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
News from Germany is that Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil, 28, will “talk soon” to the club about extending his current deal. The Mirror says Arsenal have offered the German midfielder £280,000-a-week to stay at The Emirates. Having previously said he’d be inclined to remain at the club if Arsene Wenger did likewise, and with the Frenchman now committed to a further two years in charge, Ozil looks set to stay.
Although if Ozil does leave, the Sun says Jack Wilshere is keen to prove he is a “ready-made replacement”. Arsenal fans booing Ozil should read that and wonder how Wilshere, currently being mediocre at Bournemouth, would make the Gunners a better side.
But to BBC pundit Lee Dixon the biggest question is how Ozil can improve his game? And Dixon knows how. He says the German needs to learn from Deli Alli, the Spurs tyro and red-card-in-waiting.
“He’s playing in the first team long-term because he’s doing something right,” says Dixon of Alli on the BBC. “The fact that he’s come into the Tottenham team and they’re building a team around him, his talent is unlimited. If he [Ozil] had half of what Dele Alli has got, that nasty streak, he would be ten times a better player than he is because he hasn’t got what Dele Alli has.”
He’d also be getting sent off for nasty fouls and, well, not win anything. It’s tempting to think that the biggest asset Alli has over Ozil is a British passport and the right to wear an England shirt.
May’s when Arsenal season tickets holders get a reminder that it’s time to hand over the cash and renew membership. In the run-up to that, Arsenal need to point to the season ahead being one of glory and wonder. Which brings us to the Mirror’s news that Arsenal have drawn up a long lost of transfer targets.
The paper’s headline says “Alexandre Lacazette and Kylian Mbappe top Arsenal transfer target list as Arsene Wenger plots rebuilding job”. Yeah, Wenger’s staying. The Mirror was wrong about him leaving on June 30 2017. But the Mirror is positive it knows what talent the Gunners are recruiting.
And that’s not all. The Mirror says the list also features the names: Marco Reus, Moussa Dembele, Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Joe Hart, Kieran Tierney, Jose Gaya and Ross Barkley.
Of course, it might be better than that. No press picked up the story of Mesut Ozil nor Alexis Sanchez joining Arsenal before those deals were almost done. And if the Gunners are prepared to offer Ozil £280,000 a week – which the Mirror say they have done – there’s the very real possibility of bigger, starrier names coming.
It’s all exciting, right? And with any luck it will ensure Arsenal fans renew those pricey season tickets and keep all that money rolling into the owners’ burgeoning coffers.
The Times says Arsenal will offer £25m offer for Barcelona’s Turkey midfielder Arda Turan.
The Metro says Arsenal will spend part of the summer chasing Leon Goretzka.
The Daily Star says the Gunners are after Lorenzo Insigne.
Having yesterday told readers Arsene Wenger is staying at Arsenal for a further two seasons (at least), today’s Sun leads with news that he’s not. Maybe. Apparently, PSG have offered Wenger a two-year deal to manage their project to turn the Paris club into France’s answer to Barcelona instead of France’s answer to Glasgow Celtic.
However, the Sun concedes that ‘indications’ point to Wenger staying at Arsenal. Those would be hints like ‘ARSENAL BOMBSHELL’ , ‘He’s Staying’ and a back page speech bubble in which Wenger is telling West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis “See you next year mate”.
The Sun doesn’t do subtle. And it doesn’t have the foggiest idea what Wenger will or will not do. This is apparent when it tells readers that Juventus manager Max Allegri ‘remains at the top of the Gunners’ list of preferred candidates, though they will await Wenger’s decision before engaging in negotiations.’ Indeed, it’s tricky to negotiate Allegri’s recruitment when there’s no vacancy. How do you say ‘Thanks for your time, keep in touch’ in Italian?
Over in the Mirror, John Cross has an ‘exclusive’. He says, Wenger has ‘made it clear he wants to stay’.
Cross, whose paper told us Wenger was leaving the club on June 30 2017, has changed his tune. He says Wenger will be given lots of money to rebuild the team after he’s offloaded ‘superstar duo’ Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Ozil is no superstar. Arenal have two world-class players. Ozil is not one of them. Laurent Koscielny is the player Arsenal need to keep hold of. Wenger spotted him and made him into a top player. Now he needs to repeat that trick with around, say, 9 others.
There are few things more irritating than hearing a top footballer saying he wants to satiate his craving for trophies by leaving one big club to join a rival. And so it is with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, who having invited his agent to negotiate a massive £130,000-a-week deal to remain on Merseyside for five more years, decided he was destined for better things.
The agent, Mino Riola, had assured Everton’s fans and suits that his client was 99.99% certain to commit his future to the club. And then Lukaku said he was not prepared to sign a new deal.
Lukaku will find a sympathetic ear with his current manager Ronald Koeman. “No, because I am the manager of Southampton, and I have the contract for two years more,” said the Dutchman in April 2015 when asked about his future. “I have to respect my contract, I like to respect my contract and I am very happy.” And very soon after he was gone to Everton, where he earns a lot more money.
Koeman’s in it for the long haul, right? “Everybody knows you can’t do this in one year,” he said of Everton’s target. “It takes time. How long did it take for Tottenham to be where they are now? Three or four years. You can’t do it in one year.”
