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Premier League news. Stories from the newspapers and BBC sport – sports news from tabloids Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, the Guardian, Daily Mirror, the times, daily telegraph

Raheem Sterling’s ‘stolen’ ghost hat-trick: Manchester City beat Watford

raheem sterling fa cup final

The BBC’s report on the FA Cup final hype between Manchester City and Watford at Wembley makes for odd reading. The BBC’s voracious website tells us that City’s England striker Raheem Sterling scored a hat trick and didn’t score a hat-trick. Phil McNulty was there:

He writes:

Raheem Sterling scored the first FA Cup final hat-trick since 1953 as Manchester City rounded off an outstanding season by crushing Watford at Wembley to clinch a historic domestic treble.

Two goals is not a hat-trick. Three is.

McNulty continues:

City’s second goal in the 38th minute was scored by Gabriel Jesus. The Football Association says Sterling is NOT the first scorer of an FA Cup final hat-trick since 1953. He did, however, make sure Gabriel Jesus’s strike hit the net.

And before Sterling is hammered in the Press:

Raheem never did claim the second goal. He was just joyously ramming it home. He responded to media chat about his hat-trick: ‘You’re bantering me. That’s sh*t from me then… poor from me! I didn’t mean to do it. I’m sorry.” He did not “steal” a goal.

Posted: 18th, May 2019 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment


What racism? Raheem Sterling becomes the tabloids’ role model

Raheem Sterling the sun

In a tribute to Jadon Sancho, the England and Borussia Dortmund winger, the Sun’s Martin Blackburn says Raheem Sterling might be “something of a role model” to the tyro. Writing in the Times, Henry Winter calls Sterling “a role model in a divided land crying out for them”. Watford’s Troy Deeney has no truck with footballers being pitched as role models to strangers, arguing that he’s a role model only to his kids. But this isn’t about Sterling’s talents, which are considerable, but how the press portrays him. And the Sun has changed tact.

Winter has called out the media’s bias towards Sterling, an intelligent, driven young black athlete on the receiving end of some monocular reporting. And the Sun has been accused of treating Sterling unfairly.

raheem sterling drugs
Story about drugs: Nothing to do with Raheem Sterling
Young man from working-class background buys house!
raheem sterling tattoo gun
Sterling gets a tribute to his late father – it’s an anti-gun tattoo
raheem sterling the sun
And the Sun’s Star letter is… GET STERLING!
raheem sterling m16 tattoo
Raheem and his part in the Vietnam War

Today the BBC reports the words of Spurs and England full-back Danny Rose, who says players were “over the moon” to see Raheem Sterling criticise the media’s portrayal of black players and says the winger was “spot on”. Sterling opined that newspapers helped “fuel racism” by the way they portray young black footballers.

“Raheem was only saying what we all say in the dressing room,” said Rose, 28.”It’s sad really but he’s 100% spot on with what he said… The stick he used to get from the media was bang out of order. When he put the [Instagram] post up about the media we were all over the moon with that because we all agree. Fair play to Raheem… One of the few positive things about social media now is you have a voice and you can influence people. Now it’s not just boys in the dressing room talking about the media targeting Raheem, the general public have now seen it. We hope it changes but it doesn’t affect Raheem in any way, which we are all grateful for.”

I’ve no interest in a footballer being a role model. I just want them to be brilliant and give their all when playing for my team and rubbish in a rival club’s shirt. Does what Wayne Rooney or Raheem Sterling do in their downtime fill a gap in your parenting skills? Simon Barnes summed it up well in The Times: “Football itself is neither disgusting nor admirable. It’s just a game, it doesn’t have any pretensions to be a moral force, for good or evil. That’s not its job.” Stop holding footballers up as an example to the slack-jawed masses, and stop making examples of them.

Next week: why aren’t MPs role models?

Posted: 20th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, News, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Monchi agrees Arsenal move and joins Seville

On February 25 this year, the Daily Mirror reported: “Arsenal transfer news: Monchi ‘agrees deal’ to become Gunners sporting director.” Yesterday, Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo, better known as ‘Monchi’ and blessed with the looks of a detective in the Obscene Publications Squad, started work in his new job at Sevilla.

What happened? Well, the Mirror’s scoop was based on an article in Il Messaggero, which said Arsenal had agreed to pay the “£2million” needed to activate the buy-out clause in his Roma contract. The odd bit is that the Italian website reports two days after the Mirror’s story – and this through Google Translate:

Evening Standard publishes today, Rome would have already resigned itself to salute Monchi. The current Giallorossi ds seems destined to reach Arsenal, one of the most glorious English clubs. The London newspaper notes that Monchi could even leave the Capital in advance, if the ‘Gunners’ pay a termination clause of around 3 million.

