Hooray, domestic football is back! Oh no, domestic football is back!
Gael Givet has a beard. Tim Howard has a beard. Andrea Pirlo has a beard. Ben Hamer has a beard. We are now at the stage that modern masculinity is so battered and unsure of what it should be doing that growing a beard in and of itself is afforded respect. To do so as a footballer is apparently an unparalleled achievement in the fields of testosterone, white collar fight clubs and eating big sandwiches which will cause health problems in your forties.
Having a beard is a choice and merely an absence of shaving, and not an achievement, and it is one chosen by increasingly stupid men and bad players. If you’re looking up to men with a beard, then why not just grow one yourself and get on with your life? It’s much less embarrassing than the coquettish concept of ‘man love’.
When Mamadou Sakho joined Liverpool from Paris Saint-Germain last season, a particularly handsome football journalist pointed out that he wasn’t, actually, any good. That was despite his £18 million transfer fee and the fact that PSG didn’t want to let him go. That was enough to convince plenty of people who hadn’t seen him consistently fall over, make mistakes and score own goals for the club. The reason they didn’t want to sell him wasn’t especially because they thought he had talent - he had already stopped being first choice when Alex (yes, that Alex) was at the club - but because after the PSG takeover he was an easy sop to the sentimentalism of the fans.
And now, well, he’s still not any good, being one of the defenders responsible for Aston Villa’s goal on Saturday. What’s annoying is that this will happen at other clubs and with other players. Fans who have never seen a player will insist, courtesy of the transfer fee and YouTube clips, that those who have actually seen him play regularly are incorrect. It’s not likely. Usually, the person with the knowledge knows more - as one person on Twitter said to a Manchester United-supporting journalist on the day they bought Alexander Buttner, “I am afraid he was terrible.” The temptation was to assume this was wrong, but as usual, it wasn’t.
Manchester United are back!
They beat QPR 4-0. Everyone should beat QPR 4-0. Come back when they’ve actually done something worthwhile.
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READ: 5 Things We Learned From Manchester United 4-0 QPR
Wilshere back to his best/Arsenal
Jack Wilshere and Arsenal have been oddly praised for their 2-2 draw with Manchester City. Now, it was an improvement upon last year’s performances against the big sides, and Wilshere scored and played well around the box for most of the match. However, that does ignore that to some, it still looks like Arsenal have not changed their personality, or really improved on their weaknesses enough to be encouraged.
They conceded a late equaliser, not having the defensive organisation to mark at a corner. They were not opened up by some great attacking move, they just didn’t mark at a corner. Wilshere should have been punished for an obvious and apparently deliberate handball in the box, weeks after escaping similar punishment for a ludicrous lunge against Besiktas, and also when he gave away possession in the last few minutes in the same game.
Wilshere has, we are told, improved. Well, that’s fantastic but it does not change that he is still liable to make at least one serious error in every match he plays. For a central midfielder, that is simply not good enough for any big side except, Arsene Wenger seems to think, Arsenal. Add to that Mathieu Debuchy joining Kieran Gibbs on the injury list, and they are down to four fit defenders after another negligent transfer window. It is incongruous to see so much optimism around Arsenal when things have barely changed beneath the surface.
Shinji Kagawa scored one goal and set up another in his second debut for Borussia Dortmund, on his return to the club. There were plenty of tweets crowing to Manchester United fans about what they had lost, as if they should regret his departure. Well, it doesn’t really work like that.
Obviously when Jurgen Klopp works with him, he is able to be one of the most incisive, confident and effective midfielders in Europe. What he proved at Manchester United was that away from Klopp and Dortmund, he can’t carry out the instructions of David Moyes or Louis van Gaal. Should United fans be sad on what they’re missing out on? Not really, because they did their missing out when he was actually at the club. Paul Pogba, on the other hand...
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