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Fat Tottenham, Lazy Liverpool and Sloppy Arsenal – Saturday Review



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What is with the press and Tottenham’s “weight problem”?

I think it’s a convenient target for those confused between their desire to see Tottenham break into the Big 3 and the results they see on the pitch. No doubt that Tottenham have a talented bunch of young footballers, but is it really that big a difference from Jol to Ramos?

The way they’ve portrayed it (Tottenham having lost 50 kilos and needing to lose 50 more), it’s as if Martin Jol force-fed them corn syrup and double-glazed doughnuts all day and instead of any tactical training or physical exercise, Tottenham training sessions consisted of watching TV and drinking beer. Jol wasn’t a top-four manager, but he wasn’t that bad either.

Liverpool poised at the edge of the abyss

Not literally, but it’s a sinking feeling going into a Champions League 2nd Round game with the best team in Italy and your whole season riding on those two legs. Liverpool still have to make up ground in the Premier League as well, and after tonight’s defeat at the hands of Barnsley (I’d laugh but United have made a habit of losing to lower-league opposition in recent years so I can’t really say much) Rafa Benitez will need everything he has in his locker to take Liverpool to a strong finish this season.

Last year Liverpool played Barcelona at this stage and over an enthralling 180 minutes, Barcelona self-destructed and left Liverpool with a date with PSV Eindhoven and then with Chelsea, a contest Liverpool always seem to be up for. This year, they face Internazionale and I doubt that they’ll turn over as limply as Barcelona did.

Whether Rafa can get Liverpool players to rise as they tend to do against Chelsea and Milan still remains to be seen. If he can manage it, there still might be something left in this season for Liverpool fans.

Sloppy, Sloppy Arsenal

How do you explain tonight’s performance at Old Trafford? The ref didn’t cheat them, the opposition beat them with football instead of two-footed lunges and flying kicks and they couldn’t really blame lady luck because they never got in a position to ask the questions from van der Sar. Arsenal, in a nutshell, came to Old Trafford to be beaten. By the end of the first half it looked as if the players could not comprehend what was happening to them, that they felt absolutely powerless to do anything about it.

United fans at Old Trafford (and around the world) expected a backlash in the second half, but nothing came. I understand that with the injuries and the punishing schedule that English football creates, Arsenal’s priority was the Champions League and the Premier League but here you have the league leaders going up against one of their fiercest rivals who themselves are after the same two prizes. The difference was not just in depth but also in mental strength – and Arsenal lacked it dearly.

They’ll bounce back again but it will worry Wenger that their two worst defeats so far this season have come against their two most-hated rivals. An away-day defeat like this either in the Premier League or the Champions League could derail their season completely, and Arsenal must focus from now on.