Folks, I think I have sussed it. The question that has been puzzling us for a while now. I have the answer and it is so very simple. It really is. You’ll laugh when you hear it. You really will.
Am I stringing this out a bit? Maybe.
I know how we can stop Manchester City winning the league this season.
Make them play Benfica Wolves FC every week. Sorted. Next?
Oh, you want more detail? OK – last season, Wolves were the only team to stop Peppy G’s galloping gallopers scoring within 90 minutes. Actually, they kept them out for 120 minutes in the League Cup. And, on Saturday, they became the first team this season to take points off the Champions. So, working on a theory that could have been devised by the local U9 football team, I reckon that the best way to stop City is to pitch them up against Nuno Espirito Santos’ lot every weekend.
I do have a few observations from the match as well, believe it or not. Firstly, £50m might get you a left-back that everyone was very, very excited about last week but it does not get you a left-back that knows how to take legal throw-ins. How many times did Benjamin Mendy screw that up? I counted at least three. Mind you, that’s not as bad as in Spain. I reckon it’s a 100% foul throw ratio on Spanish shores.
We need to talk about Rui Patricio as well. I am not a fan of him wearing the number 11 shirt in goal, it’s plain wrong. Conversely, I am a fan of the save he made from Raheem Sterling, tipping the ball on to the bar in style. That was the best save of the season so far, by a mile.
Wolves’ goal clearly was a case of Bol to hand as Willy Boly missed his header and bundled the ball in with his arm. But, of course, we have the best referees in the world in the Premier League and as a result we not need VAR to help in these situations. The fact that Boly was actually offside when he punched it in doesn’t really need highlighting either.
In a curious parallel universe where the Premier League does have VAR, that Wolves goal was chalked off and City went up the other end and won a penalty. They scored it, of course, and my whole theory gets blown out of the water. Fortunately for me, that did not happen and City had to dig deep to get an equaliser from Laporte, a goal where ironically Boly missed his header again.
Martin Atkinson really did have a terrible game and whilst we giggle at how bad La Liga might be with VAR this season it really is time for the Premier League to remove its head from its bottom and accept that referees do need help.
Liverpool welcomed Brighton knowing a win would send their fans into the unrealistic stratosphere, a place that Liverpool fans rarely need to receive a second invite. Mohamed Salah scored and Liverpool won. That tricky second season syndrome is really getting to Mo, isn’t it? Alisson got some pelters for “showboating” but if you go and pay £70m+ for a goalkeeper because he is good with his feet, what do you expect? Liverpool sit top with three clean sheets so even if Alisson is dinking the ball over an opponent before laying it off with the calm of Messi on a really calm day, what he is doing behind the defence appears to be working too.
Before heading off to play Newcastle United, Chelsea made it very, very clear that the club is NOT for sale and that Roman Abramovich was NOT thinking of cutting his ties with the UK. On the other side of the fence, Newcastle United fans were still dreaming of Mike Ashley finding a buyer for the club and there was even talk of them giving up their new “50% off at the House of Fraser” membership cards if it sped up the process.
On the pitch, you didn’t need to be a tactical genius to suss what Newcastle’s tactics were. Put the entire matchday squad in the penalty area and defend, defend, defend against a Chelsea team who actually managed 136% of possession. That tells you how negative Newcastle were. Ye, can we just sound that VAR klaxon once again? How on earth could that have been given a penalty? You have to feel for a defender who has spent all day doing exactly what Rafa Benitez had instructed (and done it very well) to have that given against you. It wasn’t much of a game to watch if you like that free-flowing champagne stuff but for me, I like seeing a backs-to-the-wall, thou-shalt-not-pass type displays and I felt Newcastle were hard done by. Oh, Hazard recovered from about 50 whacks to his shins to get up and slot the penalty away. Now, you’d expect Chelsea to see that one out wouldn’t you? Aha, not this time. Newcastle chose to depart their penalty area following going behind and Joselu equalised with a lovely little finish, right after Olivier Giroud took one to the chops. Would VAR have sorted that one out as well? You betcha. It would have made sense for Newcastle to batten down the hatches having nicked the leveller but no, Andre De Yedlin (he who smacked big Oli in the smacker) toe-poked one into his own net as King Karma started celebrating wildly in the stands.
