September 22, 2015

Diego Costa needs discipline

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

You would think that seeing the formerly unstoppable league leaders lose at home would be the lead of any Premier League roundup, but that’s not the case here.

No, special attention needs to be paid to Diego Costa and his on-field antics.

Costa is one of the ultimate agitators in the game, constantly getting under opponents’ skin and making a general nuisance of himself. The only reason he can semi get away with it is because he does have talent, especially in front of goal.

But this week he took his act way too far.

Somehow, despite both slapping Laurent Koscielny and then chest-bumping him to the ground, it was Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista that was sent off in the end for collecting his second yellow in a few minutes. Sure, Paulista did “kick out” at Costa, but it was nothing malicious compared to what that Spaniard had been doing.

Of course, that’s all part of Costa’s game: Bark as loud as he can and annoy opponents until they retaliate and ultimately suffer the consequences.

As you might expect, the Gunners had a tough time playing with 10 men and would eventually concede on a free kick.

It didn’t get any better later when Santi Cazorla picked up his second yellow, reducing Arsene Wenger’s side to nine men.

And apparently all that Eden Hazard needed to kick-start his season was a two-man advantage and a very fortunate deflection.

After the game, as he does best, Blues manager Jose Mourinho did some amazing deflecting of his own. Dodging a question about Costa’s antics, he said that the forward was actually the man of the match. He further went on to criticize the refs about two missed penalty calls.

Of course, Costa, Paulista and Cazorla were charged with violent conduct after the fact, so justice just might be served. Of course, it won’t put points on the table for Arsenal.


This week, we finally saw those all-too-familiar cracks appear in Manchester City’s armour.

After losing midweek in Champions League, City then fell to West Ham to drop its first points of the season. It was also the first time that Manuel Pellegrini’s side has allowed a goal in the league this season.

With David Silva injured during warmups and Vincent Kompany already out, City allowed Kevin De Bruyne – who should henceforth be known as the Belginge – and turned to a centre back pairing that had actually worked together at Atletico Madrid, Nicolas Otamendi and Elaquim Mangala.

Well that previously sterling didn’t look so sharp on West Ham’s first goal, failing to close down on Victor Moses, who lashed a shot just out of Joe Hart’s reach. Diafra Sakho would later double the lead, putting City against the wall.

But as the hosts piled on the pressure, the Irons bent, but didn’t break.

Slaven Bilic’s boys lead the league in scoring, but it was the defending that really impressed here – but more on that in a bit.

City still leads sits atop the Premier League table, but any sort of extended slump would quickly do away with the early cushion it built. How the Sky Blues react to this week’s two losses will reflect what kind of character this side has.


You could take your pick out of anyone on West Ham’s backline, really, but I say that it goes to Winston Reid.

The West Ham defender was everywhere shutting down City’s attack and making several key tackles. While you could argue that goalkeeper Adrian should get the nod, really, there’s no losers from that back five of the Irons.


It looks like we a legit contender for goal of the season, thanks to Matt Ritchie. The Cherries midfielder took a ball of the chest following a corner, then pounded home a left-footed volley from outside the box in one swift motion. It’s the kind of stuff that will pad highlight reels for years … Leicester City just doesn’t know when it’s beaten. Another game, another comeback … I really hope you grabbed Riyad Mahrez for your fantasy team over Marc Albrighton. The former is the steal of the season while Albrighton is just working his way back to fitness from a knock … Staying with Leicester, the Foxes are now the only team in the Premier League without a loss. Invincible Foxes, anyone? … Kevin Miralles came on in injury time, but that didn’t stop him from getting a red card … Sunderland looked awful yet again, but to be fair, they were robbed of a goal on a terrible offside call … So much for Liverpool’s new captain. Jordan Henderson is out another two months after breaking his foot in training … I thought Saido Berahino would never play for West Brom again? Just a couple of weeks later, the England forward starts and scores for the Baggies … Stoke, Sunderland and Newcastle all have yet to win a game. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Well, the Potters at least … Since Newcastle let Alan Pardew go in December, the Magpies have just three wins and 15 points. Pardew’s new club Crystal Palace has 13 wins and 41 points … How many more games do you think Brendan Rodgers has in charge? It can’t be many before the Reds make a change, right? Jurgen Klopp is very available … Anthony Martial was pretty fortunate on his second goal against Southampton, but three goals in his first two games is a pretty impressive debut.


It’s not mentioned nearly enough, but the Premier League is on the verge of taking a huge loss.

Thanks to a general apathy for Europa League from Premier League teams and some poor performances in Champions League as well, England may lose its fourth spot in Europe’s premier competition.

Italy, which just sent two teams to the Europa League semis and Juventus to the CL final, is poised to reclaim the extra berth.

While the Premier League does rake in tons of TV money, Champions League is a nice addition for those big Top 4 clubs.

If a team like Arsenal finishes in its usual fourth place spot, it would actually lose out on that big money and be forced to face the grind of Europa League.

So how can the Premier League help itself? By doing well in Europe, but especially in Europa League – as much as it might pain it.

It’s a big Catch 22 though. Sending out your best side on Thursdays damages your ability to do it again on the weekend. And if you don’t play well in the league, you’re not going to be in position to claim a spot in Europe the next year.

Really, if England tanks in Europa League and loses the fourth CL spot, maybe it would help a side like Tottenham reach the Top 4 if Arsenal is stuck travelling to the far reaches of Europa every other week.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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