The Warm-Up: Petition to ban defending once and for all
Jack Lang picks over the bones of a thriller at Old Trafford and perfects his Danish/Geordie brogue...
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
Be honest: when you saw the Manchester United XI, you thought it was going to be excruciatingly dull, didn’t you? Jose Mourinho picked ALL the defenders, plus that classic big man, angry man midfield combination to guard them. A true anti-virus line-up.
But then all hell broke lose. In patches, at least. There was hair-pulling, nastiness, horrific defending… all the good stuff. Mourinho kicking a wall and then apologising to a young boy. An Arsenal player getting injured pretty much every six minutes. Marcos Rojo taking free-kicks. Marcos Rojo taking free-kicks well.
David De Gea lors de Manchester United - Arsenal, le 5 décembre 2018 à Old Trafford.Getty Images
Oh, and goals. Lots of sweet, ugly, hilarious goals. It was David De Gea who set the tone for the evening, really, treating a fairly tame Shkodran Mustafi header as if it were an oiled fireball. “Yep, goal,” said Steve McManaman, looking at the Goal Decision System graphic that showed the ball over the line. Pure analysis, mate.
Manchester United’s first equaliser was equally amusing. Guys, would anyone like to even think about clearing this slow-motion Ander Herrera cross? I mean, we’ve literally got time to hold a committee meeting about dealing with it, then have a coffee, then have a little nap, then a walk to stretch our legs, then kick the ball away. Shall we bother? Nah.
Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United reacts during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal FC at Old Trafford on December 5, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom.Getty Images
Then you had Alexandre Lacazette scoring while falling over, and Arsenal’s defenders falling over while defending, allowing Jesse Lingard to poke home fully 13 seconds after United restarted play. That the goal rush ended there had more to do with luck than judgement.
The conclusion here? Defending is fundamentally a bad thing. Unethical, even. These two teams, having voluntarily and systematically disarmed themselves on that front over the last few years, are flag-bearers for our brave, thrilling new world.
Liverpool use get-out-of-jail-free card
It should probably come as no surprise that Jurgen Klopp, king of excess, has no time for light, subtle rotation. No, when he rests a couple of players, he rests pretty much all of the good ones. Which is how Liverpool found themselves losing to Burnley last night, with Divock Origi and Alberto Moreno both on the field of play. It was like the dark days of 2015 all over again.
They got away with it. James Milner equalised and then the cavalry sorted things out: Roberto Firmino scored off the bench and fellow sub Mo Salah teed up Xherdan Shaqiri for a late goal that put gloss on the scoreline. But Klopp might think twice about playing the entire B team next time.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring against BurnleyPA Sport
It wasn’t such a good night for Everton, who failed to beat Newcastle at home, or for Chelsea, who threw away a lead to lose at Wolves. That’s now eight points dropped in four games for the Blues, so no wonder Maurizio Sarri is concerned.
“After the first [Wolves] goal, we were suddenly another team, without the right distances, without our football,” said the Italian. “I don’t know why. I am really worried – not for the result but for the fact that we didn’t react.”
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea - Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain - December 5, 2018 Chelsea's Alvaro Morata reactsReuters
IN OTHER NEWS
Pele was very, very good at football. And now Pele is very, very good at stoking the debate about who should be considered the greatest of all time.
His latest contribution to this ever-thrilling dialectic (no, YOU have to win a World Cup) is a pretty stellar one, even by his standards. Lionel Messi, it turns out, is one-footed and “only has one skill”. Unlike… yep, you guessed it!
Pelé und Messi beim Ballon d'Or 2012Reuters
Take it away, sensei: “How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right, and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn’t head the ball well?”
Solid stuff. But could you possibly reformulate that so it includes a reference to yourself in the third person? You know, just for the completists?
“How can you compare? To compare with Pele, it has to be someone who shoots well with the left, shoots well with the right, and scores headers.”
Pelé - GP of Brazil 2002Getty Images
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Elias Sorensen
And the award for Best Danish/Geordie Hybrid Accent of 2018 goes to…
Zero: Unai Emery
There’s no place for this kind of retrograde filth in the game. No place at all.
Yesterday (I know; sorry) was the 36th anniversary of that Johan Cruyff penalty for Ajax, which happened to be the first and indeed only spot-kick he ever took for the club. Talk about a mic-drop moment.
"Ramsey’s significance as a part of Arsenal’s squad was emphasised in Sunday’s North London derby win over Tottenham. He came off the bench, played as a No.10, set up two goals and generally changed the game. Even if Emery doesn’t regard him as an automatic starter, in these days when managers don’t really have first XIs but must have strong and flexible squads, this was proof that he’s still extremely valuable – at the moment, certainly more than Ozil, whose relationship with Emery seems to now be dust."
Reffin’ in the Copa del Rey
Sorry, sorry. Slipped off into a weird Otis Redding reverie there. There’s Spanish Cup action for you if you want it, with Real Madrid vs Melilla probably the standout fixture. Bit of a wasteland otherwise, but you’re surely not going to complain after a whole midweek Premier League round, are you?
Oh, great, you are.
Tomorrow: Tom Adams. Saturday: the world.