Premier League: the official verdict so far

So that’s it for two weeks then.  England’s best players and Wayne Rooney are doing battle to secure a place at a World Cup where Russia’s footballers will be so doped up by 2018 that they will absolutely kill us at the 110m hurdles and the butterfly, if it comes to that.

As for your Premier League team, the likelihood is that the break comes at a terrible time as you were just building up the courage to call into Talk Sport one day to bemoan the presenters biased opinion towards your club.  Now the said presenter will be so busy trying to argue the utterly mental case of his good friend Glenn Hoddle for the England job, that your misplaced sense of injustice will have to wait until the next Match of the Day running order is announced.
th-3Anyway, here’s how everyone has got on so far at the all important ONE FIFTH(ish) stage of the season.

Arsenal:  Their start to the season reminds me of the scene from The Lord of the Rings when Gandalf ‘falls into darkness.’  There’s the split second when you think he’s defeated the beast, who then has the last laugh.  That is where we are with Arsenal.  No crisis yet, but if you’ve read the book, you know it’s imminent.

Bournemouth:  The current Royal Family visit to Canada strikes me as similar to Jack Wilshire’s loan move to Bournemouth.  Like the Royals, who’ve not even sent their best asset across, Arsenal have shifted a mediocre midfielder to visit a place so inane and forgettable that his presence there is the most memorable thing about it.

Burnley:  Beating Klopp’s Liverpool was so mental that I have to at least suspect that the Premier League fixed the game to prove that the league is still vaguely competitive.

Chelsea:  Give them the league for bantering us all off and resigning David Luis.  That performance at Arsenal was a superb attempt at letting Arsenal fans get even closer to the precipice, before the fall.  Very shrewd.

Crystal Palace:  That come back win at Sunderland was pure Alan Pardew.  He’s no idea how he did it, but taking the plaudits nonetheless. stoke-city-v-crystal-palace-premier-league-467150094-573e2185d040f

Everton:  Only lost once this season but it already feels as if anything achieved by Koeman will pale into insignificance to Klopp’s ludicrously good Liverpool side.  Shame.

Hull:  For some reason it feels like Hull are only allowed to play the top 6.

Leicester:  Trying to work out how much they paid Platini for that Champions League group.  Not hiding it very well by playing like relegation fodder and simultaneously taking Europe by storm.

Liverpool:  Klopp turning James Milner into Europe’s top scoring left back beats anything Shankly achieved.  Really good so far and that win at Chelsea was funny as it was David Luis’ first start.

Man City:  Really good so far, apart from when they’ve come up against a side with any sort of quality.  Credit to Guardiola for his treatment of Joe Hart.

Man Utd: Not really working yet is it though it still seems miles more interesting than last season under Van Gaal.  Nice guy Mourinho having to behave himself is going to end in tears when they’re 9th in January. Let the real shithouse out of the straight jacket and we can finally see what Mourinho can bring to the table.

Middlesborough:  Easily win the award for worst camera angle at any ground, in any sport.  Can’t see them doing anything other than being relegated with 4 or 5 games to go and still seeing that as a success.

Southampton:  This year’s Southampton.  Started slowly but they’re getting there and will probably finish between 8th and 5th, with no real chance of top four, before doing it all again next season.

Stoke:  I’ll tell you who Man City aren’t missing. Wilfried Bony.  Come to think of it they aren’t missing Mark Hughes either.




Sunderland:  David Moyes’ post match interviews are my favourite thing of the 16/17 season so far.  Speaking as if he’s in the studio, as a neutral pundit with whom the shambles that have just gone on in front of him, is top class.  To paraphrase each Moyes interview ‘yes we’re shite, but what can I do with this absolute shower.  It has absolutely nothing to do with me.  Please sack me.’

Swansea:  Rumour has it Guidolin missed each of his sides morning training sessions pre-season to watch the Tour de France on television.  If there’s no place for a man like that in the Premier League then lets have done with the whole sorry thing.

Spurs:  Great trolling of Arsenal fans by trying to recreate Highbury by removing the corners from your ground.  Also playing brilliant football and potentially wining the league is just another copy-cat tactic from Pocchetino’s side.  Obsessed or what.

Watford: Signing and playing a lad called Success has been a particular highlight from a club that hired and Alec Baldwin look a like, who can’t speak the language, to manage them.  Being so bad that a dreadful West Ham start ripping the piss out you after 34 minutes must have been worrying.

