Dead air is a crime, as they say in the radio business, and I was guilty of that crime last week when I dropped the ball and failed to produce a Week 8 recap. The Premier League Gods were obviously shining down on me, and giving me a huge opportunity, as Crystal Palace beat Champions Chelsea. But nevertheless, I faded to black, went AWOL and many other non-soccer related sayings and phrases that suggest an absence.
Then my flaky-ass publisher neglected to post the juicy Week 9 recap I sent him!
Despite this, we have reset the ship. All is right, and we’re back in action as I look at what happened in the last couple weeks. Week 9 featured a massive upset. And, I’m not going to say that Week 10 in the English Premier League was boring. There was great football to be seen across the nation, but that means I do not get to lambast a failing manager this week. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City did concede two at West Brom however. Has he lost his touch?!
With my Premier League Prediction table full (see: Week 5), I’m no longer tied down with which teams to write about, which means I could easily skip over the embarrassment that was Manchester United’s Week 9 loss to Huddersfield Town, but to my chagrin, I’ll throw my hat into the ring.
To start things off, credit must be given to Huddersfield for holding out and gaining three points in the 2-1 Week 9 win at the John Smith’s Stadium (is there a more English name for a stadium?).
From kick-off, Town were on the front foot, played harder, tackled harder and wanted it more. There have been few Manchester United performances in the past that have been as lackluster, and the post-match comments by Jose Mourinho showed that he felt the same way.
Tearing in to the team, Mourinho finally showed a spine that wasn’t exactly visible last season, when United fans saw several performances of similar embarrassment. Granted, the team was steadily being built, and you can see why this particular performance was chosen by Mourinho to receive the harshest criticism.
Despite the injuries and having to use a confidence bereft Victor Lindelof after Phil Jones went off injured, there’s enough firepower in that United team to be able to fend off a newly promoted side. Last season I lost track of how many times I had to say “Marcus Rashford was the only one that looked like he gave a toss,” but here we are again.
Huddersfield can and will be proud of themselves though, for all the right reasons. Whether you agree or not, Manchester United are a powerhouse club in English football, and to get three points against them is a huge achievement. Not many will do it, and it will reflect well on confidence going in to a weekend matchup against Liverpool, who’s defense is about as sturdy as a flannel.
The flannel was particularly wet in Week 9 when Liverpool stumbled and eventually fell over in a 4-1 loss to Tottenham, showing that the curse of Wembley Stadium on Spurs may well be lifted. Either that or Liverpool really are that bad.
Harry Kane scored twice, along with goals from Dele Alli and Son Heung-min. Liverpool’s only goal came from Mo Salah. You
can’t polish a turd, but you can sprinkle glitter on it, and Mo Salah has been the glitter to Liverpool’s unpolishable turd so far this season. It seems though, that something has to change if Liverpool are going to get anywhere near the top four.
Liverpool haven’t had an on-field leader since Steven Gerrard left for sunny L.A., and recent attempts by Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp to shoehorn Jordan Henderson in to that role have simply failed.
Similarly failed was Liverpool’s attempts over the summer to sign any decent defender, and seemingly having no Plan B once it was evident that Virgil Van Dijk would not be making the switch.
Now, nothing delights me more than discussing the failures of Liverpool, but I can’t help but think how much more these fans have to go through until somebody gets it right with them. Liverpool fans now have to resort to laughing at Everton for their recent failings, rather than being happy that they’re playing good football. That’s the sign of small-club mentality, and it’s creeping through at Liverpool with mediocre season after mediocre season.
I admit that calling for Frank de Boer’s sacking earlier in the season was a mistake (that actually might prove me right over the next few weeks), but the Liverpool hierarchy, football pundits and many fans alike can’t continue to defend a man like Jurgen Klopp just because he’s got massive teeth and his glasses fall off when he hugs his players.
Football is much more than having the charisma to avoid criticism, you have to show your worth on the pitch, and if it was Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger in the dugout for the 4-1 battering at the hands of Tottenham, they’d be burning effigies in the streets à la David Beckham after the World Cup in 1998.
Liverpool Football Club and its fans cannot accept mediocrity, because you’ll see the exact same thing that happened to Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers. Once greats on the English and European stage, they’re nowhere to be seen now as a new generation of fans come through that know nothing of their success.
A Week 10 loss to Huddersfield would have cemented Klopp’s fate (Brendan Rodgers was sacked for less, but to be fair he didn’t have massive teeth). However, the 3-0 victory lets him hug players with his glasses on the pitch for another week.
Manchester United and Spurs kicked off Week 10 at Old Trafford, in a game that only really picked up after half time. A relatively drab first half showed the effectiveness of Eric Bailly and Jan Vertonghen in their respective defenses.
The second half, however, was where Manchester United put on a show, limiting Tottenham to one true chance through Dele Alli, which was again defended well by the Red Devils. Less pressure on Alli would have probably granted them a goal.
Ultimately it was the substitute Anthony Martial that broke the deadlock. Manchester United have been lethal in front of goal in the final 10 minutes of games this season, and Martial’s goal was no different, combining his threat off the bench with United’s tendency to score after 80 minutes.
Jose Mourinho “shushed” cameras after the final whistle, seemingly silencing critics that disliked how he set his team up against Liverpool. It was classic Mourinho, a manager that can make you want to scream if he isn’t coaching your team, but makes you proud to be a fan if he is. It’s what the Premier League is all about, and despite some rumors of his imminent departure to Paris Saint Germain, he seems hell-bent on proving a point, and as we all know, second season Mourinho is better than any other Mourinho.
The win opens a gap between United and Spurs, in 2nd and 3rd place respectively, but Manchester City continued their dominance, and sit five points ahead at the top.
Roy Hodgson continued his utterly mediocre start at Crystal Palace with a draw at home to West Ham United. It took a 97th minute winner from Wilfried Zaha to tie things up for Palace, but a completely uninspired West Ham were equally at fault for not sealing the game up at the other end.
All Michail Antonio had to do was walk it in to the corner at the other end and West Ham would’ve walked away with the points. Instead, he decided to cross it in to the box, but not to any one of the three West Ham Players waiting for it. He perfectly picked out the Palace defender, and away they went to the other end for the equalizer. West Ham’s defending was as uninspired as its attack, and Zaha drew groans from the away fans, whose turn it was to have an Arsenal Fan TV style meltdown on various sports talk shows that evening.
Garth Crooks, former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, had a field day after the Palace equalizer, stating that Antonio should spend a month playing with West Ham’s youth teams after the terrible mistake that cost them the game. He also went on to say that all the West Ham players should apologize to goalkeeper Joe Hart.
I think Crooks’ ‘entire team’ distinction is important here. Yes, Antonio deserves a lot of stick for his mistake, but he was not
responsible for the other nine outfield players falling apart as Zaha carved them to pieces and slotted his goal home.
The problems at West Ham go deeper than this, however. Messing up a 2-0 lead against Crystal Palace is truly unacceptable. Palace had only score twice in the previous nine games, and we’re all aware of how I feel about Roy Hodgson.
The real failing comes at the very top for West Ham. Vice-Chairman for United, Karen Brady CBE, was tweeting about ‘The Apprentice’ on the morning of the Palace game, instead of focusing more on arguably a much more important event at the London Stadium.
Ryan Oldham is a Manchester native and a lifelong supporter of Manchester United. He knows far more about English Premier League football than you do, and therefore was selected to write a weekly update on the most popular professional sports league in the world. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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