Some brief thoughts on the first round of matches during the busy December holiday season -- part of what makes the BPL the best League in the world:
o Talk about a competitive league.... Prior to playing Manchester City mid-week, Stoke had won four games in a row. That mini-streak was good enough for a club record, which shows just how tough it is to win consistently in the Premier League. o And speaking of a tough league in which to win a match, our own Correspondent Ed was taught a fantasy footballing lesson this week, when he matched up against our Dear Leader (the title is once again up for grabs, with Kim Jong-Il's recent demise), farlieonfootie. 76-57 only begins to tell part of the tale, and the result was in even before the last match of the round kicked off. Good try, Ed, but just not good enough. o For my money, Charlie Adam's just not cutting it at Liverpool. And neither is Stewart Downing. Adam missed a crucial penalty against Wigan on Wenesday, and the last time Downing scored in the League for the Scousers was, well, never. Combine those two with the towering failure that is Andy Carroll, and realize that one reason Kenny is complaining so much about the referees this season is to take the spotlight away from his three underperformers.... o If it's the holiday season, that means two things: fixture congestion and hangovers. Arsenal seemed to suffer from both at the outset of the busy period, appearing dazed and confused before Yossi Benayoun's 88th minute winner saved their blushes against a truly terrible Aston Villa squad. Robin Van Persie scored -- again -- for the visitors, tying him with Thierry Henry's club record of 34 goals in a calendar year, and leaving him only two short of Alan Shearer's League record. The Flying Dutchman will be sad to see 2011 come to an end, as an injury-free year has allowed him to truly showcase his stuff, which is easily amongst the best in the world. o Speaking of Villa, do you remember Steven Ireland? No, neither do I.... o And on the same theme, it got me to wondering: Less than two short years ago, it seemed that Villa was on the path to becoming a team that, if not capable of winning the League, was at least capable of finishing in the top six on a consistent basis. Filled with young stars such as James Milner and Ashley Young, the Villans seemed ready to face a bright future. Now their future appears as if they may be challenging for a championship. The championship of the Championship. I hate to say it to the claret and blue faithful, but this writer thinks your boys will be fortunate to escape the drop this year. My, how times have changed.... o I know everyone is talking about Demba Ba's goals against West Brom on Wednesday, but did you check out Haris Vukic's performance? That kid has got a serious foot on him, and was unlucky not to score mid-week. If he's half as talented as he looked, Newcastle have got themselves a hell of a 19 year-old prospect. o There are so many strikers scoring consistently these days that it's an embarrassment of riches for fantasy football managers: Yakubu, Morrison, Helguson and Holt just to name a few of the less heralded ones, and it's hurting my brain to figure out which ones to pick for any given week.... o It was great to see American Stu Holden at the relegation six-pointer at Ewood Park on Wednesday -- I only wish it was on the pitch rather than in the stands. Holden's future was bright at the time he and Jonny Evans collided, and I only hope his future is less fuzzy than his hair -- which looked as if he had stuck his finger in a socket prior to attending the contest. o And I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention Thursday's heavyweight bout between Spurs and Chelsea. The home side came out swinging for a knockout right from the get go -- at one point controlling circa 85% of the possession -- but give the visitors their due: once they got their sea legs, Chelsea bossed long stretches of the match and looked the more likely side to claim all three points. As it was, the draw suited the Manc squads best, and nearing the halfway point it's looking like a two horse race for the title. This is Farlieonfootie for December 24.