To the Standard, then, to read on February 26:

Roma are increasingly resigned to the departure of sporting director Monchi, with Arsenal a leading contender to hire him in the summer…

Monchi has been at Roma since 2017 and his contract, which has two more years to run, is thought to contain a release clause of around £2.6million.

Nothing agreed at all. And the fee is an issue. But one day earlier talkSport said it was a done deal – just look at the URL:

And on March 8, the Sun told us:

Monchi arsenal

Today the BBC reports: “Monchi will return to La Liga club Sevilla as sporting director, ending reported links with Arsenal.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 17th, March 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Key Posts, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Zidane to Real Madrid, but Spurs boss on shortlist

The big football news on the BBC’s website is that Zinedine Zidane “is set to return as Real Madrid manager just 10 months after leaving the Spanish giants”. Wowzer! That fact amplified by the Beeb is “according to European football expert Guillem Balague”. That would be the same Balague who has also told us: 

“Real have shortlisted the Spurs boss to take over at the Bernabeu, according to Guillem Balague” – – Sky

Alvaro Morata was signing for Arsenal. He joined Chelsea and now plays in Madrid.

Santi Cazorla was on his way to join Atletico Madrid. He joined Villarreal.

Juan Mata was joining Liverpool. Mata remains at Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo was returning to Manchester United. He left Real Madrid for Juventus.

He also told us: “Real have shortlisted the Spurs boss to take over at the Bernabeu.”

I read it on the BBC

Undaunted by circumspection, the BBC continues: “The Frenchman will replace Santiago Solari, who was in charge for less than five months.”

He will? Maybe…

PS: Why is the BBC treating guesswork as fact? Guillem Balague hosts BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast Euro edition.

Posted: 11th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Chelsea balls: Sarri not sacked (day 236)

sarri sack mirror

If you get your news from the Daily Mirror, the shocking realisation is that Maurizio Sarri is still the Chelsea manager. He was not sacked when Chelsea lost the Carabao Cup final to Manchester City. (The Mirror has form with predictions – see here.)

Sarri Mirror chelsea

But clickbait is as clickbait does, and the Mirror today reports that Sarri has dropped the “biggest hint yet he WILL be Chelsea manager next season”. What tosh. He signed a a three-year deal to mange Chelsea in July 2018. But that’s more of a fact than a hint. If you want clicks, you need to conjure ‘hints’ and ‘five things we noticed’ and all manner of other drivel from football. So a few weeks after telling readers Sarri was getting sacked, the paper reports: “Two weeks after the Chelsea axe seemed set to fall on their new boss Sarri, he is now plotting their future.”

He never did stop plotting their future. It’s his job.

Posted: 7th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Spurs and Liverpool fans: Klopp, Pochettino and Mourinho ‘almost 100%’ certain to get Real Madrid job

Mourinho madrid

The BBC says former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is “almost 100% certain” to rejoin Real Madrid this summer. In 2013, Mourinho left Real to return to Chelsea. The Daily Telegraph agrees that the Portugueses is heading to Spain. But neither broadcaster nor newspaper can cite a source for their story. The roots of the story are unnamed “sources”.

Mourinho is currently taking time out from coaching to work on his insults having been sacked by United and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjær. He’s looking for work. And his agent could use a few quid. Maybe the ‘sources’ are pretty close to the subject?

Mourinho Klopp Madrid
Klopp liverpool madrid

And then talkSport pops up to say “Jurgen Klopp is reportedly Real Madrid’s No.1 target”. Reported by whom? talkSport links to the Independent. It declares: “Next Real Madrid manager: Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp made No 1 target in wake of Champions League exit.” The website cites not a single source for its news, only that:

Jose Mourinho has not been completely ruled out, and still has a good relationship with president Florentino Perez and director general Jose Angel Sanchez, but there is a view at the top level of the club that the Portuguese is “finished”.

The Sun

Whatever the facts, Klopp or Mourinho to Real is good news for Spurs fans because back in June, Mauricio Pochettino suggested that “when Real Madrid call you, you have to listen”. He later responded to interest from Spain: “It is like you are with your wife and you are holding hands, walking down the street,” he told the Guardian. But because you are so handsome, another woman is looking at you. But your wife is so proud and, rather than worrying, she is so happy to be with you and falls more in love with you.”

The Argentine earns £8.2m a year at Spurs. He’d earn a lot more at Madrid and maybe even win something. “Jorge Griffa [his former coach] told me once that I have to let football take me wherever,” Poch opined “to not get bogged down in trying to change my own destiny.”

Clear as mud, then. And the media hasn’t a clue. So they’re guessing. Which can men only one thing: Unai Emery to Madrid.

Posted: 7th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports, Spurs | Comment


Transfer balls: Overmars and Matthijs in; vote Mustafi out

Arsenal fans get to feel the warmth of a rosy-fingered dawn as news hits the cycle of Ajax director of football Marc Overmars’ return to the Gunners. And that’s not all. Last night Ajax knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League. The holders were thrashed. And Overmars says if he arrives at Arsenal he’d like to be accompanied on the short flight from Amsterdam by Ajax’s brilliant 19-year-old centre-back Matthijs de Ligt. He would sign De Ligt “immediately”.

Arsenal may need to sell some flesh to get their man. The Telegraph says Manchester City will have to break the world record transfer fee of £75m for a defender, which Liverpool paid for Virgil van Dijk, if they stand any chance of signing Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell. De Light is better.

Maybe Arsenal should take a democratic response to their malaise? Real Madrid fans are being given a vote on which players should be sold. Arsenal fans form an orderly queue. First up: Mustafi. Any takers? I’ll start the bidding and 10… Ten pounds… Anyone…. Bueller…

Posted: 6th, March 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Maxi Gomes to Liverpool; agent Luis Suarez on the phone; Timo Werner waits

Liverpool are willing to spend £35m on Celta Vigo and Uruguay striker Maxi Gomez. The BBC says Liverpool will spend all that money after the club’s former player Luis Suarez recommended his compatriot. And what better pat-time job for ‘Honest Luis’ Suarez than being a respectful football agent? You can imagine how his first foray into recruitment went down:

A phone rings at Fenway Sports Group.

Luis Suarez: “It’s me…” Receptionist: “Fernando!” LS: “No. It’s me Luis.. Luis Suarez.” R: “Who?” LS: “The guy who nearly won you the title…” R: “Oh, the biter. The guy who hand-balled at the World Cup, admitted to diving and called…? LS: “Yes. Tell Mr Henry to buy my friend Maxi Gomez.” R: “OK. Will do!”

The Sun says Chelsea also want Gomez – a player who back in January was said to be on his way to West Ham. The Guardian reported that the Hammers were prepared to trigger the striker’s £43.5m release clause.

If not Gomez, then Liverpool will move for RB Leipzig and Germany striker Timo Werner, 22. Luis Suarez’s views on him are not revealed. But the Liverpool board will be doubtless hoping for his call.

Posted: 4th, March 2019 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Monchi transfer delayed by grammar and Manchester United SEO

The good news for Arsenal fans tuning in to talkSport is that Unai Emery is to be reunited with his former Seville mucker Monchi. The broadcaster tells us: “Monchi agrees to join Gunners ahead of reported summer move to Emirates.” That headline arrived in our inbox on 25th February 2019. Roma’s sporting director is on his way to the Emirates.

Maybe. Maybe not.

That same day the Mirror yelled: “Arsenal transfer news: Monchi ‘agrees deal’ to become Gunners sporting director.” Those inverted commas mean Monchi has agreed to nothing. But the important thing about them is that those all-important SEO bots and Google algorithms for which the Mirror writes don’t see the grammar. They only see the URL, which declares a fact: “https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/arsenal-transfer-news-monchi-agrees-14051185.”

Monchi the sun
‘Balls’

The Sun performed a similar trick. On February 26 it thundered: “TOP MON – Arsenal ‘secure £2.5m deal for transfer guru Monchi’ who helped sign Rakitic, Kluivert and N’Zonzi.” Thos inverted commas mean the headline is tosh. But the URL seen by Google is a fact: “https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/8511652/arsenal-monchi-director-football/.”

So is Monchi at Arsenal? No.

Because today the BBC says: “Roma are increasingly resigned to the departure of sporting director Monchi, with Arsenal a leading contender to hire the 50-year-old Spaniard in the summer.” From a done deal, we learn that Arsenal are merely in the running.

