Back pages | Anorak - Part 36

Back pages Category

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

Arsenal balls: Ozil and Wenger fight over the towel

ozil fury arsenalArsenal are at “war”, says the Sun. The back page tells of team manager Arsene Wenger’s “fury with Ozil”. Can it be that the club’s best player and the vintage coach are rowing? The Sun’s headline certainly implies so.  What did Ozil says to spark “fury”? This:

“Looking at our season so far, we have to be honest and admit that we screwed up ourselves. We did not play to our potential in the games against the so-called smaller teams. You immediately get punished for that in the Premier League. But we still have a chance of winning the title. We have to hope Leicester and Tottenham slip up and then make the most of it. I would be delighted for Wenger if we win the title. He played a major role in my decision to join Arsenal. He was desperate to sign me.


“Everybody knows he is an extraordinary manager. He is always hungry for success, has a lot of experience and always takes his time for the players. He helps players develop.”

To the Sun this makes Ozil “the defeatist German” who has “chucked in the towel”… (over a summer sun-bed?). And Wenger has this to say:

“I have nothing against the players being honest, but we have to look forward — and this group deserves to be rewarded for all the effort, hard work and dedication they have put in. There is still an opportunity for us and we have to grab it because it’s now or never.”


Posted: 3rd, April 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Transfer balls: Ozil joins Real Madrid and commits future to Arsenal

ozil quit arsenalTransfer Balls:  The Express says,and Mesut Ozil will both sign new contracts at Arsenal in the summer.” Fact!

Ozil will get £180,000-a-week. Sanchez will get a raise on his current £130,000-a-week.

Big news in the Express, which recently told readers:

Mesut Ozil wants to quit Arsenal and return to Spain… he has grown tired of a lack of silverware and would like to move back to Real Madrid.

Such are the facts in the Express.

Posted: 3rd, April 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Transfer balls: Manchester United fish for Everton ‘hero’ Barkley

Transfer balls: The Daily Star says “Manchester United are weighing up a £45m move for Everton’s Ross Barkley.”

Number of words to supports the claim: nil.

Aware that the story is thinner than Victoria Beckham’s smile, the Mirror creates the headline: “Manchester United line up £45m Ross Barkley deal?” 

The Mirror then adds: “Manchester United have made £45m-rated Everton midfielder Ross Barkley their top summer target (Daily Star Sunday).”

And with that a story with no source of facts features in two tabloids.

And what of the story? Would Barkely go to United? Well, the Sun told us in late 2014: “ROSS BARKLEY has signed a new £13.5million Everton contract — insisting he could not ‘do a Wayne Rooney’.” 

Barkley declared: “I knew what it meant when Rooney left. I knew how the fans felt. We thought Everton could have pushed on, so when he left we were all down. It’s a dream to be playing for Everton. This means everything to me.”

And it was the, er, Daily Star which told us a few months back: “Barkley, 21, is well on his way to becoming a homegrown hero.”

Everton have new owners. They never buckled and sold John Stones in the summer. So why would Barkley leave them for Manchester United?

Posted: 3rd, April 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment

Manchester United balls: Mourinho tears up agreement to join Valencia

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: A fan poses with a Manchester United scarf displaying the image and name of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, outside the stadium before the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on December 28, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Cancel the Jose Mourinho Manchester United scarf. News is that the former Chelsea manager is off to coach Valencia. The Sun tells us as much:

Exclusive: SunSport understands serious discussions have been ongoing for more than a month about Jose Mourinho becoming the master of the Mestalla [Valencia coach]

Anyone finding it too late to return their Jose at Old Trafford scarf should take it up with the Sun, which previously told readers way back in February 2016:

Jose Mourinho agrees three-year deal to become Manchester United manager

Such are the facts…

Posted: 31st, March 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment

Transfer balls: Arsenal buy Aubameyang, Kroos and Stones to cheer Wenger off

The Daily Mirror says Arsenal will not be waving adieu to their manager:

Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger plans to buy and buy not say ‘Bye-bye!’ this summer

Out got: Tomas Rosicky, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Per Mertesacker.

In come: John Stones, Victor Wanyama, Toni Kroos, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

As Arsenal fans fall about laughing, they might also wonder why the Gunners would invest so heavily when the manager will be leaving at the end of next season?


june 30 wenger



Posted: 31st, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Arsenal balls: Arda Turan buries in a shallow grave in Barcelona

The Daily Telegraph has been talking up its new content management system. It’s now quicker than ever for the once mighty paper to trot out balls. The headline seduces Arsenal fans:

Arda Turan absolutely buries Arsenal with this Barcelona comparison.

