Quite a game, no? Nick Miller watched Arsenal's thrilling 1-1 draw with Everton and saw two teams who have improved, leaving certain others trailing...
Another rotten day for David Moyes, whose desperation for a win was epitomised by the selection of an unfit Robin van Persie in attack. It's looking pretty worrying indeed...
Football managers do not make as much per week as their players but are sufficiently well rewarded at Premier League level to mean that any expression of sympathy must be accompanied by an asterisk. That applies all the more to a manager with an eight-year contract. Still, it was hard not to feel sorry for Alan Pardew after the first half at Everton, and perhaps harder after the second period.
Newcastle were unfathomably abject in going 3-0 down, yet could have escaped with a point. True, Everton missed chances to extend their lead, but such was the turnaround that it felt as if rather than two changes at half-time there had been 11. The Newcastle players clearly listened to their manager at the interval; God only knows why they didn't listen beforehand.
Pardew was easy enough to understand addressing the cameras, saying: "Tonight it's going to be very important that we're clinical in our defending, especially in our decision-making, because they ask you a lot of questions, Everton." The questions the Newcastle defence failed to answer correctly were more Sun crossword than University Challenge, such as: "Do you run towards opponents in dangerous positions or go and mark empty spaces instead?"
On Monday morning I wrote about draws and the interpretation of statistics; it was wins that were tortured in the evening when it was put to Pardew that his side had won four of their past five matches. True, if you count Morecambe and Leeds in the Capital One Cup. But it was the previous league game, at home to Hull, that was the critical one.
To a degree, Pardew had sought to excuse that 3-2 defeat, pre-match: "We've played some terrific stuff and yet at Hull we made some defensive errors that were costly and reviewing that game, actually we didn't make that many, we've played many games where we've made more mistakes than that and you get away with them but on that day we got punished." What he was clear about was the need not to make such mistakes again, and yet Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher were left to react with Hansen-esque horror at some truly atrocious defending, each goal worse than the one before. At least Yohan Cabaye, on for the second half, continued his rehabilitation but despite his moment of brilliance and Loic Remy's late effort, the damage was too great to overcome.
Friday was the first anniversary of the announcement of the eight-year, £1.5m per annum contract. The footnote to accompany the asterisk on sympathy reads '£10m compensation clause', if the Daily Mail is to to be believed. Having to go back out before the Sky cameras to try to explain what had just happened, Pardew may momentarily have wondered if it was worth it.
Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley were watching the night unfold, and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in particular just fold. In most people's books the director of football and the owner bear considerable culpability because of the summer's recruitment failure, but instead they will be sitting in judgment on Pardew.
Starting the season away to Manchester City was a stiff task but since then the fixture list has been kind enough: before Everton there had been West Ham, Fulham and then Hull at St James', with a trip to Aston Villa. Five games had yielded seven points, and that remains the total after six matches. Inevitably, the next run of matches features some tougher assignments. How many more will Newcastle have after a dozen games, and can Pardew survive long enough to find out if his players continue to blunder?
Cardiff have made a decent start - won two, drawn two and lost two - and Saturday's trip would be a stiff one for Newcastle even if they had not already lost to another promoted side. The following four league games are against Liverpool, the always-fired-up Sunderland, Chelsea and Tottenham, with a Capital One Cup tie against Manchester City in the middle. Not till November 23, when Norwich (managed by Chris Hughton at time of going to press) visit St James', are Newcastle likely to go into a game as clear favourites. It could be a grim two months, even without answering to Kinnear (possibly) and Ashley (definitely).
Still, the £10m would probably come in handy.
Pretty sure Ashley would rather have Pardew killed than give him £10m to f*ck off.- v. profane