West Brom:  Best start to a league season in many years and it’s still been dreadful.

West Ham:  Things that gone better than West Ham’s stadium move; Ben Arfa’s move to Hull, the Brexit vote, Chelsea’s first twenty minutes at the Emirates,  David Moyes at Sunderland, Michael Owen as a pundit.

Bear hugs and bug bears

While this blog is usually the preserve of the post-match press conference and the anger, derision and sycophancy that entails, this week we start with some entertainment before the mixed zone feeding frenzy.

Jurgen Klopp’s attempt to deliver a different style of bear hug to each one of his Liverpool players leaving the field at Stamford Bridge told you all you needed to know. We didn’t need him to sit in a room with the Daily Telegraph asking how he felt after the win – we knew. He was buzzing. Even the most demure, straight-laced of players can’t resist a childish grin when caught in an affectionate Klopp headlock on the way to the tunnel and that is what we got; plenty of joy.

Maybe this is how we should replace all post-match press conferences in future? Sack off the microphones and get the managers to display their feelings and thoughts on the game through the medium of some sort of warped game of charades out on the pitch. There would however be obvious casualties. Wenger would completely miss all of his players at the final whistle, claiming simply that he ‘did not see’ them.
Tony Pulis, complete with baseball cap and foaming mouth would, no doubt, be pulled over by the stewards as a pitch invader and banned from the stadium for life. Meanwhile, Eddie Howe would probably invoke the stadium announcer to appeal for the parents of a young blonde boy to collect him from the players’ reception.

Probably best we stick with the press conferences, eh?

One man who certainly wasn’t dishing out any bear hugs this weekend was Jose Mourinho. Felled by Watford and his former adversary in Serie A, Walter Mazzarri, the Man Utd manager turned on his players once more. Referring to when he took the job, Mourinho stated, “I knew I had a task. It is tactical but also mental.” No doubt the second reference in a week to the mental fragility of the squad he has inherited. This wasn’t the only issue he harped back to either, on Sunday. The Portuguese again blamed the officials, bemoaning the fact that it was the same bad fortune that befell him the weekend before against City. But it is more what Mourinho isn’t saying at the moment that is telling.

As Doddsy raised on our latest podcast, Mourinho seems to have lost the granite edge that simply would not allow his team to lose three games on the spin. His pre-match spiel about former foe Mazzari, was conciliatory and tame. The build up to the Manchester derby similar. Whether it is the behavioural expectations that the Old Trafford hierarchy seem to have laid down as a condition for his appointment, or the scars from his implosion at Chelsea, Mourinho seems a touch more passive. If he is to turn his team into title challengers once more, he will need to get that edge back.

Talking of getting the edge back, Tony Pulis  will have been relieved by his West Brom team’s 4-2 drubbing of hapless visitors, West Ham. In fact, delirium had clearly set in by the time the league’s most recognisable baseball cap model faced the media. Pulis was clearly convinced that his team had deserved more from the performance the week before against Bournemouth and, despite having scored no goals and registering just the two shots on target in that game, felt it was a mirror image of the way his team played against West Ham.

“We’re pleased the ball has gone in the back of the net but we’ve done nothing different – other than the ball has gone in the back of the net.”

Nothing different, then. Apart from scoring the four goals eh, Tony? I hadn’t realised that hitting a team for four had grown so tiresome for the Baggies fans who are obviously spoilt with free-flowing football week in, week out. More confusing than Pulis’ post match comments though is that West Brom are tenth. That’s what playing four centre backs gets you.