Buries! What he said was:

 “I was feeling that I would sign for Barca. Sincerely I thought: ‘If I play very well I will end up signing for Barca. If I play well I will end up at Arsenal.”

The Telegraph mused:

“It’s not clear whether the denigration was inadvertent or intended, but if the latter then perhaps Gunners fans can see the swipe as something of a back-handed compliment.”


Stick it though the new CMS bot and your get talk of Arsenal being buried.

Posted: 31st, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Transfer balls: Arsenal lure Chelsea star with clickbait

quina arsenalThe Daily Telegraph has news: “Arsenal win race to sign Portuguese prodigy Domingos Quina.” Says Sam Wallace:

It represents a coup for the Arsenal academy who have traditionally not competed with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for the top teenage talent in Europe and beyond.

The Mail says that the deal has not yet been done:

Arsenal to complete signing of Chelsea starlet Domingos Quina in next 48 hours

The Indy then takes the Telegraph’s fact that isn’t and slips inverted commas around it:

Domingos Quina to Arsenal: ‘Gunners win race’ for teenager after he quits Chelsea

Just three days ago, the Metro told its readers:

Manchester United are clear to sign Chelsea wonderkid Domingos Quina

Two days ago the Sun said:

“Chelsea starlet Domingos Quina quits club and plans to join Premier League rival – Ace walks out on Blues with Man Utd, Spurs and Liverpool closing in”

Not deal is done until it’s done.

Posted: 28th, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment

Manchester United balls: Van Gaal missing, Depay stars and Rooney stays

Manchester United will sack manager Louis Van Gaal at the end of this season. The Manchester Evening News treats its readers to “Five hints Louis van Gaal is set to LEAVE Manchester United this summer.”

Number 1 is: “Pre-season tour video no-show.”

Van Gaal featured heavily in the video United produced to promote their pre-season tour of the United States last summer. But when the club started promoting next summer’s tour to China last week, the 64-year-old wasn’t in it . Not once.

Who did feature?

No fewer than 14 first-team players did feature, including Wayne Rooney, David De Gea and even Jesse Lingard, Guillermo Varela and Marcus Rashford, but Van Gaal was nowhere to be seen.

So, if you’re in the early promo video you will still be at Manchester United next season. Got it. Memphis Depay, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, David De Gea, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Guillermo Varela, Jesse Lingard, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young and Ander Herrera are all shown in the video.

And over in the Sun we learn:

Memphis Depay set to be axed in summer Manchester United clearout… United will listen to offers for their £25million flop after just a year at the club. Other stars that can go include Morgan Schneiderlin just a season after he arrived from Southampton.

Do we learn anything from MEN’s ‘Five Things’ other than the paper hasn’t got the foggiest?


Posted: 27th, March 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment

Adam Johnson: now watch teenage girls get you off in the tabloids



You might see Adam Johnson, the footballer, as a deeply unpleasant oddity. Jailed for six years for sexual activity with an underage girl, Johnson represents nobody but himself. But his job sets an agenda in motion. The Mail leads with news that Johnson has “damaged the reputation of football”. Well, so says Players’ Union supremo Gordon Taylor. He says the football authorities have to ensure a player grooming underage girls for sex “doesn’t happen again”, as if some kind of vetting process can be enforced to ensure anyone who thinks of kicking a ball for a living doesn’t think it ok to wilfully break the law. You might suppose the law was equally applied to the mundane and the celebrated, pointing to Johnson’s incarceration as evidence of just that. But footballs’ leading lights have bought into the top-down bilge that footballers are societal role models whose actions are aped by their fans.

Sticking with the Mail, Jeff Powell says the FA should “take back his caps”. Powell reasons that if a priest can be de-frocked, then a footballer can be un-capped. In Powell’s head a man who gives moral and divine guidance is on a par with a man who can pass a ball in a straight line. Wow, indeed. And then marvel at how Johnson’s name can be erased by taking away evidence that he ever played for England. The record books will show that when England defeated Switzerland 3-1 in 2010, the Three Lions fielded just 10 players and one goal was scored by a ghost, a non-person. Spooky stuff.


daily mail moretz


Over paged 4 and 5, we learn of things Johnson was not jailed for: looking at porn on a site called ‘Nice Young Teens’; having an STD; engaging in a number of “seedy trysts”; looking at animal porn; and liking sex on the bonnet of his Range Rover. The Express has more, telling readers how Johnson “scoured the internet for twisted animal porn” – is any animal porn non-twisted, of the straight-up sort? – and engaged in “vile discussions branding women ‘slags'”.

