Ho ho ho! Happy Christmas! Or Feliz Natal! as AVB might say. Although that’s a bit of a stab in the dark as if I’ve learnt anything this season it’s that you can’t predict in any way what AVB is going to say, ever. He’s like a multilingual philosopher with a thesaurus, and no post-match interviewer has any idea how to deal with him. Anyway, Happy Christmas Premier League: on Monday night Chelsea FC gave the entire division an early Christmas present.
Of course, some may not see it that way, some may see it as another nail in football’s coffin, where money has destroyed the ethos of the game and players are motivated by nothing but greed. Well sod them I say. Who wants to listen to a cynic when Frankie Lampard shushes Juan Mata, lines up opposite a keeper who’s seen dozens of his penalties in England training, and thumps it down the middle? It was reminiscent of Beckham’s penalty against Argentina. Maybe there’s method in this: any penalty taker seeking redemption thumps it down the middle. I might write a book about that, tie it in with business strategy, get Malcolm Gladwell to endorse it and sit back on the royalties. Something for the new year there.
Meanwhile, everyone was grateful for our Monday night Christmas present: everyone? Everyone.
Chelsea: Obviously we were chuffed. Not only did it continue the renaissance that was started against Valencia (which may indeed turn out to be a flash in the pan, but might also be a long enough flash to save AVB and continue the squad’s rejuvenation) but it was the fashion of the victory that meant so much: Coming back from a goal down, solid defending thereafter, sensible tactics, self-belief, deserving goalscorers and finally some refereeing decisions going our way… It was like all our Christmases at once.
Man U: Of course they loved it, it puts the brakes on their local rivals and goes a little way to concealing their disappointment at failing to get out of the Champions League group stages, ho ho ho. Most importantly the win gives them false ambition. No way is that squad going to win anything, not even the Europa shmopa, and yet thanks to us they still live in the theatre of dreams. It’s going to be a hard fall when it comes.
Spurs: Just when things started to look rosy, up pops Stoke and pop goes the bubble. There’s something of last year’s Man City to Spurs: they’ve got a good squad and after one or two results can delude themselves into thinking they can have a tilt at the title. But those who’ve been there know that titles are won by grinding out results against the middle order, not about flashy wins at the top. There are one or two piss easy teams in the premiership, QPR for instance, but only a fool would see Stoke as a foregone conclusion. And yet, inflicting the first defeat on Man City means that Spurs haven’t dropped behind. Thanks to Chelsea, they can spend a Christmas still dreaming of Premiership gold.
Man City: Is there any way we can put a positive spin on this for Man City? Not really. But then, they don’t really celebrate Christmas over there do they? So, there’s no need. Maybe we’ll give them something nice for Eid. Some dates and milk or something. Salam al Laikum!
Liverpool: You know, I don’t think Liverpool are going to contest the title this year, and in spite of everything I don’t think they really think so either. So if you think about it, our victory over Man City doesn’t benefit them at all. That said, we already gave them two Christmas presents in the space of a week, and we don’t want them to get greedy, because we all know what happens next. Complacency sets in, they find themselves borrowing on credit for the next away win, ‘it’s just around the corner, honest’ and wouldn’t you know it, six years have passed and it’s institutionalised. That dfs sofa doesn’t seem so cheap now does it?
Arsenal: Ah, Arsenal. Poor old sods. Can you imaging being the third best team in London and still having to cheer on your local rivals to prevent the title being shoved out of reach? It must be tough. But they’ve got some statues so they’re happy.
The rest of the table: Nobody wants to see the title all wrapped up by Christmas., just like nobody wants to see Lady Gaga dressed in meat. But then if we don’t do something about it, these things happen. Fortunately, we do do something about it, and on top of that it puts a nice symmetry on things: Man City beat Man U; Man U beat Arsenal; Arsenal beat Chelsea; Chelsea beat Man City. If nothing else this merry-go-round of ridiculous victories (four games, twenty nine goals) should prove to everyone in football that there’s no rhyme or reason in the Premier League. It’s a free-for-all and if the chips fall your way, anyone can beat anyone. Except Blackburn, who can only beat Swansea.
As an aside, if we were to move stadium and try to piggy back some history onto the new ground with three classy statues, who would be the players of choice? I expect JT is making a good claim for a berth, but I’d like to see Zola in there too. And obviously Hong Kong De Goey, because of his tache.