Arsenal are serious contenders, Tottenham are not serious anything, Unai Emery enjoys the bounciest of new manager starts while Newcastle and Miguel Almiron continue to dazzle. We will miss Ralph, though.
Everton and Chelsea were the only two sides to fail to score on a Premier League matchday that produced 37 goals across its 10 games. Never mind the quality screams Our League as it hurtles full pelt towards its mid-season break, feel the banter. Goals! Injury-time drama! Defensive clusterf**ks! Injuries! No-one else can match it.
Another huge test ticked off and, barring unlikely mishap against struggling Wolves next weekend, the Gunners will now sit proudly atop the Premier League throughout its six-week hiatus for the Human Rights Atrocity World Cup. Arsenal will have prettier wins than Sunday’s arm-wrestle at Chelsea, but they won’t have many more important ones given the opposition and the timing.
A subs’ bench rescue act to snaffle all three points against Fulham that answers just about the last tiny lingering question about his absurdly brilliant start to Premier League life: do his goals actually make any tangible difference? City with most of their games with Haaland, but they win most of their games without him too. Injury-time winners are a good riposte from a man who now has the same number of Premier League goals as the Golden Boot winners from 1997/98 and 1998/99.
Grateful recipients of an absurdly generous first-half performance from Tottenham that allowed them a first away win of the Premier League season and a foothold in the top-four race on a day when Chelsea and Manchester United also stumbled. It’s been a troubled start to the season, but they’re through to the last 16 of the Champions League and with a home win over managerless Southampton next weekend can go into the break thinking that at the very least full-blown crisis has been averted. And everything could look very different in 2023.
Another steaming batch of precisely 16 Conclusions from that silly game to be found here…
Everyone should be allowed a game at Rangers to get the old mojo back. It’s nine goals in eight games for the previously out-of-sorts Golden Boot winner since his Ibrox fun. That said, it’s arguable that not even Rangers were as accommodating a host as Spurs on Sunday.
As encores go, that’s pretty bloody good. Fresh from that brilliant late winner at Anfield, up popped Leeds’ newest hero once again with time running out to complete a sensational comeback against lead-spaffers extraordinaire Bournemouth.
And let’s not underestimate the importance of that win for the manager. Leeds have taken a big gamble on Marsch to the extent that they’re pretty much all in on him proving a success. It’s risky, but not without huge potential upside. The players he’s brought in all broadly share two important characteristics: one, Marsch has worked with them before and two, they’re really good. It sort of leaves Leeds almost unable to get rid of Marsch even if they wanted.
With the World Cup looming and results in the toilet a couple of weeks ago, difficult conversations were starting to look inevitable. Now, though, everything is peachy and another decent pre-World Cup result at Spurs looks eminently achievable.
The comeback itself was stunning, but while that was obviously significant as another reminder that the players are clearly still fully on board with the manager, what really mattered was a win.
The victory at Anfield was a huge surprise and a massive potential launch pad. But so too had been the 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea earlier in the season. Leeds followed that by taking two points from their next eight games. Losing at home to Bournemouth after winning at Anfield would have been painfully on-brand and also massively deflating.
When Newcastle won the dodgepot lottery and found themselves unimaginably wealthy, the widely held assumption was that almost none of the current squad would survive for long. They were relegations scrabblers who were now eyeing the very highest level. But the change in circumstances nearly always finds at least one player who gets dragged along and inspired by it all.
At Newcastle, that player has been Miguel Almiron. After two goals in his previous 50 Premier League games, he’s now on a run of eight in eight that has propelled Newcastle into the top four with absolutely nothing they (or just as importantly the error-prone mob that makes up two-thirds of the exalted Big Six) are currently producing suggesting Newcastle can’t stay there.
Unai Emery and the new manager bounce
It had been 23 years since Aston Villa managed a home win against Manchester United. For a Premier League home win against United, you have to go all the way back to 1995 and a match that prompted one of the most famous punditry lines of all time: “You can’t win anything with kids.”
Nobody has won anything much with Villa since then, but Unai Emery has instantly managed to erase that particular statistic in his very first game for a pretty sizeable new-manager bounce.
Important, obviously not to get carried away by such a bounce because you should always be wary of something that happens so often it has its own well-worn cliché. Still, though. This felt like something more than the usual.
Steven Gerrard was a failure at Villa but his stature helped lure some players to Villa who might not otherwise have been there. Now this squad full of potential has a manager with the ability to harness it. It was already an enticing prospect before this magnificently bouncy beginning.
Crystal Palace cashing in
The fixture list was cruel on Palace at the start of this opening block of Premier League games, and left them in a false position with just one win from their first seven games that included Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle and Chelsea.
The problem is that there is no guarantee such a position doesn’t become a true position given the added pressure it piles on to the ‘easier’ fixtures to follow. But last-gasp victory at West Ham on Sunday makes it four wins in the last six for Patrick Vieira’s side with Nottingham Forest to round off part one of the season.
