By Maurício Alencar, Footrace Football Expert
In the football climate, when clubs find themselves to be devastated by a colossal mess, ruined by gross mismanagement, and made sapless by insurmountable debt, football’s false heroes know, or think they know, what word to use to cushion the hard blow: sustainable. When some of Europe’s most despicable club owners created “The Super League”, Andrea Agneilli, the Chairman of Juventus, said that the league was “putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future”; on the (still standing) website for the (failed) Super League, “Solidarity and Sustainability” is listed as one of the crushed competition’s 4 main targets. When Derby released a statement announcing that they were going into administration last Friday, it claimed that “the irony is that the Club’s financial forecasts show the emergence of a financially sustainable picture”. Shortly before Bolton went into administration, the EFL, which had been criticised by the Bolton Supporters Trust for their belief that the club could feasibly support its own weight, stated that their “overriding objective [was] to ensure the long-term sustainability of all EFL clubs, including a strong Bolton Wanderers”. Etc. It’s football owner’s go-to word when they are faced down by their own financial wreckage.
Enough of it. Football fans know the story all too well by now. Sustainability, anyway, more pertinently and exclusively relates to the wider discussions surrounding climate change. And finally, it was in this guise that “sustainable” re-emerged in a football context on the weekend.
Tottenham vs Chelsea on the 19th of September 2021 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will certainly not be remembered for the day Tuchel deployed Kanté after half-time to defeat the Spurs midfield and come out as deserved winners. Instead, Tottenham vs Chelsea, 19/09/21, will likely be tagged as ‘football first ever official “net zero carbon” match’ on the archives. Sky, together with Tottenham and Natural Capital Partners, led the initiative under the title “#GameZero”, working to cut emissions from matchday activities and offset remaining carbon emissions through creating new UK woodlands and a reforestation project in East Africa. It comes under two months before COP26, an important UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. In the truest sense of the word as it is today in 2021, elite football at last showed a sign of its ability to be “sustainable”, in the environmental sense of the word.
Sky and Tottenham Hotspur join a defiant, albeit little-known, class of already-existing football fighters against climate change. Thom Rawson founded “Sustainable Football”, a new consultancy looking to help the football climate become more aware of what it needs to do to tackle climate change. He also works as the “Chief Sustainability Officer at Hanwell Town”, a role you’d hope to see in place at clubs across the country. And, of course, there’s Forest Green Rovers, owned by green-energy-enthusiast Dale Vince. Forest Green are the net-zero carbon football club of the world, though playing at League Two level.
The football projects mentioned appear to be genuine courses of action taken, but the scale of the work being done is miniscule in comparison to the multi-billion pound operations to move players around the globe to different clubs. Where there are multi-billion pound operations being done to combat climate change in the football world, there is hypocrisy and dishonesty to take into account. FIFA and Qatar pledged to deliver a fully carbon-neutral World Cup in 2022 by “including energy efficient stadiums, low emission transportation, and sustainable waste management”, as they “aim to set a benchmark for environmental stewardship in the region”. Praising the country’s efforts would let Qatar and its money-generating crude oil sector off. It also circumvents criticism for the country’s violation of workers’ rights.
“Sustainable”, when used in a financial context, is a misfire. It is a word used to signal a sense of safety and prosperity. In the context of despondent club statements announcing a severe sense of struggle to survive, or worse administration, it is a word that has no actual effect, no actual action, no result. It has no place there. So when people in football use “sustainable” to refer to the problems regarding climate change, let’s hope it takes a different tone. Hopefully, it does in fact result in strong action reducing carbon emissions. Otherwise, our whole human race will be going into liquidation, if you like.
By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer
After a poor showing at the weekend against Derby County in the league, Michael O’Neill’s lads will be looking to reverse their form against Premiership newcomers Watford this Tuesday night.
Watford on the other hand look set to continue their league form after a 3-1 win over Norwich City on Saturday, a game in which Ismaïla Sarr scored twice taking his seasonal total to three games in five appearances. The youngster will be hoping for a start against the Championship side in order to rack up his seasonal tally despite not having featured in the previous EFL Cup game for Watford as they breezed past Crystal Palace in a 1-0 win.
