Who remembers when Petr Cech was a world-class goalkeeper? When Arsene Wenger was a football revolutionary? When Jack Wilshere was the future of English football? When were Arsenal known for having the tightest, meanest most boring defence in the league? Yeah, me too. Life moves on, and life for Arsenal right now is finding themselves 2-0 down at Brighton trying to conjure up the character needed for a comeback. And, in true Arsenal style, it ended up being a job half done. They got it back to 2-1, meaning there was hope and that is the thing with the modern Arsenal. There is always a small element of hope. The lights still flicker from time to time. Apparently, the players met last week to discuss why they were doing so badly. I think it’s fair to say that they didn’t come up with any quick fixes – even if one of the things they claimed they needed was “more support from the coaches”. I’ve been saying for a while, get Jens back in goal and Bouldy at centre back. It can’t get any worse.
Arsene fully intends to honour his contract, reminding everyone before the game that he has “turned down the world” to be loyal to Arsenal. Sadly Arsene, I don’t think they can afford to be loyal to you any longer. A change now might, and only might, reignite things enough to put up a decent fight for the Europa League and there cannot be a manager or coach on the planet capable of getting Arsenal into the top four this season. They have lost more games than Burnley. They have lost the same amount of games as Leicester City. They have only lost one fewer than Brighton and Southampton and Southampton are, at the time of writing, a point outside of the relegation zone.
Antonio Conte is very much another manager looking for his board to publically back him. The Chelsea manager talked about the need for funds to make the squad stronger which loosely translated means “if you don’t give me a large transfer kitty in the summer Roman, I’ll be off to Italy thank you very much”. Conte is very much laying the track for it not being his fault when Abramovich decides to sack him over the summer. Of course, the other way to lay the track is to send out a team without a recognised target man and then send a stream of high balls into the space only half occupied by Eden Hazard. Chelsea rarely threatened Manchester City at the Etihad and when David found his brother Bernard at the far post it was the goal City needed to score. They knew they didn’t need more than one, Chelsea weren’t that fussed at all. Jamie Redknapp called it “a crime against football” which was a little rich coming from a man wearing a blue velvet suit “analysing” a game of football.
With Manchester United playing on Monday night, Liverpool sprinted into second place. There was no fog on the Tyne, mainly because the game was being played at Anfield, but Liverpool cut through it like a knife through hot butter with Mo Salah (obviously) and Sadio Mane scoring the goals that saw off Newcastle United 2-0.
Tottenham Hotspur “can win the Champions League” according to some pundits who probably had a few too many over Sunday breakfast. More likely for Tottenham is that they will finish top four as Heung-Min Son borrowed Harry Kane’s spotlight briefly in their 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town.
They say it is not over until the fat lady sings, but her slightly rotund brother is currently on stage warming up proceedings for Alan Pardew. Troy Deeney, who once body-doubled for Pavarotti, scored a late goal to claim all three points for Watford and leave Pards with absolutely nowhere to turn, unless he is man enough to turn to the door marked “exit”. Mind you, as he knows it will probably be his last ever Premier League job he would be wise to leave kicking and screaming.
There is nothing quite like selling a good player to a relegation rival in the January transfer window and then watch him lead his new side to victory over you weeks later. David Moyes called it “the worst performance since I have been here” and he knows a thing or two about terrible performances. Andre Ayew showed West Ham United what they could have had if they’d managed to get that kind of talent pointing in the right direction, leading Carlos Carvalhal to win “quote of the weekend” once again by proclaiming, “we played like 11 brothers instead of 2 today”. Please stay up Swansea City, just so we can have more of that next season. David Gold was allegedly attacked by a West Ham fan after the game, which was the most threatening anything in a West Ham shirt had looked all afternoon.
Try telling me Riyad Mahrez doesn’t love playing football. Sure, he’d rather be doing it in a slightly lighter shade of blue but it is clear the guy just loves it. And, when he is up for it, he is rather good too. Mahrez netted a late, late long-distance free-kick of Leicester City against Bournemouth taking full advantage of the fact that “it’s a bit wet today lads, so test the keeper from distance”.
I have a question for Southampton fans. Would you be getting relegated with Claude Puel in charge? Be honest now, even the most stupid of you know the real answer. Yes, Southampton forced Jack Butland into a couple of good saves but Stoke City have the worst defensive record in the league. You have to score in these ones. A 0-0 didn’t really serve either side particularly well, let alone the fans that made the journey.
Everton fans will no doubt feel a whole load better after Sham Allarfarce said that he “feels worse than they do”. Really, Sam? You think? You get paid to watch that rubbish you serve up, they pay to be there. Burnley had not won a single game of football since hitting the heady heights of 4th place in mid-December but then, they had not played an Everton team so battered by their manager constantly telling the world they are rubbish. Ashley Williams was always going to do well to be worse than last week, but he managed it by getting a straight red card. Theo Walcott showed he was money very well spent by doing what Theo Walcott has done all his career – missing very good chances. Plus, has anyone else noticed that with every passing week it looks like the best bit of business Burnley did last summer was getting £25m+ for Michael Keane? I don’t suppose Ray Wilkins is still spouting on about how he is better than that foreign lad United bought.
With it being incredibly likely that by the time you have read this Alan Pardew will have been sacked, can we all join in and pray for the dream scenario of Gareth Barry and Jonny Evans telling him his taxi has arrived? If that happens, I could happily not watch another match this season.