In a season that has given us goals, controversy, shocks, shocking defending and injuries by the dozen, Matchweek 10 provided it all and lots of entertainment to boot. Of the ten games, nine of them were good games of football for the neutral. Chelsea vs Spurs was the only dull game, but even then the tactical battle between Lampard and Mourinho was interesting.
From managers sniping at each other through the media, to Des Kelly stumbling over his words trying to defend his employer from Jurgen Klopp’s criticism, to a genuinely scary moment in the Arsenal-Wolves game, this weekend offered a little but of everything. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from Matchweek 10.
West Brom’s first win of the season
It came from a bobbling shot that somehow made it’s way from Conor Gallagher’s shin through a forest of bodies and into the bottom corner of Aaron Ramsdale’s net, but for Slaven Bilic’s men it’s the best goal they’ve seen this season.
In a match that managed to be entertaining despite a distinct lack of real quality football by either team, it was Gallagher’s shinned half volley that gave the Baggies their first three points of the season and condemned hapless Sheffield United to a defeat that their finishing deserved.
It’s a massive three points for West Brom, especially with Fulham beating Leicester on Monday night. A win they can look to build on. While they only have six points so far this season, they can look at four games in which they have picked up points. That’s more than the Blades, Burnley and Fulham. It’s not much, but it’s something to focus on. Something to reaffirm the belief they will need that they are better than at least three teams in the division. Keep that belief, keep picking up points and by the end of the season the table could well show that they were better than three other teams. The reward for that will be another season in the Premier League.
Signs of life from Manchester City
Manchester City scored 303 goals over the last three seasons. 303 goals in 114 games. That’s an average of 2.6 goals a game. Going into this weekend, they’d managed only 10 goals in their first eight games, an average of 1.25 goals per game. There were a number of contributing factors to this massive fall off of course, the injuries to Kun Aguero and Gabi Jesus, the inconsistent form of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez, the departure of David Silva and failure of either Bernardo Silva or Phil Foden to immediately step in and fill the void, and the lack of ability to hold width on the left and stretch the play both horizontally and vertically.
City scored for fun last season, but they never seemed as lethal in attack, as unstoppable, as they had the previous two years. When City ruled the Premier League they played a 4-3-3 with Kevin DeBruyne playing as the RCM with freedom to float into the right wing channel and operate from there. His ability to pick any pass and deliver it with inch perfect precision saw him develop wonderful link-ups with Raheem Sterling and Kun Aguero, but perhaps no link-up was more beneficial for City, and more deadly for the opposition, than DeBruyne and Leroy Sane.
Sane, operating on the left of the front three would drop out in a more traditional left wing role and City’s 4-3-3 would shift to a 4-4-2 with Sterling moving into more central areas along with Aguero, and David Silva forming a double pivot with Fernandinho. This allowed City to stretch teams, and with Silva’s incredible line breaking ability both as a passer and dribbler, they could exploit any opening. DeBruyne to Sane was the modern day Beckham to Giggs. The release valve pass, the one that was always one and could change the game. Think back to how many goals came from that link-up. De Bruyne to Sane, Sane burning the right back and squaring a simple ball for Sterling, cutting it back to Aguero, or crossing for DeBruyne himself arriving as the backpost runner. City were a machine, fantastic to watch but utterly ruthless and unstoppable.
Though they scored over 100 goals last season, they never seemed the same with Sane whom they’d lost to injury in the Community Shield. They became flat track bullies but when it didn’t click, they didn’t have their release valve. That surefire chance creator wasn’t there. With Sane gone permanently, and no replacement signed, City have once again struggled to create chances this season. Until they caught sight of Burnley that is.
Now let’s be clear here, Burnley contributed massively to their own downfall. You could make the argument they were the biggest contributor – and I will a little later on, but there were definite signs of City getting back to being the attack threat they were last season at least. DeBruyne ran the show, and Riyad Mahrez ran riot. The Algerian notched a hat-trick as City, for the third season in a row, put five past Burnley’s goalkeeper at the Etihad.
Wolves have (re)discovered attacking football!
Let’s be clear, the outcome of the match became secondary after Raul Jimenez was stretched off the pitch and rushed to hospital where he underwent surgery on a fractured skull. Such incidents make football seem pretty meaningless, and it must have been very difficult for his team-mates to refocus on the task at hand. But re-focus they did, and they played some of the best attacking football they’ve produced since before football shut down last season.
