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Arsenal balls: Manchester United park the bus and Chelsea never lose

Arsenal are on the up. With four wins and one draw from their past five games, and with just one goal conceded in that period, Arsene Wenger’s team have recovered from their early season defeats to Stoke (in which they were unlucky and robbed by poor refereeing) and Liverpool (where they got the thrashing their abject performance deserved). It also behoves a mention to note that following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over a spark West Bromwich Albion, the Gunners have won eight consecutive home games in the Premier League.

But in the Sun, the forecast at The Emirates remains grim. Therein they are “FALTERING Arsenal”. You “could not disguise just how far the Gunners are falling behind their major rivals. While City, United and Chelsea are brushing opponents aside with contemptuous ease, Arsene Wenger’s team are labouring to see off even the most unambitious of rivals.”

 

Arsenal table

Arsenal “far behind” at one point away from third sport

 

Arsenal drew 0-0 at Chelsea in a game they could well have won, hitting the post and missing an open goal from inside six yards. And that’s the same Chelsea who lost at home to the mighty Burnley. Manchester City were flukey away to Bournemouth, scoring a very late goal courtesy of Raheem Sterling’s boot and a massive deflection, and drew 1-1 with Everton. Manchester United have drawn 2-2 with Stoke, and last weekend beat Southampton 0-1. Of that match the Sun’s sister paper, the Times, called United’s performance “strangely lethargic”. Adding:

Given the lead by Lukaku, United went into abject retreat in the second half when Southampton had the bulk of possession and most of the chances. At the final whistle, United had six defenders on the pitch, while the home side brought on two attackers, a fair reflection of the balance of power.

Manchester United parked the bus. So much for “brushing aside opponents with contemptuous ease”. United and City have yet to play any of their title rivals.

And what of West Bromwich Albion being unambitious? The Evening Standard reports:

Pulis had employed a more ambitious West Brom lineup than might have been expected, with Hal Robson-Kanu and Rodriguez making for a mobile, high-pressing front two.

It’s hardly perfect at Arsenal, but to ignore the facts and stick to a bogus narrative is poor reporting.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 26th, September 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, Manchester City, manchester united, News, Tabloids | Comment


Manchester City balls: soft Ederson shows us his stitches

Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson is soft. Having been kicked hard in the face by Liverpool’s Saido Mane, who has apologised, the Brazilian stayed on the turf for 10 minutes. TV pundit Tony Gale was aghast, telling Sky Sports News on Monday that Ederson isn’t a “proper man”. He’s not like Burnley’s British goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who dislocated his shoulder against Crystal Palace the following day and walked off the pitch with a cheery wave.

 

We’ve got no photo of Heaton’s shoulder, but we can share this image of Ederson’s face:

 

Something narcissistic and the antithesis of stoic about showing the world your wound, but it does look very nasty. But it is to his face and not his hands, which in Tony Gale’s book means Ederson could have carried on playing. After all, it is only a flesh wound.

Posted: 12th, September 2017 | In: Manchester City, News, Sports, TV & Radio | Comment


Chile star says story of Sanchez to Manchester City is total balls

What really happened with Alexis Sanchez’s aborted move to Manchester City? The papers are unsure. The Sun says Arsenal called Manchester City to “flog” their star player for £60m. Arsenal then called Monaco to buy Thomas Lemar for that £60m plus another £32m. But Lemar “snubbed” the Gunners. So the whole deal was off because Arsenal only said they would sell Sanchez if Lemar agreed to join them.

The odd bit is that Manchester City – who only made their first offer for Sanchez as late as last Tuesday – apparently told Sanchez it was a done deal. He told his Chile team-mates, who – get this – “gave him a round of applause” (Sun). The other less odd bit is that Arsenal maintained they would not sell Sanchez – and they didn’t.

The result is that Sanchez is “disappointed” (Mail) and “furious” (Sun). But the player has made no comment. The fury comes from unnamed sources, who add that Sanchez could now go on strike (Express). He could also decide to knuckle down and play brilliantly, perhaps even signing a new deal at Arsenal and so earning £300,000 week, up from his current £140,000 a week.

The papers are guessing. But one man is willing to go on the record. Bayern Munich and Chile’s Arturo Vidal says Sanchez never did get that round of applause. He says Sanchez was focused on Chile’s game against Paraguay and never mentioned joining Man City. “To whom? No, no, to nobody. Not to me. I don’t think so,” said Vial when asked abut Sanchez. “I think it was all made up because he was very focused on today’s game.”

What price that anonymous source was already counting 10% of £60m until Arsenal stuck to their guns..?

