Only 4 weeks into the season and we already have our first managerial casualty. Frank de Boer has been sacked by Crystal Palace after only 7 days in charge, with Palace having lost 4 form 4 in the Premier League without having yet scored a goal. Elsewhere in the league, Manchester City’s 5 goals were overshadowed by a controversial red card to Sadio Mané, whilst Brighton scored their first ever Premier League goal and followed it up with 2 more to register their first win in the league.
Since the last round, we have had an international break and the transfer window has closed, so there has been plenty to think about this week. Obviously I don’t want to bore you so have tried to limit myself to just a few topics:
Where else could I really start this week, other than looking at Sadio Mané’s red card for a high boot on City keeper Ederson. The only thing that surprised me about the decision is how many people feel shocked that he was given a red! Granted there was no intent to injure and his eyes were always on the ball, but when has a referee based an incident on intent rather than outcome? The outcome was the Ederson got Mané’s studs in his face and was unable to continue playing. Kevin Kilbane was spot on with his assessment on MOTD2 when he said that it was a dangerous challenge due to height of the foot regardless of intent so deserved a red. Players know that going in with a high boot or showing studs is a red card under the current regulations, I agree with Lineker, Wright and Shearer that in that position a striker should be going for the ball, but they must be aware of their surroundings to ensure the safety of anyone around them.
By this logic though, I 100% feel that Matt Ritchie should have also received a red rather than the yellow he was given by Mike Jones. The only real differences between the two were that Ritchie appeared to just miss the Swansea player’s head, so the outcome did not look as serious as Saturday’s Mané incident. However as both had their feet raised to at least chest height, I cannot see why one should be a red and not the other. This is already the second time I’ve moaned about consistency of decisions this season, having done so following Round 2. Referees need to sit down and work out how they can consistently make the same decision, otherwise we will continue to have issues throughout the season.
Transfer Deadline Day was notable for some of the moves that didn’t complete: Alexis Sanchez is still at Arsenal and Philippe Coutinho failed to get his move to Barcelona. Both are stars at their clubs, yet neither made the starting XI this weekend and Coutinho didn’t even make the bench for Liverpool. It does not appear that either of them wanted to stay where they were and I do worry about the impact this will have on the clubs as they could potentially make the atmosphere toxic. I think the clubs would have done better getting the big money and using it to bring in a couple of players – or in Liverpool’s case a new back 4!
I know that it is early in the season, but I feel that Stoke could be dark horses for European qualification this season. Always a team capable of pulling off an upset, mark Hughes has quietly gone about his business and, despite losing Marko Arnautovic and sending Bojan out on loan, has put together a strong team including Jack Butland, Kevin Wimmer, Kurt Zouma, Ryan Shawcross, Jesé, Darren Fletcher, Ibrahim Afellay, Xerdan Shaqiri and Charlie Adam, to name but a few. This is not just club with a strong starting XI, but also a deep squad with an experienced manager in Mark Hughes who knows how to combine good attacking play with a strong, organised defence. They coped well against a Manchester United team that had scored 10 goals and conceded none in the first 3 games. I’m sure that United will not be the last of the big teams to struggle in Stoke, regardless of whether it is a cold rainy night or not!