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Arsenal balls: Wenger’s hubris gets just rewards

One day we will know what happened in December 2016 that destroyed Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League. Having failed to qualify for the Champions’ League for the first time in 20 years (during which Arsenal have been champions just three times; a fact that tells you a lot about that inflated competition’s credentials), the team’s manager, Arsene Wenger, tells talkSport:

“We were a force this year until December, fighting for the championship [but] after we dropped off. I will say one day the real reason behind that…”

Was it something to do with the death of Indian economist Sulabha Brahme, 84, who passed away on December 1? Did that bring Mesut Ozil to a standstill? What about the murder of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, who was shot dead on December 19? Did that put lead in Francis Coquelin’s boots? Or did it all go wrong when Toyah returned to Coronation Street?

Or was it something to do with losing matches? In December Arsenal lost 2-1 to Everton and 2-1 to Manchester City in back-to-back away defeats. The Everton game was very close, with Arsenal having shots twice saved off the line in the game’s dying moments; and in the Manchester City match they were hard done by when the referee allowed two goals that could both have been ruled out for offside – City’s second was egregious. But in each match Arsenal only scored one goal. Not enough.

Maybe something else happened – something extraordinary and uniquely damaging? Wenger’s pretty good at saying one day he will reveal all. On buying Danny Welbeck in 2014, he said: “I will tell you that story one day.” Why so mysterious? Is it hubris, gnostic or self-serving balls?

And what about what else Wenger told us today? He added:

“I believe since January we have played in a very difficult environment for different reasons.

“Some you know about and that’s very difficult for a group of players to cope with that – and some other reasons we will talk about on another day.”

Tell us now. Go on.

“Psychologically the atmosphere was absolutely horrendous. It has been difficult, yes, and certainly my personal situation has contributed to that but you can never question my professionalism or commitment.”

What happened was that after 19 matches of a 38-game Premier League season, Arsenal were nine points behind leader’s Chelsea. After 38 matches, they are 18 points behind Chelsea, the champions. Arsenal never were in contention.  As Roy Keane put it when Arsenal were annihilated by Bayern Munich in the Champions’ League, “Well, what did you expect?”

We expected Arsenal to be league also-rans and enjoy a good FA Cup run playing bouts of incisive football punctuated by moments of abject, laughable ineptitude. It wasn’t a season of disappointment for Gunners’ fans. It was season of complete predictability. Wenger will tell us all abut it one day – and that nine seasons of the same that preceded it.

Posted: 21st, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Key Posts, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Arsenal want to be like Chelsea but with the history and without the debt

On the BBC website, you can read Gunners’ “legend”, BBC pundit and financial wizard Ian Wright’s views that Arsenal “need a billionaire like Alisher Usmanov to move forward”. What business doesn’t need a billionaire investor to progress? Such people are undoubtedly handy.

Usmanov, described by the BBC as “Metal magnate Alisher Usmanov” – the metal perhaps being Teflon-coated gold –  owns 30% of Arsenal shares. Wright has heard that Usmanov wants to buy-out Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke – a man nicknamed ‘Silent Stan’ presumably on account of him boasting a profile lower than a steamrolled spoon and not because his favourite chant is “Can you hear the Arsenal sing? No-oo. No-oo.”

Wright tells BBC Radio 5 live: “Something has to change, whether it is the manager Arsene Wenger or whether it is the board upstairs… They may be out of the Champions League – something they are not used to – and they have to beat one of the best Chelsea sides I have seen for a long time in the FA Cup final to try and get something from the season.”

Don’t fans accept that their team’s fortunes fluctuate?

“Abramovich is a winner,” adds Wright of the Chelsea owner who bought the Blues in 2003. “Stan Kroenke sees it as another asset. If you look at all his other franchises, they are doing the same. They are mediocre, with poor attendances and aren’t achieving anything as a team. That is where Arsenal are at the moment. We need an owner like Abramovich, who wants to win. I would swap Arsenal’s last 10 years for what Chelsea have done.”

It might be worth looking at what people said when Abramovich arrived at Chelsea. As of May 2014, Abramovich’s interest-free loan to Chelsea stood at £1,041,243,000. These quotes are from 2003:

Chelsea fan to the BBC: “I think it’s disgraceful because I always thought that Ken Bates was Mr Chelsea.”

Former sports minister Tony Banks: “I want to know whether this individual is a fit and proper person to be taking over a club like Chelsea. Until that question is answered, then I’m afraid the jury is out. A sale has been arranged to an individual we know nothing about.”

David Pottinger on BBC Radio 606: “I fear for the future of Chelsea, especially with all the debts.”

Ramon Min on Voetel Int:

This is good news for Chelsea, but I don’t know about the rest of Europe. Dutch clubs are used to letting their players move on to ‘bigger’ clubs when they are ready, but if more teams like Chelsea are going to have the same financial clout as, for example, Real Madrid and Manchester United, then players will go abroad at an earlier age. That’s obviously not good for Dutch football or its fans as the standard of our own league will drop. And while money is often good news, it can also create a lot of problems. You have to be very careful when you have so much. Chelsea could go for someone like the Ajax player Rafael van der Vaart, who is young and exciting, but then the fans are going to demand success when so much has been spent. My guess is that they will go for experienced players who will win things quickly.

The Guardian: “Roman Abramovich’s buyout of Chelsea almost certainly rescued the club from having to default on a £75m loan that would have plunged it into financial crisis.”

And Arsenal today – are they like Chelsea before Abramovich arrived?