Posted: 1st, September 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City, News, Sports | Comment


Arsenal to swap Alexis Sanchez for £20m and Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling

Yep, lots of Arsenal news and views today. I’m obsessed. That much is clear. But the doom and gloom is being lifted by what might resemble a cunning plan. Having offloaded the bog-standard English footballer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Chelsea, who were so in dire need to native flesh and they invested £40m of Russian peasants’ cash  hard-earned moolah in ‘The Ox’, news is that Arsenal are in for his England colleague Raheem Sterling (the ex-Liverpool player who runs like a bearded dragon).

Manchester City want Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez. Given that Sanchez fancies playing for Arsenal less than he does growing his leg hair out, the Gunners should sell the Chilean pronto. To sweeten the blow of losing their best player, City are offering cash (around £20m of Abu Dhabi’s GDP) plus the exciting Sterling, 22, who cost them £49m in 2015 .

If this deal goes through, then Arsenal win. They get a London-born footballer they have long coveted. They get shot of Sanchez, who will surely only fade at Arsenal. And they inject the dressing room with a dash of the unexpected.

 

Posted: 29th, August 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: ‘no Sanchez news’ excites the Mail and BBC

The BBC is engaging in a spot of clickbait. Below the question”Is Alexis Sanchez heading out of the Emirates?” it writes “Wenger not ruling out new Sanchez deal.”

Readers might well put the two headlines together and concoct the notion that Alexis Sanchez is leaving the Gunners. But that would be wrong. The BBC stokes the fires, noting “speculation linking the forward with a move away from the club”.

So what did Wenger says about that? Nothing.

“I don’t think he’s too much disturbed by all the noise, players at that level are used to it now. He is very focused, very happy and the fact he goes into the last year of his contract doesn’t mean we cant extend it.

“At the moment we haven’t, we just want to focus as a team and not look too much at the contracts of everybody.”

The BBC links to a Daily Mail story, one telling readers:

Manchester City still want Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez, 28, before next week’s transfer deadline.

From the off that story is utter tosh:

Pep Guardiola identified the Gunners forward as a primary target this summer but has been surprised by Arsene Wenger’s resolve in keeping his prized asset.

The Man City manager is shocked that the Arsenal manager wants to keep his best player?

Guardiola is willing to wait until next summer to sign Sanchez for nothing should a transfer fail to materialise.

Unless Sanchez signs for Arsenal, in which case the plan’s foiled.

 

Posted: 24th, August 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Jack Wilshere hits ‘career low’ as Man City’s Smith auditions for the big time

How much editorial spin can be heaped upon Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, who last night responded angrily to a late foul by Manchester City’s Matthew Smith as the pair contested an Under 23 encounter. (Wilshere is 25.) Once viewed as the greatest English player of his generation, Wishere has by way of injury and the emergence of brighter talents at Arsenal and elsewhere fallen well down the pecking order.

In the handbags that followed, Wilshere shoved Smith in the chest – the City player went down faster than a Love Island contestant, before clutching his head and laying in the foetal position for some time – and scrapped with Tyreke Wilson. Both Wilshere and Wilson were sent off. Smith was dispatched with a single bullet to the temple.

And the press?

Wilshere sent off for Arsenal after pushing opponent – Evening Standard

Jack Wilshere sent off for Arsenal after flooring Man City player – The Sun

It was a “career low” – The Sun

Jack Wilshere sent off for Arsenal to cast further doubt over his futureDaily Telegraph

After the hype, let’s leave you with the balls. Matthew Smith, take a bow… and keep going down and down and down until your nose hits the turf. (Tip: next time you audition for the Premier League, remember to slap the grass with an open hand as if you’re giving birth and to check the other hand – the one that’s been holding your head on – for signs of blood and brain.)

 

Posted: 22nd, August 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Broadsheets, Manchester City, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Media bias: Manchester City never dive, Kyle Walker gets the elbow and Everton con the ref

Media bias: When Kyle Walker was sent off on his Manchester City debut, a few voices thought he’d been hard done by, arguing that his second yellow card was harsh. We’ve gone round the publications to see what they thought of it.

What was Walker looking at?

First up, and by way of a benchmark, we go to John Murray (BBC):

It probably wasn’t a yellow card but it was a silly thing for Kyle Walker to do just after he was booked. He’s not looking at the ball, he’s looking at the man. 

BBC match report:

Walker is looking at a high ball in the air, takes a quick peep at Dominic Calvert-Lewin behind him and catches the Everton man with a brush of the arm. It is not an elbow.

Pretty clear, then, that Walker was looking at the man not the ball.

The Sun:

Walker’s dismissal seemed particularly harsh as he appeared to be looking at the ball rather than Calvert-Lewin when he leapt.

Not clear at all, then. He was looking at the man and also ,er, not looking at the man.

What about the clubs’ respective websites?