Anyone want to bet Koeman will be at Everton in three years time?
Of course, the big difference between Koeman and Lukaku is that one is in a position of authority, trusted by the owners to build a winning team to their budget, and the other is there to execute the manager’s tactics to the best of his abilities.
Lukaku’s misstep was to question whether Everton share his ambitions to win trophies and play Champions’ League football. “I don’t know, I don’t know what the board’s plan is. I don’t really know,” he opined, seeming to suggest the owners should keep their striker in the loop and maybe invite him into the boardroom to discuss everything from the new ground to catering facilities.
Of course the club wants to be successful. It’s why Everton are offering to make him the best-paid player. But Lukaku thinks he should be calling the shots not just making them. “Obviously, stuff is changing and stuff is happening but there were some players that we could have got, that I knew the club could have got, and they didn’t get,” said Lukaku to media invited to visit Everton’s training ground for an anti-racism event. “And they are playing in this league. I am not saying names but they are doing well.”
Before Romelu gets a job as Everton’s chief negotiator, he should look at the players Everton did get: Yannick Bolasie was bought for £25m, Morgan Schneidelin arrived for £20m and a further £10m brought in Ademola Lookman.
“No matter where you play you want to be remembered,” he continued with no pause for self-reflection, modesty and respect for the shirt. “You cannot only be remembered by scoring goals, you want to be remembered by winning trophies. That is what the fans want. So instead of living in the past, you have to think ahead. How this club has to grow, how this club has to improve, which player does it want to bring in so you can challenge for the big trophies?”
You, Romelu. They are offering you over £30m in wages to be the club’s totem pole – which is a pretty literal description because although powerful Lukaku is a terrific finisher he’s not the most mobile 23-year-old. There is room for improvement.
Lukaku can, of course, seek a better deal and an improved chance of winning trophies wherever he likes. He does not have to wait for Everton to reach the Champions’ League before he plays in it.
But he’d be well advised not to bemoan his lot and forget why it was that Chelsea got rid of him and Everton moved to make him key to their ambitions. He can do better than that.
Arsenal fans calling for Arsene Wenger to be sacked will be able to wave their banners for a further two seasons. News is that the Frenchman will sign a new deal. Wenger’s staying. It’s a fact. Well, it is is you believe the unimpeachable word of Tony Pulis, the West Bromwich Albion boss, who after his functional side had beaten a dysfunctional Arsenal 3-1 told media: “I’ll be surprised if he goes.” Did Wenger say he was staying? “Yeah,” said Pulis, “because he told me.”
The Sun calls this an ‘Arsenal bombshell’. How times have altered, eh. Before this season, the bombshell would have pertained to Wenger’s departure. The Sun says Wenger used to be a decent manager. But now Arsenal ‘is rotten to the core’. The club are sixth in the Premier League. They are in the semi-final of the FA Cup. But Ashton says Wenger would be sacked were he the manager of any club other than Arsenal.
Ashton then has it both ways. Having wondered why Wenger is still in a job and said ‘once upon a time Wenger was a decent manager’, Ashton opines: ‘The modern world, what with social media, will stop at nothing to get him out.’ A pox on the modern world and that social media. Why not let the old media that used to mutate manager’s into root vegetables call for a man to lose his job. ‘GUILTY’ yells the Sun by a close-up of Wenger looking like a police enforcer from Les Miserables.
Ashton ends by telling his readers that at Arsenal ‘everything is up in the air’. But it’s not. Because one page across is the news that Wenger is staying on. Less up in the air, then, than in the filing cabinet.
That the tabloids have not the foggiest about what’s going on at Arsenal is no more apparent than in the Mirror. It leads with news that Wenger is ‘STAYING’.
Or as the Mirror reported previous – he’s going:
Such are the facts.
Is Arsene Wenger leaving Arsenal? To paraphrase the banner that used to point to Arsenal victories at the club’s old Highbury stadium, “Arsene Knows”. But he’s not telling the Press. He’s most likely told Stan Kroenke, the businessman who owns the biggest grasp of shares in Arsenal. But the man nicknamed ‘Silent’ Stan won’t be telling the tabloids, either. The papers could try door-stepping Kroenke, but last year he bought a Texas ranch worth about £500m and locating him in 865,000 acres of garden is no easy thing.
So Arsenal fans bumble on, wondering if the man who helped transform the club from perennial also-rans into occasional winners will accept the deal and sign on for a further two years.
The club is torn. In the skies over the Hawthons as a wilted Arsenal succumbed 3-1 to an ordinary West Brom, fans made their own entertainment. They craned their necks and looked up, much as they did when the likes of David O’Leary used to deliver one of those huge hoofs into the opposition’s half in the 1970s and 1980s and in matches when Tony Pulis, now at West Brom, managed Stoke City RFC. Overhead was not a Johnny Jensen effort on goal and Peter Crouch’s head, but two planes: one trailing a banner for Wenger to stay; one calling for him to get thee hence.
What kind of fan hires a plane and buzzes the ground is something psychoanalysts can help the sane to understand. That these two planes were duelling offered hope that the rich fools’ vanity show would achieve some kind of finale at something other than a small regional airport. But there was no spectacular crash and dog fight. The planes were a novel distraction, expressing bold statements loudly before their endless whining became irritating and everyone wished they’d go away. Chelsea fans who endured Jose Mourinho will know the feeling well.
