22 November 2021

Rivals Roundup, Matchday 12: in which Arsenal are all but relegated already...

Sadio Mane, who should have been sent off...
After a heady Saturday that saw just about every result go our way, we went into Anfield out the back of a ten match unbeaten streak as if this would somehow handicap the score. One thing's clear: the top three spots are all but sewn up, and the race for fourth and fifth are a complete crapshoot. Six, maybe seven clubs can stake legitimate claims (of varying degrees of legimitacy, it must be mentioned). A few managerial shakeups continue a trend that might just rival vagina-scented candles or humorous social-distancing themed t-shirts as one of the top trends of 2021. As with any weekend, exisential ennui will probably be even more persistent than the scuzz that accumulates in the lid of your reusable coffee mug's lid. So it goes. Let's get to it.

  1. Chelsea (9W, 2D, 1L, 29 pts).
    Brendan Rodgers continues his audition to be manager of any other club whilst Chelsea continue a season-long dare against itself: how many goals can we score without goals from our strikers? Former Foxes (sounds like a hip, post-emo band name (already patented, just saying)) Chilwell and Kante added in an assist and a goal respectively as if to suggest that hoovering up a would-be rival's best players is some kind of long-term strategy to success. Just imagine. Chelsea continue to impress, it must be said, having just as many goals disallowed today as they actually scored. At the other end, it looks like the only real threat to Chelsea's impressive record of having conceded just four goals is the possibility that Eduoard Mendy gets imprisoned instead of Benjamin Mendy.

  2. Man City (8W, 2D, 2L, 26 pts)
    Guardiola's men generously decided to go easy on an injury-depleted Everton side even to the point of refusing to get all that rufflled on the rare occasion that Sterling went down in the box under actual contact instead of diving more amateurishly than Raheem Sterling being exhaled somewhat more forcefully than an angsty sigh. Speaking of angst, City continue to play with all the urgency of an omnipotent deity somewhat bored and depressed by his dominance, not unlike a silverback gorilla half-heartedly stimulating himself in his zoo enclosure. Yeah, it's enough to get the job down, but rubbing one out on a chub is bound to leave one feeling even more dejected and unfulfilled. News that De Bruyne will miss two more matches to covid may only deepen the malaise. Long may it last.

  3. Liverpool (7W, 4D, 1L, 25 pts).
    Liverpool's Sadio Mané was hell-bent on a mission to see how many bookable offences besides tugging on Michael Oliver's jersey will result in a sending off. A hastily complied list includes two challenges that included elbowing one's opposite, a slide tackle from behind after one's opposite was off the field of play, and any number of other extracurricular events. When he wasn't busy spltting the difference between injuring opponents and getting cautioned, he was admittedly dangerous, creating numerous chances, getting denied repeatedly by Ramsdale, and, ultimately, scoring one and assisting another. On a larger level, rumours of Liverpool's demise after losing to West Ham and drawing with Brighton were premature. There is apparently something about having one of the best squads in the world that eventually will deliver results.

  4. West Ham (7W, 2D, 3L, 23 pts).
    Special agent Fabiański popped up at an opprtune time, conceding a crucial goal while also making several key saves to maintain plausible deniability, and West Ham found themselves on the short end for the first time in five matches, after losing at home to Brentford, who can't beat anybody. A deeper sign of worry for Moyes is how West Ham seemed to fade in the match's latter stages. Nine players have appeared in 11 or 12 matches (four of them the wrong side of 30 and one, Ogbonna, lost for the season); beyond that, the West Ham bench looks about as deep as Ole Gunner Solksjaer's résumé. With Europa League progress all but certain, it'll be interesting to see how well Moyes can manage his short squad as fixtures start to pile up in December and January. By "interesting," of course, I mean something closer to "amusing".