Everton FC website: “City lose their discipline after falling behind… Walker paid the penalty for receiving two yellow cards.” What he received them for is not enlarged upon.

Manchester City website: “The wing-back’s first yellow came for a sliding challenge on Leighton Baines, and the second left the Etihad crowd bemused after he was cautioned for a collision with Dominic Calvert-Lewin.” Walker committed no fouls, according to City. The first was for a “challenge”. The second was for a “collision”, a coming together.

And the experts?

Graham Poll (Daily Mail)

It was a foul, nothing more. No need for a card. He got it wrong.

Gary Neville:

“He’s backing into him, the amount of times I did this as a full-back, you try and use your body to establish your position. Calvert-Lewin’s gone down, he’s been clever, he’s been effective in the first half.

“He’s held his head and that’s what I think conned the referee. You could say it’s clever from Calvert-Lewin, you could say it’s cute. Personally, it’s a soft second yellow.”

What about the local media?

Manchester Evening News: “Kyle Walker was farcically sent off.”

The paper then accuses the Everton player of acting:

Kyle Walker must feel like one of the unluckiest footballers on the planet right now after receiving one of the most ridiculous red cards you will ever see.

The City right back was rightly booked for a foul on Leighton Baines, but moments later, as he and Dominic Calvert-Lewin jockeyed for position under a high ball, the Everton man bumped into his back and dramatically fell to the deck.

The MEN says “Calvert Lewin makes a huge meal of it”.

Play acting is not what City players do, right? The MEN also reports on City’s match with Arsenal’s Under 23s last night, in which Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere was sent off. The MEN hails his red card: “This will cheer you.” See if you can see any dramatic falls to the ground here?

 

 

Liverpool Post: “Kyle Walker was shown a second yellow card following a challenge on Calvert-Lewin and was sent off.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 22nd, August 2017 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment (1)


Manchester City balls: Ederson has Manchester United fans laughing in The Sun

When Manchester City spunked £34.9m on Ederson – a world-record fee for a goalkeeper – the Sun’s Martin Blackburn told readers that now Pep Guadiola’s team could play the passing game he oversaw as manager of an all-conquering Barcelona side. Ederson is known for his great range of passing and “enormous pinpoint delivery”. He is a “keeper who can launch it 75 yards on to a bottle top”.

Writes Blackburn:

Pep turned up at the Etihad and promptly dumped Joe Hart because he did not feel the England keeper was good enough outside the box.

Hart’s not all that good inside the box.

He persisted with Hart’s replacement, Chilean Claudio Bravo, despite a series of high-profile errors. No matter what happened, Guardiola refused to back down.

The 8th Rule of tabloid journalism dictates an on-off existence. Pep is either extraordinarily clever and prescient or a man more stubborn than an enormous turnip. So it is that when faced with the hapless Bravo, dumb Pep stuck with him through thin and thinner. Or did he? Because one newspaper told us otherwise:

BRAVO, CLAUDIO Claudio Bravo dropped by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: Here is why he is officially the worst goalkeeper in the Premier League – January 30, 2017

Pep Guardiola has explained his decision to drop Claudio Bravo in the Manchester City goal and replace him with Willy Caballero – February 1, 2017

Manchester City prepared to axe flop goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and replace him with Benfica’s Ederson Moraes – February 2, 2017

That paper was – of course – the Sun.

And how great was Ederson just over a week ago?

Ederson has nightmare debut and is already being compared to flop Claudio Bravo – July 21, 2017

You can read about “dodgy” Ederson giving City fans “a sense of deja vu”, causing “United supporters to gloat on Twitter as the £35million signing ensured Pep Guardiola’s choice of goalkeeper will remain a contentious issue next season” in the consistent Sun.

Posted: 1st, August 2017 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports, Tabloids | Comment (1)


Manchester City are not facing a transfer ban over Kylian Mbappe

Things escalate quickly in tabloid-land. The Times reports on the news that Monaco are loudly thinking about narking to those paragons of virtue and probity at FIFA over four European clubs they claim haven’t followed the proper procedure to secure their teenaged sensation Kylian Mbappe.

“Monaco are threatening to report Manchester City to FIFA over an alleged illegal approach for the highly rated France forward Kylian Mbappe,” says The Times. As Monaco’s PR department beats its chest and FIFA’s money-mad bods run their hands with glee at the prospect of trousering any punitive fines, the Mirror screams:

Manchester City are facing the threat of a transfer ban over their pursuit of French sensation Kylian Mbappe

They are? Yes, they are, says the Sun:

Manchester City are sweating on a transfer ban after Monaco accused them of trying to tap up Kylian Mbappe

Total balls, of course., A few weeks ago, Southampton complained to the Premier League about Liverpool’s approach for Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool escaped any punishment.

So where do we stand on tapping up players?

