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Pep, Mou & the battle for equality

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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

What exactly has David Luiz done to upset Sergio Aguero?  It cannot possibly be that Sideshow Bob puts the little Argentine in his pocket each time they meet because, although playing very well at the moment, Luiz isn’t that good.  Is it the historic rivalry between Argentina and Brazil coming to the fore in the shape of ugly lunges at the defender?  Possibly.  However it is far more likely that despite protestations to the contrary, Aguero just is that kind of player.

Gary Neville certainly approved of the mindset, if not the tackle, and he must have seen plenty of Roy Keane in Fernandinho’s reaction to it all.  Mind you, Cesc did give him a little slap.  Will the end of match melee distract everyone from the fact that Pep, having spent more than another manager in town, is being found out tactically from time to time?  Chelsea, despite England’s number one centre back doing his best to be considered the weak link in that back three, out thought, outfought and outplayed City from the moment De Bruyne hit the bar from the sort of distance Sterling can normally put it over from.  Ok, David Luiz probably shouldn’t have been on the pitch to receive a potentially career ending tackle, but it’s not the last refereeing howler that will happen this season.  As soon as Kevin hit the bar you just knew that City should have had taken the game upstairs, read it a bedtime story and turned the lights out.  Conte just grinned a knowing grin and the game went from 1-0 to 3-1.  Sure Chelsea rode their luck in a way that Leicester will know all about, but it was another show of the togetherness that Conte has installed and, in a the ultimate show of his managerial skills, he managed to get Cesc to run around a bit too.

I’ve got to be careful here, as it is starting to sound a lot like I am defending José on  a weekly basis, but if he had been the guy sarcastically clapping the referee in the manner Pep displayed then Mourinho would be becoming even more acquainted with the darkened room from which he watches matches when banned.  Look, I am not pro-José but I still long for the day when two situations that are exactly the same are dealt with in exactly the same way.

As expected, Andy Carroll did score his annual goal against Arsenal.  The only problem was Arsenal scored five.  Yes, five.  Ok, it was at the London Stadium and it was against West Ham so let’s not get too excited, but it was still a very tidy performance from Arsene’s men.  Bilic commented after the game that the intensity in West Ham’s training has gone, as has the “dedication to the cause.”  That’s probably the manager’s job to sort.  As for Arsenal, never has it been more important to wrap up Alexis Sanchez in the most protective clothing you can find and only roll him out on match day.  Ozil, yeah he’s alright, but if anything happens to Sanchez you can rule out any chance of a title bid.  I know, I know.  Arsenal will find another way of ruling themselves out of the title race I’m sure.  It gets worse for the Hammers though, as rumours have broken that popcorn sales are down because of the poor home form.

I’ve sent Swansea a copy of the last few columns, but I think that horse has bolted.  Don’t tackle Spurs players in the area as they fall over very easily, and don’t let anyone called Harry get the ball.  People say that Ozil and Sanchez are the best partnership in North London, but surely it is Harry Kane and the penalty spot?  Fresh from signing his new contract he was ably assisted by Dele Alli and Jon Moss to fire Spurs ahead and on their way to a 5-0 win.  Just when you start to worry about scoring goals, play Swansea as Palace proved last week.

A message for David Moyes.  I’d rather not eat any humble pie, so if you could revert back to being completely rubbish sometime soon I’d appreciate it.  Sunderland are in serious danger of getting out of the relegation zone after a 2-1 against champions Leicester.  This may well be the last time I refer to Leicester as champions as they really cannot be bothered to put in league performances befitting of the title.  It’s ok though Fox fans, you’re back in Europe this week so you’ll get your fortnightly win.  But what will you do for victories until the knockout rounds kick off?

One of the worst things in football is a post-match press conference with Alan Pardew after he has won a game of football.  Fortunately, we have not been subjected to many in recent months but we got the full works after Palace turned Southampton over 3-0.  Smug Al denied reports that his players had basically demanded a particular defensive training session on Friday, so bored were they of conceding goals and their manager turning a blind eye.  He did, however, admit that Palace did some defensive training on Friday but was far from convincing in his pleas that it was his idea.  And he talked about peanut butter which, frankly, tells me this is a manager on the edge.  Still, the sack has been diverted for another week which means Big Sam can go and get some Christmas shopping done.

Personally, I love a world where WBA can sit in 6th place on a Saturday night.  Of course they scored from set-pieces, this is what West Brom and Pulis do for a warm up act, but Albion are also scoring goals in a fashion that is more than one a game.  Watford turned in one of their less interested performances of the season as WBA, having spent a smidge of what United spent in the summer, sat above them in the table on Saturday night.

Liverpool headed down to the south coast on Sunday looking to keep pace with the table toppers and looking to age Kloppo another five years.  A two goal lead is a dangerous lead for Liverpool, and they don’t like keeping them for long.  Liverpool lead 2-0 before Howe brought on Ryan Fraser who went on to win the penalty, score the second and set up the equaliser before going on to write the theme tune and sing the theme tune.  However, Chelsea loanee Ake was the key to Chelsea ending the weekend on top by nabbing a Cherry flavoured winner deep into injury time.  For all his charm and energy, maybe Jurgen might want to take a leaf out of Pardew’s book and do some defensive training?

Finally, Leon Osman suggested that having to change squad numbers affected United’s Anthony Martial before the start of the season.  José, I take it back.  If this is the kind of problem you are dealing with at Old Trafford, I understand why you are languishing in 6th place.  Realistically, Martial’s disappointment at losing the number nine shirt had nothing to do with José’s decision to send on Fellaini to close out an efficient 1-0 win over Everton.  The only problem was the big, clumsy fool with more hair than technique managed to give away a penalty with three minutes to go.  Mourinho pulled a look of complete shock at what he had just seen.  Mind you, pull all the faces you want José, you brought him on!


PS: If you want daily Tales from the Top Flight head over to www.talesfromthetopflight.com

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