All the Premier League ins and outs in one place...
He's handsome, he's sexy, he was absolutely sodding amazing at the football...but our boys are a bit uncomfortable with default reverence. He's a pundit...
The weekend began at White Hart Lane, where 36,000-odd people turned up and many more thousands tuned in to see two people that used to work together but haven't for a while, and used to talk regularly but don't anymore, stand near one another, wearing suits. This turned out to be quite dull.
Luckily there was a football match on as well, so the hordes that had gathered to feed on Portuguese men o'war were instead treated to 45 minutes of Tottenham playing football, then 45 minutes of Chelsea playing football. More entertainingly, they were treated to the finest snark-fest of the season so far, as Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Torres decided, quite rightly, that everybody wanted to spend their afternoon watching two petulant millionaires dicking about like schoolchildren.
Vertonghen opened with a Chinese burn. Torres responded by rubbing his knuckles on the Belgian's head, but ended up flat on his face when it turned out that somebody had tied his shoelaces together. Both players then delivered unto one another a simultaneous and exceptionally painful wedgie. Mums were insulted. Sisters' reputations were besmirched. Each knew the other was, they had in fact said the other was, but what were they? Apart from grown-ups, obviously.
Perhaps even more remarkably, Torres was playing perhaps as well as he has since he was last any good. (Ask your parents, kids.) Running at speed! Going past players! Kicking the ball actually towards the net. Not into, no, but baby steps. Chelsea fans will be looking forward to seeing him build on this resurgence, and will be grateful that he didn't, say, manage to get himself sent off for being a mardy buffoon. Oh? Ah. Well, at least he didn't doing anything really stupid, like raking his nails down the face of his marker while grinning vacantly and staring into space. Eh? Ah. Oh, Fernando. So hacked off was the Spaniard that it was something of a shock to see him trudge from the field, rather than ruin the game by relentlessly scoring own goal after own goal after own goal until the tears exploded from his eyes.
- Strange times in Manchester. By strange, we mean 'hilarious for everybody else'. On Saturday, both teams contrived to lose in distinct but disappointing fashion. City, for their part, decided to go for low comedy, Joe Hart conceding the winner by charging off his line in the manner of an inadequate goalkeeper attempting to assert his way out of a slump in form, and failing. United, by contrast, decided to embrace bleak, noirish horror, seemingly bamboozled by West Bromwich Albion's ability to pass the ball at pace to one another. And what could be worse for any citizen of Manchester than to wake up the day after an irritating and/or humiliating loss with nothing to cling to but the knowledge of your own fading and irrelevant mortality? That's right: waking up the day after an irritating and/or humiliating loss with nothing to cling to but the knowledge of your own fading and irrelevant mortality, and the Tory party conference coming to town.
(Which do you reckon Cameron prefers? On the one hand, City are a PFI project writ large, as well as the wet dream of every little boy that went to sleep at night and dreamed of wielding immense financial power thanks to their breeding and the exploitation of those poorer than them. But on the other, United are turning a much-loved community asset to mulch, and might offer him a game in midfield. It's a tricky one.)
- In Sunderland, meanwhile, the watching public were treated yet another episode of Ellis Short's investigations into the New Manager Bounce. Observers were hopeful at first, as the stripey Wearsiders, recently liberated from the yolk of fascism, buzzed around with energy, purpose, and commitment for the first quarter of the game. Sebastian Larsson hit the bar. Liverpool's defenders were looking nervous and skittish. And then...and then Daniel Sturridge elbowed the ball into the net and everything went to pieces. A second-half rally fell short, and it turns out that Sturridge is quite good at passing to Luis Suarez. So, who's next? What's Leswyn Reed up to? Is Stewart Houston dead? Was he ever alive?
Their opponents, Liverpool, persisted with the 3-5-2 formation that managed to secure them a narrow defeat against David Moyes's apology of a parody of a Manchester United side midweek. It's not working particularly well in any footballing sense, and it's making Steven Gerrard look his age, but that's not the point. The point is this. Brendan Rodgers is a manager. And Brendan Rodgers wants you to know that he's managing. Managing hard. And soaking the half-time oranges in brandy, apparently.
- Finally, a word on Arsenal. Cauliflower.
Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton