Congratulations go to Alejandro Garnacho for scoring the second best goal of the weekend. There are kind words for Mikel Arteta and Rob Edwards, while Big Ange and Chelsea need a wake-up call.
It takes a certain kind of person to even attempt it. Arrogant little so-and-sos, mainly. Alejandro Garnacho is definitely that. And while comparisons have been inexorably drawn with Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, they all had back catalogues of footballing genius to make you think ‘yeah, that’s about right’ as they cartwheeled their iconic bicycle kicks past respective stunned goalkeepers. That was Garnacho’s seventh goal in senior football.
Having missed the start of the game and hearing of the ‘Garnacho wondergoal!!!’ I imagined it had involved beating two or three players with quick feet before a neat but unspectacular finish – if he’s got a trademark quality it’s his dribbling. The goal he scored is in many ways less of a barometer of future success than something more ordinary. He’s not going to be able to mimic that on a weekly basis, or even exhibit the extraordinary skills required in other areas of the game, while the ability to beat players consistently with the ball at his feet should be his bread and butter.
But it’s the combination of the confidence to give it a go, pulling it off in such glorious fashion, celebrating with the air of a man saying ‘yes, I’m that good’ and it coming so early in his career that should make Manchester United fans giddy at what’s to come from the teenager. Congratulations to him on scoring the second best goal of the weekend.
At the 200-game mark, Arteta has more wins and the best win percentage of all managers to reach the landmark for Arsenal, with his 58 per cent better than Arsene Wenger’s 56. He’s done a brilliant job.
They had to huff and puff against Brentford, but on what Arteta described as a “special day”, Kai Havertz came up trumps. The big-money summer signing came off the bench to score his first goal from open play in a moment to lift the weight from his manager’s shoulders just as much as his own.
Arteta has been criticised for spending such a significant wedge on a player he’s tried to force into the role vacated by Granit Xhaka with very limited success. In theory it could have been a masterstroke, and the cynics may even suggest Arteta was imagining the ‘Tactical genius’ headlines following him moulding a square peg to fit a round hole and evolve his team even further. But he deserves huge credit for not continuing to force Havertz into a position that he’s, at least currently, unsuited to.
It should also be seen as a significant win that Arsenal are top of the Premier League despite their £68m summer signing not really contributing until Saturday. This could be the turning point for Havertz, or it might not be, but Arteta has had the wherewithal to realise an error in judgement and not plough ahead regardless, with his mind on the team’s success rather than on the chances of himself looking a bit silly.
Aston Villa’s progress under Unai Emery was evidenced by their substitutions in the 2-1 win over Tottenham on Sunday. Having been completely outplayed in a first half that could easily have seen them three or four down, Emery introduced Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans. Bailey hit the post before Tielemans’ beautiful no-look pass played Ollie Watkins in for the winner. They’ve got real quality in reserve, to the point where many of the Villa fans may not remember them ever having such strength in depth.
Only Manchester City have accrued more than their 71 points in 2023, and Villa’s 22 wins in the calendar year is the most they’ve managed since 1980. They won the title the following year.
The Luton boss described the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace – their first at Kenilworth Road in the Premier League – as “the longest game I’ve ever been a part of”, and they were indeed hanging on at the end. But with a huge helping hand from the Premier League to push Everton into the mire, Luton are now five points clear of the relegation zone.
A few weeks ago people were questioning whether Derby’s 11-point record may be under threat this season, and there’s still that possibility, but it won’t be beaten by Luton, who – as Edwards said in his post-match interview – have if anything “deserved a bit more than what we’ve got” this season.
The fact that the squad with roughly half the market value of the second lowest in the Premier League is even managing to engage at this level is remarkable, and they’ve been competitive in almost every game, losing by a single goal in five of their eight defeats. Should they stay up, Edwards is the Manager of the Year, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Here we are then, the best goal of the weekend. Speed, power, close control, body swerves and no requirement to look at the goal before curling it into the top corner having run from the halfway line. And crucially, stacked against Garnacho’s, it was repeatable genius from Olise. There’s no luck (or shin) involved, and the fact that he could do that again next week, but so few other Premier League players could, makes it all the more impressive.
A workhorse the likes of which look more than a bit out of place in a team with Mohammed Kudus and Lucas Paqueta, but his four Premier League goals is two more than both of his fancy-pants teammates, and he’s got six in all competitions.
And it’s two winners in two for Soucek, who is arguably the most dangerous midfielder in the whole league when the ball drops to him in the box. Many would have assumed that the evolution of West Ham under David Moyes, with the arrival of expensive and technically gifted players as a result of their European football, would see Soucek ousted from the starting line-up, but the Czech Republic captain has made himself indispensable.
Roberto De Zerbi celebrated wildly as his side held on against Nottingham Forest to arrest a slump in form that saw Brighton last win a Premier League game on September 24. They had earned just three points from six games before the win at The City Ground, with the manager’s outpouring of emotion also presumably due to an awareness of how difficult it is to win at Forest’s home, as well as having an eye on what’s to come.
With Europa League commitments, combined with the packed Premier League winter schedule, they’ve got nine games in 33 days, and will have to compete with a squad down to its bare bones following Lewis Dunk’s red card, and injuries to Tariq Lamptey and Ansu Fati, which means they currently have 12 first-team players unavailable for selection. It was a huge win.
