Pick on the Pundits

After over a year, this car crash is back.

A lot has happened in the world of football since late October 2018. The P45 podcast died a slow, painless death to the heartbreak of its two regular listeners; Liverpool won the Champions League; Liverpool won the Champions League and Liverpool won the Champions League.

I think you can remember who I support.

This also marks three years since the first part of this column went out on a website we shall not name. I’m sure everyone reading really cares about that.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back on this regularly and it’s almost nice to see Gary, Big Al and Caitlyn Jenner’s pal Ian Wright. This weekend also saw Mike Dean’s 500th appearance in the Premier League, a fact they were keen to point out to likely appease Sporf or LadBible.

We open at Southampton? Hold on. You go away for a year and apparently Southampton are exciting. They’re hosting Jorge Mendes’ pet project Wolves. The Saints are actually red hot in the league and are slowly removing the stench of the boredom of Puel and Pellegrino. Oh, and the general stench of Mark Hughes. Wolves, meanwhile, are a bit hit-and-miss which is unsurprising since they actually seem to want to play on Thursday nights. Weirdos.

That was fun, a statement I’d never usually connect to anything involving Southampton. We got rare Easter egg scorers for the Saints with Bednarek and that wee rat Shane Long and then their defence remembered that they were employed by Southampton and capitulated. Firstly, they let Pedro Neto panic long enough to get the ball down and smash it in. Then VAR gave Wolves a penalty that involved Jack Stephens, I can only assume, having a nap in the box. Finally, Raul Jimenez did what Jimenez does and scored the winner for a Wolves side who are looking well on course to finish ninth.

I will also say that Jimenez’s post-match interview had him dressed as a cow which is a bold fashion choice. I would have something to say about the analysis but it can be broken down to “look at Wolves goals. Gee, that was a penalty. Wolves are alright, eh?”

Moving on to the big boys as we head to Carrow Road… wait, what’s happening here? Both of these sides are not very good, evidenced by the fact they are the bottom two. It’s surprising that Bournemouth are in the position they are in considering the talent they have. Maybe Eddie Howe is turning into Owen Coyle? Norwich are just trying to survive which is nice. Still won’t happen.

Sums up Bournemouth’s season in one game. Steve Cook’s handball will go down alongside Steven Taylor’s in the annals of Premier League history but it cost Bournemouth the game here. That and Callum Wilson slipping on his arse in front of goal. In truth, it’s looking grim for Bournemouth but there’s still time. Well, not unless you listen to commentary, as Jacqui Oatley read them their last rites.

Ah, order has been restored. We’re at the Etihad next as City host Crystal Palace. It was apparently Pep’s birthday and no City manager had ever won on their birthday – not at all ominous. Meanwhile, Palace were doing Woy things again, pottering around in the top half, just generally being a bit of a nuisance.

This just warms my heart. Nothing is giving me more pleasure than watching John Stones flap and flail through a game against a side that should never have a chance against City. What makes it funnier is that he struggled to contain someone who Palace signed because their current strikers have never managed more than five shots on target in the last fifteen years it seems. And even then Tosun was a punt. Actually, that’s why Stones struggled. Anyway, City should have won but Zaha did Zaha things and forced an own goal in the last minute to amuse quite a few Liverpool fans. And no doubt some United fans too.

It was St James’ next as Newcastle hosted Chelsea. Newcastle are perhaps unsurprisingly not bottom of the league despite all the hysteria around Steve Bruce’s appointment. Might be because they’re not that bad overall despite the 500 different injuries they have. Chelsea, meanwhile, have become a little more likeable since they got that transfer ban. Might be because they’re decent to watch and have actually promoted youth for the first time in about 20 years. It’s still Chelsea though so I’m not exactly a fan.

A classic Newcastle performance. A few hairy moments, some limb flailing from Tammy Abraham and then a late goal to win it. There’s not really much else to say to be honest. Chelsea were not amazing. Moving along.

The Emirates next as Mike Dean gets his 500th start in the middle as Sheffield United are the visitors. It’s been all change at Arsenal since the last PotP as Unai Emery was sacked and Mikel Arteta was appointed boss. It’s not been smooth sailing so far but there are positive signs. Meanwhile, Sheffield United have won everyone’s hearts with their performances. When I say everyone, I do mean everyone. In these bleak times, Leavers and Remainers both love Sheffield United, mostly because a dog pissed on their cone in Stanley Park.

Are you surprised? Arsenal have been fragile despite the new boss and Sheffield United have been excellent all season. It does say a lot about Arteta’s impact that even Mustafi can get in the team and play well. Granit Xhaka is getting games again and nobody is complaining about it! Sheffield United are doing Sheffield United things so Chris Wilder for PM.

To the Generic Large Stadium as West Ham hosted Everton in the Derby della Moyesy. Remarkably, about three weeks ago both of these sides looked at their previous managers, looked at David Moyes, looked at their previous managers and thought, “we need some of him”. Of course, Everton saw sense when they heard Carlo Ancelotti was available but West Ham were not so lucky. Both sides have been labelled disappointing which is funny because what really are they aiming for?

Unsurprisingly, this game was quite meh. Also unsurprisingly, Mason Holgate was involved in a dumb incident and then had a moan. I always enjoy watching him on the verge of tears after he tries to be tough then doesn’t get his way. Big Al’s praise for him is probably helped by the fact he spent much of the time playing against Robert Snodgrass. West Ham were fine, so were Everton. Who really cares?

To Brighton next as we get to see Aston Villa for the first time here. Both sides are near the bottom but Villa have spent big, trying their best to be this season’s Fulham. Fortunately, for them, nobody could be that incompetent so they’re doing OK. Brighton are… erm… are Brighton doing well? I honestly couldn’t tell you if they’re a good team.

This was fun enough. Both sides look to have a little something about them but both do look they’ll be in the relegation scrap. Grealish will keep Villa up mostly by himself, mostly thanks to the fact they’ve signed Pepe Reina on loan. Brighton are fine. Inoffensive. But can anyone tell me if they’re good or not? Answers on a postcard, please.

We finish at Vicarage Road where the United Nations host Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham. Wait, hold on. Mourinho at Spurs? Jesus, I’ve not done this for a while. Still, nothing quite gives me as much please as seeing Spurs struggle, heightened by the fact Jose is in the dugout. Meanwhile, the UN is now headed by Nigel Pearson, who is actually doing a good job. Who would have thought?

Mourinho’s fume. Inject it into my veins. He doesn’t even have a point either. Superb.

So, that’s it for another week. What did we learn this time? Well, Chris Wilder should be PM; I know nothing about Brighton; Bournemouth are in trouble; John Stones brings me joy, and nothing – I repeat nothing – brings me joy like an angry Jose.