Lukaku chant a continued embarrassment
There was an air of disbelief among those Manchester United supporters who had sung an offensive chant in celebration of Romelu Lukaku and subsequently were told to desist. “Aren’t we allowed to do what we want?” Well no, you aren’t. Paying the entrance fee and being loyal to your club does not give you carte blanche to use offensive terms. Racial stereotyping is racism, even if you consider it to be a joke or a compliment.
The behaviour of those supporters is so disappointing because they were given the opportunity to side with decency. Having heard statements from Kick It Out and Manchester United, Lukaku himself made a statement in which he urged supporters to find a new way of cheering him on.
For that plea to be ignored in favour of “We’ll sing what we want” culture indicates that those fans have no interest in commending Lukaku or cheering on their club, instead preferring to gain notoriety for their behaviour. Given that Manchester United are seeking CCTV footage from St Mary’s to identify the perpetrators, punishment may be swift.
Niasse an unlikely Everton saviour
Ronald Koeman may be grateful to Oumar Niasse for his double against Bournemouth, but Everton’s manager has an awful lot of making up to do. Koeman told Niasse he was not wanted at the club after watching him play 45 minutes of a preseason game in July 2016. He banished the striker to the club’s U23 sides, loaned him out to Hull City, and repeatedly made it clear that he should go. Niasse did not want preferential treatment, but felt he was being unnecessarily humiliated.
On Saturday, Niasse scored his first Premier League goals for Everton. He has still played only 178 league minutes in over 20 months, but with Koeman struggling for striking options after disappointing starts for both Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez, Niasse might yet provide the combination of pace and goals that Everton’s attack desperately needs. He has at least earned his chance.
Morata is no Costa, but who cares?
Following Chelsea’s disappointing performance against Arsenal, there were murmurs about Antonio Conte missing the aggression of Diego Costa. The striker’s sale to Atletico Madrid this week was viewed in some quarters as a negative for Chelsea.
Firstly, the reality: Costa wanted to leave. Forget all the faux-hurt caused by Conte’s text message and remember the way in which Costa attempted to engineer his exit for 18 months and then refused to return from Brazil.
Morata is indeed no Costa; these are two strikers with different attributes and different personalities. But if we are to wonder whether Chelsea will miss Costa’s demonstrable passion, there is plenty to enjoy in Morata’s understated ruthlessness.
The Spaniard’s hat-trick against Stoke was perfectly timed, exhibiting his movement and penalty-box prowess. Morata’s six league goals from inside the penalty area already amounts to a third of Costa’s total from last season.
Coutinho makes a welcome return
Keeping a player is the easy part. It’s all very well rejecting bids for wantaway stars, but the biggest difficulty is ensuring those players overcome their disappointment and are motivated to again reach their full potential.
Jurgen Klopp has regularly insisted that Philippe Coutinho was ready to come back into Liverpool’s side, but the player’s actions were always sure to speak louder than his manager’s words. If there were any doubts about Liverpool supporters’ faith in Coutinho as a committed member of the first team, they were erased by one special whip of his right foot and Liverpool’s 2-0 lead.
Manchester City’s full-backs epitomise their adventure
Plenty was made of Pep Guardiola’s lavish spending on full-backs this summer, but they have been key to City’s supreme attacking record. Bernard Mendy, Danilo, and Kyle Walker are instructed to push forward, creating overlaps for Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling and forcing defensive midfielders to drift out wide to provide cover, or letting Sterling and Sane move infield. That creates the time and space in which David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne are sure to make hay.
After six matches of last season, Manchester City’s four full-backs (Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna) had touched the ball in the opposition box on 14 occasions. So far this season, Danilo alone has managed 12 touches in the opposition box. Walker and Mendy have both managed five or more.
“Mendy and Walker are having a big impact, Danilo too,” Guardiola said last week.
£130m well spent.