Flying elbows, limping referees and walking football. Last weekend in the Premier League had it all and featured some of the most bizarre games of football we’ve seen in a while. Despite losing to Brighton (the only team without a single point against a top 6 team this season), Arsene Wenger gets the week off because this column needs some variety to it.
3. Mike Jones
The Premier League may not have the best referees in the world, this shortlist has shown that over the course of this season, but they do have some of the fittest officials in the game. Mike Jones may just be an exception to that rule because of what happened before he was due to take charge of Tottenham vs Huddersfield at Wembley. Jones injured his calf in the warm-up and was unable to walk properly, let alone referee (still would’ve been better than Bobby Madley I suppose) and had to be replaced by the fourth official, Kevin Friend. About ten minutes after the start of the game and after a tannoy announcement for ‘any qualified referees’, Jones hobbled out of the Wembley tunnel with a chair under his arm and limped over to the touchline like an old war veteran. He performed his fourth official duties from his comfy chair and wondered why he didn’t always pull up injured in the warm-up.
2. Ashley Williams
Has there been more of a decline in a player’s form and reputation in Premier League history? Once hunted by the biggest clubs in the country, Ashley Williams was the stalwart of the Swansea defence and club captain and a move to Everton was considered a great deal by the Merseyside club in the summer of 2016. Since then, he’s grown some pretty impressive dreadlocks but has seen his ability on the pitch dwindle to a point where he’s seen as a liability to his team. This loss of form culminated in Everton’s 2-1 loss at Burnley where he was arguably at fault for both goals the Toffees conceded and got himself sent off in the last moments on the game for a wild elbow on Ashley Barnes. Everton fans are appealing for his 3-match ban to be extended to the rest of the season so they can see their side win a game for once.
1. Chelsea / Antonio Conte
I’m not really sure who to blame for this one so the Chelsea players and their manager, Antonio Conte, can share the prize this week for their dismal performance against Manchester City. The Blues sat back so deep that if they’d gone any further back, they’d have doubled the attendance of the Etihad crowd. Conte’s men held out until half-time but conceded straight after the break and looked resigned to defeat from the second Bernardo Silva’s shot hit the back of the net. The Italian manager resisted the urge to actually put a striker on the pitch until the 78th minute. By that time, his players were simply walking about watching the City players pass between themselves and with a massively defeatist attitude.
Chelsea didn’t manage a single shot before half-time but did actually venture forward in the last minute of added time at the end of the game when Marcos Alonso doubled their attempt count by volleying wide of Ederson’s right-hand post. Chelsea’s defensive tactics were described as ‘anti-football’ and ‘unacceptable’ by some pundits and it would’ve done little in the way of persuading Eden Hazard to stay at the club rather than go to Real Madrid because obviously he’d rather play as an isolated striker barely touching the ball than actually playing attacking football with some of the best footballers in the world. It’ll be Europa League football for Chelsea if they continue to play like a League Two team for the rest of the season.