LONDON: It was another weekend jam-packed with talking points in the world of football. Here we tackle three of them.
POOR FORWARD THINKING WITH KANTE
When you shell out $19.2 million a year on a new contract for one of your star players it is perhaps no bad thing for you to justify that expense by playing the man in his best and favorite position. We are, of course, talking about N’Golo Kante and Chelsea. The Blues are so desperate to keep the Frenchman that they have made him their highest-paid player. But rather than playing him as the holding midfielder, the role he is best in the world at, Maurizio Sarri had him playing further up the field during Chelsea’s emphatic 3-1 defeat to Tottenham on Saturday. Jorginho was the man tasked with protecting the back four and he was helplessly exposed at Wembley. Football is difficult enough without trying to overthink the game, and if there is one rule we think coaches should follow it is that if you have the best defensive midfielder in the world at your disposal, it is no bad idea to play him in that position, not least if you are splashing the cash to ensure he remains at the club.
Kante, the best holding midfielder in the world, has been played further upfield by Chelsea coach Sarri this season.
DOMINANT DUO NOT HAVING IT ALL THEIR OWN WAY
The Spanish League is usually a bit like playing heads or tails, you know the winner is going to be only one of two possibilities, Barcelona or Real Madrid. But this season it seems La Liga may well provide some real competition. Real Madrid’s stuttering start to the season continued with a shock 3-0 defeat at Eibar — their first defeat to the minnows — and Barca needed a 90th-minute Ousmane Dembele equalizer to rescue a point at Atletico Madrid. That means that the top of the table looks congested for once, Sevilla lead the Catalan club by one point, with Atletico two back and Real back in sixth. For years now monied clubs across Europe have made many of the top leagues less a competition and more a procession — Exhibit A is PSG and Ligue 1 in France. But we are keeping our fingers crossed that in Spain at least the title goes to the team with the biggest nerves rather than biggest bank balance.
Real Madrid fell to a shock 3-0 defeat at Eibar on Saturday, their first ever loss to the minnows.
ARGENTINA’S DERBY-DAY SHAME
The Copa Libertadores final second leg between River Plate and Boca Juniors was supposed to be the biggest match of the year. Two arch-rivals going head to head in the most important match in South American football. Instead we were treated to fan violence — not a new phenomenon in Argentinian football — and gross incompetence by footballing authorities. To recap, the Boca coach was attacked by River Plate fans on the way to the ground on Saturday. Police tried to disperse the attackers by using tear gas, some of which then subsequently reached the coach, although there is some conjecture the gas that found itself in the Boca coach might have been released by River fans.
“There are many players who were coughing, with the feeling of needing to vomit,” said Carlos Tevez. “As for me, I had a lot of pain in my throat and just now it was giving me a headache.”
The bus driver revealed that he fainted and the bus would have crashed had Boca Vice President Horacio Paolini not grabbed the wheel.
Instead of calling off the match immediately, there was pressure from Conmebol, the South American federation, to have the match played that day. After further discussions it was postponed for 24 hours. But come Sunday the match again was postponed, the Boca players understandably still not in the right frame of mind to play.
It was billed as the final to end all finals but it it may now be the final that never happened, and for that the fans and authorities will be solely to blame.
The Boca coach before it was attacked by River Plate fans on Saturday.