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
Dear Gareth. Could you make England play like Spurs please? Thanks.
Before we wax lyrical about the Premier League to soften the blow of losing it to another international break it would be foolish not to mention the Telegraph’s week of “stings.”
Everyone is saying Sam is an idiot and they are right. Imagine being taken down in the same group as an agent banned for match fixing in 2005, Barnsley’s assistant manager, Eric Black of Southampton and suggestions that Harry Redknapp might have known after the event that one of his players might have placed a bet on a game that they won.
Sam has not been this embarrassed since his Dad dancing after Sunderland stayed up. The postcards sent out to the England players two days later from Allardyce, to motivate them for the upcoming matches completely sum up the FA. They are always just that little bit behind the times. Greg Dyke waded in proving that FIFA was wrong to shut down the anti-racism panel early, saying the next England manager should be “whiter than white.” For me, the biggest loser in all this is Andy Carroll. There is no way back for him now.
Seriously, how good were Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday? Let’s not get too carried away and say they are the new City, but take a moment to appreciate the quality of their performance against the club that were expected “to win the league by ten points.” I am not sure who I am quoting when I say that, but some “expert” will have delivered that sound byte at some point for sure. Yes, yes City were without De Bruyne and Nolito which meant they had to play Fernando and Navas, but Spurs deserved everything they got and more. Simply, there is plenty of sugar without Kane. Poch has done a fine job of distracting everyone this season with photos of him signing players to long-term deals. It turns out those players might be worth those long-term deals.
The weekend’s football started on Merseyside where Everton were hoping to bounce back from two defeats following my good self tipping them to be guaranteed a place in the top six. Pardew had disappointed some Palace fans by ruling himself out of the England running, but it was his Belgian striker that cancelled out the goal from Everton’s Belgian striker in what was very much billed as the “Battle of the Belgians.” The draw and results across the board see both Everton and Palace in somewhat lofty positions in the table.
Not in a particularly lofty position are Swansea, who went into the early Saturday kick off with Liverpool believing that a defeat in a certain manner would subject them to being managed by Ryan Giggs. Little wonder then that they put in an excellent first half which Jurgen Klopp failed to make any sense of. Klopp had warned his team about using social media to air their views. Personally he prefers Monday Night Football with Jamie Carragher as the best place to talk about all things Liverpool and anyone thinking that the German will have uttered similar wise pearls of wisdom at half time to enable a second half comeback will have been saddened to learn that Kloppo’s tactic was to verbally pin his team up against the wall, claiming he was “angry, very angry.” A dubious penalty scored by Milner saw Liverpool come away with another win and Guidolin left in managerial limbo as the Swansea owners ponder whether 45 minutes of excellence is worth pursuing.
At the start of the week you could almost hear the penny dropping for Antonio Conte. The current Chelsea are ok, but only ok and if they want to be more than ok then Roman needs to get his wallet out again. Ivanovic, Cahill, Oscar, Matic & Cesc are all expected to be binned in January and Ivanovic was dropped from the side against Hull. The mere suggestion of being sold had Matic galloping through the middle like a young thoroughbred and it was his drive that allowed Costa to round off a simple 2-0 win for Conte. Hull have been beaten by teams that press and by teams that don’t now. It is going to be a long season for them.
There was a large shadow looming over the Stadium of Light, that of Big Sam. Will he end up replacing Moyes, or could he even take Pulis’s place when he finally decides the WBA fans moan too much for his liking? That said, the Sunderland board may regret saying Moyes was their preferred choice for the last few appointments, but couldn’t get him. Pulis ended the match “very disappointed” not to have won, probably adding “seeing we were playing that rabble” as Patrick van Aarnholt rose from the bench to save Sunderland another beating in the 1-1 draw.
Eddie Howe was also a disappointed man, having seen his team draw with Watford. During the week the Bournemouth manager had stated he had no interest in ruining his career 20 years early, therefore ruling himself out of the England job too. Why would he want to be in a position to persist with Jack Wilshere at international level as well? Jack missed a sitter that meant Walter Mazzarri was able to enjoy his birthday to a moderate degree.
West Ham, in what we would call a bit of a slump, went out to do some team bonding last week, ending up in McDonalds at 7am on Tuesday morning. Well, eat like a pub team and you will play like a pub team. Andy Carroll and Darron Randolph are alleged to have carried it all a little further, clearly using a large Meal Deal to settle the stomach before cracking on again. I can see their point though, if I had to watch the Hammers from the stands every week like those two do, I’d be back on 24 hour benders too. Still, Payet staggered past the Middlesbrough defence in the style of a man finding his way home from the pub to score a wonderful solo goal to get the Hammers a point.
Louis van Gaal wanted “virtual reality” training for United last season. Rooney was one step ahead for once, he has been living in a virtual reality for about 18 months, one where he is still a good player. Still, it was Rooney who was once again summoned from the bench to miskick the ball to a United player and claim it as an assist. Jose has it sussed now, give him ten minutes here and there and the damage should be minimal. During the week Jose added something new to Blame Bingo. One of his coaches gave Pogba the wrong instructions against Zorya. We can only assume that the coach has been giving Pogba the wrong instructions in every game other than Leicester where of course Jose told him what to do. Stoke’s first point at Old Trafford in thirty-odd years sadly does not catapault them up the table.
We all remember that Leicester are the Champions, right? Well they drew 0-0 with Southampton who seem to have suddenly gelled and become hard to beat.
Arsenal travelled to Burnley having won a couple in a row which meant they were very much due a monumental fail. In the week of Wenger’s 20th anniversary as boss, Roy Keane gave it all a bit of perspective. I think he can see through Walcott’s recovery this season and would like to see him delivering come December, you know, when all his team mates are wearing gloves. Arsene spent the weekend teasing everyone over the England job, as if he would be foolish enough to take it. Mo Farah was linked with becoming their fitness coach and nothing will send the Telegraph’s investigative team Arsenal’s way quicker than that move. Oh, the match? Arsenal only went and won it deep it into injury time. Has this team finally got the steel required? Imagine a world where Arsenal win the title and Wenger quits a hero to take over England. Go on, imagine it.
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