THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
Clear Eyes, Fulham, can't lose
If you assumed Fulham were going to slip quietly and sadly back into the Championship, well, you weren't alone. The Warm-Up was right there with you. Weird squad, inexperienced manager, got promoted almost by accident: doomed. Next!
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It's probably time to admit that this was a little premature. Fulham have now found a system and a line-up and are making a proper nuisance of themselves. Particularly against their so-called betters: last night's point at Spurs' expense joins the ones they took off Liverpool and Southampton, and the three they took from Leicester.
Admittedly, Tottenham taking the lead and then dropping it all over the floor isn't exactly a new phenomenon, and we can file this 1-1 draw alongside the others: Newcastle, Palace, Wolves. Eight more points would have Spurs two clear at the top, incidentally. It's starting to look like that guy who said Spurs were a tiny pony in a horse race was right. Whoever that was.
Perhaps it would be unfair to accuse Spurs of fully shutting down once they had the lead. They made a few more highly presentable chances: it's just that Son Heung-min missed them. But we waited in vain for any kind of sustained pressure. Not playing Dele Alli is clearly a policy; not introducing Gareth Bale a mystery. Two shots in the last half hour is just weird.
Fulham, by contrast, got better through the game. Ademola Lookman rose from the bench and scared the hell out of Tottenham's backline, and if the visitors had nicked a winner, it wouldn't have felt too much like a travesty of justice. Of the bottom four, they look the side with the most coherent plan for getting out of trouble. Even more importantly, they're fun to watch. We can only apologise for our hasty judgement.
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Here comes horse no. 3
He gets away with it because Brighton play "decent" football — that is, they pass the ball around at the back a bit — but Graham Potter loves central defenders with a passion not seen since the glory days of Tony Pulis at Stoke. Against Manchester City last night they lined up with five CBs, plus a FB for luck, a statement of intent that said: we are in this tent, and we are not coming out.
And it worked! For 43 minutes. Then Phil Foden sashayed into the penalty area, gave the keeper the eyes, and putted the ball firmly in at the near post. And the nation purred as one. He really is quite something.
Brighton were better in the second half, though didn't quite push Ederson to anything spectacular. But as with too many games already this season, this one trundled past at three-quarter pace, visibly knackered players playing visibly inhibited football. It even crept into City's game management: according to Guardiola, Raheem Sterling only got the chance to miss his penalty because Kevin De Bruyne was shattered.
Kevin is the taker but he made an incredible effort - not just the action to press the keeper and create the penalty but for the rest of the actions before. He was struggling in the last 15 minutes because he was exhausted. I like the guys who take the responsibility for the penalty.
Bet he'd like it more if they took the penalty responsibly.
That's seven wins in seven for City now. Four points off top with a game in hand. This season's version haven't quite been fizzing the way great Guardiola sides do, at least not yet, but they're rolling along nicely. And if this is to be a weird season of knackered footballers scraping out what they can, then whoever wins the title will do so on the back of wins like this: moments of quality in bitty games.
A fraud no longer
Congratulations to Mauricio Pochettino, who is now officially a trophy-winning manager. Football may be made up of memories and moments but success is measured in small pieces of metal, with ribbons attached, and now he has one all his own. And anybody claiming that one-off games shouldn't count will have to take it up with David Moyes.
It would obviously be deeply unfair to make too much of the fact that this was all happening at the same time as Spurs were blowing a one-goal lead at home to Fulham, but if the universe didn't want us to be deeply unfair, then the games shouldn't have been on at the same time. What can we do? Let's just take this as a reminder: if a manager gets sacked and then falls upwards, it's usually a sign that however their last job ended, the rest of it was pretty strong work.
However, we can't help but wonder if Pochettino has made something of a tactical error here. Win a trophy after a season, and people will expect another trophy next season. Fine. But winning a trophy after three games? That's an unsustainable pace. We've checked the calendar and he doesn't have the cup finals to keep it up. The future can only disappoint.
IN OTHER NEWS
Comets burning through the sky. Birds flying backwards. Aaron Ramsdale keeping a clean sheet. You just knew that Sheffield United actually winning a game would be an omen of something world-shaking.
Happy birthday to former Middlesbrough legend Víctor Valdés, who according to this video also played in Spain for a bit? Seems to have done okay on this evidence.
One of the game's great eccentrics is back, and the Warm-Up is excited to see just how things go for former France manager and noted astrology fan Raymond Domenech at Nantes. Over at the Guardian, Adam White and Eric Devin mount a partial defence.
Despite long-standing rumours of interest from the explosive Nantes president Waldemar Kita, Domenech has only been given an initial six-month deal. Kita is as trigger happy as presidents come; Domenech is his 17th manager in 14 years. The club’s fans, who are in a long-running battle with Kita, also remain sceptical about the appointment. After several furious protests, Nantes ultras blasted circus music across the training ground during Domenech’s first session.
Arsenal take on Crystal Palace, in one of those "London derbies" that aren't really derbies, not in the spicy, snarling sense, because all involved have others they'd much rather be hating. A clash of nearish neighbours who nod to one another in the street and exchange Christmas cards. Grrr.
Tom Adams will be here tomorrow to talk you through the six red cards and one near-riot at the Emirates. Who knew Roy Hodgson even had a trident?
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