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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League

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From Tower Power to absolute shower

If the Premier League's all-you-can-eat buffet served up endless trinkets of champagne and caviar for Blackpool after their heroics at Wigan last week, it was buckets of gravel and rainwater this as Arsenal cut through all the confidence they'd gained on the opening day like white spirit on a wall of vomit.

Nice to see that Ian Holloway has quickly picked up the top flight's rigid adherence to the 'respect the ref' campaign, as he set about blaming his side's smashing on Michael Jones' decision to dismiss Ian Evatt - despite the fact you won't see a more nailed-on red card this season. Stick to the obscure, whimsical simile's Olly, and let us all do the serious analysis bit yeah?

As for Arsenal, this is the sort of opposition they dream of - open, adventurous and wet behind the ears - like a footballing equivalent of Rollergirl from Boogie Nights. And though Theo Walcott may have slotted a tidy hat-trick and given Blackpool's defenders piles with his blistering pace, he still managed to fill an entire section of wasted opportunities and embarrassing misses all by himself.

What Latics-tude are you on?

Blackpool's humiliation at Arsenal was tempered by the collection of 'couldn't care less-es' at Wigan they stuffed last week. The Latics' 6-0 thumping at home to Chelsea means the sparse and angry crowd at the Megalomaniac Stadium (sorry, the DW) have now seen ten goals this season - all hammered ruthlessly past Chris Kirkland, England's number 12. That aggregate count is rising fast. Last three Premier League games? Others 18-0 Wigan.

For half an hour they looked half decent but as soon as Chelsea scored they collapsed like a one-eyed, three-legged donkey doing the steeplechase. No surprise when Roberto Martinez is forced to rely upon such unreliable players like Charles Insomnia, who is shifting comfortably through the gears of his 'sulk until I get a move away' routine. First stage, repeat that you are available, second stage, repeat name of top four club you want to sign for, third stage, go on strike, fourth stage, sign for Birmingham. Wait nine months, then start again from stage one.

Insomnia's one redeeming feature from Saturday is that he put the boot into John Terry's face, and wound the cheeky cockney chappy up into such a rage that was determined to do all he could to get even, not to mention sent off. Carlo Ancelotti said after the game Chelsea were exhibiting "playstation football" as the likes of Drogba, Malouda and Anelka ran riot - but if that lot are at the top end of consoles, then JT and his sawdust brain are still stuck somewhere between the Spectrum and the Atari.

Titanic Toon's 'tache ta ta

Long before the Premier League season started Chris Hughton told the press he was thankful that Newcastle's fall from grace and thrifty approach to signings (otherwise known as the Mike Ashley effect) had dampened the usually exorbitant expectation levels on Tyneside, but he'll have a job holding back the hordes screaming 'Europa League certainties' after the unexpected thrashing of Aston Villa at the hallowed Sports Direct or something

Had John Carew not registered the season's first Chris Waddle impression from the spot things may well have been different, but after that Hughton's men ran riot with two of their more punchy, not to mention moustachioed characters, getting right amongst it. The quality of Joey Barton's opening goal is not in question but his celebration raised a few eyebrows. Some thought they could detect an inappropriate Hitler-style gesture to go with his inappropriate, Hitler-style tache. Surely not, given the lad's track record of solid judgement and sound character.

Andy Carroll has been likened to Barton, given his penchant for a ruck, but no wonder the Geordies love him. He was such a handful for Villa, it makes you wonder how Newcastle will cope without him should he indisposed in October when his assault trial begins. Perhaps the prospect of more days like this will curb his youthful enthusiasm in the handbag stakes.

So, a triumphant 6-0 drubbing and even the sun was out on Tyneside. Given the Geordies approach to clothing - t-shirts and miniskirts in winter - I'm surprised we weren't subjected to the grisly sight of 43,000 people dancing for joy on the terraces in their birthday suits.

Well, what did you see Foy?

A gold star must go to Stoke boss Tony Pulis - he of the alleged naked headbutt incident don't forget - for not piling right into referee Chris Foy after the cock-eyed official sparked the first shouts for goal-line technology this side of the World Cup.

Stoke were desperately searching for a late equaliser against a teetering Spurs, still embarrassed by their whipping at the hands of Young Boys in midweek (ooh matron), when it appeared Jon Walters' point blank header had found a way past Peter Crouch's ridiculous tangle of limbs and over the line.

But despite being roughly five yards from the incident, and at a perfect angle to judge whether the ball had crossed the line or not, Foy spent the important seconds after the 'goal' passing the buck to his unfortunate assistant 40 yards away, whose view of the incident was impeded by a sea of sweaty bodies. It was an astonishing abdication of duty from a man paid handsomely to make precisely that type of call. To compound Stoke's misery and everyone else's befuddlement, Foy then told the players that surrounded him, ready to tear his face off, that he "didn't see it."

If Foy is ever to appear on Masterchef don't be surprised if his signature dish is medallion of lightly grilled staggering incompetence, on a bed of responsibility swerving, topped off with a creamy jus of don't blame me, blame my mate over there.

Let it all Hange out

Fergie probably relishes Manchester United's annual trip to Craven Cottage about as much he does going to the dentist, but for those who tend to champion the underdog over the juggernaut of hot air at the top of the Premier League it is an unmissable treat. Sunday's game may not have ended with Fulham dishing out Man Utd's third thrashing in three years, but watching Brede Hangeland's last minute, point-salvaging header in high definition did allow me to realise just how red Fergie's nose actually is.

My delight comes not from any particular grievance against his team (apart from the obvious ones) but from seeing plucky little Fulham tie United's title dreams to the tracks in front of an oncoming train when the odds were stacked so firmly against them. Peter Walton adhered to the unspoken law among referees that maintains Nemanja Vidic is untouchable in his own penalty area, as the Serbian's vice-like grip on Moussa Dembele's shirt went unpunished (Carling Cup final anyone?) before he then harshly punished Damien Duff for his admittedly, ill advised slice of danger-ridden keepy uppies in his own box. All that and even United's second came from that tried and trusted own-goal route.

So in my warped mind, justice was done when David Stockdale saved Nani's feeble penalty and Brede Hangeland's towering header crept over the line to earn Fulham a point. These may be very early days in the Premier League season but Fergie is already two points and eight goals behind Chelsea, despite their differing fixtures. They'll get their chance to whip the whipping boys next week though, as West Ham tip up to Old Trafford. 6-0 anyone?

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