Newsweek (April 2017):

Arsenal’s cash reserves are pretty high and of course Arsene Wenger has got this reputation of being quite frugal when it comes to player investment. What people forget is of all the costs associated with running a football club like Arsenal. They have to budget for around £30 million worth of debt servicing. That comes out of those cash balances. So when people talk about a £100 million war chest, you’re immediately saying well that’s £100 million minus £30 [million]. But that doesn’t get reported enough, basically. [In Arsenal’s Annual Report from 2015-16, Keswick noted cash reserves of £226.5 million, reduced to £149 million. Arsenal’s debt service reserve balance, the cash it stores to ensure it will not default on interest payments of around £15 million per season for Emirates Stadium until 2031, stood at £35.4 million].

Arsenal have still got £232.6 million worth of debt on their balance sheet [according to 2015-16 accounts].

The numbers are huge in football’s arms race.

Posted: 20th, May 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Arsenal balls: Alisher Usmanov bids to oust Stan Kroenke and build Chelsea Mark II

Into the Anorak inbox is dropped news that Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has made a $1.3bn bid to buy out his rival shareholder, ‘Silent Stan Kroenke, and take control of the club. In 2013, the Sunday Times Rich List crowned Usmanov Britain’s wealthiest person. The very rich like buying up swatches of London real estate. So why not buy a stadiumand football club ? If the football fails you can always put a roof on the place and use it as a vault.

The FT:

Mr Usmanov, a metals magnate who owns 30 per cent of Arsenal, conveyed the offer in a letter to Stan Kroenke, the US sports mogul, who controls a 67 per cent stake. The approach, made last month, valued the club at $2bn. Mr Kroenke has yet to formally respond.

He is understood not to have dismissed the idea out of hand at first. However, he has since informally indicated he is not interested in selling to Mr Usmanov or anyone else. “Two weeks ago, I thought something could realistically happen. Now I am not so sure,” a person close to the situation said.

Arsenal fans can only marvel at how the club they’ve supported has been transformed into a brand for billionaires to play with.

It might be worth harking back to what Chelsea fans said when another Russian, one Roman Abramovich, bought the club in 2003:

David Mellor. The disgraced former government minister was cautiously optimistic about the new Russian-backed regime. “What I think that we have to hope, as Chelsea fans, is the kind of investment that is being talked of will give Chelsea a good run-out in the Champions League,” Mellor, once the chairman of the Football Task Force, said.

“This is a power-play by an extremely wealthy man and, as far as he is concerned, Chelsea, with their entrance into the Champions League, is a fitting vehicle for his ambitions. If money can buy success, there is a fair chance that Chelsea might achieve.”

Tony Banks, the Labour MP, perhaps taking a lead from Tony Blair, was considering the more global implications of a Russian revolution in the Chelsea Village. “We need to know rather more about Roman Abramovich before saying this is a good deal,” Banks said. “Russia is not settled politically or economically and lots of questions are asked about the rigours applied in Russian business.”

Plus ca change.

Posted: 19th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Transfer balls: James Rodriguez to Manchester United is a dead cert – place your bets!

Transfer Balls: Is James Rodriguez on his way to Manchester United? Is the player not good enough to start for Real Madrid for more than two matches in a row good enough for Manchester United?

On May 16, the Daily Mail said a deal has been agreed. “James Rodriguez ‘agrees’ Manchester United transfer,” said the paper.

Why the Mail saw a need to couch the agreement in inverted commas is odd because the story begins with a statement of fact: “James Rodriguez’s summer move to Manchester United will be confirmed following the Champions League final next month.”

In a second story, this time about Real Madrid replacing Rodriguez with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, the Mail confirmed the news: “The 25-year-old Madrid signed for £60million in 2014, and who is represented by Jose Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes, had agreed terms with Manchester United.”

And then the facts got a little murky. Sky Sports reported on May 15:

“European Paper Talk: Has James Rodriguez played his last game for Real Madrid?”

Dunno. Because Marca then told its readers on May 18:

“After missing the match against Celta, James Rodriguez has recovered from his ankle injury and will be available for Real Madrid’s last LaLiga game against Malaga on Sunday.”

And then in two stories dated May 16 Sky mused:

“European Paper Talk: Real Madrid set James Rodriguez asking price”

“Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez offered to Man Utd”

Offered to United? But the deal has been agreed. Or as the Indy puts it:

“Under Zinedine Zidane this season, Rodriguez has not once played more than two consecutive games for Real and United are, quite frankly, not interested in the 25-year-old…”

Football 365 picked up the scent of the betting companies feeding off the rumours.

There is no issue with those headlines, and Sky Sports were hardly alone in running them, but when partner Sky Bet then offers odds on James Rodriguez joining Manchester United, it’s not hard to see how those headlines might persuade the public to part with their money.


James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united


Is it news of is it PR for the betting industry?

Says 365:

Fast forward further and most reports on Wednesday morning now say that Rodriguez is not close to a move to Manchester United, that no offer is being made by United and that claims he has agreed personal terms are false. And lo and behold, Sky Bet have opened up their market again to take bets on where Rodriguez ends up next.

Indeed, in a story updated after 6pm on May 18, Sky reports that there are odds on Rodriguez joining Manchester United. Betting is no longer suspended on what has been presented as a dead cert. Quick – get your money on it while you can!

James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united


James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united


Such are the facts.

Posted: 19th, May 2017 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment (1) | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Arsenal balls: Lazy Sanchez is no winner but he’s worth £300,000 a week

More now from the Daily Mirror’s John Cross, the man who told wrote beneath the headline”ARSENE SETS THE DATE” that the Arsenal manager was leaving the club on June 30 2017.