So is he going or not? The Mail says losing to West Brom was an ‘historic low” for the club. Well, the fourth defeat in five Premier League games is extraordinary so long as you’ve only watched Arsenal in HD. For those fans who watched Arsenal when they were routinely mediocre, the current poor run is remarkable for how long it’s taken to return after so many seasons of style, dash and hope.
Good news for Spain is that Spurs midfielder Harry Winks is one of your own. Well, so says John Cross on the Daily Mirror’s back page.
In ‘Spain tip Winks for a call-up’, Cross tells readers that Hertfordshire-born Spurs fan Winks’s ‘Spanish grandparents’ mean he’s eligible to play for the mighty Spain. This is bad news for England because ‘reports suggest’ the FA have been looking at the talented and likeable Winks to play for them. Spain’s interest will ‘set alarm bells ringing at the English FA’, says Cross. After all, Winks is ‘regarded as Spurs’ next big prospect’.
Spain are not exactly short on midfield talent. Tottenham’s Winks must be brilliant.
But hold the phone. A source oft-cited by the British press as being knowledgable on Spanish football says Winks’ grandparents are not Spanish.
Looks like Spain’s midfield will have to muddle along with Bruno Soriano, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas, Andrés Iniesta, Koke, David Silva, Thiago Alcántara, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Isco, Pedro, Sergi Roberto and more.
The Football Association is enlisting the advice of a ‘cultural expert’ (Daily Mail) to forensically examine if Millwall fans regaling Spurs’ South Korean forward Son Heung-Min with chants of “DVD” and “He’s selling three for a fiver” amounted to racism.
Furthermore, Spurs are being investigated because some of their fans chanted “no noise from the pikey boys” at Millwall’s travelling supporters.
The Irish Independent says Millwall fans have heaped ‘shame’ on their club and returned to ‘the bad old days of English football’, those murky times when The Sunday Times called football a “slum sport played in slum stadiums increasingly watched by slum people”.
Apparently the police are now involved in this search for racism in the dust of an FA Cup quarter-final. Although can we be certain the top coppers and football power brokers will be able to spot racism when they see it?
There are no black managers in the Premier League and no black chief executives in the boardrooms. According to the August 2016 Parliamentary report ‘BME representation in police forces’ there is ‘not a single, non-white face among all the chief constables and all the police and crime commissioners… and one BME person out of the 59 members of the National Police Chiefs’ Council in 2015.’ There are, however, plenty of black players and black supporters.
The search to root out racism could begin closer to home for both the FA and the police, if those in power will allow it – which they won’t because it’s easier to test new forms of control on the slum-swelling Untermensh and use them to showcase your anti-racist credentials than it is to investigate your own prejudices.
PS: Maybe the FA’s cultural expert can investigate the culture of football while they’re at it, in which chants – including the boorish, obscene, unfunny, vulgar, witless and anachronistic ones – are part and parcel of the game.
Pity that fourth official Mike Jones stepped between Manchester United’s sulky manager Jose Mourinho and nylon-haired Chelsea boss Antonio Conte? If two grown men want to have a row on the touchline, then let them. Sneaky Mourinho, all sly digs and bitchiness in a well-padded jacket; raging Conte puffing out his chest and testing the buttons on his shrink-to-fit suit. All of us watching at home would have loved it. The fans calling Mourinho “Judas” would have been delighted. The Sun says Jones ‘had to step in to separate the warring managers’. But he didn’t. He just wanted to.
In the age of ‘You can’t say that’, officials are swarming over football. The Sun employs former referee Mark Halsey to tell us if the game’s actual ref got the big decisions right. The biggest of which was referee Michael Oliver sending off United’s Ander Herrera. Halsey says Herrera’s first yellow-card foul on Hazard was merited. It was a ‘clear barge into the body’. The Spaniard’s second yellow for fouling Hazard was ‘not a cautionable offence’.
The Mail’s former referee, Graham Poll, aka ‘The Thing from Tring’, says United set out to commit ‘team fouls’, taking turns to take out Hazard. He points to this being part of the Mourinho game plan, which if true, makes the the new United boss very much Alex Ferguson’s heir.
But the policy of kicking Hazard out of the game backfired when Oliver noticed it, telling United captain Christ Smalling to cut it out or else. Poll was ‘amazed that, within seconds [of speaking to Smalling], Herrerra fouled Hazard again. He could have been cautioned for stupidity.’ Oliver was ‘spot on’.
The upshot is that down to 10 men, United looked even less potent than they did with 11. The game’s best player, N’Golo Kante, scored the winner, and Manchester United were out of the FA Cup, so depriving Mourinho another ‘title’ (the desperate Portuguese loves to bill everything he wins as a ‘title’, including, laughably, the Community Shield charity match) and setting Chelsea on course for a semi-final with Spurs at Wembley.
It promises to be a thrilling encounter – and a great chance for celebrity officials to raise their profiles.