One thing all media agrees on: Monchi can spot a young talent. The other thing they agree on is that Monchi is good for clicks. Get this from the Mirror on Feb 13: “Arsenal face Man Utd battle for Roma sporting director Monchi.” They do? No.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 27th, February 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, News, Sports | Comment


Chelsea Balls: Sarri sacked by clickbait

Remember when the Daily Mirror told us Maurizio Sarri was to be sacked should Chelsea lose the Carabao Cup final to Manchester City. They lost. He’s sill in the job.

sarri sacked
Not SACKED

The Mirror has form with predictions – see here. Of course, the paper’s online version writes for SEO bots and Google. Unlike these knowing bots, mere human have short memories and won’t call the paper out for writing utter tosh.

And so it is that despite making a statement that turned out to be total balls, the paper ploughs on regardless. Since handing Sarri advance warning that his P45 was in the post on February 20, the Mirror has written much more on the Italian’s sacking.

“Alan Shearer on why Kepa Arrizabalaga could get Maurizio Sarri sacked by Chelsea” – Feb 25

“Who’s running this show? Who’s driving this bus? And who will get sacked when results don’t go as required?” – Feb 25

“Jamie Redknapp lists three Chelsea games that will get Maurizio Sarri sacked” – Feb 25

“Maurizio Sarri ‘to hold talks with Chelsea over his future’ after Kepa Arrizabalaga row” – Feb 26

Such are the facts.

Posted: 26th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Key Posts, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Chelsea: newspapers react to ‘anarchy’ at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea insist everything went to plan in the Carabao Cup final. Not scoring a goal. Losing on penalties. Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refusing to be substituted, causing his manager Maurizio Sarri to rent his tracksuit in anguish. All part of a perfectly executed plan, says the club.

Manchester City mocked Chelsea, loudly sighing on social media when Willy Caballero, their former ‘keeper who’s saved 41 per cent of the penalties he’s faced in his career, was blocked from taking part in the shoot-out.

But it was all part of the plan. The “players played exactly the game he [Sarri] prepared, so he is in full control of the situation’, says Chelsea.

The newspapers disagree, branding it a “mutiny” (Express), “Revolting” (Mirror) and “Anarchy” (Guardian). One thing all sports journalists can agree on: few of us can spell Kepa’s surname without looking it up.

Posted: 25th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment


Arsenal Balls: Overmars, Monchi and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in

Journalism, eh. Get a load of this news on the BBC: “Arsenal will offer defender Rob Holding, 23, a new deal after he suffered a long-term injury in December.”

Can the two be linked: to be injured for large chunks of the season is to be a true Gooner? Well, it worked for Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlaine, so why not Holding, or Danny Welbeck, for that matter, who’s been injured for months at a time but will be ejected from the club when his contract expires in June? Should Arsenal work to keep Welbeck?

In other Arsenal news, the Mirror says the club wants Marc Overmars as their technical director. Ajax want him to stay. But the former Arsenal winger most likely join the Gunners at the season’s end, when Arsenal will also welcome Roma sporting director Monchi (aka Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo).

On the playing front, Arsenal fancy Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 21. The Sun says he’ll cost them £40m. So best to luck with that.

Posted: 24th, February 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Chelsea Balls: Sarri sacked by Monday; Steve Holland and Rakitic in

Chelsea ban

Farewell, then, Maruizio Sarri. Or not. The Telegraph joins the chorus of newspapers claiming Sarri is to be sacked by Chelsea very soon. The paper says Chelsea are considering appointing England assistant manager Steve Holland if they sack head coach Maurizio Sarri next week.

How strange it must be to work at Chelsea and not quite every fully unpack your bags. But the severance pay is good. Which might be why the Sun says former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is in line to become the new manager at Stamford Bridge. The paper says the great Frenchman “could” have £200m to spend during the Blues’ appeal against a transfer ban. Or to put it another way: he could have loadsa money but no-one to spend it on.

If Zidane does arrive and is able to hire new talent, the Sun says the Blues will move to sign Barcelona’s 30-year-old Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic. The ban does not prevent players from leaving the club. So also expect to hear a lot about Eden Hazard consider the kind of contact they used to offer supermodels to get out of bed.

Posted: 23rd, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment


Manchester United balls: Anthony Martial and the moving goalposts

Anthony Martial is making news on the front and back pages. The Sun tells us that Martial is due a call up to his national side: “Anthony Martial’s return to form will cost Man Utd £8.7m after France recall.”

Good for him. But why will hi success cost United so much money?