“I think that’s absolutely true – what’s new?” asked Peter Coates, the Stoke City chairman, in a question that was clearly rhetorical, as he continued: “And I’m not against people trying to do something about it. I’m just very cynical about it changing. I just think that’s how it is. And when it happens against us at senior level, I never complain because we know ‘everyone’s at it’ type of thing. You could almost say it’s part of the fabric [of football].”

Mike Rigg, former technical director of Manchester City, added: “I’m not sure there would be much traction because there are other things. It’s like me wanting to try to do a better job on regulating agents – and I don’t find that easy to get any traction. I wish we could regulate them better. And I don’t think we try hard enough.”

Manchester City are not facing a transfer ban. No agents shall go hungry. Monaco will not alienate four big clubs vying to spunk tons of cash on one of their young talents.

Posted: 22nd, July 2017 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Alexis Sanchez has a dream about Manchester City (with apologies to Spurs and Ossie Ardiles)

“I want to play the Champions League,” Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez tells Radio Sport Chile. “The decision does not depend on me, I have to wait for Arsenal. I’ve made my decision, now I wait for Arsenal’s reply. The idea is to play and win the Champions League. I’ve dreamt about it since I was a kid.”

Which is why he, er, joined Arsenal, a team that has never won the thing. The idea is that Sanchez moves away from playing for the Premier League’s fifth best club (see last season’s table) and moves to Manchester City, the PL’s third best club, who like the Gunners never have won the Champions’ League. City do, however, boast Pep Guardiola as manager. He has won the competition, albeit with Barcelona, a side Sanchez was shipped out from on account of not being good enough.

What price Sanchez’s dream? It’s £400,000 a week, apparently. That’s what the bleeding heart wants to stay at Arsenal.

Once upon a time, leading South American footballers were content with dreaming of winning the FA Cup:

 

Posted: 16th, July 2017 | In: Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Manchester City snubbed as Manchester United’s Alves joins PSG

Transfer Balls: a look a rubbish football reporting. News is that Dani Alves has “snubbed” Manchester City to join PSG. But was he ever going to Manchester City?

The Metro said he was, trumpeting on June 17: “Dani Alves close to Manchester City transfer after talks this week.”

The Guardian told us on June 20: “Dani Alves set to join Manchester City in £5m deal from Juventus.”

On June 21, the Express told us: “DAN ALVES is set to be re-united with Pep Guardiola by becoming Manchester City’s third signing of the summer.”

The Daily Mirror told readers also in June: “Alves still has a year to run on his current contract with the Old Lady, which he signed 12 months ago, and is expected to see it out.”

He didn’t. Juventus let him leave on a free. But the Mirror had more news: “The Brazilian right-back has been linked to both Manchester City and Chelsea in recent months.”

Like in February 2017, when the Manchester Evening News made such a link, telling its readers “Dani Alves wants Man City move”.

No. He doesn’t. He wants to play for PSG. “Believe me, I am coming to Paris to win,” said Alves as he kissed the French club’s badge. “In recent years, I have been able to gauge the incredible growth of this club, which has become a European football powerhouse. It’s very exciting to now be part of this great project.”

Such are the facts.

PS: in the twilight world of football reporting, Alves also agreed to play for Manchester United, said the Daily Star:

 

man united alves

Posted: 13th, July 2017 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment


Transfer Ball: Alexis Sanchez staying at Arsenal unless Manchester City pay £80m

Transfer Balls: Alexis Sanchez news watch. Is the Arsenal striker leaving? Compare and contrast the Daily Star and other tabloid scoops:

Daily Star, July 4:

Alexis Sanchez will stay at Arsenal

Daily Star, July 9:

Arsenal waiting for Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich to swoop for Alexis Sanchez –

ARSENAL star Alexis Sanchez will reportedly be allowed to join Paris St-Germain or Bayern Munich – but not Manchester City.

Daily Star, July 9:

Alexis Sanchez happy to swap Arsenal for Chelsea this summer.

Starsport exclusively revealed this weekend that the Gunners are not willing to sell the former Barcelona star to a title rival.

Daily Mirror, July 10:

Arsenal willing to sell Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City – but they want £80million for him

What news in the Mirror of Arsenal’s price?

Facts to support this tory: none.

Sanchez’s desire to play for Manchester City: “City are bolstered by the belief that the player is keen to link up again with Pep Guardiola.”

And on the strength of that belief, and citing the Mirror as its source, the Sun thunders:

“LEX IN THE CITY Arsenal willing to offload wantaway star Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City for £80million”

In other news: the Mirror says Sanchez wants £400,000 a week to stay at Arsenal. Presumably, the Citizens are going to pay that for a man who’ll be 29 in December, right?

