Early Doors

Flap or foul?

Early Doors

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With Hull City's relegation now sealed, the focus is now fully on events in the top half of the table, and Arsenal did their best to keep things interesting with their 2-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers.

That result means that there is now the tantalising prospect of Tottenham pipping them to third place if they win their last two games and the Gunners lose to Fulham on the final day.

The likelihood of that happening will surely increase if Manuel Almunia doesn't make it back for Sunday's match at the Emirates, leaving Lukasz Fabianski in the Arsenal goal once again.

Fabianski was constantly blocked off by Blackburn forwards as they lobbed in corner and long throws, and the tactic worked to a tee as it led to goals for David Dunn and Chris Samba.

The Polish keeper was unlucky at Ewood Park, as he made several decent saves in the match, but came unstuck during Rovers' aerial assaults.

For all his previous aberrations, it would be harsh to blame him for the two Rovers goals that stretched the Gunners' poor run to one win in their last games, but it is his reputation that led to him being targeted in such a way.

Arsene Wenger cried foul for the build-up to both goals, Sam Allardyce called it exposing weaknesses.

Whether or not referee Martin Atkinson should have disallowed one or both goals, it's clear that Fabainski is a keeper lacking in confidence, and is unable to take command of his area.

Allardyce clearly revels in getting one over on Wenger, and being so at odds with the French coach's continuous crusade for beautiful football.

Wenger can complain all he wants about the 'anti-football' of certain opponents, but he has been in England long enough to know that there will always be a handful of matches every season where his team are going to get muscled out of the game.

He has also had more than enough time to recruit a better reserve keeper - and, for that matter, a first-choice one.

Should the unthinkable happen and Spurs leapfrog them into third place (which, for ED's money, is still unthinkable), then Wenger will no longer be able to deny the investment and overhaul his squad needs.

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Hull's relegation was confirmed after their 2-2 draw at Wigan. To be honest, it comes as something of a relief.

It saves us having to address the possibility of 22-goal swing on the final day that was needed to keep the Tigers up at the expense of West Ham.

Now at least the fans can give their team a proper send-off on Sunday when Liverpool come to town. Hopefully they'll do so with another top selection of fancy dress outfits as they did at the DW Stadium - among the travelling support were Tigger, Bananaman and a very accurate Phil Brown.

Not all of the squad were here to get a commiserating headlock from Iain Dowie though - poor old Stephen Hunt had to sit and squirm in the studio as Craig Burley blasted the club's financial mismanagement (how many times has ED typed those words this season?), and Ray Stubbs probed the Ireland winger about that punch-up between Jimmy Bullard and Nicky Barmby.

There's no shame in Hull being relegated from the Premier League after two seasons, a period which represents their entire time in the top flight in their 106-year history. Since the moment Dean Windass belted in his volleyed winner in the play-off final, they've given us on-pitch team-talks, final-day sing-songs and offended the Women's Institute. You can't ask for much more than that in just two years.

However, with Dowie at the helm and a shedding of high-earners from the wage bill, it might be a while before we see them again.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "All my mum's family are City fans. I can remember going to Maine Road at Christmas with them to watch games. I have a lot of memories of Man City. My mum is a City fan. She will be there, as will all the rest. It is difficult but I hope Tottenham can qualify and it will make it even more sweeter ­knowing it's at the expense of City! I have to try to get most of them tickets to be honest.  Obviously I'll be putting her and the rest of them in the Tottenham end, so she will have to be quiet!" - Will Spurs striker Peter Crouch celebrate with a 'shh' gesture towards the away fans if he scores at Eastlands tomorrow night?

HAIRDO OF THE DAY: Paul Scharner, out of contract in the summer, sends a loving message to the Wigan fans in his own unique way.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I feel good with what I did. There were reports that I had stepped aside over a comment by the coach and I say: 'One has to be pretty stupid to stay out of a World Cup over a remark'. This goes deeper, there's another question. We can't work together. It's my way of being and there are things I can understand and others I can't. Every day that passes, I feel calm because I did the right thing." - Juan Roman Riquelme expresses his disappointment at missing out this year's finals in South Africa but maintains he was right to turn his back on coach Diego Maradona.

COMING UP: It's the last Old Firm derby of the season, and the last one Celtic could win for a while if Ronald Koeman takes over. Follow Celtic v Rangers this evening from 19:30. There's also commentary of Barcelona v Tenerife (19:00) and Valencia v Xerez (21:00). And from the West Indies there'll be coverage of New Zealand v Zimbabwe (14:30) and England v Duckworth-Lewis - sorry, England v Ireland (18:30) - with England needing a win to avoid an early flight home.

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