One thing, OK one of many things, we’ve been a little bit slack on this season is covering the Champions League stuff that tends to happen midweek. I mean, I struggle to take the Premier League circus that seriously, let alone the competition that the bigwigs wish to expand to eventually take over the world – meaning the Premier League would be as important as, say, National League South come 2042.
All I will say about the latest Champions League football is that Ederson is a very, very lucky boy at that might be the stroke of luck Man City need to actually win the damn thing meaning Peppy G has finally achieved what he was recruited to achieve half a decade ago or so ago.
Ahead of their match with Dortmund, Erling Haaland was spotted wearing a light blue backpack heading into the ground – I mean, in this day and age that’s tantamount to a press conference announcing the deal is done, no?
City nicked a win there, but they were not so fortunate in the Bielsa/Guardiola love-in that was shown way before the Saturday watershed. Marcelo does Dallas might have been an appropriate working title given how the Northern Irish left-back-come-left-winger turned out to be an unlikely match-winner at the Etihad.
You had to feel a little bit for Leeds’ skipper Liam Cooper, putting in a tackle that would have been many a defender’s ideal scenario some time ago – take all of the ball and leave a little bit on the man, get on the with the game. Sadly, in the age of VAR, these tackles get slowed down to the point where even a saint could put a tackle in that would look a little too rough.
Leeds being down to ten led to pundit Tim Sherwood declaring that City would obviously go on and win easily given how Bielsa would refuse to sit back and defend their lead and Sherwood, unsurprisingly given his managerial track record, was somewhat wide of the mark.
City will win the Premier League, don’t worry about that – and they might even win the League Cup Final, the FA Cup Final and that Champions League one that they so badly want. But Bielsa did a number on one of his many disciples there, good and proper.
Last weekend, Spurs failed because two of their players didn’t get their tests in time according to their manager. Tottenham staff were surprised, leading to suggestions Jose Mourinho must, er, have been mistaken and definitely not making it up.
David de Gea was on the bench once more and Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer is keen to pay him to leave – something that will make PSG happy enough considering they are already having a chat with the Spanish backup goalkeeper. United would rather use him as a makeweight in a deal to bring Jan Oblak from Atletico.
The most interesting bit about the first half an hour in London was Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba switching flanks from time to time. Yeah, it was that interesting. United were slow and sluggish and then bam (and I am not talking about Scott McTominay “brushing” Sonny boy off). Pogba found Cavani, United led and Spurs seemed genuinely worried that Son might be blind given how he hit the deck. Remember the VAR mantra – clear and obvious error. Clear and obvious error. Meh, football. Well, it’s not football according to the Sky Sports pundits and I agree with them. If it was a foul, should it not have been a second yellow? I mean, why just make a small mockery of it – you may as well go all in.
Fortunately for Jose, Son’s sight recovered quickly enough for him to put Spurs 1-0 up minutes later. Fred levelled for United proving the popular belief that if he ever has to shoot, it should be from as minimal distance as possible.
Obviously, United went on to win – after all, they’d gone a goal behind and that’s what they do. Not holding on to leads is also what Tottenham do so this was the perfect storm in so many ways. Mason Greenwood making a late dash for Gareth Southgate’s plane tickets? Who knows. Pogba probably should have gone for crashing his elbow into Serge Aurier but even that wouldn’t have changed the direction of the second half. This is the first time ever that Jose has lost ten league matches in a season – and if he doesn’t drag the team into the top four his best player is going to want to do one too. Spurs have been hit pretty hard financially by the pandemic, but sacking Mourinho would probably double that.
I suspect Jurgen Klopp has fired Southgate several WhatsApps in the last week or so thanking him for winding Trent Alexander-Arnold up enough that Liverpool’s “best right-back in the world” has suddenly woken from his slumber and become a bit of a match-winner again (that is if you ignore the Madrid game and his defensive stuff, right?).
TAA curled in a lovely little winner late, late, late at Anfield which ended their longest run in history without winning in front of the Kop. It was a bit harsh on Emi Martinez who had produced a worldy of a save moments before and if Ross Barkley had managed to actually clear the thing, Villa would have escaped with a point that would have given Alisson further nightmares.
Klopp had further reason to question the point of VAR given the manner in which Bobby Firmino’s oh-so-rare goal was disallowed and that led to a half-time stat (and who doesn’t love one of those?) that Liverpool’s previous 127 shots at goal in Liverpool had failed to lead to a goal if you ignore penalties – and you should always ignore penalties.
Liverpool are not out of the Champions League chat yet, which is useful given that they are probably out of the Champions League unless they produce one of those Anfield nights midweek.
Another team who continue to beggar belief with a player that continues to beggar the same belief are West Ham United and Jesse Lingard. Sure, 3-0 is never a safe lead for the Hammers but they are in actual 4th place with seven Premier League fixtures remaining. The Moysiah might actually pull this off.
Lingard was central to seeing off Brendan’s Leicester who were without three players for breaching COVID regulations. It’s alright lads, it’s only about finishing in the top four, isn’t it?
Iheanacho continued his hot streak but Leicester are in exactly the same position they were in this time last season – in 3rd but the wheels looking suspiciously like they are falling off.
Tommy Tuchel’s Chelsea did the unthinkable and that was scoring more than two goals in a game for the German. Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic have had some criticism this season but were integral to the Blues seeing off Palace 4-1. You’d think it might be a turning point for Havertz in particular and if you were being very, very kind you might think the same for Christian Benteke who scored a great header. Then you’d remember it is Christian Benteke, who probably now dreams of a loan move to West Ham to be like Jesse Lingard.
Have the lights finally gone out for Fulham? Seeing Adama Traore score in injury time will have been a bit of a heartbreaker but then seeing Steve Bruce become a tactical genius overnight will have hurt more. Bruce said midweek that teams that play like Norwich get relegated (ignoring, conveniently, how Leeds play) and then saw his substitution at Turf Moor work like magic – release the Alan Saint-Maximan and three points will come your way, the Frenchman shuffling inside and firing home the winner. Six points now separate Newcastle and Fulham, that’s got to be enough.
It is only a matter of time before the lights are officially out at Brammal Lane as well – Arsenal eased, if Arsenal can ever ease, to a 3-0 win over Sheffield United showing once more that they might actually be a better side without Yo-Pierre.
Let us end today remembering this – more than 48 hours after West Bromwich Albion had won a very rare game of football, Big Sham was still basking in the glory – reminding everyone that there was “none of that they only had ten men rubbish” and that Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy was rash. Thank goodness Mendy had calmed down by the time Chelsea took a 2-0 lead in their Champions League quarter-final with Porto, hey Sam?