Jen Offord picks out five things that caught her eye over the weekend, including the building pressure at Old Trafford and St Mary’s, Chelsea’s winning start to the post-Mourinho era and the lasting legacy of Jimmy Hill.
While it is impossible to deny that it has not been the start (or middle) to a season that any manager would have wanted (one point above the relegation zone, 16 games into the season), were we really expecting Jose Mourinho to be sacked?
Commentators say that he lost the players, and certainly there must have been something going on behind Stamford Bridge’s closed doors, given the lack of obvious reason for Chelsea’s downward spiral. But the fans say it was the players who should have been given the old heave-ho, rather than Mou. The Blues may have bounced back, at least temporarily, with their 3-1 victory over Sunderland, but – despite my many, many jibes – I will miss Jose’s Premier League presence very much.
Mourinho’s extraordinarily expressive face does make for the perfect caption competition – and goodness knows he had a lot to look deflated about in recent weeks – but perhaps we will be seeing it elsewhere in the Premier League before too long?
Dutch and go
Which leads me to my next observation… which is really the same one, but reflecting on some different results. The week’s drama must surely have left both Southampton manager Ronald Koeman and Manchester United gaffer Louis van Gaal feeling very shifty indeed.
Koeman remarked earlier in the week that he had two weeks to turn Southampton’s fortunes around, so he must surely expect to not be long for the Saints’ world after losing 2-0 to Tottenham on Saturday. That’s one week left, Ronald – use it wisely.
Managerial sackings are kind of like economic recessions: you don’t want to publicly state you’re worried about the possibility of one. Van Gaal joined his fellow Dutchman in making this schoolboy error, admitting he was nervous about his future following his team’s 2-1 defeat at home to, er, Norwich City on Saturday. He was probably already nervous, to be fair – what with the ghost of silverware past, in the shape of the freshly-sacked Mourinho, waiting in the wings – but he certainly has cause for concern after this weekend’s display.
Wat a surprise!
The capitulation of Chelsea and the dismal dirge at Old Trafford have understandably held the attention of many this season, while Leicester’s remarkable surge to the top spot at Christmas is the biggest upset since Rage Against the Machine trumped the X Factor. But how come we’ve only just noticed Watford?
The Hornets’ 3-0 win over Liverpool on Sunday was their fourth victory in a row and they are now just a point off the Champions League spots as the season nears its halfway stage. Odion Ighalo’s goalscoring form has been sensational, almost matching that of Jamie Vardy this season, and he bagged yet another brace to beat Jürgen Klopp’s men. Although, as an aside, I would quite like to see Klopp doing a bit better now – he seems like a character and we certainly need one in the absence of the Special One.
It’s all looking rosy for the stylish Quique Sánchez Flores and his boys, but the transfer window is about to open and who knows where we might find Ighalo (or indeed Riyad Mahrez and Vardy) by the end of January.
West Brom on the naughty list
Santa won’t be delivering too many presents to the Premier League this year, judging by the number of penalties awarded at the weekend: a total of six goals were scored from the spot across the weekend’s fixtures. One of those penalties was struck by Charlie Daniels to secure a 2-1 victory for Bournemouth against nine-man West Bromwich Albion.
The Baggies first saw Salomon Rondon sent off for cheekily headbutting Dan Gosling right in front of the referee, and James McClean was later given his marching orders. It was a fully deserved red for the midfielder, as Bournemouth’s Adam Smith said he believed he would have broken his leg had the foul connected as intended. The penalty winner in the 87th minute probably resulted from a foul outside the area, but it was a struggle to sympathise with West Brom after such brutish behaviour.
Jimmy Hill was a pioneer
Okay, so this isn’t Premier League-specific, but it would be wrong to talk about this weekend’s on-field drama without paying tribute to the legend that was Jimmy Hill, who died this weekend aged 87 after battling Alzheimer’s disease. I am old enough to fondly remember Jimmy locking horns with Alan Hansen on Des Lynam’s Match of the Day, but it wasn’t until his passing that I learned how much more there was to the man than this.
Hill, I discovered, was responsible for many aspects of the modern game. From footballers’ salaries, which he successfully campaigned for abolishing the capping of, to club branding, which he rolled out as Coventry City boss in the 1960s, to the panel-based format of modern sports coverage and even the three point score for a match win – introduced in the English leagues in 1981 and then globally by Fifa in 1995. What a different footballing world we might be living in without his influence.
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