Martial’s deal from Monaco in 2015 included an add-on triggered by 25 caps for his national team. He needs to play 45 minutes in the game for an appearance to count and is so far on 11 before losing his place in Deschamps’ squad for the World Cup. The France boss is now considering a recall for next month’s European Championship qualifiers against Moldova and Iceland – and Martial could hit the 25-cap mark before the end of the 2020 campaign including finals.

Really? No. Here’s the Daily Telegraph:

The France forward’s 76th minute equaliser at Old Trafford on Saturday was his 25th Premier League goal for the club and triggered a clause in his contract entitling his former club Monaco to a €10 million (£8.73 million) windfall.

United paid Monaco an initial £36 million when they signed Martial in September 2015 but the cost of the transfer has now risen to what is expected to be a final fee of £44.73 million.

The French club had a longer wait than they might have expected for the additional sum, though, since Martial had been stuck on 24 league goals for more than eight months. His previous league goal was against Burnley on January 20.

Under the terms of the original deal, Monaco were due two further payments of £8.73 million each if Martial played 25 games for France and was nominated for the Ballon d’Or before the end of the current 2018/19 season. Yet with Martial not among the Ballon d’Or nominees announced this week and out of favour for France, for whom he has played 18 times, seven games short of the stipulated target, neither clause will be met.

And the Mirror in March 2018:

…back in 2015, Monaco president Vadim Vasilyev proudly announced: “The price for Martial is £57.6million but take into account this sum includes bonuses, which are very realistic.” Manchester United included three bonuses amounting to £7.2million each in the deal to sign Martial – all of which must be triggered by 2019…

United agreed to pay Monaco an additional £7.2million if the France international scores 25 Premier League goals for the Red Devils before 2019..

Prior to joining Manchester United, the talented 22-year-old forward had already made seven appearances for France. The Red Devils agreed that should Martial feature in an additional 25 games while representing the Old Trafford club, they would again fork out £7.2million.

The target is not 25 international matches but 32. Such are the facts…

Posted: 22nd, February 2019 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Chelsea Balls: Sarri’s sacking and club banned from signing new players for next two transfer windows

Bit of an odd backpage from the Mirror, leading, as it does, with Europa League action from Chelsea and Arsenal’s respective 3-0 victories over the might of Malmo and Bate Borisov. The Mirror leads with one player who scored (Ross Barkley) and one who did not (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang).

Mirror arsenal chelsea

Having thrice told its readers that Chelsea will sack Maurizio Sarri this season, the paper notes that the victory was encouraging. The Guardian says it’s earned Sarri “extra time”. It’s February, and he only started work at Chelsea in July. You’d think Sarri’s tenure at Chelsea would outlast a gap year.

Chelsea are “back on track” says the Express. But beating Malmo is not on the same path as a 6-0 defeat to Manchester City or even a 4-0 loss at Bournemouth. Malmo are a limited side. The players might have “saved Sarri’s skin”, as the Mail puts it, but with a Carabao Cup final with City looming, The Italian will need some armour should they suffer another heavy defeat.

Which they have. The club has been banned from buying players for the next two windows. FIFA says Chelsea are guilty of breaching rules in relation to youth players. Whoever replaces Sarri will have to make do with his players.

Posted: 22nd, February 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, News, Sports | Comment


Chelsea balls: Sarri sacked for £5m; Lampard tops wish list; Manchester City told keys

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri will be sacked if they lose Sunday’s Carabao Cup final to Manchester City, says the BBC. Sarri will be Chelsea boss for the length of an internship should his side lose to the same City side that thrashed them 6-0 days ago. Get packing, then. This news is echoed in the Mirror, which on February 11 led its sports coverage with: “MAURIZIO SARRI is facing the sack after Chelsea’s heaviest Premier League defeat.” The Mirror added on February 18: “CHELSEA will stick to their new ‘Sarri-ball’ style, even if if (sic) costs the manager his job this week.”

The Mirror’s plan seems to be keep saying Sarri will be sacked and when he is – and, of course he will be one day – say ‘Told yer!’ But the Mirror has form in getting it wrong:

daily mirror wenger quits sack resigns arsenal
2017? Wrong.
mourinho sacked
Wrong.

As for Sarri’s eventual sacking, the Sun says it would cost Chelsea £5m – the cheapest pay-off for a manager since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. 

Minds turn to who will replace Sarri? Sky Sports says Derby manager Frank Lampard and Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane head the list. Layers are working on their early-exit clauses as we speak.

