Delayed by a day due to the Premier League scheduling a pretty big game on a Monday, and it didn’t disappoint! Let us begin.
Tottenham and Chelsea were busy with something yesterday. It’s hard to call it football, and unfortunately it will somehow be the greatest treatise on VAR’s weaknesses and failings. And we’ll get to that in a moment, but there’s a lot more to this game. This was performance art mixed with Kabuki theater performed by porpoises.
It would be pretty funny if the title race came down to the points Spurs and Liverpool lost because two men were sent off in a game, both at Tottenham Stadium. While both managers, Ange Postecoglu and Jürgen Klopp, would like to use the courageous performances of their nine-player teams as starting points and unifiers, and both do and do, the bigger problem is that in games where they were easy, both teams Losing three points could have gotten a lot more out of it.
The other similarity between the two managers is in my own head, along with various other gremlins. One of my favorite Liverpool followers on Twitter used a photoshopped image of Klopp’s face Hank Scorpios Body like him giddily fires a flamethrower as his avatar. We may all need to replace that with Postecoglou’s face, given his appetite for chaos and bravery in his tactics.
Despite only losing a man, it was sensible for Tottenham to still carry on as they normally would. The score was only 1-1, this was Chelsea after all, who are as fragile as a mousetrap car I put together, and Spurs know no other way. But after being down to nine and losing three of four starting defenders to injury or a red card, this was an excellent demonstration of the very fine line between genius and madness:
You don’t have to squint too hard to see the thinking. Even if Chelsea repeatedly broke through that suicidal defensive line halfway through, they would still be reliant on Raheem Sterling, Nic Jackson and especially Mykhaylo Mudryk to stop Mr Bill from sending the ball to Gatwick or something at every opportunity. It wasn’t the worst bet that they wouldn’t find out. But give even this group of fools enough chances to do so, especially against a depleted defense after losing two players for so long, and even they will find money eventually, even if you wouldn’t trust them to do the same with their own asses .
It’s typical for Chelsea to get a 4-1 win over a title challenger and still not feel so good about it. What they did was to avoid complete embarrassment. And for Chelsea, that’s pretty much the only hurdle they want to overcome at the moment.
Ok, now to the VAR. The problem here is that the VAR got pretty much every decision right and it was still a miserable experience. At kick-off the stadium was absolutely amazing. Spurs fans were experiencing the highlights of a surprise season, coupled with the anticipation of finally getting a win over struggling Chelsea, a team they have been a toy for for a decade or more.
That was only reinforced by an early Spurs goal, the crowd could have brought down the walls, and it was the kind of occasion only the Premier League can provide, with two teams absolutely facing off in a bed of cacophony Degree of stuckness next to an aircraft engine.
And then, ten minutes later, the crowd had to wait a minute-long review to confirm a Heung-min Son goal that had already been ruled out for offside. Seven minutes later there was another long review which ruled out a handball goal from Raheem Sterling. Six minutes later they had to wait for another detailed review to rule out Moises Caicedo’s goal for offside. Then the crucial scene when Cristian Romero was finally sent off, which also took forever.
Even if Romero had remained on the field, all the heat would have been taken out of a wonderfully simmering game, leaving the officials not in the stadium to watch replay after replay to come to largely the same decision as the referee and had already met the assistants. There simply has to be a better way.
No review should last longer than 20 seconds, as an obvious error should be clearly visible within this time. It’s one thing to have controversial calls that more and more fans already feel are ruining the game. It’s a completely different matter for VAR to actively destroy the atmosphere, even if it’s technically doing everything right. Otherwise we will all lose what we came here for.
Be that as it may, we will now find out something about Spurs as both James Maddison and Micky van de Ven are expected to be out for several weeks. Using defeat as a rallying cry will only take a team so far.
What else happened this weekend?
4. Arsenal couldn’t escape their own VAR hell either
Mikel Arteta can rant and rave Anything he wants, and he will, but most of his postgame monologue just sounded like a manager bitching about not getting the calls he wants. Mike D’Antoni would be proud.
What should worry Arteta is how toothless Arsenal have looked in their big games so far this season. They twice escaped with last-minute goals against both Manchester teams at home. They weren’t so lucky in Newcastle.
This game certainly highlighted the weakness of Eddie Nketiah as a central striker, especially when Martin Ødegaard is not there. Nketiah does not link the attack in the same way as Gabriel Jesus, inserting himself between the lines and allowing the wingers to run past him. He only created one chance, had no successful dribbles and was dismissed twice, one more than he shot. And Arsenal can’t really trust Jesus to stay healthy long enough to do all of those things in every big game they play.
This will become even worse if Bukayo Saka is no longer able to play as well as he normally would, which he is currently doing because he is recovering from an injury or suffering from the avalanche of games he has to play has been requested for several seasons.
Arsenal may still be a bit unlucky as they were the biggest victims of Newcastle’s transformation into Atlético Madrid North. They’ve deliberately become a snarling, petulant bunch, and especially in the bigger games they tend to turn them into pit fights rather than football games. And three cheers for Bruno Guimaraes’ discus pass on Jorginho…
3. Darwin Nunez lives to make me look stupid
Write about how he’s changed this year and then he’ll tell you just for fun.
One of those days for Nunez and Liverpool, and I think what makes him the most entertaining man in the world is that he can do this just three days after this performance:
Liverpool appeared to adapt to its newfound fascination with turning Trent Alexander-Arnold into a ball-carrying midfielder by deploying three centre-backs behind him. But that left them pretty tight as Diogo Jota is not a winger at all on the left side of the attack and wants to get inside to be the striker he is. Mo Salah provided width on the right, and that has become more a part of his game since TAA started with the John Stones version, but Liverpool wouldn’t want Salah there permanently either. He only had two shots for the game.
When City do this, both wingers stay out to stretch the defense. The same goes for Arsenal with Saka and Martinelli. Liverpool haven’t mastered this yet and when dealing with teams in a low block it’s still a work in progress.
2. Everton didn’t learn their lesson
A few weeks ago, Everton pitted the geriatric Ashley Young against one of the Premier League’s great wingers, Luis Diaz. He was sent off after 40 minutes. Why they thought to use him against a potentially even more dynamic winger, Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma, is a mystery. This time it took longer, but…
Young is very unlucky, but Young doesn’t actually do anything here. He is in no man’s land, neither doubling Mitoma nor marking anyone in the penalty area. Everton may not have any other options at right-back, but they should probably create one.
1. West Ham collapse after a missed shot
West Ham won a European trophy last year so they should have more steel than a single missed shot undoing all their work. David Moyes discovered a wild hair on his backside before the Brentford game and started with a 4-2-2-2, with Jared Bowen joining Michail Antonio as a direct striker and Mohammed Kudus and Said Benrahma behind those two. It led to them coming back from a 1-0 deficit, starting with this absurd Kudus finish:
But with the score at 2-1, Antonio and Benrahma hindered each other and both managed to score an open goal. From then on, West Ham failed to get another shot on goal and Brentford stormed back to win 3-2. The fear is that after actually trying it and seeing it come up empty, Moyes will revert to his normal, boring habits. But there should be more to West Ham.
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https://deadspin.com/premier-league-chelsea-tottenham-var-darwin-nunez-1850998548 Spurs and Chelsea play a good game of Calvinball