The “crisis” at Manchester City is a little like the billionaire being down to his last 50 million big ones isn’t it? Pep’s side haven’t won in five games and therefore he is being written off as a fraud and a charlatan. Admittedly, this is the kind of backlash you would expect from this column especially if the protagonists were the likes of Jose, Pogba, Arsene or Theo. Anyone would think I was anti-United or Arsenal. I can assure you I am not. Neither am I massively pro-City as anyone who read my thoughts post-Barcelona will testify. The fact remains that City, albeit trying to prove McManaman and Hoddle right, are top of the table at this premature stage. Plus, I openly know nothing about this freak show they called the Premier League as I was tipping Claude Puel to be the first manager to be politely shown the door. Southampton were good value for their draw at the Etihad and certainly did not turn up hoping not to lose. But let’s not start thinking Pep’s footballing beliefs are completely incompatible with the league. Not yet, anyway.
I mean, it’s not as if they conceded within 30 seconds having selected a team to pick up another point away at a big rival, was it? Or then proceed to lose to said rivals 4-0. It was very benevolent of Jose to distract the attention immediately away from Pep, incredibly unlike him. If United parked the bus at Anfield, it must have got clamped or something because it was as if the back four had just met via online dating and were not that impressed with each other. It was the kind of performance that a Jose team tends to give a year or so after winning their first trophy for him when he has offended all of them and blamed their mothers for not working hard enough. People are picking on Paul Pogba yet again, but it is a lot to expect of an £89m player to put in two decent performances back to back. N’Golo Kante, known for his attacking prowess in the final third, made United fans thinking that maybe Eric Djemba Djemba really wasn’t that bad in the middle of the park. Chelsea fans were singing “Do You Know The Way To Sack Jose” to the tune of a well known song, whilst Jose had the temerity to suggest that Conte’s celebrations were a little bit over the top. Mind you, it has been that long since Jose had anything to really celebrate he has probably forgotten his own antics. Liverpool fans started chirping up, but they should probably remember that they were unable to break down this watertight defence. As ex-Chelsea player Eidur Gudjohnsen brilliantly put, at least Jose still knows how to get the best out of Chelsea. Still, the globality was good, right?
Let us not completely overlook the brilliant work by Conte. Just two weeks ago he was on his way out of Chelsea and now he has rebuilt Gary Cahill, turned David Luiz into a player you can trust in a back three and has even found room for Victor Moses. And he loves a goal celebration. Oh, and he has made Kante a goal scoring midfielder. Yes, more of Conte please!
For me the sign of a good manager is being able to totally hoodwink your players into delivering a fine performance and, by this token, Claudio Ranieri is a very good manager. Ranieri told all the players to listen to the Champions League anthem on the way into work on Saturday morning, told them they were playing Basel and even got them believing it was a Wednesday night. The net result? Leicester beat Palace 3-1. Genius. I’d also like to tip my hat to the documentary curse of Pardew doing a piece with the BBC and having his praises sung during the week before getting put back in his place by a manager who really knows how to manage a club below the elite.
Talking of managing clubs below the elite, Sean Dyche is clearly planning to take over the Premier League one city at a time. Both Liverpool and Everton have been to Turf Moor and left pointless this season and Burnley even managed to pull this one off without their main man Steven Defour. “Ginger Mourinho” is a tag that Dyche is trying to shake off, mainly because nobody wants to be thought to be like Mourinho these days, but he could well become the next Englishman to be considered way too unfashionable to manage the national side. But in these days of equal opportunities, who knows?
Arsene Wenger signed Petr Cech in the hope he would single-handedly win the points that eventually lead Arsenal to the title. A good goalkeeper can be worth up to 72 points a season to a club like Arsenal after all. However, I feel it unlikely that Arsene was expecting it to be matches at home to Middlesbrough where his goalkeeper would earn them a valuable point. Cech was superb against a Boro side who ran past Arsenal like a doped up sprinter in the first half. Arsenal moved into top spot on their manager’s birthday.
Liverpool climbed their way to the top of the pile on Saturday night, but then lost their footing and fell back down. Liverpool fans tweeting “Top of the League” were quickly forced to adjust that to “Joint Top of the League” as Klopp’s men were superb for 80 minutes against WBA. But, if you cannot defend corners there is every chance that West Brom will score against you and McCleary’s goal sufficiently dented Liverpool’s goal difference to see them end the night in second place.
Spurs could have made all of this irrelevant had they scored a fraction as many goals as they picked up yellow cards in the 0-0 draw with Bournemouth. Where Liverpool and United served up a 0-0 of the dullest variety a week ago, the clash at Dean Court was full of entertainment and, somewhat blatantly, elbows. Eddie Howe would well within his rights to believe the Cherries should have been seeing out the game against 9 Spurs players after Lamela and Sissoko managed to get away with various crimes. Maybe Spurs are indeed more able with Kane?
Back in the day, Harry Bassett used to have his Sheffield United team have their Christmas party in August as they never got going until the New Year. Maybe Mark Hughes needs to explore similar possibilities as yet again Stoke have waited until late October to kick off their season. If there is a manager regretting their decision to officially take a job more than Mike Phelan right now, I would love to see him. Stoke returned from Humberside two goals to the good and faux-Barcelona’d their way out of the relegation zone.
I hate it when a Saturday round of fixtures passes without being able to point at someone and absolutely die of laughter. Thankfully in the 94th minute Sunderland gave me my moment. Is there a more hapless club in the first part of any football league season? Even they must have thought they could go to the London Stadium and make West Ham hate their new home even more? But no, deep deep deep into injury time Winston Reid thumped home the kind of goal that Payet would have been proud of to make the chatter around Sam Allardyce become a full on chant.