What the EPL?!: Ange’s one-liners and the glorious return of the Socceroos to the Premier League
It’s been a long time between drinks in the Premier League.
Not for them, of course, as they have played a thousand games of football (each more climatic than the last), but for us, the Australian Premier League watching community.
See there’s been the Socceroos, of course, but a whole lot of FA Cup, which means sweet FA to most on these shores, and then the weird staggered winter break that keeps the UK rights holders happy but plays havoc with the continuity of the competition.
Last time we convened, the discussion was whether this was the best Premier League season ever, and the first properly three-directional title race in a very long time.
As we enter the proper part of the season, that looks both even more true and simultaneously, a load of rubbish.
Back then, Arsenal were about to play Liverpool – they have played three times in six weeks, including a cup tie – and we said that a draw would be the worst result for neutrals in the sense that it strengthened the hand of Manchester City, who would inevitably crush all comers in their now-traditional January charge.
Duly they did draw – and City are now, thanks to Tuesday morning’s 3-1 win at Brentford, on a nine game winning streak, five of which have been in the league.
So, that’s that then. Well…maybe not.
While a draw was the worst result for the neutrals in December, the Arsenal win that transpired over the weekend does bring the three horses closer together, and keep the Gunners in the fight entirely.
Had they lost, like they did in the cup, it would have been curtains for them at eight points behind Liverpool.
The Reds remain top, though would be surpassed if City win their game in hand, with Arsenal currently level with Pep Guardiola’s men.
City have three consecutive home games against bottom half side – lol, Chelsea, lol – before away trips to Luton and Bournemouth, though, so expect that nine to be a lot more soon enough.
Elsewhere, the main criticism that this wasn’t the greatest season ever was the total lack of a relegation battle, but a combination of financial chicanery and the greatest hatter renaissance since Peaky Blinders repopularised the flat cap has seen the bottom end turn into a traditional dogfight.
Everton have had ten points taken off them, might have more yet to come and currently sit in the drop zone – they would be 12th otherwise – and Luton have jumped up the table thanks to some ludicrous results, none more than this weekend’s 4-4 with Newcastle.
Forest have also moved right down there and might well end up with another points deduction alongside the Toffees, which would surely be curtains given how poor they already are.
Sheffield United are goneskis and so are Burnley, but don’t discount a huge, four way schmozzle for that last spot.
Socceroos are back, baby
So what about our brave Aussie boy? No, not Ange – we actually have a player in the Premier League!
It was a mere six months between Harry Souttar, who at least nominally played in the EPL, getting relegated and Joe Gauci, the Adelaide United keeper, moving to Aston Villa, returning Australian representation back to the top league.
If we’re being pedantic, there are a few other Aussies on the books – Garang Kuol, for example – but in terms of guys that might actually play at some point, it was half a year of shame for Australia.
Gauci, obviously, probably won’t play. Dibu Martinez just won the World Cup and the Yashin Award, so he’ll be the number one at Villa Park until further notice, and his back-up, Robin Olsen, has 70-odd caps for Sweden, so Gauci is third place going in.
Currently in fifth place is Ange Postecoglou and Spurs. It’s been a little up and down of late, with three wins that you’d expect them to win, a heavy loss at Brighton and two draws at Manchester United and, this weekend, Everton.
Still, this is a side that was roundly rubbish last year and has been without its best player, Son Heung-Min at the Asian Cup, had its second best player, James Maddison, out injured and now seen its third best player, Yves Bissouma, miss a month at the African Cup of Nations and then contract malaria.
For Tottenham to be in fifth, playing the way they are with the team they have is frankly ridiculous.
As it stands, one of them and Aston Villa is going to be in the Champions League next year, and given the expansion of that competition, it might well be both of them. On form, they’d crush it.
That leaves us with the reason that they can be fourth and fifth, which is that Manchester United and Chelsea aren’t there.
Erik ten Hag’s jacket isn’t quite as close to falling off the peg as it might have been a few weeks ago, not least because his young stars have started to perform, but the Dutchman is far from out of the woods.
More concerningly, no sooner had they got rid of a hugely talented, somewhat underwhelming star in Jadon Sancho than another, Marcus Rashford, rang in sick after a night on the tiles in Belfast. Look, it happens to the best of us.
They are saved from crisis club status by Chelsea, however.
Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that he might get sacked at the Bridge, and despite chucking the GDP of a small country at the problem, the Blues still don’t have a proper striker and have a midfield that Wolves managed to run straight through the middle of more than once en route to a 4-2 win this weekend.
That came on the back of a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool in midweek, ratcheting up the pressure on Poch.
The canary is already singing all around the coalmine: fans are singing for the return of recently sacked Roma boss Jose Mourinho and even Thiago Silva’s wife, Belle, took to social media to rant against her husband’s boss.
“It’s time to change. If you wait any longer it will be too late,” she wrote.
Last time she waded into first team staffing, Graham Potter ended up out on his ear with nothing but multiple millions of dollars to show for it. Don’t count it out for Pochettino.