Posted: 9th, July 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, Manchester City, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Man City’s Joe Hart’s Liverpool limbo

News is that Joe Hart hasn’t received any offers. Oh, come on, someone must have offered the big lunk a job as a clothes line or a figuring in a bi snow globe (he’s not advertising anti-dandruff treatments any longer so look out below).

The Sun and Mirror say the Manchester City and England goalkeeper is “in limbo”, having received no offers to play for a new club. The idea of Joe Hart, a man possessed with all the composure of a loon screaming at pigeons in the precinct, being agile enough to dive for a ball let alone limbo is far-fetched.

But can this be the same Joe Hart who had agreed to joined Liverpool?

 

joe hart balls liverpool

 

joe hart balls liverpool

 

The Mirror then produces one of those awful ‘7 things’ columns:

 

joe hart balls liverpool

 

Such are the facts.

Posted: 12th, June 2017 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Manchester City balls: Daily Mail betrays Jesus and milks the carnage

Having heard that Manchester City players have given generously to the victims of the Manchester bomb, the Mail delivers a story that casts a shadow over the club.  “Jesus returns to his native Brazil following Manchester terrorist attack,” states the paper.

 

Jesus returns to his native Brazil following Manchester terrorist attack

Suggestive much?

 

Is there a link between his return to Brazil and the horror? Has he run away? A click on the link and we read beneath one of the story’s photo: “The Brazil international’s apartment is just metres away from the Manchester Arena.”

And then we get to the actual story – the one reported by ESPN on Monday. Jesus says – and this through Google Translate:

“Everybody is helping me here, [Brazilian teammates] Fernandinho, Fernando, but the club as well. They help my family, my friends that are here with me.

“I’m missing my mum a little, she is in Brazil with my brothers and nephews. But, when she is happy, I am too. This week we will meet and end this feeling.”

There’s no mention of the atrocity at all in his interview. Which is odd because the Mail’s headline suggested a clear link between Jesus’ movements and the massacre on his doorstep. Why didn’t he mention the carnage? Because he had already made his plans to fly to Brazil earlier and had spoked to ESPN on May 21st – one day before the explosion!

 

Posted: 24th, May 2017 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment


Manchester City and Manchester United players dig deep for the city’s victims

Manchester City pair Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure have donated a lot of money to the relief effort following the attack in Manchester Arena.

The Sun says:

Zabaleta showed just why he is so respected as a man across the city […] by donating £90,000 from his final match fee.

Meanwhile, Toure did likewise…

Yaya Toure and his agent Dimitri Seluk to donate £100,000 to help the victims of the attack in Manchester last night

 Seluk later told Sky Sports News:

The news an eight-year-old girl went to see her favourite singer and didn’t return home is too much to bear.

Yaya and I want to help. We talked this morning about what happened and he asked me what he thought we could do.

We have agreed to donate £50,000 each to help the victims of this terrible crime. It doesn’t matter whether the victims are from Manchester or not.

Those of us lucky enough to work every day in football can do so because of the generosity of fans across the world.

Yaya is from Cote D’Ivoire, I am Russian. It doesn’t matter. Today is a chance for those of us in football to help out.

Former Manchester Untied player Phil Neville had a van-load of food delivered to a local children’s hospital after hearing their supplies were running low.

Brilliant.

Posted: 24th, May 2017 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Manchester City balls: Leroy Sané has lrage tattoo of Leroy Sané

Isn’t vanity great. Manchester City’s Leroy Sané is so keen on himself his back is covered in a large tattoo of Leroy Sané. You can see his face from he back. Who needs shirt numbers?

 

leroy sane tattoo

Spotter: @_MattColeman

Posted: 22nd, May 2017 | In: Manchester City, Sports | Comment


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


On this day 1996: Manchester City relegated after classic (Alan) Ball’s up in Liverpool decider

On this day 1996: Manchester City manager Alan Ball led The Citizens down into the old Second Division. In the era before the ubiquitous mobile phone delivered news in “real time”, fans, players and managers alike looked to the radio and TV text services to keep abreast of scores. Chris Wright explains what happened:

Having left Southampton in slightly acrimonious circumstances to take over at City the summer previous, cruel fate subsequently ensured that Ball found himself vying against his old team as the 1995/96 relegation battle went down to the wire.

With only one relegation spot still to be decided going into the final match of the campaign, City played host to Liverpool while the Saints faced Wimbledon – both sides chasing vital victories.

Alas, it took less than five minutes for Liverpool to go ahead when Steve Lomas had the misfortune to deflect a Steve McManaman cross into his own net.

 

Ian Rush then put the Reds two up before goals from Uwe Rosler and Kit Symons clawed City back into the reckoning.

