Ancient Greek know-it-all Aristotle obviously wasn’t thinking of Man United’s 2019 penalty-taking pecking order and its inevitable descent into a series of dropped points when he drew up his rules of tragedy back in the day.
“Crisis to catharsis? You’re having a laugh mate.”
The Paul Pogba penalty palaver should’ve been put firmly in the past at Old Trafford on Saturday, but the only thing standing firmer than the controversy over who hits spot-kicks for the Red Devils this season was the upright that kept out Marcus Rashford attempt to exorcise the demons of Molineux five days earlier.
Well, Harry Maguire was almost as immovable when playing Jordan Ayew onside from Jeffrey Schlupp’s flick-on – won effortlessly against Victor Lindelof – to put Palace one up. The Eagles hadn’t scored a goal so far this season, but United’s big names – Pogba, De Gea, Maguire and Wan-Bissaka – all conspired to tee up a second in injury time for the visitors after Daniel James momentarily believed he’d set-up one of those glorious United comebacks he’s heard so very, very, very much about from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the last few months.
The VARs and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
It was the third week of VAR spreading its joy through the English top-flight and while Gary Neville may think that football “is not tombola”, the introduction of the video technology has made games feel more random than ever – and fans are getting p*ssed off with it.
While we’ve seen amoeba-sized cells being counted by the VAR officials to cancel out offside goals, a player clearly standing on the foot of another player in the penalty box and tripping them wasn’t deemed “clear and obvious” enough to award a penalty in the Man City-Bournemouth game on Sunday.
Presumably a weapon of some kind – perhaps a machete, maybe firearm if you can slip it under your shinguard – is required before an offence is deemed to make enough of an impression on the insensate, amorphous blobs behind the control desk at VAR HQ.
Jamal Lascelles falling across Harry Kane was also deemed to be ambiguous enough not to reverse Mike Dean’s decision to back Mike Dean’s judgement and wave Mike Dean’s hands in the air to indicate that Mike Dean would not be awarding a penalty in the Spurs game.
Every coach from Monday morning should have his defenders practice head-first diving across the path of attackers as evidently there’s no way VAR can tell if it’s a foul or not.
Arsenal at Anfield generally don’t need any help in screwing things up, but their deadline day signing David Luiz showed on Saturday that he’s right at home in their awayday atrocities. The ref didn’t even need the help of VAR to make a call on the Brazilian’s shirt-grabbing shenanigans at the start of the second half. Mo Salah was too sharp for the centre-back and Luiz’s stunned reaction fooled no-one – the word from NASA is that the grab was visible on the International Space Station – while the Egyptian composed himself and slotted home the penalty.
It was a shame as, for once, the Gooners did look threatening on their travels to a top team. Nicolas Pépé’s dribbling suggested the bazillions expended in enticing him to the Emirates may not have been squandered – sadly, his finishing did not. After resisting Liverpool’s early onslaught, the visitors saw Pépé dazzle the home defence and breakthrough for a one-on-one chance only to fire straight at stand-in Adrian.
Matip’s header to steal the lead before half time was a heavy blow, and Luiz’s pull added to the challenge, but he wasn’t finished fouling up – or not fouling as it happens, as he avoided tripping Mo Salah in the build-up to the final Liverpool goal when a tactical nudge would’ve snuffed out the chance and kept the game alive.
They’d have probably lost anyway, but it’s encouraging to see a new signing fitting in so well already.
The word on the Leicester street was that talismanic frontman and friend of the Far East Jamie Vardy was growing frustrated through the opening weeks of the season. The Foxes midfield is now just a bit too good, meaning that they’re not kicking the ball over defenders enough for the whippet-like forward to chase down.
Our sources (an egg account on twitter with 4 followers) even tell us that the former England international had a two-hour meeting with manager Brendan Rodgers before this week’s game – though it did consist mostly of the manager reading inspirational quotes from Wikipedia while Vardy scrolled through his phone.
In any event, the striker’s growing anxiety at going four games without a goal was assuaged on Saturday afternoon by his clear delight at scoring against Sheffield United – he’s a Wednesday supporter don’t you know? The Bramall Lane crowd certainly did, booing him throughout. But the sharp-featured striker could crease his face into a stern stare and cup his ears towards the opposition fans after lashing home James Maddison’s through-ball to put his side one up and send them on their way to a 2-1 win.
Gracias y buenos noches?
May’s humiliating defeat of Watford by Man City in the FA Cup final probably should’ve been enough to make the FA call time on the grand old competition altogether. As it is, the half-life of the cup will continue to radiate out toxic material this season, though the effects of last season’s must surely be evident in pallid skin and mysterious growths forming on the body of Javi Gracia’s Watford spell.
Their 3-1 loss at home to West Ham on Saturday was their seventh straight defeat. While the Spaniard holds the dubious honour of being longest-serving Hornets boss since another friend of the Far East, Malky Mackay, who held the post between 2009 and 2011, his days look numbered if results continue like this.
Reports suggest that Watford’s patented “Random European Manager Generator” has already been taken out of storage and updated with the latest crop of middling French, Spanish and Italian coaches you’ve never heard of in preparation for a new appointment.
Gulls chopped down by Andone
Graham Potter’s drawing plaudits for adding an attacking dimension to Brighton’s play in such a way that, if you squint really hard, you can almost make a case for them sacking Chris Hughton and getting the ex-Swansea boss in.
Which is all well and good when you can keep your forwards on the field, but he may need to have a word with Florin Andone about the importance of retaining 11 players as much as possible to his tactical plans after the Romanian mistook Yan Valery’s kneecap for an especially nasty looking spider – I’m telling you, they get bigger every year – and stamped right on it in the 2-0 home loss on Saturday.
The Southampton player was fortunate to walk away from the incident with his meniscus still at the front of his leg rather than the back, but the red card swung the fixture in the Saints’ favour. The home side had chances, but a wonder strike from substitute Moussa Djenepo and Nathan Redmond’s injury-time tap-in sealed south-coast honours for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team.
Aim about two-feet lower next time Florin. Good lad.