Premier League Thoughts: Blackpool Blow it, West Ham Finally Perform, Berbatov Wakes Up For A Game

27 November 2010

Owen Coyle wasn't happy early, but he was happy late as Bolton came back to draw Blackpool 2-2. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Bolton have been a joy to watch this season. I know that's not exactly an earth shattering statement, but it can't be emphasized enough. However, the question isn't how much fun their football has been to watch, but how much fight this side now has. The one thing about Bolton that I feel hasn't gotten enough attention this season was their fightback. They don't know when they're down. Against Birmingham City earlier this season, they came back from a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2. And again today, they did the exact same thing.

Today, Bolton should have been done and dusted down 2-0. Blackpool were creating plenty of chances to kill the game off, but failing to put anything on frame. Once Petrov pulled one back with 20 to play, you just knew that Blackpool would wilt again. Bolton's equalizer exemplified the football they have played all season: short passes in and around the 18 with a run from midfield finishing the move. Even with Blackpool camping 8 behind the ball, they couldn't do a thing to stop it. It shouldn't be a surprise though; it was the fifth time that's happened this season.

We all know Blackpool love to attack thanks to Ian Holloway. After being one of the more negative managers tactically, he said screw it with this Blackpool side, and it shows. About the only team who has been more open than Bolton this season has been this Blackpool bunch. With their 90 minute attack like your life depends on it policy, it's been attractive on the eyes, and even pleasant on the points table, but it's also cost them as well.

With quotes like "I believe that playing like that will get us more points than it loses us", it makes me wonder if Blackpool will survive the season. Already in 15 games, Blackpool have dropped 8 points from winning or drawing positions this season (dropping two points in games with Fulham, Everton, and Bolton, while dropping one point in games with Blackburn and Aston Villa). Sure they have 19 points right now, but when they face opponents a second time around, they are not going to have it as easy as they have up until this point. Unless Ian Holloway spends just a little time on defensive lines, Blackpool will end up in the Championship. It would be a pity as we wouldn't get to see the football they play, but they'd only have themselves to blame for not defending better. While it's more realistic they stay up this season, with Blackpool's defending, that's still not a guarantee.

Other thoughts on games I've seen today.

* There was a brief moment of 'here we go again' when Arsenal saw Aston Villa pull one back early to start the second half, but Aston Villa don't have the talent Tottenham do. Even at 3-2, I never felt for a second Villa would come back. While Houllier is still trying to find out which players fit his system, it's just apparent that the team just isn't as strong as they have been over the last couple of years.

* West Ham United looked dead and buried for the better part of the opening half hour in their game against Wigan. However, once they took the lead, it was Wigan that looked devoid of ideas. While this is a nice mental win for West Ham, they have two tough matches to come, traveling to Sunderland and hosting Manchester City. It could quickly be another case of one step forward, three steps back.

* Blackburn Rovers were a joke today. Honestly, Blackburn Rovers would have been turned over by Dover Athletic or York City (non league winners in the FA Cup 2nd Round Proper). Berbatov's five goals maybe forgotten by Monday morning, but he was sensational. While Wayne Rooney didn't have to do much, he did set up Park well for the second goal. What's the most impressive about this result is that it now erases the goal differential Chelsea had.

What are your thoughts on the games on Saturday? Let us know in the comments below.

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Intemperate Thoughts: ESPN Spoiler Crybabies

20 November 2010

Paragraph two of this piece finally was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. It was yet another asinine American Premier League blogger crying like an eighteen month old who was told they couldn't get their favorite candy bar in the checkout line. Why? It was because of the fact ESPN actually did its job while broadcasting their game in the round and inform their viewers of the scores from elsewhere. After having to deal with the whaling and gnashing of teeth from bloggers, and reading the comments from readers for a third of a season, I've finally had enough. In fact, I've got just one simple thing to say to them, SHUT UP!

Where do I start with these folks? Mind you, these are the same folks who, in a time not too long ago, were begging ESPN to take some games off FSI, and even Setanta. They got their wish when Setanta went out of business and ESPN helped FSI out with the contract. For those who think HD is the greatest thing since sliced bread, they even got their wish thanks to this. But that's where the compliments ended.

Last season it started with the fact the ESPN bottom line didn't go away for entire matches at a time. Then it was the fact the halftime presentation was awful, which at the time it was. Thankfully ESPN quickly rid America of the root cause and, while not spectacular, was respectable the rest of the season.

Moving onto this season, ESPN got mixed reviews for hiring one of their brighter spots to their World Cup coverage in Ian Darke. They also started doing their own production from Premier League grounds around the country, which no one had complaints about that. However, the one thing people can't stand (or so it seems), is ESPN having a traditional 10 am game. Maybe not that in particular, but something ESPN has done for years, and will continue to do until every generation in the future dies: give away scores from games they are not doing live.

When ESPN agreed to sublet rights from Fox Sports International, ESPN wanted and received the first choice game at 10 am whenever there was no Saturday lunchtime kickoff. They also got first choice whenever midweek games came about. They did it knowing they would get the game that would attract the most eyes. It also meant that unless one of the Fox Soccer Channels was going to show the game from the team you support, you were more than likely going to watch the game on offer from ESPN.

The reality is that in these situations, there are going to be multiple games going on at the same time. It's unavoidable, it's not tragic, and it doesn't require one to set up multiple triggers just to avoid scores ESPN gives out during telecasts. Look, if your watching the game on ESPN, it means that game was the highest priority live. In today's day and age of instant everything, unless you decide to live the life of the Amish during match days, avoiding scores is simply impossible. If you feel the need to sink to shallow depths to watch the ESPN game last because of spoilers, please don't hesitate to also stick your pacifier in your mouth and pour your pint into a sippy cup. We get it: your going to whine and that's never going to change. You think ESPN can only broadcast a game one way and if it's not done that way, your going to kick, shout, and scream until they do things your way. Well toddlers, that's not how life in broadcasting works.

You wanted ESPN, and you got it. Just one last message to these crybabies: please come back to the real world. We'd all appreciate it.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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