Welcome to the Premier League 2021 style where Brighton’s Dan Burn wishes it was still 2020, Big Sham is far less chirpy and several Premier League footballers feel that certain rules don’t apply to them – even if Jose has sent you a lovely bit of pig.
We start the New Year with Sam Allardyce and West Bromwich Albion – would you like us ‘pundits’ to chalk the last two batterings with an aggregate score of nine to diddly squat down to luck, Sam? Or would you like to take as much credit for them as you were angling for from the 1-1 draw at Anfield – a result, it would be fair to say, is looking more and more down to luck each time WBA kick off again.
Allardyce is already the second favourite to get the sack next and he’s been there less time than Kyle Walker’s been self-isolating. In that short space of time, Allardyce has worked out how to wear his mask correctly, suggested a team that went on to batter his lot 4-0 were in a relegation battle and called for the league to stop for a couple of weeks – though rumours that his request for that was so he could teach Ajayi how to actually defend are currently unconfirmed.
If I described an Arsenal goal where the player received the ball wide on the left, shimmied inside on to his right foot and then curled one top bins, you’d probably assume I was talking about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back in those not-so-long-ago days when he was a bit of a goal threat. And, of course, you’d be wrong to assume that – this beauty was scored by Kieran Tierney, a player recently being likened to Stuart Pearce by Tony Cascarino. I’m sorry Tone, but I don’t think I ever saw Pearce do that with his right foot.
Mikel Arteta says ‘the handbrake is off’ which begs the question what it was doing on in the first place? Mesut Ozil is no fool – he’s loving the impact being had (in his position, mind you) by Emile Smith-Rowe, calling him the ‘difference-maker’ and suggesting the team looks good with a number ten in it.
Three was the magic number at Spurs – not the amount of Tottenham players getting together for a Christmas bash but the goals scored against Leeds United. Harry Kane was celebrating the birth of his third child by scoring from the spot – despite the foul starting outside the area and VAR choosing to ignore that fact etc etc – and then setting up his telepathic strike-partner Son for his 100th goal in a Spurs shirt.
It’s fair to say that Meslier is the perfect goalkeeper for Leeds, with all the flak coming his way. He specialises in chaos, you never know what is coming next – brilliant or terrible – and he is happy to go looking for work rather than waiting to see what unfolds. Leeds were far from terrible here, though – they created 10 decent chances themselves, to Tottenham’s 12. The problem was, Tottenham took theirs.
Three was an equally magic number for Manchester City – and it had nothing to do with Benjamin Mendy. City scored three at Stamford Bridge, took all three points and notched up their third successive Premier League win for the first time this season.
To say 3-1 flattered Chelsea tells you a lot – to quote an unusually subdued Roy Keane, Chelsea were indeed ‘shocking’ and you have to wonder how long it takes for Roman Abramovich to deduce that he should be getting a lot more for that £200m plus spent in the summer.
It’s rare Alan Shearer makes an old-school comment that I can get on board with, but Peppy G’s side did have a debutant goalkeeper so surely it made sense to test him as soon as possible to see what he was made of? By the time Callum Hudson-Odoi netted the injury-time non-consolation that ship had well and truly sailed.
If King Klopp is going to pick off his title-challengers by suggesting they are favourites to take Liverpool’s crown, then he’d do well to shout from the rooftops that Man City are back and are the ones who will be lifting the trophy come May.
Who had Brighton versus Wolves down as a six-goal thriller? Dan Burn’s substitution was the classic case of stable doors and bolting horses as the damage to Brighton had already been done with one of the worst individual displays of the season (I was going to say 2021 for jokes, but it would stand the test of time in 2020 too). Just the mention of Adama Traore is likely to bring Burn out in cold sweats for the foreseeable future.
Who enjoyed the way Palace’s big summer signing Ezed his way through the Sheffield United defence, then? Eze scored a lovely goal as any Blades’ New Year Resolutions to start winning football matches fell at the first hurdle.
According to OGS, United ‘must improve’ to win the title this season – however, he didn’t mention exactly how much or where Liverpool fit into this equation so let’s add ‘more than is actually possible’ to the end of that statement for him. That said, if they follow Paul Pogba’s advice to Luke Shaw to the letter, United could feasibly increase their penalties given quota from two a game to four a game, and the way Bruno tucks them away could guarantee several more wins.
Anthony Martial, a player that Manchester United history will place at the same level as Peter Davenport, opened his 2021 account – but Villa’s manager Dean Smith definitely had a point when he observed it looked like Pogba had tripped himself up for their penalty. If only there was some kind of video review system available this new year to sort out these kinds of errors.
The best thing about Newcastle versus Leicester City was Andy Carroll scoring his one-and-only goal of 2021 which is, folks, one more than Gareth Bale will score for Spurs this year,
Recently improved Everton lost to recently improved West Ham United with the winning strike coming from the new Fellaini. Football may have moved on since the Moysiah was at Goodison but his tactical blueprint has not.
If you need something to pass the time in the long winter evenings in those fleeting moments where this no football to watch on TV then treat yourself to ‘Tales from the Top Flight’ the book – a compilation of all my weekly columns from the 2019/20 season in one traditional format for you to enjoy. Available on Amazon right now.