Football guarantees many, many things. Joe Hart conceding goals, Jose Mourinho throwing on Marouane Fellaini to carefully navigate the bus to its optimal parking position, Liverpool defending like we expect Liverpool to defend when the pressure is actually on and Alan Pardew to lose yet another match as “manager” of West Bromwich Albion. We shall start where the weekend action itself began, Old Trafford.
With Paul Pogba “injured” Jose was spared the not-so-difficult decision of dropping his current Kevin de Bruyne and was able to pick a team he felt might actually do what was asked when Liverpool had the ball. And guess what, United won. Liverpool truly are only ever one long pass away from a defensive tragedy and that is exactly what we witnessed at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashford, the only Mancunian on the pitch, scored his first brace since he burst on to the scene a couple of years ago and gave Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold such a hard time the youngster felt the need to apologise on social media after the game. Yet, the game ended in the manner most people felt it would begin with United sitting so deep they were practically in the stand with their fans. Eric Bailly did his best to ignore team orders, scoring the kind of back flick goal that Mohamed Salah would be proud of. Other than that, Bailly spent most of the match just checking Salah was still tucked away in his pocket. Considering Liverpool have their Champions League work done and could have made 2nd place their very own and United have their banana-skin of a tie to come with Sevilla on Tuesday night, this has to go down as a missed opportunity for Kloppo’s side.
Tottenham showed questionable “mentality” throwing away a good position against Juventus during the week and when Bournemouth went 1-0 up you had to wonder whether Spurs were wearing their Spursy hats once more. Tottenham had not won a match after going behind this season and when Harry Kane hobbled off after half-an-hour the game only looked like going one way. How wrong we all were as Son and Alli led Pochettino’s men to a 4-1 win on the South Coast. It was almost as if throwing away a Champions League Quarter Final place never happened.
Per Mertesacker would rather sit in the stands than play for Arsenal again, and who can blame him in normal circumstances? Yet, a week is a very long time at Arsenal. Since Petr Cech gifted Brighton a win last weekend, Arsenal have gone to Milan and won and finally kept a Premier League clean sheet. Cech has been waiting for what feels like an eternity to get his 200th Premier League shutout and he managed it in their 3-0 win over Watford. As for Troy Deeney? You need a certain something to take penalties in the big games, mate. Still, all those Arsenal fans out there who were about to call it a day a week ago can relax now, as the very same people are absolutely convinced their team is “back”. Guys, it was Watford in the second half of the season. Don’t get too excited.
Did you hear the one about the West Ham United pitch invasion? They set off at 16:20 and didn’t get to the touchline until half-past. All joking aside, you can’t help but feel the antics of some West Ham fans didn’t really help their already hapless side, who went on to lose 3-0 at home to Burnley. David Sullivan was hit with a coin thrown by one of the club’s ‘supporters’ and if he had not been wearing glasses he could have been injured. His co-owner David Gold was visibly upset by the scenes, recovering to quip that “at least the cleaners will get a nice surprise” when it came to the amount of coins thrown in their direction. Probably the most concerning thing was the response from the police, moving even slower than Andy Carroll on a good day to sort the situation out. Mark Noble was having to go around and put in tackles that have been missing from his game for a while now and even Burnley’s Ashley Barnes resorted to the ultimate in “a striker’s tackle” taking down one offender. Apparently, the Hammers players are worried that all the stadium stuff will damage their survival bid. Oh no, chaps. Your inherently poor football will do that on their own. All these goings on distracted everyone from the two main talking points at the Athletics Stadium. Firstly, Joe Hart is still a really, really bad goalkeeper (as his error for the third nicely highlighted) and any plans Gareth Southgate has to take him to Russia must be ended immediately. Might I suggest an ‘Escape to Victory’ type arm-breaking incident? Secondly, what about that goal from Ashley Barnes? Had someone remotely fashionable scored it would have ended Twitter.
Last week Swansea City played like “11 brothers” but this weekend it had to be 10 as Jordan Ayew was sent off after 11 minutes against Huddersfield Town. Both teams battled hard but were unable to trouble the scoreboard operatives. The point each keeps both sides four points clear of the three relegation places.
OK, scrap that last statement. There are only two relegation places left. We’ve known West Bromwich Albion are gone, we are just waiting for the maths to catch up. Yet, incredibly Pardew still has a job at the time of writing. Alan isn’t a man “to down tools” yet results suggest otherwise. Leicester City trailed and then came back to win 4-1 at the Hawthorns, the pick of the goals being the equaliser from Jamie Vardy. Latching on to a pinpoint long pass from Riyad Mahrez, Vardy let the ball come over his shoulder before volleying it into the corner. I don’t know exactly how you should do it Gareth, but you have to find a way for Vardy and Kane to lead the way in Russia. Pardew has a meeting on Monday morning, and I think it’s safe to say it is it not to negotiate a pay rise.
If Chelsea get a lead against Barcelona on Wednesday night, they might want to hold on to it better than they did against Crystal Palace on Saturday. Palace might still be wondering what was actually wrong with the late disallowed goal, considering Gary Cahill threw himself at Riedewald. And the problem is Palace then scored a goal that was given, meaning they were probably denied a point. That point would have them out of the drop zone and replaced by Southampton who, frankly, deserve to be in there far more.
Mauricio Pellegrino admitted that his side had “given up” after the first goal in their 3-0 defeat against Newcastle. Considering that first goal came in the first minute, such an admission should probably be top of the list of reasons given when Pellegrino eventually loses his job. Kenedy came to England touted as the next Neymar/Coutinho/Willian and had spent most of his time at Chelsea looking like the next Lucas Leiva. However, his performance against the Saints might just give everyone in Geordieland hope that they can stay up.
Sam Allardyce, he who claims Rooney and Sigurdsson cannot win in the same team, also said Cenk Tosun was struggling to adapt to life in England. Funnily enough, since allowing him some game time Tosun seems perfectly adjusted to what he is paid to do – score goals. Everton beat a surprisingly poor Brighton & Hove Albion and according to Big Sham, “class told” which is not something Allarfarce knows a great deal about.