Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
The end (almost) of a Premier League weekend can only mean one thing: the RealSport Weekend Round-up is here to provide you with all the stories you didn’t know you needed to know.
With England’s premier footballing competition well and truly underway now, we are here to bring you the blink-and-you-miss-it narratives. The punk narratives. The narratives that you only find deep in the bowels of the dark web. Or something like that.
Without futher ado, then, here are the stories that may have passed you by this weekend.
Through the years, we have been able to enjoy the full gamut of managerial aesthetics in the Premier League. From Tony Pulis’s suspiciously white-trainered PE teacher garb to the sartorial elegance of Ian Holloway’s day trip to the races look replete with waistcoat, almost all of the bases have been covered when it comes to pitchside fashion.
Enter Maurizio Sarri, who has taken the genre and turned it on his head with his death row prisoner get up now becoming all-too-familiar at stadia around the country.
Shuffling about the technical area like it is the exercise yard at Shawshank State Prison, the ill-fitting T-shirt looking like a hand-me-down from a previous inmate most likely interred for some sort of affray-based crime, Sarri likes to augment the effect by sparking up a cigarette and dragging away on it with the hollowed out look of a man contemplating his final days.
Still… next to his counterpart on Saturday, Sarri arguably looked the less salubrious. Unai Emery has done a fine job of impersonating the businessman, every bit a chancer, running some sort of insurance scam robbing millions of innocent people of their life savings.
Worst. Match. Ever.
The Simpsons has many colourful characters but one of my personal favourites is ‘Comic Book Guy’, an individual known for his critical nature and often proclaims movies or comics as ‘the worst ever’.
If he were a football fan, Comic Book Guy would surely have put Newcastle’s 0-0 draw at Cardiff as one of the worst matches ever. Both sides lacked any quality and the television audience was treated to a game more suited to the National League.
When Isaac Hayden was sent off for a poor tackle, the hope was that the game would bring to life. [Spoiler Alert] It didn’t.
Just as it looked like it would finish 0-0, Newcastle were handed a penalty for a questionable handball. Kenedy, who had one of his worst games ever in a Newcastle shirt, stepped up and fired the ball straight at Neil Etheridge who saved the day — quite literally — for Cardiff.
When Neil Warnock was seen celebrating the 0-0 draw Pete Townsend from the Who-style, no one was left in any doubt that this was truly ‘the worst match ever’ in virtually every respect.
Sanitation for the nation
Some kids grow up wanting to be professional footballers. Some kids grow up wanting to ride on the back of the truck with the bin men. Kevin De Bruyne, it would seem, never made up his mind.
Or at least, that’s one conclusion that can be drawn from the — presumably fashionable — baggy grey sweatshirt, emblazoned with ‘NYC Sanitation’ that he wore as he watched Manchester City dismantle Huddersfield.
Another explanation is slightly more troubling for the City’s owners. With the City Football Group owning New York City FC among various other clubs worldwide, there is a worry that more organic local sports teams could lose their hold on their areas. Sports teams such as NYC Sanitation’s department American Football team, which as you all will know, inspired the department’s nickname of “New York’s Strongest”.
De Bruyne’s clear show of support for the DSNY Football team in the face of insidious commercial globalisation is a touching example of sticking up for the little guy but one that might not win him any favours with those at the top of the City hierarchy.
Either that or De Bruyne is simply dressing for his rehabilitation the same way that most of us dress for a hangover. You decide.
What’s in a name?
There is some rule of life that is so obvious that it escapes attention. It is this: there is never more than one person in a novel with a particular first name. You will never find two Fitzwilliams in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as much as you won’t find more than one Piggy in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
You can probably extend a similar rule to football teams albeit with surnames rather than first names. On Saturday, we saw Josh Murphy and Jacob Murphy on the same pitch. However, they were on different teams, leading to the Newcastle fans gleefully proclaiming Cardiff’s Josh Murphy to be “just a shit Jacob Murphy” when he shanked a shot wide.
The exception that proves the rule in this regard is Bournemouth. Lewis Cook and Steve Cook did share the field momentarily when the former was brought on in the 90th minute.
Question marks have been raised about Eddie Howe’s reticence to play Lewis, although the youngster did have a long summer with the England youth set-up. Still, you know what they say about too many Cooks…
Taking to the floor
Fulham’s promotion push to the Premier League was aided greatly by their loan signing, Aleksandar Mitrovic, who joined permanently in the summer.
He scored his first Premier League goal for the club on Saturday to restore parity but goals from Lucas Moura, Kieran Trippier and Harry Kane sealed a 3-1 victory for the home side.
The Serbian is known for his ability in the air but it was his reactions on the ground that allowed him to bag against Spurs. After Joe Bryan’s cross evaded Mitrovic, Ryan Sessegnon was on hand to send the ball back across the six-yard box as the striker barely had to move.
The former Newcastle United man didn’t score the best goal from the canvas this month, though. That honour belongs to Lauren Hemp, who fell onto the ball following a great breakaway in an Under-20 match for England against Mexico.
Lies, Adama lies and statistics
It hasn't been the dream start to the season that many Wolves fans had been expecting but their defeat at Leicester on Saturday at least brought them their first sighting of perhaps the world's most unique footballer.
Wolves were already 2-0 down when Adama Traore was introduced at half-time and he didn't manage to pull them back into it. He did, though, manage to post the first of many 'that surely can't be right' dribbling stats of the season. His 45-minute cameo brought more completed dribbles than Tottenham, Southampton, or Newcastle managed in 90 (7).
He also spent a good amount of time being berated by Joao Moutinho for refusing to make runs until the ball was delivered to his feet despite being perhaps the fastest player in the Premier League, a more frustrating quality that Nuno Espirito Santo might just have to get used to this season.
If nothing else, though, his performance serves as a reminder of one important point: the best dribbler in world football might just have joined Wolverhampton Wanderers from Tony Pulis' Middlesbrough. Weird one, that.
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