It’s barely two months old, but the 2019/20 season is already proving to be one of the weirdest in recent memory.
With proper football back after another desperately dull international break, let’s recap some of the biggest rib-ticklers so far in this crazy season.
Harry Maguire becoming the world’s most expensive defender
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When Liverpool smashed the world record transfer fee for a defender with their capture of Virgil van Dijk, it practically transformed the club overnight. His presence at the back formed the rock-solid basis for the Reds’ sixth Champions League triumph and a Premier League season in which they lost just once.
So Man United must have thought that their own fortunes would be similarly impacted when they splashed out £80m – a new record – on Harry Maguire this summer. But how wrong they are.
Yes, it’s early days, but Slabhead has so far spent more time missing open goals and playing strikers onside than ensuring the Red Devils are properly competitive. £80m! You’ve gotta laugh, eh?
The Pepe Problem
On the transfer note, let’s also just take a moment to point another finger in Arsenal fans’ direction and raise an even louder chuckle. After the Gunners smashed their own transfer record with the £72m capture of Ivory Coast winger Nicolas Pepe from Lille, some supporters really believed he would immediately become the Premier League’s hottest property – in turn catapulting the club into the title race.
But after a series of hugely disappointing performances and scoring just a single penalty in 10 appearances, it appears they’ve ended up with someone who’s simply doing a poor impression of their former flop (and Pepe’s compatriot) Gervinho. At least he only cost a seventh of Pepe’s fee, and they also got seven times the amount of forehead for their money.
Michael Owen vs Alan Shearer
Not sure you are as loyal to Newcastle as you make out mate. I distinctly remember you being inches away from signing for Liverpool after Sir Bobby Robson put you on the bench. You tried everything to get out. https://t.co/ZQBrlojeEv
— michael owen (@themichaelowen) September 3, 2019
The war of words between the two former England strike partners provided epic entertainment back at the start of September.
In extracts from his new book, hamstring-injury enthusiast Owen stated his transfer from Real Madrid to Newcastle was a “downward step” and the one move he “really regrets” in his career. Just to twist the knife, he added that the Geordies are “only a big club in the sense that it has a lot of fans and a big stadium”.
Shearer – who expertly oversaw Newcastle’s relegation from the Premier League in 2009 when Owen was still playing at the club – shot back, taking a dig at Owen’s contribution and pay packet.
There’s just something so oddly pleasing about seeing two former footballers going at each other, especially when it simultaneously reveals that one of them isn’t the most boring, anodyne, personalities around. More of the same, please – Martin Keown vs Robbie Savage, anyone?
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Ole at the wheel
There was a time when the Red Devils were so impenetrably imperious, you’d be classified as certifiably insane just for wondering if you would ever live to see the day when they became the exploding clown car of English football.
However, it actually turns out we all just had to wait for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to pop along and work his magic. Now you can hear the whole country burst into laughter in unison every time United’s score updates come into Soccer Saturday.
The baby-faced club ambition assassin is currently overseeing their worst start to a season for 30 years, as they languish just two points above the relegation zone. Even more hilariously, their latest ignominy came at the hands of Newcastle – a club who managed to shoot themselves in the foot with a sawn-off bazooka in the summer when they appointed kebab and cheesy chips aficionado, Steve Bruce, as manager. Magnificent.
Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka
Unai Emery indulged himself in the worst soap opera storyline since Ian Beale lost his chip shop in an insurance mishap when he spent the entire summer and opening weeks of the season teasing Arsenal fans over who from his group of five captains (in itself laughable) would be the de facto skipper and have the pleasure of doing the captain’s notes in the match-day programme.
Would it be a nod to the future with the popular, progressive and outspoken Hector Bellerin? Would he reward consistent performance and hand it to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? Nope and nope.
Instead, he ended up opting for Granit Xhaka – the man who stupidly goes to ground quicker than Harry Kane in the penalty box and who’s currently public enemy number one with Arsenal fans.
Granit Xhaka ??freekick routine for Switzerland ?♂️ pic.twitter.com/NhtVMXRvC0
— 〽️1Ö ??? (@MesutOzilClass) October 13, 2019
If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry, Gooners.
Spurs going full Spursy
The Champions League finalists, in their first full season at their new NFL home, having ended the summer by keeping hold of the (for some reason) sought-after Mauricio Pochettino and a clutch of star players. This is the season where Spurs were going to demonstrate exactly why they even bothered building a trophy cabinet at their new ground.
However, it’s not gone to plan at all, and they are instead imploding in the most Spuriest of manners. They’ve picked up just three Premier League wins, lost to League Two Colchester United in the Carabao Cup, and got tonked 7-2 at home to Bayern Munich – a game in which former Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry bagged four.
What can you say? Spurs are gonna Spurs.
Pointless celebrities, social media antics, fake news and public drama – the WAG war between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy truly is a story of our times. And while this episode isn’t strictly Premier League related, the fact that Jamie Vardy has raced to unfollow his supposed good friend Wayne Rooney on social media quicker than he latches on to a through ball, makes it all the more amusing.
But we sense the real fun is still to come in this one. It’ll raise a smile when Brendan Rodgers inevitably praises Vardy’s “fantastic character” for putting the drama to one side to focus on football this weekend, and you just know the football gods will ensure Leicester and Rooney’s soon-to-be employers Derby meet in the FA Cup in the new year.
We’ll need a WAG Camera behind the red button for that one.
Liverpool blowing the title
Of course, this season’s defining moment of utter hilarity is still to play out. The Reds have made a blistering start to the season, taking the maximum haul of points from their opening eight games to leave them sitting pretty at the top of the table and eight points clear, before this weekend’s fixtures.
It’s an ominous lead to have so early in the season, so the fact they will inevitably conspire to completely bottle it is already making us chortle. It sure will be fun seeing how they manage to do it this year; finishing second after an unbeaten season would be a good, honest laugh.Shoot over to PaddyPower.com now for all the latest football odds