However, Ball then needlessly injected an overdose of confusion into the maelstrom by incorrectly informing Lomas that Southampton were losing and that a draw would be enough to keep City up, thus prompting the midfielder to dribble the ball into the corner in an effort to wind down the clock.

In actuality, the match at the Dell was still goalless as Niall Quinn, who had just been subbed off, quickly realised when he checked the live scores on a television in the tunnel.

With Southampton looking set to snaffle a point, it instantly re-dawned on City that only a win would be enough to stave off the drop.

Sadly, by that point, it was already too late – the game ended 2-2 and squeaky Ball and his leaky City side were consigned to their fate.

 

 

In time, Lomas was just about able to see the tragicomic side of City’s self-inflicted implosion, telling ESPN:

It’s fair to say I don’t have good memories of last-day scenarios. The situation with City was just one of those things. Alan Ball, God rest his soul, told us a draw was enough to keep us up.

If it wasn’t so serious there was great comic value in seeing big Niall running half-dressed down the touchline to say a draw WASN’T enough.

It’s the quickest I had ever seen Niall run! He told us we needed to win so it was just crazy. Alan had received false information because he thought Southampton were losing and I was taking the ball into the corner flag to kill time.

It was tough because just a week earlier I had scored the winner away to Aston Villa to keep us in the hunt.

Relegation is hard enough anyway but under those circumstances it was so hard to take.

I’d been at the club from the age of 12 so it was particularly hard on me.

For the record, despite being relegated to Division One, City’s top brass decided against sacking Ball only for him to resign three matches into the following season.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the club found themselves further demoted to the third tier (for the first time ever) thanks to a truly iconic scintilla of shite from Jamie Pollock.

 

Spotter: WhoAteAllThePies

Posted: 6th, May 2017 | In: Manchester City, Sports | Comment


Victim blaming Arsenal’s Sanchez and Manchester City’s Aguero is just about understandbale

The talk is of faking it. First Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez was accused of making too much of being hit by the ball. Sanchez was standing close to the edge of the pitch as Leicester City’s Christian Fuchs was set to throw a long one into the mixer. This upset the Leicester man, causing him to send the ball hard into the Chilean’s face. Sanchez went down in stages, as they stay, and held his face. When Sanchez finally got to his feet, the referee booked him and awarded Leicester a free kick.

 

 

Questions were asked. Why had Fuchs not been booked? Had Sanchez gone down easily? Why hadn’t he performed the classic manoeuvre favoured by nearly all top-flight footballers of holding his face and then checking the hands for signs of blood, eyeball and brain? Is someone called Fuchs more liable to produce a XXX-rated challenge on primetime telly and would he risk a similar balls-in assault on Marseille full-back Rod Fanni?

 

 

The other incident of  “letting him know you’re there” came in the Manchester derby. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was upset that Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero had gone to ground after being headbutted by Marouane Fellaini, who was sent off for his brazen foul.

Given the impressive bounce of hair on the big Belgian’s head, you’d suppose a headbutt from him would be akin to being wrapped in cashmere towels by a flash mob of cuddlers. Mourinho thinks as much. “I didn’t watch but probably I can guess it’s a bit of a red card and that it’s a bit of a very experienced, smart Argentinian player,” he opined with customary bitchiness. “Marouane says it was a red card because he is Marouane, Martin Atkinson told me in his opinion it was a red card but I saw Aguero in the tunnel – no broken nose, no broken head, his face is as nice as always. So, I am not so sure. I think if Sergio doesn’t go to the floor, for sure it is not a red card. But if Marouane gave him the chance to do that… I don’t know.”

Fellaini hit the baths early, where we hope he took more than one bottle into the shower, possibly three or four to ensure that any future clash of heads would be softer than a Labrador’s loo roll. One wonders what would occur if the big clumsy Belgian went curls to curls with Chelsea’s spring-topped David Luiz. Some see a hideous tangle resulting in the world’s first Siamese-style twin footballers; while others go for the huge ricochet sending each man hurtling into the stands at opposite sides of the ground.

As for Sanchez and Aguero, well, you could call them innocent parties on the wrong end of victim blaming. But Sanchez was being irritating. And Aguero did make the most of it. It’s not black and white. If you are a footballer interfering with a member of the opposition’s attempts to salvage something from a match his side are behind in, the likelihood of your being smacked in the face with the ball is higher than if you had retreated. Likewise, staring up into the eyes of the man who has just committed a yellow-card worthy foul on your person seconds after he’s been carded and calling him names, raises the prospect of further mischief.

This does not remotely mitigate the guilt of the fouler, but it does place the offence in context*.

*Unless you’re Joey Barton.

This post was sponsored by Smart Bets.

Posted: 29th, April 2017 | In: Arsenal, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports | Comments (2)


Manchester City ball: do we have any advance on 19 players getting sacked?