With Adama Traore doing Adama Traore things and embarrassing defenders with ridiculous ease, Daniel Podence showcasing his playmaking ability and Pedro Neto showing his ability to be a dynamic, purposeful ball carrier, Wolves picked holes in Arsenal’s rearguard and left Mikel Arteta’s men relying on Bernd Leno just to keep the scoreline respectable.
Wolves have been boring this season. Their fans might not like that but it’s the truth. For a team with the weapons Wolves have on offer, they have played some turgid stuff this season. Much of that was due to Nuno leaving Adama out of the team, but with the Spaniard restored to the starting 11 that should be the end of it. You can’t play boring football with Adama in your team. The man is a human highlight reel. Every performance, even when he’s not at it his best, produces enough moments of magic to fill out a midlength YouTube compiliation. His presence also elevates those around him because he enables them to play with more time and space by drawing multiple panicked defenders every time he sets off on one of his dribbles.
Welcome to the 20/21 season Adama, and thanks for making Wolves exciting again!
Fulham scored a penalty!
After three failed efforts, which had cost them four points already, finally a Fulham player succeeded in scoring from the penalty spot! Already 1-0 up after Ademola Lookman’s excellent goal, Ivan Cavaleiro – the man who missed against Everton, stepped forward and put his penalty high into the top corner to give Fulham a well deserved 2-0 lead. It was a lead they were able to hold onto and take all three points away from the King Power.
It’s easily Fulham’s best result of the season and will ease some of the pressure on Scott Parker.
Aren’t we all just sick and tired of it at this point? Every single week there’s controversy with VAR. This week there were at least four games where people came away with complaints about it. Brighton vs Liverpool, Everton vs Leeds, Arsenal vs Wolves and West Ham vs Aston Villa. Villa had the most right to be upset, Liverpool and Everton hadn’t done enough to warrant better results than the ones they got but Villa had. Wolves won regardless of Adama not being given the clear penalty he should have won.
Villa were denied a late equalizer because Ollie Watkin’s arm was offside, allegedly. Whether it was or not, the reason it was offside is because Angelo Ogbonna had him both arms wrapped around him and Watkins was trying to free himself. The VAR deemed this near certain penalty to not be a foul, which was a truly ridiculous decision.
The VAR in England is not working, because the old boys network won’t allow it to. Referees, when acting as VAR, are not willing to overrule their pals. The handball and offside rules being linked is the height of stupidity. “He can score with the upper part of his arm”, well please do let us all know when someone scores a goal in the Premier League with the upper part of their arm and we’ll see how VAR rules on that.
It’s such a shame that VAR continues to distract attention away from some very entertaining football.
1 point from a possible 30
While Chris Wilder has focused his energies on calling Jurgen Klopp selfish and raging against the will of the majority to block the reintroduction of five substitutions, his team have begun putting together a historically terrible Premier League season. Potentially THE historically terrible Premier League season.
The two worst seasons in Premier League history were cultivated by the Derby County in 07/08, who managed to take only 11 points across the season, and Sunderland in 05/06, who didn’t do much better with a shameful 15. The Blades are on course to have a season so appalling that it makes those two look like a lofty ambition. In 07/08, Derby took six points from their first 10 games. In 05/06, Sunderland managed five points from their first 10 games. While both of those returns were appalling, they look positively tremendous next to Sheffield United’s one point from ten games. One point. O.N.E. It’s the worst start in Premier League history.
The previous worst, two points, set by Manchester City in 95/96 and Sunderland in 16/17, saw both sides relegated. Five teams managed three points – Swindon in 93/94, Everton in 94/95, Palace in 13/14 and both Huddersfield and Newcastle in 18/19. Swindon and Huddersfield both said goodbye to the Premier League after those seasons but the other three survived and that should give The Blades some hope.
It’s quite the achievement to have only taken one point, it really does require a remarkable dedication to being truly awful. As does scoring only four goals. Sunderland managed nine goals through ten games in their horror season, Derby managed five. Perhaps, just perhaps, Chris Wilder should be grateful for the chance to replace five of his underperforming players in each match. Perhaps he should focus a bit more on avoiding going into the history books for overseeing the worst season in Premier League history, just an idea.
