Match 21
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Match 22
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Match 23
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Big Sammered

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Big Sammered

At this rate, Rafa will be giving Brian Clough's infamous 44-day reign at Leeds United a run for its money. I doubt whether his personality will lend itself so neatly to a film of the episode as Clough's did - after all, 'Chronicles of a Fat Spanish Waiter' hasn't quite got the same ring to it. When I joked last week that Benitez might only last one season (winter, I wittily suggested), I didn't realise he might not even last until the end of this season of the X-Factor.

Only at an absurd club like Chelsea could a manager admit he's not "100% sure" of keeping his job having been in it for just 12 days and played only three games.

In that time, Chelsea have scored one goal, notched by a player Benitez dropped on Wednesday, picked up two points and been heckled by their own fans more than Alex McLeish was at Aston Villa. Roman has now been through so many managers that the only option open to him is to bring back Avram Grant. Don't laugh, it might just happen.

What made the 3-1 defeat at West Ham all the more difficult to swallow for Rafa was that Sam Allardyce oversaw it. Big Sam gained important revenge (in his head) for 'gesture-gate' three years ago, when he convinced himself Benitez had practically waved little Rafa in his face after Liverpool scored against his then Blackburn side eons ago. Way to let it go, Sam.

Surf and turf

They might both be supremely talented players, but it seems neither Luis Suarez nor Gareth Bale can go more than a few weeks without the ugly spectre of their respective footballing characters creating headlines. For Bale, it is diving, for Suarez, blatant cheating. And diving. And sometimes biting.

Bale received his second yellow card in as many games for simulation after interpreting Steve Sidwell's planted leg as an invitation to feast on grass more energetically than a bulimic cow. It was as though he'd started his own Mexican wave. His defenders, including gravel-guzzler AVB, insisted there was contact, but it was the equivalent of Wladimir Klitschko hitting the deck after a glancing blow from Ricky Hatton's little finger.

Suarez also received a booking for unsporting behaviour - one that will no doubt have provoked a fresh burst of nostalgic tears from Asamoah Gyan - when he flicked up his left hand and attempted to divert a cross into the net.

Those bold enough to defend him insist it was pure instinct, as if that makes it better. It doesn't, because that means his natural instinct is to cheat. With Suarez now banned for a match, Brendan Rodgers will have to resort to playing several false tens, a couple of fake nines and a clutch of seven-and-four-fifths given that he has no strikers left.

Royals rumble

"If we continue to defend like that, I may have to pick myself against Manchester City," quipped Sir Alex Ferguson after watching his side ship three goals in 15 minutes to relegation-ready Reading. Judging by this wretched backline performance, Fergie might as well select the infamous William Prunier and David May alongside him for the forthcoming derby. They can't be any worse.

Seven goals were scored during an incredible 26 minutes of football during which anybody who fancied grabbing a goal just went and did it. The chief culprit, as Fergie saw it, was Rafael, who has the perfect mini-afro to throw a touchline strop - a strop that duly arrived after he was hooked for being a side dish in Jobi McAnuff's first half roast. Parsnips, perhaps, or just plain mash.

Luckily for the league leaders, Reading are equally porous, with Sean Morrison treating his right back as if he had a highly contagious, untreatable disease. That's the only explanation I can offer for the distance between the two: you could have driven Wayne Rooney's rear through there it was so big.

Given United's tendency to only start playing when they trail, perhaps the worst thing City could do in the Manchester derby this time round is to take a 6-1 lead.

Awful to Michu

What more can I say about Arsenal? Do you think it is easy coming up with complex similes and intelligent metaphors, week in, week out, that do justice to the level of incompetence that sloshes around the club like a drunk on a cruise ship? Arsene Wenger is the over-imbibed pirate refusing to admit anything is wrong, Jack Sparrow-style, as the vessel slowly sinks to the ocean floor. Ivan Gazidis left on the one lifeboat, naturally.

The Gunners were beaten at their own game by Swansea, whose passing was better, sharper and more dangerous than the sideways avalanche Arsenal insist on. They have frittered away the euphoria of an emphatic derby victory over Spurs as quickly as Liam Ridgewell flushes sticky £20 notes down the toilet.

Wenger says he isn't worried about league places - but, with Stoke and West Ham among the nine clubs currently above them, perhaps he should be.

He may take the derision that often cascades down from the stands in his stride, cloaked in his four-man tent, but one thing that won't have him quaking in his boots is the ominously titled 'Black Scarf Movement'. They are a powder-puff protest group who are sick of being treated as "pound notes", regularly relied upon to cough up £13.70 for cod and chips alongside their extortionate season tickets while those in the boardroom refuse to reach into their silk-lined pockets.

The sentiment is admirable, I suppose, but for all the good it will do they may as well be called 'Flat White Latte'.

Turning Bartonese

If Queens Park Rangers' squad were an animal, it'd be a giraffe with both its front and back right legs missing. The point I'm trying to make is that Rangers are more unbalanced than a drunk with an ear infection on a revolving dancefloor. And it hasn't taken dear old 'Arry long to figure this out. He could field a team full of right wingers or holding midfield players, but he hasn't got more than a few centre halves or strikers to rub together.

I'm convinced Paul Lambert's decision to name Darren Bent on the bench wasn't with any intention to play him but to flout the striker like a lapdancer in 'Arry's face. It worked, too, as 'Arry's and Joe Jordan were so deep in contract talks with Bent that they missed Villa's opening goal.

Two draws would be a respectable start if QPR weren't so far adrift. Redknapp reckoned they needed top-six form to get out of danger when he took over. Now they'll have to ape The Invincibles.

Zere ees one sing zey can do zough - bring back a certain on-loan player who is turning a little Bartonese in France. If Joey Barton can learn French that quickly, he'll certainly be able to extract Rangers from the mire, even if it is by baffling their opposition with his shifty tash and Schteve McClaren-esque display of continental grace.

His hilarious press conference was like a bad imitation of the lad who does a bad imitation of an English officer speaking French in 'Allo 'Allo. And it was utterly brilliant.


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