The Super Sunday Contractual Obligation Match
It is difficult to believe that some high powered TV people actually sat around in a meeting room with white boards, flip charts and Powerpoint presentations and selected WBA versus Middlesbrough to be a live televised match. Ordinarily the only purpose of such clubs on TV is as opposition for one of the big boys to dispatch with ease except, on rare occasions, where they met each other in an end-of-season relegation six pointer.
The Premier League still has a number of these underwhelming contests but they are normally buried among the left over Saturday 3 pm kick-offs. The game certainly delivered what it said on the tin and even the referee seemed reluctant to tag on any added time.
You Don’t Always see them Given
Last year I watched a Development Squad game where Shay Given was between the sticks for Stoke City in front of a few hundred supporters. This week he was back in the big-time of the Premier League where his notable contribution was heading in Leighton Baines penalty after it had come back off the post.
The Baines penalty was one of those awarded under the new Grappling interpretation of Law 12. As usual there is much inconsistency between different referees in how the rule is interpreted causing apparent confusion with players, pundits and supporters alike. In some situations a penalty is awarded straight away while in others players have escaped punishment and let off with a warning. Personally I have always taken a possibly naive view that a foul is a foul no matter where it is committed and that there should be some form of intent, bad timing or negligence involved. It seems nowadays a simple collision, expecting a tackle or tripping over your own feet is sufficient justification.
Last year there were 91 Premier League penalties awarded (equal to an average of 2.4 each week). The first 3 rounds this season has seen 13 penalties (or 4.3 per week).
Terry and the Pace Setters
With just 3 games gone and we are already into an enforced international break in which the latest new dawn of English football will rise from the mixed metaphor ashes of Roy’s Euro disaster. After the first 3 games what can we deduce about the destination of the Premier League title?
There are 3 teams remaining on maximum points and each will expect to be in the running next Spring. The two Manchester clubs are the most likely champions in my view and it is difficult to choose which is now the lesser evil. Prepare for the over the top build up to their derby meeting immediately after the international break. Chelsea are only level on points due to cheating but with Hazard looking on top of his game and no European distraction they are probable candidates for 3rd or 4th.
Of the other teams Tottenham have been the most encouraging in how flat and uninspiring they look as if they haven’t recovered from last season’s blow-out. Liverpool look very workmanlike which is what you would expect from a midfield that includes Milner, Henderson and Lallana. Koeman’s Everton are undefeated and will be unspectacularly efficient in picking up points. Arsenal are like every other Arsenal team of the last decade only increasingly less-good; they may even miss out on a top 4 finish this time. We need to start getting players back and getting our act together. Losing away at two of the top three is no disgrace in itself but performances need to be far better.
Relegation or The HSmell of Success
History tells us that in all probability 2 of the promoted clubs will be relegated. Despite Hull’s promising start I can’t see them keeping this up given the turmoil that the club is in. I also expect Burnley to struggle massively whereas Boro might do enough to bore the opposition into surrender. The other suspects include Watford, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Swansea. I am relying on Eddie Howe to do enough to keep Bournemouth afloat and, although Watford looked very poor in the first half against Arsenal, they brightened up considerably after introducing new signings Isaac Success & Roberto Pereyra – two players we will need to keep an eye on when we meet them in 2 weeks.
Isaac Success is one of the best footballer names since Danny Invincible
A Substitute for Another Guy
Finally, a very strange occurrence in the Tottenham versus Liverpool game at White Hart Lane where in the very last of 3 added minutes at the end of the second half both teams brought on a substitute for their league debuts. I didn’t spot whether the respective number 2’s had given the players detailed instructions from the notepads as to what to do for the remaining 10 seconds.