I was very tempted to make this the Magnificent None this week as the weekend’s football threw up very few villains. But, if you scratch and sniff beneath the calm, safe exterior of the weekend Premier League action then you can always find something to point the finger of fun towards. Eh, Slaven?
#1 West Ham United
Let’s go straight for the jugular, shall we? West Ham United. You’ve come back from 2-0 down at Wembley to win 3-2 against Tottenham. You are 2-0 up against Crystal Palace, a team that has scored one Premier League goal themselves all season. You’d think they might exercise a slight element of caution, considering that even they managed to come back from TWO GOALS DOWN themselves just days earlier? God no, this is West Ham United, they of zero tactical awareness. Even after they gifted Palace a penalty you’d think they might try and shut up shop? Well, in fairness, they probably did try. Their entire back four seemed to be sitting on their goal line (not a bad move if Joe Hart is in nets, admittedly) deep into injury time. The fact that Wilf Zaha was in the area and facing the touchline and still managed to wriggle his way round and score is symptomatic of the problems at West Ham. How did the ball even end up in their penalty area in injury time? You’d probably be best off asking Michail Antonio, if they have recovered his body from being thrown under the bus bu Slaven and Hart in the post-match presser.
#2 Claude Puel
It’s hard to believe anyone wakes up and goes to work holding a grudge against Southampton FC, wanting to prove them completely wrong. The south coast feeder club are one of the most inoffensive clubs in Premier League history. Yet Claude is a man with a mission. Having been turfed out for not playing sexy, attractive, open, relegation fodder football Claude is back. He’s seen what’s gone down at St Mary’s since and it’s hardly watching fecking Barcelona, is it? Will he be another stroke of genius by the much derided Leicester board? A 2-0 win against Everton isn’t a bad start.
#3 David Unsworth
Speaking of Everton, what the hell happened to David Unsworth? He looks like he should be auditioning for a part in Peter Kay’s next northern sit-com. Personally, I like my managers to look like they could still do a bit if needed, and if one thing all the foreign coaches have brought our way it’s a bit of style and grace on the touchline. Christ, even Sean Dyche looks like he could at least join in the end-of-session 5-aside and not keel over. Unsworth? Let’s just say he is making the most of being allowed to eat pies now, and he shares a butcher with Steve Bruce. Actually, that’s not even fair on Brucey now. Either way, Unsworth wants the Everton job and will get it by “winning football matches” and he plans to start that approach real soon, honest.
#4 Ashley Young
Top marks to Ashley Young. He was once a hot young English prospect with at least a small portion of the world at his feet. Dele Alli, as talented as he is, does come across as a bit of a precocious idiot when playing the game as well as he does. He doesn’t have the sheer anger of an Ian Wright or a Roy Keane, or the menace of an Eric Cantona. No, Alli just comes across as a bit of a knob. Good player though, good player. Ashley Young might make his money doing all kinds of odd jobs around Old Trafford now, but he managed to cut Alli down to size beautifully at Old Trafford after the Spurs man made some kind of “zimmer frame” reference to Ash. Quick as a flash, in true Manchester United style, Young responded with “f**k off and come back when you’ve won the Premier League”. Ashley my boy, I think you might actually be on that zimmer by the time that happens.
#5 Alvaro Morata
They are tricky things, those misquotes in the press. It is very easy for “I love living in London and I would happily sign a ten-year deal if they put it under my nose” said in Spanish to be translated via Google to “I hate living in London, it is cold and it rains all the time and the mister is a bastard”. Morata, in no way forced by the club’s PR team, put the record straight far quicker than he is recovering from that injury. Of course he’d sign a ten-year deal. Imagine the signing on fee, alongside the knowledge that no contract means anything in football!
#6 Sam Allardyce
Is there any manager that plays the game better than Big Sam? Admittedly, he screwed it up with England but when it comes to navigating the club merry-go-round he is a true pro. He’d be open to Everton, of course he would. That’s the gamble he was taking by turning down everything else in the hope something just a bit bigger and more sparkly came along.
#7 Tony Pulis
Tony promised something a bit different at the weekend and Tony delivered something a bit different at the weekend. WBA went all cavalier against Manchester City and came out the wrong side of a five-goal-thriller. Over at Stoke City, they won 1-0 with a very well worked set-piece routine. Something has gone wrong somewhere.