…and we’re back with another of our Jumble Series.
With the EPL revving up and even more coverage of the games on stateside networks, we go with our first Premiership Jumble of the season.
And now for our round table crew:
• The Martin Tyler of the Web and one of the editors of The Shin Guardian. The World Cup marathon man, Shaun Webb.
• Founder of the highly cerebral “A Football Report” and also a player on the Emory University team, Eric Beard.
• From soccer blog ConstantlyOffsides, your either with Scott Parker or against him. And he is Chamo.
• Thou shalt not call Dimitar Berbatov the anti-christ, the co-founder of The Church of Soccer, Corey Bennett.
• And never bringing up the rear, your favorite TSG England fanatic, GeorgeCross.
We start of with…this year’s surprises:
Who’s your surprise team of the year thus far? (Positively or negatively)
Corey, CoS: Everton. The Toffees will turn the season around, but taking two points from five matches makes qualifying for Europe slightly more likely than Mikel Arteta playing for England. One month into the season, a mid-table finish is the best possible outcome.
Eric, AFR: The easy answer here is Blackpool, who have been tremendous under Ian Holloway and deserve to be sitting in 4th. But I have to go with Chelsea. After a preseason that included losses to Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Ajax, and of course Manchester United, I expected troubles in the Ancelotti camp, not back-to-back 6-nil victories. Didier Drogba is the form of his life, but the efficiency of the attack as a whole is FIFA 10-esque. Even Carlo Ancelotti said managing his team was like playing PlayStation…
Chamo, CO:The obvious choice here would be Blackpool bursting out of the gates, but I’m more surprised by Everton’s inability to win. Losing away to Blackburn and Villa is somewhat understandable, but they haven’t shown up to play against the “must-win” teams like Wolves, even when they are at Goodison Park. The incredible comeback against Man United was commendable, but so far its the only bright spot in Everton’s season, since they should be challenging for European places and currently find themselves in the relegation zone.
Shaun, TSG: Everton – I expected a lot more from them. Yes they had a great comeback against United, but 2 points in 5 games is not good enough to be challenging for a top 4 spot. The season is still young but the Merseyside teams have a large hole to dig themselves out of.
GeorgeCross: Negatively: Everton. Two points from their opening 5 games is not good enough for a team who are usually comfortable Europa Cup qualifiers. With the quality David Moyes has in this squad, they should be picking up maximum points against newly promoted Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at home and at least securing a point at Ewood Park and Villa Park.
Matthew, TSG: Everton, really?! They always start out slow. Skirted the relegation zone last year to start off the year. Something about always having a different back four.
I’m going with Newcastle. A shellacking of Villa and on the top half of the table.
Which player has surprised you the most? (Positively or negatively)
GeorgeCross: I sort of expected Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott to start the season well after being omitted from the World Cup squad, so in one respect I’m impressed by their form but not *that* surprised if that makes sense. Then there’s Paul Scholes who just keeps on producing – and I cannot believe he was thinking of retiring. But I think one of the most under-rated players who puts in solid performances and goes under the radar is Birmingham City’s Liam Ridgewell. I strongly feel that if he played for a more fashionable club, people would be singing his praises.
Corey: Three words: Berbatov. In hard times, Hollywood gets nostalgic (see The Karate Kid for proof). It would seem Berba is no different. The Ralph Macchio Berba has been reincarnated as Jaden Smith. Long after we’d given up on him ever being “elite” again – assuming that he was elite before – Berba has turned back the clock and delivered kernel after kernel of unassuming, almost lazy, yet highly effective finishing. Rooney hasn’t been the same since the Write the Future commercials. Valencia has a long recovery ahead. Berba’s timing couldn’t be any better.
Eric, AFR: Despite being sent off against Sunderland this past weekend, Alex Song has been the unsung hero throughout Arsenal’s season thus far. Cesc Fabregas got all the praise midweek against Braga, but Alex Song has consistently been dominant, and he seems to be the man who will fill the huge whole Patrick Vieira left when he went to Italy. Song will be missed against West Brom next week, but thankfully that match should be a guaranteed three points for the Gunners.
Chamo, CO: Joey Barton has been a revelation at Newcastle, and has seemingly toned down his notoriously reckless play, but the most surprising player has to be Berbatov. This is a guy who was a shade of the player he was at Tottenham for the past two seasons and now, when United needs a goal scorer most of all given the Rooney debacle, decides to show everyone the class we all knew he had. It’s a huge lift to United.
Shaun, TSG: I think it’s a little early to start judging players, but Torres has been a major disappointment. I don’t believe the suggestions that he doesn’t care or is not just in it, ’cause if one has read anything about him or followed him back in his Atletico days, you know he’s a top class professional. It’s just that he is in a major funk that has dogged him since his surgery back in May.
No one really has stood out for me yet (though I do like that Bale is coming into his own), but I’m going to keep my eye out on Gyan. I thought that was excellent business by Sunderland and he’s already made an impact. Lets see how long it lasts, but he’s a powerful striker with excellent skills which are very well suited to the EPL.
Matthew, TSG: I’m going with Dimitar Berbatov as well. Expunged from my fantasy after ruining it two years in a row, the Manband is putting on a masterful show in the early going.
Mind you, it has nothing to do with the fact that he has been under appreciated. It has everything to do with the fact that Manchester United brought in Bebe and Hernandez and added in a more seasoned Macheda to challenge for a role.
It’s that simple. And if that’s the motivation so be it.