  5. Arsenal (6W, 2D, 4L, 20 pts).
    Well, there's no other conclusion to be drawn from this weekend's result other than that the club will be relegated, enter administration, and be liquidated. This is not hyperbole. It's merely the cool, clinical, and dispassionate observations of a man who is not at all prone to wildly unhealthy mood swings dependent on the performance of a score of strangers whom he'll never meet and whose antics may or may not alienate his wife and children for most of the weekend, if not several days beyond.
    It wasn't the best of performances, to put it mildly. It's rarely a good sign when your best player is your keeper...and you still lose 4-0. What we saw is the gulf in class between one of the best squads in the world, one that has been together for 5-6 years building chemistry and confidence, hosting one of the youngest squads in the league, half of whose members came on just a few months ago. That's a fair amount of lipstick for one pig. Still, rumours of our own demise (see how I came full circle from the Liverpool section? Pretty classy) are probably a bit hasty. If we struggle against Newcastle next weekend, well, um....yeah.

  6. Wolves (6W, 1D, 5L, 19 pts).
    I almost regret wading into this territory but feel that I must even if it necessitates even-more distasteful wallowings to come. Wolves aren't the only rival on 19 pts. Bruno Lage has overseen some decent improvements since taking over, even if some part of that has come through a relatively soft run of fixtures. Striker Raul Jimenez continued his admirable recovery from David Luiz fracturing his skull eight months ago, and it would be foolish to underestimate a side that is now the most in-form side not sponsored by a ruthless oil baron from a country with a penchanct for assassinations, successful or otherwise, of journalists who dare suggest that all is not rainbows and unicorns. But I digress. This match was arguably their toughest to date, except for home losses to Tottenham and Man U back in August. How they'll respond to a battering the likes of which Man City, Chelsea, or Liverpool can deliver will be revealing.

  7. Tottenham (6W, 1D, 5L, 19 pts).
    I didn't want to have to go here, but here I am. If there's an upside, it's that I haven't showered yet. There will be time after. For now, then, the Conte revolution has begun. Tottenham absolutely thrashed a vastly superior opponent, proving beyond all doubt that Conte's appointment has thoroughly and permanently ended the "lads, it's Tottenham" saying forevermore. Well, sort of. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In the first half, Leeds did their level best to show that they are more than a one-season wonder, throttling Tottenham and threatening to saddle Conte with a harrowing loss. There were audible boos at halftime as Leeds took a deserved 0-1 lead. However, Conte must have done numerous blood transfusions at halftime as Tottenham came out with enough energy to cover more ground on the pitch than Conte had been covering in his own technical area. They eventually eked out a 2-1 win that may fail to impress but could still be just enough to announce that Conte can start eradicating the rot that has set into this squad.

  8. Man U (5W, 2D, 5L, 17 pts).
    Okay, okay, so it's a bit inconsistent to add in more after complaining of having to review two clubs on 19 points, but this one was too good to pass up. Watford came into this match so confident of battering Man U that Ismail Sarr squandered not one but two penalties, which begs the question: when's the last time a Man U keeper even had a chance to face two penalities in one match? Yes, this one was because the second was a retake after the first after encroachment, but bear with me. At any rate, Harry Maguire continued to show why he should have been named captain mere months after joining the club by getting sent off after getting booked twice in seven minutes. Watford added two late goals, and the end result is that Man U, noticing that all of the cool clubs have sacked their managers, followed suit by sacking Solskjaer. No word yet on a replacement. Zidane has apparently already said no, and so the drooling over luring Pochettino in the summer has begun. What that means in the interim is anyone's guess. Who would take the wheel of a sinking ship, knowing that they'd be replaced in six months?

And that's that. I wish we could have had more fun in that fifth section, but we all pretty much knew that we'd leave Anfield with zero points. That they scored four is just gravy. Does it portend deeper problems with Arteta's tactics and with the squad itself? Does it simply show that we're not on a level with Liverpool but that we're headed in the right direction regardless? One thing's clear here: there's no room for nuance. We're either utter impostors who will be ruthlessly exposed in due time, or we're world-beaters who experienced a temporary setback. Choose your side, and, whatever you do, use only hyperbole, ad hominem, and cherry-picked stats to bolster your argument. Give no quarter, for none will be given.