Sure, the Premier League returned last weekend, but this weekend it really felt back. Like, really. Great football was had all round: great drama, great goals, great face saves, great everything.
The Best League in the World™ is back. And it’s here to say. Let’s have a look over the Greatest Hits from this gameweek.
Liverpool didn’t play that well against Southampton, but it’s fine, because that’s usually the preface for ‘but, in a champions-elect fashion, they still managed to get the win, COS THAT’S WOT CHAMPIONS DO’.
While that may not stand up to scrutiny, there’s no scrutinising Sadio Mane’s opener. I’ll admit, I’m almost as big a fan of Roberto Firmino’s squirming second, but there was just something about the consummate ease with which Mane bent that strike, when his side needed it so very badly, that gets him the nod. Welcome back, Sadio.
If last week was all about Raheem Sterling – which it unequivocally was – this one was all about Kevin De Bruyne. Sure, Sterling wasn’t pushed that far down the page with that unexpectedly well-guided header, but the biggest takeaway (at least from this moment) was that stunning cross from the Belgian.
It was precision and power personified, with both working in perfect harmony. His second assist wasn’t far off, either.
This has got to be the picture of the weekend, and it perfectly illustrates the save of the weekend. Troy Deeney was in. He was through. After being marshalled by Yerry Mina and Michael Keane for much of the game, the Watford man finally had a bonafide chance.
And he struck it well. But Jordan Pickford – who is, by most standards, especially the Belgian World Cup ones, a small goalkeeper – made himself big, and his face did the stopping. Steve Smith WHO?! That’s both in bad concussion protocol faith AND a cricket joke. It won’t happen again, I promise.
I’ll start by saying I was big fan of Alexandre Lacazette’s opening goal, which contained a whole load of grit, fight, determination AND had a nutmeg at the end of it.
Still, it wasn’t quite as good, quite as humiliating, quite as stand-up-hands-on-head-and-gasp as Nicolas Pepe’s retirement of Ben Mee. The Ivorian has already made a name for himself on the Arsenal training ground for shaming teammates in rondo, and this was the IRL realisation of those qualities. Keep mortifying those mortals, Nicolas. It’s what we want. It’s what we need.
Best Harkening Back to the Dark Days of Long Ball, Route One Football
Sure, it’s not always pretty, but sometimes there’s nothing like a bit of good ol’ fashioned route one lumping. And, against Crystal Palace, Chris Wilder’s reductive Sheffield United side showed just how effective this can be.
One lump up top from the centre half, a knock down from Callum Robinson, a crashing finish from John Lundstram. Job done.
…Hold on, I’m getting word the ball didn’t leave the ground, and that it was an intricate, sweeping, slicing move, involving Luke Freeman cutting in like Franck Ribery in his prime and, yes, a crashing finish from Lundstram. Weird.
Best Homegrown Debut
For the first 25 minutes of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea(™)’s 2019/20 Stamford Bridge bow, everything was perfect. The crowd was raucous in a way that the Bridge hasn’t seen since title celebrations, willing the ball in with their endless crowing.
Ultimately, this was fulfilled with ventriloquist-like perfection from homegrown debutant Mason Mount, who closed down on Wilfred Ndidi with all the pashun and vigour of a player who is most definitely one of Chelsea’s own, and finished with the composure of the boss himself.
Sure, the second-half performance left much to be desired, but in that instant, the perfect distillation of what Lampard’s Chelsea could look like was realised.
Look, Manchester City fans, I sort of feel for you. But in the grand scheme of things, I really, truly don’t. The fulfilling of your VARian Dystopia was, well, close to Utopia for us fans of the mere mortals.
The fact that it came against Spurs, and paralleled those Champions League insanities was, well, perfect. I mean, not ‘you couldn’t have written this if you tried’ perfect – this was Chekhov’s VAR if I’ve ever seen it – but, sporting narrative perfect.
Still, let’s not get it twisted, it was also the right decision, and one that likely wouldn’t have reached were it not for VAR’s conniving tentacles. Great stuff all round.