The international break left us to ponder our thoughts in solace this past weekend, which is just the rudest. But we always come for our pints, and so let’s knock ‘em back.
Arsenal has been the most talked-about team in the league thus far, and as every Gunners fan will tell you, that’s never a good thing. Arsene Wenger had a disastrous transfer window, letting targets slip away – including Kylian Mbappe, who confirmed he chose PSG over Arsenal – while also failing to sell his most valuable asset, meaning Alexis Sanchez will likely leave in January for free, a decision that Arsene Wenger says will cost Arsenal “a huge price.” Only Arsenal could keep its best player and have that somehow signal a problem.
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The Gunners also found themselves rolled by Liverpool 4-0, a microcosm of their last few months. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were invisible and the Gunners failed to register a shot on target, all the while Granit Xhaka – fresh off his Inaugural Simon Mignolet Award – crumbled in front of an already porous back line.
Arenal is a fascinating case study. A team that habitually starts the season strong before eventually caving under adversity, this year the tribulations have come unusually early. The team’s mental fortitude has been questioned in the recent past, and already this season they’ve shown a total lack of discipline, direction, or desire. They were completely outplayed by a Liverpool squad that’s at best even on talent. The most striking example of this was a shocking moment caught by the alert NBC Soccer TV crew. I’ll let Robbie Earle do the talking:
I’m the last person to parade intangibles as the cause for a team’s success or failure, but if Arsene Wenger wishes to turn things around, he needs to figure out a method of introducing his squad to a completely new mental state. Fast.
On the flip side, Liverpool seems to be firing on all cylinders, even without the “injured” Philippe Coutinho. Even during the international break, their backup players are scoring stunners. This squad may not have the talent depth to last the full season at the top of the table, but they are a threat every week no matter the opponent, and that in and of itself is dangerous to the rest of the league.
A match ball to Gylfi Sigurdsson who scored a fabulously absurd goal for Everton against Hadjuk Split in the Europa League. Sigurdsson continues to produce moments like this just frequent enough to convince people that he’s actually worth $57 million, when in actuality every other statistic seems to suggest he’s no more than above-average. For example, last season he ranked 11th in key passes in the Premier League with 59 – 37 behind the leader Christian Eriksen – 79th in take-ons, 89th in pass accuracy (> 30 apps), and 17th in shot accuracy. Yet here we are, talking about yet another brilliant moment from the Icelandic international. And it won’t be the last.
A match ball to Charlie Adam for the announcement of his contract extension…
— Charlie Adam (@Charlie26Adam) August 25, 2017
…and subsequent reply…
Ha ha no
— Charlie Adam (@Charlie26Adam) August 25, 2017
Gloriously concise. Next week, tune in as Charlie Adam hires an airplane banner that reads “hey.”
A match ball to this guy, who found a much better [albeit vulgar] way than burning his jersey to show disdain for a departed player.
A match ball to Aleksandr Mitrovic who decided to do his postmatch interview after an impressive 3-0 win over West Ham while simultaneously preparing to determine how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop. Watch closely at the beginning.
🎥 WATCH: Aleksandar Mitrovic's post-match interview after today's win against @WestHamUtd
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) August 26, 2017
Ah-one. Ah-two. Ah-three! *crunch* Red card!
SIMON MIGNOLET AWARD FOR BEST DICHOTOMOUS PERFORMANCE
This week’s Simon Mignolet Award is presented, with much pomp and circumstance, to Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who absolutely stood on his head for 70 minutes against a brutally persistent Manchester United side. He saved a Romelu Lukaku penalty and launched himself through the air to stop a vicious Paul Pogba curler. Just when it seemed the Red Devils would have no way through, he Oberyn Martell’d himself straight into this column as Marcus Rashford put one right through his mitts for the victory.
A yellow card to Charlie Adam. Charge your phone, bro.
A yellow card to the Barcelona and Real Madrid twitter hackers. Someone managed to hack the social media accounts of 2 of the biggest sports teams in the world, and the funniest thing they managed to come up with was “announce Di Maria?” What a disappointment. It’s like when a friend notices you left your Facebook account up on your computer, and the most savage hijack they can come up with is “I’m going to give *insert hijacking friend’s name* $20 because he/she is the best! LOL.” NEEERRRRRRRRRRRDS.
A red card to Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy. He stated he wanted to thin the squad, and thin it he did. So, he sold: Wojciech Szczesny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gabriel, Kieran Gibbs, Yaya Sanogo. Players still on the roster: Mathieu Debuchy, 23-appearances-in-the-last-three-seasons Santi Cazorla, and Chuba Akpom. And by all accounts he tried to sell Shkodran Mustafi, which would have left them with exactly 3 natural CB’s on the roster. Thin that squad, Arsene!
A red card to all other social media teams who have been bested by this poor soul from the Scottish 5th tier. Take a day off and rethink your strategy.
A red card to Stoke City defender/midfielder Geoff Cameron for his utterly disastrous performance for the US National Team against Costa Rica. His spacing with CB partner Tim Ream at times left them miles apart, and Cameron was directly responsible for the 2nd goal after a mind-boggling giveaway in his own half. His worst performance in a US shirt by far, and one that suddenly presents Bruce Arena with questions he never thought he’d be answering.
IS TOTTENHAM THE MOST BORING TEAM IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
Soundly beat newly promoted side? Check. Lose late to the defending champions? Check. Disappointing draw with bunkered side because they were punished for playing refreshingly positive soccer even while ahead? Check. Manager who says all the right things? Check. Drawn into Champions League Group of Death with Real Madrid, Dortmund, and randomly pesky Cypriot side? Check.
Yawn. Sorry Spurs fans. The evidence is clear. Around every corner is another day in the shadows.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Raheem Sterling was the center of a significant talking point last weekend when he was sent off for celebrating a late winner against Bournemouth. There was an uproar of Clint Eastwood old-timers winging about how the game has been commercialized to the point where celebrating with away fans is somehow frowned upon.
Those folks are missing the point completely. The rule is a shame, but it’s nonetheless necessary. All it takes is one drunk idiot who finds his way into the middle of the celebration and swings a haymaker to a player’s domepiece, or worse, and we have ourselves a massive failure to protect league employees. The league must look out for player safety, and sadly the only way to do that is to separate players from fans. Goalscorers can undoubtedly climb the advertising boards Giorgos Karagounis style, but any closer interaction with fans should be strictly forbidden. Sure, it takes some of the fun from the game, but it will survive, and with it, the players will be protected.
STATS OF THE COLUMN
Week 3: Swansea City’s Tammy Abraham scored the club’s first Premier League goal of the season…on their first shot on target of the season…in Week 3. Shoot your shot. Singular.
Honorable Mention: League 2 side Grimsby Town has seen a player sent off in all 5 of its games so far this season.
GOAL OF THE COLUMN
The Gylfi Sigurdsson goal was fantastic, but I’m all aboard the most fun team in the Premier League this season, Bournemouth. Go ahead and try to tell me the Cherries aren’t the most wild ride in England, I dare you to attempt that losing argument.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 26, 2017
WEIRDEST PRESS CONFERENCE MOMENT
I’m not sure how long this segment will keep up, but Martin O’Neill made sure we had something to talk about in column number 2. The Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 with Georgia (the country, not the Bulldogs, which would have been slightly less disappointing), and after the match, O’Neill was grilled about what happened. He begun the interview apologetic, but things slowly disentigrated as O’Neill became less and less amenable to the line of questioning.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 2, 2017
Also, an honorable mention to Jurgen Klopp’s wonderful literary reference, recalling the novel 1984 when bashing media stories about Coutinho: “Don’t believe everything in the press or that there are offers coming in here and there. The minute after the offer came in, it is done and you have to do the deal. We are not like George Orwell, where the whole world knows everything immediately. We have the situation that we wanted and nothing else.”
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