By Alex Netherton & Andi Thomas

For something so insistent, so preening, so self-aggrandizing, and so loud as the Premier League, the reality of the product—and boy, is it a product—is that it’s frequently sub-optimal i.e shite in the extreme.

To Old Trafford. Manchester United and Arsenal. This is a proper game, one with spite and history; the kind of game that writers who take themselves too seriously like to call storied. Two teams that have at times set about one another with consummate talent and verve, at other times with genuine and mutual contempt, and occasionally and blessedly with both. But no more. On the pitch, Arsenal’s declining power has been matched by Manchester United’s declining brio; off it, Wenger has been demoted from an enemy to a friend, as chilling an expression of irrelevance as Alex Ferguson can muster. And no wonder. As spineless as Spongebob Squarepants, as gutless as Mr Creosote, as limp as Long John Silver, as flaccid as Pele’s ‘friend’, this was an Arsenal performance that didn’t even aspire to the hilarity of last season’s 8-2 mauling.

Some of their fans even managed to abandon the moral high ground in the process; if it’s not okay to call Arsene Wenger a paedophile, folks, it’s probably not okay to call Robin van Persie one either. Mind, at least you could hear them. Old Trafford was even more sepulchral than is usual these days, letting fully ten minutes of ‘We love you Arsenal, we do’ go unchallenged. Perhaps they were cognizant of the fact that the home team weren’t all that much cop themselves, though it’s hard to blame anybody for knocking off early when it’s clear there’s no work to be done. Or perhaps they were in mourning for the passing of one of England’s great fixtures.

Andre Santos is taking much of the stick, particularly after his unwise decision to ask for Robin van Persie’s shirt in view of the cameras, but he at least has the excuse of not being particularly good at football. The disappearing acts of the majority of his colleagues are harder to rationalise; in particular, Lukas Podolski appears to have reached some kind of vanishing point. No team lends itself to cod-psychologising and hand-wringing as readily as Arsenal, so we’ll spare you the traditional ‘is Wenger losing the plot/are Arsenal in crisis/is Gunnersaurus moving to Barcelona?’ space-filling. We’ll just register the fact that, like a sad professeur, it’s not that we’re angry. We’re just disappointed.

Elsewhere, everyone else was rubbish. No, really. You want specifics? Fine.

Liverpool drew 1-1 at home with Newcastle, in a match notable for one exceptional goal from Yohan Cabaye, one staggering piece of improvised genius from Luis Suarez, one thumpingly idiotic challenge from Fabricio Coloccini, and a whole lot of nothing much else. As is now traditional, Liverpool dominated possession without possessing any dominance, while Newcastle’s rejigged team waited for momentary openings and then proceeded to stuff them up. Whether Brendan ‘Brendan’ Rodgers told Jose Enrique ‘sod it, this isn’t working, just hump it long next time’ isn’t clear, but we have our suspicions.

Everton drew 2-2 away at Fulham, a game that was at least interesting in its incompetence. Significantly superior in almost every department—apart from louche sexiness, which has long been mysteriously overlooked—they nevertheless contrived to leave Craven Cottage with only a point, after playing well but missing their chances, then losing concentration in defense. Must be something in the Liverpool water.

Spurs were hot rubbish, Chelsea were cold rubbish, Manchester City were sort of lukewarm rubbish with unidentified bits floating just beneath the surface. West Ham were solid, which is one of the more disappointing adjectives; Stoke were Stoke, but ineffective, which is horrible. QPR and Reading went at one another with, respectively, an entertaining lack of coherence and an entertaining lack of ability. Swansea, Norwich and Wigan did quite well, we suppose, and also have the happy knack of not being fundamentally loathsome, so they get a pass.

Nobody racially abused anyone! As far as we know! Actually, that’s almost certainly not true, but nobody did it in view of a television camera or in hearing of a footballer, and that’s what really matters!

Meanwhile, Sunderland lost to Aston Vil-sadofniasoifnaindasizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz what? What? What? What? It’s burning ohmigodohmigodohmigodHELPit’s burning can I sleep now? Please, mother, can I sleep now? Please, mother, can I – KkkkhhhhhhhhhhhhhOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOno, no, no, no, no, no, stop, please, make it stop, please no. PUT THAT DOWN AT ONCE, YOUNG MAN. Hi! Welcome to the rebooted weekend! Press 1 for Loneliness, 2 for Despair, 3 for Sadness, or simply insert the telephone into your left ear for Crushing Horror And A Lingering Sense Of Futility! See you next time!