What a weekend. Moments of darkness. Moments of light. I found it very moving ahead of the first game of the weekend, when the invasion of Ukraine was marked before kick-off. The Premier League is the world’s most watched global billboard and the emotional power of this felt very real. Yes, both sets of fans are singing “Putin is a Bastard.”
The most uplifting Moment of the weekend came when Norwich’s Brandon Williams was poised to grapple with his opponent once they had fallen onto the turf together, only to realize the player he had landed on top of was St. Christian Eriksen. His anger instantly burned away and he simply gave the resurrected Dane a hug. The world needs more love like this.
Pre-sale tickets available THIS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9 at 10 a.m. ET exclusively via The Raven Newsletter. Subscribe here.
1. Mexico: A moment of Darkness
What happened in Mexico was a human horror as the game between Querétaro and Atlas descended into carnage as Ultra groups of Querétaro fans attacked Atlas supporters they could find with knives, metal bars, and anything at hand. Official reports have 26 injured and no deaths, though many journalists have questioned those numbers. Liga MX was suspended belatedly and there have been calls for FIFA to investigate, seeing as Mexico is set to co-host the 2026 World Cup. For me, the images of all the kids being rushed out of the stadium by their panicked parents are so harrowing. Kids for whom football should be a joy, and will now be a trauma.
2. Chelsea Fire Sale
We are witnessing the last days of Roman Abramovich as a Premier League owner. Despite his public assurances that this will be an orderly, strategic sale of the club, one English newspaper wrote this was “The mother of all fire sales.” Though reports maintain Roman wants 4 billion dollars, potential investors know they just need to wait for desperation to kick in, and then pick up the club at a bargain price. Sky Sports is reporting at least 10 potential buyers are lined up. Most are American based, including Thomas Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs. I cannot tell how many of these names are wishful thinking to create the impression of competition. Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly and Swiss medical sector billionaire Hansjörg Wyss are reported to be increasingly confident that their bid to buy Chelsea will be successful. The media is full of articles being written about how new ownership will transform the club, its approach to the transfer market, loan strategy, and ability to modernize Stamford Bridge. Until we know whom it will be, all of this is premature.
Important thread on the state of Chelsea’s finances – a deep dive into the state of the club’s bottom line.
Pulisic scored in the 69th minute, his music. Incredible finish. Made it look easy. Lolz. Lovely news - Christian’s blip of form and lack of confidence now seems to be behind him. He has had a run of starts and seems to be enjoying his football again.
3. Liverpool Defensive Grit as well as Attacking Poetic Magic
I feel for David Moyes. Agony again at Anfield. 19 games he had played there without victory. Again, his West Ham made Liverpool toil but left with nothing to show for it. Liverpool remain magnificent. 12 consecutive wins in all competitions. The performance was not one to remember, yet a relieved Jurgen Klopp was quick to reinforce the significance of this kind of victory post-game, hailing “blocks as important as goals.” Liverpool fans deserve an assist for bringing large cat heads to Anfield to remind Zouma of his acts.
One interesting story to monitor: Jurgen Klopp has hinted he may leave Liverpool when his contract expires in 2024, and revealed he would only consider staying at Anfield if he felt he had the energy to lead the club. Nothing is forever. Enjoy what we have while we have it.
4. Manchester Derby in danger of becoming as relevant as the Merseyside one
A match-up that reflected immense imbalance: the hosts’ clear, clinical identity and collective system squaring up to a faded power forever in search of both of those qualities. The 22-point gap between them is reflective of a gulf caused by the truth that City are just smarter, more functional and strategic, on and off the field, in every single department. In truth, City smashed United without ever having to get out of second gear. United demonstrated no leadership, care, or fight. They looked like Everton in Red. I said on Friday that the Merseyside derby used to be massive – a national must-watch with title-deciding ramifications until Everton fell off the pace and it became more a local game. There is a scenario, if United do not change their culture, where this could happen here. For Pep and City, the game against United is dwarfed by the prospect of games against Liverpool to come.
5. Arsenal: What is Old Is New Again
Arsenal overcame Watford in their annual cojones check, conjuring goals that echoed Wengerian moments of wonder past. The third goal, full of flicks and movement and an Arteta assist, was reminiscent of Cesc, Wilshire, and Rosicky brilliance of years past. But one with a truly potential-soaked modern twist: 29 of 41 goals the Gunners have scored in the league this season have been scored by players under the age of 23. A stat which screams “let us Dream.” A fourth consecutive away win sent Arteta’s team into 4th place, with 3 games in hand on United. A massive turning point in the season lies ahead: 3 big games in 6 days starting next Sunday. For Arsenal fans, the feeling of anticipating game day and expecting to win is one of wonder that they deserve.
6. Jesse Marsch: Everything was great apart from the result
A magical moment Saturday morning. Jesse Marsch became just the second US-born manager in our nation's history to coach in the Premier League, arriving at a place where there is no time for a honeymoon. His Leeds had no wins in 6 and were 2 points off the relegation zone. Pre-game, I spent a moment remembering Bob Bradley at Swansea and his first game against Arsenal in which he unfurled the black polo neck, looking lost and bewildered before he had begun. In contrast, Jesse was not overawed.
His Leeds were very Leeds-like. Dominating, creating and missing chances, then conceding against the run of play thanks to an individual error. However, the backline was more robust, and though they could not finish the chances they created, the opportunities were there. At the final whistle, Marsch beckoned his substitutes on to the field to huddle with the rest of team. The core of Marsch’s philosophy is about building the spirit of the collective. I remember when he was in Germany, Marsch was constantly annoyed with the way German media kept mistakenly correcting his grammar. He'd say “our team” in press conferences; they would translate it as “my team,” erasing the sense of collective ownership he was trying to reinforce. His mantra is football is a group project. This midfield moment will be remembered as one of wonder if he turns things around, or pilloried if not. But godspeed to him.
7. Giroud still scoring massive goals in massive moments
Pulisic’s Beard Daddy stuck out a boot to steer in Davide Calabria's low driven cross early in the second half and handed Milan victory against Napoli. They are top of Serie A in the best European title race in a long, long time.
8. Rooney Ball is magnificent to witness.
9. Happy Birthday John Harkes
John tells us tomorrow is actually his birthday, but let's raise a glass to a pioneer who gave us this incredible exclamation point of a moment that will never be forgotten by those who lived it, and should be watched by those too young to have experienced it before.
10. Sir Charles Barkley needs to talk about Football more often
This is all kinds of amazing, as the Round Mound of Rebound wades into the equality debate. In that regard, congratulations to Cindy Parlow Cone, who won re-election as US Soccer President on Saturday, defeating her predecessor, Carlos Cordeiro, former Goldman Sachs partner and current adviser to Fifa dictator-president Gianni Infantino, who somehow stood again despite having to resign midterm in the fallout from legal filings that claimed the women’s national team players had less physical ability than their male counterparts. I pray US Soccer can keep building towards the future, as opposed to reverting to the often self-inflicted discontent of years past. To Cindy Cone and her winning words: “Now is the time for all of us to work together. No more divisions. We don’t have time for all of that.” Amen.
That is it for this week. Our podcast drops this afternoon for more. Tomorrow, we will release a new episode of European Nights with my mate Rory Smith. We Greenroom on Wednesday at 5 PM ET, podding live and taking your questions.