Ah, the first Premier League column after the death of one Diego Maradona. You see, if I was a football commentator I’d have a lovely long list of Maradona things to crowbar into today’s column – even some as tenuous as Allan dribbling past half a player for Everton to find himself likened to the Argentine god because, yes, they both played for Napoli. I admit that was the first likeness I had in my head as the defensive midfielder slowly moved three yards looking surprised that he still had the ball at his feet.
Anyway, we have bigger things to concern ourselves with – that cyber attack Manchester United faced last week was way bigger than we first reported. Apparently, top dogs at Old Trafford are concerned that the club’s transfer plans might have been hacked and are in the hands of people demanding a ransom.
I kid you not, there are cybercriminals out there expecting United to cough up millions for a one-page document that has JADON SANCHO scribbled on it using very big crayons.
The biggest clash of this weekend was not Spurs vs Chelsea, Brighton vs Liverpool or even Southampton vs Manchester United – it was, in fact, Jurgen Klopp against BT Sport.
King Kloppo was not in the greatest mood before the game, probably down to the fact that his cries of ‘12:30 on a Saturday is crazy if you played on a Wednesday’ were falling on very deaf ears. He was even more grumpy having seen three VAR decisions all (correctly) go against his side and watched James Milner limp off with a muscle injury which was, without doubt, the black magic work of the TV broadcaster.
Firstly, Jurgey-lad upped the sarcasm levels to comment on how ‘armpits’ and ‘club badges’ had been called offside this season and now ‘a toe’. Yes, Jurgen – and a toe is offside no matter how much it upsets you, I’m afraid. There was no argument over Mane’s goal being chalked off and then there was that penalty.
To remain consistent with my thoughts over this kind of malarkey, I revert to my tried and tested ‘anywhere else on the pitch’ test – and, sorry Kloppo, that’s a foul anywhere else on the pitch. Like it or not, Robbo kicked Welbz in the foot after Welbeck got to the ball first and that’s a penalty. If anything, we should be applauding the officials for getting it right – ah, actually you did do that Jurgen, my apologies.
Hendo would rather play without VAR and Milner has suggested it’s making people fall out of love with the game – I tend to agree, but whilst it is alive and kicking it’s time to suck it up and move on to the next thing on the moans list.
Which just happened to be Chris Wilder who is, apparently, the Scrooge of football for not wanting everyone to have five substitutes allowed. Each to their own, Chris – you do have slightly bigger things to worry about after all, having lost 1-0 to the other team that looked incapable of winning this season.
Brighton, as good as they were, will have been delighted that Neal Maupay had gone off injured by the time it came to another penalty needing to be taken. We’ve seen some shockers (mainly from Fulham) recently, but Maupay certainly gets on the podium.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea showed off the Premier League title ambitions by being unable to break down Jose Mourinho’s equally hopeful-of-a-title Spurs at Stamford Bridge. Last week, we called Tottenham’s win over City a Mourinho masterclass but in retrospect, this was more the classic Mourinho match against a close rival. Why win it when a point will do? And in fairness, Jose is right in this instance what with every other team looking reluctant to take control of the title race – I know, I am starting to sound like I actually want Jose to win the title and you know what, maybe I do. It feels very much like a Jose title to win this season, a war of attrition where not losing is almost as valuable as winning.
Imagine how many Edinson Cavani might have scored had he had his boots on when the second half kicked off at St Mary’s? Hands up if you were one of the millions already starting to tap out some ‘Ole Out!’ chat into social media after the first 45 minutes on the South Coast? Liars, all of you.
In a different time, we’d be calling this ‘classic United’ – turning around a 2-0 deficit with an injury-time winner from a substitute. In fact, that is almost the most ‘classic United’ thing you could describe – unless they’d got a penalty as well, of course.
For a moment, forget KDB – it’s all about JWP. James Ward-Prowse didn’t deserve to end up on the losing side as he reminded Solskjaer of the days he played with someone with an equally deadly set-piece.
But after David de Gea injured himself trying to save a free-kick from behind the line, a pointless exercise in itself, United moved into top gear. Bruno Fernandes buzzed about and was at the middle of everything less rubbish than in the first half and between him and the chisel-jawed frontman, helped United take all three points. And those three points give this side a new club record for the amount of consecutive away wins. ‘Ole out?’, eh?
If you are a Man City fan and worried that your team isn’t scoring enough, you normally check the fixture list to see when you are next playing either West Ham or Burnley. And if you fail to stick five past the Hammers, you hope Burnley are up soon.
Sean Dyche must have had a plan so cunning it could have been a Leicester mascot – but we never got to fully understand it after his side went behind before any of his three strikers even touched the ball.
Carlo Ancelotti vs Marcelo Bielsa has taken a quarter of a century to come together and it was very much worth the wait. You know what they say, it’s usually the 35th shot of the match that gets the result and that was the case at Goodison Park. Between them, both sides found multiple ways to hit the woodwork, get goals disallowed and, frankly, just miss sitters until Raphinha stuck one past Jordan Pickford from distance.
Friday night treated us to the gift of two teams going at it playing 442 in some kind of early 90s retro-throwback. I’m not saying that Roy Hodgson or Steve Bruce are old-fashioned, but it was quite reassuring to watch a game where I could name each position on a pitch without needing an analyst to explain it to me.
In a game that was likely to involve both Joelinton and Christian Benteke, you’d have been wise to back a 0-0. Sadly for you, Callum Wilson is pretty lethal in front of goal and even Joelinton got one to almost go in cleanly.
We end today safe in the knowledge that Chelsea Football Club do put their supporters first and that charging in-and-around £75 to let their 2000 fans in for the first time is purely to make sure those that really, really, really want to be there apply.
If today’s column has made you think ‘oh, Jimmy would like this’ then go one step further and buy Jimmy a Christmas present in the shape of my Tales from the Top Flight Premier League Yearbook – available on Amazon for less than a tenner (or eight Chelsea tickets).