It has been a week where we have seen it all and some more, from Pogba’s newest hair style to maybe celebrate his twitter emoji (that didn’t end well), to Pep’s posture on the bench which has blown into a viral meme, Sevilla finally stopping Madrid and Juventus suffering a rare defeat in the Serie A, it has been a weekend where football came, saw and conquered across the continents. Here is a round-up of the major talking points from the round leather world over the week.
AFCON is here: The African Cup of Nations kicked off in Gabon over the weekend with the hosts playing out a 1-1 draw with Guinea Bissau, the first round of matches which saw just 12 goals scored in 16 games ended on Tuesday and whilst tournament favorites like Algeria and Ivory Coast and the returning Egypt all failed to secure wins in their opening fixtures, Ghana and Senegal have set the tone for others to follow. It has been a tournament where the big boys have turned up with Pierre Aubameyang, Mahrez and Sadio Mane, the top three players in the continent all finding the back of the net in Week 1, but it has also been a tournament that has lacked quality and labored to excite the fans, there have been drab games and the fans have not really turned up at the stadiums due to a bit of political influence. The Afcon last night also witnessed Egyptian Goalkeeper El-Hadary become the oldest player to feature at the Nations cup at 44, one can only hope that this is due to the teams being tentative and not wanting to lose their opening ties and the excitement will kick off properly with the commencement of Week 2 fixtures.
DieGO?: The Spaniard has been in the news all week following his omission from the Chelsea team that earned a convincing win over Leicester City, whilst the team claims he is injured and he has since been training alone this week, speculations are rife that China calleth and with the amount of numbers mentioned, the big striker is supposedly hearing the voice of the Lord without the help of prophet Eli. It is even claimed that a move is already in place but Chelsea are willing to do business at the end of the season rather than in January.
It looked like all was going well for him at the club, scoring goals for fun and earning the trust of the manager Antonio Conte, hence when the rumors first broke, many chose not to believe but events that have unfolded afterwards shows that the Chinese league may yet be capturing another superstar following the likes of Tevez, Oscar and Mikel Obi. Did you hear the news where Yaya Toure claimed he turned down a big money move to China? Is he on cheap drugs?
On this Pep being a fraud talk; Now this is a topic that deserves an entire article on its own, but I choose to avoid that temptation as the issue has already been over flogged following his teams’ heavy defeat, his heaviest as a manager in the hands of Everton on Sunday. Contrary to what many believe, I am actually a huge fan of Guardiola and I am of the opinion that he is arguably the best manager in the world, what he achieved at Barcelona and to an extent at Bayern Munich didn’t happen by chance or luck, but I am also of the opinion that where Pep is rightly praised for his weird tactics when it works, his formation adventures and results, he should be rightly criticized when he ‘fails’ or seem to be getting it wrong. Many have slated the Manchester City squad as being too old, with players who cannot carry out Pep’s ideas, blah, blah, forgetting that Pep didn’t get the job whilst the season was on. He had been rumored to be City’s next manager for at least 2 seasons now, he was announced whilst the last season was even still ongoing and every football fan had noticed that when Vincent Kompany’s injury woes began, City had a defensive problem, why didn’t Pep put this on the list of things he needed to fix immediately? Oh, I forgot, just like tackles, he doesn’t defend. Then he made weird signings, Bravo, not because of his actual goalkeeping skills (of which he is quite decent but not exactly that better off than what he had already), but because he can pass the ball from the back, a young John Stones who despite his prospects is still largely un-established got signed also because he was the ‘modern day defender’ who could play the ball out from the back, then he added Nolito and Sane to the team who have struggled with the pace of the league with Ilkay Gundogan who is now injured for the remainder of the season being the only one who has covered himself in any form of glory. Lets imagine for a moment if the 5 signed players who are like half your starting team jelled and with the likes of David Silva, Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho all playing at their best like we had at the start of the season, will this discussion even arise? Pep Guardiola has come under some heavy criticism, rightly and wrongly so but he must understand that when a claim is laid on being the best manager in the world, standards are high and every game counts, clearly he is no fraud but he doesn’t need the best and most expensive legs to get City chasing for the title, even league leaders Chelsea do not have the best squad in the league and I wonder what will be said if somehow this City team despite the amount spent in the window finishes outside the top four this season.
The controversial NPFL: The Nigerian Professional Football League which is put together by the League Management Company (LMC) also kicked off over the weekend with the big opener between Kano Pillars and the Billionaires club, FC Ifeanyi Ubah and barely had the league started when we witnessed our first controversy with Ifeanyi Ubah players abandoning the game under instructions. The LMC have since reacted, fines and bans have been meted out and promises of the incident not happening again, one can only hope that indeed we see less ugly incidents over-shadowing the beautiful football that is actually being exhibited across various grounds in which we saw the likes of MFM, 3SC, Enyimba making early statements whilst Champions Enugu Rangers and new boys with free wi-fi Remo Stars suffering home defeats. The league continues midweek with juicy encounters as Sunshine hosts 3SC in the western derby and FC Ifeanyi Ubah hosting MFM in a repeat of the final game of the last season which saw the Lagos side escape relegation.
Madrid finally gets beaten: it was fun whilst it lasted, 40 games and they looked unstoppable but like every good thing, it had to come to an end someday and Sevilla were worthy of being the ice breakers. After almost ruining it during the 2nd leg Copa Del Rey tie where Madrid managed to claw a draw from the jaws of defeat, Jorge Sampaoli’s men had to do it the hard way this time coming back from a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to win 2 goals to one with a late Jovetic strike. Sevilla now sit one point behind the Madrid giants but having played a game more and whilst for Zinedine Zidane’s side, this is just a stumble as he will be anxious to shake this off immediately and get the team rolling on another run as they seek to win the La Liga title for the first time in 5 years.