What is everyone freaking out over this week?
Last weekend's loss to lowly Norwich has all the feel of the final nail in the coffin for Tottenham. Norwich had only 19 goals in 26 league games going into the match, and the type of goal differential that put them squarely in the relegation zone. But Tottenham have struggled to score this season as well, particularly given the amount of talent they have.
Sometimes, we can get caught in viciously over-analyzing sports, to the point where we're so in the weeds that we aren't saying anything meaningful at all. With Tottenham, we can talk about player influence, pass rates, formations; all important things, to be sure, but sometimes it's as simple as not putting the ball in the back of the net when you're standing right in front of it. This is an affliction that Roberto Soldado, the 28-year-old Tottenham striker, knows all too well. His offensive ineptitude has rendered him substitution fodder; he was installed once Tottenham started chasing the game down 1-0. His first touch was a glorious chance from inside the box, which he shanked wide, a fitting result for a player where scoring in open play has been more difficult than forming his pre-match hairdo. The loss wasn't all Soldado's fault, of course. Emmanuel Adebayor's first touches were so heavy it was impossible to tell whether they were actually intended as shots. At times, they looked afraid to put the ball in the net, lest it open some kind of portal to an alternate universe.
The loss seems even worse when considering what the other top clubs did over the weekend. Chelsea squeaked out a late winner against Everton, Manchester City ultimately prevailed over Stoke at home, and Arsenal trounced Sunderland in their most complete game of the campaign. Manchester United and Liverpool, two teams battling for the fourth place spot along with Tottenham, both came away with victories. This is to say, although there's never a good time to lose to one of the worst teams in the league, this was a particularly bad week to do so.
At the risk of sounding like a sport nihilist, it just doesn't matter all that much. Sure, those three points matter, but United and Liverpool have lost plenty of games they should have won, although both are in better form lately. Liverpool in particular was involved in a strange back-and-forth affair against Swansea, in which Swansea never played all that well but somehow kept accidentally scoring goals -- a deflection here, a penalty there, etc. -- making a game of it. At the moment, the biggest reason why Liverpool is six points up on Tottenham is those moments Soldado had, the chances to put the ball in the back of the net.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Soldado knows how to play soccer, and generally knows how to kick a ball such that it goes in his desired direction. Six points is not an impossible margin to close, especially considering Liverpool and Tottenham will meet once again this year. I'm not saying Tottenham will beat Liverpool at Anfield and ultimately earn a Champions League spot, but it's far too premature to count them out. We've seen much, much crazier things happen.
This Week in EPL Hair
Soccer is a sport of styles. Different, varied, weird styles. Nothing highlights this better than hairstyles.
Marouane Fellaini: The Smartest Man Alive
I distinctly remember my first time attempting a header. I had received no instruction whatsoever on proper technique. (My AYSO coach spent 90 percent of practices coaching his own kid, who was terrible at soccer yet still played every minute of every game. He once kicked the ball into the wrong goal from 12 yards out. We were not good.) I decided headers must be as easy as they look and, if I just put my head in the way of the ball, I could command it in the proper direction through telekinesis. Instead, I learned I possess no supernatural power whatsoever, with the exception of the idiocy of ten normal children.
I put my head down so that I was staring directly at the ground in front of me, then jumped, because that's what people who hit headers often do (childhood is 98 percent imitation). Now, the image of a small child with his chin sutured to his chest while jumping is comical enough, but when the ball hit the top of my head, it hurt. A lot. I crumpled to the ground -- not a dive since I was in severe self-inflicted pain -- and the ball feebly bounced approximately two feet in the air before hitting me in the head (again) as I lay on the ground a few seconds away from bursting into prepubescent tears.
I'm going to assume Fellaini had a similar experience as a child, spurring the decision to create a cushion of hair on top of his head, negating any pain a header may induce over the course of his soccer-playing life. This is why I think Marouane Fellaini is the smartest man alive.
As mere observers, we are not privy to the intricate, intelligent conversations that occur on the pitch every match. But that doesn't mean we can't use our imaginations.
John Ruddy: Oh, who's a good Snodgrass? Are you a good Snodgrass?
Robert Snodgrass: Oh, yes, I'm a good Snodgrass!
John Ruddy: Yes you are, yes you are!
Robert Snodgrass: Where's the ball? Who's got the ball?
John Ruddy: The game's over, Snodgrass. We won! You scored the winning goal!
Robert Snodgrass: Oh, yeah I did! I'm such a good Snodgrass.
Games to Watch:
Like every other sport, not all EPL games are worth watching. Here are the ones you should try and catch:
Saturday, March 1:
10 AM Eastern: Stoke City -- Arsenal
The best of the time slot, sadly.
12:30 PM Eastern: Southampton -- Liverpool
Since their strategy seems to be to play no defense and hope they score more goals than the other team, Liverpool are physically incapable of playing a boring game.
Enjoy the matches, everyone.