When Spurs played Millwall in the FA Cup – final score: 6-0 – the Guardian heard ‘racist’ abuse from the South Londoners. So bad was it that rather than lead with a match report or news on Harry Kane’s injury, the Guardian opted to tell readers that the FA is investigating the ‘racist chants’. ‘FA is aware of chants and awaiting reports from referee and police,’ the paper announces. Once more lowbrow football is in the dock for racism. Yippee!
Given that this is about Spurs, where the ‘self-styled ‘Yid Army’ hold sway, you might suppose the Millwall berks opted for a spout of anti-Semitism. But you’d be wrong. The alleged racism was directed at Tottenham’s South Korean forward Son Heung-Min. The Mirror says, ‘Chants of “DVD” and “three for a fiver”, apparently in reference to the sale of pirated films, coursed through the away end each time Son touched the ball in the last-eight clash.’
The Guardian tells its readers, who don’t partake of white working-class leisure pursuits and buy the Guardian because of its platoon of black and Asian board members (number of non-white faces in the paper’s twelve-strong boardroom: nil): ‘The reference to selling DVDs is considered to be a racist slur when directed at an Asian person.’
Millwall fans are so regressive. Piracy is all about downloads and streaming from Russia and Israel nowadays, lads. If you want to goad and upset the opposition’s most threatening player with a tasteless chant, why not lampoon his countrymen’s appetite for dog meat? You can try this chant:
Son, Son, Wherever You May Be
You eat dogs in your country!
It could be worse, you could be Scouse,
Eating rats in your council house!
On second thoughts, best not to. Manchester United fans used to sing that tune about Park Ji Sung, a player they loved. He never complained. He’s a robust adult who saw it for what it was: a friendly bout of un-PC banter. It’s just that given United’s love of branding, the song’s most likely copyrighted and singing it will require a licence and large fee.
Better to echo what Spurs fans serenade Son with:
“He’ll shoot, he’ll score, he’ll eat your Labrador.”
Over in the Mail, we read that those Millwall chants about knock-off films and video games spoilt everything. The paper notes:
Millwall supporters should’ve been celebrating their wonderful FA Cup run but racist chants of ‘DVD’ and ‘three for a fiver’ towards Tottenham’s Son Heung-min ruined it.
Those would be the same multi-cultural Millwall fans who were watching their multi-cultural club get thrashed and Son score a hat-trick? The Mail thinks Millwall’s ‘racist’ fans should have been celebrating their team’s annihilation rather than trying to upset Son and Spurs.
Says the Mail:
Millwall’s supporters wonder why no-one likes them but showed exactly the reason with the disgraceful abuse directed at Tottenham forward Son Heung-min during their FA Cup quarter-final defeat.
What utter balls. Millwall fans don’t wonder why no-one like them – they celebrate the fact. It’s part of their identity to cock a snook at authority. Their chants are supposed to be vulgar, offensive and tasteless.
So dumb is the entire story of racism at White Hart Lane that the Indy can’t even decide what is and what isn’t racist. ‘Millwall could face FA action after fans appear to racially abuse Tottenham striker Son Heung-min,’ it says. For those of us who can recall the 1970s and 1980, when racism at football was loud, nasty and obvious – just as it was in society – the verbals aimed at Son are weaker than Millwall’s performance in the match.
To the people who seek out racism in dust, who view fans as suspects and seek to buttress their own superior morals in commands to ‘Kick It Out’, who investigate every word for offence – who reduce Son, an energetic, tough and skilled footballer to the role of victim – we wonder what planet they’re from and who invited them to join this one?
It’s been a huge two days for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. Only yesterday, the Star was pleading with Wenger to make up his mind and tell everyone if he was going to sign a new contract and stay at Arsenal for a further two years.
The paper said Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri was tired to waiting to get the call to move up from the Italian giants to English football’s also-rans. The Star thundered:
EXCLUSIVE: Massimiliano Allegri sends ‘come and get me’ plea to Arsenal
Words from Allegri on his dream to manage Arsenal: none.
Of course, the Star is a rich source of fake news. On February 28, the Star told its readers ‘Allegri confirms he’s joining Arsenal’.
You click on that news headline and you get told on the Star’s website: ‘Calciomercato has this afternoon sensationally claimed Allegri, 49, will join the Gunners this summer.’ On that Italian site, we’re told:
The news comes from his hometown of Livorno, where reports are circulating that the manager let this story slip at dinner with friends.
And that’s it. No quotes. No links.
Looking for more, a search for ‘Allegri’ and ‘Livorno’ produces a story on another Italian news site. It says the Allegri to Arsenal news is sourced in the – get this – Daily Express, sister organ to the Daily Star. In the Express we learn that Allegri and Arsenal have agreed a deal.
All done and dusted, then. No dithering at all. Allegri in. Wenger out. Which brings us to today Daily Star story that Wenger is, er, staying at Arsenal.
All utter balls, then.
Such are the facts.
Incredible scenes at Barcelona’s Camp Nou earlier this week. It really was shocking and amazing. How the hell did Luis Suarez’s dive win a penalty? Paris Saint-Germain’s travelling supporters have every right to feel cheated. They were.
As the plaudits hail down on Barcelona, it’s worth looking at the two spot kicks that played a big part in their unlikely Champions’ League comeback from a 0-4 deficit to win 6-5.
Penalty 1: PSG’s Thomas Meunier falls over. Barcelona’s Neymar falls over him.
