EPL GW6 Preview

Heroes of Elland Road journey to slay the Aston Villains.

Sunday 28th April 2019, Aston Villa travel to Leeds in a hotly contested fixture with both teams challenging to achieve promotion to the greatest league in the world. In Leeds’ last home match of the season, Elland Road, notoriously ferocious and aggressive, is the perfect amphitheatre for the day’s events.

With the game at 0-0 and time running out, Leeds have the ball and are on the attack. An Aston Villa player goes down, and Leeds look like they’re about to kick the ball out of play, which results in the Villa players stopping… except… that doesn’t happen. If you watch the below video, you will see – Leeds score – players and the benches go on to fight each other – then, Marco Bielsa orders his Leeds players to deliberately concede an equaliser. The game ends all square, meaning Sheffield United obtain automatic promotion. The season ends with Play-off promotion for Aston Villa, but Play-off defeat for Leeds. This weekend, we will see the players meet again for the first time – those memories still fresh from just 18 months ago.

Given the form of Aston Villa, the energy of Bielsa’s Leeds, and the fiery history of their last encounter – we have a Friday night fixture worthy of kickstarting the weekend. This is definitely a game to watch, though let’s run through the rest of the weekend’s headline action.

Tipped Treble:
@Arsenal – 1st Half Under 1.5 Goals 1/2
@Wolves – Home Win 4/5
@Burnley – Over 32.5 Booking Points

Those following these weekly previews, and backing my tips, are considerably out of pocket. This topsy turvy Premier League season cannot have been kind on many punters’ pockets – Aston Villa are my biggest nemesis – they’ve accounted for 3 of my 7 failed predictions so I’ve chosen to avoid them like the plague and just enjoy the entertainment on Friday night.

With only 14 goals in their 5 Premier League matches, Arsenal are – shockingly – one of the more boring sides to have on television this season. Arsenal are notoriously slow starters at home too, and are even more likely to keep it tight at the back facing Leicester this weekend that completely dismantled Man City away from home – the side that Arteta helped build. Leicester have been hit and miss, but they’ll want to be prudent in this fixture to halt a run of poor form, and keep themselves in the game – much like their near stalemate against pace setters Aston Villa.

Wolves are building momentum following their up and down start to the league, and now have back-to-back wins and 9 points from 5 games. Coming off a Europa League fixture is no longer a concern for their Sunday fixtures, and they are much better than 4/5 at home to Newcastle who are falling back into an expected lower league table position. Wolves have needed to adjust to a few changes in personnel, but Nuno Santos will soon have them looking like the improvements that they are, rather than losses of Doherty and Jota.

Burnley vs Spurs has all the hallmarks of a game that you should avoid to bet on. Spurs attack is on fire, but they keep dropping points. Burnley are out of form, but have suddenly pulled a clean sheet out of the bag which is no mean feat this season – sure, that was West Brom, but Chelsea conceded 3 and Everton 2, so it’s still impressive. Burnley’s efforts to stop Spurs in their counter-attacks will be, for want of a better word, dirty. Spurs themselves to continue showing their boss they can be cunts, will want to rough it with the Turf Moor men. Perhaps you could be even more confident in the number of Yellow Cards expected!

Stand-out Match: Man Utd vs Chelsea

In the Premier League, these teams have entertained us with 21 and 22 goals respectively. I say entertained, 21 of those goals have been conceded. On the flip side, no other sides can boast the quantity of quality on show, so with dynamic talent going forwards and more gaping holes at the back than the Playboy Mansion, every attack should provide entertainment.

It doesn’t appear to be in either Manager’s playbook to consolidate and avoid defeat in a widely competitive chase for the Top 4 that should now include Everton and surprisingly Aston Villa – as well as an improved Tottenham and Arsenal. Fingers crossed for this one, another Premier League goal fest please.

Stand-out Performance: Man City Attack
West Ham will take confidence from their miracle escape with a point from White Hart Lane, but beyond the miracle it should be noted they were poor for 80 minutes, and Spurs looked like they could – actually should – have scored many more.

A team capable of scoring more is definitely Man City, particularly with a returning Sergio Aguero. City are still yet to really click, with some changes in their backline and approach to pressing off the ball, but on the ball they continue to be a joy to watch and with the incredible striking of their Argentinian #10 returning, this could be the game they get their swagger back. Admittedly, City should be wary of West Ham on the counter as this season they’re proven goal scorers, and City defend like – well, City.

Acca Basher: Burnley vs Spurs
It must be tempting to wager on Spurs, looking like one of the better and in-form teams of the season – to beat Burnley, looking to be worn out and unable to deliver on Sean Dyche’s needs. However… Spurs have dropped points to Everton, Newcastle and West Ham. They have scored many, but failed to keep a clean sheet. They’re also coming off a Europa League fixture and come down from the West Ham come back. And it’s Spurs. Full of promise, not often delivering. In the 6 Premier League matches since Burnley returned to the top flight, Spurs have won 3, drawn 2 and lost once. It was the last one they lost, at Turf Moor in February. All I’m saying is… I’m not putting my money on Spurs to win.

