The Coronavirus has taken centre stage in the world of football even displacing VAR this past week, which has seen many games either not go ahead or played behind closed doors. Although the Premier League seems to have reacted much slower to its European counter parts with games scheduled for this weekend to go ahead packed with fans. In France for example no event that holds more than 1,000 people can take place for at least the next two weeks. Italy has the strongest rules with effectively the nation being quarantined and Serie A games being played with no fans. This was highlighted when the huge fixture between Juventus and Inter Milan was ghostly played out with no spectactors. Let's hope people's lives and the game we so dearly love can get back to normality sooner rather than later.
As for the football in the Premier League, it has gone from bad to worse for Tottenham. They were dumped out of the FA Cup and Champions League in the space of a week, and after their penalty shoot out with Norwich Eric Dier ran into the stands to confront a fan who was verbally abusing his brother and now inevitably the FA will get involved. True Dier as a professional shouldn't be doing such things, but at the end of the day nobody was hurt. Maybe in this instance the best solution would be to ban the fan and talk to Dier, does he really deserve to be punished?
It has been a miserable time for Jose Mourinho at Tottenham so far and one suspects he can't wait for this season to be over to try and rebuild in the summer, but there is the added catch of club owner Daniel Levy who historically isn't the first to open his cheque book in haste, this will be interesting.
Manchester City lost their seventh game of the season losing in the Manchester derby 2-0. A lot of credit has to be given to United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he has encountered a lot of problems and low moments at the club in his 15 month tenure but it looks like he may be steering the ship in the right direction. United have done the league double over their old rivals, though were knocked out in the Carabao Cup semi-finals against them. The Red Devils would be in 2nd place on form and have really put the pressure on Chelsea for 4th place.
As for Manchester City, could one conclude that if they do not win the Champions League that this season has been a poor one for them? For most teams in the league finishing 2nd and winning the Carabao Cup is success and rightly so, but perhaps City and Pep Guardiola have set their bar so high that this season feels like something of a come down. True you can't win the league every season and Liverpool have been the better team, but can they also justify being 25 points behind? In losing seven games this season that is one more than the previous two seasons combined. Football is a business and on that scale City have taken a few steps backwards.
However the club have still played some brilliant football this season and have one foot in the quarter finals of the Champions League after beating Real Madrid 2-1 in Spain, and it is the Champions League that the club so desire. For Guardiola there are very thin lines between success and failure.
Have Arsenal turned a corner? Under Mikel Arteta the club were not losing games but they were not winning either, they have 13 draws this season and also found it particulary hard to keep a lead. However, the Gunners have now won 3 consecutive games defeating Newcastle, Everton and this past weekend West Ham. At times we have seen flashes of the old Arsenal let's not make any mistakes about it but at the same time they have not been very convincing in their ways, maybe just more clincial than their opponents. Perhaps this weekend will answer just how good Arsenal are when they take on Brighton away from home, and there is that word 'away'. Note those 3 wins for Arsenal have all come at home.
Arsenal's away form even against teams much below them has been poor, though not just this season but for the previous few also. Just 14 points of Arsenal's total of 40 have come on the road where they have drawn 8 of their 13 games so far. It would be easy to look at Arsenal's season and write them off and yet they are just 5 points behind Manchester United and 8 behind a 4th place. With teams up there finding it difficult to be consistent Arsenal shouldn't be writing off anything just yet if they can continue their run.
FA Cup odds: Manchester City 1.72, Chelsea 9.00, Manchester United 9.00, Arsenal 11.00, Leicester 11.00. The biggest outsiders are Newcastle at 41.00
As mentioned above one of the biggest games in Italy, Juventus and Inter Milan was played with no fans as Juventus won 2-0, that was the final hammer blow for Inter in their hopes of winning Serie A this season as they are 9 points behind and yet something else might be brewing within the Italian FA. With games needing to be played but Italy on lockdown and the league suspended for now they have been talking about having a play-off to see who wins the league. That could be against the top 4 teams. Whilst it would be exciting and give Atalanta a chance to win, (let's remember that they are currently 15 points behind Juventus) this is a bad idea. If the league has to be suspended then just end it now and the champions simply should be the team currently in 1st place. The alternative, a play off, would feel like a slap in the face for all the hard work Juventus have done, doesn't winning 20 games this season so far count for anything?
Finally the Spanish media are asking 'who wants to win La Liga?'. It's a valid question given that Barcelona and Real Madrid keep swapping places. After Madrid beat Barca in El Clasico it felt that the power had shifted. Not so, Madrid lost at Real Betis handing 1st place back to Barcelona and they now lead by 2 points. Some are saying that this could be the worst overall league performances by the clubs in a generation and that could be correct as the champions look set to finish on 80 points, the lowest since the 2006/07 season. At the same time reduced points could simply mean that the league has become more competitive, one thing is for sure you can't please everyone.