Unless Chelsea win the Carabao Cup – in which case the Mirror will report that Sarri will be sacked ‘soon’…

Posted: 20th, February 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Key Posts, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Chelsea: Sarri sack imminent

How long can Maurizio Sarri last at Chelsea? His tenure never was going to be for long. Chelsea see mangers as mere front-men for the project, expendable so long as the playing staff are talented enough. Last night Chelsea crashed out of the FA Cup, losing 2-0 to a pretty ordinary Manchester United. The former Napoli boss signed a three-year contract worth around £17.7million in July. Director Marina Granovskaia told media: “We are delighted to welcome Maurizio and are looking forward to him bringing his football philosophy to Chelsea.” Chelsea don’t do philosophy. They do money and pragmatism. The clock’s ticking.

The Times on Sarri’s “joyless, hopeless, losing football”:

At first he complained, mildly, that English players were a little lacking in it and, oh, how we soaked it up, the idea that this brain-box would take the likes of Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek and make them shine for the England team, give them the tools to look a little, well, a little Italian. They would be thoughtful, crafty. No more headless chickens for us.

Now, though, few players of any nationality appear to have the requisite intelligence to implement Sarri-ball. The Chelsea head coach does not give them tactics more suited to the qualities they do possess. Instead, he persists. He persists and he persists.

The BBC:

As Maurizio Sarri watched his side limp out of the FA Cup, he resembled a jaded end-of-the-pier entertainer going through the same old act that once brought him acclaim but is now greeted with open hostility and – even more painfully – mockery.

The early weeks of the season, when the ‘Sarri-ball’ philosophy that won him the adulation of peers such as Pep Guardiola brought optimism to Chelsea, seemed an age away as Manchester United breezed into the FA Cup quarter-final without needing to raise a gallop.

Sarri cut a solitary, dejected figure as his predictable moves and the inevitable results saw Stamford Bridge turn its fury on him with a force that begs the question not if his short time as Chelsea manager is drawing to a close, but when?

On this nightmarish evidence, and the fierce reaction of the supporters to their increasingly hapless and disconnected manager, the end may be very near.

The Guardian:

Chelsea fans don’t often turn on their manager. They don’t usually have time. But there, distinct in the cool February air, just six days before they play in a cup final, it was: “Fuck Sarriball! Fuck Sarriball! Fuck Sarriball!” Add in the booing at the final whistle and the chants for Callum Hudson-Odoi throughout the second half and it’s fair to say the Matthew Harding Stand has made its mind up about Maurizio Sarri.

He’s toast.

Posted: 19th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment


Manchester United Balls: Solskjaer gets the job full-time; Pochettino earns Spurs £34m transfer fee

On February 12 2019, the announced that Manchester United had chosen their next full-time manager. “IT’S OLE YOURS,” stated the Sun. “Solskjaer to be appointed Man Utd manager permanently as board finally choose the club legend over Pochettino.” Good news for Spurs fans worried that their manager was on his way to Old Trafford.

“OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER will be named the full-time manager of Manchester United,” says the Sun’s Neil Curtis in an exclusive. “The decision has now been made at board level… The hunt is over with co-chairmen Joel and Avram Glazer now convinced they have the right man for the job in Solskjaer.” Adding: “The news will end speculation that Mauricio Pochettino could be tempted away from Spurs to Old Trafford next summer.”

Done. Or as the Sun notes on February 18 2019:

Manchester Untied Pochettino Spurs

Such are the facts…

Posted: 18th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Arsenal Balls: Wenger, Emery and no hint of worry

unai Emery Arsenal

How can the Daily Express spin Arsene Wenger’s words into a portent of doom? Wenger was talking at the perpetually remote Laureus Sport for Good Awards. He said Aaron Ramsey would be a “loss” to Arenal, the club he managed for a geological era. And that was it. Ooze it through the SEO grinder and in the Express it becomes: “Arsene Wenger WORRIED for Arsenal.”

But it’s worse than that because the URL to this clickbait runs: “Arsene-Wenger-Arsenal-worry-Unai-Emery-management-future.” The implication is clear: to trick readers into believing Wenger thinks the throughly decent and likeable Unai Emery, the man who replaced him as Arsenal manager, could be on his way out. Total tosh.

Posted: 18th, February 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Zidane to Chelsea; Pochettino and Saudi bone-saws to Manchester United

Is Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri spending the windfall in his severance clause? Maybe. The talk is of Sarri being given the boot and Zinedine Zidane the golden hello. ZouZou loves Chelsea – and if Roman Abramovich gives him £200m to spend on players, Eden Hazard forever and, naturally, a guaranteed huge payoff should he displease the Russian, the Frenchman will be on his way.

