Beep beep! Can you hear that? It’s the sound of This Weekend in the Premier League riding high on the back of:
West Brom’s Spanish Taxi Getaway
There are many reasons why Alan Pardew's appointment as West Brom manager has been ridiculous. First, the obvious: this is a man who supposedly once filched one of his coach’s dinners and justified it by saying, "When you’re the king, you can do anything"; the sort of man who allegedly hangs out in VIP areas on his own; a guy who once made a joke about Harry Kane’s mum on live television; a manager who danced on the touchline as his team lost the FA Cup final; who headbutted an opposition player for the hell of it; who, when arguing with then-Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, uttered the immortal words: "Shut your noise, you fucking old cunt."
Most ridiculous of all, of course, is that Pardew has now presided over one of the funniest controversies in recent Premier League history. Having taken his West Brom players on a warm-weather training camp in Barcelona in the hope of preparing them for their relegation run-in, senior players Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Boaz Myhill and Jake Livermore – aged 37, 30, 35 and 28. respectively – allegedly stole a taxi, were reported to the police and caused the club an enormous amount of embarrassment instead.
While Pardew’s description of the incident as "not ideal" must go down as the comic understatement of the century, his subsequent musing that "God teaches us to forgive" is even better. When Jesus made forgiveness central to the Christian doctrine, we don’t imagine he was picturing Gareth Barry – the kind of guy who otherwise seems like he'd volunteer to be the designated driver at a wedding – making headlines for commandeering a cab on holiday before participating in consecutive defeats to Southampton and Huddersfield.
Arsenal, Out Indefinitely With Spine Injury
It’s not strictly the Premier League, but it would be wrong to do a round-up of this weekend’s football without mentioning the League Cup final. Arsenal were terrible, Manchester City were excellent and Pep Guardiola seemed delighted to lift his first trophy in England: all that was obvious. What deserves a little more examination is Gary Neville’s assessment of Arsenal as "an absolute disgrace, an absolute disgrace… walking on a football pitch at Wembley, giving up, spineless".
When it comes to football punditry, there is no greater insult than questioning a team’s spine. It is OK to be awful at football if you have a big, chunky spinal column, but if you are a gelatinous, wibbly jelly then you have no place in English football. Arsenal were, in fairness, utterly without backbone at Wembley on Sunday, reduced to wretched, squishy invertebrates by the genius of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in particular. The entire team will presumably have a spell on the sidelines on account of their spinal disintegration. As of yet there’s no update on recovery time.
Ill-Judged Protest Banner of the Week Goes To…
… these West Ham fans, who have gone in for a form of reductio ad Hitlerum in their attempt to express their anger at the club’s owners.
Not only is this literally inaccurate; it is also, for obvious reasons, not likely to inspire much sympathy among outside observers, or indeed anything other than head-in-hands cringing. Sure, your club’s transfer policy is a shambles and you’re annoyed about the distance to the pitch at the London Stadium, but those are ultimately fairly minor problems compared to the Blitz.
Patrice Evra, Idiot Finder General
You think this would go without saying, but: attempting to provoke a footballer who was racially abused by chanting the name of his antagonist is an atrocious reflection on the people doing the chanting. That was what happened at Anfield this Saturday, when West Ham debutant and former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra was greeted with boos, choruses of Luis Suarez’s name and refrains of "One lying bastard" at various points in the match. In case anyone needs a quick refresher, Suarez was found guilty of using insulting words towards Evra which included reference to race in 2011, resulting in the then-Liverpool striker being fined £40,000 and banned for eight games.
It says a lot about the myopia of uncritical fandom that there are still people who feel Evra was the bad guy in the situation. While most of us – and doubtless most of those inside Anfield – can differentiate between the panto of football rivalries and the seriousness of the Suarez-Evra affair, there are those to whom an investigated and evidenced incident of racism is secondary in importance to club tribalism.
Luis Suarez – a man who cares about Liverpool so much that he spent his last couple of years there agitating for a transfer and eventually pissed off to Barcelona for £65 million – is somehow the hero of our tale, Patrice Evra the villain, because he’s associated with Man United. That makes Evra fair game for castigation from fans who, despite having never been to Suarez’s home country of Uruguay, supposedly have a forensic knowledge of the cultural significance of racial epithets there and can assure you that they aren’t offensive. At least, it does if you’re an idiot willing to defend anything and everything relating to your club no matter how much squirming equivocation it takes.