ONE NORMAL DAY OF BARCLAYS …
“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” That old Gary Lineker quote needs an upgrade. Premier League football is a complicated game: 22 men chase a ball around for 100 minutes and at the end, everyone wonders what the hell just happened. Your friendly neighbourhood Fiver (not to be confused with our evil doppelganger, FiVAR, which bores everyone to tears and is widely blamed for completely ruining foot … wait, hang on) is still reeling from a weekend of football that put the ‘ugh’ in laughable.
It all started with Manchester United scoring a winning goal at Brighton after the final whistle had been blown. Not even Lord Ferg managed to pull that one off. Brighton thrashed United 2-3, and even the hitherto emotionless Expected Goals computer started weeping uncontrollably when Leandro Trossard hit the woodwork for the 49th time. Crystal Palace (against Everton) and Spurs (against Newcastle) were then mugged of points by the new handball law. Chelsea left the Hawthorns with the face on despite coming from 3-0 down to draw, unable to shake the memory of a first-half defensive performance that tickled more ribs than ITV’s entire 2020 light-entertainment schedule. West Ham beat Wolves 4-0 and nobody batted an eyelid. That’s because they were still rolling in the aisles from the previous game, in which Manchester City’s new, improved defence were stripped naked by an Albert Steptoe lookalike. Leicester played 5-4-1 and won 5-2, with the increasingly brilliant Jamie Vardy scoring a ruthless hat-trick.
The cricket commentator David Lloyd once described Twenty20 as a form of entertainment using cricket equipment rather than actual cricket. We’re starting to feel the same way about the 2020-21 Premier League season. It’s just not football. There have been 96 goals in 26 games at an average of 3.69, with the prospect of more when Liverpool address the Arsenal defence on Monday night. It’s all fun and games, sure, but won’t somebody think of George Graham’s mental health?
We haven’t seen such chaos since the backpass was outlawed in Serie A in 1992. Scores of 0-0, 0-0, 1-0 and 0-0 turned into 4-5, 3-7, 7-1 and 4-4 as a generation of defenders endured the kind of shuddering existential crisis previously reserved for Fellini’s best work. Managers and players are having a similar crisis now because of the new handball rule. Sixteen penalties have been awarded in 26 games, and even Bernard Cribbins, whose Newcastle side were give a point in injury time despite becoming the first club ever to score a minus figure on xG, decried the whole thing. “If you’re going to tell me that is handball then we all may as well pack it in,” he said. “It’s a nonsense of a rule. It’s gone for us today – however, it’s ludicrous.” That last word could have referred to the whole season so far, only in a good way. We think.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“To this day I get asked if I was off my t1ts, so this is one of those stories where I want to get my side across” – Paddy Kenny has a lot to get his chat on with Paul Doyle about. It’s well worth a read.
“I’ve been thinking about the political affiliations of managers over the weekend. Frank Lampard’s Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could very well be a Tory: public school-educated, has a sense of entitlement a mile wide and, like Boris Johnson at PMQs, is unable to organise a coherent defence. David Moyes, on the other hand, perhaps is a Corbynite: hugely divisive among supporters and, when he’s not there, things immediately go a lot better. Perhaps your reader, etc and so on” – Mike Chapman.
“Since Covid-19 struck down David Moyes, West Ham have enjoyed two four-goal victories. Should Everton and Leicester be worried about the next couple of games and, more pertinently, will Gollivan suggest that their manager starts licking hand rails on the Tube and hanging out with Right Said Fred in Trafalgar Square?” – Jim Hearson.
“Re: Mellow Birds (Friday’s Fiver). How old are you lot? I was at the launch of its successor by General Foods in the early seventies. They called it Brim. The trade called it Grim and it soon made a quick exit left. Don’t blame me for non-football interventions if you insist on harking back to my youth” – Peter Hehir.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
David James is rightly worried that a generation of players and fans will be lost unless the powers that be do all they can to save grassroots clubs. “If you’re not interested as a kid the chances of you being interested as a fan are less and the game needs both,” he said.
José Mourinho is as cheery as ever and reckons Tottenham will have to sacrifice the Milk Cup due to Big Vase commitments. “What would you do in my position?” he huffed. “I would like to fight for the [Rumbelows Cup] but I don’t think I can.”
If Arsenal have to turn to an Allardycian style of football to get a result at Liverpool, then Mikel Arteta is prepared to do it. “I’m here to win,” he roared. “I’m here to find ways to do it.”
Rodri has done his post-match analysis and reckons “very small and tiny details” [such as the 5-2 scoreline? – Fiver Ed] led to Manchester City losing at home to Leicester. Meanwhile, City will shovel £62m into the bank of Benfica in the hope that defender Rúben Dias can stop such trivial defeats happening again.
Rodri wasn’t on hand to pore through the finer details of Manchester City’s 2-1 win over Leicester in the Women’s FA Cup, but we can tell you that it means they will face Arsenal in a tasty-looking semi-final.
And despite signing Edouard Mendy and promoting W1lly Caballero, 78, ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager Frank Lampard still reckons the goalkeeping calamity has a future at Stamford Bridge. “I certainly won’t go to the point of saying Kepa has played his last game for Chelsea,” honked FLCMFL. “I know he’s a good lad trying to do his best.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Come and get them while they’re still lukewarm: 10 talking points from the Premier League’s weekend action.
Antonio Conte embraced the delirium as Inter rescued themselves against Fiorentina, gasps Nicky Bandini.
Imperious Bayern finally got tripped up – and it was by another Hoeness, reports Andy Brassell.
Jamie Vardy shows it doesn’t take many touches to kill Manchester City, writes Paul Wilson.
Mikel Arteta’s act of faith at Arsenal instils belief and purpose, writes floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson, inviting trouble.
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