The Blame Game

There are no prizes for guessing who topped the bill in terms of press conferences over the weekend. Given that Saturday’s Manchester derby had been treated to a build up bigger than the league season itself, it seems only right to pore through the lamentations of the loser. And lamentations there were.
Following a surprising display of tactical inadequacy, Jose Mourinho decided to avert the gaze from his own shortcomings and fix it instead upon the players tasked with doing his bidding. Visibly hacked off (as you would be) by the goals his team conceded in the first half, the Portuguese wondered aloud whether several of his players possessed the speed of thought necessary to make an impact on a game of such magnitude. We didn’t have to wait long for him to answer his own question; too many of them didn’t, he concluded. That is fair enough, especially when you look at how sluggish United were in ushering City to a 2-0 lead. If Bailly was stuck in treacle when Iheanacho won the flick that sent Kevin de Bruyne clear for the first, Daley Blind was in fast setting concrete as he played the visitors onside for the second. So far, fair enough from Mourinho.
However, once more Jose went further . “Honestly, I had two or three players in the first half who, if I knew what I know now, I don’t play them. But this is football. Sometimes players disappoint managers. Sometimes they give great surprises.” Well I don’t think it will be any surprise to anyone who those players are that he was referring to. Hauling Lingard and Mkhitaryan off at half time pretty much sealed their fate as the subject of his post-match ribbing. What did he expect though?
Leaving an undisciplined Pogba and an unsuitable Fellaini in a midfield two against City’s three was asking for trouble. Combine that with giving Mkhitaryan his first start, after the Armenian FA claimed he was carrying an injury that would keep him out for 10-12 days, and you can begin to see why United struggled so much in that first half. Yes, the team looked off the pace and players have a responsibility to be sharp and on the ball, but Mourinho’s tactical set-up simply didn’t give them the best chance to compete with City. Although Mourinho did admit his own mistake in playing certain players, the overwhelming criticism was of his team despite the fact that his tactics clearly played such a big role in the final outcome. It remains to be seen whether these comments will galvanise the players but what is for sure is that the former Chelsea boss will have to sharpen up his act tactically if he is to have a chance of clinging onto Manchester City’s coat-tails.
From one man fighting to win the title, to one who’s probably just content with having won it last year, Claudio Ranieri is having to get used to ever more challenging press conferences this time around. The champions’ dismantling at Anfield this weekend led the Italian to admit that, “This season, we know is completely different.” Of course it is. Leicester were outclassed by a Liverpool team that will destroy many more defences before the season is over but, if I were a Leicester fan, or the manager, I wouldn’t be throwing my toys out of the pram. Last year’s title success was thoroughly deserved, but The Foxes took advantage of a league in which a plethora of the major clubs were in turmoil or transition. This year those big fish are much stronger and Leicester now have the Champions League to contend with. I don’t think it’s belittling to say that Leicester fans should be happy with mid-table and a Champions League campaign this year. In, fact, I think Mr Ranieri would be quite content with that. The only danger lies with the more fickle fans, for whom the Italian’s habit of playing situations down in interviews may be a little harder to stomach now they are not winning games every week.
A man who has never knowingly played anything down however, is Alan Pardew. Encouraged by an away victory at Middlesborough, the Palace manager went the all-American hero on us . “We have some big players back at the ranch and hopefully we can get them fit,” drawled Pardew as his stetson slipped over his eyes. The ‘ranch’. For the love of God. What are we going to be treated to next? Well, Cabaye is a shoe-in for that pitiful ‘quarterback’ reference and Palace do have cheerleaders on at half time, lest we forget. If I know Pards, that could well be just the tip of the iceberg for the South London Eagles fans. Good luck with that.

Some things never change

While everyone is talking about the impetus the new TV deal has given the Premier League, it seems to have actually deflated Arsene Wenger. The all too predictable opening day defeat was this time administered by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, but it was Wenger’s post-match demeanour that was different.

Aside from the content of what he said, the Frenchman seemed almost as if he’d given up. If I were to leap to conclusions I would say that the fire had gone and he was playing out his last season in charge of Arsenal. In the post-match conference, we saw a Premier League manager admit that his team was not physically ready for the first game of the season. This should never be the case at the top of the game, but even if you know this, as a manager, why would you invite the negativity of admitting it? For starters it gives your opponents an edge, knowing that Arsenal can’t prepare their players in time for the new season but more to the point, what does it do for the fans? Supporters at the Emirates are verging on mutiny so admitting to them that you, as the manager, can’t prepare a team of professional athletes, (in the same boat as others with players playing at the Euros) to start the season in the right condition, is a sure sign of madness. If this wasn’t enough, Wenger went on to touch on how his team have ‘shown the mental qualities to fight back’. Do me a favour, Arsene. At 4-1 down the pressure is off – that’s not character. The character comes when you are pegged back to 1-1 and find a way to change the flow of the game back in your favour; not rallying when the game is all but lost.