Or maybe he’ll head to Manchester United. Or maybe United will go shopping at Spurs once more. The Red Devils are willing to pay Tottenham a £34m compensation for manager Mauricio Pochettino.

More stories are emerging of Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s rumoured £3.8bn bid for for Manchester United. But the Prince is good at denials (see bone-saw murder). A flunky called Turki al-Shabanah tells us: “Reports claiming that HRH the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman intends on buying @ManUtd are completely false. Manchester United held a meeting with @PIFSaudi to discuss sponsorship opportunity. No deal has been materialised.” What would the Saudi’s sponsor? Do Manchester United have their own branded petrol yet? Bone saws?

The Sun hears Turki gobble and says: “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman hopes to complete a £3.8bn takeover of Manchester United before the start of the next season.”

In other news, Romelu Lukaku is wanted by Inter Mila, who have had it up to ‘here’ with Mauro Icardi. Chelsea want Icardi and Paulo Dybala. Zidane might not.

Posted: 18th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united | Comment


Manchester United Balls: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named new manager – but only in the Sun

Solskjaer

As you were Spurs fans. Relax. Mauricio Pochettino is no longer wanted by Manchester United. The Sun bellows the news that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be named the full-time manager at Manchester United. It’s a matter of when not if. The Sun says United will wait until the end of the season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manager manchester united

Not so, says the BBC. Solskjaer has does brilliantly in his first 11 games as Manchester United’s caretaker manager. He’s rid United of the “toxic atmosphere” created by Jose Mourinho. He’s delivered ten wins from 11 matches. He won over United’s staff with bars of chocolate – on his first day at the club Solskjaer gave all backroom staff bars of duty free chocolate. But the BBC notes: “What happens in the next 11…will probably determine whether the 45-year-old Norwegian gets the job of replacing Jose Mourinho full-time.”

Do we all believe the Sun?

Might be best to wait and see…

higuain-arsenal the sun transfer
He never signed.

And this is what the Sun said of the Norwegian way back in January 2019:

Despite an encouraging start to life as interim manager, Solskjaer has a chequered record as a coach. Having taken Cardiff down he is yet to win a trophy since returning to Molde. How he would deal with a major transfer budget also requires consideration. There must also be questions over whether he possesses the tactical nouse to improve United beyond his honeymoon period.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer it is, then.

Posted: 11th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Manchester United balls: David de Gea wants £500,000-a-week; or less

daily mail de gea
The Mail says De Gea is off to PSG

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, 28, is “insisting” (BBC) the club pay him £350,000-a-week if they want him to sign a new deal. The BBC says this would make him the club’s second highest earner “behind behind [sic] £400,000-a-week Alexis Sanchez, 30.”

Sanchez is criminally overpaid. De Gea wants something close to parity with the Chilean. Will one error of judgement by United lead to disharmony in the ranks?

Manchester United BBC
The BBC repeats the news, literally

The BBC links to a story in the Mirror. But the Mirror doesn’t really know what Sanchez earns. So far it’s provided the following figures for Sanchez’s United wage – the taxman may be interested:

£2m a month – Feb 9 2019

£400,000 a week – Sept 22 2018

£390,000 per week – May 11 2018

£25.5m a year – Jan 22 2018

£500,000 per week – Feb 8, 2018

£400,000-a-week – Jan 29 2018

In other transfer gossip, Manchester United fancy Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele and Norwich City defender Ben Godfrey, 21. Both should cost less than Sanchez or De Gea.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 10th, February 2019 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Liverpool balls: Mane offside for ‘lovely goal’; Howe wants VAR; Bournemouth and West Ham robbed

Liverpool

Sadio Mane was “offside” (BBC) when he opened the scoring in Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Bournemouth. Mane has scored in four successive Premier League games for the first time in his career. The first goal should not have stood. What says the media – is it biased?

The AFC Bournemouth website says, “the Senegalese frontman was offside as James Milner’s delivery was swung into the box”. Bournemouth manger Eddie Howe added: “VAR will help us in those situations, I think that will benefit everybody, it was tight but offside was the right decision.”

