They say a football season is a load of defining moments all stitched together – and it makes it quite easy to look back and pinpoint the main ones.
Arsenal were 2-1 up at West Ham when they get a penalty having been 2-0 up after ten minutes. Saka would score, Arsenal would win and the Gunners would keep City at arm’s length once again.
Except Saka channelled his inner Mo Salah and hit it high and wide (the ball ending up in row B which shows exactly how far away from the game the seats are at the Athletics Stadium).
One of the unwritten rules in football is that when that happens, the other team has to go up the other end and score just to double-rub it in the face. Jarred Bowen did the honours, Arsenal dropped two points and the weekend ended with the gap being just four points – City with a game in hand and yet to play Arsenal. On the weekend of the Grand National, it does feel like Arteta might be falling at the final hurdle or so – a bit like Benrahma was felled by the hurdle that was Gabriel.
Peppy G’s lot are utterly relentless at the moment – having seen off Bayern 3-0 in midweek in a game that left Guardiola exhausted let alone his players, they cruised past, er, Dean Smith’s Leicester 3-1 having done the vast majority of the work in the first half-an-hour.
Obviously, Erling Haaland got some more to add to his tally (two) and was able to be rested at half-time. Imagine how many he might have if he played 90 minutes every week. Mind you, 47 in total for the season so far isn’t too shabby and who knew John Stones had that in his locker?
City are going to catch them, aren’t they?
Aston Villa are a funny club – not really important enough to rib when things are going wrong, no real comedy when they are doing well. And boy, are they doing well under Unai Emery. Emery was mercilessly mocked in his time with Arsenal for being nothing other than a nice man who was trying to be polite in his second language. It’s nice to see him leading the Villa towards the one thing he is exceptional at – the Europa League.
A 3-0 win over Newcastle certainly laid down a marker – Eddie Howe talked about how he was grateful that Emery had walked away from the Newcastle offer. You suspect Emery is having zero regrets too.
A couple of weeks ago, we posed the question of when it was safest to bring Harry Maguire on as sub to “see out” a match. Erik ten Hag miscalculated that equation during the week as Big H managed to score Sevilla’s equaliser in the Europa League.
Yet, Maguire remains unbeaten since whenever – he started alongside Lindelof on Sunday against Forest meaning many people assumed Steve Cooper’s side might be able to get at least a point, especially as Marcus Rashford is actually injured. Not a bit of it – Antony scored one and created t’other for Diogo Dalot in a 2-0 win meaning top four is looking more and more likely.
All fingers-of-fun continue to point at Todd Boehly and Chelsea – they stripped Brighton of their manager, most of their backroom team and Marc Cucurella and still cannot beat them. Roberto de Zerbi watched on from above (the stands, not heaven – only suspended, not dead) as his well-drilled, well-recruited, well-liked group of players utterly outmanoeuvred Frank Lampard’s (though they are not really his, are they) hapless group of individuals wearing a Chelsea shirt.
The result might have been 2-1 but like at Spurs last weekend, it doesn’t tell the story of just how good Brighton were. Lamps has now lost 11 of his last 12 matches as a manager and all three since dropping in to do Boehly a favour after James Corden suggested it might be a good idea – this one was the most disappointing, apparently, as Chelsea were beaten at the “basics” of football. Yes, Frank – Brighton scored two and you scored one. Thems there are the basics of football.
Brighton play an FA Cup semi-final against United next weekend but will do it without their teenage Irish star Evan Ferguson – football can be a cruel bugger sometimes. As for Chelsea, despite BT Sport attempting to talk up some interest in this week’s second leg versus Real Madrid, they are done and dusted in that one and the sooner this season can end for them the better, before Boehly makes any more scattergun decisions following the old Robbie Savage adage of literally having more money than sense.
I mean, the Lampard thing when you actually look at his record – it’s crazy. What is it with clubs sacking managers and then ending up with someone worse than the one they’ve just sacked? Is Frank really going to get anything more out of that lot than Graham Potter was capable of? No. Nobody was. So stick with it given the lack of alternatives. And as for Leicester City bringing in Dean Smith, what the actual? Sack Brendan Rodgers and bring in someone who literally failed to save Norwich last season having been recruited to save Norwich – and boy, do Leicester need saving.
Southampton are no better – and they are supposed to have intelligent owners. Nathan Jones clearly did have to go, sure – but then to have no other alternative but to give to Ruben Selles who is going to have a Premier League relegation on his CV before his management career even gets going? You may as well forfeit 50% of the matches between now and the end and just accept the fine.
At least Crystal Palace had a plan – out went Vieira and in came Roy Hodgson who has won three on the spin and let the players off the leash (surprisingly). As did Wolves – who brought in Julen Lopetegui and will be rewarded with Premier League football next season having beaten Brentford 2-0. And as for Bournemouth’s win over Spurs, further evidence.
Gary O’Neil is producing minor miracles on the South Coast – given the job early and doing the job well. The Cherries’ 3-2 win over Tottenham will be remembered for generations if they do stay up and Daniel Levy has probably cost the club Champions League revenue next season by not having any other plan other than giving it to Stellini until the end of the season.
These are big decisions gents, that’s why you seem to pay yourselves the big bucks. Can you not do them better?
Circling back, Everton are the complete opposite of Aston Villa – important enough to laugh at when it’s going oh so wrong and easy to mock because the owner has made a right pig’s ear of it all. Sean Dyche’s side need to start finding results from somewhere because losing 3-1 at home to Fulham isn’t going to keep them up – and you can only imagine how good it must have felt to Marco Silva.
And Liverpool continue to Liverpool – there aren’t many sides that have won 7-0 and 6-1 and then lost the games they have lost this season. This time they smashed Leeds (who lost 5-1 last time out remember, just after Javi Gracia was getting all the applause for stabilising the team performances – see above) and Trent played well – mainly because Jurgen seems to have concocted a position for him which means he doesn’t need to defend, almost a false full-back if you will. Diogo Jota scored twice, Luis Diaz was in the squad and suddenly there’s talk of Liverpool getting into Europe after all.
You just know Forest are going to beat them (again) on Saturday, right?