Sport Soccer

Saturday 21 October 2017

Jose Mourinho's next big-name victim, Ronald Koeman's twisted logic and Arsenal's fighting fans in our Premier League review

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was not a happy man after his side's 0-0 draw against West Bromwich Albion
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was not a happy man after his side's 0-0 draw against West Bromwich Albion
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

A shock defeat for champions-elect Chelsea against Crystal Palace, more moans and groans from Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and a bizarre rant from increasingly unbelievable Everton manager Ronald Koeman provided the narrative for this weekend’s Premier League action.

Here is your Independent.ie guide to a weekend that had a few stories hidden under the surface.

RONALD KOEMAN TALKING NONSENSE

Everton manager Ronald Koeman spent the build-up to his side’s Merseyside derby clash with Liverpool exchanging patronising jabs in the direction of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and then his post match analysis of his side’s 3-1 defeat at Anfield was amongst the most unfathomable of this Premier League season so far.

On a day when the key men in his Everton side failed to show anything like the kind of commitment he had a right to expect and his star striker Romelu Lukaku was missing in action, Koeman's review of the match was as confusing as it was inaccurate.  

“I’m proud about the team and the result does not reflect the game,” he argued, inspiring most who had witnessed the game at Anfield to ponder whether this master tactician had dreamed up an entirely different game in his mind. “We can be proud how difficult we made it for Liverpool and this is how we want to continue to play.”

This was a classic case of a manager trying to defend his players on a day when had woefully under-performed in one of their biggest games of the season, with Koeman’s delusion quickly inspiring a torrent of derision on social media channels.

His spiky criticism of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and a renewed attack on Ireland manager O’Neill suggested Koeman was intent on blaming anyone but himself for his troubles, yet the truth is he missed a chance to give a credible version of events after a defeat that damaged his side’s hopes of ending the season on a high.

Koeman may also reflect that he could have handled the fall-out from James McCarthy's injury sustained while on Ireland duty with a little more dignity, with the moral high ground he had over an incident that reflected poorly on McCarthy and Ireland boss O'Neill lost amid immature comments from both camps via a variety of media platforms.

If Koeman had suggested the matter would be dealt with privately, what now appears to be McCarthy's inevitable exit from Everton could have been executed without the media circus that erupted last week. Instead, he chose to bring a few days of negativity onto himself that could have been avoided.

WHY ANTHONY MARTIAL MAY BE NEXT ON MOURINHO'S CHOPPING BOARD

While Everton boss Koeman defended his players when they deserved to be chastised, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho took the unusual step of singling out some of his star names for criticism after a 0-0 draw against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford.

United’s EIGHTH home stalemate of this Premier League season was a hammer blow to their hopes of a top four finish and he was quick to suggest their latest setback was down to just four players.

United may be on a 19-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, yet Mourinho picked out his attacking quartet of Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lindgard and Anthony Martial as the fall-guys for failing to change a script that has been so familiar for United at Old Trafford this season.

“We miss easy chances, we miss moments to push really,” he stated. “Then a couple of players disappear and there are 10 minutes when you don’t see them and you see always the same people, always the same guys in front of the train, pulling the train.

“I try, I give chances. I give chances. Okay, let’s go. Let’s try. Let’s have one more opportunity. No pressure. Keep going, keep going, keep going. There is nothing else we can do.”

It was pretty damning stuff from Mourinho and while Mkhitaryan and Rashford should still be a part of his long-term plans, you have to question whether he will also trust Lingard and especially Martial to perform for him in his second season at United.

After chastising the France striker and his agent for stirring up stories linking him with a move away from United in January and refusing to play him in the central striking role he prefers, don’t be surprised if the young gun United paid £36m to sign in the summer of 2015 is sold for another huge fee at the end of this season.

One player certain to leave United this summer is Luke Shaw, with Mourinho ending his press conference with this uncompromising criticism of his England full-back (above).

WENGER CONFUSION CASTING A DAMAGING SHADOW OVER ARSENAL

There was a curious atmosphere at Emirates Stadium on Sunday and it can only be hoped that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger realised he was responsible for the mayhem.

Manchester City were the guests for a fixture that was so important to both sides as they look to secure a top four finish in the Premier League, with a 2-2 draw doing little to enhance either side’s ambitions.

Yet it was the inexplicable scenes on and off the field that were hard to fathom.

Why did the Arsenal players refuse to celebrate Theo Walcott’s vital first half equaliser? How can you explain the fighting that was breaking out between Arsenal fans calling for the removal of Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager and his few remaining supporters?

Then there was the sight of thousands of fans streaming out of the ground early, even though the match was hanging on a knife-edge heading into the closing stages, before the familiar chaps filming their latest instalment of Arsenal Fan TV for their YouTube channel were attacked by Arsenal supporters calling for them to shut down their broadcasts.

“It was all just very strange,” suggested Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, as he summed up the mood at the game. “If the love of the game and celebrating a goal has left you, then what have you got left?

“To score a goal and just sort of half react it was weird. There was a lot of strange things out there today, the atmosphere was a little bit strange. It is a little bit edgy. It is not healthy.”

The truth was that neither Arsenal and City were not good enough to secure the three points that were up for grabs, as the duo highlighted why their seasons look certain to be judged as failures.

INDEPENDENT.IE TEAM OF THE WEEK

Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)

Joel Ward (Crystal Palace)

Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion)

Jonny Evans (West Bromwich Albion)

Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace)

Eric Dier (Tottenham)

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)

Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

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