Here it is. The one you’ve all been waiting for. A whole month into the new football season, we have got our arses into gear and put together a roundup of the weekend’s footballing action. We were going to call it The Monday Owl but bottled it because we thought it would take too much explaining. It’s the highs, the lows, the thwacks, the “see yerrrs”, and the “Oh, Mates” all condensed into one handy, digestible guide…

LEEDS, LEEDS, LEEDS, LEEDS… AND SO ON.

It is absolutely amazing watching teams become physical embodiments of their managers. Think Klopp’s Liverpool just running at the opposition until they shit themselves and kick the ball away or Pulis’ Stoke absolutely HOOFING the ball forward at every given opportunity and kicking the living shit out of people. This start to the season by Leeds United has been on another level, though. Watch the way they play for that second goal over the weekend, touch, pass, touch, pass, touch, pass, touch, pass, pass, touch, goal. And it all starts from their right back. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that he has got our shower of shite players playing like this,” said our mate Bullen who supports Leeds. And he’s right, isn’t he? He’s bloody right.

Image: Italy Photo Press/Well Offside

THE VERY SLIGHT NORMALISATION OF CRISTIANO RONALDO

Cristiano Ronaldo does one thing. He scores goals. Well, he scores goals and advertises suitcases. I guess that’s two things. Make it three if you include engaging every single chord of muscle in his neck at all hours of the day. Four, if hair gel counts. Five would be talking about yourself in the third person. And six would be the underpants. But that’s it. Six. Or seven, because the level of CR7’s commitment to his brand is only challenged by that of Mission: Impossible baddies. Take away any one of these elements and things can fall apart. This is a man whose success has been unparalleled (apart from that squat lad from Rosario) and not scoring in two games for his new club Juventus has to Fuck With Your Mind something awful. 0 for 2 from a man has regularly averaged more-than-one-goal-per-game for a decade is disastrous.

This is the first time in Ronaldo’s life that wanting something too much has worked out badly for him: against Lazio, he wanted that goal so much that he tried to hammer a three-yard tap-in so hard that he missed the ball entirely, accidentally setting up Mario Mandžukić for a volley into an empty net when it came off his heel. But he will score shit-loads this season. We all know that. There is no drama except the one in Ronaldo’s head, right now, but the release of cabin pressure inside a skull built to withstand Newtons and Pascals like no other can be a scary thing. It must make a haunting, howling noise… Welcome to the world, Cristiano. Let’s see what you do next.

THWACK!

This is the best goal ever scored. You can stick your Zizou at Hampden, Maradona’s Mexico escapades don’t compare, Bergkamp? Fluke. The greatest goal ever scored was by Pablo Simeon Ishmael Mills for Mickleover Sports this weekend. Drink it in.

SEEEEEE YER!

Alisson rushes out of goal to cut off a Brighton attack, ready to pump it long upfield. But the Brazilian international checks his run, wedging his boot beneath the ball, spinning it over the onrushing Anthony Knockaert, and back into his control. It is the touch of someone playing against a child, possibly a young nephew, on a sunny Bank Holiday afternoon while a BBQ sizzles contently nearby. Simon Mignolet looks at his own feet, puffy and useless. That night he texts Loris Karius. “How is it going in Turkey, pal?” No response. He’s moved on. As much as you can, anyway. Simon flicks his phone off Silent mode and rests it next to him. His dog is sleeping; his wife and children have gone for the weekend. “I’m just glad they’re happy,” he says, to no one.

IN NAPOLI WHERE LOVE IS KING… 

Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli losing Maurizio Sarri in the summer was your favourite restaurant losing its head chef. Their chain-smoking, glasses-wearing, wizard of a head chef. Hollow eyes, started out as a KP, and has punched you in the face three times on separate Friday nights, but you should see him with a grater. Fingers of magic. Eats Camel Blue for breakfast. Tells you to put more salt in everything.

But he’s gone. Sure, the menu might stay the same, the same pots and pans will be there, and that class two courses for a tenner plus a glass of wine Monday–Thursday deal will still be knocking about—but there’ll be something missing. A bit of garnish missing from the soup. Something like that. He’s gone, the head chef is gone, gone to sharper knives, gleaming countertops, and a brand new induction hob called Roman. He’s gone, three thousand boxes of fags in the duty-free. He’s gone.

