Jen Offord picks out five features of the Premier League weekend, including: the madness of managerial pressure, Mané’s transfer disruption and the ongoing simulation scourge.
Two of the greatest Premier League puzzles for me at the moment are that Sam Allardyce and Steve McClaren still find themselves in gainful employment. Allardyce’s men, Sunderland, had a rare good day at the office on Saturday, beating Aston Villa 3-1, but come on – if even Villa can get a goal past them then something’s not right. Newcastle had another bad’un (more about that later), something that will now feel all too familiar thanks to three straight defeats since their recent flash of good form. What do these men know about their respective boards that we don’t?
Having said that, however, while we may sometimes see fans putting on a display of solidarity in the aftermath of managerial sackings (I’m looking at you, Chelsea), Jürgen Klopp proves this is not always the case (kudos to the Match of the Day post-match interviewer, by the way, for the painfully slow, enunciated way he spoke to the clearly fluent English speaker, Klopp, on Saturday. It was everything you’d expect of an Englishman… and how I ROFLed).
What’s gone wrong for Liverpool, we ask as we stroke our chins, in the wake of their 2-0 defeat by West Ham – a loss engineered by a blast from their past, former Red Andy Carroll, who now appears to be sporting cornrows. Bold.
Well, they don’t have any top-class players, basically. The Sturridge-Suarez glory days are behind you, Liverpool. Buy in bulk this January.
What has happened to Man City?
The next mystery is how Manchester City keep winning despite not being very good? They beat Watford on Saturday, which at one time would’ve seemed a perfectly natural thing to say, but Watford are actually having a blinder of a season and Man City are, well, just not all that good.
City went a goal down thanks to an own-goal in the 55th minute and didn’t equalise until the 82nd minute, with Sergio Agüero winning it two minutes later.
How are City firmly planted in the top four despite such regularly weak performances? Could they be close to experiencing their very own Sturridge/Suarez comedown if Agüero doesn’t fully find his feet again?
Plenty to play for at both ends
This season is getting interesting now, with bizarrely well-performing teams like Leicester starting to show signs of slipping back down the table and bizarrely poor-performing teams starting to look like they might mean business again. Then you have Arsenal, the only one of the traditional top four to have performed consistently well enough to remain lodged at the top. Would they be up there if teams like Chelsea and Manchester United had been performing better? We can only guess, but we have to start asking ourselves, fresh from their 1-0 defeat of Newcastle on Saturday to go two points clear at the top of the league: can Arsenal really bring home their first league title in 12 years?
At the other end of the table ten-man Bournemouth held out for a goalless draw against Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, even warding off a Riyad Mahrez penalty (awarded thanks to a really daft decision against Simon Francis who, er, successfully tackled the ball from Jamie Vardy).
Now, for the first time, I dare to ask: can the Cherries stay up this season? Sixteenth in the league and only four points clear of the drop zone, they’re a long way from safe, but when you see heroics such as this and wins against teams like West Brom and even Man Utd, you do start to wonder…
Divers shouldn’t prosper
Unfortunately sometimes divers do prosper (see above – not that Vardy was diving for the penalty, just, you know, he does sometimes hit the deck quite easily) but I thought it was starting to get stamped out of the game.
But apparently I’ve not been paying attention. I was going to write about the number of yellow cards handed out for diving to try to make a point about it in this very column… until I looked back at the stats from the last couple of weeks and realised that this ridiculousness is still happening all the time. Sort it out boys. That and the shirt pulling: it’s not a good look.
Is Mané on the way out?
And in other similarly unattractive news, Sadio Mané was dropped from Southampton’s starting 11 on Saturday, despite appearing in all 19 of Southampton’s previous games this season. The reason? He was late for a team meeting.
He was brought on 10 minutes before the end of his team’s game against Norwich, but the damage was done (and by damage, I mean the sending off of his team mate Victor Wanyama and the subsequent goal by Alex Tettey’s for Norwich.
The most disappointing aspect is that it’s hardly a surprise to see a Premier League footballer behaving badly. But do we smell a rift with his club? Is the transfer window a-calling, Saido Berahino style? Southampton fans will hope not.
You can follow Jen on Twitter @inspireajen