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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 blog. Chris is 37, still addicted to Football Manager and a proud shareholder in Real Oviedo.
Tales from the Top Flight by Chris Darwen
Oh football, where to start with you this week? Of course, there is only one place we can really start and that is the very public viewing of Jose Mourinho’s career starting to crumble. Am I being over the top in saying that? Quite possibly, but he has 89 million problems and Pogba isn’t one. What? Someone not getting on Pogba’s back for being really poor value? Correct.
Play Pogba in a system that has made him look like the player that was bought, and you might be getting somewhere. It is saying something when United fans are starting to reminisce misty eyed over the glory day of David Moyes. I mean, even Van Gaal didn’t manage to spend this much money and lose three games in a week. Not that it is all Mourinho’s fault, of course. The referees are to blame, as is Watford’s “luck” in making Rooney, Fellaini and Zlatan look somewhat average. Still, if the boy Rashford keeps this up it won’t be long before a Champions League side comes in for him. Watford were as good as United were poor, and Mazzarri will have no doubt enjoyed the win over the manager that once called him a donkey. There’s only one donkey now, hey Jose? Well, three if you include Wayne and the lad with the afro.
The weekend’s football kicked off in London where Liverpool blew away Chelsea with a frenetic performance. There was a beautiful irony in Liverpool’s first goal. Liverpool had three players unmarked at the far post, yet Gary Cahill ran aimlessly to the only player who was being picked up. Admittedly he was being marked by David Luiz, but still.
Liverpool’s captain, who has taken a few gentle digs in the ribs from this column in recent weeks, scored a belter. Trust me, if Pogba had scored a goal like that rather than Jordan Henderson, Sky would be releasing commemorative DVDs. A United fan account got a little carried away, thanking Liverpool for taking three points off one of United’s “title rivals.” What title is that sir, the title of “clubs Jose has looked silly at recently?”
It’s probably safe to say Hull City’s title bid is over, having lost 4-1 at home to a resurgent Arsenal. Isn’t this completely Arsenal and, more to the point, Arsene? Doubts about this, doubts about that and then bang! Arsenal get two very good results in a week out of the blue. Still, if this is completely Arsenal they will manage to get themselves in and out of a title race by late February.
Pep has casually strolled into Manchester and won his first five games, something not done by any other club for a very long time. Bournemouth were on to a hiding to nothing as they were always going to commit footballing suicide by trying to pass the ball like City do. City strolled their way to their 4-0 win and, at this foolishly early stage for tipping Champions, look like they are everyone’s tip to be Champions. Yaya Toure could have even played, City were that comfortable, but the Ivorian has a nasty headache so decided not to make himself available. Bless.
Leicester might struggle with playing twice a week, might they? Not a bit of it. The champions took Burnley apart 3-0 with Slimani looking like the identikit partner for Jamie Vardy and scoring twice on his first league start. Mahrez also completed more step-overs than Burnley had shots on goal and contributed to Ben Mee’s OG.
West Bromwich Albion were officially taken over by Chinese investors at the weekend. With their plans to make WBA attractive to the Chinese football fans, you could understand it if Pulis could be on his way out. But no, Tony has more tricks up his sleeve. WBA raced into a 4-0 lead, including two goals from the player he didn’t want, Nacer Chadli. West Ham tried to make a game of it, but it ended 4-2 to Pulis’s men. If West Ham don’t sort themselves out soon, they’ll have to start suggesting that it’s up to their landlords to sort out. They only rent, you know.
The derby of the two managers that rate themselves a little bit higher than the rest of us do ended in a convincing win for Pardew and Palace. Mark Hughes is going to have to suffer the ultimate indignation. Having spent two seasons trying to turn Stoke into the complete opposite of what Pulis has built, he is going to have to watch as Pulis returns and takes Stoke back to exactly what it was before he left.
Claude Puel has a lovely accent, and he now has three English Premier League points to go alongside it. Midweek hero Charlie Austin arose from the bench to score the winner against Swansea and take one big step closer to being the latter day Rickie Lambert.
Spurs recovered from their Champions League disappointment by beating Sunderland 1-0. Having played most of August without Harry Kane, it looks like Poch might have to make do without his match winner for quite a while as the England striker was stretchered off. He will be joined by Dembele and Dier on the treatment table, which will ask quite a few questions of Spurs over the next few weeks. The main question being, “are you any good without Dier and Kane?”
By the next time we talk, will the managerial merry-go-round have got underway? Quite possibly.
PS: If you want more Tales from the Top Flight, but then why would you, head to http://www.talesfromthetopflight.com to read the daily column.