We can only hope Sir Alex Ferguson has shot the big man a look, tapped his watch and is demanding Fergie time gets added on
There is only one way that today’s column can start and that is in slightly more downbeat fashion than usual. The most successful manager that the British game has ever seen if you count up the trophies, Sir Alex Ferguson, suffered a brain haemorrhage at the weekend and was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. At the time of writing, Ferguson is expected to make a recovery. One would hope that Sir Alex has already shot the big man upstairs a few looks, tapped at his watch a few times and made it very clear there is plenty of Fergie time to be added on.
Speaking of Fergie time, two huge goals were scored in injury time in this week’s Premier League action.
West Brom sacked Pardew a fortnight too late
West Bromwich Albion, so far adrift at the bottom of the Premier League when Pardew was sacked they were almost bottom of the Championship, needed to beat Tottenham Hotspur to make sure their fight for survival lasted another few hours. It’s almost as if Tottenham want Chelsea to catch them in 4th place as they failed to turn up, even allowing WBA the delight of a winning goal in added time from England hopeful Jake Livermore. Did you know, if you took away Alan Pardew’s ‘reign’ and judged Albion purely on the results of Pulis and Moore they would be mid-table? Imagine if they’d sacked Pards just a couple of weeks earlier! Darren Moore has now beaten Jose, Rafa and the Poch whilst nicking a draw off Kloppo. You know my thoughts on this, I have said it often enough.
Saturday’s final game was the much anticipated, sorry the not-at-all anticipated clash between Everton and Southampton. A win for Mark Hughes’ Saints would have rendered the late goal at the Hawthorns utterly pointless, so to speak, as three Southampton points would have sent West Brom down. So with 94 minutes gone, the full four minutes (minimum) of injury time being played you could sense Southampton believing they’d done enough, what with being 1-0 up and all. But this is a Mark Hughes team in every sense of the word already, and Southampton conceded. Of course they did, they were facing Big Sham, tactical genius. The Everton fans may have booed his team off the pitch at half-time. The Everton fans may have questioned his decision to replace Yannick Bolasie with another defender. But who ended up being right, eh? Big Sham of course. It is absolutely impossible to go through 90 minutes of Everton dire fare without being reminded that Big Sham was ‘brought in to do a job’. Considering Everton were 8th when he took over, there is no chance that job was to stay up. We can only assume that the actual brief was to bore Everton fans to tears, make the team so dull to watch that any replacement they bring in over the summer will feel like total football is returning to Goodison.
That point did serve one purpose – it moved Southampton out of the relegation zone and Swansea City into it, ahead of their vital head-to-head on Tuesday night.
Swansea City are if truth be told, on the brink. Carlos Carvalhal can claim he is ‘not worried’ all he wants but another defeat against a Bournemouth side sipping mojitos and applying the sun cream mid-match tells me that he should be very worried. Swansea are hopelessly out of form right now whereas Southampton, annoyingly, must be buoyed by their last two performances.
Will Stoke be able to handle a wet, windy Tuesday night in the Championship?
Following Saturday’s early kick-off in Stoke, the big question come the final whistle was whether Stoke City will now be able to handle wet, windy, cold Tuesday nights in the Championship? Too soon? I apologise (and not for the last time in today’s column). Stoke led, as they often do, against Crystal Palace thanks to a free-kick from Shaqiri – the kind of free-kick that starts off as ‘world-class’ in the commentary recap until they realise midway through the slow-mo replay that it took a massive deflection. There was a touch of football kicking you where it hurts where the one man who has been with Stoke throughout their decade in the top-flight, Ryan Shawcross, made the error that allowed Palace to score the winning the goal, the goal that ultimately saw Stoke slip through the trapdoor. I saw this on Twitter, and it is quality. Shaqiri’s career in reverse is brilliant. Establishes Stoke as a mid-table side, gets noticed after scoring the goal of the tournament at Euro 2016, spends a season at Inter before joining Bayern Munich, where he wins the treble, then ends his career with his hometown club, Basel. Love it. Take care now, Stoke. I did actually say you were going down at the start of the season, but even a broken watch is right twice a day.
