The Warm-Up: Man City sitting pretty, Moyes poised, Morata settles matters
Adam Hurrey watches Pep Guardiola and co disappear over the horizon while the other big guns wrestle in the dust...
MONDAY’S BIG STORIES
City continue near-perfect start…but Wenger takes it badly
It may be gloriously naive to be advocating the handing-out of championship medals in early November, but history doesn’t offer much to resist it. Manchester City had already made the best-ever start to a Premier League season; now it’s the quickest that Pep Guardiola, once of Barcelona and Bayern Munich’s domestic all-conquerors, has ever come out of a top flight’s blocks as a manager.
On Wenger’s part, he did at least try something novel to break City’s momentum. Sadly, that novelty was putting Francis Coquelin at the heart of his defence. City were a goal to the good inside 20 minutes.
Afterwards, with Gabriel Jesus having made the game safe thanks to an unspeakably tight offside call in City’s favour, Wenger scraped the barrel of credibility in an attempt to undermine the result.
“I believe it was no penalty,” he said of the decision that gave Sergio Aguero the chance to double City’s advantage from the spot right at the start of the second half. “We know that Raheem Sterling dives well, he does that very well.”
Given the chance to add some warm words to the volumes of praise for City’s knife-through-butter attacking displays, Wenger wasn’t playing ball: “if on top of that they have decisions at home like that, they will be unstoppable.”
It all rang a bit hollow. Borderline refereeing decisions have been the go-to rationale for post-defeat interrogations for a long time, but even Wenger knows that Arsenal are light years away from being a title-race obstacle to a team like City’s.
Conte’s cohesive core beats Mourinho’s Man Utd muddle
With the title race looking increasingly like a title chase, every meeting of the likely runners-up only plays further into the leaders’ hands. With another three points safely in hand, Pep Guardiola could have settled into an Etihad easy chair with comfort for Sunday’s second course: the visit of Mourinho’s big-game caution to a soul-searching Chelsea, a game that screamed “mutually satisfactory point” if ever there was one.
Coming back in to the side was N’Golo Kante, to sighs of relief no bigger than that of Cesc Fabregas, a man simply not designed to press, harry and chase for 90 minutes. The other main beneficiary was Tiemoue Bakayoko, who emerged victorious from his duel with the rather more exposed Nemanja Matic.
Chelsea should have scored again, and punished United’s lack of endeavour even further, but any hint of a snatched point was snuffed out by Thibaut Courtois and a rock-solid defence: something Conte was surely craving. On this evidence, David Luiz will have some more time on the sidelines to think about those tactics.
Moyes poised as beleaguered Bilic awaits West Ham fate
David MoyesGetty Images
Please take a minute, if your morning commute allows it, to take in a masterful example of the utter nonsense that is the flimsy moral code of “not talking about another manager’s job”. David Moyes, on TV duty with Richard Keys over in Qatar, was inevitably asked about the Premier League’s most blindingly obvious next vacancy.
Observing the aforementioned managerial omerta, Moyes refused to discuss it while Bilic was still in employment…except for the bits where he discussed it.
This amateur hypothetical subterfuge won’t be needed much longer. Reports are that Bilic will be summoned to a Monday meeting with West Ham’s joint chairman David Sullivan – and will be sacked. That paves the way for Moyes to take over on a six-month contract, an appointment that even he will recognise as one of the most lukewarmly-received since Rafael Benitez was parachuted in at Chelsea in 2012.
West Ham fans are already sceptical. Does Moyes really have it in him to turn that around as well as the Hammers’ long-term inertia? As long as Bilic hangs on, we should avoid speculating out of sheer respect, apparently.
IN OTHER NEWS
Galatasaray v Fenerbahce, a fixture that once inspired Graeme Souness to plant the former’s flag in the middle of the latter’s pitch, continues to offer up moments of excessive adrenaline.
This weekend, the two clashed at Under-17 level, and the Fenerbahce no.4 brought a promising-looking Galatasaray counter-attack to a thoroughly violent halt.
It was a tackle that ticked pretty much every box for “serious foul play”, and so the referee – who has obviously seen some violence in his life – reached for…a yellow.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Fara Williams
Here’s a new entry for the niche category of Hugely Telegraphed But Nevertheless Successful Wondergoals from the Halfway Line:
Reading’s 162-cap England international Fara Williams, against her old club Arsenal no less, didn’t exactly disguise her intentions as she kicked off straight after the Gunners had equalised. We were getting a little tired of off-the-cuff 50-yarders anyway, so it’s refreshing to see one that involves a mighty run-up.
Zero: German goalkeeping
In the continuing wake of Manuel Neuer’s widely – and misguidedly – acclaimed reinvention of the art of goalkeeping, it seems that Teutonic glovemanship (elegant variation there, kids) has simply gone too far.
The weekend masterclass of calamitous custodians began with Mainz’s Robin Zentner. Ask a goalkeeper if he’d like to be the subject of more than 10,000 retweets, and the answer would probably be a risk-averse “nein, danke”. But if he then goes and tries to pass the penalty spot to a team-mate, the decision is rather taken out of his hands, I’m afraid:
Meanwhile, the name Ron-Robert Zieler should be a little more familiar to those of you with a keen eye for Premier League benches, and his latest contribution to the Goalkeepers’ Union body of work was quite something, too.
Honestly. You didn’t see Sepp Maier faffing around like this back in the day.
"Kline could be a challenging colleague and had a novel PR strategy when the first stories surfaced about relations being strained with Slavisa Jokanovic, the manager. Kline’s suggestion, I’m reliably informed, was to propose that he dressed up as a sumo wrestler and burst into one of Jokanovic’s press conferences to challenge him to a fight. At which point, the manager would rip off his clothes to show that he, too, was dressed sumo-style. They would grapple for a few minutes in front of the journalists and, according to the logic, this little sketch would go viral and demonstrate they did actually get on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jokanovic turned the idea down."
You might call it lazy, you might call it convenient – Retro Corner calls it comprehensive. Two weeks ago, it was the 20th anniversary of Chelsea’s laughable European Cup Winners’ Cup humbling in below-zero Tromso. Today, we mark the second-leg revenge mission’s birthday.
The FA Cup’s inherent magic threatens to extend beyond the weekend – Chorley are fighting three classes above their weight with the visit of League One’s Fleetwood Town. Cupset?