In a new weekly blog, Ben Grounds looks at those in the world of football to have starred and suffered over the past seven days…
When Barkley joined Chelsea in January, you could have forgiven supporters for shrugging their shoulders. Another hamstring injury and some rather harsh words from Antonio Conte following his debut at Arsenal were all he had to show for his first six months at the club.
But after a very tough pre-season, he is now reaping the rewards. The midfielder is starting to get the credit he deserves with the potential having always been there. His goals and assists in the win over Burnley mean he has now scored in three successive league games for the first time in his career.
Barkley arrived at Stamford Bridge with no guarantee he would start, but his flying form is now making a mockery of the £15m exchanged with Everton for his services. The player himself deserves immense credit for how he’s turned things around but producing on a consistent basis is now key.
His three goals and three assists have come from just eight shots and five chances created – one every 14.7 minutes on the pitch – and the competition for places at Chelsea means he can’t afford to rest on his laurels as witnessed after several false dawns at his former club.
Another man whose stock has certainly risen since leaving Everton, Martinez landed on his feet in the Belgium job after his time at Goodison Park turned sour – and the Spaniard is now being heavily linked with the Real Madrid vacancy.
Martinez is a man who certainly interviews well, earning his current post off the back of compiling a detailed presentation of where the national team went wrong in losing to Wales at Euro 2016.
His man-management skills appeared to have masked the fact he only has a League One title and FA Cup winners’ medal to show for his honours’ list on his CV, but his style of football has earned him admirers among Madrid’s hierarchy.
The Belgian FA have issued a warning that they will not tolerate any ‘tapping up’ over their head coach, who has a contract until 2020 that does not have a release clause – meaning Real’s negotiators will need to agree compensation with his present employers to secure his services.
But having led the county to third place at last summer’s World Cup, Martinez must wonder if he will ever have a better chance of managing one of the biggest clubs in the world – a pipe dream when he became the subject of ridicule on Merseyside.
Harry Redknapp has been in the news this week for his rather cutting analysis of Gary Neville’s cutting analysis of Tottenham, but the manager-turned-pundit was full of praise for the job Howe is doing at Bournemouth.
“If Mourinho left United tomorrow, Eddie Howe wouldn’t even get a mention,” Redknapp told ESPN. “I’ve watched Eddie in action at Bournemouth, seen his coaching sessions first-hand, and the intensity and quality of his work is absolutely top-class.
“But when a top job comes up, he never gets a look-in and it’s the same for a lot of good, young English managers.
“It’s different if you’ve managed in the Portuguese league and have a good agent. Club owners seem much happier going down that route.”
It’s hard to disagree when you reflect on the remarkable job Howe continues to do on the south coast, with the Cherries booking their place in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals this week having thrashed Fulham at the weekend.
It’s just a shame they now face a tricky trip to Chelsea in the next round, with the likelihood being that Howe will need to win something before he can be expected to earn the full respect of a top-six dressing room. But his side is full of players he has improved.
Diaz scored his first two goals for Manchester City as Fulham were swept aside in the Carabao Cup – offering the club a reminder of his qualities with his contract up for renewal ahead of its expiry next summer.
The 19-year-old Spaniard has only made 14 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Malaga two years ago, but negotiations are currently at an impasse with Real Madrid reportedly interested.
With all the talk centred on Phil Foden, Diaz is the old kid on the block, but having been the difference on his first start at the Etihad on Thursday, Guardiola admitted his frustration at having to leave his talented teenager out of Premier League matchday squads.
He said: “There are no words to explain how tough it is. Winter is coming so everybody is going to play.
“They can be upset with me, no problem when they react like that on the field. We can dream but the reality of football… football can break your dreams.” Diaz showed why he could be a star for the future.
One of the more unusual stories of the week that saw two figures brought back into collective conscience, it was revealed that Sir Elton John texted Watford’s chief executive Scott Duxbury to advise him to sign Tom Heaton.
The club’s honorary life president is a regular at Vicarage Road, but the Financial Times reported that he is far from taking a back seat when it comes to giving his views on the team.
Duxbury said he regularly contacts the 71-year-old, and after Watford were recently beaten 4-0 by Bournemouth, Sir Elton not only disclosed that the team were suffering as a result of Ben Foster being in goal, but that they should pursue Burnley’s Heaton.
Foster has kept two clean sheets since the aberration against the Cherries, but Heaton has been on the decline ever since dislocating his shoulder at the start of last season. Sean Dyche has suggested he will let the ‘keeper leave in January, with his last appearance coming in the Carabao Cup defeat at Burton in September.
Having not returned the same player following his injury, such a glowing reference must surely act as a shot in the arm for Heaton to show he’s still standing.
