1. Sledgehammer seeks nut.
In football, as in life, when a perceived problem is identified the authorities like to introduce a new law (or a new interpretaion of an old one) which is then applied zealously across the board with no room for common sense. In the FA’s crosshairs this time are the shenanigans at corners and player dissent.
The hottest pundit “talking point” of the weekend were the two penalties awarded by Mike Dean in the Stoke v Man City encounter as a result of pushing and shoving in the area. Certainly in most games neither incident would have been punished and yet in both incidents the offending player was clearly impeding an opponent. In fact what was Sterling thinking when he had already seen Shawcross pulled up earlier in the game for a similar episode. It will be interesting to see how this pans out as the letter of the law would result in numerous penalties in each game (just like Rugby).
Many players have already found themselves booked in the “crackdown” on dissent. In our own game Arter of Bournemouth and Winston Reid both fell foul of the new ruling although neither had erupted into a nything like a twisted Vardy-esque red faced tirade. Maybe another approach to this problem is refs stopping making bad decisions.
2. Old Hammers, they fade and die
A few ex-Hammers were plying their trade in the Premier League over the weekend. Former favourite and Basildon boy James Tomkins got to make his debut as a second half substitute for Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane. It was not up there with the greatest dream debuts as Wanyama headed the winner just seconds after Tomka coming on.
The Tyne – Wear derby pitched number 2 pantomime villain, Jermaine Defoe against Stewart Downing. A quiet day for Defoe who apart from one half chance where he might have done better he was unable to make any impression. Downing in his usual manner spent most of the match getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible if there was any danger of a challenge looming. At least he was able to pick up a win bonus.
3. The many lives of Diego Costa
As former referee Howard Webb explained “Diego Costa was lucky to be playing at all on Saturday and lucky to still be on the pitch to score the winner.” So having escaped dismissal and scoring a late winner against us there is a repeat performance just one week later against Watford. He was booked once more for dissent by Jon Moss who then saw fit to turn a blind eye to blatant simulation before he once again proved to be a late match-winner. This is not the first blatant dive that has gone unpunished in the first two weeks of the season. Perhaps the new focus on interference at corners has taken the referee’s eye off the simulation ball.
4. Black Cats nine lives to be put to the test again
Some things never change and yet again Sunderland have decided to sit out the first part of the season like a pole-vaulter who believes the early rounds of competition are beneath him. The usual routine is to secure an early berth in the bottom 3 until the new year, replace the manager and then embark on a rip roaring, roller coaster escape ride to safety. Early signs are that David Moyes is not equipped to threaten that tradition and so should be ready to dust off his CV come the Spring.
5. The Manager’s New Clothes
Managers get far more screen time during TV coverage these days and as a consequence I have been drawn to a sartorial comparison of their matchday apparel. There are two main camps in manager attire; those who like to turn out suited and booted and those who prefer the hands-on tracksuited look. Here are my first thoughts of the men strutting the technical area catwalk at the weekend.
Of the suits, Ranieri was by far the smartest and almost immaculate; with an honorable mention to the increasingly distinguished Mark Hughes. Pardew sported the look of an inebriated uncle at a wedding having just danced the macarana while Conte was had that flustered local government official look. Appropriately for the Sunday match, Moyes and Karanka had dressed ready for Chapel while Slav is more ticket tout or used car salesman.
Tony Pulis is the standard bearer for the tracksuiters, complete with embroidered initials in case he forgets who he is, and is joined by Klopp and Howe. The loose limbed Klopp is one of those people who will look untidy no matter what he wears and he somehow reminds me of how Thunderbird puppet Brains would look should he be infected by an out of control growth hormone.
For completeness we should also mention the smart-casuals whose numbers include Dyche and Pochettino, both of who could easily pass for the manager of a fast food restaurant.