Daniel Storey looks at the five biggest takeaways from the weekend’s action.
Astori’s passing a tragic reminder
Football may be consuming, alluring, wonderful. But it is also trivial.
On Sunday morning, Fiorentina captain Davide Astori passed away in his sleep at the age of 31. He was in the team hotel, preparing for his club’s game against Udinese on Sunday afternoon. The game was postponed, along with every other Serie A match. It was the right thing to do.
Astori’s death is a stark reminder of the brevity of life, and how quickly and tragically it can be taken away. He leaves behind a two-year-old daughter and a wife and extended family, who must all cope with the emotional trauma of his passing.
Too often we see footballers as robots, there to provide us with entertainment and pleasure and justify the rising ticket prices we pay to watch them. Astori’s death should hammer home that they are as human as you or I, and therefore with the same frailties and flaws. Football can wait.
Moyes’ tactical plan was shambolic
It is one thing conceding four goals to a title-chasing team, but another doing it against Swansea. It is one thing losing to a relegation rival, but another being outclassed by one. West Ham still have a cushion above the relegation zone, but continue playing as they did on Saturday and it will soon evaporate.
David Moyes was complicit in West Ham’s 4-1 defeat. He chose to play with a back three and wing-backs, a formation that typically requires those playing wide to surge forward and back, the most high-intensity roles in the team. For that task, Moyes selected Patrice Evra, 36, and Pablo Zabaleta. Zabaleta’s knees rendered him unsuitable for that task two years ago.
Moyes was sold to unconvinced West Ham supporters as a safe pair of hands after the defensive incompetence of Slaven Bilic. But this was as bad as anything under Bilic’s reign, a team spooked by the opposition’s press and thus resorting to long balls that ceded possession.
That sour tasting cake was iced by the concession of two goals from corners and another from a penalty. This was classic Bilic.
“We played so bad. I couldn’t assess it, it was that poor,” Moyes said after the match. “The fans travelled through the snow to get here and we let them down badly. That was the poorest performance since I came here. I’m embarrassed.” These are not the words of a master motivator.
Son the perfect team player
There are better players in the Premier League than Heung-Min Son, but there are very few who are easier to manage. On Saturday, Son scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season. Watch how keen Tottenham’s players are to celebrate with their teammate.
Son is a willing runner, happy to fill in at wing-back, wide forward or as a central striker and with extraordinary stamina and work ethic. But selling him on his energy and determination is to do a disservice to his quality. The composure to round Jonas Lossl for his first goal against Huddersfield was obvious, but the technical ability to head home the second showed off yet another side of his game. .
And then there’s the personality. The cliche about Son is that you cannot imagine him kicking up a fuss about not starting matches, but it’s true. Of a possible 105 league games since he joined, Son has started 57 and been on the bench 38 times. Yet every time he is called upon, he is ready. The ability to metaphorically sprint from a standing start is one to cherish.
Pellegrino is lucky to be in a job
Mauricio Pellegrino is the odd one out in the Premier League. Of the 13 clubs outside the top seven, only five have not changed their manager since the start of the season. Of those five, four (Bournemouth, Newcastle, Huddersfield and Brighton) could not hope to upgrade their current incumbents. Southampton are the exception.
Pellegrino has not been a disaster, but he has made Southampton slightly worse at every aspect of their game. Their shooting accuracy and chance conversion is diabolical, bad enough to counteract a relatively competent defence. They have failed to score in ten league matches, and scored two or more goals in six of their 29 this season.
Having failed to beat Stoke, Southampton’s Premier League status is in serious jeopardy.
They are one point ahead of 19th place, and face the teams in 1st, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th and 11th in their last six games.
“For me the most important thing now is Southampton, more than me,” said Pellegrino after the latest 0-0 draw. “Southampton is more important than the players and the manager.” Is there time to roll the dice and hope to find a firefighter for the last two months?
Pardew’s race has surely run
West Brom have now lost six successive matches.
This should be the time when a club is fighting for their top-flight status, and they have produced their worst run of form for years. Given that Alan Pardew has clearly lost the discipline within the squad and is also failing to motivate them to play even close to their full potential, he must be sacked this week.
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