Back to Premier League basics

By Online Editorial

Premier League football

As Everton failed to deal with route one tactics and Chelsea succumbed to two goals from set-pieces, Ralph Ellis looks at the importance of doing the simple things well and the rewards for those who do them.

If you’ve ever shopped in Sainsbury’s you’ll know about the Basics range. It’s the same stuff, but in a plain wrapper and for less than half the price. If you want to serve a posh dinner party you wouldn’t buy it. Day to day, though, it does the job without a problem.

In Premier League terms that was the aisle that Martin O’Neill was pushing his trolley down when he did his summer transfer market business. Nobody could accuse James Collins or Richard Dunne of being fancy players. But they both do exactly the things you need from centre halves – head it and kick it away from their own goal and occasionally towards the other one.

They helped themselves to a goal apiece with unmarked headers from corners to raise some serious questions about Chelsea as Aston Villa won 2-1. Carlo Ancelotti’s team have now let in eight goals this season and six of them from set pieces. He claims the danger from corners and free kicks is no different to Italy. In truth, he is starting to find out about the physical intensity of an English season.

Chelsea remain 2.92 favourites to regain the Premier League crown but it’s beginning to look more like a bet to lay. They have lost two away games in a row and both of them because of identical bits of bad marking.

But then it was a weekend for people getting the basics wrong. What about Everton’s Joseph Yobo, letting a straightforward goal kick sail over his head for Kevin Doyle to put Wolves in front at Goodison? David Moyes’ team, fifth for the last two seasons, are now as long as 18.0 to be winner without the big four despite a late equaliser from their Russian Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (nicknamed Billy, thankfully!).

Basement side Portsmouth will stay value at 3.75 to be rock bottom if they go on copying the worst bits of Chelsea’s defending, as they did when Ledley King had a free header to set Spurs on the road to a 2-1 win. And what were Blackburn’s defenders doing yesterday when they allowed Robbie Blake to walk through them and give Burnley an early lead?

Burnley’s defending was even worse as David Dunn inspired a 3-2 win in a bitter derby. Owen Coyle’s side, pre-season relegation favourites, are now 2.82 to go down but are by no means out of trouble.

The worst example of a side forgetting the basics, though, was Liverpool. Rafa Benitez came up with another bit of tinkering, creating a three-man defence, and that was far more the reason for their 1-0 defeat at Sunderland than a freak goal deflected off a beach ball.

Benitez, with four defeats already, must be dreading the thought of a fifth against their fierce rivals Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday. Liverpool are 2.62 favourites to win but on current form I wouldn’t back that – United reminded everybody of their ability to get the job done with a solid 2-1 win over Bolton.

Incidentally Darren Bent rightly got credited with Sunderland’s winner – rather than the balloon – and now has eight to be joint leading scorer with Fernando Torres. He was 15.0 at the end of July when I suggested backing him to be top English goalscorer, and is now just 3.45. Jermain Defoe, two behind him after scoring at Pompey, didn’t help his cause by then getting red carded which means he’ll miss three games.

Arsenal remain in the title frame after a 3-1 stroll against Birmingham. Just down the road from the Emirates, West Ham are sliding in to “too good to go down” mode. A 2-1 defeat at Stoke underlined that Gianfranco Zola has recruited some pretty technical players who lack experience of the Premier League. They are 5.6 to go down but with five points from eight games, and only Carlton Cole looking remotely likely to score goals, have got problems. As Zola said afterwards, they need to get back to basics.

Reproduced with permission from © The Sporting Exchange Limited


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