The Hairdryer Treatment: Footballers are stupid, Arsenal give it the full Nelson and Liverpool burst United’s quadruple-shaped bubble

Today’s rubbish only really has one message for the football players valued at (and insured for) multi, multi, multi-millions of pounds.

Knees are pretty much the most important part of this “brand” you are trying to sell week in week out. Protect them. Love them. Look after them. If they don’t work, you don’t have a career. So when you score, maybe DON’T do effing stupid knee slides in celebration? They can hurt, you know. They can do more damage than 99% of the things Premier League footballers end up rolling around on the floor over nowadays.

Carlos Alcaraz scored a rare winning goal for Southampton on Saturday and performed a celebratory knee slide on an admittedly pretty damp surface (probably a 7/10 in terms of surface quality for celebratory knee slides). However, his execution was a mere 3/10, his left knee coming out at a worrying angle and clearly causing him instant pain.

Alcaraz had to go off having reappeared for the second half with a worrying amount of tape around his knee joint. Alcaraz was the big January signing. The player the Saints signed for €10m+ to stay in the Premier League. The difference maker. The guy who has scored two in two since kicking a top-flight ball in England for the first time. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was now out for the rest of the season.

Why don’t clubs put it in their contracts not to do this? I mean, they are happy enough to dish out fines if they turn up late or their phone goes off in a team meeting or if they are caught inhaling laughing gas (looking at you Leon Bailey) etc. They can’t drive a motorbike or go skiing. Knee slides, though? Carry on.

The Premier League race is over, by the way.

Man City beating Newcastle 2-0 turned the heat up on Arsenal. At 2-0 down to Bournemouth at home with nearly an hour played, it was getting even hotter in Arteta’s kitchen. And Reiss Nelson’s 97th-minute stone-cold winning goal totally confirmed that Arsenal have the mentality to close this thing out.

In fairness, if anything did warrant a knee slide I’d have forgiven Micky Arteta going full Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Nelson’s rocket sailed into Bournemouth’s net. They just kept going, kept believing – and even the fans stayed onside as it looked like it would be at least two points carelessly dropped.

Maybe Bournemouth did actually score too soon? They went 1-0 up after nine seconds thanks to a very clever kick-off routine. The half-Nelson was the Academy graduate setting up Ben White’s equaliser. The full Nelson was the winner. 79% possession and 31 shots on goal. You can’t say Arsenal weren’t throwing the kitchen sink at it.

Can we officially end all the completely bizarre talk about Man United being in a quadruple chase now? That massive explosion you heard around Anfield at about 17:53 GMT was Erik ten Hag’s team crashing back down to Earth. Liverpool didn’t just burst their bubble, they detonated a nuclear bomb all over it. Days like this, you hark back to the good ol’ days where the vidi-printer would show Liverpool 7 (SEVEN) Manchester Utd 0 and Frank Bough being 100% deadpan in his delivery.

It was a little bit like watching Liverpool play all their classic hits – amazing pressing, intense running, a front three to scare the life out of you. They completely dismantled United, slowing down the steam train of hype around Europe’s top scorer since the World Cup, the best United midfielder since Roy Keane, the greatest defensive pairing since Rio and Nemanja and all that jazz.

Whilst I think of it, has Lisandro Martinez got back to his feet yet after Mo Salah whipped the carpet from underneath him?

As for Bruno Fernandes, he’s a top player when United are winning but he is an absolute liability when they are not – it says a lot that EtH had to resort to subbing players so they didn’t get a red card. Mind you, that’s probably a better sign than it was under Jose, Ole or Ralf when the players clearly couldn’t give one about the result.

It’s been a while since we mentioned a Mo-record too – he’s now Liverpool’s top Premier League goalscorer moving ahead of the great Robbie Fowler. Doing it on a day when they beat their rivals 7-0? Fowler will be nodding his approval.

Is it just me, or are Newcastle massively overhyped? They are not going to finish in the top four based on their current form and they are then just going to be another very well-backed football club that is in the Europa League/Europa Conference pack. They’ve scored what, three goals in 2023? They didn’t lay a finger on United at Wembley and their performance at the Etihad is being talked up as something that it wasn’t – so they played well-ish? They lost 2-0! Their season is in serious danger of petering out – where is Calum Wilson? Miggy Almiron? Bruno G looks like he is playing injured – which makes letting Jonjo Shelvey go even more crazy.

As for City, Peppy G seems to have managed Phil Foden perfectly once again. The England international is now back to his pre-World Cup City form and not his England form. And when he plays like this, he is very, very good. It’s just City in general that still seem really flat at the moment – they’ve probably realised they won’t win the league and they obviously won’t win the Champions League. 

The last thing Graham Potter will have wanted is Thiago Silva being out injured for six weeks – after all, the Peter Pan of Stamford Bridge is about the only player not embarrassing himself currently. Potter apparently has/hasn’t got two games to SHJ (save his job) depending on who you believe. And having beaten Leeds 1-0 he is halfway there until the next time they fail to win and then it’s probably another two games to SHJ.

Wesley Fofana (hands up if you’d forgotten he was a Chelsea player) headed a winner that nailed three points that were a little harsh on Leeds. At this rate, Chelsea might sneak into the Europa Conference places.

Will David Moyes still be West Ham manager by the time you read this? You’d assume so, given the struggles everyone else seems to be having replacing their managers in the Premier League. Unless they call Rafa, but then why would he want to join a team that could well be in the Championship again next season? He’s done that once with Newcastle, remember?

The Hammers were, how can we put this, effing terrible at Brighton – who eased to a 4-0 win that highlighted the difference between a club being very well run on a sensible budget and a club being run with the mindset of spending more money equals better results.

You suspect West Ham wouldn’t have found Moises Caceido or Kaoru Mitoma or Alexis Mac Allister sexy enough to buy for next to nothing. They’d much rather spank their money on Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma, Gianluca Scamacca or the Tory Party.

Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace wasn’t much to write home about. Palace scored Villa’s goal and still cannot buy a win from anywhere. Villa’s fans continue to fall in love with the ‘Sultan of Unai’.

Having been knocked out of the FA Cup in the week – yes, the 5th round is now a midweek affair (United beat West Ham, obvs – Grimsby fried Southampton 2-1, Leicester got beaten by Blackburn, City beat Bristol City which meant we heard from Nigel Pearson which is never a bad thing) – Tottenham will end yet another season potless. The masterstroke of winning games from his sickbed seems to have come to an end meaning we’ll soon see Antonio Conte patrolling the sidelines wondering why his team cannot keep a game 0-0 until the 75th minute before they try and nick it 2-0. 

Wolves beat them 1-0 and Adama Traore scored – he who Conte wanted to take to Tottenham and turn into another Victor Moses. Spurs had 22 shots. Spurs didn’t score. Wolves, hardly goal machines themselves, almost saw Raul Jiminez find the net – something rarer than a Tottenham away win at the moment.

Everton have “factually improved” under Sean Dyche’s management – the problem is, they are still very much in the relegation zone and it doesn’t help when you lead twice against Forest and fail to win. Mind you, it probably doesn’t help if you try and reinvent Alex Iwobi as a false nine either….

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