That’s the Express, which also owns the Daily Star. In today’s paper, readers are invited to dial a number to chat with “HORNY TEEN GIRLS”.


Daily Star sex


Adam Johnson is a depraved criminal who knowingly broke the law then lied and lied and lied, forcing his young victim to endure prolonged pain and humiliation. He is not a role model. He is not a typical footballer, any more than he is typical Sunderland-born male, father, porn watcher or tabloid reader. In labelling Johnson a “stain on the game” – typical of “an ugly side of the game rapidly losing its beautiful image” –  the Mirror gives Johnson an excuse. ‘It’s not me, guv. It’s football wot made me do it.’

There is no hard evidence to support the idea that football culture makes individuals more likely to commit crime, sexually abuse minors and rape. Johnson’s crimes were not understandable responses to the prevailing culture around him, to his life at the office. He can’t get off that lightly. Framing his crimes as part of some perceived wider sickness in football gives him an excuse. He has none.

Johnson made a conscious choice to have sexual contact with a girl below the age of consent. His job did not force him into it. His professional peers did not present sexual abuse as an initiation. He represents no-one but himself. Football is innocent.


Posted: 25th, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, Reviews, Sports | Comment

Johan Cruyff: the newspapers’ tributes always beat the web

Johan Cruyff newspapers

Johan Cruyff was the greatest footballer. His death brought a tear to my eye. In the 1974 World Cup Finals, Cruyff’s masterful Dutch side were mesmeric. How we wanted them to win.

There is much talk over the death of newspapers. But papers can do things the internet cannot. The full-page tributes to the great player, who brought joy to so many, are glorious.

Here’s Johan – the most graceful and talented footballer I ever saw:

Posted: 25th, March 2016 | In: Back pages | Comment

Transfer balls: Spurs lose Pochettino to Manchester United in cut-price deal

Transfer balls: Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, 44, has a £10m buyout clause in his contract, says the Sun.

SunSport can reveal any clubs looking to poach the Argentine will have to stump up the massive eight-figure sum to have any chance.

Can this be the  same SunSport which in February pitted Pochettino in a head-to-head with Jose Mourinho for the Manchester United job, telling its readers:

[Spurs] Chairman Daniel Levy is a notoriously tough and difficult negotiator who is willing to stand firm on keeping the club’s best talent… Levy will resist United’s interest but is expected to demand £20m compensation if Pochettino leaves for United. However, a tribunal is more likely to set the figure at around £6m-£8m.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 23rd, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment

Transfer Balls: Manchester City lust for Messi who ‘fancies’ them

messi manchester cityAs Manchester City slide down the Premier League table, the Star says Lionel Messi fancies playing for them. The Barcelona star “fancies” teaming up with City’s incoming manager Pep Guardiola, we learn.

Could it happen? Back in January, the Sun told us that “money is no barrier to recruiting the players [Pep] Guardiola believes are crucial. The first is Lionel Messi…” By February, Messi had dropped off the Sun’s list as Guardiola targeted “Neymar and Sergio Busquets as he plans £150million Manchester City overhaul”.

Of course, with money being ‘no object’, Pep could buy Messi as well.

Yesterday the Sun updated its story, telling readers, “Guardiola does not believe a major overhaul is needed. He likes the look of the current squad.” Money is not an object, so Pep will stick with Martin Demichelis et al.

Messi must be gutted that the team he fancies no longer fancies him?

Today’s Indy has an update:

Manchester City believe they will be Lionel Messi’s first choice if he decides to leave Barcelona, with the presence of Pep Guardiola among the reasons why they would be comfortably ahead of any other club in Europe.

Believe. If. What happened to ‘fancies’?

City’s recent inquiries have yielded the same response as always, where Messi is concerned: a firm rejection of director of football Txiki Begiristain’s attempts to be reunited with the player, whose development he oversaw at the Spanish club.

Ian Herbert then tells us:

City do not believe the prospect of Messi moving is extinct and are convinced the appointment of Guardiola cements their position as the Premier League club of choice for him, or any other Barcelona player looking to move to the Premier League.