It was hardly a classic, and you can’t help but feel the Premier League schedulers rather f**ked us in that regard. But Manchester City – Bernardo Silva and Jeremy Doku in particular – were lovely to watch at times, and it’s their superiority that sees Liverpool triumph as the Winners of the day.
It’s damn near impossible to win at the Etihad these days, and Liverpool not losing to their title rivals on their own patch should be seen as a significant bonus point in their title challenge, particularly as Jurgen Klopp’s side were well short of their best. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s goal was beautiful, obviously.
Bournemouth have exactly the number of points they should have at this point in their season. They’ve lost to Liverpool, Tottenham, Brighton, Arsenal and Manchester City in games they should lose. Somewhat disappointing defeats to Everton and Wolves are nullified by useful draws away at Brentford and at home to Chelsea and West Ham. And they’ve beaten Burnley, Sheffield United and a Newcastle second team. Twelve points from 13 games is bang on.
Iraola could very easily have been out of the job before the recent turnaround, but the owners and players kept faith. “Before I think it was down to us players not doing the specific things he wanted to do,” said two-goal Marcus Tavernier after the win over Sheffield United. Crucially, those players aren’t just reaping the rewards of the change in style, but appear to be enjoying the process as much as the result.
Being ‘The Premier League Entertainers’ is an uncomfortable label for Chelsea. They’ve scored 15 and conceded 14 in their last six games; Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte would be shaking their heads. Mauricio Pochettino was, for the first time in his Chelsea tenure, after a performance that made him “very, very, very, very, very angry”.
He crowbarred in the tender age of his squad on a number of occasions in his post-match comments, but while peaks and troughs to some degree are expected because of that, the difference between the performances against City and then Newcastle can’t be explained by a lack of experience alone. And that argument becomes moot when the most experienced player in the Premier League as a whole – Thiago Silva – has an absolute shocker.
The assumption is that Chelsea will become more consistent in time; that the team will grow as the young players mature together. But it’s a strange assumption given consistency is the thing in football that separates the good from the great and is by no means something that simply comes with time.
There’s no doubt that these hugely expensive players can have good games – most of them already have – but none of them have put a run together to leave us with no doubt that they will be world-class footballers. Should we not have expected that from one or two of them by now?
The positive vibes-induced madness from Big Ange returned after its Wolves sabbatical. He played no centre-backs and no defensive midfielders against Aston Villa, and in an attacking sense – the only consideration that matters if you’re the ‘go for it, mate’ manager of Tottenham Hotspur – it worked really rather well in the first half.
They should have been well clear at the break but found themselves level after a moment in which a centre-back would probably have been useful. Pau Torres should have scored with a free header before the one he actually nodded in, and as Eric Dier watched from the Spurs bench, the myriad full-backs on the pitch tried but failed to deal with Villa’s excellent delivery from set pieces.
And it was hard to watch Villa’s second goal – an admittedly precise and excellent, but ultimately simple, one-two – and not think a Premier League centre-back of any note would have snuffed it out without any real trouble.
Tottenham win that game nine times out of ten. They were comfortably the better team, and that’s almost solely down to Postecoglou’s style of play. But how much of an effect would Dier’s inclusion have had on that style? Ok, they perhaps couldn’t have played quite such a high line, but then that didn’t seem to stop them against Chelsea.
A semblance of pragmatism would have won them that game, in much the same bonkers style they ended up losing it in.
Having been asked three times specifically about Aaron Ramsdale’s display against Brentford, in his post-match interview and then his press conference, Arteta swerved the questions, describing the team as “exceptional” before twice insisting he was “happy” with the team as a whole. Eventually bowing to the pressure for Ramsdale headlines at the fourth attempt, he hailed his goalkeeper’s “courage”. “That’s why we love him,” he added.
Arteta is now trying to avoid the media storm he created, not so much by bringing in David Raya, but by then insisting he would rotate his goalkeepers. That hasn’t happened, and any time Ramsdale is now forced into action, all eyes are on him to prove he has what it takes to still be Arsenal No.1.
And it’s different for goalkeepers now. They don’t rely on the opposition team to make their mark on a game. They don’t need to make brilliant saves and claim crosses; they can force their quality to become apparent through composure and quality in possession. And in a bid to stand out, as Ramsdale did on Saturday, they can make a hash of things.
In many ways it was an ideal game for Arteta, in that Ramsdale kept a clean sheet but made an unpunished error that suggests the manager was right to replace him with Raya. That’s incredibly unfair, as the chances of mistakes such as those have increased dramatically simply because of that switch. But the writing’s on the wall for Ramsdale, who now surely has to leave the club he has done little wrong at.
Four points from 13 games, ten goals scored and 32 conceded. Many of us were hoodwinked by the ease with which they came up from the Championship into thinking Burnley might actually be quite good. Anything but a win at home to Sheffield United next weekend will surely lead to questions over Vincent Kompany’s future at the club; it’s not working.
It’s hard to come back from a goal like that after three minutes, and it wasn’t so much that Everton played poorly, more that they failed to convert the chances they had that will frustrate Sean Dyche on a day in which a big win over Manchester United would have been a delectable f*** you to the Premier League.
Everton’s xG was 2.5 to United’s 2.2 and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will have gone to bed replaying in his mind the two golden chances he had to equalise.
Shown a straight red card for calling Anthony Taylor a f***ing bellend, the f***ing bellend.