And welcome to the Premier League in 2022. Not much has changed – Man City are still running away with it, Norwich are still terrible and Newcastle still have more money than hope of Premier League survival. Arsenal? Well, they are still Arsenal living by the following equation at the weekend: Their own stupidity x VAR incompetence = three more points for City.
Rodri gave it the half-Emmanuel Adebayor with his celebration – to be greeted by toilet rolls, empty bottles and plastic cups from the Arsenal faithful. His goal meant City won their 11th Premier League match in a row and opened up the gap to 11 points. Only two other sides have led the top flight by that distance on January 3rd and, guess what? Yep, they both won the title.
Arsenal can certainly moan about VAR bizarrely choosing not to even have a look at Ederson clipping Odegaard, but there are minimal moans to be had about the way Granit Xhaka (naturally) gave away a brain-dead penalty and Gabriel thinking he could get away with clotheslining his Brazilian teammate Jesus on the halfway line when on a yellow card.
Chelsea and Liverpool didnâ€™t deliver much between them, did they? I mean, there was very little to discuss in the build-up and the game itself could not have been more of a damp squib if it had tried.
Tommy T took so much offence to Romelu Lukakuâ€™s interview with Sky Italia that he banished him from the squad – not that he would have started the Belgian anyway, thatâ€™s the whole point of the argument.
Liverpool were sans Klopp, Alisson, Matip and Firmino for obvious reasons and Andy Robertson was still midway through his festive holiday following his red against Spurs. Lijndersâ€™ lads should have been without Mane too, after his forearm took just four minutes to locate Azpilicuetaâ€™s cheekbone.
Of course, Mane would score the minute he only got a yellow – Trevor Chalobah channeling his inner Andy Gray in trying to head a ball that was rolling towards either of his feet and allowing Mane to open the scoring.
Mo Salah did what Mo Salah does and scored a worldy for the second before being bettered by Mateo Kovacic of all people – the Croat flamengo kicking a volley to reduce the deficit. Christian Pulisic, frankly a bit of a pants footballer at the moment, then scored from a rare Kante assist to make it 2-2 at the break. The second half was not as frenetic but both keepers were called into brilliant action to keep the scores level.
As we said, damp squib. And a damp squib that Man City will have thoroughly enjoyed.
It only took Tottenham 63 attempts to beat the first man from a cross and when they did, Davinson Sanchez rose to head home Sonâ€™s ball in and break Watford hearts. It wasnâ€™t just at the Emirates where VAR seemed to have some very selective thoughts around what to check and what not to check – Joao Pedro seemed to get a toe to the ball a fraction before Hugo Lloris crashed into him.
That said, Spurs could have had two in 35 seconds themselves after Kane was tickled to the floor and then Dier was bear-hugged to the ground from the resulting corner.Â
If there is one team youâ€™d look at and think, â€œthey know how to get out of troubleâ€ it is Burnley. But, losing 3-1 at a Leeds team struggling for form and confidence means that thought process has to be challenged. Their one and only bright spark, Maxwel Cornet, was back from injury for a second-half cameo and goal before heading off to AFCON tomorrow. For Leeds, that was a much-needed respite from looking knackered and losing – and might even calm the Bielsa out rumours that have quietly started in the background.
Brentford got themselves a valuable win over Aston Villa – who should have been docked any points that Trezeguetâ€™s injury-time dive might have earned them. That, and a five-year ban for the Egyptian of course.
All Everton fans wanted for Christmas was Rafa out and the most common New Yearâ€™s Resolution at Goodison Park was for Rafa to be out. Benitez did nothing to help himself by leading the side to yet another defeat – 3-2 to Brighton. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was back and on spot-kick duty – blazing it over the bar and into Stanley Park. DLC is now the 22nd different Everton player to miss a Premier League penalty. Only Arsenal have more, possibly my favourite fact of 2022 so far.
Everton might need to sign Graham Stuart in January as thereâ€™s every chance they might need a 1994esque escape from relegation at this rate. Though, and I am sure I have said this before, they deserve to go down purely for the state of Jordan Pickfordâ€™s goalkeeping jersey.