Chris Darwen is a sports writer and author living his dream on the Costa Blanca in Spain. Tales From The Top Flight has been featured each week in the largest English speaking newspaper in the south of Spain for over a year now and he is delighted to have turned it into a daily blog. Chris is 37, still addicted to Football Manager and a proud shareholder in Real Oviedo.
What a load of pants…
Well, that was worth waiting for, wasn’t it? We had months of build up, we had suspense, there was uncertainty. We didn’t know what was going to happen. All that before the standard football anti-climax. Gary Lineker and his “pants” is what I am referring to, of course. And I use “pants” in its loosest sense, almost as loose as the fit on Gary’s boxers. If the rest of Lineker’s clothes were sized to the same scale as the boxer shorts branded with crest of the champions, Lineker would look like a child in his father’s suit.
Anyway, at least Gary turned up on Saturday which was more than could be said for Leicester. Heading to newly promoted Hull, the team with no manager and a mere 13 fit senior professionals, City were surprisingly underwhelming, losing 2-1. The game did see the Premier League’s first ever synchronised double overhead kick, with Diomande just shading Hernandez for the ownership of the goal. Mahrez netted from the spot before Snodgrass rifled home a winning goal that suggests, finally, that the Leicester dream is over. It is so over that Vardy took to punching himself in the face.
Pep puts his Willy before his Hart…
Pep is already doing his best to become a true Manchester lad, choosing his Willy over his Hart on a Saturday night out in town. Joe Hart was dropped due to the fact he is not very good at passing the ball, as opposed to not very good at keeping the ball out of the net which would have been far more obvious.
Guardiola is already baffling the television pundits who, supposedly, would have researched the fact that he likes his full backs to sit infield when in possession. Research? Not one bit of it as McManaman and Hoddle were so baffled by the inverted full back concept that I switched to Spanish commentary to listen to commentators that are familiar with the Catalan’s ways. Pep did not have it all his own way as Sunderland’s new manager David Moyes looked like he was going to escape with a point following Defoe’s leveller. However, what happened next was classic Moyes. Defoe off, Paddy McNair on to shore things up and defend the point in the hand. The only problem was Paddy McNair had a Paddy McNair and scored the own-goal that gave City all three points. There was nothing McNair could really have done to be fair to him except, maybe, not join Sunderland in the first place. Still, there is a bit for Pep to learn. You cannot just rock up and stick Kolarov in at centre back and expect everything to fall into place.
Jose in selecting Mata shock…
We also caught our first glimpse of a Jose Mourinho Manchester United side. Fellaini and Mata started, which cannot be Jose still angling for new players, can it? With Pogba still recovering from his summer holiday it was left to the afore mentioned Spaniard, Rooney and Zlatan with a fine goal to see off Eddie Howe’s men. Jose is Jose after all and putting money on United to regain a Champions League place seems money well invested already. Mourinho has also assured Depay and Rashford that they have a future at United, whilst not reassuring Tyler Blackett, James Wilson and Will Keane. Straight up the A19 lads, I think that’s where United’s new reserve team plays? Januzaj can give you directions.
Defending is for cowards…
Titles are not won or lost in the first game, a fact that might be some comfort to Arsene Wenger. Both he and Klopp have been known as tactical innovators in their respective careers and clearly both are attempting to win the league playing some kind of “defenderless” football. Sure, there were eight of them on the field in theory but they were pretty hard to spot throughout the 90 minutes. Walcott missed a penalty, which could well be Arsenal’s 2016/17 season summed up before it even gets going. The fact that he scored 60 seconds later is irrelevant as King Klopp’s side tore Arsenal to pieces before clocking off twenty minutes early.
It rhymes with Pele, right?
Both Spurs and Everton start the new season full of hope. Spurs will be hoping to push on from last season’s surprisingly pleasing season and Everton finally have some money and a manager who has proven adept and spending transfer kitties wisely in the past. Therefore a draw was the most likely outcome at Goodison and that is exactly what we got. One mystery remained after the final whistle and I confess to having not looked this up. Dele Alli seems to have dropped his last name and only has his first name on the back of his shirt now. Well, if it is good enough for Sergio Busquets…
Southampton and Watford matched Middlesboro and Stoke in the 1-1 stakes, debut goals for Southampton’s Redmond and Boro’s Negredo. Burnley and Swansea also managed to match Palace and WBA for incredibly dull 1-0 wins for the away sides. After the match Pulis said he felt his side were a little stale and hoped for some new faces before the window shuts. I don’t think it’s the players Tony, it’s your tactics. Still, you won’t get relegated. Burnley, on the other hand, they just might.
What have we learned from the first weekend of real football? Leicester having two speed merchants up top is a great idea, but it would help if they didn’t both run in the same direction. Mike Phelan may come to regret winning that match as he could well end up getting the gig and becoming the first manager sacked this season. Pep is going to bring a style of football that is going to confuse both pundits and average players, so watch out Delph I think your number might be up. United will be exactly the same as every other Mourinho side, Arsene has delayed his retirement one season too long yet again and Jurgen Klopp is building something very, very special. I mean, he even got Adam Lallana to beat the keeper.
PS: Have you subscribed to www.talesfromthetopflight.com yet? You really should. You’ll get a free digital copy of our last publication “Thoughts on Euro 2016.” Catchy title, right? Plus by subscribing you’ll get the daily post before you’ve even had time to check Facebook each morning. Do it.