Does anybody actually like November – really?
Thanksgiving, Diwali, Bonfire Night, thousands of birthdays, ‘November Rain’ is a banging tune… ok, ok, I take it back, but November 2020 has been cut from the same toerag of a cloth that the entire year has.
Truth be told, it’s been a brutal and sorrowful week for sport. I sat here thinking of ways I could pitch a jovial introduction, but do you know what? No, I can’t, because the 11th month of the year has decided to be a gargantuan prat.
Tough week for sport
Romain Grosjean was almost killed in a horrendous F1 crash during the Bahrain Grand Prix, Raul Jimenez fractured his skull during the Arsenal win and Edinson Cavani is under fire for a ‘racist’ social media post.
And that’s before I mention the incomprehensible passing of Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, which, frankly, the sporting world will be mourning for months to come, myself included.
It’s hard not to watch videos of him tearing up the 1986 World Cup or generally having the biggest smile on his face simply because there’s a football at his feet and feel tearful about his irremediable absence.
Somebody needs to bring back November 5 and swap Guy Fawkes from the raging fires for a whopping effigy of 2020 that I can proceed to raise my middle fingers at, slag off behind its back and block on Twitter.
So, forgive me if this week’s GMS Awards doesn’t have the same happy-go-lucky brainlessness of previous editions, but, in spite of everything, I’ll try to channel what was so often the mentality of Maradona himself: never take things too seriously.
Goal of the week
Harry Winks vs Ludogorets
Did he mean it? No. Does that make it any less spectacular? Double nope.
What Winks achieved during Spurs’ Europa League win on Thursday was the equivalent of crashing your car into 100 cans of Dulux and the mess it makes just happens to paint the Mona Lisa on the tarmac.
I still have absolutely no idea how Winks managed to overhit his through-ball to Gareth Bale so spectacularly poorly that it managed to fly miles over the back four, goalkeeper and in off the crossbar.
That being said, despite his honesty this week, I like to think he’ll heed Jose Mourinho’s advice and tell his grandkids that he scored the most casual FIFA Puskas Award contender of all time.
Player of the week
It could be no one else. In a week that brought the sporting world to its knees in grieving for the great man, the very, very least we could do at GIVEMESPORT was reserve this award for him.
We are, after all, talking about an icon who spread his footballing magic across spells with Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys and of course, the Argentina national team.
His legendary performances at the 1986 World Cup stand alone as the greatest ever individual output at a major competition, scoring five times, including the ‘Goal of the Century’ against England.
But above everything else, Maradona was a thoroughbred entertainer and somebody who, by way of simply loving the sport so purely, inspires children around the world to take up the beautiful game every day.
Manager of the week
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Say what you like about Solskjaer’s competency at the highest level – and trust us, there’s plenty to say – but what does the poor man need to do to stop keyboard warriors calling him a ‘PE teacher’ every 10 seconds?
The United boss has done phenomenally well when you consider the Red Devils’ dire start to the season, how badly the board abandoned him in the summer and how quickly fans were clamouring for Mauricio Pochettino.
Apply that context to a revenge victory over İstanbul Başakşehir, which came in emphatic style with a 4-1 scoreline, to see United top a Champions League group with PSG and RB Leipzig to see why the guy deserves praise.
That’s not to mention a stunning comeback away to high-flying Southampton that, need we add, was inspired by one of his key substitutions with Cavani bagging a brace and providing an assist.
Game of the week
Braga 3-3 Leicester City
The Foxes have been loving their Europa League adventure this season and they made yet another fantastic impression on the continent by rescuing a draw from the jaws of defeat during a tough trip to Portugal.
Brendan Rodgers’ men had responded twice to strikes from Braga with Harvey Barnes and Luke Thomas finding the net, only to suffer heartbreak when Fransérgio Barbosa beat Kasper Schmeichel in the 90th minute.
But if there’s one thing we know about Leicester, it’s that impossible means nothing to them and right on cue, Jamie Vardy rescued a dramatic equaliser deep into the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Outrageous skill of the week
Dele Alli’s cricket control
For whatever reason, the showboat has been short of sailors this week, so we’re actually going for a moment of skill away from the pitch which, sadly, has become a common location for Alli this season.
That’s because training ground footage emerged of the Spurs squad playing cricket with youngster Jack Clarke bowling for batsman Harvey White, who played his shot competently towards the fire exit.
