I was delayed by a day thanks to the Premier League scheduling a very big game on Monday, and it did not disappoint! Let’s go to it.
Tottenham and Chelsea got involved in… something, yesterday. It is difficult to call it football, and unfortunately it will, in one way or another, serve as the greatest thesis on the weaknesses and faults of VAR. We’ll get to that in a moment, but there’s so much more to this game. This was a performance art combined with kabuki theater performed by porpoises.
It would be very ludicrous if the title race were reduced to the points lost by Tottenham and Liverpool due to two men being sent off in a match, both at Tottenham’s home stadium. While both managers, Ange Postecoglou and Jurgen Klopp, would like to use their side’s brave performances with nine players as springboards and rally unity, and both have done so and will do, the bigger problem is that both teams have dropped three points in games they have easily won. I could have gotten so much more.
Another similarity between the two managers is there in my mind, along with many others. One of Liverpool’s favorite Twitter followers uses a photoshopped image of Klopp’s face Hank Scorpio The body as it is He fires a rotating flamethrower as his avatar. Perhaps we should all replace that with Postecoglou’s face, given his appetite for chaos and the courage of his tactics.
Despite being only one player behind, it made sense for Spurs to hold on as they usually do. It was only 1-1, this was Chelsea after all, as fragile as the mousetrap car you put together, and Spurs wouldn’t know any other way. But after being down to nine, and losing three of their four starting defenders to either injury or red cards, this was excellent evidence of the very fine line between genius and madness:
You don’t have to stare that hard to see the thinking. Even if Chelsea break down this suicidal defensive line repeatedly down the middle, they will still be reliant on Raheem Sterling, Nick Jackson, and mostly Mykhailo Modric, to deny Mr. Bale every chance that comes their way and send the ball to Gatwick or something. It wasn’t the worst bet they wouldn’t find out. But give even this union of idiots enough opportunities to do so, especially against a defense exhausted after putting down players for so long and even they will eventually find pay, even if you don’t trust them to do the same to their asses. .
It’s great for Chelsea to win 4-1 over a title contender and still not be able to feel all that good about it. What they did was avoid complete embarrassment. For Chelsea, this is the only hurdle they are aiming to overcome at the moment.
Okay, now on to VAR. The problem here is that VAR got almost every decision right, and it was still a miserable experience. At the start of the match, the stadium was completely shaking. Tottenham fans have reached an all-time high in a surprising season, along with the anticipation of finally beating struggling Chelsea, a team they have been a puppet for a decade or more.
This was only enhanced by an early Tottenham goal, the crowd had the potential to bring down the walls, and this was the kind of occasion that only the Premier League can provide, with two teams pitted against each other in a cacophony on the pitch. Attachment level next to the aircraft engine.
After 10 minutes, the crowd had to sit for a few minutes to confirm that Heung-Min Son’s goal had already been disallowed for offside. Seven minutes later there was another long review to rule out Raheem Sterling’s goal for handball. Six minutes later, they had to have another extended review to rule Moises Caicedo’s goal offside. Then the sequence of events when Cristian Romero was eventually sent off, which also took forever.
Even if Romero remained on the field, all the heat would have been taken away from the lively match, so officials not on the field could look to replay the game after replay to mostly arrive at the same decision that the referee and linesmen had already made. There has to be a better way.
No review should ever take more than 20 seconds, because the obvious error should be obvious within that time. It’s one thing to make controversial calls, which more and more fans actually believe is ruining the game. It’s quite another thing for VAR to be actively killing the atmosphere, even if it’s doing everything technically correct. Otherwise we will all lose what we came for in the first place.
Anyway, we’ll get to know Spurs now, as it looks like both James Maddison and Micky van de Ven will be out for several weeks. Using a loss as a battle cry will only take a team so far.
What else happened this weekend?
4. Arsenal couldn’t escape VAR hell either
Mikel Arteta can scream and rave Whatever he likes, he’ll do it, but his post-match monologue mostly sounded like a manager complaining about not getting the calls he wanted. Mike D’Antoni would be proud.
What should worry Arteta is how toothless Arsenal have looked in their big games so far this season. They have twice escaped punishment against Manchester clubs at home with last-minute goals. They were not so lucky in Newcastle.
This match certainly revealed the weakness of Eddie Nketiah as a central striker, especially when Martin Odegaard is not around. Nketiah does not connect the attack in the same way that Gabriel Jesus does, as he slots in between the lines allowing attackers to run in behind him. He only created one chance, was unable to make successful dribbles, and was sent off twice, which was more than the shots he took. And Arsenal can’t really trust Jesus to stay healthy long enough to do all of these things in every big game they play.
This becomes even more acute when Bukayo Saka is off his usual stellar game, and is currently recovering from injury/suffering the torrent of games he has been asked to play in for a few seasons now.
Arsenal could still feel a bit unlucky as they were the biggest casualties of Newcastle’s transformation into the Atletico Madrid North. They became a purposefully snarling and irritable bunch, especially in the bigger matches, and had a tendency to turn them into pit fights more than football matches. And three cheers for Bruno Guimarães’ lariat on Jorginho…
3. Darwin Nunez lives to make me look stupid
Write about how he’s changed this year, and then he’ll post this to you just for yuck.
One of those days for Nunes and Liverpool, and I think what makes him the funniest man in the world is that he can do this after just three days of doing it:
Liverpool appeared to adapt to their newfound magic by turning Trent Alexander-Arnold into a midfielder with the ball by starting with three players behind him. But this has left them in a very tight spot, as Diogo Jota on the left of the attack is not a winger at all and wants to slot inside and be the striker that he is. Mohamed Salah put on a show on the right flank, which has been part of his game since TAA started doing the John Stones thing, but that’s also not where Liverpool want Salah consistently. He had just two shots for the match.
When City do this, their attackers remain wide to stretch defences. Same for Arsenal with Saka and Martinelli. Liverpool haven’t solved this yet, and when they face teams lower down, it’s still a work in progress.
2. Everton is not learning its lesson
Two weeks ago, Everton brought on Ashley Young, a senior, against one of the Premier League’s most exciting wingers in Luis Diaz. He was fired in 40 minutes. So why they thought to pit him against a more dynamic winger like Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma is beyond any of us. It took longer this time, but…
Young is very unlucky, but Young isn’t really doing anything here. He’s in no man’s land, not doubling down on Mitoma or ticking anyone in the box. Everton may not have any other options at right-back, but perhaps they should create one.
1. West Ham collapsed after missing one match
West Ham won a European title last year, so they must be more resilient than letting one player miss undo all their work. David Moyes discovered he had a lot of hair on his backside before the game at Brentford, and started in a 4-2-2-2 formation with Jarryd Bowen joining Michail Antonio as a straight forward and Mohamed Kaddos and Said Benrahma behind those two. It resulted in them coming back from a 1-0 deficit, starting with a farcical Kudus goal:
But when the score was 2-1, Antonio and Benrahma combined to form each other’s path to score into the open net. From there, West Ham could not get another shot on target as Brentford came back to win 3-2. The fear is that after moving on and seeing it empty, Moyes will retreat back to his normal, boring ways. But West Ham must be made of more.
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