Now that all the hope, optimism, and goodwill of the brand new year has well and truly fizzled-out, we find ourselves turning once again to Premier League football to provide a much-needed crutch of meaning and purpose in our otherwise feckless lives*.
Ever since Moneyball, the growth in analysts and number crunchers has been exponential, which has had a massive impact on tactics and teams, and I certainly think there’s room for that. Having said that, if you were to look at the data from that Juventus game, every number tells you that Fulham should have been beaten.
The most intriguing fixture of the weekend sees Steven Gerrard, in his newly assumed guise of Aston Villa manager, return to his beloved old stamping ground of Anfield.
The Liverpool manager has a famously uncharitable view of the annual English tradition of stuffing oneself at Christmas time, you see. He considers the way we gorge over the course of the festive season – be it on smoked salmon, roasted parsnips, forced jollity, or a thoroughly unearned sense of achievement – to be ‘criminal’.
Despite being somewhat inevitable, Solskjær’s Old Trafford sacking will nevertheless have left the Norwegian blue; sick as a parrot, expired, bereft of life, and very much pining for the fjords.
Inter Milan vs Napoli is undoubtedly one of the biggest games of the Serie A season thus far. The visitors remain unbeaten in 12 games with 32 points from a possible 36, and as such find themselves top of the table, albeit on goal difference.
An unheralded reason of why football is such a popular and compelling sport in this country is the constantly shifting landscape. Even when you think nothing is happening, and it’s all becoming rather stale and predictable, the quick sands are silently moving beneath you – single tiny grains at a time – between your exposed toes…waiting to pull you down…
It has been a noisy week inside the garish, neon Premier League managerial pinball machine.
The spring-loaded plunger was activated last Saturday at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where defeat to Manchester United was considered sufficiently humiliating to propel Nuno Espírito Santo straight past the manic flippers, directly into the drain.
Domestically, Milan and Porto both are unbeaten so far this season. Milan currently sit top of Serie A with an impressive 28 points from their opening 10 games and are very much in contention for their first Scudetto since the 2010/11 season.
As I peer studiously through my magnifying glass, down into the amorphous, shape-shifting vortex that is the Premier League table – looking for patterns; seeking trends, themes, clues, strange new forms of life – I reach many varied conclusions.
It ended up 1000 and out for Steve Bruce, who was swiftly removed by Newcastle’s new Saudi consortium this week after reaching the milestone, with Graeme Jones left temporarily in charge. The new owners are however powerless until the January transfer window at least, and their new purchase is in serious danger of relegation.
Another week, another Cristiano Ronaldo highlight…hotly followed by another Robbie Savage lowlight.
Professional sportsmen and women are, by definition, incredibly competitive – always trying to go that little bit further for the sake of their craft – but I’m beginning to be concerned about the health of Savage if he continues to exert himself in such a manner.
When ‘The Boss’ of Newcastle United, Steve Bruce, decants the contents of the club minibus out onto the St. James’ Park pitch this Sunday the players may hear a rare, white-hot roar of optimism from the assembled Geordie throng.
Saturday’s early kick off sees 4th host 5th as Man United look to go top of the table with a win over Everton. Bruno Fernandes’ uncharacteristic penalty woes in the 93rd minute of United’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa last week would have been a tough pill to swallow, and it’s not too hard to imagine who will be placing the ball on the spot for the next penalty in his place.
Things couldn’t have gone much better for Pep and Manchester City last weekend.
He finally got a victory over Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, it was a win underpinned by tactical nous rather than individual brilliance – so he can justifiably claim it as his win – and the decisive goal was scored by a #9, the position that many so-called experts – *waves* – have highlighted as being a gaping, fathomless lacuna at the bow of the starting XI.
Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off is the biggest game of the Premier League season so far, as holders Manchester City travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in a repeat of last year’s Champions League final. Man City’s somewhat unconvincing start has seen a significant drift in their title odds; Pep Guardiola’s side started the season odds-on to retain their title, yet now find themselves clinging onto favouritism at 13/8, with the ever-impressive Chelsea hot on their tail at 15/8.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea have now beaten Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in three consecutive meetings, the most impactful victory being at the Champions League Final in May. Another win for Tuchel would be a remarkable achievement, set a huge marker for the rest of the season, and would underscore his swelling reputation as the Premier League’s principal cerebral tactician.
I can’t quite shake the niggling sensation that the vast majority of football being played right now is merely an inconsequential backdrop to the question of who currently has the upper-hand in the infinity war between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The hot ticket of this weekend’s football action is Manchester United vs Newcastle, where home fans are likely to witness the return of the king, Cristiano Ronaldo, fresh from the success of breaking the international goal-scoring record with Portugal.
12 years on from leaving United, Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the Theatre of Dreams this Saturday, determined as ever for success. Now 36, he returns to the Premier League decorated with 22 more trophies, including four Champions Leagues, whilst also collecting a further four Ballon d’Or’s. And, he’s bagged another 640 goals for club and country; the numbers are truly staggering.
Entering the third round of fixtures, things are beginning to take shape; five teams are still point-less, four teams are yet to find the back of the net, and West Ham can’t stop scoring! This week gives us a glimpse of the infamous European Super League, with four of the six teams that broke away for all of 48 hours, facing off …I’m sure Florentino Perez will be tuning in!
“I will be staying at Tottenham this summer.” Thus spake Kane, direct from Mount Twitter, ending weeks of speculation regarding his future. All those words, the broadsheet paragraphs, all those pundit opinions…are now just handfuls of sand and dust. It’s over. There is no more to be said on the matter.
If one thing’s is for sure with Leeds, their games are rarely devoid of entertainment. Therefore, it was no surprise to see them involved in an action-packed opening game at Old Trafford last weekend. Unfortunately for Bielsa’s side, they were on the wrong end of the goal rush and their defence will need to improve to avoid an overreliance on the likes of Patrick Bamford, Rafinha and Jack Harrison, who guarantee a constant attacking threat. Leeds fans will be hoping the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ Kalvin Phillips is back in the starting line-up against Everton after an impressive summer, with the midfield battle likely to be crucial this weekend.
We’re only one game into a new Premier League adventure and already many judgements have been handed down. Death knells have rung out, obituaries have been written. Bold claims and sweeping statements have been tweeted, graffitied onto toilet walls, and translated into Sanskrit before being randomly incorporated into complex full-sleeve tattoos.
PREMIER LEAGUE OUTRIGHTS Manchester City @ 8/11 Liverpool @ 5/1 Chelsea @ 5/1 Manchester United @ 7/1 Tottenham @ 40/1 Leicester @ 40/1 view odds Thanks to the Euros and the Olympics, the end of season/summer sporting black hole was far less existentially terrifying in 2021 than in previous years. I felt no compulsion to start watching Major League Soccer,...
I started covering England on the radio during Alf Ramsey’s tenure, but this is the first time I’ve seen England in a major final since then. It’s quite an event in my life and it’s come at a really opportune time where I can relax and enjoy it.
I've always had a soft spot for Denmark. The first major tournament to fully envelop me within its tentacles was Mexico '86, where the Danes dazzled during the group stages. Michael Laudrup slaloming lithely through a hapless Uruguayan defence to score one of the goals of the tournament; Preben Elkjær adding a hat-trick as part of a stunning 6-1 victory of style over scything tackles.
Gareth Southgate's much-maligned, cautious approach worked very well against Germany. In fact, his plan came together so perfectly, Hannibal Smith would have found himself involuntarily unsheathing another post-coital-esque foot-long cigar. A Team effort, perfectly executed.
Tuesday afternoon will live long in the memories of many. In what was billed as Gareth Southgate’s redemption, 25 years on from a missed penalty, England beat Germany, and beat them convincingly. Raheem Sterling scored, Thomas Muller missed, and Wembley went wild. However, this Saturday England will have to do it without home comforts. The Three Lions will go to battle again at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome for a huge quarter-final clash against Ukraine.
So here we are again then. The roulette wheel has spun, decelerated, and drawn to a halt, somewhat inevitably, on England v Germany. Both sides have shown flickers of form so far at Euro 2020, but little else. Germany have oscillated wildly, England have plodded mildly.
After a year’s delay, Euro 2020 is finally here and will see 24 teams compete for glory, playing 51 matches over the next month.
I'm confused. It has been an exhausting season for couch-based football watchers like me and, to be perfectly honest, I still haven't got my breath back. And now I see Euro 2020 is about to start. Despite the fact I'm almost certain we are in 2021...
After evolving from the larval group stage, and fighting their way out of the tricky knockout phase pupae, Europe's premier club competitions have at last assumed their final forms. It has been a season that has seen a great many games concertinaed tightly together, leaving the remaining participants of the Europa and Champions League competitions - as they approach the glorious coda - by turns exhausted, uninspired, and beset by crucial injuries.
William Wordsworth there, bemoaning the loss of 'The Magic of the Cup' on whatever passed for Twitter in 1804. Understandably he was upset, having just watched his beloved Galácticos of Grasmere humiliated in the final once again. But times change, don't they Bill? And it's time we all woke up and smelled the daffodils. The past, if I can crowbar in another literary reference, is a foreign country.
So now that the Premier League's major issues have been, to a large extent, resolved; I find myself desperately scanning other leagues for potential excitement, like a young sailor in an exotic seaside town with just a few dwindling hours of shore leave remaining.
Manchester United v Liverpool is one of the most hyped fixtures on the footballing calendar. But like many much-hyped events – the release of a new James Bond film, a weekend away in Brighton, your wedding day – the unvarnished outcome is more often than not a sclerotic trudge through a beige wasteland of boredom and bitter, crushing, existential disappointment.
Is that it? Has the dust settled? Can I write my Champions League preview article now? Because if I discover - after adding the final, triumphant full stop - that Real Madrid and Chelsea have been suspended from the competition by UEFA and summarily replaced by, say, Trabzonspor and Inter Miami, I will not be best pleased. And it will take more than a polished, grovelling video apology from John Henry to calm me down. (Like all good governing body officials, however, I can be persuaded by a large bundle of cash.)
Despite not culminating in a shiny cup or bauble, a Top Four finish in the Premier League has become one of the most keenly contested and sought-after garlands in the game.
There’s more to being a stereotypical Chelsea fan than wearing the right gear.
We spoke to lifelong Arsenal fan and season ticker holder Hugo von Halle to find out what it was like finally, finally being allowed to go home... to The Emirates.