Daily Mirror wenger quits Arsenal


The same John Cross later updated that scoop by writing beneath another Daily Mirror headline “WENGER’S STAYING”.


wenger stays arsenal


This week, Cross has once more been talking about Arsenal. The Gunners won 2-0 against Sunderland. Incredibly, Wenger’s under-performing side have a slim chance of qualifying for the Champions League – although given their palsied performances in the competition, fans wold be forgiven for finding that an underwhelming prospect.

Here’s Cross on April 17. He’s talking about Alexis Sanchez, who scored both goals in the Sunderland match:

“They simply have to break the bank to keep him. Without Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal would be completely lost as once again the red-hot Chile forward bailed them out. You need big hearts on nights like these and it was Sanchez who saved Arsenal from disaster.”

Sanchez is possessed of a “street fighter’s desire that really make him special”, says Cross.

Or as he wrote on March 7:


Alexis Sanchez John cRoss


Or as he wrote waaay back on March 31:


“It has been a source of great frustration to Arsene Wenger this season that, despite Sanchez’s histrionics making it look as if he works hard, he actually covers less ground than you think.”

Arsenal should “break the bank” for someone so obviously overrated (unless he’s being “red-hot”).

Posted: 18th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Bias: Stoke City praise Peter Crouch’s ‘expert’ cheating against Arsenal

Media Bias: when Stoke City’s Peter Crouch scored with his hand against Arsenal in yesterday’s Premier League match, pundits on BBC TV’s Match of the Day pundit meekly said ‘It should have been disallowed’. There was no shame heaped on former England player ‘Crouchy’ for his cheating. It was not his fault that he scored with his hand and then celebrated wildly. It was the referee’s error.


peter crouch handball arsenal


How does the media report the goal?

Stoke City FC website: “PETER CROUCH expressed disappointment that his second half strike counted for nothing as Stoke City fell to a 4-1 loss to Arsenal in their final home game of the 2016/17 season.”

A second half “strike” that disappointingly counted.

Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil struck either side of the interval before Crouch was summoned from the bench and pulled one back for the Potters midway through the second period.

Mark Hughes’ side enjoyed a dominant 10 minute spell after the striker’s near post effort…

Crouch’s effort was his ninth of the campaign, and although pleased to net once again…

But the goal was scored with his hand. Crouch says:

“I just threw everything at it and it’s come off my hand a little bit but it was a goal and I was pleased to score another one.”

No. It came off your hand entirely, Peter. It was handball. But good you were pleased.

But Crouch’s blinkered view of his cheating pales when compared to the official Stoke City match report:

The hosts did offer some resistance… and managed to halve the deficit through substitute Peter Crouch, who expertly headed home his ninth of the season from close range just minutes after being thrust on to the field.


Peter Crouch cheating


And on the Arsenal website:

But finally the hosts did break through – albeit in hugely controversial circumstances – as Arnautovic broke down the left once more and whipped in a cross that Crouch sent in via his hand.

Such are the facts.


Posted: 14th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Injury Balls: Arsenal sell Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for spare parts

Injury Balls: a look at unreliable reporting. When Alex Oxlade-Chameberlain was substituted in Arsenal’s win over Southampton, the knives were out. It was all over for ‘The Ox’.

Daily Mirror: “The England star was forced off 10 minutes before the break with an apparent hamstring injury, meaning he could now miss the FA Cup final in 17 days”

Daily Telegraph: “Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffers hamstring injury that could rule him out of another FA Cup final”

Daily Mail: “…he appeared visibly distressed and is a major doubt for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 27.”

90Minutes: “Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is set to draft Hector Bellerin back into the first team fold in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the remaining games of the season”

Two days later and:

BBC: “Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be fit [for today’s match at Stoke] despite limping off early in the midweek game against Southampton with a hamstring injury.”

Such are the facts.


Posted: 13th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Manchester Evening Post’s fake news pledge and Arsenal spin in the Mirror

Forget all that Clickbait balls and Transfer Balls and all the other balls designed to seduce football fans to click on the ads. The Manchester Evening News is going factual. It might be contagious and impact on other titles owned by Trinity Mirror. This is the MEN’s mission statement:

Sport, like news, is a perpetual motion machine. The pace of change is increasingly rapid, not just on the pitch but in the press box too.

After all, what is a sports journalist in 2017? Outstanding bloggers interrogate coaches at press conferences, long-loved fanzines have gone digital, reaching millions of readers every year and supporters are turning the cameras on themselves; democratising the games we love and presenting an unprecedented landscape to traditional media outlets.

Supporters and lovers of sport crave authenticity. To be a fan is to join a community, to share a common language that transcends accents or post codes. It is our job, as the regional experts around our clubs and personalities, to generate and reflect these communities and their conversations every day.

To be trusted by the people who go to games and know our teams inside out is a great privilege. Plenty changes in sport, but that remains the same. When you see a sea of headlines about your club, looking out for the title based closest to the club in question in the best way to ensure you’re getting the real story from your clubs.

Why? Because we don’t just report on our clubs, we live and work amongst its fans too. It’s a matter of trust.

We know what fans want because we are them ourselves. But we also know that fans want facts – no matter how much we’d all want to believe that Ronaldo is about to sign for our club. That’s what sets us apart from those organisations who just want your click. We want your trust.

Good for them. Fans of Manchester United and Manchester City will get the facts and only the ”

In 0ther MEN news: “‘Have Manchester United dropped transfer hints about the futures of De Gea and Rooney?”

Answer: No.


manchester evening news arsenal


Meanwhile, over at MEN stablemate the Daily Mirror, the top story online (at the time of writing) is “JOHN CROSS: Wenger out? A shakeup is imminent and he could still leave Arsenal this summer – there are various factors at play.”

Could leave?

Can this be the same john Cross who told Mirror readers that Wenger is “STAYING” at Arsenal and…


wenger stays arsenal


…not staying at Arsenal?


