THEY say never go back.
It’s a motto close to home from my teenage years when countless girls were worryingly quick to decline a second date.
Erling Haaland has hit the ground running at Manchester CityCredit: Getty
And it’s a philosophy that stretches beyond failed romances into most walks of life.
Yet it doesn’t seem to have occurred to managers like Thomas Tuchel and Erik ten Hag as they plot their responses to the challenge being laid down by Manchester City and Liverpool.
Last season’s Premier League top two sent a powerful message that they mean business with the summer signings of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez.
Two strikers in their prime who have hit the ground running and look the real deal already.
Haaland looks so at home in English football that he has taken a mini-break in Marbella after scoring two goals in his first week in the job.
With that in mind, you’d expect the rest of the pack to hit back hard and fast, snaffling up similar high-end strikers to give Liverpool and City bosses Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola sleepless nights.
Chelsea in particular are seen as the one team with the capability of breaking up the two-team cartel being run from opposite ends of the M62.
Yet boss Tuchel’s answer to the worrying boost in weaponry for his two main rivals is to embark on a pet project to bring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back to the Premier League.
The fact Arsenal could not wait to get shot of their wayward captain last season seems only to have fuelled Tuchel’s wicked wish to pull off a stunning return even though it should act as a massive no-no.
The German has it in his head that because he managed Aubameyang years back at Borussia Dortmund, he can pull it off again.
This, despite admitting he used to hear the flashy forward’s souped-up motor ten minutes before he arrived at training, usually late.
The disaster of Romelu Lukaku’s 12-month comeback tour of the Premier League should serve as a warning that second chances are a risky business, yet Tuchel is determined to press on.
Ten Hag was never going to be a serious contender for the title in his first season in charge of the worst Manchester United team in donkeys years — and that includes the donkeys in the squad.
But for a club which underachieves more than I ever did with girls, there should at least be a statement of intent via the transfer market.
However, the latest cack-handed attempt at building a team capable of finishing in the top four has been a move for former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata.
Within a few weeks of signing at Stamford Bridge, the handsome Spaniard was telling pals in the media back home that he didn’t see himself staying in London very long.
He lasted just 18 months and during that infamous miserable spell went so long without a goal that when he finally did score, broke down in tears.
Morata didn’t like rain either. Despite the current hot spell, it’s a fair bet to expect a downpour or two in the coming months at Old Trafford.
The surprising pursuit of Morata comes after Ten Hag failed in a bid to bring ultimate bad-boy Marko Arnautovic back to England.
The grasping Austrian demanded to leave West Ham in January 2019 to pursue his desire of winning titles — putting his boyhood dream to one side in return for a huge pay rise three weeks later.
Marko Arnautovic was wanted in a desperate transfer by Manchester UnitedCredit: Getty
Alvaro Morata did not enjoy his football or the weather at ChelseaCredit: EPA
The following summer he scarpered to China for an even bigger salary hike and is now with mid-table Bologna in Italy.
Scoring goals is the hardest part of the job in a football team according to many managers and it’s the one area where you simply have to get it right.
So it’s no wonder Haaland is already on the beach. And he will soon be joined by Nunez, Guardiola and Klopp unless the rest get their act together.
By the way, me and Mrs D broke up for two years before she reluctantly agreed to give it another go. She is now lumbered with me and three kids — proof she says you should never go back.
LET REFS LOOK IN PEACE
REFEREES are criticised for errors of judgment and are paid well to keep calm and carry on in the heat of the moment.
But their cause is not helped by the arbitrary positioning of the VAR monitors inside grounds, as was underlined this weekend in Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 win over West Ham.
Robert Jones checks the VAR screen at the City GroundCredit: Alamy
Millions of pounds are available for technology to get the big calls right, until it comes to the man at the sharp end, the ref himself.
For all the wonderful advances in camera and communications equipment, the most debatable VAR decisions come down to some bloke trying to make sense of flashing images of a telly plonked in the middle of a mob of baying supporters.
Poor Robert Jones had a penalty shout to consider while a crazed teenage girl hurled all sorts of obscenities at him and a man two rows in front, who is definitely old enough to know better, chimed in.
All just a matter of inches away from the person who needed to remain concentrated and undisturbed more than anyone.
For all the wizardry to hand for the football authorities, surely it is not too much to ask to buy a better TV and put it somewhere where it and the person watching it can’t get covered in phlegm?
PREM FAR FROM PERFECT
HAPPY 30th birthday Premier League.
There has been no shortage of self-congratulation to mark three decades since English football was revolutionised.
Yet this was no rabble-rousing takeover by starving peasants determined to get a fairer share of the wealth — it was the complete opposite in fact.
It was a total carve up among the biggest clubs in the land snatching for an even bigger slice of the money pie. And they got it.
And as good as the English top flight may be, there is still a lot wrong with the structure of our game — which admittedly is envied by the world.
Tickets for matches can be £100 plus and players on average in the Premier League earn around £60,000 a week.
Yes, folks, that means even the likes of Christos Tzolis was trousering far more in a month than you earn in a year while getting relegated with Norwich.
The atmosphere at stadiums is generally s***e, food and drink is overpriced and at some grounds you are physically closer to the action even if you stay at home and watch on the telly.
Richard Littlejohn spoke a lot of sense once, despite being a Spurs fan, when he noted, “The only good thing about modern football is the football”.
Take me back to those p***-stained terraces, brass bands on the pitch at half-time and clouds of fag smoke drifting up through the floodlight beams any day.
TUCH ‘N GO TIME
ANYONE who thinks the Community Shield heralds the start of the football season is a naive fool.
All those who watched Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel go at it hammer and tongs on the touchline on Sunday knows that was the true curtain-raiser for a new season.
Chelsea boss Tuchel even agreed last week that the game against Spurs was perhaps a little too early in the calendar to get too worked up about it.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Every new season from now on should start with this ding-dong London derby.
Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte went head to head on the touchlineCredit: AFP
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