Hey Arsene. A question, if I may? What was the point of guiding the troops through November unbeaten if you were going to deliver the kind of December that undoes all that good work by the time Father Christmas sets off in his sleigh?
Actually, to be fair to Santa, he is more real than Arsenal’s title challenge. A Sunday or so ago they topped the table. Now they are nine points off the pace and have learned that, when chasing a game, Elneny is not the answer.
I felt City’s tribute to the late Ilkay Gundogan was very touching. Of course, he isn’t actually dead. He is just injured. Kompany was fuming. The amount of injuries he has had in the last season alone, and not one minute’s silence or anything. Just imagine if Arsenal had worn special shirts each time Jack Wilshere or Abou Diaby pulled up lame. They’d have worn them so often the fans would have assumed it was their new third kit.
Anyway, Arsenal led but are not the types to close out a disciplined 1-0 win. City turned it round through Sane and Sterling, who won the “winning goalscorers with stupid hair” award for the weekend. Pep doesn’t coach tackles as we know, and against the second half Arsenal he didn’t really need to. City just had to stand still long enough and the ball would eventually land at their feet.
Guardiola had admitted pre-match that he had often played Alexis out of position at Barcelona. Off the back of that Arsenal performance, you get the feeling Alexis would even offer to play in goal for City now to give him a chance of winning something. The biggest question for Gunners fans at the final whistle was “how long until Mustafi is back?”
2017 is to be the year of consistent refereeing decisions. No, I am kidding of course. That won’t happen in at least another decade. Over the last couple of weeks we have learned exactly what does not warrant a straight red. Rojo times two or even Ross Barkley in the Merseyside derby are not tackles that receive instant dismissals, alright?
But go in two footed, don’t actually touch the opponent and maybe even make contact with the ball? Off you go, Mr. Vardy, have Christmas off. Mind you, without the total injustice and Ranieri “inciting” a crowd we might not have seen a fantastic comeback from Leicester in a game that was half 2016/17 Leicester vintage and half 2015/16. That was the better season, if you recall.
West Brom have been pretty decent in the last few weeks, so United rocking up at their place and walking away with a 2-0 win needs to be taken seriously. Zlatan has ten goals in his last nine games and has played every single minute of the Premier League matches he has been available for. Just imagine how many he would have if he had been able to hit a cow’s backside with his banjo against Stoke, Burnley, West Ham, etc. You probably get my point.
But a winning goal at those defensive masters that are Palace, followed up by a double against a team managed by Pulis, tells me that Ibra is worth every penny. United fans have often said they’ve never replaced Gary Neville. Phil Jones’ display of grassing an opponent up before the offence had even finished would suggest that, finally, they have a worthy heir to the throne that only Jaap Stam can name.
A lot had been spoken about the fact Diego Costa is a “reformed character” under Conte. Costa didn’t even need to reform his character, he has always been in control. So in control, in fact, he was able to time his 5th yellow card to perfection, meaning he gets to put his feet up on Boxing Day. Still, the job was done as he scored yet another winner in yet another 1-0 win for Chelsea. Their 11th win in a row is a club Premier League record and Conte now holds the record for the best ever start to a Premier League managerial career. Mind you, the other five contenders are all former Chelsea managers, including none other than Avram Grant. So, in retrospect, that statistic doesn’t mean very much at all.
Chelsea sit at the head of the Christmas Day table and the last four times they have been there they have won the title. So that’s that then. Oscar, the fool that he is, is trading in the chance of winning a medal to go and earn £3m a week in China. Or something like that, the figures I quote may not be entirely accurate.
Liverpool fans across Twitter were virtually screaming at Kloppo to make some substitutions on Monday night. Everton, who set up as if they were a non-league team hoping to get some kind of big FA Cup scalp, nearly held on to a 0-0 that would have pleased Koeman. But Klopp knew when to tell Sturridge to start removing the cotton wool he was wrapped up in. Klopp knows that by using Sturridge for ten minutes here, fifteen minutes there, that it decreases the chance of Sturridge being injured for the next six weeks. You see, Kloppo knows a lot of things. Liverpool nicked a winner deep into injury time to keep themselves in a title race and, though funnily enough this seems to have gone unnoticed, deliver a second clean sheet with Mignolet in goal.
You know you have got away with it when your fans vote “the post” as your Man of the Match. Hull were possibly the unluckiest side in the short history of football at the London Stadium, hitting the woodwork three times and seeing at least two shots cleared off the line. Throw in the weekend’s standard “that was never, ever a penalty” and they were heading home the sunny side down of a 1-0 loss.
You can accuse Swansea of many things, and I think I have in this column, but at least they are trying to attack their way out of trouble. Sadly, it comes across as a baby kitten trying to attack it’s way out of a ball of wool, but at least they are not parking their bus anywhere. Unfortunately for them, all this carefree attacking puts a little bit of pressure on their defence which, frankly, is not a good thing for Swansea.
Boro won’t score three in a month from time to time, let alone three in a game, so that tells you that Swansea didn’t just press self destruct button, they positively played out the Strictly Come Dancing Finals routine on it.
If you are worried that nobody is going to buy you a Christmas present, why not treat yourself to my most recent book – “Tales from the Top Flight” is, apparently, a witty and amusing look back on the 2015/16 season where (spoiler alert) Leicester shocked the world. Go on, you’re worth it.