Damien Kayat unpacks an action-packed weekend of European football which saw Harry Kane become Tottenham’s all-time record goalscorer, Man City’s alleged breaches of financial rules and more.
Man City in Peril
Here I was expecting to be writing about City’s dismal showing against Antonio Conte’s pragmatic Spurs. They blew a golden opportunity to put pressure on a stuttering Arsenal.
But I could not foresee the legal firestorm that awaited England’s Galacticos. They have been charged with over 100 breaches of financial fair play from the period 2009-2018. Many have scoffed at City’ practices for the last decade, bemoaning the lack of oversight as England’s new-money mega club became the most successful club in the land.
Do you remember when they were essentially buying full-backs like they were operating a teddy-picker machine? But nobody thought that the Premier League would ever act this decisively. City are in real jeopardy of becoming the Juventus of English football.
They could get points docked and have titles rescinded. Honestly, there is a possibility that Ole Gunnar Solksjaer could become a Premier League winning manager. Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip could be rendered obsolete. We have a long way to go before any such eventualities.
But it is heartening to see the Premier League finally stand up to the nation-state power behind Man City.
Manchester City have been charged by the Premier League for allegedly breaking numerous financial rules between 2009 and 2018— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 6, 2023
A "range of sanctions", including points deductions or even expulsion from the league, are possible if the charges are proved, per @martynziegler pic.twitter.com/qG8miy93ps
Dyche ‘magic’ downs Arsenal
I’m not going to sit here and lay out a case that Everton’s victory against Arsenal was some sort of Sean Dyche tactical masterclass. With all due respect, I’m not entirely sure those exist.
But the gravelly voiced pragmatist did ensure one thing: his side worked their socks off. That was the primary difference between this performance and the dross that had underpinned practically the entire Lampard era. Every single Everton player looks prepared to die for the cause.
And nobody exemplified this more than midfield general Onana. He made Xhaka and Partey look like featherweights with a bruising physical display. It was quite disturbing to see how easily Arteta’s men were physically dominated. This will surely be the template for any side that has to face Arsenal in the upcoming weeks.
Get in their faces and have a Onana-Joelinton type figure in the middle of the park. I know its early days, but the Jorginho signing already looks curious to me. He was arguably one of the most press-resistant players in world football five years ago.
But times change. Chelsea never wanted him for a reason. Imagine something were to happen to Thomas Partey tomorrow. A midfield fulcrum of Xhaka and Jorginho is a truly frightening prospect for any Gunner.
Sean Dyche 👀— SuperSport Football ⚽️ (@SSFootball) February 6, 2023
The new Everton manager lived all the emotions his sides' 1-0 win over Arsenal this weekend.@castlelitesa pic.twitter.com/9WRMYtnTSy
Bundesliga heats up as traditional powerhouses flex
Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich sent out an emphatic message with a resounding 4-2 away win at a resurgent Wolfsburg. It ended a streak of three consecutive Bundesliga stalemates and reasserts their place as the title favourites.
Joao Cancelo has bedded into life in Munich brilliantly following his acrimonious split with Man City. The bombarding full-back created his 2nd consecutive assist and seems to fit Nagelsmann’s dynamic system to a tee.
Kingsley Coman scored twice, underlining his potential usefulness in the upcoming Champions League ties with PSG. But it was once again Borussia Dortmund who impressed me the most. And they didn’t even need an on-fire Jude Bellingham to crush SC Freiburg.
The English midfielder was strangely subdued in their 5-1 victory. This week was the time for their frontline to steal the headlines. Sebastian Haller scored for the first time since recovering from testicular cancer.
But it was the combination play between Adeyemi and Brandt that truly sparkled. The sheer pace of Adeyemi and the guile of Brandt dovetailed in a seamless attacking display. The Blacks and Yellows look poised for one of their most realistic title charges in years.
Bayern are 🔙🔛🔝 pic.twitter.com/Bgxeg6n5XI— 433 (@433) February 5, 2023
Barcelona looking imperious
The Xavi revolution at FC Barcelona is in full swing. Their 3-0 home victory against Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla was an exercise in class and patience. La Blaugrana battled to penetrate despite a dominant first-half display.
But Xavi’s side have become masters at wearing oppositions down. And they were absolutely lethal in the second-half. Raphinia cut in from the right with gleeful abandon while Jordi Alba appears to have gained access to a fountain of eternal youth.
The full-back has rediscovered his love of lung-busting runs and was exceptional throughout. Their accomplished victory gives them a seemingly unassailable eight-point lead atop La Liga.
This after a stuttering Real Madrid went down in slightly anaemic fashion to Mallorca. They certainly do look a bit rudderless without Benzema in the side. Asensio was anonymous while Vinicius Jr lacked a bit of clarity in the final 3rd.
It almost seems as if Carlo Ancelotti’s all-conquering side have resigned themselves to a tilt at Champions League glory.
Barcelona have won all of their 10 matches in 2023. pic.twitter.com/WFzBRyPtLl— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) February 6, 2023
Napoli destined for glory
I have been waiting for the penny to drop for a few weeks now. Still nothing. I am coming to the dawning realization that we are not going to be witnessing any dramatic Napoli collapse this season.
This is the real deal. Luciano Spalletti’s men ruthlessly dispatched Spezia 3-0. Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia are fast becoming one of the most exciting forward partnerships in European football.
Osimhen scored a brace while the dynamic Georgian nabbed the other. Gli Azzuri’s season has been nothing short of spectacular. They have scored 51 goals and conceded only 15. This has the capacity to become one of the most dominant displays in Italian footballing history.
Elsewhere, Lautaro Martinez scored his 7th Madonnia derby goal to propel Inter to a 1-0 win against Milan. Martinez was in a weird place post World Cup. He was ineffectual for Argentina as Julian Alvarez became the major foil to Leo Messi.
But he has really turned it on since returning to action for Inter. The absence of Brozovic and Handanovic has resulted in Martinez becoming the figurehead of the side. And he seems to be relishing his role as essentially a 9 and a half.
He is a striker who has the ability to drop in and play the ten role. He has what it takes to become a true Inter legend.
Napoli are on course for 100 points in Serie A this season 🔥 pic.twitter.com/P3O1zgTl9m— GOAL (@goal) February 5, 2023
Player of the Week – Harry Kane
I just thought I would take this moment to signal out a player that I still think gets overlooked. Sure, he may not have won a trophy in his time at Spurs.
And some may argue that he has wasted his talents at the club. But Harry Kane has still performed miracles at the very highest level for almost a decade. Kane’s winner against City was his 267th goal for the club in all competitions.
It saw him break Jimmy Greaves long-standing club goal-scoring record. Many see a move to Man United as inevitable for the goal-hungry Kane. And I think he has more than deserved that more realistic chance at winning silverware.
But I seriously wouldn’t judge him if he decided to stay. He clearly loves Spurs and can still be considered a Premier League legend despite not winning any trophies. Are you telling me that John O’Shea is a bigger Premier League legend than Steven Gerrard?
Please. Kane’s contributions to the league have been invaluable and I think it’s just a matter of time till he breaks Alan Shearer’s all-time Premier League record.
▪️ 200 Premier League goals— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 5, 2023
▪️ Tottenham's all-time top scorer
Harry Kane makes HISTORY ⚡ pic.twitter.com/J0pQLlMKUp