The theatrics and pyrotechnics were on show at the Molineux, Wolverhampton Wanderers were back in the Premier League for the first time in some six years; the last time they were here, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were still very much part of the top-flight furniture, Kylian Mbappe was 13 years old, Blackberry phones were on the in, Huddersfield were in the third tier, while things like Goal-line Technology and Video Assistant Referees were yet-to-be implemented theories. That’s how long it’s been.

Absence has made the heart grow fonder, and, add to that the fact that the Midlands-club have added well in the summer transfer window, and fancy themselves capable of more than mere survival, you could not just excuse the overwhelming sense of anticipation, but rather encourage it as well. The stadium was in full voice, as Everton came to town.

‘The fans must enjoy it’, said manager Nuno Esprito Santo, and the fans did, the boisterous atmosphere at the ground was palpable , as Wolves stepped out to begin a season in which they were the only side from the West Midlands in the top-flight. The kick-off came with roaring cheers, as did every Wolves kick of the ball early on.

But Premier League is never roses and rainbows, it took only 17 minutes for Wolves to be reminded of what they left behind back in 2012. The ruthless cruelty that is the top-flight, any lapse likely to be punished, such as failing to deal with a free-kick in your 18-yard box, what the hosts were guilty of in the 17th minute. When Gylfi Sigurdsson swung in a cross, Wolves’ defence hesitated in the area, their clearance uncertain, and Richarlison nipped in to put Everton in front.

Everton also have expectations of their own, looking to put things right after last season’s debacle. They also have a Portuguese manager, long sought-after Marco Silva finally appointed in the summer, and it was the manager’s new signings in Richarlison, a man who had raised eyebrows for being acquired for 40million pounds, who was off celebrating giving Everton the lead.

There it was, the size of the task that Wolves had to rise up to in this division; they’d talked the talk, now to walk it. But they did find a response, even if a helping hand came their way at first. Everton skipper Phil Jagielka took a heavy touch, then took his studs through Diogo Jota’s ankle, an act which saw receive his marching orders, in the 44th minute. Wolves had a numerical advantage, and from the resulting free-kick, Ruben Neves, near-impeccable in the Championship last season, arrowed one past Jordan Pickford.

Then the noise was back, the electricity in the ground resumed, not since Steven Fletcher in 2012 had this club had a goal-scorer in the big time, Wolves now had lift-off. ‘We thank the crowd, Molineux was incredible- buzzing’, said Santo, who was engulfed in celebration by his coaching staff after Neves’ leveller. ‘It was a good atmosphere’.

If the atmosphere was unquestionable, the performance wasn’t; for all the noise and bounce in the ground, Wolves didn’t create much after halftime, despite their numerical advantage, Jota guilty of taking a touch too many on a few occasions, while the passes weren’t quite coming off, and on 67 minutes, thanks once more to Richarlison, they fell behind again. ‘We over-played some moments…’, admitted Santo, ‘…but it’s natural when we’re growing’.

But the fans wouldn’t leave sullen, as with 10 minutes left, a delightful Neves cross was met by the head of Raul Jimenez, one of the summer signings, to rescue a point. ‘We have character.’ Santo again pointed out. ‘We came back with a result two times, it’s not easy’.

And he shouldn’t expect it to get any easier. There were a few causes for concern; the fluidity was lacking, the defence was suspect, and chance creation was next-to-non-existent. But as Santo said, the side is growing. There will be teething problems, but results like this will make them feel they should overcome that. The optimism can’t fade just yet, Wolves want to belong here.


  • It was the ideal start for Chelsea at Huddersfield- three goals, three points, a clean sheet for the World’s most expensive goalkeeper. But that in no way means the Blues look ready, they were a few jittery moments at the John Smith’s stadium, but as Maurizio Sarri’s side are still at the getting-used-to-it stage, the win was more than welcome.
  • One side also getting used to it are Arsenal, who were shown a hint of the level they aspire to get to under Unai Emery as they lost to the champions Manchester City. No sense of deflation as of yet, this is another who are always going to face teething problems, even if one of those was almost the most inexplicable of own goals you could see. Almost.
  • It all began on Friday night, only 72 seconds were on the clock when Andre Marriner gave Manchester United a penalty against Leicester. A spotkick goal (yes, we had to) from World Cup winner Paul Pogba, a first career goal for Luke Shaw, suddenly Jose Mourinho’s pre-season grumpiness is forgotten… For now.
  • It’s the first weekend of the season, and Roberto Pereyra has probably already won the Goal of the Month award for August.
  • Mohammed Salah scored, Harry Kane didn’t score in an August game, Wilfred Zaha helped Crystal Palace to victory, Southampton didn’t score…nothing much is new these days.
  • From the probably-not-immortal words of Frank Underwood, ‘Welcome back’.


Wolves 2-2 Everton

Fulham 0-2 Crystal Palace

Huddersfield 0-3 Chelsea

Liverpool 4-0 West Ham

Watford 2-0 Brighton

Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City

Manchester United 2-1 Leicester

Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham

Bournemouth 2-0 Cardiff

Southampton 0-0 Burnley

Published in International Watch

It wasn’t quite a Sergio Aguero circa 2012 moment on Sunday, but bedlam broke out at St. Mary’s, when Kevin de Bruyne’s delightful pass was finished off with a deft chip by Gabriel Jesus, in the 94th minute, to give Manchester City three points on the day, and a century of them for the season. Off went Jesus’ shirt, berserk went Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff, it was like the goal had just sealed them the league title.

That was the biggest in the hall of records that City have shattered this term. That win in the South Coast was their 16th away from home in the league, a new record. Their overall goal tally of 106 is a new record. Their run of 18 successive wins, between August and January, a new record. Their tally of wins (32), a new record. Their goal difference of 79, a new record; just like their points tally over the team in second place.

But City weren’t the only ones shaking up the history books on the final day. In the 26th minute at Anfield, Mohammed Salah found the back of Brighton’s net, making him the first player to exceed 31 goals in a 38-game league season. The Player of the Year bagged the golden boot award, ahead of Harry Kane, whose double for Spurs against Leicester took him to 30 goals this term, the first time two players have reached that figure in a single 38-game campaign. Kane’s goal tally also means he’s scored at least 20 times in each of the past four seasons, while Salah has equalled a record of goals in all competitions by a Premier League player (44), and still has a Champions League final left.

