Five talking points from last weekend’s Premier League action.
Palace are heading for De Boer war
Frank de Boer lasted 85 days as manager of Inter, and September 18 feels an awfully long way for Crystal Palace supporters who are watching their team slump into another relegation battle. On Saturday, they were comfortably beaten by a Swansea side who hadn’t even managed a shot on target in their first two league games. Palace are still to score in the league.
If the suspicion is that De Boer’s limitations have been exposed away from his natural habitat of Amsterdam, Palace chairman Steve Parish must accept his share of culpability. De Boer is the best coach the club could reasonably have attracted, but has never made any secret of his desire to play technical, passing football.
If the chasm between De Boer and his predecessor Sam Allardyce’s philosophies are obvious to you or I, why has Parish not spotted the same issue? Why appoint a manager with a vastly different preferred playing style and then invest only €10m in the club’s playing staff? Palace face a crucial week; so does De Boer.
Aguero should be praised, not pilloried
Whether or not you consider the law that allows for a second yellow card to be awarded for celebrating a last-minute goal with supporters to be an ass, Sergio Aguero deserves to be lauded for his role in Manchester City’s raucous revelry.
A Bournemouth steward reportedly accused Aguero of ‘striking’ him, but television evidence appeared to put the Argentinean in the clear before the accusation was withdrawn. Instead, Aguero was trying to assist a supporter pinned down by two stewards while celebrating Raheem Sterling’s late winner.
Safety at football should always be the paramount concern, but we must reject a cultural creep which labels football supporters as guilty of crimes and ill behaviour without evidence to support that theory. The heavy-handedness comes as standard.
The passion, loyalty, and dedication of supporters is the defining pillar of English football. Good on Aguero for standing up for those who dared to have the temerity to enjoy a moment of joy in the proximity of their heroes.
Bilic is not long for this league
Compiling a list of the reasons for West Ham’s woes is a marathon rather than sprint. This is a club whose co-owner considers it appropriate to lambast players on social media, a man playing at being a director of football but without the sporting wherewithal to create a stable platform for success.
Yet managers are far easier to change than owners or their behaviour, and Slaven Bilic is quickly running out of second chances. The World Athletics Championships forced West Ham to play their first four games of the season away from the London Stadium — Bilic again forced to deal with a difficult hand — but the Croatian quickly loses any sympathy through his continued inability to iron out the defensive deficiencies and attacking bluntness in his squad. If West Ham’s players are fighting for their manager’s future, it doesn’t show.
Mkhitaryan has become Mourinho’s creative force
Henrikh Mkhitaryan equalled a Premier League record when he registered his fifth assist in the first three league games of the season. The more persuasive evidence for the Armenian’s rise in form is that he already trounces last season’s assist record 5-1. In 247 minutes this season, Mkhitaryan has created 13 chances. In 2016/17, he created only 16 more in an extra 1,100 minutes.
The simple explanation for Mkhitaryan’s improvement this season is that he is injury-free and settled in the Premier League after a stop-start debut campaign in England. Yet Jose Mourinho offered an alternative view post-game, believing he and his midfielder now enjoy a better understanding.
“In the beginning of last season, if he understood me better, then he would have started better,” said Mourinho.
“But, at the same time, if I understood him better, I would probably have helped him in a faster way than I did. We spent our time together, working together, learning [about] each other.
“I know him well, he knows me well, and the second part of the season was good for him. I believe, with his talent, that this season is going to be even better.”
This is stability. This is Arsenal
“Cohesion” was Arsene Wenger’s buzzword before the start of last season, an explanation for why he wasn’t spending lavishly on his squad. This summer, the manager explained it was the uncertainty over his own future that was his excuse. Arsenal would be better for the certainty. Wenger must think we are stupid, forgetful, or both.
It is tempting to say that we have been here before with Wenger and Arsenal, that this is just another abject display from a team without the motivation or determination to improve. Yet it is the repetition — the constant cycle of crisis — that makes it worse.
The team’s inability to avoid catastrophic performances in big games despite changing personnel on the pitch is the most damning indictment of the Wenger regime.
Last season, some Arsenal supporters were told to be careful what they wished for when wanting Wenger to leave. Could they feasibly be any worse than this?
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