This week in: English Football – Spurs lose to Wigan, City up next

Brad Friedel can’t keep out Ben Watson’s close-range shot as Wigan win at White Hart Lane

For the first time since March of 2011, Tottenham failed to score at home in the league last Saturday, falling 1-0 to Wigan, who were good value for their victory.  Spurs had been kept in the game by two good saves from their goalkeeper, Brad Friedel – who, despite not having kept a clean sheet in the league this year, was again favoured ahead of Hugo Lloris – but his best efforts could not keep out Ben Watson’s close range shot in the 56th minute.  Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the defeat was Andre Villas-Boas’ decision making, as the Portuguese manager chose to withdraw Jermain Defoe – top scorer for the club this season and who had a record of 10 goals in 11 games against Wigan – in favour of Emmanuel Adebayor, shortly after Spurs had fallen behind.  With away trips to Manchester City and Arsenal in their next two games, Tottenham need to start showing the form that helped them win four matches out of five in the Premiership, but many of the players are not performing at a good enough level.  Kyle Walker has dropped from the high standards he set last season; summer signings Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson are both guilty of holding on to the ball too long and losing possession easily; while AVB’s decision to keep starting slow-footed William Gallas in central defence ahead of Michael Dawson is baffling.

For the past twenty years, it would have been almost impossible to do a review of a weekend of fixtures that included Manchester United vs Arsenal without writing about that game first, but last Saturday’s encounter was such a formality for the Red Devils that there is not much to say on it.  Former Gunner, Robin Van Persie, opened the scoring inside three minutes and for the rest of the first-half, Sir Alex Ferguson watched as his team squandered numerous chances, including a penalty miss by Wayne Rooney just before the interval.  It did not cost the home side however, as they doubled their advantage through a Patrice Evra header in the 67th minute and shortly afterwards, Jack Wilshere was dismissed for the visitors after picking up his second yellow card.  It was only in injury time at the end of the game that Arsenal came to life and a well taken goal from Santi Cazorla made the final score 2-1, a result that flattered Arsene Wenger’s men.

United’s victory lifted them to the top of the Premiership table, as they were the only side who had started the weekend in the Top 4 to gain three points.  The previous leaders, Chelsea, were held to a 1-1 draw away at Swansea, matching their result from last season; while the Champions, Manchester City, also shared the points with a goalless encounter at Upton Park against West Ham.  Everton replaced Spurs in fourth place, but were denied a victory when Steve Sidwell scored a last-minute goal for Fulham to earn them a 2-2 draw, with Maurone Fellaini having given David Moyes’ side the lead with two second-half strikes.  The other games last weekend saw Aston Villa and Norwich each secure their second wins of the season, beating Sunderland away and Stoke at home respectively; Luis Suarez got Liverpool a point with a brilliantly taken goal in their match with Newcastle, canceling out Yohan Cabaye’s earlier strike; Reading and QPR both remain winless after their game ended 1-1; and West Brom beat Southampton, 2-0, on Monday night.

There was a round of European fixtures again this week and in the Champions League, Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 in Glasgow; Manchester United came from behind to beat Braga 3-1 in Portugal and guaranteed their place in the next round,; Chelsea defeated Shaktar Donetsk, 3-2 at Stamford Bridge; Arsenal went 2-0 up away at Schalke 04, but the German side came back to draw, 2-2; and Manchester City’s still have not won in this year’s competition after a 2-2 result against Ajax, which all but confirmed another early exit for them from the Champions League.  In the Europa League, a Jermain Defoe hat-trick secured a 3-1 win for Spurs against Maribor at White Hart Lane; Liverpool lost 1-0 away at Russian side Anzi Makhachkala; and Newcastle and Club Brugges drew 2-2 in Belgium.

This week’s fixtures see Tottenham go to the Etihad to face Manchester City, a game they lost last season after Defoe narrowly missed a chance in the final minute, before Mario Ballotelli converted a penalty for the eventual champions; Chelsea and Liverpool meet for the 33rd time in the last eight seasons; Manchester United travel to Aston Villa; and Andy Carroll will line up for West Ham against his old club, Newcastle, at St. James’s Park.  There is a London derby at the Emirates between Arsenal and Fulham; Everton host Sunderland; Norwich are away at Reading; Wigan and West Brom meet at the DW Stadium; Southampton entertain Swansea; and QPR travel to Stoke.

Predictions

Last week, 2-8; Season 42-55

Arsenal vs Fulham – Home win

Everton vs Sunderland – Home win

Reading vs Norwich – Away win

Southampton vs Swansea – Draw

Stoke vs QPR – Home win

Wigan vs West Brom – Draw

Aston Villa vs Manchester United – Away win

Manchester City vs Tottenham – Home win

Newcastle vs West Ham – Home win

Chelsea vs Liverpool – Home win

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