As for the Potters, they look to continue their run of cup form that saw them past Doncaster last time out in a 2-0 home win against Doncaster Rovers. This month 50 years ago Stoke City began their EFL Cup campaign that resulted in a coveted trophy at Wembley Stadium.
Michael O’Neill will be looking to make changes to the side that started against Derby County in the league at the weekend, though insists he will be putting out a side he believes can get the Potters into the next round.
In terms of injuries, the Potters will remain without Tyrese Campbell who is still playing with the under-23s as he returns to fitness. Steven Fletcher remains out of training with an ankle injury and midfield regular Joe Allen looks unlikely to play as he has only resumed light training after his toe injury.
Watford will be without three players in the midweek clash, as confirmed by the club. Kiko Femenia will be out due to picking up a knock in the second half against Norwich, but the club insists it is not a recurrence of his previous injury.
Joao Pedro will also be unavailable due to a lack of fitness after his recovery from a knee injury. Peter Etebo will of course be unavailable to Xisco’s side due to restrictions in his loan agreement that prevent him from playing against his parent club Stoke.
By Charlotte Atherton, Wigan Athletic writer
Wigan Athletic go to the top of Sky Bet League One after an impressive 4-1 win over Accrington Stanley.
Jack Whatmough got his first Wigan goal when he opened the scoring at the Wham Stadium, followed by Will Keane bagging his fifth of the season.
After half time, Michael Nottingham pulled one back for the home side but a brace from Charlie Wyke secured all three points for the Latics and sent them top of the table.
It took just six minutes for Wigan to take the lead when a James McClean corner fell into the path of Whatmough who was able to hammer home his first goal in a Wigan shirt.
Wigan had a chance to score their second shortly after when Keane sent his effort from the edge of the area just wide of James Trafford’s goal.
Keane did not have to wait long to bag his fifth league goal of the season when he rose high in the box to head home after a brilliant cross from the League One assist leader, Max Power.
After half time, Keane had another opportunity to get on the scoresheet when a chance opened up for him on the edge of the area but his shot glanced just wide of the post.
Ben Amos was then tested between the sticks at the other end of the pitch when Sean McConville’s effort from outside of the area looked to be going in, but the Wigan keeper did well to preserve Wigan’s 2-0 lead.
Further chances fell for Wigan when McClean had an effort tipped just wide of the post by Trafford and Kell Watts almost scored from the resulting corner but his effort glanced wide.
Accrington dealt with the early pressure in the second half from Wigan and pulled a goal back thanks to Nottingham who blasted the ball into the roof of the net – no one was stopping that.
Any hope the home side had of a potential come back was quickly shot down when Wyke finally scored his long awaited first goal in blue and white.
Tom Naylor did excellently on the right wing to find Keane on the edge of the area who was able to play a lovely ball through to Wyke, he dinked the ball over Trafford and into the back of the net in front of the travelling Latics faithful.
It was an eventful injury time for Wigan as Wyke got his second of the game, his shot from just inside the area was converted in off the right post to put the 2,500 Latics supporters on cloud nine and sent Wigan top of the pile after Sunderland conceded in injury time.
By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer
Sheffield Wednesday’s dip in form continued this Saturday as they made it three league games without victory following a 1-1 home draw with Shrewsbury Town.
Darren Moore handed full league debuts to Saido Berahino and Olamide Shodipo as The Owls hoped to bounce back after their 3-0 thrashing at Plymouth last weekend.
The Hillsborough crowd were given the ideal start when the former Premier League star, Berahino headed home Barry Bannan’s corner to bag his first goal in front of his new supporters just six minutes in.
Two minutes later Berahino should have doubled his tally with a free header on the edge of the six-yard box but the forward glanced it wide of the post.
In a dominant opening the home side were presented with another opportunity for a second when Shodipo was fouled inside The Shrews box winning a penalty kick. The captain had the duty of taking Wednesday’s spot kick but Bannan dragged his penalty past the post.
10 minutes before the break the inevitable happened when Elliot Bennett broke into The Owls’ box, had his cross spilled by Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Ryan Bowman turned the ball into the Wednesday net to equalise. A sickening blow for Darren Moore’s side who were punished for failing to take their chances.
In a disappointing second half, the hosts were fortunate not to go behind when Shrewsbury’s Luke Leahy ran through on goal but stuck his effort just wide.
