The Premier League Week 3: A Look Back

When Tony Pulis Plays Tony Pulis With Money, The Money Talks

Jose Mourinho continues to be heralded as one of the best coaches in the world and, arguably, one of the best managers of all time. Yet it’s often dismissed or forgotten that during his career he’s spent the most money of any manager ever. Between 2004 and 2014 the self-proclaimed special one has spent over £903 million at 3 different clubs – nearly double the amount Ferguson spent (£465 million) during the same period at Manchester United.

For all of his ‘tactical genius’, Mourinho favours defensive solidity above all else. At times he’s even used players like Eden Hazard and Willian – players with unquestionable attacking flair – as excess defenders or defensive midfielders in order to quell an opposition team’s attacking intent.

mooinblack /

mooinblack /

He knows how to win not only the big games but also trophies, and of course that is an admirable trait in a football manager. Both the Chelsea fans who have enjoyed celebrating so much success and the Chelsea players who have added numerous medals to their collections will attest to the fact that they are in the game to win. No wonder, then, that so many players want to play for him and will dedicate themselves to his cause.

Yet only the most myopic of Chelsea fans would claim that his tactical intelligence is anything other than defensive in its formation, with the team regularly winning by one or two goals to nil. Yes they’ve had high scoring games, but which team hasn’t in the history of the Premier League? You’d also be amazed if a team including players like Hazard, Willian, Costa and Fabregas didn’t score goals.

Another manager who has made a reputation on his ability to organise a defence is the current West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis. Pulis is very much from the same school of ‘sort it out at the back before you try to attack’ as his Portuguese counterpart. His Stoke team was well known for being defensively solid, and Crystal Palace evaded relegation under his leadership precisely because he taught them how to shut up shop.

When Tony Pulis comes up against Tony Pulis with money, then, is it really any surprise that the money talks?

Chelsea’s goals against West Brom at the weekend were scored by Pedro (£21 million), Diego Costa (£32 million) and Azpilicueta (£7 million). A combined cost of £60 million, or £20 million per goal.

West Brom’s two goals were scored by James Morrison who was signed in 2007 for £1.5 million, rising to £2.2 million after a certain number of appearances. That equates to £1.1 million per goal. A slight difference there, we’re sure you’ll agree.

After the match, in which John Terry was quite correctly sent off for tugging back Salomon Rondon when the West Brom forward was through on goal, Jose Mourinho spoke to the BBC in a tone that suggested someone had died. He claimed, “People will be disappointed that we have won today; they want Chelsea to always lose”. Yes Jose, that’s the nature of footballing rivalry – people associated with your rivals will want you to lose.

His attempts to suggest that Chelsea are the victims of some sort of deep seated conspiracy is nothing short of laughable. He’s essentially annoyed that his goalkeeper hasn’t been allowed to kick someone in order to stop them from scoring, his forwards haven’t been awarded penalties for diving in the area and his captain isn’t allowed to drag a player back when the player is faster than him. Some conspiracy.

The more that Mourinho complains about the treatment of his players by the officials in the game the more he’s starting to sound like Kenneth Williams in Carry On Cleo: “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it infamy!” Give it a rest, Jose, no one is buying it.

Gomis’ Celebration Is…Weird

muzsy /

muzsy /

There’s something about Swansea’s first choice forward that is undeniably odd. Thrust into the spotlight when the Swans sold Wilfried Bony to Manchester city, Bafetimbi Gomis struggled to find his shooting boots at The Liberty Stadium, scoring 10 goals in 36 appearances last season. No such problems exist this time around, though, with the French striker already having found the net 3 times in 3 appearances.

Those goals come in spite of the fact that he actually looks a bit…well…rubbish. He doesn’t have a very good touch, he isn’t very strong in the air and his movement is quite poor. Yet he has now scored a goal against Chelsea, Newcastle and Sunderland so far this season. They’ve been different types of goals, too, so you can’t even accuse him of being a one trick pony.

It’s a credit to Gary Monk that Gomis has been so reliable so far this season, with the Swans’ manager not only getting the best out of his striker but also bringing in different players that can play to his strengths. Jonjo Shelvey always seems to be able to find the tall front man, whilst Andre Ayew has slotted perfectly into the Swansea team and provides great support for the striker.

We here in the A Blog Of Two Halves offices have no desire to take away from Gomis’ excellent start to this new campaign. We like the Welsh club and can’t help but admire Gary Monk, a manager who was supposed to struggle to impose himself on the club he used to be the captain of, but who has actually got them playing great football and made them Premier League stalwarts.

The only question we have to ask the Frenchman is: What the hell is your celebration all about?

If you haven’t seen it then we’ll try to explain. When he scores Gomis gets down on all fours and then moves towards the fans in the stand, pawing at them like some sort of effeminate lion. You can watch a clip of it here:

According to his ‘panther style goal celebration’ is a “nostalgic hat-tip to former Les Verts [AS Saint-Etienne] favourite Alex Dias de Almeida who celebrated his goals similarly”. In France the celebration earned Gomis the nickname ‘La Panthère’.

On the one hand we’d like to see the celebration more often as it will mean that Gomis is scoring and that Swansea are doing well. On the other hand, no. Just…no. It’s weird, it looks odd and it makes most people watching it feel very uncomfortable. Why can’t you just clench your fists like a normal footballer? Oddball.

Bournemouth Will Be Fine – If They Keep Their Shooting Boots On

Last season Burnley offered a very difficult proposition to plenty of teams they came up against owing to their defensive solidity. They gained 12 draws and 7 defeats, meaning they picked up points in as many games as they lost. The problem was that they only scored 28 goals, yet they conceded 53.

Had Burnley been able to put the ball into the back of the net more often then it’s entirely possible they’d still be in the Premier League instead of plying their trade in the Championship. Their failure should sit as a stark warning to every team in the league – if you want to do well then make sure you score as often as you can.

Bournemouth spent 2014-2015 scoring for fun in the country’s second tier league. They notched up 98 goals, with Callum Wilson being the club’s top scorer by netting 20 league goals.

Their first two games in the Premier League didn’t offer quite the same opportunities for goals, however, with both Aston Villa and Liverpool registering clean sheets against the Cherries. Those with a knowledge of Burnley’s fate feared the worst, even if it was only two games into the season.

Thanks to the Europa League, West Ham’s season began on July 2nd. Since then they’d played 8 games and conceded just 7 goals, registering 4 shut outs including a clean sheet against Arsenal at The Emirates. It seemed likely, then, that Bournemouth would struggle to get themselves on the score sheet again.

Thankfully a combination of defensive mistakes from West Ham and clinical finishing from Callum Wilson put paid to that idea, with the Cherries netting 4 times against the Hammers in their own back yard. 23 year old Wilson scored the first hat-trick of his senior career, too.

Fans of La Liga or the Bundesliga might scoff at the idea that the Premier League is the ‘best league in the world’, but one thing that can’t be argued with is that England’s top-flight division is a hard one to do well in. Against both Villa and Liverpool Bournemouth played some really great, free flowing football, yet the emerged from neither game with anything to show for their work rate and performances. If they want to keep themselves lodged firmly in the Premier League then the new boys will have to make sure their industry is matched with some more of that clinical finishing. As long as they keep their shooting boots on then the Cherries should be fine. But if they let them slip off they could find themselves following the example set by the lads at Turf Moor, and that won’t be something to celebrate.

Arsenal Haven’t Signed Benzema, But They Should

If you’ve spent any time over the past couple of months reading the sports section of basically any paper then you might be aware of Arsenal’s reported interest in Karim Benzema. The Real Madrid forward has been linked with a move to The Emirates not only this transfer window but also several times over the last few years. Yet despite rumours that he’s been on a plane heading to London, eating out in Marble Arch and spending an afternoon visiting Madame Tussaud’s whilst he was waiting for his contract to get sorted, the Gunners haven’t yet signed the French striker.

But they should.

It’s become something of a cliché in football to suggest that Arsenal are just one player short of competing for the title again. For years it was generally accepted that if they could just sign a decent defender then the Gunners would be able to do battle at the top of the table once more. Then it became about the necessity to bring in a defensive midfielder in order to shore up Arsenal’s squad. Most recently the belief has been that Petr Cech was the missing piece of the jigsaw and that with the ex-Chelsea number one’s signature Arsene Wenger was ready to get his team firing again.

Last summer the Gunners beat this weekend’s opponents Liverpool to the signature of Alexis Sanchez. It was felt that he would fire them back to the top end of the table, yet Arsenal actually finished last season with fewer points than the season before, won the FA Cup – as in the previous season – and got knocked out of the Champion’s League at the same stage. In other words, despite being one of the players of the year, Sanchez made no difference to what Arsenal achieved from one year to the next.

Maxisport /

Maxisport /

To suggest that Petr Cech alone will make them a team able to compete at the top of the table is disingenuous at best, outright lying at worst. Against Liverpool it’s certainly true that Arsenal could have gone in 3 or 4 goals down if not for the Czech international, but at some point they’re going to have to put the ball in the back of the opposition net if they want to try to win the league. The Gunners have failed to score in 5 of their last 6 fixtures at The Emirates.

Benzema himself isn’t all that keen on a move to North London, taking to Instagram over the weekend to say, “For all those clowns who want to make believe things at my fans. Here this is my home! #HalaMadridYNadaMas”. Calling those that think he’ll go to Arsenal ‘clowns’ probably isn’t the sort of thing the London club’s fans were hoping to hear.

Neither will Arsenal supporters be delighted with the fact that the club is now being linked with a move for Alexander Kokorin, the 24 year old Dynamo Moscow forward. Of course Arsenal need to sign a new striker, but their fans could be forgiven for questioning why they’re chasing a player who isn’t even playing for the best team in Moscow, let alone Russia.

Arsene Wenger needs to wake up if he seriously wants his club to get back competing for the major honours they used to chase routinely. He needs to sign a defensive leader, a midfield maestro and a genuinely world class striker. If he fails to do that then the likelihood is that Arsenal will just be scraping into the top 4 again, and that isn’t good enough for a team with their pedigree.

Man City Look Unstoppable

Maxisport /

Maxisport /

If Arsenal are failing to impress so far this season then Manchester City are the complete opposite. It’s widely accepted that Chelsea won the Premier League trophy last year by coming out of the traps absolutely flying, notching up plenty of points before any of the other teams that would normal go for the title had even finished doing up their bootlaces. It seems that City have decided to copy that blueprint this time around and they’ve already notched up 3 wins out of 3 and scored 8 goals in the process.

They won well at The Hawthorns in their opening fixture, dispatching West Brom with relative ease. Yet Tony Pulis came out after that game and admitted that he’d got his tactics all wrong for the encounter, causing many to think that it might have been a poor performance by the Baggies rather than a rip-roaring start to the season by Man City.

Any questions about the pretenders to the crown were put to bed when they played Chelsea, however. The Sky Blues absolutely destroyed the defending champions, refusing to give them any hope, sniffing out their attacking efforts whilst simultaneously causing them no end of problems in their own box. Jose Mourinho stated afterwards that 3-0 was a ‘false’ scoreline and he was quite right – 6-0 wouldn’t have flattered City.

Everton have endured an interesting start to the season. They were fortunate to draw at home to newly promoted Watford on the first day of the season before thoroughly dominating, outplaying and outclassing Southampton at St. Mary’s in the second fixture. Which Toffees team would come out and play Manchester City at Goodison?

It would be unfair to suggest that the Merseysiders were not even in the game against City, yet at the same time it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest that the two time Premier League champions were ever really under any pressure during the match. The victory seemed somewhat inevitable for Manuel Pellegrini’s men – as it had in their previous two matches.

Thus far Manchester City have looked like a formidable opposition for every other team in the league. There’s no guarantee that things will continue like that, of course, but for now you have to feel that there is an irrepressible Blue Moon rising over the Premier League.