Whoa there, what’s that I see? A tactically disciplined performance from Arsenal against a top-six side? If I hadn’t watched it myself I would not have believed the reports. Arsenal, with a team that looked like a schoolboy team, might have been able to bully them in the middle, stood tall against the Chelsea champions who disrespected their opponents so much they picked Cesc Fabregas in midfield rather than another enforcer. Arsenal could not be any more inconsistent if they reverted to picking their team and attitude out of a hat each weekend. When they show they can play like that, without Sanchez and Mesut Ozil incidentally, it makes it even more of a disgrace that they folded at Anfield in such a way. Who’d have thought it though, drop Ozil and the midfield looks like it’s not carrying a lazy so and so. It’s still impossible to take your eyes off David Luiz over the course of 90 minutes. The “defender” had a fine game and then thought he’d try and break the legs of the only Arsenal player that looks like he might be able to handle himself. This was after doing an overhead kick right into Koscielny’s nose earlier in the game, something that Graeme Souness struggled to see as different to Sadio Mane karate kicking Ederson in the head last week. Yes, Graeme. Trying to score a worldy inside the box is just the same as taking a goalkeeper out around the ear outside the penalty area. Anyway, never change David, never change.
If you cast your mind back to that transfer window that closed recently, there were some Arsenal fans who believed they might actually be able to sign Sergio Aguero. Who says they haven’t got a clue, hey? Aguero cut Watford’s dream of topping the table to shreds, netting his 10th Manchester City hat-trick in a 6-0 win. Pep Guardiola said he is now “happy with the balance and attitude” of his squad, which you would hope he would be having invested about a billion quid in it since arriving from Munich.
Liverpool FC have been picking teams for 125 years now, and still, fortune cannot get in the starting eleven according to King Klopp. Jurgen felt it was bad luck, rather than awful, awful defending once again that cost Liverpool two points at home to Burnley. It was the kind of performance that will have made Coutinho “interested” in the “flattering” offer from Barcelona and he will be hoping that Barcelona still want to take him out for dinner and tell him how pretty he is in January, especially considering that their big signing Ousmane Dembele has proven to be somewhat faulty. Sean Dyche revealed his tactical nous post-game. “We wanted to keep them away from our goal”. Give that man the England job. Over in Germany, Naby Keita was sent off for Mane like tackle for RB Leipzig, so he is clearly looking to fit in with his new teammates ahead of his move next summer.
Was a 0-0 dull game the perfect way for Gareth Barry to equal Ryan Giggs’ 632 Premier League match record? How did Joe Hart manage to keep back to back clean sheets? Why does Slaven Bilic continue to destroy my Fantasy League signing of Javier Hernandez? Why does David Sullivan exist? So many questions came out of West Bromwich Albion’s snoozefest with West Ham United. Gareth Barry might well be the least interesting midfielder in Premier League history. I mean, who remembers the 2010 World Cup when his availability was thought to be the turning point in England’s campaign? And they struggle to work out why England will never win anything. Having Gareth Barry as your main hope, or even the glue to hold things together, might explain things. The answer to Hart keeping two clean sheets might be down to the fact he has barely had a shot to save in those two matches and I cannot explain Bilic’s tactical behaviour. As for David Sullivan? You can criticise Tony Pulis’ style all you like my friend, but you don’t see many people laughing at his club from Monday to Sunday, do you?
That monkey was clearly on a midweek city break, as he was most certainly back on Tottenham’s back in their 0-0 draw with Swansea City at Wembley. Spurs hit the woodwork twice, should have probably had three penalties (though none of the shouts came from Alli falling over in the box which massively reduces the chances of them being given) and generally dominated the game against Paul Clement’s men. Yet, there is no Wembley curse OK?
Roy Hodgson was full of the joys of spring after watching his new Crystal Palace side perform just like the old Crystal Palace side in their 1-0 defeat to Southampton. Roy feels “there is more pain to come” and that his “players need to stop digging their own graves”. Roy, finger on the pulse as ever, also mentioned that “the anxiety is there to see for everyone involved” and he mentioned the need for “hard work” at least five times. Fun, fun and fun will not be in plentiful supply at Selhurst Park for the foreseeable future as Roy gets to work. In the course of their defeat, Palace broke a record over 100 years old for not scoring or collecting a single point in their first five games.
Newcastle United are doing quite well for a club in crisis, which both Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley are probably taking credit for despite having completely different viewpoints. Each point Rafa collects vindicates Ashley’s approach so maybe he does know how to run a club after all? Don’t say that to a Newcastle fan though, because they are the most down to earth and realistic fans in the country after the Gooners. Jamie Vardy missed an absolute sitter but scored a penalty in the 1-1 draw at Huddersfield. Huddersfield needed the point to stop that slide down the table having been top for the first 180 minutes of the season.
Eddie Howe’s managerial crisis might be over for this week, Bournemouth coming back from one down to beat Brighton 2-1.
The weekend was rounded off at Old Trafford. Before the match, Everton announced a sponsorship with Angry Birds, which we do not believe has been funded by Colleen Rooney. Her husband Wayne was back at the club he last played well for in about 2013, and once again United looked more potent in attack after Rooney had been substituted. Moments after Ronald Koeman withdrew the ineffective former England captain United scored their second to wrap up the win. Quite why Everton felt the need to have everyone in their own box to defend a throw in for United’s first is a bit of a mystery, but it was one hell of a hit by Antonio Valencia to get the Reds off to a fine start. As today’s column is posing a few questions, how about this one. Ronald Koeman has spent a lot of money and still his Everton team look like a random bunch of individuals out there to indulge someone’s dream of returning to their boyhood club so how long before the Dutchman gets the boot and Rooney takes over “until the end of the season”, eh?
Finally, Harry Redknapp was able to bow out of football, maybe finally, in the way he would have wanted. Signing 14 players in a transfer window and then saying he didn’t get the ones he wanted or long enough to work with the ones he got. Agents everywhere will be mourning the eventual retirement of ‘Arry, but not as much as the players nearing retirement hoping to get one last payday from the manager who is “not a wheeler-dealer, awight?” Birmingham’s fancy new owners decided to sack the 15th best manager England never had as they weren’t too keen on being, even more, bottom of the league than when Harry took over.