They would all eschew life in London, say, to live and work in Manchester?

The agents of players from many countries have been in touch with City since Guardiola’s appointment was confirmed, indicating their clients would like to be a part of the Catalan’s venture into English football. No such calls have been fielded from representatives of Barça players, however.

And as for Pep, the Guardian notes:

When Guardiola joined Bayern Munich in June 2013 following a year’s sabbatical after leaving Barcelona he was reluctant to return to the Catalan club for players. In three seasons at the Bundesliga champions he has taken only Thiago Alcântara from Barça, in his first summer.

Barcelona players keen on a move to Manchester City can form an orderly queue…

Posted: 23rd, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, Sports | Comment

Transfer balls: Arsenal buy Higuain twice, want Pogba and get Manchester United’s Toni Kroos

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger must spend loadsa money “or else”, warns the Sun.

Arsene Wenger is told to launch his biggest ever Arsenal spending spree – or miss out on new Arsenal contract. Gunners’ chiefs want big names like Toni Kroos, Gonzalo Higuain, Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and John Stones

the sun


A new contract? Wenger’s existing contract expires in summer 2017. The Mirror told us he would then leave the club.


Daily Mirror wenger quits Arsenal


Now we’re told that Arenal are getting tough with Wenger by, er, demanding he spends a fortune on some great players. Well, so says the Sun, which is hot on Arsenal transfer news, first to report that Arsenal wanted Fabregas (they didn’t) and had bought Higuain (they didn’t):

fabregas joins arsenal




Says the Sun for a second time:

Arsenal will not consider giving him a new deal until he starts competing in the transfer market. Gunners chiefs want him to splash out on names like Toni Kroos, Gonzalo Higuain, Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and John Stones this summer.

Wonder what Arsenal will buy Higuain for this time? And do Manchester Untied want to sell Kroos (he never did join the Red Devils)?


daily mail kroos manchestr united


Such are the facts.

Posted: 22nd, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Novak Djokovic v Serena Williams fight in battle of the sexes tennis pentahlon

sex tennis


Would women tennis players earn the same as men if there were two tours separated by gender? Would you pay more to see the men or the women? Should men and women always earn the same for the same job? While the world’s female supermodels march for equal pay for male models, the Telegraph has news:

Novak Djokovic, tennis world number one, said he believed men should be awarded more prize money than women as their matches have more viewers. He made his comments after winning the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Sunday and defended the use of viewing statistics to determine prize money. Earlier the event’s chief executive, Raymond Moore, provoked controversy ahead of the final between Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams by saying the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) was a “lucky organisation” which “rides on the coattails” of the men.

Would women’s footballers earn pay closer to the men if their matches were played as part of the same tournament? Says Novak:

“Obviously it’s a very delicate situation. Women deserve respect and admiration for what they are doing. You know, equal prize money was the main subject of the tennis world in the last seven, eight years. I have been through that process as well so I understand how much power and energy WTA and all the advocates for equal prize money have invested in order to reach that.

“I applaud them for that, I honestly do. They fought for what they deserve and they got it. On the other hand I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more. Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve.

“As long as it’s like that and there is data and stats available upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.”

What we need is for the game’s stars to go head-to-head. Serena Williams v Novak Djokovic in a tennis pentathlon, taking in such key elements of the game as: grunting (duration and volume); watch-size put on just before the trophy lifting (which has the biggest face and heft?); lemon barley water speed drinking; banana peeling; duration of post-final speech.

New balls, please.


Posted: 21st, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment

Transfer balls: Liverpool prepare for Henderson exit as Spurs flash the cash

Are Liverpool making ready to sell Jordan Henderson? The Mail says Henderson’s sale is on the cards. The paper says Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp would want £20million for the former Sunderland player, with Spurs his most likely destination.

Given the two clubs’ respective Premier League positions, wouldn’t a move from Liverpool to Spurs be an upgrade for Henderson?

The Mail writes:

Significantly, Klopp refused to rule out Henderson’s departure should the player knock on his door following reported interest from Tottenham. ‘Everything is OK in this moment but nobody in the world, maybe only (Lionel) Messi, is unsellable,’ said Klopp. ‘There is always a situation. I come from a club where always the best players are picked by other teams and at the end, you have to accept a few things and always need to have a Plan B or C.’

Overlook the Mail’s twist and Klopp’s words could be interpreted as, “Henderson’s one of our best players. If he wants to go, how can we stop him?”

