A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Chris Ryan: Tensions flared this week, folks, and I'm not talking about the time you mistakenly brought up Obamacare in front of your sister-in-law. Belts got a little tighter, and I'm not talking about your belt after you ate that third piece of pecan pie. No, I'm talking about England, where Thanksgiving is called "Thursday," and belt-tightening and tensions flaring are just what happens at this time of year, as the games come fast, the injuries pile up, and tempers get short.
A look back at the action in the Barclays Premier League.
Chris Ryan: Arsenal benefited from a truly based Artur Boruc goalkeeping error and beat your annoying soccer fan friend's favorite team, Southampton, 2-0. The Gunners had the kind of luck opposing teams typically have had against them in seasons past. While Boruc's Cruyff-esque Almunia-esque moment was the highlight …
In case you were out getting a terrifying vote of confidence from an eccentric Russian oligarch, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
A rough day for the Manning family saw the Dallas Cowboys all but eliminate the Giants' scant playoff hopes with a 24-21 win at the Meadowlands. "The bad news is, we're probably headed home in December," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said after the game as he stroked his weird red mustache. "The good news is, Cooper said I can finally go to Space Camp this offseason. So it's all good news, because Space Camp is gonna be so worth it!"
A punt misplayed by Denver's Tony Carter in overtime proved to be the difference, as the New England Patriots beat the Denver Broncos, 34-31, in an instant classic. "At least I'm not that guy. At least I'm not Tony Carter," said world's saddest man Gary Pittson while watching the game's highlights from a motel room in West Memphis, Arkansas. The Ultimate Clarity: A Life-Changing Life System information session he had attended at the Memphis Airport Marriott had been a bit of a bust, if Pittson was being honest with himself. Sure, the day's speaker, former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Tony Jones, was possessed of Ultimate Clarity, but he couldn't see how the principles of confidence and serenity that Jones was espousing could apply to his life. Jones was a millionaire, and he was famous, and he was a Super Bowl champion. Pittson was a nobody. Also, the session was expensive, so much so that after paying for his flight and the fees and the books, Pittson certainly couldn't afford to stay at the Marriott, but being so far away made it hard to participate in the more social aspects of the information session. Pittson shook his head, looked back up at his TV, and took a deep breath as the highlight repeated itself. "At least I'm not that guy," Pittson said to no one. "At least I'm not Tony Carter."
A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Chris Ryan: There's Robin Van Persie, celebrating his goal with the best player on the field on Sunday. I don't know if a scrappy 1-0 win over Arsenal — one that will be more remembered for its nasty head injuries than anything else — can serve as a bluperint for future success for David Moyes. After the match, I don't even know if he needs a blueprint at all. He might just want to take out an index card, write "Rooney" on it, and pin it to a corkboard. Team talk done. See you later.
In case you were busy regretting your attempt to introduce that exchange student living in your home to the joyful simplicity of America's pastime, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
A weird weekend in the World Series left the Cardinals and Red Sox knotted at two games apiece, after Saturday's game ended on an obstruction call that handed St. Louis a 5-4 victory, and Sunday's game closed with a Koji Uehara pickoff in Boston's 4-2 win. "What a weekend!" declared MLB rules aficionado Peter Greggsman. "The only way it could have been better is if one of these stadiums had been a dome, so we could get some catwalk interference in there." Greggsman's demeanor then darkened, before he added, "The real tragedy though is that the World Series can't end on an infield fly call. No game can." Greggsman then pounded his fist on his Hardball Times Baseball Annual and cried to the heavens, "Oh founders of baseball, you've cursed us with the possibility of perfection, yet made it as impossible to witness as a local game without digital cable! Damn you apocryphal Abner Doubleday! Damn you straight to the fictional hell you belong in!"
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson amassed 329 receiving yards, the second-most in NFL history behind former Rams receiver Flipper Anderson, as Detroit came from behind late to stun the Dallas Cowboys 31-30. Meanwhile, back at his New Jersey home, Anderson cracked a bottle of champagne as the game ended. Not because his record was preserved; that would be incredibly tacky. Who would do that? No, he popped a bottle of champagne because it pairs well with the panko-crusted halibut he whipped up for his wife as a special Sunday treat.
Chris Ryan: We're going to look back on this time, people. We're going to look back and remember, "That was the time dozens of British football pundits and announcers bravely tried to pronounce Adnan Januzaj's name while screaming. They were the best of us."
Let's marvel at the first 75 minutes of football that Bayern Munich put together on Wednesday en route to a dominant 3-1 win over Manchester City by breaking down their three goals. (Apologies for those of you outside of the U.S., for whom I would recommend heading to 101 Great Goals for video highlights.)
Ryan O'Hanlon: Brad Guzan has more assists than any American in the English Premier League. Brad Guzan has more assists than Gareth Bale. Brad Guzan is the American Messi.
That Manchester City was undone this past weekend by a long punt from a prematurely bald goalkeeper seems weirdly fitting. It was a fluke! Or, at least, it wasn’t a real play: The ball bypassed City’s entire team, everything they spent all that money on. The other two goals were similarly not real, too. Villa’s first equalizer came from a blown offside call, and the second came from a once-in-a-lifetime brick of a free kick off the foot of a guy who’d never scored a goal outside the Netherlands. How do you lose a game in which you could’ve scored five goals in the first half? Just like that.