But, amidst the records, there was still football that had to be played. Southampton-Man City may have served up the late drama, but Spurs-Leicester provided the full-on madness, a game that went 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, to 3-3, then 4-3, 4-4, and finally stopped at 5-4. Braces for Kane, Jamie Vardy and Erik Lamela took the limelight, as did a pile-driver from the Foxes’ Kelechi Iheanacho. That win sealed third spot for Spurs, with Liverpool closely behind, after the Reds put four past Brighton. Liverpool had an outside chance of finishing outside the top four, and a shock defeat to the Seagulls would have helped that cause, but there was no such hiccup, and the other significant result didn’t matter, as Chelsea faltered at Newcastle.

Okay maybe faltered isn’t really the word. Chelsea travelled to St. James’, where they haven’t won in almost seven years, needing a win to stand a chance of snatching fourth spot, yet mustered no shot in the first half, and at the end were lucky to lose by just three goals. The dreadful display summed up the erstwhile champions’ season, it’s Thursday Night Football for them, and if this display is pre-requisite for the FA Cup final next week, then it’s no trophies for them.


  • ‘You wanted him out, you two-faced bastards’ sang the Huddersfield crowd at home to Arsenal on Arsene Wenger’s final game, to which the Gunners fans replied; ‘Herbert Chapman, he left because you’re shit’. On the pitch, there was a round of applause in the 22nd minute, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the answer to the 2027 pub quiz question: who scored Arsenal’s last goal under Wenger?
  • Swansea needed to win and hope for a miracle, so Swansea actually score, and score first in a game. Trust nature to rectify such anomaly, two goals from Stoke sending the Swans down with a whimper. After the Carlos Carvalhal bounce, the Welsh side’s season petered out with five straight losses. Bye!
  • It was goodbye from Michael Carrick, who hangs up his boots at the end of the season, but not before he reminded us of his vision to create Manchester United’s only goal at Watford. And to think, he could have gone off on a throne in the 16th minute.
  • Well, what else are you waiting for? Bye!!

Results (Final Positions)

(3rd) Tottenham 5-4 Leicester (8th)

(17th) Southampton 0-1 Manchester City (1st)

(2nd) Manchester United 1-0 Watford (14th)

(16th) Huddersfield 0-1 Arsenal (6th)

(4th) Liverpool 4-0 Brighton (15th)

(10th) Newcastle 3-0 Chelsea (5th)

(11th) Crystal Palace 2-0 West Brom (20th)

(13th) West Ham 3-1 Everton (8th)

(18th) Swansea 1-2 Stoke (19th)

(7th) Burnley 1-2 Bournemouth (12th)

Published in International Watch

It wasn’t so much as being nervy, but rather occupying a convoy of nerves at the St. Mary’s, as Southampton managed to stumble over the finish line against Bournemouth. The win was a narrow as it was vital, the performance as irrelevant afterwards, as it was shaky during; the air punches from Mark Hughes and his assistant at the final whistle, along with the sighs of joy and relief from the players summed it up: Southampton still have life in them.

This South Coast derby had been a must-win for the Saints, after a torrid of form in the league- no wins since February prior to this. There had been close calls, a 3-2 defeat at Arsenal where the Saints spirit and commitment yielded plaudits but no points, a 3-2 defeat at home to Chelsea where their impressive start was replaced by a horrific conclusion as they threw away a two-goal advantage; there had also been insipid displays; from the 3-0 loss in Hughes’ first game, at West Ham, to the 3-0 loss in Mauricio Pellegrino’s last, at Newcastle.

But every battle has a turning point if things are primed to still end well, every war its twist of fate that shows there might just be salvation after all, and perhaps this is the Saints’ Normandy moment, their Battle of Gettysburg situation. Two goals from Dusan Tadic was enough for victory over the Cherries on Saturday…well, two goals at the attacking end, at least. At the other end, there was a combination of brave and gutsy defending, mixed with desperate and nervous defending, as well as a few good saves from goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (one of which was a blinder in stoppage time to keep out Josh King’s deflected effort). The football was hardly mind-blowing, the fans were edgy, and the players had their fair share of tiredness, but they held on nevertheless.

That big win became even bigger considering the state of results of elsewhere. When the Saints were hanging on against Bournemouth, fellow relegation battlers Huddersfield were succumbing to Everton at the John Smith’s stadium. The Terriers had gone into that game with a chance of virtually gaining survival, but a 2-0 loss, where they lacked any sort of invention going forward and didn’t look like scoring even if the entire Toffees squad got hypnotised, now leaves them just three points above Southampton, who are in 18th. That’s the first point to note for David Wagner’s team, the second is that their final three games are against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, two of those away from home. The celebrations at the end of that win against Watford a fortnight ago sent a message, the lack of one at the end of this defeat sent another.

The relegation battle story of this weekend doesn’t end with those two, as before Huddersfield and Southampton took the pitch for their respective games, Stoke City had gone to Anfield and claimed a point. It was an expected backs against the wall game for Paul Lambert’s side, but perhaps the result wasn’t as predicted, the Potters sharing the spoils after an impressive display at the back. The reality is that it’s still no wins in 12 for the Potters, and they’re still 19th having played a game more than their rivals around the drop zone, but this could well be a big point, especially considering one of their final two games is against Swansea.

Swansea would also face Southampton before the season runs out, and this weekend, despite their second half performance, they fell to defeat at Chelsea. A frustrating evening for Carlos Carvalhal leaves his side just a point above the drop zone. That home game against Southampton in the penultimate will be vital.

West Ham, meanwhile, are only two points off Swansea, and by extension three from Southampton. They also have a rather terrible goal difference, not aided by their loss at home to Manchester City, which made them the worst defence in the league so far this season. Brighton, who drew at Burnley, may be two points further forward, but aren’t quite safe yet, especially as they end the season with a home game against Manchester United, as well as trips to Liverpool and Manchester City.

This long slog looks like playing out right to the wire.