The Yorkshire club will however feel aggrieved following a controversial disallowed goal midway through the second 45. Bannan slipped in Shodipo who appeared to be in an onside position, with the winger slotting the ball into the back of the net only to see the linesman’s flag raised for an offside. The decision was one that frustrated The Owls manager who says he ‘knew it was a goal’.
A deflated Wednesday side were unable to find a winner and slumped to a disappointing draw. This result sees the promotion hopefuls drop down to 12th place with 11 points from their opening 7 games. A few positives Wednesdayites can take away from the game is a much improved performance to the display at Plymouth last week. Shodipo and Berahino both looked very sharp with the latter now off the mark in blue and white. On another day Wednesday may well have put away their chances early on and cruised to victory and with it still early days for this much changed Owls squad, it may take a bit of time before we see the best of this team.
Next up for Darren Moore’s men it’s a trip to fellow promotion favourites Ipswich Town, where The Owls will once again be backed by a sold-out away end.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Spurs writer
Chelsea inflicted a consecutive 3-0 defeat on Tottenham in a dominant performance. After managing no shots on target in the opening 45 minutes, Chelsea looked like a different team after the break and outclassed Spurs in every department resulting in three well taken goals for Silva, Kanté and Rüdiger.
Spurs collapsed in the latter stages of the game, undoing all their promising work in the first-half, where they gave a very promising account of themselves. To Nunos credit he opted for a very attacking lineup, starting Ndombele, Lo Celso and Alli, prompting Spurs to play on the front foot. This tactic paid off, Son and Sergio Reguilón were both put through on goal early on, but could not provide the finish. Ultimately, it fell apart in the second-half, Chelsea flexed their squad depth by bringing on N'Golo Kanté at half time who changed the game for the European champions, running Tottenhams midfield ragged.
The goals Spurs conceded were poor, shambolic defending by Dier and Alli allowed Silva to score a well placed header, uncharacteristically Højbjerg was caught napping for Chelseas second, failing to close down Kanté, allowing his shot to deflect in and the third goal was the result of tired legs. Rüdiger was given way too much space in the box allowing the German defender to place the ball into the bottom corner.
Tottenham were outclassed in the second-half against unbelievable quality, they wont have to face a team that good every week. There were positives to take from the game, especially the first half, where on another day they could have been ahead. Playing on the front foot is undoubtedly the way forward for Tottenham and this result should not put them off this style of football. We have two of the best forwards in the league in Kane and Son, if we consistently feed them chances the goals will come.
I have full faith in Kane to return to fine goal scoring form imminently, hes had the most testing summer of his career and it will take him time to get back into the swing of things. Im not a fan of his insistence on dropping deep into midfield to link up play, he is the best goal scorer in the league and he needs his hunger back to be in the box for every attack. Worryingly, over two matches hes only had two touches in the opposition's box, this must change.
Thankfully, Spurs now have a week to prepare for a monumental North London derby against Arsenal on Sunday. I think this is a perfect time to play Arsenal, admittedly they have won back to back games, but against poor opponents. If Spurs take the game to Arsenal like they did against Chelsea in the first half, I have full faith they will get the victory.
By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer
After a midweek stumble against Barnsley, in which Stoke City shared the points after picking up a red card on the pitch and two off the pitch for the technical staff, Michael O'Neill’s side looked to regain their winning form away to Derby on Saturday.
Stoke City lined up with three changes at Pride Park, with new Brighton loanee Abdallah Sima coming in upfront to replace Jacob Brown, Tom Ince coming in on the right-hand side for the suspended Tommy Smith, and Sam Clucas taking the place of Joe Allen in the centre of the field after the Welsh man picked up a toe injury during the midweek game against Barnsley.
Wayne Rooney’s Derby was looking to take away the focus from the off the pitch noise surrounding the team’s twelve-point deduction due to entering administration and a previously agreed nine-point deduction for misdemeanours in their accounting.
The game began evenly with few chances at either end until a miss cleared ball from the Stoke defence found its way to Max Bird who rifled home a screamer from well outside the 18-yard line. Joe Bursik in the Stoke net barely moved as the shot flew past him into the top left corner. This was the youngster’s first goal for Derby County which put his side ahead in the 31st minute.
Three minutes later Romaine Sawyers gave away a freekick as Derby looked to break on the counter-attack, tripping Louie SIbly, and the ball was floated into the box by Graeme Shinnie. Joe Bursik came flying out of the Stoke net to catch the ball but was left stranded as Curtis Davies headed the ball from the edge of the 18-yard line into the net with no keeper.
Derby continued with pressure, with Joe Bursik again coming out and letting Ravel Morrison in behind to slot it into an open net, only for the Derby forward to hit the side netting/
The Potter’s managed to pull a goal back in the 58th minute as Mario Vrancic set up former Derby County man Tom Ince to finish the ball into the bottom left corner at Kelle Roos’ near post. This was Ince’s first league goal since July 2020.
Stoke continued to apply pressure throughout the second half, with two penalty claims going unheeded by the referee as the game ended with a Derby win. Michael O’Neill’s side looked unprofessional in defence during the first half, allowing a galvanised Derby side to take advantage of a shaky start in nets for Joe Bursik against his run of form recently.
By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer
Despite a strong showing in Devon from Sutton, a second half double from Exeter City’s Sam Nombe downed the Ambers, sending them back to London with zero points, when they really deserved more from the encounter, especially after a very encouraging first half.
Matt Gray decided to stay unchanged from the 1-0 win over Hartlepool in midweek, keeping faith in the eleven that earned Sutton their second win from their last two games. His namesake, Matt Taylor also decided to keep his Exeter side unchanged too for this matchup on a sunny Saturday in Devon.
David Ajiboye had the first main chance of the game, 17 minutes in. He was found by a brilliant ball over the top of the Exeter defence, the winger plucked the ball out the air superbly and fired an effort towards goal, but it was superbly kept out by Cameron Dawson. Sutton were then forced to make an enforced change, with former Exeter man Donovan Wilson replacing Tobi Sho-Silva. Enzio Boldewijn then skied an effort, before Joe Kizzi’s header hit the woodwork after another Sutton corner caused havoc for the Grecians. Ajiboye was causing trouble yet again on the counter, with Richie Bennett heading over from the winger’s cross.
Timothee Dieng had Exeter’s first chance of the afternoon, nicking the ball off Kizzi, nutmegging a defender but then fired over from range. Somehow on the very next attack, the ball didn’t go in the net. Harry Kite’s initial shot was blocked, and the ball found its way to Matt Jay, but a combination of Dean Bouzanis and Ben Goodliffe somehow cleared the ball away and set Sutton on another counter, this time the ball found Donovan Wilson who smashed the ball off the underside of the crossbar. Somehow after two guilt edge chances for either side, the score remained 0-0 heading into the break.
Louis John had the first chance of the second half for Sutton, he directed another corner wide for the hosts. Sam Nombe who was quiet in the first half for the hosts, but he was called upon at the other end, to clear a Sutton effort off the line as the visitors edged ever closer to the breakthrough. Richie Bennett then arguably had Sutton’s biggest chance, with the ball bobbling around, he had the goal at his mercy as it fell to him, but somehow George Ray got a touch to divert the ball away from the net and this was to prove costly for the visitors.
Nombe, who had advanced down the wing was found by Jay, Nombe displayed superb trickery to get away from his marker and fired a fierce shot which took a heavy deflection off Ben Goodliffe and beat Bouzanis, to send the Exeter fans jubilant and put them ahead. The Grecians started to dominate proceedings heading into the last part of the game, with Jevani Browns deflected effort being held by Bouzanis, who then had to keep out Matt Jay too. The points were then made safe for the hosts, Louis John lost his footing just over halfway and the ball was threaded through to Nombe, who rounded Bouzanis to send the Big Bank behind the goal into raptures and seal the win for The Grecians.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Spurs writer
Spurs have had a very tough week. A 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace, followed by a tough 2-2 draw with Rennes mid-week all done with a depleted squad, this therefore is not the perfect time to play Chelsea, who currently are in scintillating form.
Tottenham are potentially without Lucas, Bergwijn, Tangana, Lo Celso, Romero, Sanchez, Dier and Son, all key first team players. An injury crisis would inevitably happen at some point during the season but so early is difficult to manage, especially after Tottenham started so well, winning their first three games.