The Scottish Premiership has enjoyed something of a renaissance this season since the arrival of Steven Gerrard at Rangers, but the competition made headlines for all the wrong reasons on Wednesday following a tempestuous draw between Edinburgh rivals Hearts and Hibernian.
“This should be a showpiece game,” Hibs manager Neil Lennon said after being struck by a missile that left his jaw throbbing. Both sides are enjoying fine starts to the season, but this was a night of high emotion that overstepped the mark.
The typically feisty derby boiled over during five mad minutes as after Florian Kamberi was sent off for a mid-air challenge on Ollie Bozanic, Hearts ‘keeper Zdenek Zlamal was punched by a Hibs supporter in ugly scenes at Tynecastle.
There have been discussions about allowing alcohol back in the stands during matches, but this was a shameful reminder of what can occur even with it constricted to the concourses, while Lennon was struck by a coin after appearing to goad the Hearts fans for a disallowed goal.
While I’m loathe to criticise referees (especially those whose decisions have directly impacted upon my own club’s fortunes), it’s hard to ignore those made by Moss in the two games he officiated in this week.
The 48-year-old was criticised by Southampton manager Mark Hughes, ironically against Everton, for being “30 yards behind the play” when awarding a free-kick which led to his team conceding a late equaliser in May.
Hughes argued that Moss was “probably getting his breath back” in a tone that has punctuated his entire managerial career – but the referee was well-placed to see Idrissa Gueye’s touch on the ball as Anthony Martial theatrically went to ground inside the box last Sunday.
Moss pointed to the spot as Manchester United went on to beat Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford, and he compounded his bad week at the crucial moment in Chelsea’s 3-2 win over Derby on Wednesday.
Cesc Fabregas smashed Chelsea in front shortly before half-time, despite an obvious barge by Davide Zappacosta on Tom Lawrence right in front of the linesman in the build-up.
Derby manager Frank Lampard said: “The fourth official said it was off the pitch. The VAR looked at it. I’ve looked at it and the ball wasn’t off the pitch, the foul wasn’t off the pitch, so it was blatantly a foul.
“I turned round thinking we’d got the foul, then looked back and they were in our box. VAR should clear up the ones that go slightly wrong. It didn’t tonight.”
Moss has not been put in charge of a Premier League game this weekend and will instead by the fourth official at Molineux for Wolves’ home game with Tottenham.
It was another bleak afternoon for Huddersfield at Vicarage Road after more shambolic defending contributed to a 3-0 loss to Watford last Saturday.
The Terriers aren’t as defensively robust as they were last season, when their good start to the season provided the cushion which ultimately helped them stave off relegation.
They haven’t had the same early springboard this time around, while they remain just as limited as an attacking force. David Wagner’s side have scored just 14 goals in 2018, comfortably the fewest of any team in England’s top four leagues this calendar year.
Striker Laurent Depoitre had just four touches inside the Watford penalty box, while they are yet to score at home this term.
With Fulham the visitors to the John Smith’s Stadium this weekend – a side that have conceded the most goals after 10 Premier League games (28) – they have to come out of their shell.
South Korea defender Jang received a lifetime ban from playing for the national team and a £20,600 fine after he was found to have falsified records relating to his military service exemption.
As trotted out by the British media throughout the first month of the season in relation to Son Heung-min, all able-bodied South Korean men must complete almost two years’ military service as part of efforts to maintain a deterrent against the North but athletes can earn exemptions by winning a medal at the Olympics or gold at the Asian Games.
The exemption conditions state that athletes must undergo four weeks of basic military training and undertake more than 500 hours of community service over a three-year period.
But Jang, who was part of the team that won gold at the 2014 Asian Games, admitted this week he submitted false records detailing how many hours of community service he has performed.
The 27-year-old – who plays for FC Tokyo – has now been given an additional five days of compulsory service by the sports ministry, and he said: “I am sorry to have disappointed everyone for such a shameful issue.”
Jang is not the only player this week issuing a grovelling apology. Everyone knows how footballers love to dress up for Halloween, but there’s always one who gets his costume spectacularly wrong.
Ghosts and ghouls were again upstaged by the more inventive outfits on show, but Bayern Munich defender Rafinha caused social media outcry after dressing in traditional Arab clothing while holding a bomb.
A picture of several of Bayern’s players dressed up for the occasion was tweeted by the German champions on their official Twitter account, which has over four-and-a-half million followers.
Rafinha can be seen dressed in traditional Arab clothing, wearing a fake moustache and holding a box with the word ‘vorsicht’ – meaning ‘caution’.
The right-back has since apologised, saying: “Halloween is a scary celebration with exaggerated costumes. It was not my intention to anger anyone through my disguise or hurt someone’s feelings.”
The mind boggles at how the outfit got the nod of approval from the player, his team-mates and the club who initially tweeted it in the first place.