Does Henderson want to leave? We’re not told. But Klopp does add:

‘I am pretty sure it is only a rumour (Tottenham) but if not and if a player – let’s not say Hendo but any player – comes to me and says he doesn’t feel comfortable and wants to leave, style of play, more money, then you always have to start thinking. That’s all I can say on this.’

The Mail says this adds up to “Henderson facing an uncertain future this summer”, making it sound as if Klopp is calling the shots and Henderson is on tenterhooks. But the Sun notes:

Champions League football could lure Reds skipper to White Hart Lane

Liverpool are a mid-table side. Spurs are on the ascent. If Henderson’s future is uncertain it is only because he wants better.


Posted: 20th, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment (1)

Transfer balls: Manchester United get Higuain and Mourinho in ‘secret’ deal

Transfer balls: did you know that Gonzalo Higuain has agreed to join Manchester United? It’s true. We read it in the Metro. Mark Brus declares:

Transfer news: Gonzalo Higuain agrees Manchester United move

Why would the Argentine striker agree to join Manchester United in March? In was only four weeks ago that his agent told Sky Italia, “there’s no chance of playing elsewhere.” The agent then stated the importance of Higuain playing in the Europe’s top competition: “The Champions League is an important competition, but first we [Napoli] have to finish as champions or second in the League.”

Manchester United are sixth in the Premier League.


Higuain Manchester United


Brus has more:

The in-form Argentine has held secret talks with Jose Mourinho, who is widely tipped to be replacing Louis van Gaal next season… Higuain wants the move and has already agreed terms on a £7.9million-a-year contract.

Higuain has agreed to join Manchester United because he’s spoken in secret with the out-of-work Mourinho. Did Brus stumble into a hotel meeting room as the two men met in secret?

Lest we think it utter balls, The Metro produces a second story of support the scoop:

Gonzalo Higuain agrees £7.8m-a-year deal to join Manchester United after agent meets with Jose Mourinho

And lest we still don’t see this for the utter balls it is, you might recall that Higuain plays for Arsenal:




Such are the facts.

Posted: 20th, March 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment

Transfer balls: Ibrahimovic, Arsenal and Thierry Henry’s TV source

Zlatan arsenalTransfer balls of the week was focused on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. and his move to Arsenal.

On March 13, the BBC told us: “Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Paris St-Germain forward says he is likely to leave.”

What he said was: “For the moment, I will not be at PSG next season. I still have a month and a half left here. If they replace the Eiffel Tower with a statue of me, then I will stay.”

Thierry Henry, the Arsenal youth coach and Sky TV pundit then went on Sky TV to tell everyone: “”Who can we sign? Who’s available? I hear that Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to come. It’s a Ibrahimovic problem of who’s going to want to come. Are we going to make the Champions League?”

Who Henry heard that from he doesn’t say. The big Swede is looking for his next deal – in case Paris fails to rework the Eiffel Tower in time for the start of next season – and Henry has a TV contract that demands he say things that start a conversation.

On March 17, the Mirror said: “Arsenal eye Zlatan Ibrahimovic transfer after being offered PSG’s superstar free-agent-to-be.”

The Express added: “Ibrahimovic wants Arsenal move but may end up with Rodgers and Xavi in Middle East.”

On March 18, the BBC hears from Arsenal’s manager: “Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Arsene Wenger ‘surprised’ to be linked with striker”

A journalist chucks the Swede’s name at Wenger, who replies: “We are not on Zlatan’s case… I’m just surprised by the name you’ve thrown at me.”

The Mirror hears that and manages to conjure: “Arsenal not thinking about signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic “at the moment”, insists Arsene Wenger”

No, not at the moment. But when Arsenal sign a 34-year-old on £250,000-a-week we’ll let you know.

Posted: 20th, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Man Up for Liverpool: Manchester United tackle Klopp and the language police

“MAN UP,” orders the Daily Mirror’s back-page headline. Manchester United manager Louise Van Gaal is looking for a “miracle” to see his side overcome Liverpool in the Europa Cup – and to help God’s plan the hammer-headed Dutchman wants his team to play like men.

Of course, it doesn’t require an act of divine surrealism for one mid-table Premier League to beat another; it just takes United to be as good as West Ham were when they defeated the once-mighty Reds 3-0 back in September.


Manchester United man up


But it’s not the match that makes us think – it’s the phrase “Man Up”. In July 2013, Liverpool included ‘Man Up’ in its list of banned words. The club produced a handbook to help staff better recognise and enforce the policing of words which could cause offence.