When Manchester City narrowly lost to Monaco in the Champions’ League, the media began to wonder which players would be looking for new jobs. Football is a brutal, nasty, venal business. Players kick a ball to the best of the abilities over a short career. The day after a match the hacks give them marks out of ’10’ and tell the failures they’d best start looking for new clubs.

In the excitement of guessing which working men will be shunted out the door, the press roll the dice. How many players are leaving Man City?

13: ‘Manchester City to axe THIRTEEN players in summer as Pep Guardiola plots squad overhaul’ (Daily Mirror).

15: ‘Skipper Vincent Kompany is set to head a potential 15-player Etihad exodus as boss Guardiola recognises his squad is not fit for purpose’  (The Sun) 

17: ‘Pep Guardiola set to axe Manchester City flops with 17 players fearing for their futures ahead of clear-out’ (Daily Mail).

18: ‘Pep Guardiola set for Manchester City clearout with 18 players at risk’ (The Guardian).

19: ‘There are doubts over the futures of as many as 19 of his [Guardiola’s] existing squad

Any advance on 19?

Posted: 17th, March 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment


Media bias: Everton get lucky as Manchester City are robbed in Liverpool

Everton thumped Manchester City 4-0 in the Premier League today. As ever, we’re on the look out for biased reporting. In the first half, with the scores 0-0, City’s Raheem Sterling went down in the Everton box. No penalty given. But were City robbed?

The BBC says it was a good tackle: “Leighton Baines slid in to deny Raheem Sterling an opening early on.”

The Guardian blames Sterling: “Sterling misses a sitter, and wants a penalty!… He tries to take the ball round the keeper, Baines slides in to block it, and Sterling goes over Robles’ trailing leg!”

So much for the neutral viewpoint. What about the publications with a vested interested in the match?

Manchester Evening Post: “With Robles rushing out, and Baines making a last-ditch challenge, the winger chooses to take a touch and trips over.”

He trips over what? “It’s the slightest of touches from Robles that ultimately brings Sterling down,” the report continues.

So it was a foul. He was tripped.

The Liverpool Echo: “Raheem Sterling went down in the area, with replays seeming to confirm he had been tripped by Joel Robles.”

Replays only “seemed” to show that Raheem Sterling had been fouled.

Everton FC (official website): “Leighton Baines kept a cool head and combined with Joel Robles to thwart the City forward, but the Spanish goalkeeper may have taken the legs of Sterling.”

Only “may”? Was Sterling fouled? Does anyone have a clear answer?

Manchester City (official site): “TV replays proved he’d been caught.”

It was definitely a foul, then – but only if you read the official City website.

 

Posted: 15th, January 2017 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Liverpool see Coutinho’s price soar as Manchester United swoop for Spurs duo

The Mirror leads with news that Liverpool have no intention of selling Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £60m. “NOU CHANCE,” puns the paper.” Liverpool manger Jurgen Klopp says “no amount of money” will force him to sell his star player.

Wishful thinking, of course. Every player has their price. After all on December 26, the Mirror reported: “Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Paris Saint-Germain plotting £40million Philippe Coutinho swoop.” Putting a price alongside a player’s name is simple.

 

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Over in the Sun, the figure of £60m also figures large on the back page. This time it’s the sum Manchester United are willing to invest in Spurs full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. But United won’t have it easy. The paper adds that Manchester City will fight United for the England players.

 

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Walker and Rose each earn around £70,000-a-week at Spurs. Given that Spurs are better than United and outplayed City this season, it’s surely only money that will make either of them move.

Mark Irwin tells Spurs fans to expect the worst. Needing money for their new £750m stadium, Spurs will cash on on their star turns. Irwin notes that Rose, Walker and other young Spurs players, like Dele Alli Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen, know they could earn far more at Chelsea, Arsenal or either of the Manchester clubs.

 

Posted: 10th, January 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer balls: Arsenal for Griezmann and Reus and Liverpool for PSG’s Draxler

Never mind that Antoine Griezmann says he’s happy in Madrid with his new baby and wonderful life, the British Press have him packed and ready to join the Premier League very soon. France’s footballer of the year is on his way to, well, all the top clubs. Manchester United have £60m and Chelsea £50m and £90m for Atletico Madrid’s super striker, whose new contract set his transfer fee at a minimum of £86m.

News in the Guardian is that Manchester City also quite like Griezmann – and so do Arsenal. The BBC and Telegraph say that if Mesut Özil or Alexis Sánchez fail to get the £200,000 a week they each want to extend their current contracts and leave the Gunners, Arsenal will swoop for Griezmann by offering him less than the £200,000-a-week City, Chelsea or United would pay.

