite interchangeable though Man City won’t win it. It depends what other business is done before the end of the transfer window – you get the feeling the Milner deal will get a few things going.

I reckon Liverpool, Everton and Spurs are all capable of sneaking fourth spot. With the former two it depends on how fit their first choice teams stay throughout the season while Spurs could maybe go as high as third but it relies on them coping with two competitions at once. I’m sure they’ll sign one or two more players but are waiting to see if they beat Young Boys in the qualifier.

With Martin O’Neill leaving Aston Villa will drop down the table. It doesn’t matter who they get in to replace him, they won’t come ahead of those top seven teams. I have Fulham a little high on reflection. I should probably swap them with Villa. If they lose Schwarzer and get an injury or two, it remains to be seen whether Hughes can keep them going. With the signing of Kenwyne Jones Stoke might push on an extra place or two. I genuinely wonder if they have any players under 6ft beyond Tuncay and Etherington!

Going down to about 15th/16th you can mix and match. Bolton could shock a few people, while West Ham have one of the more talented spines of teams at that level. Birmingham could really struggle if Foster doesn’t live up to Hart’s performances last season and Zigic doesn’t perform but all in all the teams in this section should be ok.

For me there are just the four clear relegation candidates, though you could perhaps chuck Wolves in there too. Maybe I’ll revisit this once the transfer window shuts, as things should be a bit clearer by then.

T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Sunderland

10/08/2010

Sunderland

Last Season: 13th

New Signings: Angeleri, Mignolet, Bramble, Mensah, Riveros, Al-Muhammadi

Key Player: Darren Bent

One To Watch: Jordan Henderson

Needs A Big Year: Kenwyne Jones

Would Quite Like: Long unbeaten runs rather than long runs without beating. Remain ahead the Magpies.

Steve Bruce reveals how many Twitter followers he has. Darren Bent not impressed.

Prediction: 14th

Thoughts: Sunderland started off very well last season before enduring a horrible 14 game run without a win. They recovered towards the end of the season but it felt like they underachieved somewhat. Darren Bent was predictably excellent with 24 goals and Steve Bruce will be looking to him to produce similar numbers.

The surprise departure of captain Lorik Cana after just one season leaves quite a big hole in central midfield so the hope is Lee Cattermole will have a less injury truncated season this time round. Bramble is a decent addition in central defence – let’s not forget it was Steve Bruce who got him to a consistent level, while Jordan Henderson will want to continue making an impression.

Kenwyne Jones needs to rediscover the form that saw him linked with big money moves to the likes of Spurs and Liverpool. It’s hard to know what to predict for Sunderland – the teams between 9th and 14th are all very even in terms of ability I’d say. The high turnover of players at the Stadium of Light means it might be another season towards the bottom end of the group.

T.

Season Predictions 09/10 – How They Turned Out

31/05/2010

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I’m still in two minds about whether to do season reviews for each club – to be honest I’m in World Cup mode now. Perhaps I’ll still get round to it though.

Back in August I played a mug’s game and tried to predict how everyone would finish. Here’s what actually happened:

'Expert' predictions...

Looking at the results showed I got just three clubs spot on: Man City in 5th and basement dwellers Hull and Pompey taking the bottom two places. In my defence I was only one place out with six other clubs but really this table looks like what it is, rubbish punditry.

I think if Gareth Southgate and Garth Crooks had a bastard lovechild it would look something like this predictions table (enjoy those nightmare thoughts kids).

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In terms of the thinking, I had found it really tricky to split the top three when writing pre-season predictions. My loyalties to Arsenal may have played a part in placing them second while I couldn’t bear to predict Chelsea as Champions even though deep down I knew they had retained the most strength over the summer.

A similar scenario led to placing Spurs 7th – I was hardly going to predict them a Champions League spot was I?! I underestimated Liverpool’s decline and overestimated Sunderland’s improvement.

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The biggest mistake was Birmingham, a full nine places out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who had them down to struggle. Fair play to Alex McLeish (who I had as first sacking!), he brilliantly led them to a top half finish.

The bottom half was slightly better predicted clubs wise, if not positions wise. The dearth of quality is such that it’s pot luck as to where the likes of Bolton and Wigan finish. I got three of the bottom four right and on another day would have predicted Burnley to come in 18th not 17th.

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In terms of the cups and other stuff it went like this:

And I thought the league prediction was bad...

Oh dear. Only Bayern Munich correct and I suppose West Brom for promotion. If the Premier League table was the Southgate/Crooks lovechild then this is the resulting mess when said lovechild had a threesome with Alan Shearer and Jamie Redknapp. I literally couldn’t do any worse at being a pundit. Like I said at the beginning, it’s time for the World Cup…

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T.

The Six Pointer – Cheap Managers, Poor Teams & more…

15/03/2010

1. While most teams tend to roll over at Old Trafford, you occasionally harbour hope for someone to pull a surprise. Fulham however are not one of those teams (in contrast to their good home record against Fergie’s side) and Saturday was another comprehensive defeat thanks in no small part to Master Rooney again.

The last six seasons has seen Man Utd P6, W6, F18, A3 vs Fulham at home while Rooney now has 32 for the season and a maximum of 13 games to beat Ronaldo’s 42 in 2007/08. Next week sees a big game vs Liverpool but given the way Rafa Benitez’s team is playing, I don’t see anything other than a Man Utd win.

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2. Drogba didn’t do much but scored twice. Chelsea not at their best but won 4-1. Just another regular day at the office at Stamford Bridge. With three easy home games left (plus a tough one vs Villa), whether they win the title will come down to whether they can improve that shaky away form.

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3. At this stage of the season it’s all about wins, by whatever means necessary. Arsenal left it very late to beat Hull, but as 7amkickoff pointed out, it was somewhat inevitable given Hull have conceded the most last-minute goals this season while Arsenal have scored the most. Given that Hull were down to ten men after George Boateng’s red card (more on that in a mo) it was no surprise Nicklas Bendtner bundled in a flapped save from Boaz Myhill with 92 minutes on the clock.

It was a fair result all things considered as Wenger’s side were in control for the majority of the game, Hull’s only shot on target coming from Bullard’s penalty that should never have been.

The officiating was particularly poor in this game and helped make it more a struggle then it should have been. Firstly, Vennegor of Hesselink was a clear yard offside when Campbell climbed all over his back and Phil Brown is spouting his usual nonsense if he thinks that was a clear goalscoring opportunity – the only reason the Dutchman was ahead of Sol was because he started offside.

Watch me get you booked.

Secondly, the persistent fouling from Hull was allowed to go on for far too long. Boateng was booked for poking Bendtner in the eye while Bendtner was mysteriously booked for being poked in the eye by Boateng. Odd one that. Dean Marney (I think) somehow escaped a yellow for a filthy sliding tackle on the touchline while Boateng was then sent off for a second yellow after a hatchet job on Sagna’s knee.

Quite how that wasn’t a straight red I’ll never know, but at least he won’t be able to appeal it. Oh and before anyone says he isn’t, Boateng is a bit of a dirty player – this was his second red card in a month. He also got sent off twice on 06/07.

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4. Phil Brown, you can’t say it hasn’t been coming. Perhaps it was time to part ways at the end of last season, with Brown having kept them up (solely because Newcastle were so inept) but having lost the dressing room following that team talk. As it happened Hull persevered with him into this season and the result has been another struggle.

To be fair to Brown he did what he could considering the resources available to him but given there has been more than one long winless run this season the timing of his departure is a little strange. Eight games to go does not leave an awful lot of time for a successor to make their mark but luckily Hull are currently just three points from safety.

Brian Laws Burnley

Cheap.

The interesting thing will be whether they do a Burnley and bring in a cheap Championship level manager in anticipation of relegation or spend that little bit more on someone quality who can keep them up and then push on next season.

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5. Does anyone want 4th spot? Spurs are winning the games they need to for now but I still think it will all unravel when they face the three title challengers in consecutive weeks in April. Man City are too inconsistent under Mancini while Aston Villa are doing their best to throw it away. They in particular have probably the most settled team and experience from last season yet seem reluctant to risk going for victories in tight games. In their last nine they’ve drawn 0-0 four times. Gambling on extra attack to force a win in just two of those games would have yielded more points even if they’d lost the other two. Something to consider going into their last ten.

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6. If Sunderland hadn’t conceded any of their goals in the last-minute, they would be riding high on 41 points and not worrying about relegation. After a start which promised so much, it appears more rebuilding work will be needed in the summer by Steve Bruce.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Five Goals, Six Draws & more…

23/11/2009

1. Amazing to think that you can score five goals in a game and there can still be a debate over whether you were man of the match. Aaron Lennon’s performance against Wigan ensured that Defoe didn’t come away with all the plaudits, his sparkling play from the right playing a big part in at least half the goals.