Five-star Eagles

One team that’s probably safe are Crystal Palace, who, amidst the battles going on elsewhere, were putting five past Leicester City on Saturday. There was a first goal at home for Christian Benteke in just about a year, while the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and (of course) Wilfred Zaha came to the party, which was almost literal at the end of it. Palace haven’t lost against a side currently in the bottom half since September, Palace have the best goal difference in the bottom half, Palace are three points off the top ten. This was the same side that were goalless and pointless in October.


  • It was a brilliant reception for Arsene Wenger as he walked on to Old Trafford for the final time, before receiving an award from Sir Alex Ferguson, and even (yes, really) sharing a smile with Jose Mourinho. At the end of it, there was no smile on his face, as his youthful side came close to grabbing a point at Old Trafford, but his last league game at the Theatre of Dreams succumbed to Fergie Time; how fitting. Arsenal still haven’t managed an away point in 2018; how worrying.
  • That West Ham loss to Man City, means City are now seven points away from a century of Premier League points in a season, as well as two goals away from the Premier League record of 103 in a season (by Chelsea in 2009/10). They have more goals in the first half of games, than West Ham have over 90 minutes.
  • Having looked doomed all season, suddenly West Brom won’t go down. Their win at Newcastle means they’re not mathematically relegated, yet. It also means they are unbeaten in four games under Darren Moore. They’ve won two games in that time, Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew combined for three league wins in nine months.
  • On the Chelsea win at Swansea, it’s finally 50 up in the Prem. for Cesc Fabregas at last. More pressingly, should Chelsea win all their remaining three games, they might finish in the top four.
  • And Mohammed Salah scored for Liv… oh, hang on. He didn’t (!). He even missed a sitter in Liverpool’s goalless draw with Stoke (what!!!).


Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth

Burnley 0-0 Brighton

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

Crystal Palace 5-0 Leicester

West Ham 1-4 Manchester City

Newcastle 0-1 West Brom

Huddersfield 0-2 Everton

Swansea 0-1 Chelsea

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke

Monday Night Football: Tottenham v Watford

Published in International Watch

For the second season in a row, there’s no springtime doom and gloom at Newcastle. No talk of fans rallying with banners demanding a club that tries, no claim of the players letting down the fans, and no sign of a squad underachieving. Tyneside feels alive and buoyant, smiles are on faces fans, and the team is overachieving by sitting in the top half.

‘It’s very good what is happening in this club, in this city. We are where we deserve to be, I think’, said Mohammed Diame, who put in a man of the match of performance as Newcastle came from behind to beat Arsenal. Yes, Newcastle beat Arsenal. After 10 defeats in a row, spanning six years, and no wins against the Gunners in eight years, the Magpies grabbed a completely deserved win, their fourth in a row, as well their fourth successive home win. ‘With the last four results, we’ve won four games in a row now, and confidence is high’, said defender Paul Dummett.

And there was no shortage of confidence, even when Arsenal took the lead. It had been 13 years since the Toon celebrated a home win over Arsenal, Nolberto Solano bagging the solo goal back in the winter of 2005. Then Alan Shearer and Michael Owen were the headline men up front, Rafa Benitez was managing at Liverpool, with Glenn Roeder in charge. Normally Newcastle heads would have dropped, conceding the first goal against a bogey team and that familiar feeling would start to creep in, of those 10 games in a row that they lost to the Gunners, only in one of them did they score equalisers- yet they were hit 7-3 in that one- so perhaps a shot in morale would have been expected the moment Alexandre Lacazette latched on to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s pass, and became the first player to score against Martin Dubravka at the St. James Park this season.

But dropping heads isn’t quite a feature of the new Toon, not what has made punch above their weight, made them win four games on the bounce. This may have been a shuffled Arsenal side, but there’s no discrediting Newcastle’s resolve. ‘People were talking about the changes they made but you could see the quality which they had, especially in the first half’, said Benitez. For quality, Benitez would have been delighted to see that that was the word surrounding his side’s equaliser. From Jonjo Shelvey’s superb pass, to Deandre Yedlin’s one-time cross, and Ayoze Perez’s one-touch finish, the goal that gave Newcastle parity involved eight of their 11 players, with nine passes.

It was a third goal in as many games for an in-form Perez, who bagged winners against Huddersfield, and at Leicester lately, but it’s the Spaniard’s work ethic that has been his most brilliant characteristic, and that has also been the watchwords for the rest of the squad. That work ethic, not so similar with Newcastle’s Premier League teams in recent past, always accused of a lack of trying and giving up too easily in the past. Not this side. ‘Everyone was pulling in the same direction…’ said Benitez, while Dummett pointed out ‘the organisation between the back four and midfield’ as key. But perhaps bigger proof of their hard work and focus is Diame pointing out that the team would enjoy this ‘for a few days, then get back to work’. There’s no room for resting on laurels, no room for slacking off, as they showed in the second half, with Islam Slimani and Perez combining to play in Ritchie, who- just like he did against Manchester United here- grabbed the winner.

With 41 points, Newcastle are one point behind ninth-placed Everton, whom they face next. ‘We’ll go to Everton hoping to beat them and take over them’ Dummett added. A win at Goodison Park next weekend takes them to ninth place; only twice in the past 11 Premier League seasons have they finished higher. Not that Benitez is one to get carried away, it’s still a case of one step at a time. The first step was always survival, and with 41 points that has been achieved, just ask Dummett. ‘Yes, definitely’.

City kings of the land, inevitably

You could excuse the nerves from the Manchester City fans and manager when Tottenham halved their advantage. City had been on top and took a deserved- yet fortuitous- two-goal lead, until Christian Eriksen pulled a goal back for Spurs (insert Harry Kane joke here). There was semblance to City’s implosion at home to Manchester United the previous weekend, and Spurs sensed it, the fans roaring them on while the players forced City to cede the ball, both at the end of the first half, and the start of the second. But City didn’t give up control or their lead this time, and with less than 20 minutes left, Raheem Sterling- guilty of a few misses in the derby and here as well- put the game to bed. City have won at Chelsea, Arsenal, United and Spurs this season; more importantly they got to within touching distance of the title. A West Brom win at Old Trafford would suffice.

