From Cardiff City fans mourning the loss of a footballer they never got to enjoy to Arsenal’s own worst enemy, here are six hot takes from the EPL weekend
1) LIVERPOOL LUCKS OUT
Liverpool were handed a major boost ahead of their game at West Ham when it was revealed Jordan Henderson had been ruled out with a muscle injury. Despite this, the Reds laboured for most of the match and needed a goal from Sadio Mane that should have been ruled for offside against James Milner just to earn a point. There is a suspicion that Liverpool are bottling it, but Jurgen Klopp was reduced to an oscillating ball of rage at the final whistle, so in this respect at least life carried on as normal.
2) EMILIANO SALA
The weekend’s matches were overshadowed by the news on Sunday night that the plane carrying Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala and his pilot David Ibbotson had been found near the Channel Islands.
The wreckage was located by a remote-controlled underwater vehicle on Sunday morning and the relatives of both men informed. From the moment the aircraft disappeared from radar on January 21st, the chances of there being a happy ending to this story were remote.
Cardiff’s players wore yellow daffodils as a mark of respect during Saturday night’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth and their fans sang Sala’s name throughout. Play was suspended for the ninth minute of the midweek match between Sala’s former team, Nantes and St Etienne as players from both sides joined fans in a minute’s applause.
3) THE ARM OF GOD, PART 2
The silver medal for the “most transparent crime committed by the hand of an Argentinian against an English football team of all time” award went to Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero yesterday, as he bundled in their third goal against Arsenal.
Arsenal had astonished their fans by not capitulating completely after conceding their customary early goal against a rival top six side and at 2-1 down were still in the game until Aguero almost scooped the ball into the net like a gambler sweeping his winnings off a poker table.
It says a lot that this incident was greeted with rage on Merseyside and resignation in North London.
4) BIRTH OF THE FALSE 5?
If there was an an element of luck about City’s eventual win, there remains a gulf in quality between the two sides, exemplified by Stephen Lichtsteiner’s attempts to cope with Raheem Stirling, which was like watching HRH Prince Phillip trying to mark Usain Bolt.
Aguero took most of the headlines, but Fernandinho arguably did the work of two players. When City lost possession he played as a centre back and when they had the ball he lined up in midfield, swamping Arsenal. Former top-flight defender Nicky Southall, once of Bolton and Nottingham Forest, said it was the first time he’d even seen a “false five”.
5) BIRTH OF THE FALSE STAT
Tottenham’s win over Huddersfield at Wembley on Saturday means they have now gone 29 matches without a draw. This was reported as record, but only by credulous British sports hacks who believe football was invented in 1992. The actual top-flight record belongs to Aston Villa, who played a staggering 51 matches without a draw back in 1891.
Under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer Manchester United have won nine out of their ten matches and even the solitary draw felt like a win, as they pulled back a two goal deficit against Burnley on Wednesday night. Sunday’s performance at Leicester was a classic of the “grind out a 1-0 win while playing badly” genre and it marked the first time since October 2012 that they’ve won five consecutive away games in the league.
There aren’t many examples of caretaker managers succeeding after being appointed permanently, but Solksjaer is almost becoming unsackable. Unless you’re Paul Ince of course, who claimed he could have done just as well.
Allowances have to be made as Ince was talking to Robbie Savage at the time and he may well have trying to operate on the same phenomenally reductive level, but when the inevitable backlash came, Ince defended himself, saying: “I am not just a pundit who has never managed a club. I have managed in the Premier League and all four English professional divisions, so no-one can say I don’t know what I am talking about here.”
Is it therefore unfair to share this clip of Paul Ince as a manager? Probably. But let’s do it anyway.