However, despite looking about as interested as fellow fielder and professional water drinker Ben Davies, Alli was on hand to produce a moment of magic by instinctively flicking up the ball and securing the catch.
We can only imagine how quickly the former England international sprinted to the CCTV operators to watch back it back and hopefully, we’ll see the likes from him on the pitch sometime soon.
Angel Di Maria vs RB Leipzig
Ordinarily, we’d say that Di Maria has a brilliant right and left foot, but he simply had two left feet in the Champions League this week as he won a shocking penalty while VAR took an evening nap.
Marcel Sabitzer was deemed to have fouled the PSG wizard in the penalty area, though judging by how easily Di Maria went to ground, the Parisian wind or the movement of the sun could easily have had the same effect.
In the words of Julian Nagelsmann to Sky Germany: “That decision at Champions League level – that’s really sad. That was a dive, there was zero contact. VAR was probably watching another game.”
Strangest punditry of the week
Peter Shilton headline on Diego Maradona
Now, look, I’m not trying to drive the knife into Shilton too much here because it goes without saying that he compliments Maradona’s talents and passes on his condolences during the article in question.
I similarly don’t doubt that Maradona’s lack of decorum in the wake of blatant cheating on such a big occasion has not only grated on Shilton over the years but wrongly come to define his own fantastic career.
However, whether by his design or not, the phrasing of the headline: “PETER SHILTON: Diego Maradona had greatness, but no sportsmanship” was tone deaf so close to the tragic news.
There is a genuine debate to be had and Shilton’s points are carefully argued, but the immediate aftermath of Maradona’s death, at the very least, should be a time for celebrating a life that ended far too soon.
Disasterclass of the week
Arturo Vidal quickfire sending off
Do you know what I picture when I think of Vidal and his character? Joining a yoga class on the beach, sipping a glass of mineral water in perfect silence as the sun slips beneath the horizon.
Yeh, do I heck? I think of a bull smashing its way through a china shop and then proceeding to rob the bank across the road – and the Inter Milan midfielder did little to change my mind with his escapades this week.
That’s because Vidal blew a massive hole in Inter’s hopes of Champions League qualification with a sending off of ridiculous proportions, opening the door for Real Madrid to win 2-0 at the San Siro.
Vidal was convinced that Raphael Varane had brought him down in a manner deserving of a penalty, only to receive two yellow cards in the space of TEN SECONDS for his wild dissent. Yikes.
Tweet of the week
Sevilla on Champions League qualification
Sevilla must be the only team in history that celebrates finishing third in their Champions League group because, frankly, the club wins the Europa League like clockwork with six trophies in 14 years.
As a result, the Spanish club were probably heartbroken when their 2-1 win over Krasnodar meant they missed out on the Europa League this season – it’s like Nando’s without the chicken or United without the penalties.
But at least we can console them with a gong in the GMS Awards because their reaction on Twitter to the most bitter-sweet victory in history was absolute class and amassed almost 150,000 ‘likes’.
Perhaps this means Arsenal will actually stand a chance of having some success in 2020/21… but then again, pigs might also fly, the world might end and Christian Benteke might score a goal.
Craziest bet of the week
Jose Mourinho for Sergio Reguilon
Whether it was the Amazon documentary or not having Ed Woodward whispering in his ear every ten seconds, Mourinho seems to have defrosted since becoming Spurs boss and it’s been fantastic to watch.
And after the legendary coach produced a ‘Park the Bus’ masterclass over Manchester City, he reiterated his new grandfatherly approach by honoring a truly bizarre promise to full-back Reguilon.
That’s because Mourinho splashed out on a gigantic £500 ham because the former Real Madrid defender kept Riyad Mahrez, who failed all four of his take-on attempts at the Spurs man, quiet during the 2-0 win.
But that aside, I want to know what made this pig’s leg so special – was it practicing knuckle-ball free-kicks with Cristiano Ronaldo? Was it spending leg day with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Perhaps we’ll never know…
The Sunday League award
Dodgy centre circle in Brazil
How on Earth did my answer to question 13 in my maths GCSE find its way onto a pitch in Brazil!? I haven’t seen a dodgier circle since I attempted a self-portrait five pints deep.
I have no idea what happened to the groundsperson here because the supposed centre circle resembles more of a shotgun shell and gives whichever team is on the right-hand side for kick-off a clear advantage.
Then there’s the halfway line, which looks like my ECG during Arsenal matches, while the semi-circle outside the penalty area would be called something rhyming with ‘flowed’ if it were male genitalia.
Rob Holding mocking Adama Traore
Is there any better word in the English language than ‘s***house’ and its variants? Besides, I love it so much that we had to name an award after it and I can’t wait for the arrival of S***housery Tong when I start a family.
So, imagine my delight when Arsenal defender Rob Holding was heard using the magical phrase during the Premier League defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday night.
After Adama Traore went to ground easily at Emirates Stadium, the Gunners defender was picked up moaning to the referee: “He’s built like a brick s***house! How’s he going down like that?!”
When you think about it, using the word ‘s***house’ for s***housery purposes to win the S***housery award is kind of s***houseception but, then again, maybe it’s just me enjoying typing it over and over again…
The Roy Keane award
Edinson Cavani vs Southampton
If there’s one man who could criticise a United player in a performance where they scored twice and provided an assist off the bench to recover a 3-2 comeback, then you know it’s our favourite Irishman on the brink of heart failure.
Keane laid into Cavani for the second time in a matter of weeks for either looking uninterested during his warm-up or not being ready to enter the game afterwards.
“He was obviously slow getting onto the pitch with them boots. Just as well he did score because how the guy is not prepared and ready to go on… it’s mind-boggling,” the club legend fumed on Sky Sports.
While certainly embarrassing for Cavani, I dread to think how Keane would describe other incidents if that, of all things, warrants ‘mind-boggling’… though I have heard it’s ‘the f***ing end of the world’ if his scrambled eggs are overcooked.
Urban Dictionary of the week
Word: Ronaldo (verb)
Definition: Exact revenge on somebody after they mocked you
In a sentence: Dorothy, 78, from across the road laughed in my face after slaughtering me in a game of badminton the other week. Little did she know that, this week, I Ronaldoed her by replacing the shuttlecock with a brick. I won in three sets… but definitely lost with the three-year prison sentence.
Man Utd penalty of the week
Marcus Rashford vs İstanbul Başakşehir
Another week, another penalty, it’s almost as though United have an uncanny knack for winning them? To be fair, I’m just thankful this absolute p*** take of an award actually has another winner.
And it came under unexpected circumstances this week with Bruno Fernandes turning down the opportunity for a Champions League hat-trick, gifting the spot-kick to Rashford at the last minute instead.
If there’s proof of karma in the world let it be that Rashford was on the receiving end of a charitable act after doing so much incredible philanthropy himself throughout the tragedies of 2020.
Thankfully, the destined-to-be-Sir-Marcus made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Mert Günok the wrong way with a slotted finish as the Red Devils helped themselves to a comfortable 4-1 win.
Managerial innuendo of the week
“The boys played like we had to play. The first half an hour we struggled a bit with their balls in behind because they didn’t drop in the right moment.”
Everyone to themselves, Jurgs, but I would have hoped they’d have dropped by the time they’re playing in the Liverpool first-team.
TV Burp award
Most riskily-timed Diego Maradona tribute of the week
You’ve got to say that it’s pretty remarkable Messi feigned a ‘Hand of God’ impression just days after the passing of his legendary compatriot, though it goes without saying that his goal celebration was a beautiful tribute.
Get lost, 2020
I think we can all agree that there are some weeks you just want to see the back of and this couldn’t have been a finer example.
But alas, we have speeded past the monstrosity of November’s final offering; cutting them up, honking our horn and sticking two fingers out of the window for good measure.
And at least the arrival of December brings with it the Christmas cheer, alleviation of lockdown in the United Kingdom and a fixture schedule that’s brilliant for the fans, albeit enough to give Jurgen Klopp a seizure.
They say the only way is up and let’s hope that’s the case, so get Mariah Carey blaring, reach for the mulled wine, dip into the Quality Street, bash out a jigsaw puzzle and enjoy the company of family and friends if it’s safe to do so.
Or if nothing else, stick your fingers in your ears and sing ‘la la la la’ until 2020 buggers off, because it’s without a doubt our ‘Villian of the week’ every week. Only 31 days to go, praise the Lord.