Once more, the Premier League returned to our TV screens this weekend. And once more, there was worldwide shock, anger and dismay as a post-international break early kick-off involving Jose Mourinho ended a 0-0 bore-fest. But, as Jose will no doubt attest to, it’s 0-0 draws at Anfield that lead to winning titles – especially when you have a team that typically puts away the lesser teams in the league unlike a team like, for example, Liverpool. Or Arsenal. Or, on this weekend’s showing, Chelsea.
To the naked eye, it was quite easy to understand why Mourinho elected to play incredibly deep against Jurgen Klopp’s men. He was without his main man, his key midfielder, the heartbeat of the United side. Yes, Marouane Fellaini picked up an injury playing for Belgium so was unavailable. United sat so deep that Romelu Lukaku only had about 20 touches of the ball in the entire game, and at least 6 of them were used up trying to bring his first touch under control. The other 14 were equally unremarkable. Klopp was not impressed with United’s approach after the match, but rather than moan about it Jurgen, why not come up with something that resembles a plan B so you can break down teams that play like this against you? It’s not just United that have successfully shut up shop against Liverpool’s alleged “electric attack”, plenty of others have camped out in their own penalty area and left with at least a point.
It wasn’t just Kloppo having a good old whinge after the game, he was joined by Arsene Wenger somewhat predictably. Yes Arsene, Richarlison took a bit of a tumble and got a penalty where he shouldn’t have but really? You are away to Watford, and even if they are having a good start to their season you don’t go to Watford and lose if you plan to win 4th place, do you? And even if you were hard done by for the spot kick, what excuse is there for not clearing that ball into Row Z in injury time, before Cleverly got the third chance to score the winner? There is none Arsene, there is none and you will do well to be top six this season playing like that. It’s no wonder that Alexis Sanchez might be “mentally” not quite right at the moment. Troy Deeney had a slightly different view on the Arsenal, claiming they merely lack the “cojones” to compete in matches like that. Coming from a fat lad playing up front, that’s a great shout from Troy.
Roy Hodgson, I take it all back. I honestly believed that you are nothing but an old man who is massively out of touch with the modern game. I had money on the fact that your Crystal Palace team would go ten games without winning or even scoring. I saw Chelsea putting more than two past you at Selhurst Park. In true Palace style, they did not even manage to score their first goal of the season – they left that honour to Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta. But even though they gave Chelsea a freebie equaliser, Palace rallied and Wilf Zaha did what he does best, scoring and then celebrating with the most genuine passion you will see in this circus of a Premier League. Never leave Palace again, Wilf. It’s just not worth it. As for Chelsea? If anyone can find Michy Batshuayi’s dummy, would they mind returning it to the Belgian international? You won’t catch Roy Hodgson getting carried away though, oh no. He immediately made it clear that Crystal Palace “would be foolish to think they’ve earned a fresh start” just because they finally managed to score some goals, get some points and beat the league champions. Way to rally the troops Roy, way to rally the troops.
Allow me to be the first one to point out that if Sam Allardyce was still the manager at West Ham United and they scored the goal they scored at Burnley, the fans would be demanding his resignation. Pep Guardiola said Joe Hart could not pass a ball. Pep was clearly wrong, as Joe launched one hell of a pass over the Burnley back four for Antonio to run on to and score. There is nothing wrong with a bit of hoof ball at the right time, boys. Burnley battled back as normal and Chris Wood equalised. Andy Carroll is clearly having to come up with new ways to play as few minutes as possible, managing to pick up two yellow cards in a matter of minutes and leaving the Hammers with ten men.
You won’t catch Manchester City scoring many goals like West Ham’s. They cruised into a 3-0 lead against Stoke City before Stoke massively upset them by scoring two of their own. That proved to be Stoke’s downfall as City turned it on again, scoring a further four and winning 7-2. I reckon there is an office sweepstake going on, where City staff are guessing how many times the players can pass it to each other in the opposition penalty area before sliding it into an open goal.
There was more shock horror at Wembley as Tottenham not only won a league match, but Harry Kane did not score the goal for Harry Kane FC. This time the honour fell to Christian Eriksen and Bournemouth were the fall guys. Pochettino also said he would be “honoured” to manage England one day. Fancy a one month gig sometime next summer, Mauricio? Gareth won’t mind, he looks like he has aged a decade already.
Saturday will also be a day that Huddersfield Town look back on as the day it became clear they will be relegated. Their goalkeeper picked out Swansea’s Tom Carroll perfectly who laid it on for Tammy Abraham, scoring a goal that has “going down” written all over it. Abraham got a second, and he may well look back at this Saturday as the moment he became a Premier League striker.
With seven minutes to go, you could have forgiven Ronald Koeman for putting a call into his PA to start clearing his desk at Goodison Park. Brighton led 1-0, heading for their third straight home win. Yet, with one minute remaining, it became clear why Koeman had gambled on leaving Rooney on the pitch. It was just in case they got a penalty. They did, Rooney took it and Rooney scored. Rooney was promptly substituted and Koeman probably lives to see another week.
“Rafa is the master of the 1-0,” they said on Sky Sports as Newcastle led Southampton 1-0 at St Mary’s. Wise words you’d imagine, especially as Southampton typically fail to hit a cow’s bottom with a banjo. Yet Marco’s son, Manolo Gabbiadini (and he scores so rarely now that gag has got mothballs) managed to score a fine individual goal to level matters, only to see big Fraser chuck one in 84 seconds later. Still, he’s the master of the 2-1 is Rafa. Well maybe not, as Gabbiadini was gifted the chance to level things once more from the spot. In fairness, the game was a shed load more entertaining than anything else on Sky this weekend.
We end today with a little aside on the state of Scottish football. There’s good news and bad news for the Scots. Actually, that’s incorrect. It’s bad news and bad news. The bad news is Sam Allardyce is “tempted” by the job but the timing is not right. The other bad news is that David Moyes “could not turn down his country” and the timing is absolutely bang on for the sacked Sunderland and Manchester United manager who is currently completely unemployable.