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Serie A season preview: AS Roma

AS Roma 9 hours ago
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Dec 11, 2009

La Liga trumps Premier League

This was the week in which Arsenal came up short, James Beattie was stunned by a naked 51-year-old, La Liga trumped the Premier League, which in turn humbled the Bundesliga, and crackpot German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann took a whizz on the pitch.

Arsenal come up short - Friday, December 4

It seems that no amount of "playing football the way it should be played" can heal the hurt of consecutive 3-0 drubbings, and Arsenal's diminutive stars have come up with an alternative reason to simply not being good enough for their defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea. They are too short.

Andrei Arshavin (5' 8") was the first to tentatively push the theory on Friday, following Arsenal's Carling Cup exit at Eastlands in midweek, when he said: "We are not good on set pieces, and that is bound up with the fact that we don't have many tall players. Had we possessed a tall player, things would have been better for us, especially in attack."

Club captain Cesc Fabregas (5' 9") was quick to run with the theory and added: "We had a lot of similar players who like the ball into their feet. Sometimes you need a different kind of option ... perhaps we had the same kind of problem and we were a little small to fight against them on crosses too."

So it's all Arsene Wenger's fault not buying tall players. Case closed.

Goodwill gesture leaves Italians fuming - Saturday, December 5

Italian football may be the home of the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, defending's darkest arts, catenaccio and a standard of diving that Tom Daley would be proud of but sportsmanship is still alive and well in calcio.

On Saturday, struggling Ascoli allowed Reggina to score a goal unopposed after Mirko Antenucci netted a controversial opener in their Serie B game. Antenucci scored after 14 minutes without realising Reggina's Carlos Valdez was trying to kick the ball out because he was injured.

Complaints, a small fight and a red card for Reggina defender Andrea Costa followed but Ascoli eventually agreed to stand aside and let goalkeeper Biagio Pagano run in and score an equaliser for the away side. Unfortunately for Ascoli, their goodwill gesture backfired in spectacular fashion as Reggina went on to score two more goals and ran out 3-1 winners.

Naked Pulis headbutts Beattie - Sunday, December 6

Football managers coming to blows with their players is nothing unusual but throw in the fact that one of them was completely naked at the time of the bust-up and you've got a story.

According to the Sunday papers, Stoke City striker James Beattie suffered the indignity of an alleged headbutt from manager Tony Pulis following the Potters' 2-0 defeat at Arsenal and, worse still, the horror of being attacked by a 51-year-old in the buff.

Apparently, Pulis overheard his striker complaining about plans to cancel the club's two-night Christmas party in favour of an extra training session and, as an incensed Pulis lunged towards Beattie, the towel he was wearing fell to the floor.

The matter has now been cleared up by club, and Beattie, who will surely never speak out of turn again, will return to training at the weekend.

La Liga dominate FIFA awards - Monday, December 7

The Spanish Primera Division delivered another blow to the Premier League's claim that it is the best league in the world on Monday night when FIFA announced that the final five-man shortlist for their World Player of the Year award was made up entirely of players from La Liga.

Barcelona trio Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi are joined by Real Madrid duo Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the likes of Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard were all notable absentees.

Although strictly speaking two of the nominees - Manchester United's Ronaldo and AC Milan's Kaka - didn't play in La Liga when the nomination process began, the fact that they now do highlights the ability of Spanish giants Real Madrid to recruit football's top talent.

The Premier League still has hopes of claiming one award at the FIFA World Player Gala 2009 with four of the ten goals nominated for the Ferenc Puskás 'most beautiful goal' Award scored by players at English clubs. You can view the goals and vote for your winner here.

Man Utd 'B' restore English pride - Tuesday, December 8

Manchester United restored some Premier League pride on Tuesday night when Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a rag-tag mob against German champions Wolfsburg at Volkswagen Arena and to the surprise of everybody won 3-1.

With United already through to the knockout phase of the Champions League and suffering from a spate of injuries, the Red Devils travelled to Germany without 15 senior players and with Ferguson seemingly doubting his side's ability to get a group-topping draw when he said that "it doesn't matter whether you have finished first or second".

United 'B' took to the field with a three-man defence that featured only one specialist defender, a decent five-man midfield and a second-string strike force of Danny Welbeck and Michael Owen - whose hat-trick helped dump Wolfsburg out of the Champions League.

A truly amazing result, especially as it represented only a third win in ten attempts against German opposition in Europe for United, and served as reminder to La Liga that the English teams are coming.

Lehmann taking the p*** - Wednesday, December 9

The career of crackpot German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is strewn with controversial incidents - his confrontation with a Hannover ball boy, throwing an opponent's boot on the roof of his net, the diving competition with Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, an on-going war of words with fellow German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn - and, during Stuttgart's 3-1 Champions League win over Unirea Uziceni, he really took the p***.

The 40-year-old decided to take a leak by the side of the pitch, behind the advertising hoardings, whilst the play was up the other end and then rushed back into his goal. "I was as nervous as never before," the former Arsenal keeper explained.

Meanwhile, Stuttgart chief Horst Heldt hailed his keeper's thoughtful, impromptu solution: "It reminded me of the Tour de France. Sometimes you have no option but to go."

Walcott signs for Random House - Thursday, December 10

Arsenal striker Theo Walcott has signed a four-book deal with Random House to produce a number of children's books and, when you think about it, there's sense behind the madness.

First of all, it's not that long ago that baby-faced Walcott was in short trousers himself and as such is well placed to impart his wisdom to other young boys. Secondly, he's nearly always injured (did we mention he went off with ankle knack on Wednesday?) and has plenty of time to fill.

The England international will be "working with a writer" to produce novels based on his career so far, featuring a character named TJ who falls in with a football-loving crowd, but the news Walcott has been drafted in has received a mixed response.

Bona fide author Mal Peet, whose retelling of Othello as the story of a South American football star won an award for children's fiction, said: "The scowly part of me thinks, 'Oh yeah, another celebrity publishing deal, taking the bread from the mouths of proper writers like me'. But the cheerier part of me thinks it might be quite a good thing."

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