Chris Darwen postmortems everyone in the PL but one this festive week

Chris Darwen  |  The Postmortem  |  2 Years Ago

What a time of year the festive season is for the game that we call football.  Personally, I’d happily sacrifice any chance of winning the World Cup and not bring in a winter break to get all those matches on TV forever more.  I mean, what is the Christmas period for other than finding innovative ways to get away from the family to watch the latest match on the box?


New Year’s Eve served up exactly the kind of fare your average football fan needed before a night out wasting money.  United partied as it it were, erm, 1999 coming back to beat Middlesboro very late in the day.  Except in 1999 they beat Bayern Munich of course, not a recently promoted team at home, and one that struggles to score goals at that.  Still, their fifth win in a row moved them from 6th place to, well, 6th place but it’s that kind of momentum that closes all kinds of gaps.  And to think they were nearly a Michael Carrick ice-cream choice away from not getting all three points.  Sir Alex Ferguson will have approved on what must have been his 88th birthday by now.

Chelsea ended 2016 as the league leaders by quite a distance.  In fact, if you were to measure the distance in any other unit than points you would probably give this title race up as a done deal.  You see, Chelsea have something that “proper football men” love to see in a team.  Something that every successful side has had in abundance.  Something you cannot teach, something you can probably buy but not usually seen in one of those fancy-dan number 10 types.  What they have my friend is something called character.  Stoke looked like they were going to make a game of it but Chelsea dug in, gave it to Diego and walked away with another three points and their 13th straight win.  13 wins in a row hey, I wonder if any other managers might have cared to comment on that?  Victor Moses sent Eric Pieters so far the other way during the match that the Stoke full back was found celebrating 2011 later that night.


Liverpool and City had been built up to be the occasion where Pep and Kloppo would finally meet on a “level playing field.”  Level playing field?  What kind of cow patches do they play on in the Bundesliga then?  They cannot mean a financial level playing field because, I don’t know if you noticed, City spent rather a lot of money in the summer just like every other summer.  Liverpool didn’t spend as much, meaning any chat of level doesn’t really count.  Anyway, on that level playing field Liverpool ran out 1-0 winners which was nice for them.  That would be a guaranteed six points for them either side of the bells at midnight what with a simple trip to Sunderland 48 hours later.  Oh.


Does anyone else feel that Big Sam and Arsene are a little too pally pally now and it was much more fun to watch their matches when they despised each other?  I much preferred to watch an Allardyce XI beat up the timid souls of Wenger’s selections post Viera.  Palace were so timid they allowed the fanciest goal of the day to be scored by Olivier Giroud.  If you are wondering, which I am sure you are not, for me it was better than Mhki’s.  Why?  It was scored in the heat of battle not when the game was already won.  Plus it hit the bar which always makes a goal look better.  I’m easily pleased.





Spurs opened up 2017 by taking the Mr Hyde version of Watford to the cleaners.  No, not Micah Hyde for those that can recall him donning the Hornet’s jersey back in the day.  The alter-ego of Dr Jekyll, are you with me yet?  Watford are delightfully inconsistent and put in the kind of Sunday morning performance you would expect from your local Sunday side, with two players going off injured because “they haven’t warmed up properly” and basically getting a drubbing.  Still, we can all get excited by Harry Kane and Dele Alli again, just like last January.   


Monday was a fantastic day for Chelsea, and they didn’t even play.  Kloppo hasn’t done a great deal wrong since landing in England, but his attempt to go all mind-gamey on Conte backfired massively.  The “imagine winning 13 games in a row and still only being 6 points ahead” looks a bit daft when you then go and draw at Sunderland.  Yeah, Sunderland.  Better still, you give away two penalties to draw 2-2 with Sunderland.  Like your back four needs any new ways to make your goalkeeper look silly Jurgen.  I can imagine Conte just sitting there, all cool, sipping a glass of red wine and raising an eyebrow.

City’s Fernandinho has more red cards than many expensive strikers have goals this season.  In a shock case of a correct refereeing decision, City’s midfielder was shown a red against Burnley.  Pep had said at the start of the season that “if a team had three Fernandinho’s they would win the title everytime.”  I presume that is so that you always have at least one not suspended, Pep?  For reasons only known by the Spaniard, Aguero was rested for an extra 45 minutes having sat out most of December.  Still, when he came off the bench he sorted it all out and City beat Burnley 2-1.  Or Barnsley, if you are Willy C.  Pep seemed a little tetchy at the end of the game.  Maybe the realisation that he is barely doing as well as Pellegrini is starting to catch up with him.


The London Stadium does look as though it would be better served by big concerts or live comedy gigs rather than football.  Yes, you are probably one step ahead of me.  If you want total comedy at the ground then what better mix than West Ham United headlining with the support act of Mike Dean and the Deanettes?  Not a lot has gone Slaven Bilic’s way this season, and he was right to feel a touch aggrieved by the outcome against United.  José has suggested that United have been a little unlucky with some of the decisions that have gone against them this season, but Mike Dean was on a one-man mission to put them fully back in credit.  Had Phil Jones got to the ball a semi-second later would he have seen red?  We shall never know.  As for Zlatan, he won’t believe he was a yard offside for Zlatan is not offside.  Offside is Zlatan.  And if you don’t like that, he will make you eat your balls.  Jpsé seems a little happier on the whole which, frankly, is dull as I now have to find someone else to pick on.


“New Year, new me” said a million and one people a couple of days back. Not Arsene Wenger, oh no. Arsenal’s manager is still living in a totally different time and believes that the way to get the best out of Aaron Ramsey is to stick him on the wing. Well, I must say I was thinking it was working as Callum Wilson smashed home Bournemouth’s second after 20 minutes. Wenger had suggested that the fixture listed handed to Arsenal was a big handicap. No Arsene, that’ll be you. “It’s alright” the Gooners said, “Kostafi are back together!” Well it turns out that Koscielny was the problem, because as soon as they took him off Arsenal stopped conceding and managed to score enough to make 3-0 a startling 3-3. Football eh? That said, the sign of a team that wants to be champions would have been grabbing the ball out of the net, legging it back to the centre circle and giving off the body language of “come on lads, we can win this.” Not Arsenal, they were too busy watching Giroud’s new scorpion celebration. 


Yohan Cabaye may be struggling to play the obvious pass at times this season, but he is certainly capable of stating the obvious. Cabaye felt that Palace’s match against Swansea was “must win.” Big Sam was slightly more cautious, saying that “everyone expects us to batter them, but we won’t.” Never say Big Sam doesn’t know anything about football, he was bang on. Palace didn’t batter Swansea, they lost to them. Paul Clement, he who spent a lot of money at Derby and got fired before he could see any return on his investment, fancies another crack at the Championship. Yes, he has accepted a two and a half year deal at Swansea, which means he is going to get a lovely little pay-off when they sit mid-table below Wolves next season. A win against Palace will get the heart beating faster in Wales, but they will not be staying up. I predict an inclement front. Yeah, I was hoping he’d get another job soon, just for that. Still, Clem came down from the stands at half time to work his magic and saw the Swans nick a late winner.


Hull, the epitome of a well run club, decided to relieve Mike Phelan of the millstone around his neck. Hull had been playing alright recently, performances far better than results but no. Hull reckon there is someone else more foolish out there wanting the job and someone even more capable of blagging some players to come and join the sinking ship. Sounds like a job for Harry Redknapp you say? It’s an awful long way from the South Coast. Nigel Pearson. It’s his kind of club. As in, not very good.


For a look back at last season, you know, when Leicester were rather good, check out my book “Tales from the Top Flight.” It’s a bigger bargain than, well, Pogba I guess.



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