Yet again, Manchester United kicked off the Premier League weekend with a goal-fest to take the breath away. Hang on, sorry, the opposite occurred. I said last week that this ‘United are winning ugly is a great sign’ was a load of old tosh, and I stand by that. They played poorly again on Saturday, and this time they didn’t benefit from a slice of luck or a deflection and were held by the mighty Newcastle. You know, the same Newcastle that were swatted by Swansea last week. Yeah, that Newcastle.
All credit to the ‘Toon’ though. Fabricio Coloccini was as immense as his hair. Steve McClaren did that thing where he starts the game in the stand before coming down to the dug-out after it all goes a bit ‘Pete Tong’. I reckon that’s his version of trying to skive off work. He’ll only head to the office if something bad happens, which it inevitably does. This week it happened within 10 minutes of kick-off. Schteve, take the hint. If you have a job to do, go and actually do it, aye?
Another highlight of this match was Alex ‘Angry’ Mitrovic. I *heart* this man. I have a theory on his behaviour too. I reckon his family were kidnapped by a rogue football club and held for ransom. He doesn’t know which club has them so he travels the world playing for various clubs, seeking those he loves most. His rage and desire for revenge manifests itself with his on-pitch behaviour. He doesn’t know who they are. He doesn’t know what they want. But he has a very specific set of skills that include scoring goals and kicking people up in the air. (If you’re reading this Mr. Neeson, this is a unique concept I am discussing, ok?).
There was no last-minute winner for Manchester United. A phenomenon curiously absent from Old Trafford since Sir Alex of Ferguson departed. This proves that Mr. Ferguson is a Mason, a Warlock and a member of the Tory Party. I’ve also got a theory on Louis van Gaal. He’s the victim of one of those aliens from ‘Men In Black’ that take over a human body as a ‘host’. Just look at him. Listen to him. Then tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.
Onto the ‘Game Of The Week’, which was West Ham v Bournemouth. Let’s discuss Darren Randolph. A goalkeeper who played for Birmingham City last season and conceded 8 goals in one game against Bournemouth. This week he vastly improved to concede just the 4 goals. The first 4 goals that Bournemouth have ever scored in the Premier League. Poor Darren ‘Randolph the Red-Faced Goalkeeper’. Ho. Ho. Ho. I particularly liked his ‘Matrix’ style falling backwards action for the first Bournemouth goal, which he completed as the ball nestled behind him in the net.
Mark Noble turned himself into an oxymoron by taking the least noble of dives to win his team a penalty which he himself converted. For shame, Mark. Speaking of shame, take a moment to remember the West Ham defence. Oh dear Lord. Notable mentions to the full-backs Aaron ‘LOLZ’ Cresswell and Carl ‘LARF’ Jenkinson. Yet poor Ogbonna got the hook. Football, eh? Mind you, the concept of ‘defending’ was notional from both sides in fairness. That just leads to a cracking 4-3 game though. Top marks. Callum Wilson was the main beneficiary, smashing a first ever Premier League hat-trick. He should expect an England call-up imminently. I mean, he’s only got Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane for competition, right?
Crystal Palace took on Aston Villa at Selhurst Park. Temperatures were high in London and this game (among others) featured ‘drinks breaks’. Oh the faux outrage over these breaks. Personally, I’m all for them. I regularly need a ‘drinks break’ to fetch another beer from the fridge during a game, so I propose that these breaks become mandatory for every game, in all weathers. These breaks led to a hilarious moment on Match Of The Day on Saturday night when Gary, Alan and Big Sam all took a ‘drinks break’ while filming the show. They were drinking bottles of water. You should see the look on the face of Big Sam being asked to drink ‘water’ on a Saturday night. Splendid.
This game featured an interesting incident when a ‘goal’ from Palace was disallowed…eventually…by the officials. They got the decision right, thankfully, but it made me think about the concept of ‘TV Replays’ that so many want introduced to the game. I believe that the same decision would have been reached quicker than it was this weekend if TV Replays were used. With less controversy and more clarity. The game was stopped anyway. Get it sorted FIFA.
Finally, on a purely selfish note, Scott Dann take a bow. A goal and an assist for the big centre-back who held a place in my Fantasy Football team this weekend. If he’d kept a clean sheet, I may have retired from all Fantasy Football duty immediately, knowing I’d never top that one team selection decision.
We head north to Sunderland v Swansea City at the Stadium of Light. An under-siege (already) Dick Advocaat dropped Kaboul and drafted in John O’Shea to shore up his defence. You know you have problems when you draft in John O’Shea to shore up your defence *shudder*. The weird thing was that he ‘kept faith’ with Van Aanholt, who took inept defending to a whole new stratosphere last week. In any event, the game ended level despite the best efforts of BatterBurger Gomis who notched yet another goal this season, but missed a few gilt-edged chances also. I jest about his name, but his goal celebration is eerily reminiscent to my own approach to a chippy to get a Batter Burger after 12 pints on a Saturday night.