For anyone else who follows Napoli because the city is crackers, because Diego used to play for them, and because it’s dead trendy to say “Yeah, I follow Napoli”—them mad bastards losing Maurizio was scary, even more so when they lost their best line-cook in Jorginho. But they came from behind in their first game away at Lazio, did not look too bad at all, and have managed to keep hold of everyone else.

The new head chef’s old sous-chef was down the kitchen this weekend. “SHOUT AT THEM LIKE ZIS, CHEF, IT’S BETTER ZIS WAY” as he launches a 20kg bag of potatoes at André Silva. Looked like beating him ‘n all, apprentice over master, sous over head, Gattuso over Ancelotti. But no. Napoli came back from behind again. 0–2 down they were, 3–2 up it finished. Mertens in the 80th. Bacca de netta.

*Licks lips, inhales Camel Blue in one, taps postcard of Koulibaly on fridge*, this kitchen is far from done.

OH, MATE…

You’ve watched Alisson do his fancy flick and you watched Ederson do his route one kick that turned into a perfect assist. You think you’re a sweeper keeper who can do the fancy things, but you’re already two–nil down at home and your manager is shouting at you. Let’s get to half-time he says, let’s calm it down. “I’m a sweeper keeper,” you think. “I’m going to play it from the back anyway.” You play it from the back and you’ve passed it to an opposition player and now the ball is in the goal and you look very, very silly. “I’m a sweeper keeper.” You think, “I’m a sweeper keeper.”

Image: Well Offside

YOU KNOW NOTHING, JAMIE REDKNAPP

Rafael Benítez is fucking bonkers—he once reportedly wore the same tracksuit for two weeks after being told to “concentrate on the team”—but the two time UEFA Coach of the Year who has won trophies in three different countries is also a good man who knows a lot about football. Loads. More than loads. And at least 137 times as much as Jamie Redknapp. In fact, times that by 100 and you’re still not close. Jamie though, the man who led us into a brave new world where all Sky Sports pundits and presenters are on the Paleo Diet and have memberships at Stoke Park for a cheeky nine holes and wear Monk strap shoes and cardigans under their jackets, the wally who only knows five sentences and repeats them all while doing that weird shift in his seat when he tries to remember a new word his kids have taught him, the son who was spawned by one of the game’s great irresponsible morons, thinks he knows more than Rafa.

“It’s not football,” said Jamie of Rafa’s tactics. Now, we watched the game, it wasn’t much fun, but it was certainly football. It was a man with an average squad and a disgusting boss trying to grab a point or a win on the break. It didn’t work, a soft penalty and a crap own goal meant it didn’t work, but Red Dog and Souness (awful manager, terrible bastard) would have preferred Newcastle to pull their pants down, bend over, and let Hazard and his mates give them a right royal rogering as Sarri watched on chaining post-coital fags every time Matt Ritchie or Mo Diamé got Sarridomised by another breathtaking attack. “He’s made a career playing this way,” said Jamie of Rafa, who won two La Ligas and a UEFA Cup with Pablo Aimar as a 10, once played Gerrard as a barnstorming second striker off a rampant Fernando Torres and coaxed about a million assists and goals out of Juan Mata. You’re not football, Jamie Monkstrap. You’re a tit.

Image: Well Offside

MOURINHO’S MADNESS CORNER 

José Mourinho. Living in The Lowry. Big old suite in The Lowry. Won’t buy a house. Doesn’t need a house. Just a hotel. Like Royal Tenenbaum. Can’t get room service in a house, can you? He’s had to get a Wi-Fi dongle off EE so that he can watch Match of the Day on iPlayer. They’ve only got Eurosport, BBC World News, and CNN in The Lowry. Anyway, this week he’s said he’s a “club man” and that Manchester United needs more support from the fans. “In my career, I was never selfish and thinking about myself, I was always a club man. That’s what I am. I am really happy when the supporters support the team.”—So, there you have it. It’s not about him. Never been about him. It’s about the club. And room service. Lovely, reliable room service.

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