Penalty 2: Luis Suárez gets in front of Marquinhos. He falls. As he falls, Suarez clutches his head, then his neck and contorts his face into a look of outrage, shock and appeal. Suarez had already dived once in the match. That one earned him a yellow card. So this second dive had better be very good or else he’s off. But it’s awful. It’s blatant. It might even be hammy. Yet somehow the referee gives the penalty. The message is clear: cheats do prosper.
The bigger message, however, is that, aside from PSG fans, we all loved it. A spot of gamesmanship gets the pulse racing. Barcelona won and it was thrilling; but Barcelona also cheated so most of us who don’t support them can hurl insults and loathe their moral rectitude.
And who better than unlovely, charmless Luis Suarez to play the gall guy? Well, Wayne Rooney, perhaps, but to paraphrase the old saying: you need to be in it, to cheat it.
In the race for clicks, the Daily Telegraph continues to mine news seams of bullshit. The paper asks a question it then aims to answer by name-checking all the Premier League’s top sides.
Champions League race – Who is best placed to finish in the top four and what will it mean for those who don’t?
Well, a quick look at the PL table, tells us that – and we can even list them in order – Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool – are best placed to get Champions’ League football next term on account of them being 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively.
For the two clubs of the top 6 that don’t finish in the top 4, it will man: the Europa League.
Such are the facts.
Sport is a pleasant way to spend your leisure time. If you’re lucky enough or foreign enough or just determined, you can make a very good living at it. If you get really good at it you can behave like a spoilt brat, row with your teammates and demand a massive hike on your already not inconsiderable wages or else you’ll sulk. You could be like Alexis Sanchez, the Arsenal striker who has expressed his determination to leave the club at the season’s end to earn much more money playing for Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus or what the British Press call ‘a Chinese club’.
Arsenal have been less than sensational this season. Sanchez has been pretty good. Along with Laurent Koscielny, he’s been a consistent source of hope for Arsenal fans seeking signs that this season they can be better than top four. Sanchez has also been petulant and, if the Mail is right, ‘furious’ at the ‘humiliation’ of being dropped for Arsenal’ match at Liverpool, which they lost 3-1. His manager, Arsene Wenger, has been ‘unimpressed’ with Sanchez’s attitude. It turns out that Sanchez, a player not good enough for top Barcelona, who shunted him down the pecking order to the Gunners, thinks he’s much better than his teammates. He is. But so what? Only when a player pulls on an England shirt is he remade in the exact quality as his teammates – they all become unspeakably average. A team wins and loses as a team. If one player thinks he’s doing you a favour, he’s got to go. That Wenger dropped Sanchez is not a sign of ‘unfolding calamity’, as the Mail’s Martin Samuel has it, it’s a sign that no player in bigger than the club. Thank you for your help, Alexis, now shut the door on the way out.
And you too, Arsene. Is he going or not? The uncertainty is affecting the club. Who is going to be the Arsenal manager next season? Is ‘Silent’ Stan Kroenke, the Arsenal owner who earned £3m last year for ‘consultancy’ work at the club, nicking a living?
The Sun says when Sanchez ‘stormed’ off the pitch at training last week, he left Wenger with ‘no option but to bench him’. That Alan Shearer tells the same Sun readers one page on, ‘You just don’t leave player like Sanchez on the bench’, points not only to why Shearer was such an un-inspirational Newcastle United manager but to how joyless and venal football is. Without its few players of global repute, the Premier League will be exposed for what it is: a marketing project based on Europe’s fourth best league. The Mirror quotes sources who say coaching Sanchez is akin to ‘managing a spilt child’. The other players ‘see him as becoming increasingly selfish’.
So instead of Sanchez at Liverpool, Wenger picked the likeable, talented and injury-ravaged Danny Welbeck. Changing things was worth a shot. That goes for you, too, Arsene. It’s time to go. But before you do how about one more turn of the old routine for old time’s sake. You know how it goes: Arsenal look good on paper, get kicked out of the Champions’ League early on, embark on run to finish in the top four and the owners wake up just long enough to bank their annual dividend.
So hungry for trophies is Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez that he will quit the Gunners and plays for… Sevilla – Spain’s oldest professional football club who last won the title in 1945. Well, so says the Daily Star, which adds that not-all-that-well-off Sevilla are ‘in pole position’ to secure the ‘disillusioned’ Chilean. In the twilight world where the Star’s news and facts merge such a move will surely satisfy Sanchez’s quest for glory and give him the £250,000-a-week he wants.
Over in Italy, we read in the Corriere dello Sport that Juventus will offer Arsenal £25m for Sanchez in the summer. The Mail says the Gunners are already looking for his replacements, casting a covetous eye on Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus, Porto’s Andre Silva and Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette.
Really? Because in 2015, the Daily Star told its readers: ‘£20m Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd target Marco Reus AGREES five-year Real Madrid deal.’ He didn’t.
Spanish organ AS told its readers Silva had also joined Real Madrid. He hasn’t. AS did cite a source for its fact-free story: the Daily Star:
And Lacazette can’t play for Lyon – he does- because the Daily Express told us he joined Paris Saint Germain in 2015.