The Liverpool FC website makes no mention of VAR, noting, “Sadio Mane set them on their way to victory with a header midway through the first half.” The offside goal was not one of the site’s ‘Talking Points”. This is how the LFC liveblog saw the goal:

GOALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!! MANE!!!
Breakthrough for Liverpool and yet again it’s Mane.
The Senegal international meets Milner’s delivery from the right with a firm downward header beyond Boruc. A lovely goal.
Get in!
Liverpool 1-0 Bournemouth

Offside! Not on Liverpool where it was a “lovely goal”. Liverpool scored their first goal during a 1-1 draw at West Ham from a blatant offside position. The LFC website reported that egregious error thus: “Sadio Mane’s swift spin and finish put the away team ahead midway through the first half at the London Stadium.”

Lallana’s immaculate control and quick feet on the right touchline freed Milner to roll a pass to the front post and Mane. The No.10 artfully rolled around Issa Diop and planted a confident left-foot finish beyond Lukasz Fabianski.

Or as the official West Ham United site put it:

West Ham looked to have valid protests that Milner was in an offside position, but the linesman’s flag stayed down.

They say luck and bad decisions even out over a season. Liverpool will be hoping that’s not the case. If it is, they’re in big trouble.

Posted: 9th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Manchester City balls: Spurs win by losing but Pep’s pots count for nought

Stan Collymore’s Daily Mirror column continues to demand that we light the torches and march on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Trouble is that the glare from those burning fires has blinded Collymore to facts and the tiniest muon of circumspection and reason. Compare and contrast what the former Liverpool striker said about Mauricio Pochettino and then about Guardiola.

Collymore on Pochettino’s desperate statement that finishing in the Premier League’s top four is better than winning any cup:

One of the greatest managers in recent history who we’ve given a lot of stick to was Jose Mourinho. At Chelsea, what did he target? The League Cup. Coming so early in the season it is a trophy that can get you off and running…

Managers, said Collymore, should be chasing “every single trophy”. Because they all matter. Unless you’re Pep Guardiola.

Here’s Collymore on Pep being unsuccessful by, er, winning a cup:

The one thing the Premier League will do is test every single thing about you. If you don’t believe me, look at Pep Guardiola. Recognised as one of the top three or four managers in the world over the last decade, he could go into this fourth season at Manchester City having won one English title and no Champions Leagues. And that’s with the biggest budget in English football.

Guardiola joined Manchester City at the start of the 2016-2017 season. He’s in his third full season at the club. Guardiola finished his first season at City with no trophies – the only time he’s finished a season without a trophy. The next season – 2017-18 – City beat Arsenal 0–3 to win the Carabao Cup. They won the Premier League with a record-breaking 100 points. Right now City are top of the PL table, still in the Champions League and FA Cup, and will contest the Carabao Cup final with Chelsea. And they play some fabulous football.

Collymore thinks the Carabao Cup doesn’t matter when Guadiola wins it and matters greatly when Pochettino doesn’t? Can the Mirror get this man a sub-editor?

Posted: 7th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports, Spurs, Tabloids | Comment


Chelsea balls: Willian off; Hazard decides; Luiz on a free; and a transfer ban

Chelsea ban transfer

Sports writing highlights in the London Evening Standard, which brings news of Chelsea FC’s Willian. On Page 57, we read a story continued from the “back page”. But the back page features only an advert for a movie called Alita Battle Angel – which Willian is not in (I checked). No word on him on page 59 either. But on page 58, we learn that Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has decided his future. The Belgian tells French radio station RMC: “I know what I am going to do. I have made decision.” How very subtle and elusive he is.

And on page 57 we get told that Willian is going to be a victim of “Chelsea’s strict over-30 policy”. So strict is this policy that the Blues just signed Gonzalo Higuain – the 31-year-old – with options to extend the loan or sign him permanently. The Standard says Chelsea “won’t change their contract policy regaling players over 30”, without telling readers what that policy is. I can tell you that Chelsea only offers one-year contract extensions to the over-30s. David Luiz and Gary Cahill are two over-30s whose contracts expire in the summer, when both can leave on a Bosman free transfer.

Chelsea Willian transfer

The Standard also fails to mention Chelsea’s problems of the field. Fifa has invested the club over potential rule breaches with regard to more than 100 foreign players under the age of 18.

Chelsea says they have “fully cooperated with Fifa and provided comprehensive evidence demonstrating its compliance with the applicable Fifa regulations”. but should they be found guilty and a transfer ban imposed, Willian won’t be going anywhere – and Luiz can write his own cheque.

Posted: 5th, February 2019 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment