In a new addition to the site, Rich Laverty takes a weekly look at five areas of the weekend’s football and explores the key issues behind teams in form, out of form and why. This week, the points scoring following Olivier Giroud’s and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s wonder goals, while Manchester City demonstrate tackling issues and controversial refereeing decisions plague West Ham and Manchester United.
Why the need to points score?
It was always going to happen, I mentioned on Twitter straight after Olivier Giroud’s goal on Sunday that people can’t help but points score – referring back of course to the age-old debate about Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
It was a freak situation; the Premier League has rarely seen a goal like Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s last week so to see another almost identical effort less than a week later seemed about as likely as Leicester City winning the league.
“Oh well Mkhitaryan’s was offside”, bragged the Arsenal fans. “It was harder as there was more pace,” barked the United fans in response. Why? They were both sensational. Mkhitaryan’s being offside doesn’t diminish the skill involved and Giroud’s was equally as good to look at, given he managed to loop it over the helpless Wayne Hennessey.
Both were incredible and we’re lucky to have seen two such efforts in such quick succession, as Martin Tyler once said, “watch it, drink it in…”
Lee Mason…Dear Me
I was all set for another scathing review of Lee Mason after his shambolic display at Old Trafford, but he gained back a little bit of credit for correctly sending Fernandinho off at the Etihad on Monday afternoon.
However, what exactly did Mason think he saw when he was ruling out Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s effort on Saturday? Ibrahimovic’s foot was indeed high but it was almost planted back firmly on the Old Trafford terra firma by the time Victor Valdes clattered into the Swede.
It was a ludicrous decision that provoked many ‘the game’s gone’ comments on social media and Mason added to it by failing to penalise Bernardo for pushing Marcus Rashford. Fortunately for Mason, two late goals meant United fans had other things to enjoy come full-time rather than criticise his latest woeful performance.
Tottenham might be back, we’ll know on Wednesday
A lot of people were quick to say Spurs were ‘back’ after a clinical performance at Vicarage Road against a hapless Watford side on Sunday afternoon.
They may well be, but sometimes you can’t judge certain performances when the opposition are just THAT bad. It was a similar story when United found themselves 3-0 up at Swansea several months ago, the same scoreline Spurs found themselves leading by on Sunday.
Swansea were just so poor you couldn’t read much into United’s performance. Mourinho’s men had to back it up, which they have done with a solid and impressive unbeaten run and six straight league wins.
Spurs now need to do the same, they have Chelsea on Wednesday and a positive result there will give everyone a much better view of whether Tottenham are starting to reach the same levels they did last season.
Pep Guardiola may need to start teaching tackles
Pep Guardiola’s quote on tackles – or lack of them – in Manchester City training will almost certainly go down as one of the most memorable of the season.
It was so striking and confusing, but when you watch City you can certainly believe Mr Guardiola wasn’t telling porkies.
If it’s not Sergio Aguero’s high lunges or Fernandinho’s scissor kicks, it’s Aguero’s elbows or Nolito’s forehead. Aguero and Fernandinho have now seen red between them a combined five times this season, the latter receiving his third red card in just six games against Burnley with his latest poor attempt.
At times, centre backs John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Aleksandar Kolarov look like they haven’t made a slide tackle in their lives. Whilst Guardiola’s persistence with his own style and ideals is admirable and he’s a top quality coach, you can’t go to places like Burnley, Stoke, Crystal Palace, Hull, West Brom etc and not expect to have to stick a foot in every now and again…
While it may spoil the fun, video replays can’t be ignored much longer
There’s something fun and therapeutic about knowing there’ll be half a dozen big officiating decisions to discuss every weekend. It’s usually the main talking point across social media and in the morning newspaper – this week will be no different.
Mike Dean’s decision to red card West Ham’s Sofiane Feghouli just 15 minutes into Monday night’s game against Manchester United caused plenty of controversy. On live viewing, it looked bad. It seemed reckless and left Phil Jones writhing in agony.
Now stop there, that’s all Dean had to go on. Those of us at home got 4, 5, 6 different replays from various angles and came to a conclusion that it could’ve been a red card, but more than likely a booking would have sufficed.
Refereeing standards in England are indeed poor but there’s no doubting it’s an incredibly tough job and it’s getting tougher. The media spotlight is greater than ever, the consequences are bigger than ever and the Premier League needs video replays sooner rather than later.
Follow Rich on Twitter at @RichJLaverty