By April 17, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

English Football Weekly Wrap: EPL Round 33, FA Cup Semis, Aguero Tackle, Football Fracas

Sunderland celebrate against Newcastle United (Image via

Sunderland celebrate against Newcastle United (Image via

In my weekly column on SWOL, I take a look back at the weekend’s English Premier League and domestic cup action and the talking points that it throws up, as well as any significant news related to English football at large. Follow me @theredarmchair for regular updates throughout the week.

EPL Round 33 Recap: Arsenal Comeback, Liverpool Blank, Stoke Danger, Sunderland Pride

They said Arsenal lack mental strength. They said the Gunners will finish outside the Champions League spots. They said Arsene Wenger never replaced Robin van Persie. On Saturday, Wenger’s men responded to their critics in fine fashion, albeit with the help of referee Mike Jones. An unlikely point was satisfying enough on 85 minutes, but the Emirates exploded with goals from those summer signings, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. Replace the Robin they might not, but move Arsenal up to third they certainly did.

Just as Liverpool looked to be riding on a wave and finishing the season strongly, they came up with two successive goalless draws to deflate quite considerably the air of relative optimism around Anfield. Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy deserves plenty of credit for a belief-defying performance at the Madejski Stadium, but Luis Suarez and co. looked out of form. Suddenly the Reds’ goal-scoring woes are coming back, and they look likelier than ever to finish seventh, yet again beneath rivals Everton.

Wasn’t it just a couple of seasons ago that Stoke City competed in the Europa League? For that matter, wasn’t it not so long ago that the Britannia Stadium was considered a fortress and one of the hardest places to visit in the Premier League? Now, after an insipid home defeat against champions-in-waiting Manchester United, Tony Pulis could be forgiven for looking over the edge. After all, with 34 points, Stoke are level with Aston Villa and hovering just three points above Wigan, who have two games in hand. Is this the beginning of the end for the Potters?

Also level on points with Stoke are Sunderland, but that’s been kept quiet. The reason? Paolo Di Canio’s resurrection of the Black Cats, which continued with an impressive first win in the ultra (sorry)-competitive Tyne-Wear derby over a poor Newcastle United side. To add insult to injury (literally) for Alan Pardew, Tim Krul was forced off with an injury, and all of Sunderland’s three goals were long-range stunners. All it takes is one weekend for Newcastle to be the ones in danger.

FA Cup Semifinals: Looking Forward to a City-Wigan final

Let’s leave the discussion points till later and focus on the semifinals for now. Wigan (aka the “empty seats”) did enough to see off Millwall to make their first ever major cup final, while Manchester City held off a second-half onslaught from Chelsea and the masked Fernando Torres to seal their place in the Wembley showpiece. What we have in store in May is a classic David vs. Goliath battle, where a small-town underdog look to beat the new English powerhouse. An altogether different prospect than the monumental League Cup final clash between Swansea City and Bradford City back in February, but still something to relish at the fast-approaching end of the English football season.

Sergio Aguero and the Stamp

Surprise: Sergio Aguero hasn’t received a retrospective punishment from the FA for his challenge on David Luiz in their FA Cup clash this weekend. There’s been a lot of noise emanating around the virtual world regarding Aguero’s integrity and intensity, but have people already forgotten about Wigan’s Callum McManaman? Though no fault of his own, he was publically defended and justified by both the Latics manager and owner after what was a potentially career-ending injury. Aguero’s, while not admirable in the slightest, only ended in a bruise. Had the FA actually gone and reviewed their punishment policies after the McManaman case, we might not be debating this right now.

Fights and Riots: Regression or Minority?

Perhaps the saddest (or most infuriating) thing about the weekend was the unfortunate scenes of fighting and rioting at Wembley and in Newcastle, by Millwall and Newcastle fans respectively. Both cities have been known for their passionate fan-base, but once again the headlines have been written for all the wrong reasons. Given the apparently increased incidents involving racism or violence in recent years, one could be forgiven for thinking that football hooliganism is back on the rise, but are they only being amplified now because of the proliferation of citizen journalism? We’ll leave the actual debate for perhaps another time, but the show of emotion and solidarity at Liverpool’s Hillsborough memorial on Monday suggests that not all is hopeless just yet.

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