Daily Mirror wenger quits Arsenal


It’s not fake news. It’s just to-deadline guesswork.

Posted: 10th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Media twists Pep’s words on Manchester City being the Premier League’s best team

How football reporting works. Manchester City manger Pep Guardiola is speaking to journalists. He says Manchester City are the Premier League’s best at creating changes.

“We don’t score enough goals. The numbers don’t lie, we have not been good enough in the boxes this season…

“Even the next champions, Chelsea, we create more chances here [at the Etihad Stadium] than even at Stamford Bridge, but in the boxes we are not good. We are the best in the league at doing that, we create more chances than anyone, but we are not always able to score the goals. In basketball you see Michael Jordan, last minute … puts it in the net…. The most difficult thing in football, basketball, tennis, in all the sports is to do it in the last moment. That’s why we are in the situation we are in.”

That looks like a reasoned appraisal of his side. Man City get into good positions but don’t stick the ball in the net. And, as Pep concedes, that is the hardest thing to do.

Put it through the news mincers and you get:

Stan Collymore in the Daily Mirror:

“PEP GUARDIOLA is speaking utter tosh when he says Manchester City are the best team in the Premier League.”

Jamie Redknapp in the Daily Mail:

“PEP GUARDIOLA has claimed Manchester City are the best team in the Premier League…”

Daily Mirror:

“Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City ARE the Premier League’s best side”

No. That’s not what he said.

Posted: 10th, May 2017 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Arsenal end Manchester United’s incredibly boring 25-match unbeaten run

Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Manchester United is hailed in the Press. But before a look at the back pages, a word from Sachin Nakrani‏, the Guardian’s sports features editor. He’s at the office:

Sub editor 1: “They’re chanting ‘Fuck off Mourinho’ at the Emirates”

Sub editor 2: “Which end?”

Highlight of my day, that.

And that’s Jose Mourinho, isn’t it. He’s the brattish kid on tennis camp, a little shorter than most but he’s carrying the oversized racket and always has a can of new balls. In Jose’s monocular vision, Arsenal did not beat Manchester United. Manchester United let Arsenal win, gamely allowing the Gunners to score all the game’s goals and end United’s 25-match unbeaten run. And – boy – what roller coaster of thrills that’s been right.

Having been beaten, Mourinho “sarcastically disparaged the importance of his first competitive defeat to Arsène Wenger” (Times) . He said:

“I left Highbury and they were crying, I left Emirates and they were crying. Finally today they sing, they swing the scarves. It’s nice for them… It is the first time I leave and they are happy. Before they were walking the streets with their heads low. The Arsenal fans are happy and I am happy for them.”

And on he goes:

“Do not think I am happy they are not winning trophies. Arsène Wenger is a big manager so my record [not previously losing a Premier League game to him] is not normal. Normal is win, lose, draw. I really don’t care about it today. We shook hands and during the game I don’t like what I never like. He puts too much pressure on the fourth official.”

Alex Hess tweets:

Helluva job Mourinho’s done with history’s most expensive squad: won twice vs top six, fewer goals than Bournemouth, will finish 5th or 6th.

And that hurts the brand:

Manchester United are at risk of triggering a financial penalty in their £750m kit deal with Adidas should they fail to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

United will suffer a 30 per cent cut to their annual £75m payment from the German sportswear giant if they finish outside of the top four. This means the club will lose more than £20m in sponsorship income.

So the back pages, then, which all lead with Mourinho.


Arsenal manchester united Arsenal manchester united Arsenal manchester united Arsenal manchester united Arsenal manchester united Arsenal manchester united Arsenal manchester united Arsenal manchester united

Posted: 8th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Arsenal: one player or maybe seven wins the title for Gunners, says Souness

Mystic Meg, eat yer heart out. In his article on Arsenal v Manchester United for the Sunday Times, former Spurs and Liverpool player Graeme Souness begins by tooting his own horn: “I predicted in March in this column that Manchester United and Arsenal would both miss out on the top four and I have seen nothing since to change my mind.”

The man’s got the gift, I tell you.

This is the same Souness who at the start of the season predicted the Premier League title going to Manchester United or Manchester City:

I think it will be one of the Manchester teams. If Ibrahimovic can fire on all cylinders – and I think there is a good year left in him – he will inspire those around him.

He’s someone who I enjoy. I enjoy his arrogance because he’s someone who can back it up. I think he could be the difference.

His Top Four ran: “1. Man Utd 2. Man City. 3. Tottenham 4. Arsenal.”


Having told readers back in August “Obviously it’s our job to make forecasts”, Souness today writes:

Arsenal should be looking at the likes of Griezmann and Bale… Over the past decade their recruitment has simply not been good enough, which is one of the main reasons Wenger should step aside. For seven or eight years they were only two or three top players away from being the team to beat but in the past few years it has not been a question of two or three players they need, it’s six or seven.

Ot as Souness put it in November 2015 – during the 2015-2016 season – just one season ago:

Arsene Wenger’s only major signing last summer was Petr Cech and he alone will give them a major chance of winning the Premier League this season. He could be worth anything up to 10 points for them.

Not two or three players, then. Just the one.



Posted: 7th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Broadsheets, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Manchester United balls: Zlatan’s farewell party

Nursing an injury that that pretty much ended his career at Manchester United, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is, according to The Sun, planning to take “50 club staff and players out for a ‘thank you’ dinner.”

“The Swedish striker, 35, is paying for the first team, coaches and support staff, including masseurs and groundsmen to join him for the meal.”

