I saw a lot of folks complaining about the “lack of real football” this weekend and every time I see it, I just have a little laugh. It’s fine if you have that opinion, honestly. Like what you like, hate what you hate. If these are the end times, who am I to get in the way of your celebrations or mourning? I’m here to assist, ignore, or get out of the way. So, if you hated this weekend “without any football” that’s cool, I happened to have a great weekend watching football!
My favorite match Saturday was Napoli 1-0 Spezia. It wasn’t great because there were a lot of goals but rather because I got a chance to really watch Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. What a delightful young player. When he has the ball he shimmies and shakes. His dribbling with the ball is utterly unpredictable, like a trying to catch a leaf blowing in the wind. Tipped in 2018 by the Guardian as one of the 60 best players in the world it’s astonishing that he went to Rubin Kazan for less than 1m Euros in 2019 and that Napoli got him from Rubin for less than 10m (because his contract was terminated due to the Russian invasion and attempted genocide of Ukraine). My gut instinct tells me that he’s going to go to a big team for 100m soon, but he’s such an odd player, someone who doesn’t tick all the boxes and sort of plays just however he wants, that I don’t know who will plunk the money down on him.
Another player in that team who deserves special mention is Anguissa. He played for Fulham and was sent on loan when they were relegated in 2019. He played for Fulham in 2020, and then back on loan to Napoli when Fulham were relegated in 2021. Napoli paid a mere 16m for him and I’ll be honest here and say that I’d love him at Arsenal. He’s big, he’s got incredibly silky touch, and he’s got the kind of dribbles that we used to see on Santi Cazorla. Not quite as visionary as Cazorla but still. Why we didn’t try to get him is a mystery. He’d easily cost 60m for a PL side to get him from Napoli now.
I also watched Marseille on Saturday. Alexis Sanchez scored a fantastic goal for Marseille. The ball had been played slightly behind him and it looked a bit like it had accidentally ricocheted off him to go in but on the replay you can see he slowed himself down and really measured a shot. It was a special goal. Kolasinac also set up Gigot for the winning goal.
On Sunday I watched Nice and Reims. The Nice match was pretty boring. Reims however, was super weird: it was played on BeinSports4 and there was no commentary. Now at first I appreciated the fact that there was no commentary but after the first half, I started to miss the announcer at least telling me the player’s names. Balogun played the full 90 and got four “shots”, none of which were even remotely threatening and one was a glancing header from like 15 yards out after a huge cross. He did have some great touches in and around the box but he’s incredibly raw. I hope he gets a great education there. Reims had a player sent off so it was probably never going to be a good game for Balogun. Oh well.
In the Nice match, they won 1-0 and according to WhoScored Pepe was the man of the match. I actually find that unbelievable because he did almost nothing. I didn’t even know he was on the pitch until the 30th minute or so. Nice played Ajaccio which is a team from Corsica, an island in the Mediterranean sea. I spent a lot of the match looking up the history of Corsica and why their flag has the severed head of a Moor on it. It’s because of a story about a Moorish slaver who stole a Corsican woman to sell her in the slave markets. Her fiance, Pablo, went to save her and during the battle the Moorish leader Mansour Ben Ismaïl was beheaded! Sardinia has a similar flag with 4 severed Moorish heads and a St. George’s cross.
The best match of the weekend however I fell into by pure accident. Rennes beat Auxerre 5-0 and I got to see Amine Gouiri play football for the first time. This is another young talent who is a pure joy to watch and who was also picked by the Guardian as one of the best young players in the world in 2017. This match had everything! A great goal by Gouiri kicked things off in the 2nd half for Rennes. And they scored a goal from a goal kick! It was a scrappy goal too, with both the striker (Tait) and defender tussling for 30 yards, then Tait headed the ball around the keeper, more tussling, and he scored from super close range while falling over a bit! Rennes has a lot of young players and they get a lot of playing time. I added them to the list of matches that I record so I will be eagerly watching them in the future.
Right, so a great weekend of football. I didn’t miss the Arsenal AT ALL. And I didn’t get upset at the refereeing even once the whole weekend.
Arsenal may or may not play on Thursday this week Arsenal will not play football on Thursday – this time not due to forced mourning but rather because the police force might be stretched a bit thin. I honestly don’t care if they do or don’t play. They can have a couple more weeks off for all I care! It just means I get to watch different, and in some ways better, more relaxing football.