Alas it has finally proved one thrashing too many for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s bizarrely beguiling Southampton team, whose collapse against Newcastle could only have been more on brand if they’d gone 1-0 up first.
They played all the hits with a series of astonishing defensive blunders and this time Hasenhuttl has paid with his job, the Southampton top brass sadly but probably correctly deciding they couldn’t wait any longer and risk the nailed-on water-muddying, inevitable-delaying victory he would 100% have got at Anfield next week. Hard to think of a Premier League team that has had such a chasm between its best and its worst – even in this nightmarish season Southampton have beaten Chelsea and are one of only two teams to take points off Arsenal.
History will marvel at the fact a manager was able to survive four whole years in the Premier League without making any tangible forward strides. And also that for four years there was a Premier League manager whose name translates as rabbit hutch. And also that there was a Premier League manager who survived not one but two 9-0 defeats. Southampton will probably be a better team for this change, but they and the league itself will be ever so slightly greyer for Hasenhuttl’s departure.
Led Tottenham 2-0 with 56 minutes on the clock. Led Leeds 3-1 with 59 minutes on the clock. Took zero points from those two games to make it four defeats on the bounce after a six-game unbeaten run. It usually takes slightly longer than a week, but the sort of collapse we saw against Tottenham can often become a self-fulfilling problem for a team. Losing from that sort of position is a confidence-shredder, and gives encouragement to all future teams who find themselves in that position against you. The grim reality now for Bournemouth is that future victories are going to be that much harder won, battling as they must their own demons while taking on opponents who will never feel out of the game.
Gary O’Neil and bad timing
Despite Bournemouth’s recent struggles, O’Neil is probably still just about in credit with 10 points from 10 games after Scott Parker’s doom-laden exit interview post-Liverpool. But he wouldn’t be human if he weren’t wondering ‘what if?’ and thinking on a probable opportunity lost. Had Bournemouth’s drawn-out takeover been completed a fortnight or three weeks ago, he would have had a great chance at getting the job on a permanent basis. Now it drags on, results have turned unpleasantly, and we’re about to hit a six-week break that could have been custom built for bedding in a new manager.
Mark Travers save a shot challenge
Four shots on target faced, four goals conceded. His already division-worst save percentage dips to 45 per cent (the next worst figure for a regular keeper is Danny Ward’s 61.9 per cent). Despite only playing six and a half games, Travers has let in more goals than any other Premier League keeper bar Dean Henderson. He’s now conceding on average 3.69 goals per 90 minutes, a goal and a half worse than any other keeper in the division barring Robin Olsen, who managed to ship four in an hour against Newcastle in his only appearance of the season. He’s far from the only reason for Bournemouth’s recent collapses, but bloody hell man.
Erik Ten Hag
“I think it was stupid to do that. We delivered too quickly crosses in from too far and too forcing. Then, we don’t help him (Ronaldo). We have to bring in the crosses at the right moment. I think in the second half also we bring too quickly the crosses in.”
The problem for Ten Hag is that the only two possible explanations here are bad. One, the “stupid” tactics he’s bemoaning are his tactics, which is obviously not ideal. But the second and apparently correct explanation is worse: the team were following stupid tactics that were not in fact his tactics or what the players had been asked to do.
Throw in the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo’s bizarre redemption arc in which he’s done pretty much nothing to deserve any redemption saw him rewarded with the captain’s armband at Villa, and it was a troublesome day for United’s manager all round. Perhaps the worst since those two opening defeats.
It would be foolish to think transforming this banter era Manchester United could be achieved without setbacks, but this was nevertheless a pretty major bump in the road. And on a day when both Chelsea and Tottenham lost tougher games a significant missed opportunity.
A double victory for silliness. Usually, a catastrophic defensive mistake falls into one of two categories: a disastrous idea or disastrous execution. For Liverpool’s decisive second goal, Dier managed to do both, making a complete and utter bollocks of an attempted header back to Hugo Lloris that was never on in any case. In fact, make that a triple victory because the player it handed a gilt-edged chance is one of the best forwards in Premier League history. Quadruple victory: it was a fortnight before the World Cup after two years spent painstakingly regaining his place in Gareth Southgate’s Circle of Trust. Oh, Eric.
We’re hearing that having eight touches in little over an hour during a defeat at home to your table-topping former club is… bad?
Sergeant Gabby Agbonlahor of the Celebration Police
We know he only says this shit for attention, but it’s an increasingly pernicious and insidious line that needs calling out every single time. The idea that nothing short of winning the literal Champions League is a cause for celebration is such obvious bollocks it shouldn’t need to be called out, but here we are. Celebrate absolutely anything you want. Celebrate a corner. Celebrate a save. Celebrate a block. But absolutely definitely always celebrate a 4-3 win from 3-1 down.
We literally cannot think of anything more mortifying than having one of the great managers of the age believe with unshakeable certainty that you are worse at football than Emerson Royal.
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