Pay-Per-View Protests Fuel Fan Food Bank Funding

The ends and means all over the place, as misdirected anger results in charity.

This weekend saw the big Pay-Per-View kick-off and as expected fans were throwing their toys out of their prams all over the country about the £15 being demanded to cover such Premier League classics as Sheff Utd vs Fulham and West Brom vs Burnley.

Faux anger lined social media, the despair of having to pay the extent of £15 for live football when they already pay through their nose for 200+ Premier League matches a year, the cheek that they could just make up a price for the content they own – what do they think this is, business? Greedy bastards.

Charity Not PPV

Pay-Per-View was trending on Twitter over the weekend, with fans taking to the ‘anger outlet’ to shout things like “£15 and there’s not even a build up” and “Not even any proper build-up, punditry or post-match reaction”.

All of this anger is misdirected at the Broadcasters, at a time of heated emotions, and it’s clouding the waters. Sky and BT are hugely wealthy stakeholders within this project, but it has already been made clear that this was not their idea nor to their benefit. They were better suited to showing all the games for free. Unfortunately when people are outraged, they don’t necessarily care where their anger is directed, as long as someone is listening. Twitter is always listening, and polarising sides is the nature of social media.

BT’s Opening Statement for the Defence

Marc Allera the Chief Executive of their Consumer Division has come out in defence of BT through this period,

“We had a suggested retail price which was suggested to us by the Premier League.

We also have a cost that they’re charging us for those games. We’re certainly not making significant amounts of money out of this, we’re pretty much just covering our costs to put these games on.”

Initially, we had been advised that Broadcasters would not profit from this PPV venture and the money was only due to the two sides contesting the Premier League fixture. This information from Allera suggests the broadcasters will receive a nominal fee, in which case we can be concerned with what their operating costs are, and why they couldn’t take a bigger cut to provide pundits and commentators – although these comments still re-iterate that the main benefactor from these matches is the Premier League itself, not the broadcasters. Allera continues,

“I think the intent of the Premier League to put these games on was to get some money moving into some of the clubs and leagues that are struggling and I think that’s a good intent, and that’s reflected in the price that they’re charging us

“The vast majority of that UK£14.95 is the cost price to us of that game. Our objective is to help the Premier League and the football ecosystem. Whether it’s a few thousand or a few hundred thousand it is still money that is going back into football and we’re pleased to be playing our part in that.”

These are hugely significant comments from the Chief at BT, and ones that do not fit the on-brand message from the Premier League. Effectively what BT are stating is that the Premier League are looking to fund the football league’s deficit out of the pocket of the arm-chair fan. This is a shocking message. It’s akin to the taxpayer bailing out the banks. It’s hoped that this was not the intention of the Premier League.

Sky and BT Refuse to Declare Viewing Figures

A number of tabloid newspapers are running with headlines “Sky and BT refuse to declare PPV numbers” following the weekend’s matches. It would appear they’re all written around the same story, the above unverified tweet from John Sinnott of CNN.

It’s fair for Sky and BT not to reveal their figures, but it is in the interest of the Premier League to announce the success / failure / status of these additional matches, particularly in light of Allera’s comments that this money is intended to cover the financial deficits of the overall game, and not just the rich getting richer.

Once these figures are declared, we are of course expecting them to be low – but what is low? St. James’ Park only holds 50,000 home fans – they annually retail approx 30,000 season tickets – so surely we’re looking at a PPV figure for the Newcastle vs Man Utd match at around 45,000 participants that would have saved money by paying the £15.

Or… do we compare it to the viewing figures for the average Newcastle vs Man Utd match that is on regular Sky Super Sunday? Either way, the stats will be used to promote the author’s agenda – there’s no direct comparison that works on a fair basis here. Expect fireworks when the figures are released, with chaos the overall objective of the message shared.

Newcastle United Raise £20k for Local Food Bank

This is a really good news story, and has inspired a number of clubs across the country to use their powers for good. Organisations like NUFC Foodbank, Burnley FC in the Community and Leeds United Fans Food Bank already existed pre-lockdown football and pre PPV. Their work is to use the positive community feeling of fandom and using it to help those in need, most commonly through the uses of food banks.

NUFC Foodbank, as pictured above, regularly attended home games and raised donations through volunteers carrying buckets outside the ground. They would raise approximately £5k per match, which is a great gesture to be celebrated. So at games where fans were already spending circa £1.5m (attendance of 52,040 x £30 average ticket) in gate receipts, an additional £15k was supported to the local Food Bank.

This weekend, whilst all the social media anger was kicking off, one fan suggested taking the recommended £15 PPV fee and donating this fee to charity – perhaps even a local Food Bank – and the momentum was set. This drive culminated over the weekend at £20,000 for the West End Food Bank of Newcastle. This is an amazing effort that all fans – nee, all people, should consider. If you have, then please give.

