From fans embarrassing themselves off the pitch to players doing the same on it, the Premier League weekend was full of highs and lows – here are 10 of them…
1) Football can do strange things to the human brain …
Back in 2007, the following footage of an old woman saluting Ryan Giggs at a corner went viral (at 4:30).
Last year, when Spurs won their first game at Stamford Bridge since the dawning of the neolithic era, this picture of Dele Alli celebrating a goal was likened to a piece of Hogarth-style street art. It brilliantly captured the moment just after the goal, when fans momentarily lose all sense of reality. Sentient human beings experience fleeting insanity and behave in ways they wouldn’t dream of anywhere outside a football stadium…
2) What are you really angry about?
… this footage from Stamford Bridge on Saturday night, however, was unhinged.
A young man picks up a football and is subjected to levels of rage usually reserved for murderers. The Met Police are investigating whether racially abusive language was used. This isn’t clear from the footage, but what is clear is that the mere sight of Raheem Sterling triggered something profoundly disturbing in these aging, white men.
3) Sterling response
Sterling later issued a statement saying he felt newspapers were fueling racism and aggressive behaviour, specifically with the way they cover stories about young black players and how they choose to spend their money. The former Arsenal striker Ian Wright said football had gone back to “the bad old days” and among the fringe victims in all this were Chelsea themselves, who should have earned the plaudits for one of the best performances of the EPL season so far.
4) Irony klaxon …
The game pivoted on the moment just before half-time, when Eden Hazard rolled the ball into the path of Ngolo Kante, a young, black defensive midfielder.
As one fan put it: “what do racist football fans do when a black player scores for their team? Do they sit on their hands and refuse to applaud?”
The game also marked a resurgence for Chelsea’s other scorer David Luiz, a fortnight after he produced a display of comical ineptitude against Tottenham.
5) Are City all they’re cracked up to be?
They dominated possession (61%) and Guardiola claimed they were “fantastic.” Pundits almost dismissively pointed to Chelsea scoring with their first shot, but City managed only four efforts on target during the 90 minutes and once they’d gone behind they didn’t really look like breaking Chelsea down.
6) Arsenal fans celebrated sheepishly …
… because had City looked capable of matching their Invincible season in 2003-04, but it was a mixed afternoon at the Emirates. Although good value for the 1-0 win over Huddersfield, Arsenal became the first top flight side to have three players booked for “simulation,” or “cheating” as it’s otherwise known.
If Shkodran Mustafi’s yellow card was harsh, Granit Xhaka’s was at best ambiguous and Matteo Guendouzi’s was just embarrassing. And it all called to mind Robert Pires’ dive against Portsmouth in 2003, which earned the penalty without which the invicible season wouldn’t have happened.
7) Shock as player “doesn’t fall over”
Liverpool might still emulate Arsenal’s Invincibles after their 4-0 win at Bournemouth, a match remarkable because Mo Salah didn’t “go to ground” when he was fouled by Steve Cook before scoring his second. Is a player not cheating news? In 2018 it is.
8) Lukaku scores goal shock
In other “things that probably shouldn’t be newsworthy but somehow are” news, Romelu Lukaku scored a goal at Old Trafford. It was the £90,000,000 striker’s first home goal for 997 minutes, going back to March. This works out at £90,270 per minute for anyone interested in facile calculations.
9) Line of the week …
… goes to Fulham’s Claudio Ranieri, who described their 4-1 loss at Old Trafford as “11 lambs against 11 wolves.”
10) And the antidote …
… to all this cynicism, is “Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager” on Netflix. Mourinho, Guardiola and Ferguson all talk about the man Gary Lineker calls “English football’s greatest manager.”