08 November 2021

Rivals' Roundup, Matchday 11: closer to 2nd to 8th...

Well, well, well. What a nearly perfect set of results for those of us who have the good taste and refinement to support a proper club. Just about the only thing that didn't go our way is that Leeds couldn't take all three against Leicester. Hell, we even get to enjoy the fact that Jose Mourinho's Roma side squandered a 1-2 lead to lose 3-2 to Serie A's equivalent of Watford, not that I'm a spiteful, vindictive curmudgeon who continues to detest Mourinho to the point of checking Roma's results for a dose of
schadenfreude. Let's bring it back home and look at what's what this weekend.
  1. Chelsea (8W, 2D, 1L, 26 pts):
    Anticipating a Man City win, the Blues decided to add a bit of spice and intrigue to both ends of the table by drawing with Burnley, keeping themselves tantalisingly three points clear of Man City and allowing Burnley to a point closer to safety. It's like crabs in a bucket down there. As with last week, it appears as if Chelsea are doing their damnedest to prove that merely buying all of the players in the world and loaning a few of them back out doesn't guarantee success, not even when you take 25 shots. Tuchel was nothing but magnaminous in the post-match presser, saying that "we let them believe it was possible to steal a point by pure luck and that's what happened". He must not have been watching toward the end there when Burnley had several chances to nick a win in the closing minutes.
  2. Man City (7W, 2D, 2L, 23 pts):
    Guardiola's charges decided to split the difference between humiliating Man U and allowing Solskjaer to keep his a job another week, going through the motions on their way to comfy 0-2 win while keeping 67% possession. Either that or this was a tactical masterclass from Ole, who saw that his club should work on defending. In either case, City looked like they treated this derby with the same level of interest and commitment as a child looking at a place of overboiled brussel sprouts. Even at that level, though, they quite clearly eclipsed their erstwhile rivals. I suppose that's the kind of result one gets when one's opponents offer all of the resistance of a block-headed center back bought from Leicester. I tried to find a more-fitting analogy but that's the best I could come up with.
  3. West Ham (7W, 2D, 2L, 23 pts):
    West Ham are either Chucky, the Energizer Bunny, or some other outdated 1980s reference for something that just won't give up and keeps coming back. In their first real test of the season, Moyes's boyses (yes, you have to pronounce the extra syllable each time) made Alisson look positively Almunian on enough occasions to emerge victorious. Many Gooners (including your faithful correspondent) won't mind the points this gives the Hammers because it denies Liverpool a chance to go undefeated for yet another season. On the other hand, this does give dangerous evidence to a side that many continue to underestimate. If this keeps up, Moyes risks doing untold damage to his reputation as a cautious manager who is averse to taking risks or achieving anything more than a 6th place finish.
  4. Liverpool (6W, 4D, 1L, 22pts):
    For a second straight week, Liverpool dropped points. Perhaps they were overly confident after ousting Preston North End from the League Cup, mistaking that for a step towards an invincible, undefeated season? Hm. After drawing with Brighton, Liverpool did manage to beat Atleti in Champions League play but seemed to forget themselves against West Ham. Could it be that winning the Prem and the Champions League have left Klopp and his minions feeling a little too sated, a little too complacent to keep that cutting edge? After all, they're defending like late-era Wenger sides, conceding cheaply and failing to show much fight. Then again, Liverpool will probably use the international break to do some chakra realignment and come out ready to eviscerate whoever is unlucky to face them. Pity the poor sods, whoever they may be.
  5. Arsenal (6W, 2D, 3L, 20 pts):
    Arsenal faced a tougher-than-expected visit from Tony Pulis's Stoke, who kicked out at, clattered, and otherwise abused Arsenal's players all over--oh. It was Watford. Not Stoke. Easy mistake, what with the stripey kits and the fouling. So. many. fouls. It's a good thing that Kevin Friend was johnny-on-the-spot, issuing four yellow cards after just six fouls committed, and--oh. Wait. It was Arsenal, not Watford, that was booked four times. Somehow, Watford's "players" only saw yellow thrice, with Kucka finally getting sent off in the 89th minute, continuing a not-at-all-suspicious trend of our opponents seeing red in the last ten minutes of a match. It's unclear how Danny Rose managed to stay on the pitch after doing his best "Charlie Adams mugging Alexis" impersonation, but I'm sure Kevin knows what he's doing. He's a Prem ref, for crissake. Epitome of competence. On a more-serious note, it's rather nifty to see an Arsenal side that can wrest control of a match from an opponent and a referee seemingly in cahoots with each other.
  6. Man U (5W, 2D, 4L, 17 pts):
    Solksjaer seemed to approach the Manchester Derby with all of the grim determination and steely-jawed intensity of a man freed from any and all questions about his job after some tinpot club somehow convinced Antonio Conte that he would get the transfers in that he demands. Perhaps predicatably, he instructed his side to sit back, absorb pressure, and...well, that was apparently it. Most overmatched sides would adopt parts one and two of the plan and at least consider part three: counter-attack. In a bit of of ninjitsu-move reverse pyschology, Solskjaer's men decided to score for Man City once and to roll out a red carpet for Bernardo Silva to dart in to score in front of Luke Shaw, who showed as much interest in doing his job as an underpaid teenager at McDonald's.  We'll see if the Naive Norwegian can surive the international break, a time when many embattled managers get sacked. I'm sure I speak for us all when I wish him safe passage through to the end of the season.
Well, that's as far as I'm willing to take it this week. We'll have to see whether aspirants such as Brighton, Wolves, or Tottenham merit a closer look (that last one especially, what with the new manager and all).