Hello everyone! Welcome new subscribers, thank you for your patience old ones.
Now I’ve never watched a single second of Games of Thrones, but being terminally online you can’t help but absorb some things by osmosis and Red Wedding felt a fitting title for this week. Both because of two of the most important results of the weekend and the colour they ‘turn’ their respective cities, and because of the manner in which they were achieved.
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Let’s go North first. To Manchester. To Old Trafford.
In the reverse fixture in October, City trounced United 6-3. That doesn’t look too bad on paper, it’s technically no different to a 2-1, in terms of goal difference but boy, it was. Those three goals from United were lucky at best and did more to expose City’s failings that to show off United’s ability.
It was a much much more even contest this year. Despite City having Haaland, the pre-World Cup cheat code who is now being touted as more of a burden than a saviour, they couldn’t finish and, let’s face it, nor could United. However, the important thing for them was that they didn’t go into the dressing room at half time four goals down so at that point a draw could have been almost considered a win.
In the second half Pep brought on Jack Grealish who, yet again, had an almost instant impact, jumping up like a salmon to meet De Bruyne’s cross (corner? I can’t remember).
A collective sigh was heard across the red halves of both Manchester and North London, City were at it again.
However it was soon Ten Hag’s time to make a change, bringing on Alejandro Garnacho for Christian Eriksen and yet again there was instant impact. The thing about Garnacho is that he’s just so good. I’ve rated him since he first came to my attention and he’s only got better since. We’ll come back to him though.
Firstly it was the turn of Bruno and Rashford to combine (or rather to not combine) for United’s first. Rashford, clearly offside, managed to slow up just at the right moment to allow the onside Fernandes to come rocketing in and thwack the ball into the net.
Initially ruled out by the linesman, Darren Cann, known in our house as “Pointless star Darren Cann”, the goal was then given after Rashford was deemed to be not intefering with play. Of course, Twitter exploded with indignation to which I say no, just enjoy it, enjoy the chaos. Sure I’d have been hopping mad if Kane had scored in such a way last night but… I don’t have it in me to get pressed about it, especially as it gave Arsenal an advantage. Sorry not sorry to be honest.
Before this we were talking about Garnacho weren’t we? Well, moments later he got the ball in the area, lost it, got it back from the ricochet, turned, and slotted it to Rashford to score, in what was such an exquisite move it made me make noises. That kid is special, despite his atrocious haircut.
The result kept the five point gap between City and Arsenal and put United into third, at least for 24ish hours.
Brighton Liverpool aside, the rest of the 3pm matches were relegation scraps with Southampton, Wolves and Forest coming good. The Wolves result lifted them out of the relegation zone but unfortunately for them, Southampton remain rooted to the foot of the table. Forest have had a decent run recently and are now 13th with West Ham and Everton now in danger.
Not much to say about the Liverpool game really other than the fact that Klopp called it the worst performance he’d ever seen in his whole managerial career., which, hoo boy, is damning.
The evening game on Saturday was Brentford v. Bournemouth which saw Brentford ease past Bournemouth with a penalty from Ivan Toney, with his trademark piston foot technique (which I love) and a second from Jenson.
On Sunday the day started, for me at least, with a trip to the Emirates to see Arsenal Women v Chelsea Women. It was fucking freezing but the atmosphere was great and thank goodness for some sun because the Emirates is beautiful in the sunshine.
For much of the game Arsenal dominated but neither team could get a shot off and it remained at 0-0 until the 57th minute when a penalty was awarded and captain Kim Little stepped up to score. Chelsea were definitely better in the second half and got their equaliser from, of course, Sam Kerr, in the 89th minute and that was how it remained. After United thrashed Liverpool 6-0 they’re now in 2nd on goal difference and Arsenal sit in 3rd.
A nice thing at half time; Jordan Nobbs, recently transferred to Aston Villa after 12 years at Arsenal, came out to say her goodbyes to the fans. It was a lovely moment.
As I was turning into a little block of ice on my way home, Chelsea were playing Crystal Palace and Newcastle were playing Fulham. Chelsea won their game thanks to a solitary goal from Havertz, which is more than they deserve after their embarrassing purchase of Mudryk. For me, it’s not even about losing out on him, it’s just so cringe and on an 8.5 year deal too!
Newcastle beat Fulham 1-0 after a last gasp Isak goal, following a disallowed penalty from Mitrović after he was deemed to have kicked the ball twice. The win put Newcastle back into 3rd on goal difference.
Finally then, to the Big Game of the weekend. The North London Derby at the Tottenham Stadium. The last time Arsenal played Spurs at their home ground it was a humiliation that lead to them missing out on the Champions League places.
This time though, this time the tables were well and truly turned. The massacre was about to begin…
After only 14 minutes, Hugo Lloris spectacularly fumbled a Saka cross into his own net, opening the scoring for Arsenal. It was such a fumble that after review it was deemed to be a pure own goal. Saka had been given the assist but it was taken away, leaving this solely on Hugo’s head.
From then, and in fact before, let’s not be coy, Arsenal dominated Spurs. For a team so often accused of being too soft there was a strength to Arsenal yesterday with Spurs player after Spurs player being bullied off the ball. Kane and Son were barely anywhere to be seen and Saka ran rampant down the right.
After 36 minutes Arsenal struck again, this time with a fantastic goal, hit square and true, from Martin Ødegaard. Have I mentioned I love him? Because I do, I really love him.
There should definitely have been more goals before half time but alas, 0-2 it was as the whistle went and while it was a supremely confident performance from Arsenal, we all know that Spurs have come from two goals down more than once this season.
Yesterday however, this was not to be. A dominant 0-2 win for Arsenal was the final outcome and well deserved it was too.