So much for the targets. As for Sanchez, The Mirror says Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is ‘privately resigned to Sanchez leaving the Emirates this summer’. That would the same Wenger who’s also leaving Arsenal this summer. We read that in the Mirror.
Arsenal fans shouldn’t wave goodbye to Sanchez just yet.
All hail, then, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the man without whom Manchester United would be a mid-table side, not clutching the EFL Cup and not eyeing a Champion’s League berth for next season. The big Swede’s been playing well, giving Untied a focal point. Writing in the Sun, former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright says Zlatan is the new cult hero at Old Trafford.
“He [Eric Cantona] now has genuine competition as a United cult hero,” says Wrighty. “And I don’t just use Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s EFL Cup final heroics as evidence of that – it’s virtually everything he’s done since arriving last summer.”
Aside from cheating against Crystal Palace – and Cantona’s exploits at Selhust Park win that battle – it’s pretty much all been great from Zlatan. Wright adds: “When he joined, some were a bit sceptical, wondering if he was just after one final payday before hanging up his boots…any suspicions about Zlatan were blown out of the water within a month of his first appearance.”
On August 14, Zlatan scored on his United Premier League debut against Bournemouth. Still in August he then scored two more goals in a 2-0 PL win over Southampton.
But Wright was still suspicion of Zlatan. On October 26, Ian Wright called him a “passenger”. On November 3, Wright mused: “I’m not sure too many other teams would have signed him, even on a free.” And on December 12, Wright knew: “He’s not going to score 25 goals this season, no.”
He’s surpassed that tally already.
Dele Alli plays for Spurs. He’s British. Granit Xhaka plays for Arsenal. He’s Swiss. According to former Liverpool captain Graeme Souness, both possess a “nasty streak”. For one of them it’s a blessing. For the other it’s a curse.
On February 26, Souness noticed Ali’s red card for an awful foul against Ghent in the Europa League that earned him a red card.
‘It was nasty and unnecessary, born out of frustration,’ wrote Souness in the Sunday Times. ‘He really snapped into it, intending to leave a bit on the guy, so he got what he deserved with the red card. Yet that’s also one of the reasons he could become a top player. Alli has a bit of devil in him, an edge that most top players possess. As strange as it sounds, if I was his manager, I’d be quietly saying to myself: “Thank goodness he’s got that in him.”
A bad foul is sign you’re a top player.
When Granit Xhaka was sent for Arsenal against Burnley, Souness took a different view. On January 25 he wrote: ‘What isn’t registering with him? He’s obviously got the exploding head. I don’t look at him and think, ‘you’re an aggressive player’. It’s a lapse in concentration and he’ll be annoyed he gave the ball away so cheaply. For me, he doesn’t run around making aggressive challenges. He is the run of mill midfield player for me. He must have something in him where it goes.”
If you’re British and playing in your home country, a bad foul is sign of your mental toughness. If you’re foreign and playing overseas, a bad foul is sign of your mental weakness.
Manchester United will finally get shot of Wayne Rooney when he moves to China and learns the Chinese for ‘**** ***!’. Of course it’s good news – one in the eye for those who say English footballers are too thick, greedy, cosseted, aloof and superficial to play abroad. Rooney, who will earn £750,000-a-week, is expanding his cultural horizons, and instead of swapping chapped thighs and being called a lump for a seat by one of TV-land’s illuminated coffee tables, he’ll take his Premier League nous to football’s Chinese mission.
He goes too with Coleen Rooney, who would be well advised to note that not every Hermes bag is the genuine article in the Far East. She runs the risk of pushing a trolley-load of over-priced fakes towards the airport’s Duty Free zone.
Rooney will be missed, of course, not least of all by the media, which has mocked, ridiculed, insulted and sneered at the best English footballer of his generation for years. Rather than see Rooney as the best part of a poor side, they fetishised his presence so that every match was about him. The same media that called Rooney an idiot now deride his likely choice to play in China, a place portrayed as holding less cultural appeal than a wet weekend in his native Croxteth.
It’s been a few days since Arsenal lot to the world’s third best side in Munich. Experts cited the 5-1 drubbing to Bayern as a sign that Arsenal manger Arsene Wenger had to go. Arsenal were woeful in Germany, a side devoid of guile, diligence, spirit, cohesion and drive surrendered meekly, albeit to stella opponents.Whereas once the Gunner would have sought continuity, a handing of the baton from Wenger to his successor in style and spirit, the only way forward was to trigger wholesale change.
But the clamour for Wenger to do the decent thing and leave at the season’s end, if not immediately, has been hasty and delusional. England club sides to not rule in Europe. Placed in context, Arenal’s thrashing was more of the same, rather than a sudden downward turn. Did any Arsenal fans believe the Gunners were on track to win the Champions’ League? Coming top four in the Premier League is not a passport to the last four of Europeans football’s biggest club competition.
To further realise how palsied the PL has become, you need only look at what happened one night after Arsenal’s undoing. Spurs fans revelling in Arenal’s failure watched their team lose to the mighty Gent, a team sat in mid-table in Belgian’s Division A. Losing to Bayern in Munich or losing to Gent in Belgian – which is worse result? Add to that Spurs early demise in the Champions’ League and Arsenal coming top of group containing Paris Saint Germain and are things so very bleak at The Emirates?