I feel for Dick Advocaat. He looks like he’s been crying for days on end. Maybe he has been. He does manage Sunderland. While Swansea should have won, Sunderland should also have had a penalty after Ashley Williams decided the best way to defend a long-range shot was to punch it away. The referee agreed and allowed him to do just that.
Onto Leicester v Spurs, a match-up that caused Gary Linekers’ arse to split even wider as he sat firmly on the fence in the MOTD studio. There’s a mental image for you. Watching this game brought a real bugbear of mine to the fore: Dear Groundsmen…Stop fannying around with your grass cutting! A lined pitch, evenly spaced, is all we want. Stop with the ridiculous centre-circle swirls, diagonal cuts or in Leicester City’s case, a line-cutting reminiscent of the loading screen of a Commodore 64 game. Anyway, Leicester continued their fine form and their unbeaten run, thanks largely to Riyad Mahrez.I’d written off the first two games as a flash in the pan, but I may have to change my mind.
Of greater concern to Spurs is the form of ‘The Harry-Kane’. He’s playing more like a light breeze if truth be told. You’d barely fly a kite in it. He’s the only striker Spurs have (at this moment), so Spurs need to spend, and spend quick. I suspect Berahino may be heading to White Hart Lane in the very near future. This was another game that featured a drinks break, and to the amusement of many (weirdly), the fact that Danny Drinkwater took a drink of water proved to be a HILARIOUS moment. Pardon me, but I’m only interested in that kind of name/event matching if John Lapdance makes his debut for Liverpool on Monday night.
A quick dash to East Anglia for Norwich City v Stoke City at Carrow Road. This match featured the debut of Xherdan Shaqiri. I know..XHERDAN SHAQIRI PLAYING FOR STOKE CITY. A year ago I’d have given you better odds on Shakira playing for The Potters. Money, eh? Shaqiri was straight into the action with an assist for Mame Biram Diouf. Yet another goal for the Senagalese international. He’s scoring so often for Stoke that I hereby propose that he be known as ‘MBD’ from now on. It makes sense – He’s successful enough, it’s easier to say/remember, and if you say his first name ‘Mame’, it sounds just like Seamus Coleman calling for his mother (fans of the Donegal accent will get this).
Norwich City fought their way back into the match with their defensive stalwart Russell Martin stretching his lead over Wayne Rooney in the race for the Golden Boot. Norwich were denied the win thanks to a phenomenal display by Jack Butland, who started the game with a broken finger. He ended the game with 10 broken fingers as the Stoke rearguard split open time and time again. Jack now immediately earns the mantle of ‘England #2’. Whoever has those gloves (Foster? Forster? Ruddy? Green???), please send them onto Jack immediately. Cheers.
Sunday brought us West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea. This was the game that kept on giving. We had it all. 5 goals, missed penalties, debut goals, torrential rain and John Terry getting sent off. Marvellous. Many believe that José had taken action to ‘deflect’ attention away from his teams performance during the first two games, and he is now stooping to new lows. Asking your Captain to get deliberately sent off, when winning 3-1, is pushing the boundaries. José does what José wants I suppose. I have sympathy for John Terry though (I’m going to bathe in acid tonight just for typing that). His legs have gone. The same happened to Stevie G last season, and when it happens, it happens overnight. There’s no way back, and it can be hard to accept. To the rest of the Chelsea squad I say this: Lock up your wives, JT is going to have a lot more spare time on his hands.
José is sticking to his ‘not commenting on controversial incidents’ ploy, so far. If he keeps it up he’ll conduct a full press conference through shoulder shrugs, sneering grimaces and head-shaking without a word uttered. It’ll come as a blessed relief for all concerned.
At Vicarage Road, we had Watford v Southampton. The match finished 0-0. What, you want more? Nah, I refuse. Deal with it.
Finally we had Everton v Manchester City at Goodison Park. This was a cracking tussle, decided by money. I know that sounds a bit simplistic, but that game was pretty even, and decided by the kind of class that only money can buy. Tim Howard will be cursing more than normal tomorrow when he sees how he abandoned his near post to allow Kolarov to score. The second goal from City was a thing of beauty though. A clipped through ball from Yaya Toure made all self-respecting football fans touch themselves (go on, admit it), and Nasri did the rest. City march on with 9 points from 9 and a favourable fixture list ahead of them. Looking at the competition, they could easily race into a 9 point lead by November, and that may well prove a difficult obstacle to overcome for their competitors.
Tomorrow night we have Arsenal v Liverpool at The Emirates. Unless Liverpool pull off a shock win, Manchester City will be clear leaders of the Premier League, and they could well stay there for a long time yet.