Defoe meanwhile became just the third player to score five in a game in the Premier League era and notched the second fastest hat trick after Robbie Fowler’s four and a half minute wonder against Arsenal many years ago. I’ve mentioned in recent weeks that he needed to watch his temper and just concentrate on his football, and with performances like that there’s no chance of him not going to South Africa. Lennon too did his case no harm, and on current form is far and away the best option when it comes to tricky small winger.

Spurs’ goal difference enjoyed a big boost in terms of chasing Arsenal, while they are beginning to take advantage of Man City, Liverpool and Aston Villa’s inconsistency to open a little gap over those three. They face one of their rivals next week in Aston Villa but should have nothing to fear the way they are playing.

As for Wigan the best you can say is that it’s just one game. These sorts of results can have a lasting effect, especially if you go behind in a game. It will be up to Roberto Martinez to ensure it remains a one off.

Jermain Defoe five goals Aaron Lennon

High five, we're going to South Africa!

 

2. Would Phil Brown be fearing for his job if Jimmy Bullard hadn’t got injured in his first game after signing? His performances in the last couple of games suggest that may have been the case. A win over Stoke and a fightback from two goals down to draw against West Ham possibly indicates an improvement in fortune for the men at the KC. Even Tango Man himself seems to be less in the spotlight than usual.

Bullard may have dodgy knees but he has an enthusiasm for the game that few players can match and his energy and creative play have got Hull scoring some goals again. They have a tough run coming up with three well organised teams in Everton, Man City and Aston Villa. Ok maybe not Man City but still! I’m pretty sure Geovanni isn’t injured and he appears to have lost his place to Bullard but I would be interested to see them both in the same team. Part of Hull’s success last year was to be brave, so maybe playing both together would have the same effect this year.

 

3. Before Arsenal get completely written off for losing against Sunderland (who have drawn with Man Utd and beaten Liverpool), let’s not forget that the key game is next week against Chelsea. Defeat would leave an 11 point gap; a win would leave it at just five with a game in hand. This defeat does render next weekend rather important if a title challenged is to be maintained. The lack of focal point without van Persie (and Bendtner) was a concern but it was in midfield where Sunderland won, with Cana stopping Fabregas and his teammates from creating many chances.

In addition to this, a set play was once again Arsenal’s outdoing at the back with Darren Bent reacting quickest after the initial ball had not been dealt with (déjà vu anyone?) While such defensive frailties are a long-term malaise, Arsene Wenger must ensure that his patched up squad is mentally right for the Chelsea game. Win it and two easier home games against Bolton and Stoke follow and momentum can be formed. Lose it and another frustrating season could be on the cards.

Robin van Persie horse placenta

Pin the placenta on the van Persie.

 

4. They were impressive but it was only Wolves at home. Chelsea’s next two tests are the altogether tougher visits to the Emirates and Eastlands. Let’s see how the keenly the absences of Lampard and Drogba are felt then.

 

5. Liverpool and Man City played out a draw which leaves neither going anywhere fast. Man City have now drawn six on the spin which has stagnated them after a promising start. Just one win in eight games fro Mark Hughes’ side. A Hull side winless away from the KC provides the best possible opportunity to end that run next weekend.

Liverpool have one win in six but their habit of winning games they don’t lose (Saturday was just their second draw) means they’re still in a good position. The pretenders to the top four ideally want a gap going into the spring as if Gerrard and Torres are fit for the run in, I know who I’d back to get the last Champions League spot.

 

6. David Dunn is scored his fourth goal in six games and is playing the best football of his career. Someone left a comment asking what chance an England call for the Blackburn man. While I think he’s bit of a luxury and probably not quite international quality, there’s no doubting there are few more in form midfielders playing at the moment.

david dunn balckburn

Quite good these days.

 

T.

The Six Pointer – Spurs spanked, Benitez beaten again & more…

02/11/2009

That was the weekend that was…

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1. Robbie Keane will feel like the biggest mug after his supposedly superior Spurs squad got turned over with ease by the Gunners. Old twitchy eyes may have seen the result coming, as he went in to the game without arguably his best two players in Luka Modric and Jermaine Defoe. Nevertheless, Arsenal have their own injury concerns but showed the gulf in class. Early on it seemed that Spurs were getting all the luck, as David Bentley unbelievably managed to avoid even a booking for a rash and dangerous challenge on Vermaelen. They even managed to hold their own in midfield against Arsenal’s fluid 4-3-3. However, Arsenal were knocking on the proverbial door and only a super save from Gomes, aka rubber arms, kept it 0-0. Song made an awesome challenge at the other end to deny the bullshitter himself, Robbie Keane.