Arsenal met West Ham on Saturday in a game that meant one of the teams was likely to end the weekend bottom of the table and utterly pointless – utterly pointless being a label often used to describe both Arsenal and West Ham. Everything seemed to be going rosily for the Hammers when Arnie put them 1-0 up from the spot but, be honest now, is there a West Ham fan out there that didn’t expect them to self-combust in the second-half? From leading, they simply froze leading to an instant equaliser. The second half gave us a horrible debut own-goal from Issy Diop and then a clincher from Danny Welbeck. Yes, you know it’s a bad day out when Welbz comes off the bench to tidy things up because you rarely throw on Danny when you are chasing a game – he’s there when things are already done. Unai Emery felt compelled to tell the world that Mesut Ozil had not walked out of training following some comments in the press from his new manager earlier in the week and that he didn’t play because of ‘illness’. Wow, if we are suggesting that Ozil doesn’t play for Arsenal when he is ill then he must be suffering from something terminal judging the last few seasons. The fact is, Ozil does not fit what Emery wants from a footballer (things like effort, work-rate, tactical discipline etc) which makes the decision to grant him a new £350k-a-week contract a bit daft.
The season was starting a bit too well for Everton’s Richarlison and he must have wanted all the furore surrounding him to calm down a little bit. Therefore, an ill-advised neck jut at a Bournemouth player made perfect sense. It wasn’t a proper headbutt, but it was enough for the Brazilian to be sent-off meaning he might get a couple of weeks where people forget he exists. Either way, Marco Silva is bound to stop his surrogate son’s pocket money this week. Theo Walcott spotted a chance to become the new teacher’s pet, however, and he scored a fine goal in the 2-2 draw. Michael Keane was carried off with a hairline fracture of the skull which looked a bit nasty. Idrissa Gueye must have a head of granite as he walked away absolutely fine.
Huddersfield and Cardiff could not be bothered to put on a football match so I cannot be bothered to pass comment.
Claude Puel’s celebration at St Mary’s was nice to see. Karma hasn’t forgiven Southampton for sacking him having taken them to Wembley and karma isn’t finished with the Saints yet. Harry Maguire scored a goal that didn’t involve his massive forehead and it was enough to secure an injury-time win for Leicester City.
Fulham and Burnley didn’t really suggest “lots of goals” in the build-up but I think I called it 3-2 Fulham in my Friday column. With five minutes to go, I had, surprisingly, called it correctly. That was until Andre Schurrle popped up to net Fulham’s fourth and seal their first Premier League win of the season. You have to worry about Burnley at this stage, Europe seems to have taken a lot out of them already. Still, they’ll be out of that by the next time we talk.
Watford and Crystal Palace put on a bit of a feisty affair and, incredibly, Watford end the weekend joint top of the Premier League. I mean, they always start the season well but this is bizarre. Some people are suggesting they could be this season’s Burnley so Watford fans had better start checking out some super cool European destinations like Aberdeen. Mind you, it could have been very different if Joel Ward could have hit the literal cow’s backside with his banjo of a header in the last minute.
I heard on a podcast during the week that we are approximately three weeks away from the “Jose Mourinho buzzcut” where Jose, in a clear cry for help, gets a drastic haircut for no apparent reason. Except, the reason is oh-so-apparent. It is the beginning of the end for Jose when he does this. History suggests that the buzzcut to the sacking is, on average, five weeks. We are currently in the “being really rude at press conferences” phase and Jose’s pre-Tottenham presser started early and finished after just four minutes, four minutes of Jose being particularly awkward.
I wonder if failure to beat Tottenham on Monday night will see the Portuguese grump start eyeing up a new pair of hair clippers?