Of course, it’s Sutton in the FA Cup tonight. Lost that and, well, the ground’s not all that far from Gatwick Airport. Taxi for Wenger!
Arsene Wenger will remain Arsenal manager for the next four years. Arsenal have offered Wenger a two-year extension on his current deal, which expires in the summer. So how does the Daily Star know Wenger will sign a four-year deal?
‘Arsene Wenger wants to stay at Arsenal for four more years,’ says the paper.
And what of that growing list of names lined up to replace Wenger when this season ends?
The story is based on a comment Wenger made when asked to compare his career to that of Sir Alex Ferguson. Said Wenger: “Ferguson has some other interests in life and he was older than I am today. He was four years older, he retired at 71 and I’m 67.”
So will Wenger continue to manager beyond 71? “Maybe more, maybe less, I don’t know,” he said.
Stick that through the spin machine and the Star says Wenger will be Arsenal boss until he’s 71.
The Guardian hears that and thunders: ‘Arsène Wenger hints he could stay at Arsenal for at least four more years.’
The Mirror interprets the same Wenger line to mean: ‘Arsene Wenger will carry on managing for another four years – even if he leaves Arsenal this summer.’
If he leaves this summer? The Mirror said he was going.
Such are the facts in the post-truth media.
By now you’ll be wondering what Harry Redknapp has been up to? The resting manager is talking abut Spurs on BT Sport. Redknapp is aghast that now-one came in for Dele Alli when he was at Milton Keynes Dons. Why did it take so long for Spurs to sign the tyro for £5m?
“Can you tell me how all those scouts failed to spot him when he was playing for MK Dons every week?” asks Redknapp. “How did they end up waiting until Tottenham came in for him?”
Spurs were not the only club to take a look at Alli. In fact, one club was managed by – get this – Harry Redknapp. Ten months ago, Redknapp opined: “I scouted Dele Alli several times as did a lot of other clubs but with a view to the future.”
Redknapp cites the moment when all the clubs should have got Alli. “Didn’t he play for MK Dons against Manchester United when they beat them 4-0 in the League Cup?” he asks. “United should have signed him there and then.”
That was August 26 2014 – when Redknapp was manger of QPR, then of the Premier League. Presumably the player Redknapp values at £100m wasn’t good enough for QPR.
Such are the facts.
Arsenal were thrashed in the Champions’ League. Again. Tonked 5-1 by a lively Bayern Munich side, Arsenal were limper than a post-coitus slug. The reporting has been fierce, with much of the chatter concerned with the timing of Arsene Wenger’s departure. The Arsenal manager’s inability to inspire his side is clear.
But Wenger remains the Arsenal owners’ dream man. He delivers big cash pay outs and high returns for the money men that run the club. In the boardroom everything is fine, a mood reflected in the match report on the Arsenal website, which begins thus:
We are facing a mammoth task to turn around our Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich after conceding four times in a disappointing second half in Bavaria.
Arsenal conceded five times in total. The Pollyanna-ish notion that Arsenal will some how ‘turn things round’ is laughable. It was not ‘disappointing’. It was terrible.
The site adds:
Laurent Koscielny’s injury at the start of the second half seemed to disrupt us, and we conceded twice in the space of six minutes.
When Koscielny went off, the entire defence wilted. Kieran Gibbs was made captain. A player with marginally less presence than the sixth official was picked to galvanise the team and keep the defence tight.
And a word on Bayern:
Bayern, meanwhile, were without Franck Ribery and Jerome Boateng, but fielded a star-studded team containing the likes of Lewandowski, Douglas Costa and Robben.
Arsenal fielded the likes of Ozil (£41m), Sanchez (£35m) and two players bought in the summer for in excess of £30m each. Aren’t Arsenal now also star-studded? None of the three Bayern players name-checked cost more than £20m.
So how does Bayern Munich report on the match that Arsenal were ‘disappointing’ in? Their official website tells us:
On-fire Bayern thrash outclassed Gunners
The five goals ‘handed the German record champions a near-unassailable advantage in the first knockout round tie’.
The Gunners’ goal came after a penalty. The Arsenal website says Koscielny was ‘tripped’ . The Bayern site calls it a ‘debatable penalty’.
The other debate is on Wenger. Will he now leave Arsenal – after all, it looks like the players have already left him?
Clickbait: a look at the death of journalism in the national Press. The Daily Mirror has adopted the Daily Telegraph policy of making news out of TV listings. In readiness for Arsenal’s Champions’ League match against Germany’s Bayern Munich the Mirror has produced the following ‘stories’. All were written today:
Scoop 1! ‘What time is Bayern Munich vs Arsenal? All you need to know ahead of Champions League clash’
Scoop 2: ‘What channel is Bayern Munich vs Arsenal on? All you need to know ahead of Champions League clash’
That could be one story, no?
Scoop 3: ‘Bayern Munich vs Arsenal LIVE: All the build-up ahead of the Champions League clash in Germany’
Scoop 4: ‘Bayern Munich vs Arsenal: 11 things you need to know ahead of the Champions League clash‘
The list is great.
