It’s Wednesday, lovelies. And that means two things: just one more sleep before FK Qabala host Krasnodar in the biggest game of the week, and it’s time for your weekly dose of H Deez (column nickname may still need some work). For those of you who didn’t retreat into a doomsday bunker because Bayern Munich lost a league game over the weekend, it’s dumpster diving time.
Louis van Gaal: Trolling as Performance Art
Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League yesterday, thanks to a hilarious 3-2 loss away at Wolfsburg. United was wrecked by injuries, and was further handicapped by its own uncharacteristically poor defending. But most of the credit for the Reds’ ignominious exit has to go to Louis van Gaal, who has now taken his trolling of his own team’s fans to new levels. After he was done coaching his team right into the Europa League abyss, van Gaal had the temerity to point the finger of blame at the referees for (correctly) ruling out a goal for offside in the first half. Presumably, those referees also mismanaged the earlier group games by forcing United to play too conservatively, started Marouane Fellaini in central midfield, and were also to blame for the lack of cover in key areas of the squad.
Best of all was van Gaal’s decision to remove Juan Mata — who at that point was the only United player looking likely to create an opening — and replace him with Nick Powell. Mata has had his share of ineffective moments this season, but he is still the team’s leading assist maker, and the only available attacker old enough to rent a car. Nick Powell, on the other hand, has spent the last few year playing in the United reserves, playing in the lower leagues, and picking up the odd DUI. Van Gaal is now clearly a fraud living off of his dusty managerial reputation, but you’ve got to respect his commitment to banter.
Daniel Sturridge is still a thing, but not for much longer
Part-time soccer player and full-time hospital resident Daniel Sturridge is in the news again this week. In an astonishing twist in his career narrative, he seems to have picked up an injury. Heavens, the shock! Balsa Wood Studge™ is expected to be out for a few weeks with a hamstring strain, and will likely miss Liverpool’s busy run of games over the festive period. This latest injury is Sturridge’s third (just in the time since Jurgen Klopp was appointed), the 248th* of his Liverpool career, and by Christmas he will have officially missed more matches than he has played since signing for the Reds.
At some point, we’re going to have to file away Sturridge’s name with so many other talented English players who had a brief run of excellence followed by years of injuries and a slow, sad decline into general uselessness. Jack Wilshere is already there, and Phil Jones is soon to join, following the path blazed by the likes of Owen Hargreaves before them. But fear not, Liverpool fans, as the notably durable Giuseppe Rossi has been linked as a replacement.
Cancel the Premier League, pt. 2: Stoke City is fun?!
Last week, I made the case that the Premier League should be abandoned with immediate effect. Events over the weekend have only strengthened the support for this argument. The good teams are still not actually very good at all, and the current best of the bunch is being led by a racist. And if — for the second time in three seasons — the possibility of the league’s top scorer being a man who used a racial slur on camera wasn’t ghastly enough, the league is also facing a grave identity crisis. Stoke City (yes, that one) is becoming fun to watch.
Mark Hughes’ side began the season in typical Stoke-like fashion (sturdy defense, but few goals), but with signs emerging that it was trying to morph into something more progressive. Then last Saturday, when Bojan Krkić, Marko Arnautović, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Ibrahim Afellay finally started together, it all seemed to click. The Potters dismantled the then league leaders Manchester City, with a performance that was genuinely thrilling. Instead of the bruising, long-throwing, hit-it-up-to-the-big-manning victories that we are used to, Stoke played with a kind of pace and flair that would make some of the best teams in the league jealous.
The league needs as many entertaining teams as it can get, but swashbuckling Stoke is a step too far. Is nothing sacred anymore? For the sake of preserving important traditions, call your local representatives and demand that Stoke City cease and desist. Stoke should get rid of Bojan and Arnautović, and put in bids for Andy Carroll and Rickie Lambert forthwith.
Norwich City is in the Premier League this season
I know, right? Me neither.