The biggest fixture on the English calendar failed to deliver, as did Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea yet again. Thomas Stelzer is back with EPL Stoppage Time for Matchday Five, covering the state of the league table and some Martin Tyler commentary box mischief.
Five weeks into the new Premier League season and there’s a certain sense of depressing déjà vu. Despite off-season speculation that the new TV deal may go some way to leveling the financial playing field, and the actual playing field itself, we find ourselves in familiar circumstances. More of the same and more of it.
Perennial Top 4™ heavyweights Manchester United and Arsenal sit 3rd and 4th respectively, whilst above them the sky blue of Manchester City led their southern, blue-shirted rivals in what looks like another two-horse title race.
You’d be forgiven for thinking 2015/16 looks like a serving of the same old Premier League pie, until you realise those blue shirts belong not to Mourinho’s money-grubbing men, but plucky footballing heroes, Leicester City. In a turn of events that seemed as unlikely as Mesut Ozil launching a modeling career, the Foxes have gone from relegation certainties to European dark horses in a matter of months.
In the cynical world of modern football, it’s the kind of heartwarming occasion that restores your faith in the game, like African kids getting their first ball, or Qatar winning the right to host the World Cup.
Things aren’t so heartwarming for Chelsea, whose start to the season is now the worst since 1986. The Blues sit one place above the relegation zone after falling victim to unlikely hat-trick hero, Steven Naismith. Coming on as a substitute, the Scotsman banged in a trio of goals with his left foot, right foot and head to put the league champions 11 points off the pace of City.
As if things weren’t bad enough for Chelsea fans (ignoring for a moment the soul-crushing angst of actually supporting the club), their own marketing department inadvertently rubbed salt in the wounds by offering email subscribers ‘a Hat-Trick of Offers’ the day after the loss to Everton.
If #medicgate is any indication of the club’s approach to employee error, it looks like there’ll be a number of vacancies in the promotions team by the end of the week. Though if this is indeed the stance on poor performance, the same may be true for most of the starting eleven.
There was similar pain for Liverpool supporters, as their side suffered an embarassing defeat in a damp squib of an M62 derby. Despite playing for a draw, the Reds went down 3-1 and will take little solace from Christian Benteke’s consolation wonder-goal.
Down 2-0, the Belgian struck with a breath-taking scissor kick, a goal of such magnificence it failed to inspire even a whisper of a Liverpool comeback. Much like Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup Final, who slotted home the most audacious panenka penalty in World Cup history before headbutting a pesky Italian defender, Benteke’s goal will forever be overshadowed by what came afterwards.
In what is guaranteed to feature in infinite ‘Top 10 Premier League Moments’ YouTube videos for years to come, no doubt sound-tracked by horrible EDM, Anthony Martial, Manchester United debutant and the most expensive teenager in the world, came on to score the game’s decisive goal.
After jinking past the hapless Martin Skrtel, Martial slotted home past Simon Mignolet, extracting from Martin Tyler the kind of orgiastic exclamation one normally associates with adventurous teenage boys masturbating for the first time.
Being French and black, the striker has been likened to a young Thierry Henry, a comparison about as predictable as the former Arsenal man’s punditry. Whether he can live up to the billing is another matter, but in a season not short on narrative, there’s always room for one more.