Leicester City’s owners made the kind of trip from Thailand that normally ends with the manager getting either the sack or the vote of confidence that really means that he will be sacked in the summer. Leicester losing to West Ham United will not have helped Claude Puel’s cause even if the owners claimed that he has their “full support”. That was said before Mark Noble was able to volley one home from about 40 yards – seeing that happen is enough to tell anyone that a change is needed. West Ham should be safe after that win, in theory.
Both Newcastle and Watford have been out of the relegation scrap for some time now and Watford fancied picking up a win bonus to increase their holiday pot this weekend. A rare win for the Hornets will not be enough to see Javi Gracia continue to be misspelled next season and tactical defeats right now for Rafa must be part of a ploy to eek out a few loan signings in the summer.
Jose Mourinho was predictably delighted to watch a terrible United performance at Brighton on Friday night. The win for Brighton keeps them in the top-flight next season and probably adds another three names to the list of players Jose will look to bin over the summer.
Merci et au revoir, Arsene and take that annoying lady with you!
The Arsene Wenger Farewell Tour took its final stop at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon. Burnley were the visitors in what could have been lazily marked up as a “Battle for the Europa League” clash if it hadn’t already been confirmed that Sean Dyche’s men were already heading into Europe next season. I might have inadvertently suggested that all Burnley fans were idiots last week which was not what was intended. You will be hard-pressed to find a bigger Ian McKellan or Dylan Morgan fan than myself so I cannot and would not call all people from Burnley idiots (intentionally). However, I still stand by the fact that anyone from Burnley or even not from Burnley that thought it was acceptable to boo Brighton’s Bong last week is, in fact, an idiot.
I could add Ashley Barnes to the list of things I like about Burnley quite happily and I was personally very sorry to see him having to leave the pitch early holding his shoulder. Another couple of wonder goals before the end of the season and I reckon he could have been a World Cup wildcard. Now he might well end up playing for Austria. Arsene’s men put on the performance they should have put in over two legs against Atletico seeing off their rivals for, I know, 6th place in style. Still, Burnley are quite good now as we know so battering them off 5-0 was quite a good goodbye for Wenger.
Could Liverpool miss out on Champions League football after all?
Both Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp were taking their match a whole load more seriously than I was expecting. Both sides lined up at what could only be described as ‘full-strength’ which is a liberal use of the word considering Liverpool still had Karius in goal and Chelsea picked both Bakayoko and Cahill. Arsene Wenger has, arguably, made a few mistakes in the later years of his Arsenal reign but was the biggest one selling Olivier Giroud to Chelsea? If you were to build the perfect Premier League footballer, you’d have to include big O’s neck muscles, wouldn’t you? I don’t think there is a more beautiful header of a football in the world. The game didn’t teach us much really, but it did show us one thing Mo Salah cannot do superbly. Dive. His ‘effort’ in the first half was quite poor, to say the least, and earned a yellow card. That kind of means that Saint Mo is a cheat. I know, that doesn’t sound right. Is there a planet where Liverpool don’t qualify for the Champions League next season?
On the day of Arsene’s last ever home game as Arsenal manager, it was quite fitting that the only goals scored on the day were by Olivier Giroud, signed by Wenger to replace Thierry Henry, Alexandre Lacazette, signed by Wenger to replace Thierry Henry, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, signed by Wenger to replace Thierry Henry, Alex Iwobi, a youngster who Wenger believed could go on to be a superstar and Kolasinac, a freebie because Arsene isn’t a massive fan of spending money.
Coronations feel silly when you’ve drawn 0-0 with Huddersfield
The only interesting thing about Manchester City versus Huddersfield Town at the Etihad was the point gained by Huddersfield quite possibly keeps them in the Premier League next season. Manchester City had 137% of the possession, though never believe every statistic you read as all that ball led to precisely zero goals and that is the one statistic that actually counts when the final whistle goes. There’s not much like a coronation of the new champions when they’ve just failed to score at home. It was lovely to hear all the records City have broken finally announced over the tannoy once their entire backroom team had come on to the pitch but it still didn’t detract from the fact they failed to score at home to Huddersfield. My biggest takeaway from the ceremony? I like it when blind Italian tenors sing their hearts out.