As of Q1, 2016, Manchester United PLC employed 837 full-time employees. Making a list of who’s in and who’s out might be more problematic than its worth. Zlatan might be better off going with option b: a gold statue of himself stood in the centre circle.

PS: the restaurant picks itself.

18 Jul 2016 – “Louis van Gaal and wife Truus take one more trip to Wing’s Chinese restaurant in Manchester.”

9 August 2016: “WING WIZARD Paul Pogba toasts record £109m move with Chinese takeaway from famous Wing’s”

17 Feb  2017: “‘LA POGBANCE’ Paul Pogba, brother Florentin and family have a rave in Old Trafford tunnel before heading out to Wings restaurant for dinner in Manchester”

All in the Sun.

Posted: 1st, May 2017 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Media Bias: Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford ‘dives’ in Swansea but soars in Manchester

Congratulation to the talented actor and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford for redefining the phrase “honest English footballer” and in the words of Swansea City manager Paul Clement going “down way before there was contact” and “deceiving” the referee. Rashford’s performance earned United a penalty, and with it another goal for Wayne Rooney. Thankfully, Rashford’s slippery shoes did not cost Swansea City too dear, as the Swans scored late on to tie the match.

So how did the clubs’ respective websites see the incident?

Swansea City FC: “Marcus Rashford got in behind, prompting Fabianski to race off his line. The Swans keeper slid out only to stop himself making contact with Rashford, yet the young striker stuck out a foot to catch Fabianski and then tumbled to the turf.”

Manchester United FC: “…Lingard unleashed a rasping effort which flew wide of the far post, before he then played in Rashford, who was brought down by Fabianski in the box after poking the ball past him.”

What about the local Press?

Wales Online: “Replays showed Lukasz Fabianski had pulled out of his challenge on Marcus Rashford, and that the United striker was already falling to the deck before making contact with the Poland international.”

A dive, then.

The site delivers “Chris Wathan’s verdict”:

Well that is a disgraceful decision and you only fear how costly that will prove. A horrible dive from Rashford who made the decision to go down before Fabianski pulled out. Referee Swarbrick seemed to take an age to point to the spot and the linesman in Swansea’s half was the opposite side of the pitch, blinded by bodies.You can’t say this is what Clement would have wanted because somehow Swansea find themselves behind to a hugely controversial decision when they probably should be ahead.

Manchester Evening News: “PENALTY!”

Rashford frustrated by lack of passes to run onto but first time he really does and Swansea defence panicked.


manchester united bias



Of course, Rashford’s English and an England player, which means he’s not a diver. Take this from Michael Owen, formerly of Manchester United and England, as quoted on the MEN’s live blog:

“The keeper has made a bad decision and you think,’I’m going to find the contact somewhere’. You see Rashford – his knees buckle and he realises Fabianski’s pulled his arms away. Yes. It ends up a dive. Your waiting to be hit. You’re never going to plant your foot that situation. I’ve done it before and had my foot broken. If your foot’s off the ground, you’re not going to get hurt – you just ride the challenge. It’s a situation where you don’t want to get hurt however you still want a penalty. It ended up a dive but your sort of protecting yourself.”

It’s not cheating. It’s being sensible. Unless you’re a dirty foreigner, in which case, it’s disgusting.


Posted: 30th, April 2017 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Transfer balls: Arsenal’s Wilshere rides to China on a human caterpillar of fake news

Transfer Balls is watching fake news: Working on the principle that no denial means it could be true, the Daily Star lead its sports season with news that Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere is on his way to China. Maybe. Wilshere was playing on loan at Bournemouth until another injury – a leg fracture – ended his season.


jack wilshere news china


The paper days that “if” talks with Arsenal do not go well for the former PFA Young Player of the Year (2010–11), he could be off to play in China.

Where in China, the paper does not say. It’s just China, a place where a young English blade looking for adventures can experience the thrill of the exotic and immerse himself in an ancient culture. Or just cash in as some local tycoon spunks loadsa cash on surplus English flesh. Jack is not looking to expand his horizons in the Far East, says the Star. Jack is “desperate”.

China is the British Press’s ‘f9’ – just hit the button and whichever player who like can be off to China. The Star’s story contains no word from Arsenal nor Wilshere but that doesn’t stop the other tabloids wading in.

The Express thunders: “ARSENAL midfielder Jack Wilshere is open to a shock move to China, according to the reports.”

It knows this because – get this – the Express read the story in the Daily Star.

The Sun also read the Star’s fact-free news story and tells its readers: “FREE WILLY – Arsenal transfer news: Jack Wilshere open to Chinese Super League switch if crunch Arsene Wenger talks go badly this summer.”

No facts needed for the trusty news media to pass on the scoop untested. It’s a human caterpillar of football reporting.

Posted: 25th, April 2017 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Transfer balls: Joe Hart to Liverpool and £20m written off

Transfer balls: a look at fake news football reporting. Is Joe Hart heading to Liverpool?


joe hart liverpool


The Sun April 19: “Joe Hart is on his way back to the Premier League with Liverpool.”

KLOPP LOVES HART – Joe Hart set for Liverpool move as Jurgen Klopp signs off £20million swoop for Manchester City goalkeeper

Having scored a “exclusive”, the rest of the online media play catch up.

Joe Hart to Liverpool: Man City star set for £20m switch, Jurgen Klopp  – Daily Star

7 things that will definitely happen if Joe Hart signs for Liverpool – Daily Mirror

Or as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp out it one day late: “He’s a fantastic keeper, the highest quality, but it’s not for us at the moment, nor in the future.”

No harm done. No-one in Liverpool reads the Sun.


Posted: 24th, April 2017 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports, Tabloids | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Media Bias: Arsenal praise the referee but Manchester City are robbed

Media Balls: a look at biased football reporting. Today Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-1 to make it into the FA Cup final, where they will play Chelsea.

