Like John Stones greeting journalists, it was different and it was strange, but it sure was comforting and damn good to watch – the Premier League is back.
Group chats, sneaky wagers, articles, Q&As, debates on Zoom, it has been an exquisite reminder of just how much goes with this beautiful game. It was also a reminder that, like a New Years house party, the anticipation is often the best bit. But, to continue that comparison, it’s also great fun to talk about what the heck happened; let’s dive into the highlights and low points.
Black Lives Matter Movement
It would be plain wrong to start anywhere else than the most important aspect of the past week’s football. The taking of the knee and all players having Black Lives Matter printed on the back of their shirts was the poignant and momentous reminder that something so important is happening right now.
It was not only pertinent to see what action was occurring in matches, but also on every channel’s coverage too. Ian Wright spoke brilliantly on Match of the Day about the importance of recognising this as a global movement. He said the names of Dalian Atkinson, Oury Jalloh and Adama Traore to rightly show this is a social, global pandemic. We all need to reflect, learn, think and keep the conversation going to achieve change.
The Premier League restart has carried with it a sign that the world will no longer put up with the oppression, inequality and systemic racism that BAME individuals face. The message was louder and clearer than ever: Black Lives Matter. It is now everyone’s shared responsibility to never let the meaning of those three words fade.
Jose, Can You See
…what you’re doing to Tottenham? Friday’s game between Spurs and Manchester United was the most interesting fixture of this round. So many talking points arose from those 90 minutes. One of which was certainly just how dull Spurs have become under Mourinho already. A look at the game’s stats shows you how negative and poor Spurs were.
Watching the game, it was clear Solskjaer made the necessary (albeit obvious) changes to give United the upper hand. The stats backup the dominance; United should have won this game.
For Spurs, the problem lies not within the stats, but within Mourinho’s acceptance of them. We know he will only care about one thing: The scoreline. Spurs scraped a draw and stopped him being patted on the head again by Solskjaer. He took points off a rival and didn’t lose ground on them in the quest for a top four finish. He also managed to make a point to Daniel Levy that he needs investment by only using two substitutes and used Harry Kane as an exhausted, sacrificial lamb in doing so.
And it wasn’t just Kane. Sanchez still looked unsure, Davies offered very little going forward, Son gave Wan Bissaka no trouble, Bergwijn even had to run from inside his own half and rely on two big errors to score. I’m certain the two substitutes Mourinho did make could’ve been confused for a search party for Moussa Sissoko. Just look at the discrepancy in touches:
I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘Third Season Mourinho’ anymore. Sadly, he is stuck this way and I fear we are stuck with this team. Sorry Spurs fans. Poch’s darlings are a distant memory.
Pogback: This Time It’s Personal
Sticking with Friday’s big game, one of the other standout storylines was the returning Paul Pogba’s performance. Perhaps the most polarising player in the league, undoubtedly one of the most talented, Pogba came on and gave United fans a lot to look forward to.
Pogba, inevitably, has come up a lot in Jogo Bonito Podcasts and across football media prior to this game. The anticipation of seeing him play with Bruno Fernandes had fans reverberating with excitement, even the haters. At 1-0 down, Solskjaer turned to his World Cup winning star to change the game and make things happen. Mission complete.
In 27 minutes, Pogba had 27 touches, a 95% pass completion rate, 4 recoveries, 2 successful dribbles and one heinous crime on Eric Dier that led to the penalty. He also had moments like this:
It was clear to see during the game and at the final whistle that Pogba had a point to prove. If this is a motivated Pogba, then I hope Solskjaer cues up Souness videos before each game because Pogba will soon have him eating his unfounded words.
There was a clear understanding with Fernandes but also, there was more space for Pogba to operate within. And with ‘Black Lives Matter’ draped across his shoulders, United’s hopes of a dominating midfield have never looked better.