City on the defensive
Pep Guardiola’s used to having things his own way. The only way to explain his persistent wearing of that cardigan thing is that everyone’s too afraid to tell him he looks like a muppet.
So far this season things have gone to plan for the baldy one – the untimely intervention of VAR against Spurs notwithstanding.
But things could be turning against the sky-blue tide after Saturday’s 4-0 cruise against Brighton. For one thing, the champions may not even be the best football team in the Greater Manchester area, as Rochdale in League One are putting City’s slick play in the shade with their sexy football.
10+ – Rochdale have scored three league goals directly following passages of play with at least 10 passes this season – in England's top four tiers, only Manchester City (5) have done so more often. Barry-Murphy. pic.twitter.com/gHCHrnBGL9
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 1, 2019
Of more concern than Spotland’s surging residents is the probable shortage at centre-half Pep’ll be rubbing his scalp about for the next while after Aymeric Laporte left the Etihad field on a stretcher on Saturday. With Vincent Kompany departed to try, and then not try, his hand at management, John Stones injured and only Nicolas Otamendi’s dubious centre-back talents between opponents and Ederson’s goal, there’s talk of Kyle Walker trying to recreate he’s balls-ups at right-back in a more central location.
Pep can’t ring the youth team coach fast enough.
I’m the Man – eh?
Another man used to getting his way is Mo Salah, especially in front of goal. Two years ago, he looked, like many before him – Sanchez, Hazard, Griezmann – like he could hit the heights Messi and Ronaldo have for a prolonged period and power Liverpool to a run of dominance domestically and in Europe.
Last season didn’t quite pan out like that for the Egyptian King – the sweet, sweet taste of penalty kicks bumped up his goals total and his finishing was not as unnervingly accurate as during the previous campaign – but he’s still sipping on the juice that tells him he’s the main man at Anfield.
And he probably is, but don’t tell that to Sadio Mané.
The Senegalese tied with Salah for the Golden Boot last season and would fancy bettering him this year – if only his teammate would pass him the bleeding ball! The 27-year-old lost his rag in the 3-0 win at Burnley on Saturday evening when Mo blanked him as he stood unmarked in the Clarets box, showing that greedy b*stards aren’t exclusive to the realm of Thursday night five-a-sides.
Chelsea continued their pattern of bright starts followed by slow slides into disappointing results by racing out to a first-half lead thanks to a Tammy Abraham double – I wonder how many transfers will be used on him this week?
Unfortunately for Lamps’ legions, one of their most reliable centurions for most of the last decade has been showing signs of battle-weariness this season, and Cesar Azpilicueta’s rough run continued on Saturday afternoon, as Sheffield United right-back Enda Stevens turned him in knots before laying on Calum Robinson’s goal to bring the Blades back into the game. Robinson then put in the ball from the Spaniard’s flank for the late equaliser.
Rome wasn’t built in a day Frank.
Stay-away the lads
Geordie noses remain out-of-joint as Mike Ashley reign of misery continues at St James’ Park. The fans are reacting by staying away from the ground – well some tof them.
Saturday’s crowd of 44,157 for the visit of Watford would be seen as a healthy turnout for many clubs throughout Europa, but it was the lowest attendance for a Magpies home game in the top-flight for nearly seven years.
And those who chose not to show up weren’t given much reason to regret their decision as the hosts fell behind after just two minutes to a pointless Hornets side aware of the mounting pressure on their manager Javi Gracia.
They couldn’t hold on for a morale-boosting win, however, as Fabian Schar cropped up to give those Toon-backers assembled something to cheer about, at least until they think of Mike Ashley’s grinning mug.
United drop more points – and baggage
This is all going as expected, isn’t it? After the 4-0 blip on the opening weekend against a Chelsea team who should’ve got ahead early at Old Trafford, United are back on a three-game winless run and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks every bit the raffle winner he did last season.
Any manager who wasn’t a club legend would be gone by now, with United winning just three times in their last 16 competitive games. Victor Lindelof was out-jumped again this week, leading to Southampton’s equaliser after Daniel James – a rare bright spot for United at the moment – gave them the lead. Even the sending off of Kevin Danso in the second half couldn’t lift United past the Saints.
Though maybe the fact they could drop off a few unnecessary squad members at Heathrow will make a difference in the coming months. Smalling, Jones, Darmian, Sanchez, and possibly Matic have all been deemed excess to requirements to Old Trafford. Lukaku’s also gone.
Now, maybe United could sign a few players to replace them. Except for the transfer window’s shut. Great stuff.