Most people like to take a break from time to time, especially heavily bouffant haired pop berks, and why not? But last weekend saw the advent of a drinks break introduced to the Premier League, during the matches where temperatures were in excess of 30°C.
This new-fangled hydration health check was not to everyone’s taste though – perhaps this is just the gateway to darker things, maybe the next in-game break will be to allow players to top up on their tattoos and tweet them to players in other games.
As we move into the fourth week of the season, we take a collective potentially unwelcome ‘drinks’ break of the cup of tea domestic game for the resumption of the International wine list and qualifying for the European Championships at the seasons close.
Before this pause, we have one final round of late summer fixtures, kick-started by Arsenal’s trip to St James Park. Newcastle have certainly come in for a fair bit of flak recently, but came away from their trip to Old Trafford with more than just the point gained from a hard earned draw – they put in a very respectable performance to ensure that United were kept well and truly at arm’s length, and will be at pains to keep another of the big boys in check here.
Arsenal, were indeed glad to have their own Cech in place against Liverpool – lots of pundits got hot under the collar about Petr Cech’s transfer from Chelsea in the close season, suggesting that he would win ten points or so for his new team. He certainly helped earn the point in this superbly exciting goalless delight. Best not to mention the three points he dived away from on his debut though.
The clash at Villa Park between Villa and Sunderland is a contest of two sides that have not really got going yet this season; having won their opening fixture, Villa have slid to successive defeats, although perhaps this may be tempered by the signing of the hugely impressive Adama Traore from Barcelona. As for Sunderland, at least the crisis meeting after their abject demise against the cunning Canaries has yielded their first point of the season against the hipsters of Swansea. It’s unknown if the agenda for the crisis meeting included agreeing the job description for Jermaine Defoe’s PA (I have applied for this in case you were wondering) and it may be that this match is really another crisis meeting to discuss these sides midweek madness in the League Cup. Either way, a fascinatingly macabre contest this looks like being.
No such woes for the two sides who are going head to head on the south coast. Bournemouth, who produced an exhilarating display to triumph in a seven goal thriller against West Ham last week. Admittedly, West Ham’s defence decided that the best way to treat Darren Randolph’s debut in the Irons net was to take a 90 minute long drinks break, but this cannot take away from the way in which Eddie Howe’s heroes set about their task and were more than worthy winners. Claudio Ranieri meanwhile continues his impressive return to the Premier League, picking up another point against Spurs in an unbeaten start to the season, his side looking very comfortable under his guide so far.
Looking distinctly uncomfortable at the moment are the hosts of the London derby in South West London, where the Kings Road crew wipe the chewing gum off the red carpet for Alan Pardew, who brings his high flying regal Eagles to peck at Jose Mourinho’s ego. Both these sides saw off West Midlands opponents in the last round of games, with Mourinho registering his first win at the third time of asking (yes, third time of asking – Mourinho out, Ranieri in!) and even with these three points came more woe for Chelsea as John Terry saw red –what a week he has had… Luckily new boy Pedro, stolen ruthlessly from the less mega rich men of Manchester, starred on his debut, scoring one and setting up another for the dysfunctionally-circuit-boarded Diego Costa. With another three points in the bag for Palace after their victory versus Villa, Pardew goes to the Bridge in fine fettle and ready for battle – for Mourinho, you just sense one more decision that goes against Chelsea and he will explode in the mother of all funks.
Slaven Bilic had all rights to be in a funky mood himself after watching his side’s capitulation against Bournemouth. Despite almost stealing what would have been a richly undeserved point during a last minute goal mouth scramble, Bilic’s side were hung out to dry by the Cherries and he will have had a few choice words for those masquerading as defenders last week. A game against a side who have yet to concede a goal this season is probably not what is required next, but Bilic must galvanise his troops accordingly – perhaps a pre-match team talk sound-tracked by Sleaford Mods will do the trick. Brendan Rodgers on the other hand will be more than happy with his sides first three games this season – even though there has only been two goals, the signs of an understanding between his two goalscorers this season, Christian Benteke and Philippe Coutinho looks promising. And it looks like Mario Balotelli is about to sling his hook. How can things get any better?
Just down the East Lancs road sees the clash of the 100%ers as maximum points show-offs Manchester City host Watford, who really are the most diplomatic bunch you could wish to meet, as they share their points out with everyone. With one of these records about to be shredded and put out for re-cycling (but not by Defoe’s PA), you sense that Manuel Pellegrini will be grinning more than his dapper counterpart, Quique Sanchez Flores. Pellegrini’s side have been imperious so far with eight goals and three consecutive clean sheets, the task for the misfiring Hornets looks tricky to say the least.
At the Britannia stadium, two sides meet who probably got each other’s points quota in the last match; Stoke being somewhat fortunate to escape Norfolk with a point and the only damage to themselves Jack Butland’s gammy finger, while West Brom contrived to not deepen Jose’s blues by missing a penalty and then not taking advantage of the advantage bestowed upon them by Mark Clattenburg with his soft dismissal of John Terry. Further to this, it seems Pulis may soon be without wantaway striker Saido Berahino, as Tottenham continue to sniff around the England striker. Mark Hughes has certainly taken Stoke on to the next level, not least by trying to turn them into Barcelona reserves, so Pulis will surely be happy if he can leave the Britannia with another point under his cap.
Down at the Lane sees the clash of two perennial top four wannabes, who will have their work cut out again this season to get anywhere near the Champion League places. Spurs have so far hung onto their best players, Hugo and Harry, but have yet to really have their season take off. Everton meanwhile have gone through the complete gamut of emotions already, having drawn, won and lost -the loss last time to Pellegrini’s juggernaut. To compound their current misery, John Stones has decided that he has had enough of watching Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines pluck their eyebrows and wants to share a big soapy hot tub with Gary Cahill and the aforementioned bath dweller John Terry instead. It seems only a matter of time for this gruesome metaphor to be realised, and it does beg the question as to why the transfer window should overhang the start of the season and leave clubs not knowing who is coming or going.
Southampton can probably understand this, such has been the exchange of players over the last year, and with talk of players such as Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama potentially being teased away, they will be glad if someone could lock the window and keep the key somewhere safe. Having said that, the Saints are yet to get out of first gear this season, so maybe another ten players in might not be a bad thing. The Canaries will be quite pleased to find themselves perched on the Gunners at the current time, although they probably should have collected more than the one point from the draw against Stoke last time out. Alex Neils’ men will be looking to strike at another stripy shirted team, as they did in their last away match at Sunderland.
The final face off pairs up last week’s sharer of the spoils with North Easterly folk, Swansea and Manchester United. Both sides have made solid starts to the season, the Welshmen more stylish in their displays than United so far, who are grinding out results without playing particularly well – nevertheless, three clean sheets in a row is not to be sniffed at, the majority of United’s sniffing at the moment comes as a result of those pesky blue bullies pilfering Pedro from under their beaks. United do have their beady eyes on another international superstar of their own, so perhaps they will make one last attempt at grabbing that Gary Baley fella from Surreal Madrid before the transfer window slams shut on their sweaty paws. They will need those to carry the next round of drinks in.