What isn’t so pleasant, is the use of Food Banks to create propaganda about the cost of Premier League football. One should not do charitable work for the sake of raising their own agenda. One also should not believe they are giving this money having “saved it” not buying the Newcastle match. You either had this money to give, or you didn’t – it didn’t suddenly appear because we set a price of £15 on televised football. If you want to support good causes, you don’t need an excuse.

In the analysis of the success of the Charity not PPV trend, £20k is a significant figure, but whilst Newcastle United’s fans have “saved” approximately £1.5m per match in lack of ticketing, they have only seen an additional £15k of that money being donated. As explained, this is not a direct comparison of PPV money going to Food Banks. There’s an equivalent £2m a game missing from Newcastle United’s home matches and the ultimate Pay-Per-View question is how do we keep that money within the game, to fight the gate receipt losses accumulating weekly.

Premier League losing £100m per month

This is the exact reason why the Food Bank association to the argument of Pay-Per-View football is quite embarrassing and demeaning. The scale of funding within football is incomparable to almost all business and industry across the globe. The idea that raising £20k as a protest against something within football is laughable. In context, that is less than half of Gareth Bale’s hourly rate.

Sky Sports’ current Premier League packages for televised matches retails at £9.8m per match – meaning they’re confident their subscription and advertising model has a significant increase on turnover – the idea that a Pay-Per-View boycott to the sum of £20,000 isn’t going to disturb the broadcasters. Releasing the figures for Pay-Per-View matches could affect their advertising, but this boycott is more likely to drive these matches off TV than they are of becoming available for free again.

The Premier League is the dominant cause for the move to Pay-Per-View, and that has been driven by the individual Premier League clubs. As mentioned in my prior article, the Pay-Per-View objective is on resolving the deficit of gate receipts whilst fans are unable to attend. This is a maximising profit business model, but not for those distributing the product but for the manufacturers of the product – the clubs.

Personal View

I try to remain objective on matters, but I do understand that the majority of reactions to Pay-Per-View appear to be on defending the end consumer from increased costs to watching the greatest league in the world. It does impact on our already limited funds, but these questions have always been there. People have to budget for the luxuries in their life, and Premier League football is a luxury – not a necessity. I know it doesn’t always feel like that, to a lot of us, football is a religion and we want to be completely at one with it – meaning we want access to every minute for the fear of missing out. The idea that someone has seen something we haven’t does affect how ‘close to God’ we are in comparison, but we should try to step back and appreciate that we all love football, we just have differing relationships with it.

We are not constantly owed something for nothing, and it’s important for us to remember this. I never used to have 10 Premier League games a weekend available on tv, and I never want to. It’s excessive and a concern for our mental health. The fact that we’re making it a possibility to watch every one of your own team’s matches for £15 a game should be celebrated – sure, we can argue about the cost – but this is a step forward for those fans unable to turn up and complete their stadium match day rituals. That’s it.

If you don’t like a product, you have the right to share your opinion and make your business decision – but we should stop feeling angered just because a decision doesn’t match how you feel it should go. You have the right to complain, and the right to not purchase that product – you don’t have the right to tell other people they’re wrong because you disagree. We’re not all Donald Trump, and neither should we aspire to be. We’re talking about the Premier League, not the NHS.

🎵 Stop-in-the-name-of-VAR; Before I cause you harm 🎵

It’s one of the greatest, purest joys of console football. You’re chasing down an attacker… you see the linesman’s flag go up but the referee is yet to blow for the free-kick… so you Captain Crunch that mother fucker onto a stretcher, knowing you’ve already won the free-kick, and the Xbox / PS4 knows not to actually injure the player because that ‘Time and Space’ isn’t real… like the video below… CRUNCH.

Prior to this weekend, tensions and questions were rising regarding the possibility that someone in real life was likely to get a serious injury from linesmen not flagging when they believe players were offside – running the risk of a sprinting forward meeting a sprinting goalkeeper and WHAMMO. Well, those people are not wrong – but they’re late to the game. This unnecessary risk of injury has been a problem in the game since the advantage rule was introduced in – according to Wikipedia – in 1903.

“1903 – A referee may refrain from awarding a free kick or penalty in order to give advantage to the attacking team.”

It’s not the concept of the ‘Advantage’ rule that anyone disputes, the question is on the construct of the laws of Physics on ‘Time and Space’. During an ‘advantage’ or ‘phase in play’ whilst VAR are analysing various camera angles to bollocks up another decision – is this time real? Or a multi-verse that becomes instantly irrelevant and void once a decision has been made that takes us back to the future? Confusing. Oooh… we have some real life examples to consider thanks to James McLean, Jordan Pickford and Richarlison.

James McLean, Ireland vs Wales, Sunday 11th October

The scene, heading into the final 10 minutes Wales are awarded a corner with the scores at 0-0. Although just an international friendly, it’s a local derby and comes with international bragging rights. James McLean picks the ball up from the corner and launches into a counter-attack. He’s fouled, and in the momentum of his sprint and being pushed off balance, he lunges forward to win the next ball (images above).