Liverpool banned words


Liverpool’s crusade smacked of a righteous, morally superior elite telling the pygmies how to behave. The message was clear: the fans were thick and in need to educating.

Our position is that if you don’t like so-called ‘offensive’ chants, then don’t join in. If it’s really ugly, then tell the singer to shut up. Don’t grass them up to the police and the stewards. You know, Man Up.


Posted: 17th, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Reviews | Comment (1)

Arsenal balls: soft and weak Gunners embarrass tabloids

arsenal soft daily mirror“Arsenal are soft and weak.” Not our thoughts, rather those of the Daily Mirror, although it attributes the words to Barcelona’s cocksure defender Dani Alves. But is that what he said ahead of Barcelona’s home match with Arsenal? What he said was:

When the draw was made, we knew it could have been tougher for us. That is no reflection on the quality of Arsenal. The quality of the way they play the game and the quality of some of their players is there for all to see.

“It is a reflection on their experience, character, and mental strengths. There are teams in Europe that don’t have the quality that Arsenal have, but you would rather avoid them and play Arsenal – because you know that those teams have experience and character.”

Did he calls Arsenal soft and weak? No. Did he say, as the Mirror says he did, “Arsenal lack character and mental strength”? No. He did not.

Alves merely pointed out that drawing a side who had lost at home to Olympiakos failed to fill the holders with dread.

The Mirror also fails to note what else Alves said:

Arsenal do have quality, and when they are at their best they can achieve special things, so from us there will be no complacency.

Oh, and he also said this as he held court in Spain:

“…when I said the press was ‘rubbish’, for example, I did so because they’re damaging football … And I then came out and explained it [better], because I know there are good people in the profession and it’s not fair to generalise.”


Posted: 16th, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Arsenal balls: Wenger leaves, Wenger stays, Wenger stays and leaves

wenger out“Wenger to Walk?” asks the Daily Mail’s Sami Mokbel on the paper’s backpage. Will the Arsenal manager quit the club? As ever with tabloid headlines framed as question, the answer is ‘no’.

Indeed, over the course of Mokbel’s story there is not a shred of evidence to argue the case for  ‘yes’.

…the club are developing a succession plan for when he does call time on his distinguished Gunners career. That is a clear indication they believe their manager’s time at the club is drawing to a close and they are considering potential replacements. Pep Guardiola was viewed as the ideal man, but the Spaniard has committed himself to Manchester City.

Offers made by Arenal to Pep: nil.

And as for that talk of succession, well, the Daily Star told us in January:

Deal close: Arsene Wenger ready to sign new two-year Arsenal contract

And right at the end of Mokbel’s balls, readers are told:

…Wenger is planning for a future at Arsenal beyond next season. The manager has played a key role in improvements at the club’s London Colney and Hale End training bases, as well as the restructuring of the scouting system.

Such are the facts?


Posted: 15th, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Chelsea balls: Daily Mail body shames fat Eden Hazard’s moobs

Wonderful work in the Daily Mail, which takes a break from appraising women’s bodies with a sneering look at Chelsea footballer Eden Hazard. Jeff Powell spotted Hazard swapping shirts at half-time with PSG’s Angel Di Maria when the clubs met in the Champions’ League last week. Powell wrote:

The tell-tale elements of that picture are the roll of blubber around the belly and the first signs of man boobs on the young Belgian who we elected as this country’s Footballer of the Year last season. At only just 25, Hazard looks as if he would be more at home propping up saloon bars along the King’s Road than kicking a ball around the pitch at Stamford Bridge.

Get a load of that bloater:


fat Eden Hazard


Jeff Powell is rarely pictured with his shirt off.

‘Fat’ Frank Lampard is away.


Posted: 15th, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment

Manchester United escape fine for Liverpool Hillsborough chant

Liverpool fans taunt the Manchester United fans


Manchester United will not be punished for its fans revolting chants about the Hillsborough and Heysel disasters when the club faced Liverpool in the Europa League. A Uefa spokesperson says United have no case to answer because the chanting was not mentioned in the match officials’ reports.

Are some football chants just too offensive? But what’s the point of an insult if it doesn’t cause offence?

The problem begins when you rule on what is and what is not permitted to be said. Better if it is left to United fans to tell the idiots in their number shouting “murderers” at Liverpool fans to shut up.

