If the Premier League is a perfectly performed piano symphony, then the international break is an over-zealous four-year-old slamming his Play-Doh-crusted hands onto as many piano keys as possible and smiling at you endearingly. The silver lining of this otherwise overcast, PL-less week however, is that it gives us a chance to take a breath and examine the talking points from a season that has already reached a deafening crescendo.
The total eclipse of Joe Hart
Going from England’s first-choice goalkeeper to Manchester City’s third choice is obviously quite the fall from grace for Joe Hart. I have seen it described as a ‘scandal’ on Twitter and, frankly, I think it has been blown completely out of proportion.
Not long ago, Joe Hart was being heavily criticised for his poor performances in the Euros, and now there are widespread gasps of indignation when Pep Guardiola decides that he wants a better goalkeeper. I will concede that Caballero is not a better goalkeeper, (with his hands or his feet from what he has displayed thus far), but Claudio Bravo certainly is.
Hart has never been good with his feet, even Fabio Capello told him to improve that but he hasn’t. The anger is surrounded by the fact that he is one of the last players in this Manchester City side that has been there for a significant amount of time and risen through the ranks. It is sad to see him depart in this fashion, yes, but he isn’t good enough and Guardiola wants the best.
Manchester United broke the world transfer record to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford and the question on everyone’s minds is whether or not he is worth £89million. I am of the persuasion that he is indeed worth that, and he will prove it.
The biggest factor I looked at in this deal was Pogba’s age. He is 23. That means he could well have a decade of top-quality seasons in him and he is already one of, if not the best midfielder in world football, and he will only get better. He isn’t even at his peak yet and he can change a game in an instant, and he loves the club.
Everything about this move makes sense and Jose Mourinho will make him an even better player. It is with transfers like this that Manchester United can pull up a chair again at the top table of European football.
Mike Dean grappling with interpretations of the rules
Mike Dean just loves giving penalties for grappling in the penalty area this season. He gave two in the Stoke v Manchester City game for this exact reason, and it sparked a lot of debate about how the rules should be interpreted.
I think it is perfectly acceptable for Mike Dean to give these penalties, but the other referees need to follow suit. Unless you want a situation where everyone grapples unless Mike Dean is the referee, we need some unity on this matter. Grappling is a problem and stamping it out can only be a good thing, as long as it doesn’t tip the balance too heavily in favour of the attacker.
What has been noticeably better this season is the dissent issue. The new rules have seen vast improvements, and lots of yellow cards, in terms of players berating the officials. A similar approach to grappling would probably work in a similarly effective way.
Andre and social media’s Gray areas
The FA has charged Burnley striker Andre Gray for alleged homophobic Tweets composed four years ago. This one isn’t really open for debate.
The Tweets that Gray posted were fairly stupid and have rightly come back to haunt him. As a role model for young people this sets a terrible example, and the FA have acted accordingly. For Burnley, it is frustrating but at the same time they also could have picked up on this when they signed the player. Football is a sport that should be about acceptance and, above all, fun. Hopefully Gray’s punishment will deter him, and others, from letting things like this get in the way of people’s enjoyment of the sport.
Arsene buying into fan pressure
Another transfer window has almost slammed shut and once again Arsene Wenger has been under fire. Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez have joined Granit Xhaka at the Emirates now however, so what’s the problem?
Xhaka has already made a good start and looks like he can successfully fill a gap that Arsenal have been looking to fill for a while. Mustafi also looks like a good signing on paper; he has experience, tactical discipline from his time in Italy, and he’s young enough to have a long and successful career at Arsenal.
The problem is Lucas Perez. He was a long way from Wenger’s first choice (he already went for, and failed to sign, Vardy and Lacazette) and looks like he might be a panic buy. He likely won’t be first choice and may well fill a Danny Welbeck role of playing wide when his best position is central.
Wenger hasn’t addressed Arsenal’s striker issue, (even though I am a fan of Olivier Giroud), and this could be his last season in charge. It looks like he won’t go out with a bang, which is a huge disappointment after all he has done for the club.