The referee gives the free-kick to McLean and Ireland, then chooses to caution McLean for a late tackle – a late tackle that effectively does not exist – as a free-kick was given. It’s only a yellow, so in this instance the referee has deemed this ‘time and space’ to exist, and exist within the linear timeline – multiverse – of real time. To make matters worse, this is McLean’s 2nd yellow card and he’s sent off.

Time after Offence: Real
Severity of Following Offence: Yellow Card

Jordan Pickford, Everton vs Liverpool, Saturday 17th October

Jordan Pickford, Everton and England’s #1 – and since Saturday’s take-down of Virgil van Dijk (VVD) – possibly a club legend to the more hardcore Toffees, and certainly on the Christmas Card list to those hardcore City and Utd fans. The challenge above is nothing short of reckless and dangerous. Look at it. If that’s the height and stance having gone through VVD, how high was he at the point of contact? VVD we know has suffered a serious ACL injury and could be out for the whole season. Pickford should very obviously be sent off ; wait what?

In this incident, ‘Time and Space’ did not exist after the point at which VVD himself was deemed offside from the prior phase of play. It would appear, as defined by the referee at Goodison Park that either:

A) VVD was offside and therefore any event that occurred after this was instantly erased from time like an Avenger in Infinity War.

B) Jordan Pickford’s challenge is not a red card offence – nor even a yellow card offence – as McLean had been booked the previous week.

Fair enough, whilst we do demand consistency from the law makers to the rule administrators to the referees on the field, when a different referee from a different football association has such an awkward decision to make, we as football fans can accept some discrepancy. Right? It was a different referee, the same referee would not show inconsistency : wait, what?

Time after Offence: Imaginary
Severity of Following Offence: Red Card

Richarlison, Everton vs Liverpool, Sunday 17th October

Christ. Both of these challenges were in the same game? What was this, the Merseysi… oh… In truth this was quite a tame Merseyside Derby, no punches thrown, not many 50/50s to write home about. These two incidents stood out like a two-footed, studs showing tackle in the middle of the field.

Richarlison’s “tackle” was reckless and dangerous and was rightly deemed a Red Card. There were little to no complaints from Everton and an apology after the game. Thiago, making his Premier League debut, was the victim and despite finishing the game is expected to be out for a few weeks. The right decision was made. Right? Well…

Moments before Richarlison’s foul – milliseconds in truth – a free-kick was awarded to Liverpool for a foul by Mina. Theoretically, Richarlison’s foul did not exist in ‘Time or Space’, or at least the same referee earlier in the game did not punish Pickford for his challenge when ‘Time and Space’ were in question. So… which is it? It must be – because referees are always consistent – that the referee in question, nor his VAR team, considered Pickford’s challenge to be a Red Card. We know they considered it, because they reviewed the VVD Offside because of a potential Penalty from the Pickford challenge. That means that it’s also not been considered as a ‘Yellow Card’. Are you for real?

Time after Offence: Real
Severity of Following Offence: Red Card

The (Actual) Laws of the Game

So with three contradictory incidents within a week, two with the same referee and VAR, perhaps the actual Laws of the Game can direct us to what the truth is, what the decisions should be, and then who we can point our fingers at to call them out.

A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

So we can all agree, Jordan Pickford’s challenge is definitely a Red Card.

There’s no definitive talk of Time Travel, the Time Stone, Laws of Physics, Time and Space or Dr. Strange within the Football Association’s Laws of the Game – so it’s hard to get a definitive right answer on what DEFINITELY SHOULD HAPPEN. However… the opening gambit to Disciplinary leads us to believe that all Yellow and Red Cards should be awarded regardless of ‘Time and Space’ of their misdemeanour, resulting in the following:

The referee has the authority to take disciplinary action from entering the field of play for the pre-match inspection until leaving the field of play after the match ends.

If, before entering the field of play at the start of the match, a player or team official commits a sending-off offence, the referee has the authority to prevent the player or team official taking part in the match (see Law 3.6); the referee will report any other misconduct.

This says to me that ANY offence caused by a player, manager, or affiliated club member should be dealt with at the time, and that ‘Time and Space’ do exist within the football universe. This is a given for serious offences such as violent conduct, but it’s noteworthy for players receiving Yellow Cards, as they can rack up to Red Cards and suspensions.

The FA declared on Monday that Jordan Pickford would not receive retrospective action for his challenge, as the officials – both on field and VAR – handled the incident at the time. This statement was offered to prevent further discussion and expectations, but did not provide the required clarity on what is right – what should have happened. However by stating that the Officials had the opportunity to officiate on the incident, they’re doing two things: One, they’re allowing the referee team to control the game. Two; they’re backing their referee team rather than causing discontent amongst the ranks. Unfortunately, that means that both referee and VAR believed this WAS NOT A YELLOW OR RED CARD.

