August 09, 2022 4 min read
It’s easy to look at the week’s fixtures and spotlight the one on Sunday at 4.30pm. It’s a Premier League staple which has been held since the biggest 22 sides split from the English Football League back in 1992. Two of the ever-present six clubs – the others are Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United – meet very early in the season.
Antonio Conte was fired by Chelsea mere months after helping them win the 2017 Premier League. Now at Tottenham, he returns having signed half a team in 2022 alone but with his two key attackers, Kane and Son, still in position. Chelsea’s big signing is a Londoner who has returned to the city after a decade in the North-West; Raheem Sterling will be a fine role model for his young international team-mates Mason Mount, Reece James and Conor Gallagher.
But there’s plenty more aside from a London derby. Entertainment of all kinds, be it movies, novels or TV shows, is regressing to the mean and finding commonality. Every team in the top division is trying to look the same: getting strikers to press, exploring the area between the lines, shooting from Zone 14 and countering at speed. We might see more stalemates this season, and one might come at the Emirates when Arsenal host Leicester City this weekend.
Both sides are guided by Pep Guardiola. Mikel Arteta was on Manchester City’s coaching team when Guardiola brought City into their new era, while Brendan Rodgers took the Spanish style to Reading, Watford, Swansea and eventually Liverpool and Leicester. In his book The Mixer, Michael Cox calls Rodgers the outstanding British manager of his era, ahead of his time and making his players feel important with his coaching methods.
Graham Potter and Eddie Howe have both journeyed from successful playing careers on the South Coast – Potter at Southampton, Howe at Bournemouth – to lead players out at the Amex this Saturday in a game that will be covered on Wednesday on this site. Fans of both Brighton and Newcastle can purchase some premium alcohol via this site, with this Dark Berry flavoured vodka for Seagulls fans.
Talking of Howe’s old club, Bournemouth go to the Etihad Stadium to face a Manchester City team who have, like Spurs and Chelsea, refreshed their roster this summer. Predictably, Erling Haaland is proving just as lethal in blue as he was in the yellow of Borussia Dortmund and there will be plenty to celebrate this season. City fans might be interested in this Blue (Moon) Raspberry vodka, especially if they want to mark their status as champions of England.
Nottingham Forest host West Ham in their first home game back in the top division for over two decades. International left-back Stuart Pearce may well offer his thoughts on a fixture between two of his former clubs, perhaps noting that last time these clubs met in 2014 Forest trounced West Ham 5-0 at the City Ground, albeit with the visitors fielding a host of young players.
Sunderland v QPR was a Premier League fixture between 2011 and 2015, with both sides involved in the drama on the final day of the 2011/12 season. Sunderland did the double over QPR that season, which contributed to their survival despite a last-day loss against Manchester United. QPR also stayed up as results went in their favour even before they conceded in the 94th minute to Manchester City. You’d have to ask commentator Martin Tyler who scored that City goal, given that it is now ten years since that title win.
The lunchtime kick-off on Saturday is a match between two big cities in the UK whose football clubs have resided in the second tier for most of the last 15 years. Birmingham have not done so well down in Cardiff in recent seasons, failing to win in the last nine visits, although last season both fixtures ended in draws. Their fellow Midlanders Coventry head down to East London to play Millwall, with Mark Robins once again in the dugout.
Of managers in the Championship, only Paul Warne of Rotherham has been at his club for longer than Robins, while Gary Rowett is in third place. He is closing in on three years as Lions manager, moving up from fourth in the division because Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe were relegated. Will Rowett or Robins match Ainsworth’s decade in charge, in a division that is famously uncharitable to its coaches?
After an Edinburgh derby stalemate last weekend, Hearts play Dundee United at home while Hibernian go west to Livingston. In Glashow, it is Rangers’ turn to be at home, against St Johnstone on Saturday, and Celtic hop on the coach to Kilmarnock for a noon kick-off. Aberdeen are fresh from a 4-1 win over ten-man St Mirren, so go into their home game against Motherwell with a spring in their step. Recent recruit Bojan Miovski, who plays for North Macedonia and moved over from Hungary’s MTK, scored twice to take his tally to three in his first three games. If he scores again, this may be cause for a drink, which Dons fans can purchase from Bohemian Brands, perhaps in the form of this strawberry and rhubarb flavoured vodka.