The Manchester Derby apparently happened this week, but I’m not too sure we’re being told the truth. The scoreboard SAID Manchester United vs. Manchester City, but I’m quite certain I watched West Ham and Newcastle bumble their way through a bottom-half scrap. Maybe the graphics team took an early holiday.
Nevertheless, I’m told Manchester City won its 14th in a row, which is a new Premier League record, so that’s pretty cool. Nicolas Otamendi scored for the second straight game, which is also something I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. How about we just move on, because last weekend’s Manchester United game is much more deserving of our time.
The Red Devils beat Arsenal 3-1 in the game that broke soccer.
Arsenal held 75% possession and out-passed Manchester United 562-147 and lost by a multi-goal margin. Why? Again, a lack of mental fortitude downs the Gunners. They completely crumbled on the defensive end with embarrassing predictability. They were a mess offensively, constantly swiping at air with the ball inches from the net. Arsenal pummeled Manchester United, but deserved to lose, somehow.
And what a surprise!
The following week, we’re talking about Arsenal’s mentality again. The Gunners needed a last-gasp Olivier Giroud goal to draw with Southampton. And while I know I sound like a broken record, don’t take my word for it!
The Gunners’ own manager:
“I felt that the Manchester United game played a bit of a part in the head of our defenders. It was a bit in their head and they were a bit apprehensive to start well again and that’s why it is sometimes not good to talk about the problem because you create a bigger one.”
ARSENE WENGER ACTUALLY SAID THAT. He actually admitted he screwed with his players’ heads so badly that Manchester United beat them two weeks in a row. Is it any more clear that Arsenal needs to move on from the Frenchman? His job is to get the players’ heads right, and he admitted he is unable to do so. The guy is basically pleading, begging, exorting, someone, anyone, to end his era. (They won’t.)
Also, we need to talk about Arsenal’s North London derby foes Tottenham.
Have you ever seen such a Jeckyll and Hyde three weeks from a top-tier Premier League side?
One week, they’re completely inept in front of goal, with Christen Eriksen, Harry Kane, and Dele Alli all allergic to scoring in the loss to Leicester City. Look at this!
xG map for Leicester – Tottenham. The finishing pixie came for Spurs today, and it was spectacular. pic.twitter.com/cV5PO5Kzzy
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) November 28, 2017
Liverpool-esque! *runs away cackling*
The next week was a throw-away after Davinson Sanchez found himself an early shower, but they eventually hosted Stoke City and hit Mark Hughes with all the goals they couldn’t muster against Claude Puel. Can they find the consistent touch to get back into the Top 4?
Color me unconvinced. And color Juve encouraged ahead of the most interesting (maybe) Champions League tie?
Alright, that’s enough chit-chat, let’s get to the meat and potatoes. And beer, we also have beer.
WHEELS ON THE BUS
For managers, throwing players under the bus can be an interesting tactic. Sometimes, it can ignite a player to be better. Sometimes…well sometimes, they just can’t help it. Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said nobody could tell Christian Benteke not to take a vitally important penalty in stoppage time of a 2-2 game. Maybe…now hold on here, I know this is going to be off the deep end so stick with me…what if…the manager instructed his subordinate what to do?
A fan wasn't happy about Benteke's decision to take Crystal Palace's second penalty v Bournemouth…and neither was Roy! ⚽🥅✖😱
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 9, 2017
But while Hodgson threw his player under the bus, Rochdale boss Keith Hill rounded up his entire squad, tied them to the tracks, and backed the bus over them repeatedly.
–Match ball to Mirror columnist Andy Dunn for channeling his inner 16-year-old-touching-female-anatomy-for-the-first-time when describing Wayne Rooney falling face first into a hat-trick. Don’t get me wrong, scoring his third goal from the midfield stripe is cool and all, but it’s nice when all 3 goals feature gaping-wide shooting spaces. Nonetheless, for Mr. Dunn, the magical moment conjured up his wildest sports fantasies, and he couldn’t help but give in to the devil on his shoulder…
'It was Tiger hitting his stinger under the wind. It was Federer brutally yet beautifully swatting a forehand. It was Virat Kohli flat-batting a six over extra cover. It was simply breathtaking' #EFC @andydunnmirror https://t.co/tAHPwlucO2 pic.twitter.com/BD4cYHj1qR
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) November 29, 2017
-Match ball to Pep Guardiola, who has such a primal urge to coach players, he can be ensnared by the internal strife of deciding whether to congratulate an opponent for stifling his glittering City attack or screaming at an opponent also screaming because he knows Nathan Redmond is too good to be parking the bus. What a treasure that man is!