What fans really need, what stakeholders really want – is accountability. We want to know what the right decision should have been, so we can be confident in knowing what should happen next time – how players should approach future incidents – what is right. Instead, we’re scared to admit we were wrong, in case of libel action or a loss of confidence in the Officials. It would be a lot more reassuring if Referee HQ could take ownership of these controversial decisions and provide a black and white answer. We wait in hope… in the meantime, here’s how play should have resulted:

James McLean:
Free-kick to Ireland (Morral’s Foul)
Yellow Card awarded to McLean

Jordan Pickford:
Free-kick to Everton (VVD Offside)
Red Card awarded to Pickford

Free-kick to Liverpool (Mina’s Foul)
Red Card awarded to Richarlison

EPL GW5 Review: Claw Hammers and Sticky Toffees

The mystery mayhem manipulating Premier League matches continues

Another weekend of Premier League football continues to line the pockets of the bookies as no-one really knows what’s going on or why it’s happening but be honest… we fucking love it.

And the mayhem doesn’t stand still – for – one – moment. 26 goals from 8 weekend games, 5 last gasp equalisers across high scoring dramatic draws, a further last minute winner and late drama at Newcastle, Leicester and the only reliable guarantee left in football – Arsenal losing away to the Big 6.

Completing a concise review of the Premier League is getting harder and harder, almost harder than predicting what to bet on in the first place (I’ve only tipped 2 winning selections from 9 thus far – Villa are responsible for 3 of those). Each of these matches could generate thousands of words, but for now let’s keep it short and snappy.

Stand-out Match: Everton 2 Liverpool 2

What happened at White Hart Lane with West Ham coming back from 3-0 down with 82 minutes played is nothing short of a miracle. “That’s Football” Jose Mourinho remarked. However there is a deep truth to what happened at Spurs – they’re Spursy. It’s what Mourinho was brought in to change, and there’s no doubt that this was a slur on his reputation – hence the deflection of in-depth analysis simply to “that’s football”.

Instead we will focus on Goodison Park, where Premier League managers, players, fans… and some board members focussed their attention on the Merseyside Derby to seek answers on two vital questions: Are Everton the real deal for a challenge to the Top 4? Can Liverpool’s 30 point mountain from last season be conquered? The performance, result and Virgil van Dijk’s season threatening injury provided sufficient evidence to believe in both.

Liverpool’s front three – particularly Salah – looked sharp, and will continue to threaten all Premier League defences all season – which means despite any other wheels coming off – they should definitely expect to be title challenging. One major concern is the dramatic drop in goals and assists from Roberto Firmino, he’s now only scored 1 goal in 30 games. A lot is often said of what Firmino brings to Liverpool, allowing them to press from the front and create so many chances – but a return of 9 goals and 10 assists in 43 games since the start of 2018/19 should raise a few eyebrows.

Further concern undoubtedly lies in the expected prolonged absence of van Dijk. Having been in suspicious form this season anyhow, Liverpool’s title defence will be rocked by the loss of their inspirational Dutch leader at the back. It was noticeable, and I cannot be the only one that felt that, both Everton goals – one corner, another deep cross in open play – would both be shining examples of where van Dijk has brought an aerial dominance to this Liverpool side. Without him they were weaker and allowed both Keane and Calvert-Lewin free headers at goal to share the points. The image above shows how unmarked and unchallenged Calvert-Lewin is for 2-2. Other teams will target Matip and Gomez, the latter of which has been below his own standards at a time when he needs to step up the most.

Everton came from behind – twice – to take a point away from a fixture they have not won in 10 years. Their resilience to fight for something out of the game, and quality to achieve both goals and more chances should be praised and give Toffee fans enhanced hope to continue this form throughout the season, challenging the current erratic form of Man Utd, Chelsea, Leicester, Tottenham and Arsenal. You can believe the Toffees will be sticking around.

But a quick note on the incidents that have made the headlines: Pickford was incredibly lucky to stay on the pitch, for what would undoubtedly have been a red card had it not been for an irrelevant offside. It was reckless, dangerous, and he had to go; Richarlison was being Richarlison. Capable of brilliance, but occasionally hot headed and overly aggressive. It was a bad challenge which he admitted, and it was a straight red; the VAR decision to disallow Liverpool’s winner was both hilarious and ludicrous all-in-one. Rightly, albeit a little petulant, Liverpool have demanded answers from Referee HQ as to what the logic was behind this decision when the lines appear to be marked on complete make-belief, and the world seems to see Mane as being onside. With so much controversy surrounding these moments, we’ll pick them up in a separate article.

Stand-out Performance: Timo Werner

I didn’t have the patience to wait for time on Werner, selling him in Fantasy Football a fortnight ago, but after a goal and assist in midweek for Germany he appears to have settled into Premier League life with a brace and assist in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Southampton.

Werner’s talent and attitude have never been in question – he’s a machine in the final third, fully capable of running at you from out wide, bringing other players into the game, and deadly infront of goal. If anything, as the spearhead of such an attacking outfit it’s a wonder how it’s taken this long. He should be expected to maintain a higher standard, especially with such creative ability supporting him – it’s just a hope for Chelsea fans they can stop conceding so many goals costing them the win. Even just keeping their opponents down to 2 goals a game would have provided 4 more points, and push Chelsea into 2nd place. Oh how they must long for John Terry (reminder: JT is somehow assisting Villa’s 100% winning record).

