Football is a simple game, apparently. And you could argue that even some very basic tactics taken straight out of Sunday League have a place in the Premier League – as proven by Manchester United this weekend.
When I was kicking around on a Sunday morning, we realised as a team that it was actually better to finish the match with your strongest eleven instead of starting with it. Why? Because when the opposition were getting tired and bringing on their not-so-good subs we’d be bringing on fresh players that were better than the ones we were replacing.
I reckon Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has caught wind of this approach as, for the second time this season, he called Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford off the bench at half-time to turn a dire United performance into a good one.
Not that United coming from behind away from home to win is anything new, oh no. They’ve done that five Premier League matches in a row now, much to the disappointment of David Moyes.
Moyseh felt that Henderson’s clearance-stroke-amazing-pass to Fernandes had gone out of player, based on the fact that ‘it went over my head’ which was the best angle anyone was able to get of it. All this technology ruining the game and they don’t have a camera going straight up and down all of the lines on a pitch. Even the BBC, yes the BBC, were one step ahead in MotD able to show ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the ball was clearly out which means that Paul Pogba’s lovely little finish from distance should have been chalked off.
But, it wasn’t – and the 2,000 fans allowed into the Athletics Stadium had to watch their West Ham side take the lead, watch Sebastian Haller get hit by a sniper having rounded the keeper and then fall to a 3-1 defeat courtesy of Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford MBE. I’d love to know how tempted some were to leave after the third went in, hard-wired habits are hard to break after all.
Pogba insisted it was a positive result over and over in the post-match interview, a turn of phrase that still has other connotations in this day and age given how Newcastle and Aston Villa was postponed on Friday night. The Sunday papers said that United were prepared to double Bruno’s wages to ward off interest from Madrid and Barcelona. Mr Ed is once again showing his foolishness – only doubling them?
The North London derby must have gone exactly as Jose Mourinho planned – even if he had expected Tanguy Ndombele to turn up on Sunday morning.
“Lads, do not worry – Sonny will score early, Harry will score because he always scores against Arsenal and Mikel will have learned more from me in this than in any silly documentary”.
Given my inability to accurately predict anything in football, don’t go anywhere near a betting shop based on this but I not only want Tottenham to win this Premier League title this season, I now truly believe they can. I mean, they won’t – but they can. Why do I want them to win it? Because I’ve spent the last five years calling Mourinho finished, yesterday’s man and so out of date when it comes to modern football he may as well be Sir Alf Ramsey. And I really, really want to be wrong right now. This would be the ultimate Jose thing to do – the ultimate comeback, the ultimate two-fingers up to all naysayers like me who thought he was done.
Go on, Jose – and better still, do it with Bale sitting on the bench for the season which would be, frankly, hilarious (and a lot colder for him than the Madrid bench).
According to Jurgen Klopp, Chelsea are favourites for the Premier League and they certainly lived up to that tag by seeing off Leeds at Stamford Bridge. Patrick Bamford managed to silence the Chelsea fans in attendance by running on to the assist of the season so far from Kalvin Phillips, before Olivier Giroud continued his one-man-crusade to remind the world that he really should be picked more often than he actually is by scoring his 5th in four days.
Kurt Zouma and Christian Pulisic finished the job, but it was the non-penalty given after Ben Chilwell caught Poveda in the exact same way that Robertson caught Welbeck last weekend that caused this match’s token VAR outrage. The only difference between the two was that Welbeck stumbled to the floor and Poveda managed to stay on his feet – so that’ll help players stop going down with the merest of touch then, eh?
Frank Lampard said post-match that Chelsea had been working behind the scenes to come up with a gameplan to beat Leeds in a way that would suggest coming up with a gameplan to beat an opposition was a new, funky idea. And gameplan or no gameplan, it kinda helps when you have about 13 attacking options to pick from, right Frank?
Of course, all Jurgen is trying to do is distract us from the fact that it’s not his players that are suffering from extreme fatigue, it’s actually him – and it’s making him very, very grumpy. That said, Kloppo has come up with a narrative that might finally get people onside about having five substitutes – Jurgen has been saying it might help Gareth Southgate and England win the Euros. Now, now Jurgen. Unless having five subs is going to force Gareth to stop playing that 343 monstrosity, that isn’t going to change a thing.
Liverpool may not be favourites in their gaffer’s eyes but they did a decent job on Wolves in front of some fans at Anfield. Connor Coady endeared himself to the 2000 watching on by gifting Mo Salah the opener before undoing all his popularity by seemingly taking a bit of a dive in the area after Mane got nowhere near him.
Jose reminded us that Liverpool would have to win by “many” to top the table by the end of the evening and that they “wouldn’t beat Wolves by many” but they managed to beat Wolves 4-0 – so does that count as many? I know, I know, not the biggest question of the weekend.
I’m not sure which milestone Pep was notching up when he led Manchester City into battle with Fulham – something like his 200th/300th/400th game in charge or something, I didn’t check – but I doubt there have been many in there where he’s never made a substitution. This was one of them, as the eleven that started were the eleven that finished – and beat Fulham (only) 2-0.
It was a strong gust of wind that got Raheem Sterling tumbling over for KDB to get the crucial second from the spot, but something even more amusing was Steve McManaman’s claims that Rodri – incredibly immobile in the middle of City’s midfield generally – is the same as Claude Makele was. Now, that’s either massively overstating Rodri’s abilities or one of the more insulting jabs you can have at Claude without getting sued.
Up at Turf Moor, Sean Dyche briefly forgot he was Sean Dyche and Sean Dyche hates players falling over cheaply – making his insistence that ‘he doesn’t want that to be a foul’ but ‘it is a foul’ in the modern game a little grating. Richie and the DLC – sounding very much like a late 90s funk band – linked up once more to get Everton level. And, in that single goal, Everton regressed to the mean – getting 1-1 draws away at Burnley.
Did anyone have 5-1 Palace on their acca? No? You surprise me. A far more likely bet was VAR and the referee combining in some form to completely ruin a game of football – Graeme Souness is going to think anything other than ABH on a football pitch is ‘soft’ but it’s hard to disagree with him that Mathieu Perreria was a touch hard done by to get his marching orders for that.
Palace took so much advantage of WBA having ten men that even Benteke got a brace.
Chris Wilder might be getting under Jurgen’s skin, but there are more weekend references to their spats than goals being scored by the Blades. Sheffield United looked like they were taking a decent point away from their match with Leicester until Jamie Vardy did what he’d been threatening to do for most of the match – scoring, and leaving Wilder’s side with easily the worst start to a Premier League season in history.
If you are still frantically searching for amazing Christmas gifts for under a tenner, then you could do a lot worse than getting everyone still on your list a copy of “Tales from the Top Flight: The Premier League Yearbook” off Amazon – which is a lovely compilation of all my columns over the 2019/20 season in one book. Ideal for Secret Santa, I’ve been told.