1. When is the match and how can I watch it?
Scoop 5: ‘7 things Arsene Wenger could learn from Carlo Ancelotti ahead of Bayern Munich v Arsenal’
Number 1: ‘Winning the Champions League helps your reputation’
Scoop 6: ‘Arsene Wenger is 50/50 over Arsenal stay – the Bayern Munich result could decide his future’
Well, it could do. And, on the other hand, it could not do. Or as the Mirror puts it:
Scoop 7; ‘9 funniest reactions to Arsenal fans watching long-time target Julian Draxler destroy Barcelona’
It really is that bad.
Is Anthony Martial all set to make the move from Manchester United to Spurs? The Mirror says Martial is on course to become the first player to make the move from Manchester United to Spurs since Teddy Sheringham sealed the lid on his medal cabinet and returned to White Hart Lane on a free transfer in 2001.
Spurs are on the up, but however large their stadium gets and their squad swells they will always be a smaller club than Manchester United and win less, if anything. Add the lack to gongs to a reduction in wages and the Mirror’s story is absurd.
Staying with Manchester United and the Mirror, news is that Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, 25, is having “doubts” about moving the England. Not that the France forward ever said he was keen to leave Spain in the first place. Greizmann told French radio:
“With Real Sociedad, I felt that I needed to leave. For the moment, I do not know where that desire came from. Who knows how the season will finish. If it finishes badly, maybe I will ask myself the question. For the moment, it is not relevant…
“Aside from that, I am asking myself where I could go. In Spain, there is Barcelona and Real Madrid. Barcelona have the three up top. Real Madrid, that is impossible because of the club I am at. I think that between them, there is a pact.
“Germany, the league does not attract me much. France, not for the moment. And England, I have a lot of doubts about my private life. Everything like rain, bad weather… I need to feel happy outside.”
What’s wrong with rain, low skies, having the Press label your lover a ‘WAG’ , making the obligatory trip to Wing’s Chinese eatery in the full glare of the cameras and living in a mock Tudor mansion behind huge gates on a footballer-friendly estate in the provinces? Where’s his sense of romance?
Last up in this Manchester United round-up is David de Gea. On the heels of news that the former Atletico Madrid ‘keeper is in line for a move to Real Madrid – so much for any transfer between the two big Madrid clubs being “impossible” – are reports that he wants a big hike in his £200,000-a-week pay packet, asking for £300,000-a-week.
Expect to read that a Chinese club you’ve never hear of are offering him more.
What names are on the ‘shortlist of managers’ to replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal? The Mirror says there are four names vying to be the next Arsenal manager. They are: Thomas Tuchel of Borussia Dortmund, Max Allegri of Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim.
But others have been to the job in the past 12 months. They are:
Eddie Howe: ‘ED HUNTED Eddie Howe being lined up by Arsenal to replace manager Arsene Wenger with Frenchman’s contract set to expire in summer’ (The Sun).
Roberto Martinez: ‘His team to play the sort of passing style that Arsene Wenger has established as Arsenal’s identity and conducts himself with the sort of style and dignity that very much fits with what directors would call the Arsenal way (Daily Telegraph)
Rafa Benitez: ‘Rafa Benitez on Arsenal shortlist to replace Arsene Wenger if he goes – and Spaniard would bring in Thierry Henry.’ (Daily Mirror)
Dennis Bergkamp, Diego Simeone and more possible Arsene Wenger replacements. (TalkSport)
Patrick Vieira: A candidate embedded in the supposed Arsenal Way. Like Bergkamp, his arrival back at the club would be enthusiastically welcomed by supporters.’ (Daily Telegraph)
Ralph Hasenhuttl: ‘A surprise candidate, Hasenhuttl hinted recently that Arsenal had spoken to him about the big job at the Emirates.’ (The Independent)
Ha. This is absolute tosh. When asked is he was heading to Arsenal, Hasenhuttl said: “I have certainly heard of far worse fates than to be lined up as the successor to the longest-serving coach in England.”
Steve Bould: ‘Knows the players and club inside out. Won various trophies, including the Premier League, during his playing career with Arsenal.’ (Daily Mirror)
Joachim Lowe: ‘Proven winner. Led the German side to World Cup glory in 2014 after impressive showings at the Euros two years earlier.’ (Daily Mirror)
‘Arsenal want Manuel Pellegrini to replace Arsene Wenger’. (Metro)
Ronald Koeman ‘is the surprise name topping Arsenal’s list of potential successors to Arsene Wenger’. (The Sun)
Laurent Blanc ‘to replace his compatriot at Arsenal’ (TalkSport)
Brendan Rodgers: ‘His work at Swansea has greatly impressed and is also committed to the sort of football that Wenger has overseen at Arsenal.’ (Daily Telegraph)
Jorge Sampaoli: Chile’s Copa America winning coash signed a two-year deal with Sevilla last years but Arsenal should be able to extricate him for it” – (The Times)
Mauricio Pochettino: ‘The Spurs manger would spend more then Wenger has bene willing to but not more than the club could handle’ (The Times)
Sean Dyche: ‘As the great debacle rages about who will eventually replace Arsene Wenger, it’s amazing that one boss keeps getting overlooked.’ It’s Dyche.
So to that list. What says the Number 1 choice, Thomas Tuchel? It’s “completely fictional”, says the German club’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke (Sun).
Such are the facts.