In Form: Harry Kane and Heung-min Son

Whilst I can admit to selling Werner before he hit form, I can also celebrate replacing him with Harry Kane who is quite figuratively on fire – ably supported by Heung-min Son – as they continue to push the record books on goalscoring partnerships.

It’s even more impressive and exciting for Spurs fans that Gareth Bale is joining this front two to become arguably the most exciting front line in world football right now (the break-up of Barcelona and Real Madrid assisting this greatly).

Kane’s stats this season in Premier and Europa League are unprecedented and phenomenal. It’s worth noting they have NOT BEEN ENOUGH to see off home games vs Newcastle and West Ham, but he’s really stepped up to lead this new look Spurs:

Played 8 Goals 10 Assists 8

Son is not far behind on an a similarly impressive:

Played 7 Goals 7 Assists 4

With the arrival of Gareth Bale and Vinicius, it will allow more rest and drive more competition amongst Tottenham’s attack and you should expect Kane and Son to keep delivering on goals and assists. Next up, bottom of the table Burnley away.

Out of Form: Newcastle United

This may appear to be harsh, but hear me out. Yes, Newcastle have “impressed” this season, and had gathered 7 points from their 4 Premier League games – but looking at their season in more detail does raise alarm bells.

Their wins, a comprehensive victory on the opening day against West Ham – seems to point more towards the under-cooked Hammers that turned up, and home to Burnley, who are on 100% record of defeats. When dropping points, they were completely outplayed by Brighton, Spurs and Man Utd. In the League Cup, they have been untested with a big victory against Morecambe then relying on Penalties to defeat Newport County.

Some have been tempted to back Newcastle for safety, and perhaps more this year – but with Wolves and Everton to come they really need to pick themselves up and return some fight to the pitch.

Project Big Picture: Loss of Shield leaves Community Defenceless

Episode Two: Attack of the Clones – Faceless corporate monsters of US Sport lead the way on revolutionising UK Football – for the better?

When you sit down and watch a good old fashioned story of good versus evil, the bad guys are so clear and obviously bad guys. They make their intentions clear, they discuss the way they’re going to go about their deceit and wicked plans, then they attempt to win over the general public to obtain enough momentum to get their way. In this instance, Project Big Picture have put themselves out there as the good guys, yet… there’s some very obvious tell tale signs that suggest otherwise. Most notably, without any consideration for the obvious losses, the statement provided ‘The Community Shield abolished’.

Are you for real? One innocent football match in a 365 day calendar. The Wembley curtain-raiser of English football, dating back to 1908 – over 100 years of history – ABOLISHED. When you think of good and evil… surely the abolishment of an English institution that opens the domestic season, puts the two best teams against each other, all in the guise of charity… surely only evil motives can make such a demand?

In this instance the proposals from Fenway Sports and Joel Glazer are not even being subtle in their pursuit of personal wealth and two fingers up at the little man. They’re openly closing doors to using their powers for good. Why should they be playing any football that they’re directly benefitting from financially? Do you know what they could be doing instead of one charity match per year (on the off chance you are one of two qualifying sides)? Oh of course…

This is the clear image – sign – message to all UK football fans that says… We don’t actually give a fuck about you, we’re just commercialising every moment of time that belongs to our football clubs. Play games for charity? Go fuck yourselves – there’s millions to make from international television and merchandising you peasants.

Losing the Community Shield is a power play from the BPP Team. No other nation has made such a suggestion, in fact in other leagues the curtain raising ‘Super Cup’ is actually a sought after trophy rather than a meaningless day out for the benefit of vulnerable people and those less privileged. English football fans mocked Jose Mourinho for celebrating the Community Shield as part of a ‘Treble’ because it’s always been viewed as a pre-season friendly to us, a glamourous run around to show off the new signings for the season, and get a little momentum before 3pm next Saturday.

Equally, this is a clever negotiating tactic from Team BPP. They don’t really care enough about a one-off game. Sure it would open the door to planning a more thorough pre-season tour of commercial venues, but it’s just one game. In truth, it’s been added as part of an ironic “Big Picture” negotiation. When the Premier League and FA decide to respond to the proposals, this will be a ‘defeat’ Team BPP are willing to take in return for ‘something else’. That something else will no doubt be of greater value to them.

There are pros and cons to the overall Big Picture Project, but the fact that Fenway Sports, Joel Glazer and the clubs that are supporting this proposal are able to use the Community Shield as such a pawn within the beautiful game, the home of football, is shameful and absurd. Who the hell are these guys anyway? They just happen to own a name, a business, a whole load of shares and millions of pounds. But one thing is for sure, and we need to make sure it stays that way… They don’t own the game.


