Playing-Like-Shit (PLS) Syndrome hits Tottenham and Manchester United is possibly suffering from second-season syndrome (idiot commenters, lazy editor, disappearing contributors). You know, that infliction a team / player get after doing better than expected the season before. Teams like Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers.

They should change the name – it’s not second-season syndrome, it’s post-success stress (PSS), although unforgiving hacks may call it PLS – playing-like-shit.

Because that’s the only description you can have for Spurs losing 1-3 at home to Everton and for Manchester United drawing 1-1 away from home to Portsmouth.

Full credit to Everton and Portsmouth (and Sunderland and Reading before them) – they deserved their points and played very well. Nothing can take that away from them.

But if you’re a Spurs or United fan, the last 5 days have been cause for concern. It might not be time to hit the panic button yet (even though Spurs are mired in relegation zone and United are 4 points behind Chelsea already), but it’s getting close and nervy – the weekend’s games will give us a better picture but if United drop points to Eriksson’s City and Tottenham drop points at home to Derby (the latter is almost impossible, while the former is quite possible), it will be mayhem.

On to the match-by-match reviews:

Tottenham 1-3 Everton

Martin Jol said after the game that he felt rotten, and that’s how many Spurs fans will feel. The Derby game is the easiest of the first 3 games and they *should* win it, but there are signs at WHL that last season’s problems are still there.

Everton have gotten off to a good start for the season and with Fernandes mooted to come in, this squad is getting stronger and stronger. Now for Baines to get back and Moyes to sign a striker.

Birmingham City 2-2 Sunderland

Unlucky McShane chested the ball into his own net but the match overall was as expected – full-tilt, scrappy and even. I haven’t seen the incident but apparently there was a penalty that Sunderland should have won but didn’t. Still, 4 points from 2 tough games is a good return for Keano, and Birmingham will want to build on this and do something about their defense.

Chopra now has 2 goals from 2 games. Chopra who?

Fulham 2-1 Bolton Wanderers

The rain and defensive errors were the only notable aspect of this game, as Bolton took the lead thanks to a poor throw by the Fulham keeper and then two defensive errors giving Fulham 2 goals.

Not surprised that Fulham won – they showed a good fighting spirit against Arsenal and that held them in good stead here. Bolton on the other hand are still finding their feet and it’s not that Bolton haven’t won in the last 4 games, it’s that they’ve been playing listlessly.

Bolton could still end up in the top-10 but with other teams playing with a lot more spirit they increasingly look like a team on the slide.

Manchester City 1-0 Derby

Not surprising, but the goal by 19-year old Michael Johnson was quite something – A one-two with Elano stranded 4 defenders on the right edge of the box as Johnson strode across to the center, received the ball and let ‘er rip with the outside of his foot for another classy Manchester City goal.

If the current state of affairs continues, there can be only one conclusion for England’s international performances in the last 5 years – the players are shit.

Derby fought hard and caused City troubles and were saved by Kasper Schmeichel on several occasions – in the end none of the ‘effort’ matters as City take the 3 points and join Everton and Chelsea at the top of the table. It’s already looking quite worrying, and on the weekend as City host United, it could get get worse. Derby travel to White Hart Lane to play Spurs, which will be another chance for them to play their hustle-n-bustle game and if they can keep things tight at the back (unlikely), they could get a point.

Well played by Richards, mind you. Will be interesting to see how McClaren plays him against Germany.

Portsmouth 1-1 Manchester United

Good goal by Paul Scholes, Good movement and cross by Mathew Taylor for the Pompey goal, and good play overall by Pompey (the subs by Harry worked, while United’s and looked uninspired).

What can I say without smashing my laptop or cursing Ferguson to the 7 hells? The harsh reality is that Manchester United are 4 points behind Chelsea, and unless we are banking on winning at Stamford Bridge, United need to start winning to stand any chance of retaining their title. Right now they don’t look like title winners, but neither do scrappy Chelsea. They’re still winning their games though, while United aren’t.

Match review coming up shortly, will discuss United’s problems in detail there.

Reading 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea won a difficult game and they have Drogba, Lampard and Mourinho’s half-time talk to thank for it. They worrying thing is that Carvalho went off injured and I’m not sure if he’ll be fit to play on the weekend. Alex still has a couple of weeks of training to go before he can play, so the weekend might see Chelsea go to Anfield without Carvalho and Terry – a worrying thought.

Reading can be proud of the way they played, although I get the feeling that sometimes they are one or two quality players short and against disciplined, focused teams they can suffer if they are matched in the physical stakes. Not to say that Reading play an overly-physical game, but that if you neutralise the physical aspect of their game and match their discipline, it’s becomes relatively easier to pick them off if you have quality and experienced players to do so.

United couldn’t manage either, Chelsea managed both and won a difficult away game, props to them.

Wigan 1-0 Middlesbrough

When games turn scrappy, lack in quality and feature mistakes from both sides, the dry sarcasm of the BBC match reports has no equals.

I’ll let them tell the story:

In a first half perhaps best described as disjointed, it was Wigan who created the greater number of half chances.

The home side featured three players making their home debuts in defence, but it was the Boro backline that played as if they met for the first time on the team bus.


Boro, playing as if on a healthy draw bonus, created their first half-chance on 29 minutes.

The rest of the article does little to hide the author’s contempt for the football on display.

It’s a bit harsh to come down so hard on Boro so early in the season but Southgate’s had his ‘first season’ plus a pre-season to iron out the kinks, you don’t get many second chances in football and Boro are going to be in serious trouble if Southgate doesn’t change things around.

Wigan look like they might do better than Boro this season, but that’s not saying much, is it?

Also today, Liverpool and Arsenal played in Europe, and won their respective qualifiers.

Toulouse 0-1 Liverpool

Routine win, nothing to sweat about and Voronin, Benayoun and Babel got more time to play, as did Sissoko.

The return leg will be similarly comfortable and in these situations you don’t expect Rafa’s teams to expend any more energy than is absolutely necessary to win. With Carvalho picking up an injury, today’s game would have given Rafa some idea about his choice of wingers for the game against Chelsea – I’d start with Babel at the very least.

Sparta Prague 0-2 Arsenal

Arsenal got kicked about but Flamini and Fabregas held the team together in the middle of the park and eventually Arsenal’s quality shone through. Clichy’s assist was quite good and so was Sagna’s, and it wouldn’t have escaped anyone’s notice that Hleb now has 2 goals from 2 games. If he makes it 3 out of 3, will some Arsenal fans apologise? I’m just enjoying the revival, it’s good to see a player improve his game.

Next up, a match report on United’s dismal performance, and there will be the regular weekend preview on Friday. If there are any changes you want to suggest to the format, please do so in the comments 🙂

Manchester United are off-key and Ferguson has questions to answer
Anelka's talents deserve better than Bolton


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