This United chant heard on the night is much better anyhow**:

Going on up to the spirit in the sky

It’s where I’m gonna go when I die

When I die and they lay me to rest

I’m gonna go on the p*** with Georgie Best

** We in no way condone alcoholism and the terrible toll it takes on the…blah… blah….blah

Posted: 14th, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, manchester united, Sports | Comment

Arsenal murder Watford in FA Cup war

WEnger FA CupDid you jeer as Arsenal were “dumped” from the FA Cup?  The Mirror says Arsenal fans did in a lead sports story headlined “What A Farce”.

It’s all enjoyable hyperbolic stuff from John Cross, who seems to forget that when papers scream about the magic of the FA Cup, they don’t mean the supernatural wonder of the biggest teams winning it every year. Arsenal lost to fellow Premier League club Watford thanks to a “wonder goal” and their athletic, spirited performance – the Gunners were unlucky, missing a host of chances to score, including an open goal – and the world is at an end.

These are a few highlights from Mr Cross’s story – and is he a product of nominative determinism?

“Wenger’s men were booed off after Watford ended the Gunners’ hopes of winning the Cup for a third year running”

Not winning the FA Cup every year is a travesty. There were some boos, but not many.

“The season is effectively over for Arsenal. And you wonder whether it is also the end of the road for Wenger.”

So says Cross, who told us exactly when Wenger will reach the end of the road, providing us with a date:


june 30 wenger


“…Wenger stormed out of a radio interview when asked if the holders’ cup exit puts his future under threat”

In the Times he “walked out”.

“The most worrying aspect for the Gunners is they look dead on their feet”

That’s the same Gunners who hit the post in stoppage time and then missed an open goal. Had it gone in – and it seemed simpler to score – what price headlines praising Arenal’s never-say-die attitude?

Indeed, deep into his story, Cross says the Watford defence made a “series of heroic blocks, interception and headers”. At the end it was”like The Alamo”.

In The Alamo, the victorious Mexicans kill all of the Texan defenders. But, as we said, it’s wonderfully hyperbolic stuff from the Mirror’s man in the know.

Posted: 14th, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment

Chelsea balls: Diego Costa nuzzles Bale in rare episode of on-field foreplay

For a few hours yesterday the big talking point was England’s unexpectedly exiting win over Wales in the Six Nations rugby. But then the story broke that Chelsea’s Diego Costa had bitten someone on the BBC’s FA Cup coverage. After England had made a meal of beating a late-arriving Welsh team, the Chelsea striker was making a meal of Everton’s Gareth Bale. Well, so goes the allegation, which Costa denies.

The papers lap up the meaty juices. To the Mail this is “Costa’s Shame”, which is tabloidese for “Thank god we didn’t have to lead with the rugby”. So excited is the Mail that the Costa ‘bite’ features on two issues:


Costa Diego

Costa Diego


It’s all delicious stuff.

We’re awaiting a few words from David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn to break from talking over the future of the EU, the economy, war and the planet to tell us how much sports matters and that Costa is a role model.

As it is, if you can’t tell a bite form non-bite, it can’t have been much of bite in the first place.

PS: Was it a bite? No. Gareth Bale says it wasn’t. Which makes us wonder why Diego Costa nuzzled Gareth Barry, and when being over-friendly becomes sexual harassment?

Posted: 13th, March 2016 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment

Arsenal: The injury crisis that isn’t

Arsenal crisis


When Arsenal defeated Hull in the FA Cup last Tuesday night, the Press focused on the Gunners players forced off early. The headlines talked of disaster:

“Arsenal run into new injury crisis after win over Hull” – The Week

“Arsenal defender Gabriel ruled out for three weeks with hamstring injury” – Independent

The Indy zoomed in, telling readers on March 6: “Gabriel: Arsenal defender ruled out for three weeks with hamstring injury.”

The Metro thundered: “The Gunners lost Per Mertesacker and Gabriel to injury during their FA Cup clash with Hull on Tuesday night, leaving them with no fit centre-backs given that Laurent Koscielny was already out.”

Four days on and the BBC reports:

Arsenal pair Per Mertesacker and Gabriel are fit despite being injured during Tuesday’s FA Cup replay at Hull… Laurent Koscielny [who is back training] remains a doubt with a calf injury.

Arsenal also have young English centre back called Calum Chambers.

but who needs facts when you can make it up as you go along to fit an agenda…

Posted: 11th, March 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment