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Monday, October 3, 2011

Liver n'Onions: does derby day

In a footballing bender of a weekend I witnessed a total of 540 minutes, plus extra time of nerve gripping action,  included three notable derby's, the high profile match's of PSG v. Lyon, and AC Milan vs. Juventus. Thrilling as those specified were, I cannot deny that the derby's on display took the center stage, non-more exciting than the prospect of the Merseyside derby. Staying up for a 1:30 am kick off on Friday mounts to nothing on the list of things I would do to watch this game. 

Assuming my usual chair, pencil behind the ear and  coffee in hand, I grited my teeth in suspense. However when the clock struck quarter to four, howI felt was akin to the excitement felt  before Christmas, only to be let down by the gifts on display. The derby, in comparison to ones previously, lacked impotence and controversy. Watching the North London Derby on the following day only compounded my disappointment, making me question how I feel about the modern derby in general. With the likes of Gervinho, Coquelin, and  Mertesacker starting in their first N. London derby for Arsenal, I ask the question are Derby matches a young man's game, or for the old geezers? A derby match is built off of a rivalry, usually containing frenetic pace, take-no-prisoner tackles and a general distain for the opposition. With an injection of young players, or new signings, the rivalry is lessened for the players are only feeling the rivalry tension, based off what they have been told or watched themselves. This is why you see a lot of young players getting sent off because they know what it means to win the game, yet they don't know how to approach it. Derby games are built off the history of the clubs', and the passion is heightened by the fans. Current football players aren't usually permanent enough at a club to really feel the passion of the Derby game willing to kiss any badge as long as the pay is good,so a derby games is just an excuse to slag off your fellow professionals and get stuck in, harder than usual. The billing of the Merseyside Derby, or the North London Derby imply a certain amount of intensity, that some of  the derby -virgin players can quite cope with. Either Charlie Adam had a sub-par game, or he had built up the importance of the game, and how doing well in it would impress his manager, but that said he seemed to choke.  The elder state-men have played in the atmosphere for years and usually know how to approach it. This is why I was surprised not to see Gerrard come on from the start, niggaling injury aside. A player of his stature knows the playing field, what's required, treating it just like any other game. This is something you might expect from a player new to the intense atmosphere, yet often the adverse is seen.  With the older players you feel the history materializing on the pitch, which is not felt with a bucket of new faces playing in their first derby. So I ask this question, do you think that derby games are more entertaining with young, unfamiliar players looking to prove themselves, or with the experienced players who know the derby waters?  

I will admit that I am still uneasy over the current Reds, as their performance leaves me feeling unconvinced on the the new project that King Kenny has dished up. The 216th version of this city splitting clash didn't do much to change my stance, only getting into the game once the sending off of Jack Rodwell. A dismissal which was if I may a lucky one, catalyzed by a nothing tackle and a sprawling flop from Suarez. Ref Martin Atkinson got it horribly wrong, only succeeding in giving Liverpool a chance back into a game that they looked second best in up until that point. From the start Everton looked the more cohesive unit with both Sylvian Distin and Tim Cahill testing Reina in the Liverpool goal, as the Red's midfield of Adam and Lucas struggled to supply Carroll and Suarez up top. The dismissal killed Everton's expansive play forcing Cahill to slot into the wide left position leaving Louis Saha to forage for himself as the lone advanced player. Even with reduced numbers Everton still carved out a handful of chances, but it was Liverpool who came up the 2-0 winners.  Dirk Kuyt endeared himself slightly to the Everton faithful, as his grass cutting penalty kick was saved by Howard, following Jagielka's tackle on Suarez in the box- deemed an illegal one by Atkinson. One of the shining lights in the match that uncharacteristically lacked some atmosphere was Andy Carroll's first goal of the 2011-12 season, latching onto the end of Craig Bellamy's Cross. With Suarez sealing the win on a fortunate rebound clearance from Distin, Liverpool take the spoils of Derby Glory, in a scrappy win, nothing more. As long as three points are there to be taken, I will take them and run, but a comfortably controlled win is what I desire.

Derby rating: 6.5

The Sunday proceeding saw a comparably mammoth fixture with the North London Derby illuminating the eyes of London. Arsenal, though starting the season a bit shaky, I gather feel they have the edge over their closest rivals Tottenham. This fallacy was plain to see, with the power-shift between the two clubs apparent. The match announcer made the interesting point of if you where to making a best XI out of the starting lineups of the two teams, what Arsenal players would make it? Bacary Sagna and Robin Van Persie are shoo-ins, but besides them who else? Like the Merseyside derby this match lacked some atmosphere as I didn't feel much passion, also upset with the fact that the usually controversial Adebayor didn't get in to it with any of his former Arsenal teammates or fans. Both teams' defensive frailties emerged, creating a multitude of chances for each side, both with eight a piece come the whistle for the half. Tottenham were the only team to make the flurry of chances count, as Raphael Van der Vaart made sure to put on his boots with " This Machine Kills Arsenal Dreams," written on the side, as he took down a beautiful cross on the chest and in brilliant style hit it off the bounce past Szczesny into the back corner. Aaron Ramsey was having a shocker in midfield until he leveled terms in the second, adding some spice to the simmering cauldron of White Heart Lane. As the game wound to its climax Gareth Bale looked like Seabiscuit on speed, galloping down the wing looking capable of making the difference, but the winner came from the most  unlikely of specimens in right back Kyle Walker. Having studied Danny Rose's thunderous strike from a couple of years ago, he had a look, put his foot through it, and arrowed it past outstretched arms of the Arsenal keeper like a warm knife through butter. Certainly a good way to open your account for a club, in which after the match he told Sky Sports, “I’ve just picked up the ball and hit it… Why not have a go?’' 

Derby rating: 7

If Kyle walker learned to harness the power of Thors Hammer in his boot, Andy Johnson had been waxing his board, looking like the silver surfer with his shiny bald head, and his slick runs past QPR's defense. One of the West London Derby's took action as Fulham played newly promoted Queens Park Rangers, and although spending wisely in the summer showed their scars, falling subject to a 6-0 thrashing.  Fulham looked unstoppable, with Johnson notching a hat trick and Dempsey, Murphy ad Zamora grabbing the rest. QPR made Fulham look like a world superpower, complacent in defense and an attack of Jay Bothroyd, who made nil impact. With Fulham being that team you just can't hate, (QPR fans excluded), I was delighted to see them grab their first win of the season and to do it in such emphatic style made for a thrilling spectacle. I don't expect to see many similar  shorelines at  the cottage, but it was a delightful capper to a slightly disappointing Derby weekend in the English Premier League.

Derby rating: 8.5

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