-Match ball to Sam Allardyce and David Moyes, who continue to hoodwink the Premier League into thinking they’re good managers. West Ham out-shot 19-5 by Chelsea, but the Hammers win 1-0. Everton completely pummeled by Liverpool, but manage a 1-1 draw on an iffy late penalty call. Moyes has 3 wins and a draw in five games as WHUFC manager, while the win over Chelsea has West Ham only in the relegation zone on goal differential. All you can really do is laugh at this point, because the two will be unemployed in a year, and everyone knows it, but they still get jobs because all they do is manage to be less bad than three teams every year. I need to rethink my career choices. Then again, I’m American. So I probably don’t even get a transfer window to fix it. (Shots definitely fired).
-Yellow card to MCFC’s trainer. KEEP A LEASH ON YOUR MAN!!
— Benjamin Mendy (@benmendy23) November 29, 2017
-Yellow card to whoever in the post-Manchester derby fight threw milk. You don’t throw milk. Good lord, I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation right now. I figured “throwing milk” was just understood to be on the list of things you don’t do during a fight. Maybe we need to go over the unwritten fight rules with everyone in the Premier League?
What a shame.
-Red card to whoever replaced the BMO Field turf with a hockey rink.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 30, 2017
-Red card to this post-match interviewer, who should have never stated his opinion, because nobody cares. At all. Ask the questions, don’t antagonize the subject with your nonsense. Poor job, and Klopp has a right to be angry.
Klopp was furious after today's match… watch until the end. pic.twitter.com/79Gp0Ln3jv
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 10, 2017
The MLS Playoffs, everyone!
SAVE OF THE COLUMN
David de Gea vs. Arsenal. All 14 of them.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Players make mistakes. I could list players that botch things during play week in and week out. That’s not what this section is about. This is about when players do really dumb things that are completely avoidable if they just think for a moment. Like Ashley Young on Manchester City’s first goal in the derby. The United winger is…well, I’m honestly not sure what he’s doing. Covering the near post? Preventing the whipped corner? Having a tea break? Whatever he’s doing, he’s not defending anyone, and he ends up playing every Man City attacker onside as David Silva pokes in the game’s first goal.
STAT OF THE COLUMN – Week 14
144 – Angelo Ogbonna's goal was his first ever in one of the big five European leagues, in what is his 144th appearance. Shocked. pic.twitter.com/oNlxWcgrFV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 3, 2017
After 90 years, Harry Kane becomes the first Englishman to score 50 or more goals in a single calendar year for club and country since Dixie Dean did in 1927 for Everton and England! pic.twitter.com/Bg39lbGNzN
— Roberto Rojas (@RobertoRojas97) December 9, 2017
DON’T WEAR NIKES, BECAUSE…
They can’t stop bullets, apparently
— Kristof Terreur 📰 (@HLNinEngeland) November 30, 2017
GOAL OF THE WEEK
I had Raheem Sterling’s 95th minute winner tabbed for this award, until Jermain Defoe scrapped that plan with what has to be a goal of the season contender…
WEIRDEST PRESS CONFERENCE MOMENT
The Klopp moment should probably win this week’s award here too, but since we already went there, and I’m not in the business of re-using material, here’s another:
Jose Mourinho on Arsenal’s Alexander Lacazette starting, playing 90 minutes, and scoring after Wenger had ruled him out of the game: “I don’t want to forget my congratulations to both medical departments. My medical department managed to recover Matic from a maybe to a yes. But Arsenal’s medical department managed to recover a player from a no to a complete 90. Amazing. I congratulate them all.”
Mourinho, you’re a footballing treasure.
Kyle Bonn writes about soccer for NBC Sports and The Yanks Are Coming. Follow him on Twitter @the_bonnfire.