Manchester United and Chelsea make bizarre table-toppers after pretty unconvincing campaigns against poor opposition, while Manuel Pellegrini was a silly boy...
You'd think it would be simple - that winning is good, losing is bad and drawing is somewhere in between. But no...sometimes losing is better. Or something...
There was some consternation about a tackle from Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton on West Ham's Mohamed Diame in the goalless draw between the two teams on Sunday. Your view, I think depends on your angle.
I use the word 'angle' in a deliberately ambiguous way. Some people's 'angle' is that any tackle with a semblance of force ought to be a red card, while others are more lenient. The referee and assistant charged with judging this particular situation each had their own 'angle' of view, while as viewers we get the benefit of several.
So if you are reading this thinking it was an appalling travesty that Schneiderlin not only stayed on the pitch but didn't even have a foul given against him, then I sort of understand. If your starting position is one where you want to clamp down on certain tackles, and the first view you saw was one that put the emphasis on the contact between Schneiderlin's studs and Diame's ankle, I don't blame you.
I have to try to put myself in the position of the referee, which is of course difficult when the view I get at full speed is from the wide camera on the gantry, and Andre Marriner's was from behind the incident. It seems, though, that both of our initial instincts said that it was a good tackle. In real time, and from a couple of replay angles, I thought it looked a decent challenge.
In hindsight, things are a little more sinister. I still don't think it merited a sending-off, but it certainly was a little dangerous and, despite winning the ball, he is too reckless on the opponent. I think a yellow card would be plenty.
I heard Sam Allardyce say it was two-footed, but I really don't think it was. His second foot followed through, for sure, but I just didn't see that high, out-of-control motion that I look for when a player is trying to 'do' his opponent. I saw, after looking a couple of times, a tackle that was dangerous, but not one which I would term as using 'excessive force or brutality'.
In real time, I wouldn't have even said it was dangerous. And that is why it is so hard for referees.
Any penalty awarded at Old Trafford is always met with a discussion, and the one given for a foul on Ashley Young on Saturday is no exception.
To be fair to Young, I thought it was a foul on him by Kagisho Dikgacoi. I think there is unfair contact and you may well argue that Young went down easily, but I would suggest that he has a right to go down if fouled. The caution he received for diving earlier in the game was perfectly legitimate, and a correct decision, but I thought this later challenge was a foul.
Of course, it wasn't inside the area, and shouldn't have been a penalty. I want to just clear up one rule, though. I have heard or read a few people refer to the 'initial contact' being outside the box. That implies that there was some later contact inside the area, which would still be a penalty. The law states that if contact starts outside but continues inside, then it is still a penalty.
On this occasion, though, there was one piece of contact and it was outside the penalty area. It is less than a week since I referred to a decision in the England v Ukraine game and mentioned about officials being 100% when giving decisions. These two officials did not see where the contact occurred, and so simply guessed at it being a penalty. That's not on. Erring on the side of caution would mean a free-kick, not a penalty.
It was even more harsh on Crystal Palace given that Dikgacoi was sent off for the foul. I thought that was correct, as Young seemed to be in on goal to me, but I hate what I call the 'double jeopardy' of giving away a penalty for 'prevention of a goalscoring opportunity''and still being sent off. It is even worse when it wasn't even a penalty in the first place.
It was rather a howler on the part of Martin Atkinson, blowing up for a free-kick when Jozy Altidore of Sunderland had a chance to go on and score. I'm not going to take into account the fact that Altidore went on and put the ball into the goal. We have to ignore that, really, because there is an argument that could say that Bacary Sagna and Wojciech Szczesny might have heard the whistle. I know they probably didn't, but you still have to consider it.
The point is that there is no incentive for the referee to blow his whistle that early. It doesn't hurt anyone if he doesn't blow, because he can always bring it back should Altidore be closed down and blocked off. If he happens to go on and he has an unguarded effort at goal, then that's great, and the advantage was correct. If Altidore had missed, then Sunderland could not have complained and wanted the play brought back, because the referee would have allowed that eventuality to be played out.
Given that we saw Altidore go on to actually put the ball over the line, I'd argue that it was a fairly clear goalscoring opportunity. So why wasn't Sagna sent off?
I can't know for sure, but I suspect that Mr Atkinson, after the event, looked back on a moment where he had a bit of a mental blank. He probably instinctively blew his whistle, and then for the next 30 seconds was doing a bit of mental treading water. A little like when you are driving and go into auto-pilot, and pull into the outside lane without checking your blind spot. It doesn't necessarily make you a bad driver, but it reminds you that you constantly need to be switched on.
I think the officials got it right in only cautioning Hugo Lloris for punching the ball outside the area. For some reason people have it in their heads that a goalkeeper handling outside the area is an automatic red card, and that is simply not true. He falls under the same laws as any other player, in that should he deny a goalscoring opportunity by handling the ball, then he is liable to be dismissed. This wasn't the case, so the caution is plenty.
Rob McNichol - follow him on Twitter but be warned: He tweets a lot about wrasslin'
Young is an embarrassing player when he dives the way he does. What frustrates me is that he's a handy player to have around when he's not throwing himself to the ground. I hope David Moyes didn't so much "have a word" with him, but water-board him in order to teach him a lesson. We could do without the agg.................- HarryBoulton