Not that Pep Guardiola was watching, though. The City boss was presumably on the golf course when United took on West Brom, laboured at home to the bottom club, and, courtesy of a Jay Rodriguez header, suffered a second home league defeat of the season to hand City the title. Which means United had delayed City’s coronation at the Etihad on derby day, only to gift them the title by losing to a side that had won only twice in the league all season. Sums up this week of football. This also means City have won the league at the joint-fastest time ever (with five games to spare, just like United in 2000-01), and in seven years they’ve won three league titles, half the number of times United manager Jose Mourinho pointed out that he has won eight career championships in his post-match conference.


  • That defeat at St. James means Arsenal are yet to record an away point in 2018, the only side in the top four divisions in the country awaiting their first spoil on the road. Incredible.
  • Now it’s five wins in a row for Burnley. Not only did Sean Dyche’s side put some considerable daylight between them and recent opponents Leicester, they are now only two points behind sixth-placed Arsenal.
  • Mohammed Salah scored. Next!!
  • The jubilation was uncontainable, from the pitch to the dugout and the fans, when the goal went in and at the final whistle. It looked like Huddersfield-Watford would peter out to a goalless draw, until Tom Ince popped up for the Terriers in the 91st minute, his fifth goal against Watford. More Importantly, it has them on 35 points, on the brink of survival.
  • And in the crisis Clasico, Southampton managed to toss a two-goal lead at home to Chelsea, and grab defeat from the cusp of victory.
  • Oh, and welcome back to the big time Wolverhampton Wanderers


Newcastle 2-1 Arsenal

Tottenham 1-3 Manchester City

Southampton 2-3 Chelsea

Manchester United 0-1 West Brom

Huddersfield 1-0 Watford

Swansea 1-1 Everton

Crystal Palace 3-2 Brighton

Liverpool 3-0 Bournemouth

Burnley 2-1 Leicester

Monday Night Football: West Ham v Stoke

Published in International Watch

At this point, you begin to wonder who writes these scripts. Manchester City were two up at halftime, which could well have been six, cruising against a seemingly hapless Manchester United side, and had one hand and four other fingers on the trophy. The party was in full flow and the home crowd were in dreamland; yet by fulltime it was the stuff of nightmares, Citytis had struck again, United had had the better of their neighbours and there would be no title party just yet.

And that had been the aim for United before kick-off, delay, make them wait. It was one thing to watch as City strolled past everyone this campaign, it would be another to watch their rivals confirm the league after the final whistle. Jose Mourinho had talked about United not ready to be ‘clowns’ in City’s celebrations, the same word he used when Chelsea went to Liverpool in April 2014, another of his famous away day masterstrokes. The match build-up had been spiked by claims from Pep Guardiola that he had been offered Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitarayan in January by their agent and his pal Mino Raiola, comments Mourinho refused to speak on. But halfway through the first half, Mourinho would be screaming on the pitch.

City had been exposed by the high-press football at Anfield in midweek, but any suggestion that Mourinho would follow Klopp’s blueprint was extinguished early on, with United sitting deep and content to let City dictate the game. Which meant Mourinho had every right to be livid with the way they conceded the first goal. From Leroy Sane’s corner, Vincent Kompany shrugged off the attention of Chris Smalling to power home a header past David de Gea. There were shades of 2012, when Kompany beat Smalling and headed in the only goal in key game that season, but this time the eruption that came with the opening goal had barely died down when a second came, Raheem Sterling feeding Ilkay Gundogan, whose turn and finish into the bottom corner was a thing of beauty.

Mourinho was quite rightly incandescent, United were switching off at the back, and it happened again, David Silva playing in Sterling, who contrived to blaze over from point-blank range. Then Sterling did it again, from another Silva pass, before Gundogan could only direct a free header into the palms of De Gea. Still Guardiola would be at least content with the half, where the players and fans had played their part, every United touch met with a loud jeer that would echo round the stadium, while there were cheers in the same measure every time City had the ball.

For United, something had to change at the break. It wasn’t the personnel, as Mourinho felt the need to make no substitutions just yet, and he would be proved right. Only seven minutes had gone in the second half, and had United had offered more than they did in the entire first period, Pogba had fired a shot that was easy for Ederson, and it would be the Frenchman who dragged them into the game. First, after being played in by Ander Herrera’s brilliant chest down from Alexis Sanchez’s cross, he tucked home past Ederson to halve the deficit. Then barely three minutes later, he got his head onto another Sanchez cross to level matters.

Suddenly, United had gone from apparently down and out to restore parity, and City, from their seemingly unassailable position, now had to score again for the title. A goal would come with 20 minutes to go, but it complete United’s remarkable, and it was almost fitting that it came through Smalling peeling away from Kompany to jab home another Sanchez cross. Now it was truly the stuff of nightmares for the home crowd, the ‘ole’ cheers of joy were now substituted with silence of terror, and on the home bench, substitutions would follow, Guardiola disregarding Tuesday’s clash with Liverpool and throwing on Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero. Now it was City who were on the rack and were starting to lose their heads, every decision that went against them was met with as much jeers from the crowd as it was with protests of frustration from the players, not least when referee Martin Atkinson denied them a penalty after Ashley Young did his best to detach Aguero’s legs.

Time was running out for the Citizens, and the closest they came was in stoppage time, when first De Gea pulled off another of his surreal saves to deny Aguero, and then Sterling turned Nicolas Otamendi’s effort onto the post from three yards out. But it wasn’t to be. City are still certain to win the league, but they couldn’t do it as early as possible, and could only do it next week if United fail to win.

For United, the aim had been achieved, they had pushed City’s celebrations, however inevitable, further back. Over our dead bodies, boys.

City Cause for Concern

That result, coupled with the loss at Anfield, now exposes some kind of chink in City’s armour, a large bit perhaps. Any sort of pressure and they seem to fold. Get at their defenders, and the collective solidity becomes individual frailty. Suddenly that cloak of invisibility has been ripped off. Sure, the alarm bells are somewhat overblown, a more profligate City side would have killed the game in the first half, but that’s the problem when you seem like the best team in the land. They go into that Champions League quarter-final second leg without much to stand on.


  • There was a touch of nostalgia, when Patrice Evra planted a kiss of Javier Hernandez’s face, a reminder of the Manchester United days, seeing Hernandez celebrate a goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It was the Mexican’s ninth goal in 15 games against the Blues, his 50th Premier League goal, but more importantly it leaves them six points ahead of the drop zone, with six games left. For Chelsea, not only is the top four a bridge too far (no pun intended), they are now within reach of sixth-placed Arsenal.
  • Speaking of Arsenal, it was a more exciting game than expected at the Emirates against Southampton. The Gunners fell behind after Shane Long pounced on some uncertain Arsenal defending, to put it mildly, to score his second league goal in 29 months, but responded through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Danny Welbeck to lead at the break. Charlie Austin levelled things up with 17 minutes left, his fourth goal in four games against the Gunners, but Welbeck would have the last say. In terms of goals, that is, as a late kerfuffle that saw Jack Stephens and Mohammed Elneny get sent off for either side dominated the embers of the game. Mark Hughes still hasn’t gotten a point at the Emirates, and the Saints are still three points from safety.
  • As Ayoze Perez ran off celebrating, Newcastle could almost heave a sigh of relief, as the Spaniard’s deft lob put the Toon two up at Leicester with 15 minutes left. Jamie Vardy did pull one back for the hosts, but Rafa Benitez’s side would hold on for a priceless win. With the Magpies now on 38 points, survival just about within reach.
  • Burnley have now won four in a row, and are now four points clear in seventh place. You can keep pinching yourselves all you want, Clarets fans, it’s still not a dream.
  • And on a weekend where there was a Manchester derby, Merseyside derby, and a London derby, who’d have thought it was the one in Merseyside that would be the least exciting.


Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United

Leicester 1-2 Newcastle

Arsenal 3-2 Southampton

Stoke 1-2 Tottenham

West Brom 1-1 Swansea

Watford 1-2 Burnley

Brighton 1-1 Huddersfield

Everton 0-0 Liverpool

Chelsea 1-1 West Ham

Bournemouth 2-2 Crystal Palace

Published in International Watch

Peter Shreeves. Doug Livermore. Ray Clemence. Osvaldo Ardiles. Steve Perryman. Gerry Francis. Chris Hughton. Christian Gross. David Pleat. Glenn Hoddle. Jacques Santini. Martin Jol. Juande Ramos. Harry Redknapp. Andre Villas-Boas. Tim Sherwood. Even Mauricio Pochettino had had three previous tries and failed. But he’s the one who finally broke that jinx, it’s in his tenure that the ghost has been laid to rest. That Tottenham finally came to Stamford Bridge and left with all three points. That the Spurs fans were able to look in delirious disbelief as Dele Alli raced away celebrating the side’s third goal, that they could out-sing the home crowd.

‘It was very good’ said Pochettino. ‘For our fans it was fantastic to feel again the victory after 28 years’. And the fans certainly felt it- why wouldn’t they? They had felt a fair bit when it comes to playing against Chelsea. Before November 2006, they went on a drought of beating Chelsea- either home or away- and it was a feeling of relief mixed with joy when Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon scored the goals to beat the Blues back then. It was Chelsea who confirmed that the title would slip away with that draw in 2016, Chelsea who were the only side to finish above them in the league last season, and knocked them out of the FA Cup, Chelsea who denied them League Cup glory in 2015, Chelsea whose Champions League triumph in 2012 rendered their fourth place that year to be irrelevant. Even at times when they managed a draw at the Bridge, it seemed like worse, so this was always going to taste gloriously in their mouths.

The story for the Lilywhites against Chelsea had been a little routine lately, Spurs would dominate and be on the front foot, then the Blues would snatch the lead, and it was little different here, as Alvaro Morata capitalised on some poor judgment from Hugo Lloris to head home Victor Moses’ cross and put the hosts in front. That sinking feeling at the Bridge seemed to be rearing its cruel head, but on the stroke of halftime Christian Eriksen would restore parity, a superb dipping shot that had Willy Caballero stranded in goal. ‘I wasn’t always confident of scoring from that range but I was definitely going for it and trying to hit it’ said the Dane, whose goal wouldn’t have happened had Alli not shown persistent to chase a seemingly lost ball.

Alli was particularly impressive on the day, and his display came at the right time, when they had been questions over his form and whether h would be a starter in the World Cup. ‘It’s great’ said the midfielder ‘It’s always nice to win so I’m feeling good’. He certainly felt good in the 63rd minute, when he raced onto a delightful Eric Dier pass and saw his shot go in off the post. Then it got better three minutes after, after Caballero had denied Son Heung-Min twice in succession, Alli was quick enough to get the ball under his feet and find the net for his second, for another big win this season.

The victory also puts them eight points clear of the Blues in the top four race, with seven games left, just about granting a third successive top four spot. Trophies or no trophies, it highlights Spurs’ development once more, big wins have come this term, over Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Dortmund (twice), and now this. Mental blocks are being broken, and steel is being formed at the heart of this side, plus they still have a cup semi-final to look ahead to. Not that Poch is ready to relax. ‘For me it’s not enough’ he said. ‘We need to be focused and fight to the end, trying to win games’

At the moment they are winning them, and they are winning them big.

Blues on the rack

That result now means Chelsea have a mountain to climb in terms of getting into the top four this season. Antonio Conte has said he’ not worried about his future, and the club will keep fighting, but there wasn’t much fight in them today, especially in defence. That FA Cup tie in two weeks is starting to look more and more important.


  • They were boos at the London Stadium, but this time it was from the away fans, as West Ham made light work of Southampton. A brace from Marko Arnautovic clearly meant a big deal to him on the day, especially with Mark Hughes as the opposing manager. For Sparky, it was a torrid start to Premier League life with the Saints. They are in danger of being cut adrift.
  • It was the kind of game where Liverpool would fail to win in the past, as they would try but would have to settle for a point, and questions would be asked over their mettle. But who needs grit when you have Mo Salah.
  • 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 4, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1. That’s the sequence of goals for Huddersfield in their last 13 league games. Eight scored, in four games, including Saturday’s loss at Newcastle where they barely threatened. With the kind of run-in they finish the season with, this may well cost them.
  • Manchester City win a game. Manchester City win a game comfortably. Manchester City dominate the opposition to the near state of submission. Is that now starting to sound… boring? It was a first win for Pep Guardiola over Everton. Another victory in the league confirms the title. It’s derby day next weekend.
  • And if you think Eriksen’s goal was good (which you do), check out Ashley Barnes’ for Burnley against West Brom as well. Wow!


Chelsea 1-2 Tottenham

Newcastle 1-0 Huddersfield

West Brom 1-2 Burnley

West Ham 3-0 Southampton

Brighton 0-2 Leicester

Arsenal 3-0 Stoke

Manchester United 2-0 Swansea

Watford 2-2 Bournemouth

Everton 1-3 Manchester City

Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool

Published in International Watch

‘It’s difficult to find new words. Everyone’s raving about him at the moment and rightly so. I think we’re witnessing the start of greatness’.

Those were the words of former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, well at least the words he could come up with, as the Reds legend became the latest to be verbally extinguished by the brilliance of Mohammed Salah, who bagged four goals at home to Watford on Saturday.

Before the Reds welcomed the Hornets to Anfield, Salah was stuck on 32 goals, one behind Fernando Torres in the record for goals in a debut season with Liverpool; by the end of the game he had gotten to 36, becoming only the third Liverpool player, after Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, to bag four goals in a league game, and is only three short of the Premier League’s record for goals in a 38-game season (31). ‘I think it’s indescribable', said Reds teammate Joe Gomez, another who seemed rather short of words.

Salah had been kept quiet in Liverpool’s loss at Old Trafford the previous weekend, much like the whole front three, as Manchester United hit them on the direct route, a system that Watford looked to employ, right from kick-off. But the visitors' plan were scuppered after just four minutes, Salah leaving Miguel Britos on his backside, before putting the ball past Ornestis Karnezis and into the net.

That was always bound to signal the start of a long day for Watford, who have only scored once in the road in 2018, and despite their growth in confidence as the half progressed, thanks in no small part to Liverpool’s slackness, when Salah turned home his second from Andrew Robertson’s cross before halftime, it was just about game over.

Salah began the second half in the same menacing vein as he had the first, but this time he took the role of a provider, as his cross was deftly flicked home by Roberto Firmino, the seventh direct goal combination between the pair this season. Salah’s fourth came after Karnezis pushed away Danny Ings' shot into his path, but it was his third that caught the eye, as he managed to find the bottom corner despite a sea of Watford bodies between him and the goal, sparking (perhaps overboard) comparisons with Lionel Messi.

‘Mo is on the way, that’s good. I don’t think that Mo wants- or anybody else wants- to be compared with Lionel Messi’s, said Salah’s manager Jurgen Klopp. ‘He is the one that is doing what he’s doing be it feels like for 20 years or so’. The Messi comparisons does seem a bit too much, but Salah is reaching rather unimaginable heights as each week passes.

Klopp has said he’ll still get better even before the season ends. Talk about putting fear into opponents. 


  • ‘He normally doesn’t use his right foot for anything but standing on' said Christian Eriksen of Erik Lamela’s strike in the FA Cup sixth round win at Swansea on Saturday. Lamela scored his side’s second with a peach of an effort, as Spurs produced another Harry Kane-less masterclass to advance to a ‘home’ semi-final. Spurs have a date with Manchester United in April.
  • You could have looked at Alvaro Morata’s face in the 42nd minute at the King Power, and probably seen a writing of relief on it. After failing to score since Boxing Day, the Spaniard was set free by Willian, and slotted past Kasper Schmeichel with the calmness not usually shown by a striker out-of-form. Leicester did rally back in the second period and through Jamie Vardy’s 17th goal of the season, grabbed an equaliser to force extra time. But Schmeichel’s error of judgment allowed Pedro to head in what proved to be Chelsea’s winner. The Blues still have a trophy to aim for this term. Southampton stands in their way towards the final.
  • Manchester United did have quite enough heritage in them this weekend to get past Brighton, but not quite enough personality, as despite Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic grabbing the goals to take them to Wembley, Jose Mourinho accused his players of being scared of the shirt. Not that he mentioned any names of course, except one. One which we’re Shaw you’d know (sorry).
  • The definition of things going against you: you play a side that hasn’t one away since December and you go down to 10 men. Stoke’s loss to Everton leaves them in 19th place, and they go to Arsenal after the International Break. For Everton, meanwhile, it’s four goals in three for January signing Cenk Tosun.
  • Wilfred Zaha plays for Crystal Palace, and Palace win. Duh! 


Premier League:

Huddersfield 0-2 Crystal Palace

Stoke 1-2 Everton

Liverpool 5-0 Watford

Bournemouth 2-1 West Brom

FA Cup:

Leicester 1-2 Chelsea

Manchester United 2-0 Brighton

Wigan 0-2 Southampton

Swansea 0-3 Tottenham

Semi final draw:

Chelsea v Southampton

Tottenham v Manchester United 

Published in International Watch

It was supposed to be the game that would rekindle memories of Bobby Moore, 25 years on from the death of the World Cup winning captain. Alas, it’s a game whose own memories will be rekindled in the future, for all the wrong reasons. A seeming siege on the directors box, various pitch invasions, alleged assault on stewards amidst a 3-0 home loss emphasised the point, that all is far from well at West Ham United.

‘Every time we lose we and the board get a lot of stick. It seemed today that the fans had had enough’ said club captain Mark Noble afterwards, who was in the spotlight for an altercation with a fan who had stormed onto the pitch after the Hammers fell behind to Burnley. ‘I’m a West Ham fan and I’ve always protected the club. If someone approaches me, I’ll protect myself’.

In terms of protection, the ones who needed it the most were the West Ham owners, as David Gold and David Sullivan had to be escorted out of the stadium in the 86th minute, not long after fans aimed a lot of distaste at the director’s box. ‘They wanted to show their emotion’ added Noble. ‘When fans come to the game with the hump, they know how to show their emotions’. ‘The atmosphere was horrible. We know a lot of it isn’t aimed at the players, but we have to be man enough to play in that atmosphere’.

And the atmosphere at the London stadium has rarely been pleasant ever since the move from the Boleyn Ground in 2016, there’s been enough stadium unrest on that ground that has generated news. The animosity of the supporters, building up to this weekend, has been evident for a while, not least since what was viewed as a disappointing January transfer activity at the club. The Irons came into this game with Burnley on the back successive 4-1 away defeats, but did have a decent first half, both off the pitch and on it. ‘I thought we played well in the first half, had two great chances and probably should have been in front at halftime’ said manager David Moyes. ‘The first goal was always going to be crucial today, whoever got it’.

And it did prove crucial, as after Ashley Barnes put Burnley in front in the 66th minute, it barely took much time before the little kerfuffle between Noble and the West Ham pitch invader, right after a female steward was knocked to the ground. Four minutes later, West Ham went two down, and another pitch invader came on, this time with a corner flag. Then a third, and further incursions, by then the co-chairmen had been taken out of the ground, but not without hearing chants of ‘You’ve destroyed our fucking club’, ‘We’re not West Ham anymore’, and ‘it’s all lies, lies, lies’ among others.

‘We massively have to stick together. If anything now, I’d say to the supporters, I’ll do everything I can for the players…’ said Moyes. With the fans now well on their backs, survival would be a less straightforward. Survival, a term that definitely wasn’t on the team’s minds after the move to this stadium, that’s supposed to signal progress, and the season that preceded it. The future indeed.

Two for Two for Burnley

Once focus veers away from West Ham and their mutiny for a moment, it’ll be worth pointing out that Burnley have now mustered successive wins, having sought a first win of the calendar as late as last week. Now on 43 points, and three points clear of eighth-placed Leicester; while returning striker Chris Wood now has three goals in two games.

Rashford for United on Derby Day

13th minute at Old Trafford. David de Gea goal-kick. Romelu Lukaku beats Dejan Lovren to the ball. Marcus Rashford gets in front of Trent Alexander-Arnold, cuts inside and fires a superb shot past Loris Karius and into the top corner to put Manchester United ahead. 24th minute. De Gea with another goal-kick. Lukaku beats Lovren to the ball again. Rashford, following a little melee in the box, fires an effort which deflects in off Alexander-Arnold. From them on it was a masterpiece in defending from the Red Devils, especially the returning Eric Bailly, his inexplicable own goal aside, as they held on for a precious league win, to keep them firmly in second place. For Liverpool, it’s now eight league games without beating United. It was a subdued performance- to say the least- from their front three; Jurgen Klopp’s men drop to fifth.


  • Three goals. Three points. 13th spot. It was a confident showing from Newcastle as they routed relegation rivals Southampton, and the Magpies are now on 32 points. The Saints, meanwhile, stay in 17th place, and a Monday night win for Stoke will see Mauricio Pellegrino’s side drop into the red zone.
  • It was a show of character from Tottenham, as four days after European elimination at the hands of Juventus, Spurs came from behind to notch a 4-1 win at Bournemouth. Injuries to Harry Kane and perhaps Dele Alli might well be an inconvenience, but it was another goal-scoring outing from Son Heung-Min; the Korean has five goals in three games.
  • Speaking of show of character, it was three and easy for Arsenal, who followed up their win in Milan with a romping of Watford at the Emirates. A crowd that needed rallying certainly commended as the Gunners fired on all cylinders, Mesut Ozil in particular, but the most memorable fact would probably be a 200th clean sheet for Petr Cech. The first ever Premier League shot-stopper to reach that figure, the Czech veteran also saved a penalty, for the first time in the Premier League in 15 attempts. There was no such joy for Watford skipper Troy Deeney, victim of Cech’s penalty save, who, back in the reverse fixture in October, accused the Gunners defence of lacking cojones, and on this occasion was to listen to chants of ‘what’s the score’ from the home crowd.


West Ham 0-3 Burnley

Huddersfield 0-0 Swansea

Newcastle 3-0 Southampton

Everton 2-0 Brighton

Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

West Bro 1-4 Leicester

Bournemouth 1-4 Tottenham

Arsenal 3-0 Watford

Monday Night Football: Stoke v Manchester City

Published in International Watch


74 minutes gone. Manchester City in front. Then Ilkay Gundogan passes to Aymeric Laporte, then receives it back, then passes it again, then receives it again. Gundogan then exchanges passes with Oleksandr Zinchenko, then David Silva; all done at walking pace. Literal walking pace, as Chelsea had 10 players behind the ball. Those 17 seconds were just about a microcosm of how much City had control against Chelsea at the Etihad on Sunday.

‘It was difficult’ says Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater. ‘It felt like we were doing a lot of running and they had all the time in the world.’ And Chelsea did put in a lot of work to keep City at bay, which was the plan right from Antonio Conte’s setup, playing Eden Hazard in a false nine role yet again, and leaving two traditional strikers on the bench. ‘It’s not easy when they defend with nine players in the box’ Pep Guardiola said afterwards, and it wasn’t easy, as the Blues crammed out the spaces and forced City to keep going wide, particularly in the first half. City were utterly dominant, as expected, and in complete control, but their threat was minimal, the biggest when Leroy Sane controlled Kevin de Bruyne’s free-kick and saw his shot cleared in front of goal by Cesar Azpilicueta, as halftime came.

But the second period only lasted 33 seconds when City finally broke Chelsea down. From Gundogan’s pass, a poor clearance from Andreas Christensen allowed Sergio Aguero to play in Silva, whose one time was poked in by Bernardo Silva. ‘We couldn’t find space at the beginning but then Bernardo scored his goal’ said City’s captain for the game. Chelsea now knew they needed to come up with something up front if they were to get any rewards, till that point they had not managed a single shot, every hint of a counter attack was either snuffed out with immediacy by their hosts, or petered out due to some wayward passing.

For the umpteenth game, Eden Hazard looked uncomfortable in that false nine role, rather than try to dictate play with whatever little chances he was bound to have even in a deeper role, he spent most of the game isolated and his frustration seemed palpable when he was taken off in the final 10 minutes. By then Chelsea had two strikers on the pitch, but none made an impact, they didn’t register a shot on target all game, and City kept them at considerable arm’s length.

Ilkay Gundogan had over 180 touches of the ball in midfield, while in the first half City goalie Ederson had more touches than the combination of Chelsea’s back three and their two midfielders. ‘…we controlled it and we were quick with the ball…’ said Pep, who knows his side need only four wins to guarantee the title.