Should Manchester City have been awarded a penalty?

Arsenal website:

The game had been free of any controversy, but soon the officials were in the spotlight as Koscielny poked the ball in beyond Bravo – but was flagged offside.

It may have disappointed the Arsenal fans, but replays showed it was the correct call – as was referee Craig Pawson’s decision to wave play on when Raheem Sterling went down in the box after a tangle of legs with Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Manchester City website:

Aguero tripped by Oxlade-Chamberlain inside the area. Clear penalty – nothing given.

What about Manchester City’s disallowed goal?

Arsenal website:

…as Sane raced on to a through ball and chipped the ball back across goal from the left byeline, which was knocked back in by Aguero only to be saved by Cech. Sterling knocked the loose ball home, but the flag was up – much to our relief. Replays highlighted that Sane’s cross may – or may not, depending on whether you’re red or blue – have gone out of play…

Manchester City website:

The officials got it wrong but it was very tight, in fairness.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 23rd, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Transfer balls: Morata to Chelsea (if Arsenal let him leave)

Transfer Balls – fake news for football: The BBC says Chelsea “have reached an agreement” to sign striker Alvaro Morata, 24, from Real Madrid. The Beeb’s source is Spanish site Diario Gol. As ever, I like to use Google Translate to tell the source’s story.


morata real madrid


The headline’s a belter: “Morata lynch to a crack of Real Madrid: the checkmate to Zidane.”

The teaser’s good too: “The one of The Factory explodes against the mister.”

Diego Castro’s words according to Google Translate are:

The worst. Karim Benzema was signing one of the weakest seasons since joining Real Madrid in 2009 . The goalkeeper has scored the same goals as Álvaro Morata in almost double the number of minutes played. The canterano has played 1,593 minutes , while the French accumulates 2,597 ‘ .

Benzema is no goalkeeper. But the gist is that Morata is the better striker of the two.

But what about Chelsea? Well, Morata has “never been the first choice of Zizou”. Adding: “The French strategist always opted publicly for his compatriot, regardless of the level of his players… Zidane always put him ahead of the team’s needs.”

And Chelsea? Only this: “Morata has been wanting for Chelsea for weeks, with more than a verbal agreement.”

It’s not exactly done and dusted. The Week says Morata is only “among potential targets” for Chelsea. The Daily Star says Morata might be heading to Manchester United. And Corriere dello Sport says AC Milan will outbid Chelsea for Morata’s signature.

So there’s no agreement, then. Which makes it odd that the Daily Star can announce that the deal taking Morata to Chelsea has been done:

alvaro morata chelsea daily star


And let’s not forget that according to these fine sources, Morata plays for Arsenal:

alvaro morata arsenal

Such are the facts.

Posted: 20th, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Daily Mirror news trust: Arsenal and Theresa May are both for turning

How about this for wraparound newspaper cover. The Daily Mirror’s front page leads with Theresa May’s “U-turn”. Having said there would be no General Election before 202o, May has called one for June 8 2017.


daily mirror u-turn may theresa


If it’s all about trust, what are Mirror readers to make of the paper’s back page news story that Arsenal have made it clear Arsene Wenger will still be manager next season? The paper says Schalke defender Sead Kolasinac, 23, has been been told Wenger will remain at Arsenal for a further two seasons.

June 8 is one for the diary. And while you’re on that page, you might care to put a line through another event scheduled for that month. On June 30 2017, Arsene Wenger is to quit the club. We read that in the Daily Mirror.


Daily Mirror wenger quits Arsenal


Such are the facts.


Posted: 19th, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Politicians, Sports, Tabloids | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Transfer balls: Karim Benzema to join Arsenal for a third time

As predictable as a dog sniffing a lamppost and Simon Cowell licking his eyeballs and telling a cabaret act “That. Was. Incredible”, the tabloids herald the summer season of football transfer rumours with news that Karim Benzema is heading to Arsenal.

“Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema to be Alexis Sanchez replacement,” thunders the Daily Mirror. “Karim Benzema linked with Arsenal as doubts soar over the future of Alexis Sanchez,” says the Sun.

Newspaper readers will know that Benzema joined Liverpool in 2014 (Daily Star) and Arsenal in 2015 (Metro, Daily Star (twice), Daily Telegraph, The Sydney Morning Heraldand again in 2017 (The Sun).

He never left Real Madrid. And today the papers are having another crack at the Benzema to Arsenal story.

The source of the Sun and Mirror’s scoop is Over there we learn that Arsenal have offered Benzema twice his current salary. No quotes are given. But according to the Star, Karim Benzema earns £270,000 a week at Real. So Arsenal will pay him £520,000 a week – more than the £280,000-a-week Alexis Sanchez – the man he will replace – wants to stay?

Understand that? No, us neither.

Posted: 17th, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Dirty tackle: Manchester United’s Ander Herrera gets inside Chelsea’s Hazard

Manchester United beat Chelsea 2-0 in yesterday’s Premier League clash. The result puts United in position for a charge into the top four and thus qualification to next season’s Champions League and reduces Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table to just four points over a buoyant Spurs.

The game also coughed up two images, both of which feature on the back pages.  The Mirror calls is “Squeaky Bum time”, a headline more suited to the image on the Times’s back page.


manchester united chelsea manchester united chelsea


As United’s Ander Herrera finds work as proctologist, we recall an other great Manchester United meeting, when the club’s Rio Ferdinand got a thorough going over from Man City’s Carlos Tevez.


Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League


File under: Dirty Tackle.