Jack Grealish, the worst diver in the Premier League
Jack Grealish is finally beginning to live up to the hype at the highest level. After flattering to deceive for large portions of last season, Grealish is finally translating his ability into actual productivity in the Premier League. An excellent goal in Monday’s disappointing defeat to West Ham, Villa’s fourth loss in five games, had social media purring over Grealish. “Unstoppable”, “too good for Villa” and such was rife on the time line.
One of the things Grealish has been lauded for over the past 18 months is his ability to win freekicks, but a closer look at that reveals a darker truth. Jack Grealish is a diver, of epic proportions. In almost every game, he has at least one flagrant dive on top of multiple exaggerations of contact. Grealish is a con artist,, a charlatan, a purveyor of the dark arts. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but his dive against West Ham was so blatant, so egregious that he should be ashamed of himself. After using his body to shield the ball from Pablo Fornals, Grealish hurled himself to the ground clutching his knee. Fornals was booked for the incident. An incident in which Fornals did nothing wrong.
Grealish has every right to operate in the grey area of the game and milk free kicks if referees are going to allow him to do so, but dives like that are a stain on the game. If he was still Irish, it would have been the major talking point in the post match coverage. He gets away with it because he’s England’s new darling. Well Mr. Grealish, Roy of the Rovers did not die for this. Cop yourself on, there’s a good lad.
That’s it. That’s the entry. It’s bad, bad, BAD.
Burnley’s Man City mental block
20/08/18 Manchester City 5-0 Burnley
22/06/20 Manchester City 5-0 Burnley
28/11/20 Manchester City 5-0 Burnley
Different season, same result. Manchester City have embarrassed Burnley in each of the past three seasons, but this time it had a slight twist to it. As mentioned above, this time Burnley seemed to be actively enabling City to have their way with them. After finally getting their first win of the season last weekend, Burnley decided that was enough of the positives! A two game unbeaten run? That’ll do nicely, no point trying for three. Let’s get back to losing ways!
Sean Dyche’s men just seem to have some sort of bizarre mental block when it comes to playing Manchester City. They can’t help themselves, they just have to concede goals. And if City aren’t going to create them by themselves, then Burnley are going to do their best to help them. Reliable, quality players like James Tarkowski turn into lads who appear to have won a raffle to play in the game. Wandering hopeless out of position, Tarkowski left gaps big enough to drive Sam Allardyce’s gravy order through the heart of Burnley’s defense. His partner Ben Mee was no better, setting out to give the ball to City seemingly every time he found himself in possession.
Not to be outdone, Bailey Peacock-Farrell made an excellent save late on to deny Gabi Jesus but then remembered what game he was playing in and proceeded to inexplicably knock the ball into his own net. He was denied his own goal by the cruelty of the dreaded VAR.
It would be less embarrassing for Burnley to just forfeit the match and accept a 3-0 defeat, perhaps that should be the game-plan for next season.
David Luiz being allowed to play on
Raul Jimenez suffered a fractured skull, so imagine how hard David Luiz hit him to cause that. Imagine the damage that did to Luiz’s head. Luiz, clearly still bleeding through the bandage that had been wrapped around the cut on his head, was allowed to play on despite suffering an enormous impact to his head.
There’s simply no way that Luiz wasn’t somewhat concussed as he played on for 30 minutes. There’s no way he was functioning at close to full capacity, and his performance reflected that. Luiz will have wanted to play on, but he should have had no say in the decision. Between the doctor and Mikel Arteta, they should have made the decision to immediately remove him from the action. Jimenez was unconscious, and needed to be brought immediately to the hospital. Surely somebody should have realised that the impact required to knock a man unconscious would have had a horrendous effect on the other person involved, especially if they used their head!
Football needs proper concussion protocols, football matches should have independent doctors at games who step in and make decisions when it comes to head injuries. Why not introduce a temporary substitute who can come on while the injured player is being assessed? Rugby does similar with blood replacements. Why not give teams an extra, fourth substitution, which can be used in head injury situations? With independent doctors making the decisions, managers couldn’t use the extra substitution to gain an advantage.
Arteta and the club doctor need to answer questions about why they allowed Luiz to play on, their decision was just unacceptable.