Should that cunning plan fail, Arsenal will go for Marco Reus or Julian Draxler, although the taller German (Draxler) has apparently agreed to join PSG in France’s Ligue 1. That doesn’t stop the Daily Star says Draxler is on his way to Liverpool.

The tin lid is placed on this Transfer Balls by news that the source for the BBC, Telegraph, Independent and Guardian scoop on Griezmann and Reus being watched by Arsenal is Squawka, a blog whereon we read not a single fact to support the story that Arsenal want either player.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 23rd, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Manchester United’s Rashford To West Ham; Payet to Arsenal; Draxler to Liverpool; Virgil to Manchester City?

West Ham United are, says the Daily Telegraph, keen to transfer Manchester United squad members Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford to their goal-shy team. It’s an “ambitious” bid, says the paper. No kidding.

Failure to lure either of them to London will mean West Ham turning to – deep breath – Sassuolo’s Grégoire Defrel, Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi and Porto’s Laurent Depoitre. Yeah, pretty much anyone who can score a goal is on West Ham’s radar.

The Express says West Ham will make space for any of the above by getting shot of six players, including loan strikers Simon Zaza (loaned from Juventus) and Ashley Fletcher (Manchester United). One player not leaving is Dimitri Payet. Or as the Star puts it: “JOSE’S PAYET RAID – United boss in fight with old foe Wenger”. Will Payet leave West Ham for Arsenal or head to Manchester United in a deal involving Marital or Rashford?

In other Manchester United transfer news, the Mirror says Benfica’s Swedish defender Victor Lindelof could be heading to Old Trafford for £37.8million. If he arrives, Chris Smalling will leave United, says the Express. Smalling will be beaten to the United exit by Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Scheweinsteiger.

Away from United, the Guardian says Arsenal are keen on Valencia’s super-fast left-back José Gaya.

The Mirror says Liverpool are looking to sign Manchester City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart. The Times says the Reds are also keen on Wolfsburg’s Germany midfielder Julian Draxler but face competition from PSG and, of course, Arsenal, who seem to have been chasing the player for every one of his 23 years.

The Mail says Manchester City will offer £50m for Southampton Virgil van Dijk. There have been “discreet talks” between the clubs, says the Mail all over its back page. The Dutchman is “aware of City’s interest”.

Well, yes.

Posted: 22nd, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Liverpool, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Arsenal’s pussycats beaten by Manchester City’s pluck, luck and lions

Arsenal lost to Manchester City in yesterday’s battle of the Middle Eastern Airlines – Etihad 2, Emirates 1 – and look well set to secure 4th place, a slot they’ve occupied so many times you wonder when the Premier League will award it to them in perpetuity. But Arsenal manger Arsene Wenger is unhappy. It’s a “REFFFING DISGRACE”, says the Sun as Wenger “rages at officials” over City’s two “offside” goals.

“There is a real problem of refereeing in England, they are a bit in their comfort zone,” says Wenger. “Referees are protected like the lions in the zoo… I looked at the goals – both are offside. The second is five yards offside but what can you do?”

 

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The second strike, by Raheem Sterling, was clearly offside. Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech says David Silva’s dash into his line of vision – making the Spaniard around 5 yards offside – meant he could not see the shot that beat him at the near post. In “Offside? No way” the Sun lets former ref Mark Halsey rule on the goals. He says Leroy Sane, who scored City’s first, was “fractionally offside”. The story should be headlined ‘Offside? Yes.’ But Halsey decides the officials got it right in getting it wrong. He then says Cech is wrong – Silva’s run across him for goal number two did not interfere with his line of vision.

On pages 52 and 53, David Kidd says Wenger is just a moaner, Arsenal are “not fit to lace” Chelsea’s boots and Sane was “onside”.

Picking up the “lions” theme, the Star says Arsenal are more “pussycats” than kings of the jungle.  The team lack “bottle and fight”. They need a “miracle” if they are to win the Premier League. As ever, says the paper, Arsenal started well and then faded as the home side got improved. Arsenal “shied away from the scrap”. Arsenal’s most expensive player, Mesus Oil “was anonymous”. No. He was worse than that. He was a liability, failing to chase the ball and close down the opposition. Players will run through walls for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte. For Wenger, they won’t step through a puddle.

 

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The Express also leads with the match. We read that Leroy Sane was offside and David Silva was “clearly in an offside position  – and distracting  Petr Cech – as Raheem Sterling fired home the second”. But “there is no excuse for Arsenal’s failure to force a save  out of Claudio Bravo in the second half”. The result, says Richard Tanner, underlines the “difference in attitude” between the two sides. Manchester City wanted it. Arsenal not so much. For that lack of desire, the club must look at Arsene Wenger. Can he still inspire his team to the title? No. Can he make more money for the bankers who run the club as a cash cow? Yes.

Posted: 19th, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment