Appetite for Self-Destruction


Sunday 14th May, 2pm

Everton @ 8/1
Draw @ 17/4
Man City @ 4/11
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There are just three rounds of fixtures remaining in the 2022/23 Premier League season, and yet, still, nothing has been concluded. No names have been permanently chiselled into the stone tablets of footballing history…though the word ‘Southampton’ may have been lightly outlined in chalk somewhere on the relegation slab…

Like all well-crafted, popular entertainment series, none of the major plotlines have been fully resolved as we approach the finale.  And the tantalising possibility of a late, shocking twist continues to hover in the air.

This is an obvious indicator that it has been a competitive campaign at both ends of the table.  Manchester City may be widely acknowledged as the best team in the division – and by some as one of the best teams in Premier League history – but they are yet to attend a prizegiving ceremony this year…or a florid coronation.

No celebratory balloons for Jack Grealish.  No reverent serenade from Katy Perry and Kermit The Frog for John Stones.  And Kyle Walker hasn’t been lovingly anointed with exotic oils in a private booth by some uniquely-dressed strangers…well, at least, not while on duty for Manchester City, anyway.

As a result of the surprising shellacking of Brighton on Monday, Everton may not be dreading hosting the likely champions quite as much as they had been. Yes, it is still going to be mighty tough for The Toffees on Sunday afternoon, but they have a nascent taste for goals tingling on their tongues all of a sudden. And City could arrive on Merseyside a tad jaded following their testing time at the Bernabéu in midweek.

Could Goodison Park be the location for one of those abovementioned late, shocking twists?  And now that I have suggested it, will it still be considered a shock?

Another notable thing about the much-vaunted Manchester City – and another factor to give Everton a shred of hope – is that they have regularly conceded goals this season. In the table for the most Premier League clean sheets, Ederson, somehow, sits down in joint 7th – even below Wolves keeper, José Sá.

And who is top? Well, remarkably, it is a player who, in recent weeks, has developed a bit of an appetite for costly, self-destructive gaffes.

It’s not just that reigning ‘Clean Sheet King’ David de Gea has been conceding ill-timed goals of late; no, it’s the manner in which he has been doing so: carefully ushering the ball into his own net; waving-in under-powered attempts and speculative prods like an offshore helicopter landing officer; coaxing efforts directly into the United onion bag like a shepherd and his obedient border collie at the crucial stage of a national sheepdog trial.

But this is self-destruction on an individual level, and Manchester United have a chance to reset their current trajectory at home to Wolves on Saturday afternoon; in what will be their first weekend clash without a preceding midweek fixture since Christmas.

What is happening over at Leicester City, however, looks like a case of full-scale, squad-wide self-destruction.

Leicester possess an XI that contains some of the division’s most highly sought-after players.  But, perhaps, therein lies the problem.  The likes of James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, and Harvey Barnes know that they are sought-after.  And they also know that, in the event Leicester City are relegated, they will be immediately snapped-up by bigger and more stable Premier League outfits.

That has got to cause their hunger, their appetite for destruction, to wilt to some extent.  And when they see that two of their three remaining fixtures are against Liverpool (on Monday night) and Newcastle (away, the following week) it may disappear completely…just like the financial value of one of coach John Terry’s Angry Ape NFTs…

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