Project Big Picture: Problematic Big Project Projects Big Problems

Episode One: Confusing to look at, confusing to understand, this headline has more clarity and less deceit than the proposal landing on desks this week.

There are so many issues to discuss within Project Big Picture it’s really difficult to know where to start! The infiltration of US Sport into the UK Economy, the potential European ‘break-away’, the EFL ‘care package’, the ‘cloak and dagger’ methodology, the shadiness of it all being discussed behind scenes to resolve an issue of multi-billionaires whilst the rest of the country – nee WORLD – struggles to build any form of economic growth at all. Say hello to the money hungry cunts in the Premier League.

Oops! I may have let slip some bias within my final statement there… let’s try that again… Let’s investigate Project Big Picture.

For the purpose of this article, I’m only going to focus on three areas: Parachute Payments & Rescue Funds as part one and Special Voting Rights as part two.

Parachute Payments and Rescue Funds
For me, this disinformation has been handled exceptionally. Its Goebbels level stuff. First, you push the economically unhealthy into a position of catastrophe, a situation so dire they are in need of emergency funding. Okay, so the Premier League did not instigate Covid-19 (or did they? No, no they didn’t) but they are now in a position of such extreme authority they will have wished it had been them. The EFL, the National League, Grassroots football – all in so much financial insecurity that it’s part expected each division from here to the end of time will lose at least one club to complete dust. They’re fucked.

It’s now time to dangle a carrot in front of the EFL and lower league clubs… “Hey guys, we have the EXACT money you need to be bailed out…” Coincidence? Pffft. Not likely. “…All you need to do is sign your life away this new agreement”. Oooh… History tells us anyone who declares such an ultimatum ONLY has your welfare to heart… it screams of being dirty. Then couple that up with another request they have. The EFL want to scrap Parachute Payments to relegated Premier League teams as it creates an unfair advantage for those teams within the EFL structure that skews fair competition for teams coming up the table. BINGO! Do you know why bingo? Because by scrapping those payments, the Premier League will save approximately £250m per year – the SAME figure being provided to the EFL as a “rescue package” – the same figure approximately as the 25% being promised to the EFL from future television rights deals.

The Premier League have attempted to come riding in on a white / black / colour-self-identifying horse to the rescue of the EFL, but underhandedly re-routing existing finances so they’re doing little to nothing to rescue them at all. KAPOW! That is some seriously effective military manoeuvring that can only come with the experience of extreme capitalism… oh hi there Fenway Sports Group and Joel Glazer! It’s no coincidence these capitalists are all over this proposal. And here’s why.

Special Voting Rights
The US economy, industry, education, national rifle association… so many of their bodies, positions of power, have been built to cyclically support and maintain power amongst themselves. There is little room to allow progression, growth and diversity. Their whole country (much like we are discovering about ours) is stemmed in an ‘Old Boys’ Club’ where the rich get richer and the poor inevitably die. In Sport particularly, the rich get richer, and the poor expend the majority of their earnings to follow their team just to have something to live for. Witness US Sports and you see a body of people who put their lives on the line AS FANS because it’s their religion.

The basis for being able to do this in US Sports, is franchise sports – no promotions or relegations, no player power due to salary caps, no fish outgunning the other due to shared merchandising revenue. The whole system is skewed to benefit the pockets of the owners and shareholders, and finding more opportunities to increase revenue – NOT improving the game. It’s a level of control that allows them to insist that Colin Kapaernick is banned from all NFL football for making a political stance – a stance that hurt their share value so they had to remove him.

Soccer has had these issues for a long time. G14 – the largest teams in Eurpoe – have been holding UEFA and FIFA to ransom for years, ensuring all “fair” sport is actually skewed in their favour. Group stages guarantee revenue. Two legged knockout rounds offer more reliability to the big teams. Seeded draws are to support the big teams. UEFA cannot move without G14 making demands. For years we have tried to negotiate with those teams to prevent a European break-away – a European Super League.

Project Big Picture is attempting to implement this within – not just the Premier League – but the whole football ladder and Football Association. They have demanded ‘Special Voting Rights’ for the Big 6 (Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool) plus long-term Premier League teams Everton, Southampton and West Ham. DIRTY FUCKING TACTICS. Why have they done this?!

Current Premier League rules dictate that decisions can only be made with a majority of 14 teams deciding on a matter. This number has not come about by chance – it’s the counter-weight to the Big 6 making decisions for themselves. Those in charge have considered the position of the additional three teams and waged that by including them in Special Voting Rights, they may be able to swing the vote their way. It’s a classic move by the mega elite to the middle man… If you look after the middle man just enough, they will follow the elite to avoid becoming the peasants. Consider this though… The Big 6 are looking after the Middle 3, not to fight off the remaining 11… Oh no… they’re fighting off the remaining 11 Premier League clubs, 72 EFL clubs, 48 National League clubs, and all Grassroots football. The mega rich Big 6 that own all domestic trophies already, are trying to own it all.

Liverpool telling Everton that it’s Newcastle United trying to steal their cookie.