I have to be realistic in my prediction for this game, with a Spurs victory seeming unlikely all I can really ask for is a performance where the players give everyone and make it difficult for Chelsea to take home the three points.
Whatever defence Nuno choses to field must be disciplined against Lukaku and at the other end of the field there must be players trying to support Kane. Hopefully Ndombele retains his starting place after a wonderful display against Rennes and I would also like to see Gil feature as he has looked lively this season.
This will be the first time this season where I will be predicting Tottenham to lose. I just hope Spurs put in a worthy performance. Too many times last season we rolled over to teams when players were injured, fringe players must step up and perform. I see Chelsea being too much for Tottenham so my prediction is 3-1 to Chelsea which will gain me 130 points. Footrace is offering 7 points for a Chelsea win, 28 for a draw and a 40 for firm underdogs Tottenham.
By Ben Brown, Leeds United writer
Allan Saint-Maximin came to Newcastle and his manager Steve Bruce’s rescue as his powerful strike earned his side a point against Leeds United at St James Park. The Frenchman weaved around the edge of the Leeds penalty area before firing in low across compatriot Illan Meslier to cancel out Raphinha’s early cross which had sailed all the way into the Newcastle goal.
These were somehow the only goals in a breathless encounter where both sides will feel aggrieved to have not added to their tallies, particularly the visitors in the first half prior to Saint-Maximin’s equaliser where Rodrigo, Kalvin Phillips and Mateusz Klich all went close from range. Full debutant Dan James, in for the Covid forced absentee Jack Harrison, will also point towards a clumsy challenge on him inside the area by Joe Willock which remained unpunished by both referee Mike Dean and the VAR officials at Stockley Park. Raphinha and Junior Firpo were also guilty of missing glorious chances just before the half time whistle, the former taking far too long to get the shot away on a well worked counter and the latter blazing wildly over bar after the ball fell to him at the far post.
Leeds failed to take advantage of this dominance and could’ve even conceded prior to the equaliser, Matt Ritchie striking the inside of the post after more good work from a sparkling Saint-Maximin. And in the early stages of the second half it was the hosts firmly in the ascendency as Saint-Maximin teased and tormented a makeshift Leeds backline throughout, forcing Meslier into multiple good saves, most notably a rock solid hand to a near post piledriver.
Both sides understandably began to tire as a frenetic contest entered its final stages but the visitors still could’ve snagged all three points late on, first when Karl Darlow responded magnificently to tip teammate Jamaal Lascelles’ header over the crossbar and then when Patrick Bamford could only fire straight at the returning Newcastle keeper when played through by Rodrigo.
Despite this both sides will look to moments which may have seen them win the contest but equally take satisfaction from a point in an encounter which could’ve easily tipped either way if finishing had been of a more ruthless nature. It does however mean both sides remain with the concern of being winless after 5 games, with their next chances to rectify that coming next Saturday as Newcastle travel down to fellow strugglers Watford whilst Leeds face a tough proposition as they host West Ham at Elland Road.
By Jordan Hailey, Aston Villa writer
Aston Villa will be back in action this Saturday evening as they look to set the record straight as they host Everton.
After facing a difficult contest against Chelsea last time out, Villa need to desperately find their footing and get onto a good run. The Villains were beaten 3-0 by Chelsea and Dean Smith’s men made some errors that allowed the score line to be more generous to the Blues, so there is hope that this action-packed match will see Villa get a positive result.
In the other camp, Everton will be looking to keep their great form intact after back-to-back wins against Brighton and Burnley.
Everton are boasting a strong run this season as they are currently one of four sides that have got into a double figure goal tally so far this season and, as it stands, they are also unbeaten in the league.
Demari Gray and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are the two men to look out for, they each have 3 goals this season respectively. New gaffer Rafa Benitez has also only lost one in seventeen against Villa, so he will be hoping he can best Villa with his new side.
However, there is still hope for Villa due to the fact that they are currently unbeaten against Everton in their last 4 meetings, winning two and drawing two in those games and so there is a good chance to motivate players there to keep this run going as Everton are very strong away from home after only losing two of their last seventeen.
All in all, this is certainly going to be a strong test for Villa but one they can definitely overcome if everybody shows up on the day.
Come on you Villains.