Another bad week for Antonio Conte! Chelsea’s 4-1 loss at Watford on Monday night meant that the Blues dropped back behind Liverpool in the standings, whilst Tottenham – who drew 2-2 at Anfield – are now only a point outside the top 4. Arsenal sent out a signal of intent following their big January signings by demolishing Everton 5-1, and they now sit only 5 points outside the top 4, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang already contributing for the Gunners. Swansea’s resurgence under Carlos Carvalhal has seen them rise out of the relegation zone at the expense of Huddersfield, whose winless run continues following a 2-0 loss at Manchester United.
In all the hysteria surrounding the final minutes of Liverpool’s draw with Spurs, what has not been discussed much is Dele Alli’s yellow card for diving… again! This is his third yellow card for diving since his Premier League debut in 2015 and for a player of his undeniable quality he doesn’t need to do this! Now I have made my feelings clear previously that the FA’s ability to retrospectively ban diving is a step in the right direction, but to stamp diving out the game they need to be able to ban players for diving regardless of whether the ref is fooled or not.
Troy Deeney has also got himself in the headlines for the wrong reason this week after his middle-finger gesture in his goal celebration against Chelsea. Deeney has already been suspended twice this season for red cards including a violent conduct charge for a clash with Joe Allen but has avoided punishment for this transgression despite Alli receiving a 1-match suspension earlier this season for a gesture of his own. How Deeney has got away with this is beyond me!
But my biggest issue here is that both these players are role models to youngsters! As if them being Premier League footballers wasn’t enough, Deeney is his club’s captain while Alli is an England international. I understand that players can make mistakes but both are making them repeatedly and I would not want to be a parent and seeing my child idolise either of these guys at the moment.
Don’t get shirty
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Newcastle on Sunday. After a taking a lead through Mohamed Diamé, they were denied the 3 points at Crystal Palace by a 55th minute penalty for Ciaran Clark pulling on Christian Benteke’s shirt.
When I say I feel sorry for Newcastle, I should clarify – I 100% agree that the incident was a foul and deserving of a penalty, but these are never called by officials! This happens in the box at every set piece and if you call every single one then the games get into double digits for penalties. Players don’t know what they can and can’t get away with as there have been much more impactful shirt pulls that have gone unpunished previously.
I see 2 options: this needs to always be penalised or never be penalised. In my opinion the former is a better option. We may get a couple of weeks with a ridiculously high number of penalties, but most players will adapt and stop giving away these fouls or they won’t get picked by their managers. Surely a couple of weeks of penalties is worth it for a cleaner game.
No defence for this
Stoke’s early improvement under Paul Lambert stalled at the weekend with a 2-1 loss at Bournemouth. While Stoke are clearly starting to improve, their defence is still suspect and cost them at the weekend. Bournemouth’s first goal was at best a comedy of errors and at worst a shambles at the back, while Lys Mousset had a free header for the winning goal. I feel sorry for Jack Butland, who has not played poorly on the whole this season but has had so little help from his defence. With Joe Hart out of favour at West Ham, he should have been pushing for the England number 1 shirt, but the fact that he is part of a team with the worst defensive record in the league will surely harm his chances and possibly his confidence too. If Stoke do go down this year – I think they will be safe but with it so close in the table it is too tough to call – then it will be down mainly to defence rather than the guys up front.
Round 27 predictions:
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal – Draw
Everton v Crystal Palace – Everton win
Stoke City v Brighton & Hove Albion – Draw
Swansea City v Burnley – Burnley win
West Ham United v Watford – Watford win
Manchester City v Leicester City – Man City win
Huddersfield Town v AFC Bournemouth – Draw
Newcastle United v Manchester United – Man United win
Liverpool A Southampton v Liverpool – Liverpool win
Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion – Chelsea win