Premier League plotlines: The Ross Barkley mystery and other posers

Premier League plotlines: The Ross Barkley mystery and other posers

Our writers round up the weekend’s talking points.

Pochettino defends Dele the diver - sort of

Dele Alli is gaining a reputation for going down under minimal contact, something the English game has always condemned, but Mauricio Pochettino says we should not be too judgemental, and that it is part of our game now.

He should know. He was the man who was judged to have fouled Michael Owen in Sapporo in the 2002 World Cup when a David Beckham penalty allowed England to beat Argentina, yet he maintains the former Liverpool striker dived.

“Yes, 15 years ago Owen dived. Don’t believe that English football is always about fair play always because Owen jumped like (he was) in a swimming pool. Come on. I didn’t touch him. I promise you. It’s true.

“I think today football is more global. Now we have the influence of the Latin people that try to cheat always. Maybe you were more pure 20 or 30 years ago, now you are like us,” he laughed.

In Argentina, people sometimes practise that. It’s true. But many years ago. Now I don’t know. But when I was a player always it was part of training to try to cheat. Many, many years ago. It was part of practice.”

But you don’t do it as a manager, obviously? “No. Of course. I don’t like. I don’t like that.”

Bilic set for the chop?

The unseemly attention on who will be the next Premier League manager to be sacked is now focused on West Ham's Slaven Bilic. The hugely likeable Croatian insists he will not walk away from the battle and does not even mind having his future discussed in public, accepting it as part of a sport he has been involved in for nearly 30 years as a player and coach.

But would West Ham really wise to show him the door? It is clear his players have been distracted by the stadium move and have allowed themselves to believe their own hype after last season's relative success.

But they are in for a shock when they get back to training this week. For Bilic is taking the gloves off and is set to work them and drill them mercilessly into survival mode. The return to fitness of Andy Carroll will be a huge help and talk of Bilic's demise is premature.

Does Pep deserve punishment for touchline antics?

Almost lost in the late game touchline carnage at the Etihad, City manager Pep Guardiola was fortunate to escape at least a stern lecture - and possibly worse - from referee Anthony Taylor earlier in proceedings.

Like opposite number Antonio Conte, Guardiola spent the game patrolling his technical area, indulging in theatrics which would do a French mime artist proud and sitting only briefly when Chelsea netted their third.

He also never wasted an opportunity to berate fourth official Mike Dean whenever Taylor made a questionable decision that went against his team - and there were many of them - culminating late in the game when City were awarded a free-kick for handball directly in front of the benches.

Guardiola made a huge point of clapping sarcastically in the direction of the referee, sticking his thumbs up in an exaggerated gesture that could most kindly be described as displaying dissent but which would surely qualify as “improper conduct” by any reasonable estimate.

Jose Mourinho served a one-match ban for kicking a water bottle recently. This sort of display was, surely, far more deserving of that kind of penalty.

What has become of Ross Barkley?

THE curious case of Ross Barkley may have been forgotten amid the late drama and mounting problems for Jose Mourinho but as the January transfer window approaches, the young England midfielder may be at something of a crossroads.

Ronald Koeman has been openly critical of many aspect of Barkley’s game and the days when he appeared one of the Premier League - not to mention England national team’s - most intriguing young prospects seem distant.

At 22, Barkley is no longer a youngster and, as Everton were distinct second best for so much of their draw with United, he appeared an obvious option for his manager as he sought to rescue the game.

However, Barkley was not among the three substitutes thrown on to salvage the game, leaving more question marks over just what sort of future he has at his first, and so far only, club. It may well be that moving to a second one next month may be the best for all parties.

Do Liverpool need another goalkeeper?

Once again the issue of Liverpool's lack of a top class goalkeeper raised its head at the Vitality Stadium as Loris Karius fumbled an injury-time shot from Bournemouth's Steve Cook to gift the home side a late winner.

Karius is currently first choice ahead of Simon Mignolet but Liverpool supporters, understandably, remain unconvinced by both. Post-match radio phone-ins were full of fans suggesting the club will never win a league title until it finds a world-class goalkeeper capable of instilling confidence in those in front of him.

On the evidence so far, Karius doesn't look like that man. Liverpool's defensive record has been decent for most of the season so far but they remain vulnerable at set pieces with Karius tentative on crosses. He seems to set nerves on edge rather than settle them. Jurgen Klopp has a decision to make in January when the transfer window opens.

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