Posted: 17th, April 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Kelvin MacKenzie calls Everton’s mixed-race footballer Ross Barkley a ‘Gorilla’

They’ve only gone and called the police to investigate Sun columnist Kelvin Mackenzie on suspicion of being a racist. Former editor Kelvin MacKenzie used his column in the paper to liken Everton footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla. Barkley is mixed race by way of a Nigerian grandfather. MacKenzie, reviled on Merseyside for his leading part in the Sun’s appalling Hillsborough coverage, has behaved despicably. The Guardian says he claimed Barkley “had deserved to be punched at a nightclub because he was similar to an animal in a zoo”.

MacKenzie wrote in the Sun:

“Perhaps unfairly, I have always judged Ross Barkley as one of our dimmest footballers. There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home.

“I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story.”

Hideous, reprehensible comment. For added spite – and this on the eve of the Hillsborough anniversary –  Mackenzie aimed a few low blows at the people of Liverpool:

kelvin mackenzie ross everton gorilla


It’s pathetic tripe.

But narking to the police is weird and unsettling. It suggests we can’t police ourselves, that we aren’t robust enough to spot a berk in the crowd when we see one and treat them with derision and ridicule. We need official back up. We need our words policed.

The Bizzies.

The same police who treated dying fans at Hillsborough as a public order problem will now police speech and thoughts. The State’s enforcers who perpetuated the biggest police cover-up in British history have been called in to investigate a man who approved and defended a shameful article that smeared the innocent dead. (Although, a mere 23 years after “The Truth” even Mackenzie apologised.) Never mind that Hillsborough can be linked to the State’s war on football fans, on whom all draconian forms of control could be tested, just get a load of that big mouthed media goon. He’s the real problem. Well, so says the media, which likes nothing more than talking about itself.

The Troll

The Sun’s “The Truth” report on Hillsborough was revolting. To anyone sane the paper’s lies always have been indefensible. The Sun‘s infamous headline and lies weren’t produced in isolation – the paper colluded with police and politicians to criminalise the victims. Society raged loudly about the paper. Meanwhile, it took decades for the dignified bereaved to drag the police to court. After a mere 27 years of struggle, the State decided the dead were blameless. What we knew was only now official. Even now the survivors and the people who lost so much in 1989 are waiting for justice.

In the meantime, Kelvin Mackenzie makes for an inviting (and deserving) Aunt Sally.


kelvin mackenzie ross everton gorilla


The Allegation

Merseyside police say they received an online complaint from a member of the public alleging that “comments written about a third party constituted a racial hate crime”. If you think it’s a hate crime, then it is one. Maybe.

And it’s politicised. Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson, tweeted to say he had reported the article to Merseyside police and the Press Complaints Commission for being a “racial slur”.

He then criticised Everton for not copying Liverpool, which banned the Sun from matches and press conferences. Liverpool has also blocked the Sun from interviewing its manager and players. “@Everton 😱Your lack of action in banning the S*n from your press conferences is a smack in the face to our City”, he tweeted.

MacKenzie might well worry when Joey Barton, someone who knows more than most about smacks to the face, becomes the voice of reason. The Scouse footballer tweeted: “Those comments about Ross Barkley, a young working class lad are disgusting. Then add in the fact he is mixed race! It’s becomes outrageous.”

It is. It’s abysmal. It’s incredible the Sun published it. But it’s not a crime. It’s one man’s idiotic, rude and ugly to-deadline opinion.

UPDATE: the Sun has suspended Kelvin MacKenzie.

Posted: 14th, April 2017 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Arsenal fans will only get change when the owners lose money

Arsenal have the exact same Premier League points tally as they did at this stage of last season. Arsène Wenger is both the model of consistency, Old Father Time pointing the way forwards to more of the same, and the staid boss of a club becalmed in routine.

Ivan Gazidis , the club’s uninspiring chief executive, assures supporters that if Wenger accepts the two-year contract he’s been offered, there will be big changes on the field. Tomorrow will be much better or else, says Gazidis as he pleads with Wenger to sign the deal that will see the fading manager earn over £8m a year. Gazidis is talking to the fans, of course. It’s season ticket renewal time. Only a fool would think the same manager will bring about dramatic improvement when the familiar is enough for the greedy shareholders and dividend takers who want him to stay.

Gazidis hopes fans take the bait. The pursuit of money not glory is the Arsenal way under the current regime.

After the Gunners had stumbled to a 2-2 draw the Manchester City, a number of fans went on an anti-Wenger match. There was a van bedecked with anti-Wenger slogans, leaflets urging supporters to contact the club’s sponsors and tell them to stop backing the club until Wenger goes.

“I must say, despite all that happens on the fans front, I felt our fans were fantastic today,” said Wenger at his monocular best. “In the very difficult moments in the first half, I felt they could have turned against us but they were absolutely sensational and helped the team to get through those difficult moments.”

The fans support the club through thick and thin. It’s not the players they want gone; it’s the manager and the palsied board that can’t see the decline and move strongly to check it.

Arsenal look set to miss out on the Champions League for the first time in Wenger’s tenure. They are behind Man City, in fourth place, by seven points with a game in hand. Can they rally and come fourth, giving the fans another season of Champions’ League football? Many fans will be hoping they don’t. If the board can’t see that what Wenger once brought to the club no longer cuts it, a decline in their considerable income should.


Posted: 3rd, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Media balls: Arsenal on course for second after a lucky draw with hopeful Manchester City

Media Balls: a look at biased football reporting. Today in the Premier League, Arsenal drew 2-2 with Manchester City. Arsenal are in no state of crisis, whatever the media tell us. The Gunners have the same number of points after 28 games this season as they did in season 2015/16.

