David Hirshey writes regularly about the Premiership for Deadspin.
Contrary to popular opinion, I did not skip last week's column because I had a bust-up in the tunnel with Will Leitch, when he referred to Arsenal as "the Fighting Illini of the Prem." The truth, sadly, is that I was at a funeral, and I'm not talking about the one that Bill Simmons attended for the death of his Premiership dreams. An in-law of mine passed away in Boston, and I had to go there to pay my last respects. All would have been fine if Adebayor hadn't waited until the 86th minute of the ManU game for that glorious toe-poke, causing me to miss my train. Fortunately, my family understands my priorities; the rabbi was late as well.
Even with my personal loss, I've got to think that I had a better week than anybody who bet on Tottenham to finish in the top four of the Premiership. Saturday, the Spurs suffered their fifth bagel in six games, losing 3-0 to a resurgent Liverpool. But that's not the best part. What really made a Gooners' heart soar was this: 7 hours, 13 minutes, the amount of time the Spurs have gone without a goal. Think about all the things you could do in 7 hours and 13 minutes — for instance, you could fly to Los Angeles and have sex with Tara Reid. Twice. Hell, even Landon Donovan could have scored if you gave him that long — with Reid, I mean ... not on the field.
The rest from Hirshey, after the jump.
So you have to wonder if maybe Tottenham manager Martin Joll should have bought one half-decent striker to go along with his 37 midfielders. On paper at least — and let's face it, that's all Simmons had to go by when he chose Tottenham above all others as his Premiership bitch this season — the Spurs look like they have firepower to burn. Berbatov, Keane, DeFoe and Mido are all proven goal-scorers, and they have the begoggled pit bull Edgar Davids and the fleet-footed Jermaine Jenas trailing in their wake. Davids certainly did his part Saturday to try to end the drought when he marauded forward on the left flank before putting the ball on a platter for Jenas to slot home. But Jenas, despite all the hype a couple of years ago about how he was going to be England's next big star, does not have the predatory instincts to go with his wheels. Against Liverpool, he whooshed 70 yards to get on the end of Davids' pass but, with the goal gaping, couldn't finish. It was a miss that not only cost Tottenham the game but — and perhaps this is wishful thinking —- their fantasies of challenging for a place in Europe.
Liverpool, on the other foot, look like they've finally found the cure for their stuttering start — moving Gerrard out wide where he can run at defenders or whip in crosses to their new target man Dirk Kuyt, the powerful Dutchman who looks to be a much more mobile and lethal finisher than the robotic Crouch. In fact, if Kuyt's goal-scoring form continues, it's conceivable that the only runout Crouch will get is in England games, where he remains McClaren's choice to partner Rooney. Come to think of it, Rooney has been invisible this season, too, having gone scoreless since the opening game. Yeah, yeah, he's been injured and suspended, but when he's on the field, he spends more time snarling at his teammates than scaring the bejesus out of defenders. At one point on Saturday against Reading, Bobby Convey dispossessed him. Bobby Convey! This, of course, is good news because a toothless Rooney means that ManU, after a fast start, could turn out to be the Fighting Illini of the Prem.
I would be remiss if I didn't take a few words to mark the end of all that is beautiful in the world of soccer coverage.
I realize that there are millions of middle-aged housewives whose lives will never be the same after Katie Couric recently took her perky excellence and softball questions to the CBS Evening News. Yet, they don't know the kind of wrenching heartbreak that I'm sure dozens of inveterate Fox Soccer World watchers — and I'm outing you here, Cardillo — felt when Michelle Lissel signed off for the last time on Friday. It's not simply that we will miss the come-hither way she fluttered her eyelashes at Bobby McMahon after he delivered a particularly incisive wrapup of an Old Firm derby, or her charity laugh after one of Jeremy St. Louis' bon mots. The simple fact: She was a woman — as she reminded us every night with her plunging necklines and constantly evolving hairstyles — talking the talk. To hear her utter cliches — "nil-nil," "that should be a cracking game," "Erikson has lost the plot, eh Bobby" — was to appreciate how hard she tried to fit in even if she knew nothing about the sport. Now she is gone — to be the PR person for the new Toronto franchise of MLS — and we are bereft. Yes, McMahon is still the most knowledgeable soccer guy on TV for my money, but even the twinkly Scot can't bring the Lissel-like magic to a line like "Newcastle keeper Shay Given is looking to repair a tear in his bowel." Michelle, you shall be missed.