With their improved Special Voting Rights, we may never get to debate these ideas again. We will not even be privy to a discussion having taken place. This week we saw a vote take place on whether to implement Pay-per-view Premier League football. In the future, post Big Picture Project, the Big 9 will be able to implement what they want, whenever they want. Do you know what that could lead to? How about franchise football? Moving Chelsea out of London because they can build a 120,000 seater stadium there – half the money – double the capacity – and the Midlands is missing a major football side.

The idea that the bigger more powerful members of the Premier League could suddenly have more power, and over the whole Football League, is not a situation that bodes well for the future of the beautiful game. The proposal has its benefits, there’s definitely some good in there – but it’s pitched against the ultimate bad – the potential for break-away football – and we need strong discipline and leadership to ensure we do not sign our life away for the sake of the short term money.

Football will find a way once Covid has gone. We will lose some football teams, we will bankrupt some businesses. But football belongs in the hands of the fans, and once the stadia and the bank accounts are gone – football itself will remain, and the passion for kicking a ball about will not disappear from the community. However if we follow blindly into the powerhouse’s ambitions – well fuck, we’ve already starting losing our soul within football – we’ll be signing it all over to the ‘rich, white man’ that has dominated all industry globally.

Premier League 21.09.20

Stand-out Result: Newcastle 0 Brighton 3
In an unexpected (and quite costly to my Fantasy teams) performance and result at St. James’ Park, Newcastle’s summer and opening game optimism has come crashing down following this weekend’s home defeat to fellow expected relegation battlers Brighton.

Brighton were notably unlucky to come out of their home defeat to Chelsea in their opening fixture, but there was no hangover and Brighton’s Graham Potter was keen to emphasise progress from The Gulls.

Whilst a victory away at Newcastle tells no-one how good any one team is, the turnaround in fortunes for both teams reiterated what everyone knows about the Premier League – we know nothing.

Stand-out Performance: Neal Maupay (2 Goals, 1 Assist)
Neal Maupay ended last season well, finishing his opening Premier League season with 10 goals and already off the mark this season with a quick brace. To those less informed, Brighton is not Maupay’s first English team and following his one successful season with Championship Brentford is now only one goal short of 50 in English football. His performance and goals should not be underestimated, and is definitely one to consider for the fantasy football teams at £6.5m.

[Kane, Son, Calvert-Lewin may have outscored Maupay but their performances were less of a surprise and against open defences]

Stand-out Mistakes: Southampton Defence
Following a 9-0 home battering by Leicester last season, it was firstly a surprise then a commendation for Southampton that they stuck with Coach Ralph Hasenhüttl, having shown significant improvement in the second half of the season and leaving the relegation zone to finish a credible 11th place.

Having watched Southampton capitulate this weekend 5-2 at home to Spurs, leaving their half of the field to Heung-Min Son, it’s easy to see how a 9-0 defeat could occur against a potent counter-attacking force such as Leicester. What’s more concerning is they do not appear to have resolved this longer term issue, and how no-one on field appeared remotely flustered or determined to prevent it happening with each attack.

With Spurs fielding the former Saints midfielder Hojberg, could we see this level of performance occur more regularly with Southampton this season? It will take a lot more than a midfield maestro to fix this weekend’s issues and perhaps Hasenhüttl won’t be so fortunate next time.

In Form: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Ancelotti’s presence at Goodison Park last season did nothing to overwhelm even the most optimistic of Toffee fans, however there was definite ground work laid for this season’s progress not come as a surprise. Last season’s dedicated 4-4-2 with Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin upfront had its moments, but with three new star midfielders joining in Allen, Doucoraye and James Rodriquez it was unknown what to expect in shape and personnel but it would appear that Ancelotti has not just faith but expectation in Calvert-Lewin’s ability to lead his Everton attack, build a relationship with the creative force of Rodriguez and fire Everton into the Champions League.

In making comparison’s to his former no. 9 Filippo Inzaghi, he’s not exaggerating the effect that Calvert-Lewin can have for Everton, but also within the England squad.

Out of Form: All Defences
A lot was said regarding player fitness and level of performance when Premier League football was rushed back from the Covid-19 Lockdown in June, and much analysis was placed on the lack of fans and subsequent lack of home advantage given the increase in average points for the away teams both domestically and abroad. However nothing was seen then, as we have seen now, of the leap in number of goals in this new season.

The obvious guesses are in a lack of match practice for new defensive lines, attempting new tactics in the season break both for forwards and defences – that strikers can create chances and goals from nothing, but the reversal relies on organisation and structure. Whatever the abiding reason for the mammoth excitement of net busting games all weekened, I believe it’s hear to stay. Whilst the season is early, there is less to lose for chasing a game at 0-0 or having fallen behind, and whilst there’s a chance of teams such as Liverpool and Manchester United conceding three goals at home it is worth chasing the comeback.

Clean Sheets are not a thing of the past – but perhaps like the second wave of Covid-19 – Lockdowns won’t return until the end of Autumn.