Wenger happy, Wenger dance

The game was effectively over the space of two minutes (42nd and 43rd) as Van Persie profited from some lazy defending to volley Arsenal into the lead. Then straight from kick off Spurs inexplicably gave away the ball and Cesc Fabregas went on a great run which ended in a sublime finish past Gomes. A comical third was put away by van Persie, as Arsenal profited from confusion over a foul on Diaby and a blunder by Gomes.

Such was Arsenal’s dominance that Eduardo even managed to waste two chances you would normally put money on him taking. It was a good overall team performance from Wenger’s men, with the two centre halves looking comfortable, penetration from the full backs and clinical finishing. the only disappointment was Arshavin’s limp display.

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2. Liverpool failed to follow-up their redemptive display against United. Fulham outplayed them and exposed Liverpool’s growing defensive weakness. everyone is focused, perhaps rightly so, on the injuries suffered by Gerrard and Torres. However, it is their fragility at the back which should be their main concern. Carragher was finally punished with the red he should have got against United and all-in-all, Benitez has simply failed to maintain an organised defence. Where he has allowed the likes of Johnson, Insua and Degen to provide an attacking threat, the lack of shape has been exposed. Bobby ‘I love to miss sitters’ Zamora even managed to profit, which has made me think. What is worse, conceding a goal to a beach ball or to Bobby Zamora? I think it has to be the latter.

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3. Top class Chelsea destroyed Bolton. OK, the Blues’ Carling Cup team had already disposed them in mid-week and it was 0-0 on Saturday until JLloyd Samuel deservedly got sent off. But Chelsea showed some classy football, with Drogba, Anelka, Lampard and Deco clicking in a way that reminded me of Arsenal when they had the Vieira, Pires, Henry and Bergkamp combo.  The pick of the bunch was the fourth, well taken goal  by Drogba. Phenomenal build up. Deco’s was quite special as well. If Ancelotti can sort out the Blues’ defensive frailties away from home, they should power their way to the title.

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4. Have Pompey finally turned round their season? Well, a convincing 4-0 victory against an in-form Wigan side was a good place to start. It is obvious that Pompey will ship a lot of goals but the ability to score them, especially at home, will ultimately keep you up. In Aruna Dindane and Piquionne, Paul Hart has genuine pace and quality in front of goal. Question remains whether they are consistent enough.

Aruna power

My name is Aruna, I am here to save Pompey with my golden boot.

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5. Man City drew for the third game in succession at Birmingham. Both sides had decent chances but it was Shay Given’s penalty save from James McFadden that ensured City got a point. Whilst it is impressive that Mark Hughes has only suffered that sole defeat at Old Trafford, it is the draws that can cost you (ask Wenger about his team two seasons ago). Lucky that he has a banker at home against Burnley next Saturday.

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6. Little Gorgon-Zola mustn’t have been able to believe his luck, as his lads raced into an impressive 2-0 lead at the Stadium of Light through Franco and Carlton Cole. Although fatty Reid pulled one back with a top-notch free kick, it still looked good for the Hammers as Kenwyne Jones was sent off for pushing over Herita Illunga. In a complete reversal of their heroics against Arsenal, West Ham surrendered two points when Darren Bent set up Kieran Richardson for the equaliser. All in all a point at Sunderland is a good result considering the form of Bruce’s team. However, Zola’s nice guy managerial style simply doesn’t seem to achieve the right results.

You may be wondering why Manchester United weren’t covered in this week’s Six Pointer. Well it was such a routine Old Trafford win that it wasn’t worth mentioning other than Berbatov had one of his best games yet for United.

Until next week!

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P.

Weekly Photoshop – Beachballgate

29/10/2009

After all the fuss and furore surrounding Darren Bent’s the beachball’s winner against Liverpool, it was inevitable that this would be the theme in this week’s Guardian Photoshop comp. As we all know, it shouldn’t have been given, which makes it all the more funnier that it was! Lots of different things you could do – I went for a slightly leftfield entry as you can see below.

Liverpool beach ball

Seeing as there's seemingly no problem with inflatables being on the pitch, Rafa's taken the opportunity to increase the much maligned squad depth at Liverpool with a few bargain signings.

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Plenty more entries can be found in the rest of the gallery here.

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T.

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