Last season after 28 matches players, Arsenal were on 51 points – just 6 points behind eventual champions Leicester City. This term, the Gunners are on 51 point – 17 behind Chelsea. Arsenal under Arsene Wenger are the very model of consistency.

Can the Gunners secure that top four spot that secures Champions’ League football next season?

Manchester City, under a new manager, are a project. Pep Guardiola, for it is he, is no flop, despite the the Sun naming him “the biggest disappointment in the battle of the Premier League managerial superstars”. City are fourth in the PL table – five points ahead of Manchester United – and in the semi-final of the FA Cup. What else do the reporters tell us?

Manchester City’s first goal – the game’s opening strike.

The London Evening Standard: “Kevin de Bruyne… played a hopeful ball forward…”

The Manchester Evening Post: “Leroy Sane raced onto Kevin De Bruyne’s fine ball out of defence…”

A prod forward or a lovely pass?

Manchester City penalty appeal.

In the game’s finale minutes, did the ball strike Nacho Monreal on the hand as he defended in the Arsenal box?

London Evening Standard: “Arsenal were fortunate to escape a strong handball appeal in stoppage time”

Manchester City website: “Late penalty appeals against Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal were waved away as City pushed for the winner”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: “I know this referee because we have had him before but I don’t want to discuss the penalty.”

The BBC: “Handball? Did Nacho Monreal punch that? That looked very, very much like a hand in the box…”

The Guardian: “It was clumsy and really did seem like it struck his flailing arm. Arsenal appear to have been lucky to get away with that there.”

Arsenal website:  Not a word on the incident.

Islington Gazette: No word on the appeal.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 2nd, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

England, Millwall and Spurs fans sing what they want to

Still no news on what the police and FA are going to do about Millwall fans shouting “DVD” at Spurs’ South Korean “labrador muncher” * Son Heung-Min. No news either on those Spurs fans who called Millwall supporters “pikies”.

You’d think that with Spurs and Millwall “in the dock” over such terrible racism, England’s other football fans would button their collective lip. But no. They only went and sung songs when England played Germany in the Fatherland. The Independent was horrified. “English football dragged through the mud once again by braying beer-fuelled scum who sing anti-German war songs,” the paper chimed.


achtung germany england


One writer on the Sun, the paper which this week beamed its logo onto the White Cliffs of Dover to mark Brexitnoted: “There, hundreds of boorish, inebriated men continued to glory in a world war which ended 70 years ago, bellowing out tedious chants about German bombers and swaying around, mimicking aircraft.”

Right now the Football Association is studying police videos for signs of a member of The England Supporters Travel Club making offensive chants and not simply joining those righteous minds in “,da,do-doing” along to the god-awful supporters’ bands’ rendition of the theme to Escape to Victory.

“Unfortunately, little of the wit and imagination that goes into our club football songs is reflected at England games,” stated the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF). Crap songs, yes. But crap fans?

Surely the point is to goad the opposition. Spreading your arms like one of those “Ten German Bombers” or hymning the historical fact of “Two World War One World Cup” could do with an update. But until some bright spark creates songs mocking the Germans’ EU-backed battering of Greece or Boris Becker’s latest jacket, we might have to make do with the jingoism.

It’s not easy coming up with insults that are catchy and popular but not insulting enough to be offensive. Maybe the Germans can help? After all, their English is often better than ours. As an Arsenal fan it’s often been my lot to be serenaded by Bayern Munich fans’ chants of “You’re not very good”, “We can see you sneaking out” and “Can we play you every week?”.

Of course, what this is is the latest episode in the State’s purge on people like ‘them’ at football grounds.  Those “scum” who use vulgar words and say nasty things, who emply mockery and insults to taunt other fans in the pantomime of football need hosing down.

But the people who dish it at the match can also take it. “The Germans I spoke to were not offended by the puerile chanting, they were just embarrassed for us,” said one Daily Mirror writer. If grown men and women want to behave sadly, let them. It’s their right to sing what they want to, however stupid, witless and arcane.

* That’s how some Tottenham fans refer to Son in the chant: “He’ll shoot / He’ll score / He’ll eat your Labrador / Son Heung-Min.”

Posted: 31st, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Chelsea ‘nark’ sets the police on rude Manchester United supporters

Looking for offence in dust is a full-time job. Today brings news that one sensitive Chelsea fan has given full throat to his upset that Manchester United fans referred to the Blues as “Chelsea rent boys” during the teams’ recent FA Cup match.

Rent boys is an old-fashioned term, for sure, but it is entirely in keeping with the way football fans model chants to the tunes of 1960s songs. The correct and up-to-date term is “male sex worker”. And it’s not even a term of abuse. It’s a career choice and should be legalised and taxed.

manchester united


The Sun says a police officer told the complainant that the chant “Chelsea rent boys” is “unacceptable” – but not for the reasons mentioned above. It’s because calling Chelsea fans “Chelsea rent boys” is offensive and intended to cause upset.

Writing in the Sun, Mick Hume wonders: “What next? Chelsea fans probed for animal welfare offences for shouting ‘sheep, sheep, sheep-s******s’ at supporters of less fashionable provincial clubs?”

Winding up the opposition is part and parcel of the game. The FA says it is bent on “eradicating all discriminatory and offensive chanting from football”. Mick adds: “But equating discrimination and offence is like giving a player a red card for nutmegging an opponent.”

We’d advocate going for the full Cruyff turn. Go beyond those arcane and sanitised rent-boy chants. That one only upset one Chelsea fan. It’s time fans upped their game.

PS: Stand up for free speech and the right to be offensive by buying Boy Mick Hume’s book here.


Posted: 28th, March 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Key Posts, manchester united, News, Sports | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0