It was a game of contrasts, City, the champions in the making, looking well like the future, seeing off Chelsea, the champions, whose triumph last season was as remarkable as it is now almost forgotten. The Blues are five points outside the top four places. Their home game against Spurs at the end of this month will have a lot riding on it. ‘We need to look at what’s available to us now points wise’ Drinkwater added. ‘There are nine games left, 27 points, and stuff can still change. We need to force our way back in it’.


  • Chelsea forcing their way back in it is going to be no easy task, especially with the form Tottenham are in. Spurs called on the in-form Son Heung-Min once again, and it was the Korean who was the star of the show as they saw off Huddersfield with relative ease. Unbeaten since December, Juventus and second leg of the Champions League are the next on the agenda.
  • Four defeats in a row. Eight league defeats this season. Eight losses in 2018 already. It was another sour afternoon for Arsenal, this time at Brighton, where they could count themselves lucky to only lose 2-1, especially if the first half at the AMEX is anything to go by. It was another game in which Glenn Murray scored, as the Seagulls move to 34 points. Arsenal are on 45, their lowest at this stage under Arsene Wenger.
  • Surely this is the end for West Brom, as despite being the better side at Vicarage Road, another defeat sees them eight points adrift with nine games left. Alan Pardew’s dismissal looks inevitable.
  • Mo Salah scored for Liverpool. Next!!
  • The Carlos Carvalhal effect hasn’t quite worn off at Swansea just yet, as the South Welsh side hit four against West Ham to climb above the drop zone. That’s eight goals conceded in two games for the Hammers, who lost Winston Reid to injury at the Liberty stadium.


Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea

Swansea 4-1 West Ham

Watford 1-0 West Brom

Burnley 2-1 Everton

Tottenham 2-0 Huddersfield

Southampton 0-0 Stoke

Brighton 2-1 Arsenal

Leicester 1-1 Bournemouth

Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle 

Monday Night Football: Crystal Palace v Manchester United 

Published in International Watch

Chasm-like, that’s the word. There probably isn’t any other term suitable for the gap between the Premier League’s top six and the rest, in terms of points, but mostly quality.

Consider the fact that for all of Arsenal’s league blunders this season, as well as Manchester United’s last term, neither were/are in danger of slipping down to seventh spot, the position from where the scrap seems to begin. Everton seemed to give that seventh place some grip last term, as it also looked down on the rest, while being looked down on the by best, but it’s little gain saying how much the Toffees have floundered this season, in spite of the large transfer outlay, both in the summer and last month.

Yet, it’s testament to how crowded, or rather how inconsistent (if not low in quality) that regions outside the top six is that the Toffees are only two points off seventh. A side who, until the final day of January, hadn’t won in 2018, a side that didn’t manage a shot on target in four out of five games this term, a side recently thrashed out of sight by Arsenal, are only a win away from taking a seemingly certain European spot. Suddenly they are primed to finish in the same place they did last season, despite this one being an obvious disappointment to last term’s improvement. Just look at the fact that Everton are closer to the relegation zone than they are the top six, despite lying in ninth place, and therein lies evidence of how the rest of the league are left to scrap among themselves and the big guns do the same, almost like leagues within a league.

There’ll always be Leicester’s unprecedented league triumph in 2015/16, but however memorable that will be, it’s starting to seem long in the memory, just as the hope that the Foxes’ success had given the ‘smaller teams’ is fading fast. There’s nothing weirder than saying ‘the bottom 14’, but in the Premier League, there’s probably nothing more accurate.

Derby victory for Spurs leaves Arsenal in desperate trouble

You could almost call it the biggest shock of the weekend; that Spurs were so dominant, yet managed to win by just one goal. After an admittedly moderate first half from both sides, the Lilywhites took charge in the second, and Harry Kane’s seventh league North London derby goal put them in front. Kane probably should have had four, as some uncharacteristically wayward finishing prevented him adding to his tally, as well as an outstanding performance from Petr Cech. The Gunners goalkeeper was on hand to deny Kane, as well as Erik Lamela and Kieran Trippier, as his side had their backs to the wall. Arsenal had won their last nine at Wembley prior to this game, but they were a shambles here, Henrikh Mkhitaryan embodying how below par they were. Still, they had two good chances to snatch an undeserved point late on, two chances Alexandre Lacazette won’t look back on with much fondness, and neither will his manager, Arsene Wenger’s agony as the second opportunity went begging told its own story. The Gunners are now seven points off the top four.


  • It was a memorable day for Newcastle, as the Toon fought their way towards a much-needed at home to Manchester United, their first home victory since October. Rafa Benitez brought in three temporary additions last month, Islam Slimani and Kenedy the headline acts as Newcastle’s problems up front have been well documented, but it was the least fancied arrival, goalkeeper Martin Dubravka who caught the eye at home to the Red Devils. On loan from Sparta Prague, the Czech goalie was required to make a handful of saves, including that wonderful last-minute stop from Michael Carrick, as Matt Ritchie’s goal takes Newcastle up to 13th place. Opposition manager Jose Mourinho is still without a league win at St. James’ Park in what’s now seven attempts.
  • Following that United defeat, the gap at the top is now 16 points, after Manchester City duly dispatched Leicester at the Etihad. Riyad Mahrez, subject of a failed from City last month, and recently returned from his personalised leave, and the Algerian came on as a substitute for the Foxes, but he’ll no doubt be thinking of what might have been, as he watched City’s Sergio Aguero fire four goals past his team. It’s the third time in the Premier League that Aguero has scored at least four goals in a game. As it stands, should City when their next six league games, they can wrap up the title in the Mancunian derby. Motivation for Pep’s men, with complacency bound to set in.
  • The Carlos Carvalhal revival programme continues for Swansea, as they left it late against Burnley on Saturday, Ki Sung Yeung’s late strike taking the Swans to 16th. It doesn’t seem like much, as they are only a point off the drop zone, but they were well-bottom when Carvalhal arrived in December.
  • And Mohammed Salah scored again. Well, what else is new.


Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace

West Ham 2-0 Watford

Swansea 1-0 Burnley

Southampton 0-2 Liverpool

Manchester City 5-1 Leicester

Tottenham 1-0 Arsenal

Stoke 1-1 Brighton

Huddersfield 4-1 Bournemouth

Newcastle 1-0 Manchester United

Monday Night Football: Chelsea v Watford 

Published in International Watch

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