FOOTBALL UNSTOPPED AGAIN
Like Bond films, the prodigal son, nits and wearing bucket hats in public, the Premier League was always going to come back sooner or later, and now here it is. There was a time, only a matter of weeks ago really, when it felt like football’s return was a wonderful distraction from the awfulness of everything, whereas now, when many of us in our real lives are attempting to paddle tentatively in the pool of vague normality, football, with its empty stands and computer-generated crowd noise, is a reminder of the awfulness of everything. Having restarted in temporary fanlessness with the absolute elite, sport has now respread so far that this week’s behind-closed-doors fixtures involve, with respect to the footballers of Macedonia, Latvia and Ukraine, such sporting irrelevances as Shkendija, Ventspils, Kolos Kovalivka and Tottenham Hotspur.
Poor old Spurs. They used to be the kind of team Amazon wanted to make documentaries about. That felt a long time ago as Everton comprehensively outplayed them at White Hart Lane. Tottenham’s most creative force now seems to be José Mourinho, whose attempts to find ways of blaming the players he can no longer afford to upgrade, for whatever failing he wants to be the focus this week, continue to impress … unlike his team. “I go home with the feeling that some of the boys could do more,” he concluded, after Everton’s expensively remodelled midfield gave his side the runaround.
The new season is only six games old and so far every one has had a winner and been at least reasonably entertaining – perhaps no surprise given that, by The Fiver’s count, only one of England’s last 84 top-flight matches has finished goalless. Every newly-promoted side lost their first game (while in the Championship, every newly-relegated side won theirs), with Fulham and West Brom both going down 3-0 at home while Leeds conjured an explanation-defying 4-3 defeat at Liverpool. “We can’t let defeats scar us,” chirped Fulham’s manager, Scott Parker, who provided the season’s first mildly-interesting mystery when a scar appeared on his right cheek in the middle of his side’s defeat to Arsenal (apparently down to a scratched pimple rather than a dressing-room brawl, disappointingly).
The good times just keep rolling, with Monday night’s Dendoncker double decker seeing Leander’s Wolves, who did really well after they got promoted a couple of years ago and then kept doing really well, heading to Sheffield United, who did really well after they got promoted a year ago and now have to move on to the next challenge. Brighton, who bought Leander’s 19-year-old brother Lars over the summer, then host Chelsea, who bought pretty much every other young player going and suddenly have a lot of pressure on their shoulders. The question is, whose fans will be celebrating loudest at the final whistle? And the answer is, nobody’s, it’s just computer-generated noise.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I think I just had to kick the ball in. I took it wrong, and then I missed it. It’s a shame that I missed, but I’m just going to look to the next match and not let my head go crazy” – Mechelen tyro Aster Vranckx responds after his miss to end pretty much all misses in the 1-0 Belgian league defeat to KV Oostende.
Football Weekly will be in this general vicinity.
“Tactical innovation? Bah. Moneyball-type transfer evaluation? Phooey. Leeds will survive in the Premier League because Marcelo Bielsa has adapted his game to the top flight. I mean, who else this season thought to add a cushion to a bucket? Genius” – Mike Wilner.
“I get that sponsorships are part of professional football, but putting an advert on Bielsa’s upturned bucket is beyond the pail” – Peter Oh.
“Matteusz Klich is the greatest No 43 ever to have played in the Premier League. Discuss” – Dave Watson.
“Less than a decade ago, José Mourinho was celebrating more than nine years unbeaten at home in the league across four different countries and lasting 150 matches. Now he can’t even last one game into the season, with an untucked shirt and complaining that Spurs’ players were lazy and had the wrong state of mind. Perhaps he should be ruthless; find the person responsible and get rid of them. Oh …” – Noble Francis.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Neymar claims he heard a racist slur during PSG’s defeat to Marseille on Sunday, in which he was one of five players to be sent off in the closing moments. The Brazilian was dismissed for a punch on Álvaro González, saying after the match that his “only regret” was not hitting the Marseille player in the face.
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has instructed two leading QCs to represent the club in their dispute with the Premier League over its rejection of Saudi-led takeover based on its owners and directors test.
These are dark times for humanity, but we can always rely on the moral authority of Bayern Munich, whose former president has some words for David Alaba. “He has a greedy piranha for a [Mr 15%],” blurted Uli Hoeness. “This is really all about the money.” Unlike, say, Bayern’s deal with Qatar Airways, signed on purely humanitarian grounds.
Though they won the league last season, Liverpool players are refusing to act like they won the league. “No one is talking about it, no one is giving off the impression that we are champions,” tooted Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of the replica Premier League trophy Jordan Henderson gave Dejan Lovren last week.
Manchester United are preparing an opening bid for Sergio Reguilón, but it won’t be close to the €30m that Real Madrid want for him.
And Tottenham terrace-trawler Eric Dier will not be watching himself in reality TV action. “I actually spoke to Steve Kerr a couple of days ago about it, because obviously he was in The Last Dance,” he namedropped. “I said to him: ‘You know, looking back on an incredible season and winning and everything you did, that must be a lot more enjoyable than what it would be like for me!’”
STILL WANT MORE?
With superstars arriving all over the show, the WSL is the place to be. Rachel Brown-Finnis reviews the weekend’s action.
To the relief of water-coolers across the land, the Premier League appears to be back, so here are 10 talking points flowing from the first games.
Will James Rodríguez change everything or will Everton’s inherent evertonness ensure they remain Everton for evermore? Jonathan Liew considers.
Five red cards and much more besides – Eric Devin and Adam White reflect on Le Classique.
What makes a good team-talk? Detective Rushden investigates.
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IN NEED OF SOME STRENGTH