We were also treated to some Scenes™️ after the final whistle, initially from Richarlison squaring up to Ramsdale, who had been enjoying his customary banter with the home end, only for a fan to leap out of the stands and kick him in the back.
It all then started to kick off with Ramsdale being escorted away by security and numerous players and staff getting involved. Including Granit Xhaka. Which Mikel was not having.
So North London is red, we’re now eight points clear of City, nine of United and Newcastle and 14 of Spurs in 5th. Of course anything could happen in the next half of the season (for we’ve only just reached it, and in fact Arsenal and City haven’t, as they’re yet to play their postponed fixture) but it seems like maybe, just maybe it’s possible? At the very least we seem to have a proper title race on, rather than just two teams duking it out.
To quickly whizz around Europe: the Bundesliga is still on holiday but finally back on Friday. La Liga had a reduced fixture list as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia and Real Betis were (pointlessly) in Saudi Arabia fighting it out for the Supercopa, with Barcelona taking the spoils in a 3-1 win over Real. The goals came from both ends of the spectrum with Gavi and Pedri scoring two and Lewandowski netting the third.
In Ligue 1, Monaco thumped Ajaccio 7-1 while PSG tripped up at Rennes, losing 1-0. A win from Lens puts them within 3 points of the current champions.
Finally in Serie A, Napoli cruised past Juventus on Friday, beating them 5-1 and cementing their place at the top of the table. Milan were unable to get past Lecce, despite coming back from 2-0 down, to draw 2-2, while Atalanta butchered Salernitana 8-2 with goals from seven different scorers. This leaves Napoli nine points clear at the top and the next three battling hard with Milan only a point clear of both Juve and Inter.
This week we have FA Cup replays and unusually I hope Liverpool lose as it means the pub is likely to be less busy on my birthday (Brighton v Wolves shouldn’t be a massive draw for people in North London but you’d be surprised how many Liverpool fans there are) and there are also a handful of Premier League games before the weekend.
This week I want to touch briefly, and I mean it, I don’t want to dwell on this for too long, on a subject I’ve talked about either directly or indirectly before, and that’s supporting your club when it doesn’t feel right or ethical to do so or when the bad times come knocking.
I mention this for two reasons, firstly because I’ve seen rumours, which as far as I can tell are just that or indeed perhaps even trolling, that Qatar are looking to purchase Liverpool FC following FSG putting it up for sale.
While this seems like a spectacularly bad fit, Liverpool mostly seem to be a decent, socially conscious team, it would add further complexity to the issues raised before, during and after last year’s World Cup.
The other is because of the scenes we saw at the end of Saturday’s game at Goodison Park against Southampton. Everton’s board of directors were warned to stay away due to credible threats of violence which have already in fact been enacted after it was alleged that a fan but CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale in a headlock after a recent home game.
So what should you do if your club does or is part of something particularly unpleasant or if you simply think they’re being run badly?
It’s hard. Newcastle fans have had to deal with it over the past 15 months, some thoughtfully and carefully, others by donning dubious fancy dress and celebrating. My club continues to field someone very credibly accused of sexual assault and it remains a stain and a cloud over what should be the best season for years. Others have fielded and backed racists or those who’ve committed violence or broken the law in other myriad ways (both on the field and among staff/board members). And almost every club out there has gone through a period of discontent with their owners.
Of course all of these things are different, some are clearly far worse than others, but all bring strong emotions to the surface. Protest is good and necessary and can highlight injustice, bad behaviour, hypocrisy and any number of other issues and sometimes can even effect change. You may also choose to boycott your team and find someone else to support or even turn your back on the sport entirely.
To me, all of these are valid ways to deal with this but ignoring it entirely, or crossing the line into unnecessary physical assault or confrontation aren’t it.
To momentarily revisit the NLD, this week we learned the sad news that Beth Mead’s mum June died on the 7th January after a long battle with cancer. After the game yesterday evening the men’s squad showed their support for her and her family which Rob Holding posted on his instagram stories. It was a beautiful gesture and I love to see such a close bond between the two squads. (My one comment is that there are a lot of perhaps inappropriately cheery expressions on some of the lads 🥴)
This is extremely funny and the best thing about it is that I watched it on Saturday in the early stages of the Manchester Derby and in his interview afterwards Bruno made reference to a ‘proper team’ 😚👌🏼
Sean Dyche has been moonlighting as a LEGO fireman
After Napoli beat Juventus 5-1, Spalletti was not leaving without shaking Allegri’s hand
Scotland now has an openly gay footballer in its top four divisions
In only his second game since receiving treatment for testicular cancer, Sebastian Haller scored a hattrick for Borussia Dortmund in a friendly against Basel.
This shot of Messi is incredible
A delightful conversation between a bunch of absolute idiots (it’s hippos, Rodri is off his head)
Finally, this is spectacular. I couldn’t do it, I’m a bougie baby who would want to stay in 4* hotels, but the madness of being able to do this for the cost of a single away fixture within the UK is unreal.
Shirt of the Week
Look at these utter beauties! Three for the price of one this week. Everything you need to know about them is in the tweets so no further info from me!
This week we have a Thirst Trap who is going to please at least one reader/mutual. It’s someone I’ve long found hot, but never had a particularly massive crush on. Indeed my one solid memory of his is the time during a game when he ripped his shorts and showed his arse. No-one else seems to remember this but I can assure you it happened. Even if I can’t find any footage of it. It happened!
Anyway, this player looks like the kind of suave sophisticate who’d be the love interest in a mild version of 50 Shades of Grey or perhaps the city boyfriend you meet at the beginning of the film where a girl goes back to her hometown and falls in love with a hairy carpenter or something.
Ladies, gays and theys: it’s Newcastle United’s Swiss Miss, Fabian Schär
And that’s that for this issue. Hope you have a lovely week and I’ll be back next Monday.
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