For as much as Wenger’s post-match performance was lethargic and resigned, Klopp was insightful and enthusiastic. That’s to be expected, I hear you say, having won 4-3 away from home on the opening day, yet, Klopp was not all bells and whistles. ‘I had a big part to play in the excitement of the last 20 minutes,’ he said, in reference to his piggy-back celebration for the fourth goal. Despite the wonderful joy that his celebrations bring the game, the Liverpool manager realised that his over-exuberance can sometimes have a negative impact on his team. The complacency he feels that his carefree frolicking set in, seemed to lead to Arsenal’s improbable comeback, though it is this humility that will see him and his Liverpool team learn from their mistakes. We certainly seem in for an exciting season of ‘heavy metal’ football.
But beyond the familiar monotony of the Emirates mixed zone, we welcomed a new character to our cast of managers this season. Pep Guardiola, come on down. Sunderland at home may have seemed like the perfect start for the Spaniard yet the game gave the former Barcelona manager a reminder of the challenge he faces at the helm of Manchester City this season. ‘It was tough for everybody and that is why people say the Premier League is tough,’ he said of his first foray into English football. Though Sunderland put up stubborn resistance, you feel that much sterner tests will come and Pep’s press conferences may well get a lot fruitier as Mourinho et al wind up their mind games through the course of a gruelling season.
There may not have been an absolute nutcase like Nigel Pearson surface so far but we certainly seem to have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to managers ready to speak their minds, this year. I don’t think these pages will be left searching for many stories.

The Great Big Biased ONE SENTENCE View of Your Premier League Team

Here are some very realistic and serious thoughts about what we think of your team.  It is 100% accurate.  Don’t do anything embarrassing by pretending this isn’t EXACTLY what your team is like.


Arsenal are like a fine wine for people who don’t like wine.


Can Bournemouth fans stop pretending they aren’t going to take League One by storm in the 2019/20 season.


No one knows where Burnley is.


Doing chronic damage to your own team’s chances by demanding your club keep playing a really old, really bad centre back who happens to be a racist.

Crystal Palace

Everyone knows what is going to happen.


Relegate them for what they did to Tony Hibbert.


West Brom 2002-2008.


You might have a league title but you also have goal music and a drum.


Everyone loves Klopp but secretly cannot wait for the fall.

Manchester City

The first football club to be run as a PR agency.

Manchester United

Your own club pretended there was a bomb at your last home game to stop you coming back to realise their dream of moving closer to a major London airport.


Is Bryan Robson the really good chairman there?


We’re all secretly trying to work out if administration and going into League One could be as beneficial to our clubs.

Stoke City

Everyone has maximum respect for the way Mark Hughes has utterly transformed Tony Pulis’ inconsistent, average, mid-table side into what they are today.


17th and two early cup exits for the win.


Get a lot of deserved credit for not being Cardiff fans.


Some beast that was, lads.


When your rivals are Luton and MK Dons you know you’ve a Football League Trophy final coming up in the next 5 years.

West Brom

Whatever happened to Steve Clarke?

West Ham

Honouring the memory of those two gangsters (twins?) in East London who stole from and murdered everyone, by stealing a stadium and killing their own community.

Kicking off – Football, Bloody Hell

Over the course of the next season and hopefully many more, us three lads (and whoever else we can drag along) will be bringing you a weekly podcast, taking in all of the major issues surrounding the Premier League. Think of it as a sort of therapy for a handful of chaps in their mid-late 20s who have been brow beaten by years of disappointment and frustration courtesy of their respective teams. This collection of bitter, yet strangely addictive experiences over the years have been instrumental in the naming of the podcast, echoing the immortal words of Alex Ferguson, ‘Football, bloody hell’.

We’ve all felt the exasperation, ecstasy and helplessness that these words conjure for fans up and down the country, the only difference being, we haven’t uttered the phrase after winning the Champions League final; 1-0 to Sir Alex.

Truth be told, you will be met with a healthy amount of cynicism on these pages and through the podcast, a cynicism of the like that only a multi-billion pound industry can provoke. We will hanker for the old days when a newly promoted team could feasibly challenge for the title within two years (alright, I’ll give you Leicester) and goal music and cardboard clappers were not even a twinkle in the eye of the most cretinous marketing manager. Every now and then however, we will break free from the shackles of the ‘In my day’ rhetoric and analyse and appreciate the quality of football we are now treated to on an almost daily basis. This is because, despite all of our ramblings and wistful glances back to the past, we still love the game we watch every weekend and live through every week. We’re looking forward to sharing this joy and disgust with you on a weekly basis, however hazardous this may be for our emotional wellbeing. It’s a complicated conundrum but we’ll find a way through it. Football, bloody hell.