In case you were busy arguing that Lane Kiffin really hasn't gotten a fair chance to prove himself as a head coach with a particularly stubborn stop sign, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Tom Brady finally synced up with his young receiving corps, as the New England Patriots built an early lead and held on late, beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-23. "It's tough to beat them when Brady is back on track, but we gave it our all, and I'm impressed with my team," said a gray-haired man claiming to be Atlanta's head coach. "Wait, seriously, I'm Mike Smith," the man said, giving a clearly fake name, before adding, "You've heard of Dan Reeves? Well, I'm the most successful coach this franchise has ever had. We were in the NFC title game last year." The man, likely a deluded extra who wandered off the set of Boardwalk Empire, then added, "No, I'm not the mayor from Boardwalk Empire. For chrissake, come on, are you messing with me?"
The Major League Baseball regular season ended, but there's yet more to be decided as the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers finished the season tied for the second AL wild-card slot, and will play a one-game playoff. That game will determine which team will face the Cleveland Indians in another one-game playoff, which will determine who will be the AL wild-card representative in the postseason. This will be followed by a series of three-inning "mini-games" to determine home-field advantage in each round, which will be followed by a series of three-out home run derbies to determine which manager will be forced to turn in his lineup card first. Then, naturally, will come the dizzy bat competition, which will be just for fun, followed by a three-legged race, which will supplant this year's World Series, and for which, naturally, the Boston Red Sox are the favorites to win what with their flashy red socks likely to be advantageous for maintaining a three-legged race rhythm.
A look at this past weekend's Premier League action.
The Tortoise and the Hare
Mike L. Goodman: Ahh, the Manchester derby, where championships are won and lost, seasons decided, the fates of coaches and managers alike resting on the razor’s edge. Or not. A 38-game season is deceptively long, and how a team fares against the majority of the league is much more important than how it does against its chief rival. Last year, for example, both Manchester City and Chelsea took more points off of teams in the top five (Arsenal, Chelsea, City, United, Spurs) than United did, and United walked away with the league. Spurs performed much better against elite teams than Arsenal, but Arsenal nipped them at the wire for the fourth spot. There are, in fact, 78 points available against the bottom 13 teams in the league (with Liverpool and Everton currently not quite Champions League contenders but still better than hoi polloi below them on the table). That number of points, coincidentally, would have gotten a team second place last season. United took 69 of those points last year. That’s why they won the title so easily.
In case you were busy clapping politely when you lost the best featured actress in a miniseries Emmy, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Trent Richardson scored on his first touch in a Colts uniform, and the San Francisco 49ers' early-season woes continued, as they fell 27-7 to Indianapolis at home. "So the master has become the teacher," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said to his former quarterback Andrew Luck after the game, before realizing his mistake and sputtering out, "I mean, shit, wait, no, let me try that again." But Luck was too embarrassed for his former coach and instead backed away from Harbaugh awkwardly, before exchanging an extended secret handshake with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano while Harbaugh looked on, fuming.
Despite giving up 30 straight points through the second and third quarters, Cincinnati's defense came up big late, returning a fumble for a touchdown and disrupting Green Bay's passing game as the Bengals came from behind to grab a 34-30 win over the Packers. When asked if he'd do anything differently were he to have the chance, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said, "well, I told the guys at halftime, whoever gets to thirty first wins this game." McCarthy shook his head and added, "I thought it was clear that I wasn't suggesting the rules of the game would change, but for some reason people seem to take what I say quite literally." McCarthy then looked directly at the media with an expressionless face and asked, "Am I not fun? I think of myself as being a fun guy. I enjoy fun things like pencils and reference books. I wish people saw me as I saw myself: a barrel of pencils."
Chris Ryan: If I were playing with Mesut Ozil, I'd be worried. The new Arsenal midfielder, who joined the Gunners from Real Madrid for a club-record £44 million transfer fee, made his debut on Saturday against Sunderland, despite being a little under the weather. Ozil played like Ozil, which is to say you wouldn't notice him out there for about six or seven minutes and then ...
Soccer is a world of haves and have-nots. The richest teams in the world, by and large, are also the most successful. For the Real Madrids, Manchester Citys, and Chelseas, the summer transfer window has become a time for almost ritualistic restocking of talent, whether the team needs it or not. For the rest of the world, talented players are living on borrowed time. There are only so many years before the big boys with deep pockets come calling.
Champions League football is perhaps the clearest demarcation between haves and have-nots in the world of European soccer. The most idealistic among us might say it’s because players want the opportunity to test themselves in the best club competition in the world. From a slightly more cynical perspective, it’s worth noting that Champions League football comes with a significant financial reward for the clubs that qualify, generally allowing them to pay higher salaries. Either way, life for a team with a superstar and without Champions League football (and sometimes, as Arsenal fans well know, even with it) frequently takes on the feel of Damocles at the dinner table. It’s only a matter of time.
With only one shocking result and a course correction from Arsenal, we present an abbreviated Pass & Move this week, covering Manchester City's loss to Cardiff and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey.
Mike L. Goodman: Cardiff absolutely deserved their remarkable 3-2 home win against Manchester City on Sunday. They were also extremely lucky to get it. In the space of eight minutes, Cardiff took two crosses that directly resulted in two goals. Let’s contextualize just how rare that is. Since the beginning of the 2010-11 Premier League season there have been 12,907 corners, 5,487 of them were completed, and only 158 of them were assists. In other words, considering a 42.5 percent completion rate and a whopping 1.2 percent assisted, scoring goals directly from corner kicks is really, really hard to do (stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info).