A strange, wonderful, violent round of upsets in the Premier League – and at the end of it all Arsene Wenger was able to sit back and enjoy his reggae in peace.
In a weekend in which you could have reasonably expected wins for Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and even Chelsea – over Stoke City, Newcastle United, West Ham and Bournemouth respectively – it was only natural that none of these results would come to pass.
We are living in a strange new era of Premier League football, where Stoke run rings around Man City with a procession of almost sarcastic little flicks and no-look back heels, a team with a combined value less than that of Eden Hazard alone can see off Chelsea, and in which Leicester City reign supreme at the top of the table into the middle of December.
The Foxes cruised to a 3-0 win at Swansea, a side who just can’t seem to catch a break at the moment. For the first time in 11 games Jamie Vardy failed to find the back of the net – instead he found strike partner Riyad Mahrez, a man being touted by some as the player of the season so far, playing him in for his hattrick in the 67th minute.
Manchester United continued to cement their reputation as the league’s biggest bores, grinding out another 0-0 draw at home to West Ham. The match’s big talking point came just before halftime when bad old Bastian Schweinsteiger elbowed Kiwi hero WInston Reid in the windpipe. Ref Mark Clattenburg missed it as well as Marouane Fellaini’s stomp on James Tomkins – both straight reds according to Sky Sports UK’s Ref Watch.
Perhaps no one was more surprised to lose than Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, who have been creeping into title contender discussions since getting football’s coolest dad in as manager two months ago. The Reds will feel ripped off over Alberto Moreno’s wrongly-disallowed volley ten minutes from time, which would have tied the game 1-1 after a Martin Skrtel own goal ten minutes prior. As it happened the deserving Georginio Wijnaldum popped up in the third minute of injury time to make it 2-0 at St James’ Park.
Usually in a weekend of upsets, Arsenal will be odds-on to be one of the big teams on the losing end. Usually to someone Sunderland. The Black Cats were coming off a 2-0 defeat of Stoke City the previous week and looked to be gaining what could almost be described as momentum. But despite a dorky own goal from Olivier Giroud levelling the scores at 1-1 on halftime – an echo of their previous two disappointing Premier League results – the Gunners pulled away in the second half for a vital 3-1 win.
Perhaps more pleasing than the result for Arsene Wenger was the continued impressive form of Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell, who broke into the starting XI on the back of this year’s annual Arsenal injury crisis, and is now making it hard for the coach to drop him if and when his first choice players ever return.
As he hopped in the team bus, Wenger may or may not have slipped on a pair of expensive (you have to assume he’s a massive audiophile) headphones and hit play on Bob Marley & The Wailers’ 1977 masterpiece Exodus. “I love his music,” the Arsenal manager revealed in an interview with Le Parisien last week, a hot scoop reported on for English speakers in the Guardian. “Wenger is a lifelong fan of the Jamaican reggae superstar,” the paper reports, “and regularly listens to his songs in his spare time.”
For as long as the memory can stretch this would always promise to be a dour, gritty mid-table affair. This season, however, it looks much more appealing. Although both teams continue to reside mid-table (West Ham in 7th, Stoke with one fewer point in 11th), they are playing much more attractive, attacking football – in particular Stoke’s unusually dynamic front three of Arnautovic, Bojan, and Shaqiri produced some sublime moments in their defeat of Manchester City last weekend. It’s entirely possible both teams’ strong defences will cancel each other out, but keep an eye on the diminutive Shaqiri, just starting to return to the peak of his powers.
Where Are Ü Now: Demba Ba
Was there a more exciting time to be alive than 2011/12, when first Demba Ba, then his Senegal teammate Papiss Cisse, boosted Newcastle to a 5th place finish with their frequent and often spectacular strikes? While Cisse remains at St James’ Park, Ba went to Chelsea in 2013 before heading to Turkey to play for Besiktas the following year. As of July this year, just after his 30th birthday, he signed for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, where he’s been banging in goals like he did in his Newcastle heyday, and also accidentally kicking a bloke in the face.
In a cruel blow for this promising new segment, Peter Crouch is out injured until at least the new year. He went unsighted during Stoke City’s shock 2-0 defeat of Manchester City, where twice in the opening 20 minutes Marko Arnautovic found the back of the net thanks to the skill of stocky Swiss wizard Xherdan Shaqiri. The Potters missed a slew of subsequent chances to put the game entirely out of reach, but their defence held out Man City’s attacking threats for a deserved win.
Back of the ‘net
Manchester City midfielder Fernando threatens to twat a lad for refusing to wear the Christmas jumper.
File under: Unusual footballer meals. Subject: Watford winger Ikechi Anya.
Nice touch from here Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal.