Anorak

Sports | Anorak - Part 30

Sports Category

Sports news, commentary and scores with wit and added value. We compare and contrast the best and worst sports reporting in the mainstream press, blogs, TV and online. We love the English Premier League (Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City) and all things football but we cover cricket, rugby, the Olympics, tennis, golf, F1 and highlights of the sporting year.

Crystal Palace deny Theresa May rumours

Theresa May’s trip to Buckingham Palace in the wake of the general election seemed to have a few people hopeful and/or confused. Thankfully, Crystal Palace Football Club were on hand to clear things up before rumours got out of hand…

 

crystal palace twitter theresa may

Posted: 11th, June 2017 | In: Politicians, Sports | Comment


Transfer Balls: Alvaro Morata expects Chelsea move, joins Arsenal and agrees to play for Manchester United

Transfer balls: Alvaro Morata has “agreed to join Manchester United” from Real Madrid. The BBC says a fee of “around £60m” has been agreed.

The Guardian says Morata’s agent, Juanma Lopez, has negotiated a deal for the former Juventus player’s move to United.

But the deal’s not done. And in the greedy world of the football meat trade, nothing is completed until the player pulls on the shirt and kisses the badge. The Guardian adds that negotiations between the clubs may not be straightforward because of friction relating to David de Gea:

United have frustrated Madrid’s attempts to sign the goalkeeper and fear the Spanish club will drive a hard bargain over Morata as a result. The De Gea issue has led to a strained relationship in the past, with a proposed move breaking down in 2015.

The BBC has jumped the gun – just as the Bleacher Report went too soon in 2014, when it reported that Morata had joined Arsenal, which he never did:

 

morata arsenal

Guillem Balague told readers:

Alvaro Morata, the 21-year-old striker who was considered a potential starter at Real Madrid in years to come, has agreed to join Arsenal. Not on loan, but transferred.

 

morata chelsea

 

And in February 2017, Morata was on his way to Chelsea, said the Telegraph:

Chelsea’s hopes of landing a significant transfer blow on Saturday’s opponents Arsenal have been boosted after Álvaro Morata told friends that he expects to move to Stamford Bridge in the summer.

And on May 25, the Express told its readers:

Real Madrid News: Alvaro Morata snubs Manchester United and Chelsea to agree AC Milan move

Either Morata isn’t a man of his word or else the media is full of utter balls.

 

Posted: 10th, June 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Wayne Rooney committed to Manchester United months ago

Transfer balls: Is Wayne Rooney staying at Manchester United? The Daily Mail has a scoop:

Wayne Rooney may decide to see out Manchester United contract which has one year left to run

 

manchester united rooney

 

Or to put it another way:  Wayne Rooney may not decide to see out Manchester United contract which has one year left to run.

But there is no maybe about any of it. In February 2017, the BBC told us Rooney was staying.

 

 

And before that, back on November 5 2016, the Observer told us Rooney was saying at Old Trafford:

Wayne Rooney is determined to stay at Manchester United until his contract ends in summer 2019 despite losing his place in the first team.

 

 

Rooney’s not going anywhere.

But the Metro likes to guess:

Rooney china

Readers were told:

The 31-year-old has 18 months left on his deal at Old Trafford but has decided to leave after breaking Bobby Charlton’s scoring record last week.

Nope. He didn’t decide to leave. He decided to stay.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 9th, June 2017 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


After London Bridge: geezer Roy Larner told his attackers “F*** you, I’m Millwall”

Looking for London geezers after the London Bridge attack, the media spots Peckham’s Roy Larner, 47, who when confronted with the murderous Islamists told them: “Fuck you, I’m Millwall.”

 

Roy LArner millwall

 

Larner decided he needed to “take the piss out of these bastards”. He continued to shut “Fuck you, I’m Millwall” as he was stabbed eight times. Roy tells the Sun:

“They had these long knives and started shouting about Allah. Then it was, ‘Islam, Islam, Islam’. Like an idiot I shouted back at them…. I took a few steps towards them and said, ‘Fuck you, I’m Millwall’. So they started attacking me.”

Roy Larner is a top geezer. Today we should all be a bit Millwall.

 

Love the book he’s reading – ‘Learn To Run.’ At them.

Posted: 6th, June 2017 | In: Reviews, Sports, Tabloids | Comments (3)


Transfer balls: Kylian Mbappe goes from £17,000 to £114m as Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United get dizzy

Transfer balls: there’s lots of chatter about Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United bidding for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe. The numbers are staggering – and mostly guesswork.

£17,000 – “Chelsea could have signed Kylian Mbappe for £17,000 as a 14-year-old – but SNUBBED the wonderkid” – Daily Mirror

 

 

Kylian Mbappe

 

£230,000 – “Arsenal could have signed Kylian Mbappe for just £230,000 last year” – Daily Mail

Rob Draper tells readers:

Arsenal could have signed Kylian Mbappe for just £230,000 last year but £100m-rated teenager heads list of targets…

He’s worth £100m.

Arsene Wenger’s side have put away €100m (£87.5m) for his signing

Curse those euros and pounds! Arsenal don’t have enough.

What do the other reports say – all are from this year?

£60m  – “INTER MILAN believe they can sign one of Europe’s most-wanted talents, Kylian Mbappe, on a discounted £60million fee.” – Express

£70m – “PARIS ST-GERMAIN are reportedly ready to offer £70m for Monaco sensation Kylian Mbappe.” – Daily Star

£80m – “Mbappe: Monaco’s £80m teenager” –  The Times

£85m – “Kylian Mbappe ‘says yes’ to Real Madrid move as Premier League giants appear to miss out on £85m starlet” – Daily Mail

£87m – “YOU’RE KYDDING ME Arsenal could have signed Kylian Mbappe for just £230,000 but could now have to spend over £87million for the Monaco striker” – Sun

£96m – “Monaco reject £96m bid for Kylian Mbappe from English club” – Express

£100m – “Manchester United enter £100million race to sign Monaco star Kylian Mbappe” – Manchester Evening News

£105m – “Arsenal have had a €100million euro (£87million) bid for Kylian Mbappe rejected by Monaco.” – Daily Telegraph

The offer is the third turned down already this summer by the French champions, including a world-record fee of €120million (£105million) made by Real Madrid.

£114m – “The France international, apparently valued by Monaco at a massive £114m” – Daily Star

 

And up it goes – where it stops, nobody knows.

Posted: 5th, June 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Griezmann didn’t ‘snub’ United he stayed loyal to Atletico

Transfer balls: After all the chatter and scoops about Antoine Griezmann agreeing to join Manchester United for £280,000 a week, the France striker is staying at Atletico Madrid. The Spanish club have been banned from transfers for breaching Fifa rules over the signing of minors.

So does Griezmann ask to move on for loads more cash? No.

“It’s a hard time for the club,” Griezmann tells French television. “It would be a dirty move to leave now – we talked to the leaders and we will be back for next season.”

 

Griezman man united

 

Gotta love him.

 

 

Posted: 4th, June 2017 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: ‘free agent’ Ozil gets new Arsenal deal

Transfer balls: compare and contrast the reporting on Arsenal’s Mesut Oil.

June 1 2017: “Alexis Sanchez plans to quit Arsenal and Mesut Ozil will reject new deal before moving for free.”

June 2 2017: “Mesut Ozil ready to sign £280000 A WEEK new contract as Arsenal.”

 

mesut Ozil transfer news arsenal the sun

 

He’s not singed anything.

Posted: 2nd, June 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Manchester United agree terms with Griezmann but don’t want him

Transfer balls: Antione Griezmann is not joining Manchester United. United have “shelved plans to sing Grizemann” (Sun); “United interest in Griezmann fades” (Express and Mirror); and “Ant shoved aside as Jose turns to Lukaku” (Daily Star) tells us all we need to know.

 

Griezman united

 

Regular tabloid readers will wonder what happened to the deal Griezmann had agreed to:

 

Antoine Griezman Manchester United

 

Antoine Griezman Manchester United

 

 

 

And then there are the newspapers that co-opt the newsbots into deceiving their readers. Google search engines don’t spot the question marks that punctuate utter balls. They read it as fact.

 

Antoine Griezman Manchester United

 

So why is Griezmann no longer on his way to United? Have they elbowed him aside? No. The Mirror notes that Atletico Madrid have been hit with a transfer ban for signing underage players. This means they Spanish side will “refuse” to sell their star player. So Griezmann stays in Spain.

The Times says he’s tying in Spain because United “decided instead to pursue a target man in light of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s long-term knee injury.”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 2nd, June 2017 | In: Arsenal, Broadsheets, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Arsenal balls: Arsene Wenger and the Daily Mirror’s fake news (scoops)

It was a busy season for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The Daily Mirror and its reporter John Cross have been at the forefront of Wenger contract news. And the paper’s clear message was that he wasn’t going to sign one.  The paper knew. Wenger was out! And then he signed a new deal keeping him at the club for two more years. It’s not fake news. It’s possibly true:

 

daily mirror wenger quits sack resigns arsenal

 

Daily Mirror – John Cross – August 23 2016 – “Boss Wenger will celebrate 20 years in charge of the Gunners at the start of October and there is a growing feeling that he will stand down when his contract expires at the end of this season.”

Daily Mirror – John Cross – Feb 3 2017 – “Arsenal fans’ abuse nudging hurt Arsene Wenger towards the exit THIS summer”

Daily Mirror – John Cross – 16 Feb 2017: “Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger IS set to leave in the summer following shattering Bayern Munich defeat”

Daily Mirror – John Cross, March 2 – “Arsene Wenger gives another clear hint he’s ready to leave Arsenal this summer”

Daily Mirror – John Cross – March 7 – “Arsene Wenger’s position is now untenable after Arsenal suffer another sorry European capitulation”

Daily Mirror – March 19 – Arsene Wenger set to STAY at Arsenal — even if they miss the Champions League for first time under him

Daily Mirror – John Cross, April 10 – “It seems unthinkable Arsenal will give him a new contract. Time to go, Arsene. Arsenal cannot possibly put their supporters through another two years of this”

Daily Mirror – John Cross, May 10 – “Arsene Wenger could still leave Arsenal this summer – there are various factors at play”

Arsene Wenger stays mirror

 

Such are the facts.

 

Posted: 1st, June 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Kroenke ‘orders’ the title as Wenger goes back to the future

Arsenal fans rejoice! Arsenal’s board have “ordered” (Sun) Arsene Wenger to win “a major trophy in the next two years”. “NOW WIN THE TITLE!” barks the Mail’s back page. “Arsenal lay down law to Wenger after new £16m deal.”

 

 

wenger arsenal mail

 

The Daily Star says under Wenger the Gunners have not won the Premier League since 2004 – true enough – and “not had success in Europe during the Frenchman’s 21 year reign”.

Under Wenger, Arsenal were beaten finalists in the 1999–2000 UEFA Cup and the 2005–06 UEFA Champions League final. They qualified for the Champions’ League for 20 seasons running. Whilst not stella stuff, Wenger has always billed qualification to the Champions League as akin to winning a cup. You only need to see the joy on Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s face to know how a top-four finish can define a season. Wenger’s regime does not represent decades of failure.

Over in the Express, readers see Stan Kroenke,”the man with the money behind Arsenal”. That rather makes it seem that the American billionaire has bankrolled the club. He says: “Our ambition is to win the Premier League and other major trophies in Europe… Arsene is the best person to make that happen.” He is?  Kroenke has been Arsenal’s majority shareholder since 2011. He’s never seen Arsenal win the title under his ownership and Wenger’s management, let alone come all that close to doing so. So why does he think it will happen next season? Because he’s “ordered” it and made it part of Wenger’s new two-year deal?

 

wenger arsenal mirror

 

As the i points out, Arsenal’s chief executive Ivan Gazidis hailed Wenger’s new contract by talking about “pushing forward”, “evolving” and “looking forward”. But do Arsenal fans believe Wenger represents the future more than Klopp, Mourinho, Pochettino, Conte and Guardiola, the managers whose sides Wenger’s Arsenal need to beat?

Readers hear from Wenger in the Mirror, who tells fans. “Let’s be together to support our players, to support the club and  all give our absolute best to be at the level that we want to be. We can move  up to the next level.”

Arsenal finished fifth last season. They qualified for the Europa League. The next level might well be fourth followed by a shaky Champions League campaign.

It’s plus ca change at the Emirates.

Posted: 1st, June 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Transfer balls: Alexis Sanchez takes Bayern Munich pay cut and joins Manchester City

Transfer Balls: The summer is shaping up into a big one at Arsenal. Much news will revolve around Alexis Sanchez, now in the final year of his Arsenal contract. Is he staying or not? Here’s a round-up of today’s news:

The Times: “Wenger stays but Sánchez wants to leave Arsenal.”

Sánchez’s contract expires in 12 months but he is determined to force his way out of the club this summer to join Bayern Munich…

Sánchez has attracted firm interest from Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and Bayern in recent months, with the Bundesliga champions his preferred destination.

But he won’t go there unless she takes a cut in his wages.

 

alexis sanchez transfer arsenal

 

The Metro:

Bayern Munich cannot match Alexis Sanchez’s wage demands and have all but given up hope of signing the Arsenal star, giving Manchester City a free run at his signature

So Sanchez is off to play for Manchester City. Right?

The Express: ” Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to leave Arsenal as Arsene Wenger signs two-year contract”

Arsenal have been attempting to convince Sanchez and Ozil to commit their long-term future for at least a year. Express Sport understands the club are ready to pay as much as £300,000-a-week to keep them. But no agreement has been reached with the duo and they are now entering the final year of their contract.

Wrong. Arsenal and Sanchez are talking. Or as Manchester City’s local newspaper puts it:

Manchester Evening News: “Man City director travels to London to sign Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez”

But hold on:

Daily Telegraph: “Arsenal prepare contract offers to make Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil highest-paid players in club’s history”

There has been more outside interest in Sanchez, who ended the season with 30 goals and his situation is being monitored by Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain, Juventus and Chelsea. Sanchez, though, likes it in London and Arsenal hope that he might be willing to commit for an extension of two years until 2020. That would give him the option of moving at a stage in his career when he is still likely to interest the very elite of Europe.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 31st, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comments (2)


Arsenal balls: Wenger stays beyond his leaving date

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has signed a new two-year contract. Wenger’s contract was set to finish at the end of the current season. The man who never breaks a contract will be at Ashburton Grove until 2019.

The Daily Mirror makes the Wenger deal its lead sports story:

Arsene Wenger stays mirror

Or as the Mirror previously scooped:

daily mirror wenger quits sack resigns arsenal

He never was going to leave the club. Wenger’s an obsessive. Arsenal is his place and he wants to stay there.

Posted: 31st, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


FA Cup Final Media Bias: Arsenal ignore Sanchez’s handball, Chelsea miss Costa’s lucky shot and Moses’ dive

Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 in today’s FA Cup Final. The better team won. But how do the clubs’ respective websites report on the game? Is there much bias in the reporting?

The Alexis Sanchez Goal:

The first Arsenal goal appeared to feature an accidental handball in the build up.

Arsenal:

We made the sort of start you dream about making in an FA Cup final – taking the lead through Alexis after he raced on to a ball that deflected off him and beat Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea:

Alexis Sanchez netted a controversial opener, that could have been disallowed for either handball or offside, very early on, and it was the Gunners who looked the more likely to add to their lead before the break.

Arsenal:

It came in slightly strange circumstances as Alexis received the ball outside the area, and tried to lift the ball over the Chelsea defence to the onrushing Ramsey. But his pass was blocked, hitting the Chilean before spinning up over the backline.

The offside Ramsey made sure not to touch the ball, and Alexis raced on to the ball before slotting it under Thibaut Courtois and into the bottom corner. The assistant referee immediately raised his flag, but after a brief consulatation referee Anthony Taylor allowed the goal to stand, to the delight of the vociferous Arsenal fans.

The Islington Gazette, Arsenal’s local paper, makes no mention of any handball.

The Dive:

And what of Victor Moses’ dive? The Chelsea player tried to con the referee into awarding his team a penalty? His cheating earned him an early bath.

Chelsea FC: “On 68 minutes, Moses was shown a second yellow card for simulation as he drove in to the box from wide on the right.”

Diego Costa’a goal?

Diego Cost scored for Chelsea. His shot took a deflection off an Arsenal player’s leg, wrong footing the Gunners’ ‘keeper who, nonetheless, should have saved it.

Arsenal: “It was frustrating for the Gunners, who had defended to well until that point but they could do nothing as the ball fell to the Spain international in the area and he prodded the ball into the bottom corner.”

Chelsea: “Willian came on and we switched to a 4-4-1 formation. It was the Brazilian who was heavily involved in our equaliser. He took a pass from Hazard infield and crossed to Diego Costa, who chested, took his time and smashed his effort into the ground and beyond the dive of Ospina. 1-1!”

Such are the facts.

Posted: 27th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Chelsea, Sports | Comment


Transfer Balls: Manchester United’s £300m splurge

Transfer Balls: a look at iffy football transfer reporting. The Daily Mail says Manchester United have targeted “Antoine Griezmann, Andrea Belotti, Romelu Lukaku and Michael Keane in a £300m summer spree”.

That’s spending big. Ian Ladyman has the facts and figures. Or rather, he doesn’t. What he tells readers of which players Jose Mourinho wants at Manchester United is:

There are likely to be four. Burnley defender Michael Keane will be one, with the Lancashire club wanting £30million for the United old boy, while Mourinho wants the Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann to be his stellar signing.

Who else?

Do not be surprised if Marcus Rashford ponders a request to go out on loan, meanwhile. The chances are quite slim of the 19-year-old England striker playing in his favoured position once somebody such as Griezmann arrives.

And that’s it. The headline figure of £300m is fabricated. Ladyman mentions two players, whose combined transfer fees would register around £120m. The other £180m is made up of a sub-editor lobbing in the names Andrea Belotti and Romelu Lukaku.

And because the media works in a continual voracious feeding frenzy, what one newspaper prints the others copy. The Sun duly thunders:

QUIDS IN FOR JOSE Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann, Romelu Lukaku, Michael Keane, Andrea Belotti and Eric Dier in staggering £200m-plus transfer spree.

Five players!

The Sun tells readers:

According to The Times, up to £200million has been set aside as Mourinho looks to continue rebuilding the struggling squad he inherited from Louis van Gaal.

But over there, the Times only mentions three players –  “Griezmann, Dier, Keane in £200m spree”.

The trick is to get the names one source makes an educated guess at and then add another and round the price tag up to the nearest £100m.

 

 

Posted: 26th, May 2017 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


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

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

 

Jesus returns to his native Brazil following Manchester terrorist attack

Suggestive much?

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

The Sun says:

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

Meanwhile, Toure did likewise…

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

 Seluk later told Sky Sports News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brilliant.

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


Arsenal balls: ‘Sanchez damaged Gunners by training on his day off’ – Keown

“PRIMA GUNNERS,” accuses the Sun on Tuesday. “Keown blasts over-indulged Alexis and Ozil.”

Keown Arsenal Ozil Sanchez

 

Gunner-turned pundit Martin Keown has a view on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. They damaged Arsenal with their behaviour, says Martin. What did they do? And did they do it worse than Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi or Kieran Gibbs?

“It became about Ozil and Sanchez for too long in the season. Their behaviour let Arsenal down in that period,” says Keown.  “Sanchez is a difficult man to manage off the pitch. I was at the training ground on one of his days off and he suddenly turned up and was bouncing around the training pitch.”

The nutcase turned up on a day off and trained. The selfish,  useless c…!

“They were having to facilitate him and put a training session on for him,” Keown continues. “It’s not necessarily about you as a player – you have to fit in as well with the group.”

Maybe if all the other Arsenal played trained on their days off, the Gunners might have done better?

As for Ozil, says Martin:

“If I was playing in some of the games when Ozil doesn’t get a perfect pass, I would have been in his ear telling him my bit. ”

Ready? It’s going to be long break in play as Martin critiques his team-mate mid-match:

“I’d have said, ‘I’m trying to give the ball to you, don’t disrespect me in the way you do when I don’t get the ball to you. And how about you working just as hard out of possession as I’m working out of possession? I can’t ever get close to the creativity you can create but I want you to work hard when we are not in possession – because we’re not quite good enough to win things without every single player applying himself in possession and out of possession.'”

Why can’t Ozil be more like Keown? Answer in the form of a long ball into the cheap seats.

 

Posted: 23rd, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


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

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

 

leroy sane tattoo

Spotter: @_MattColeman

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


Arsenal balls: Wenger’s hubris gets just rewards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us now. Go on.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramon Min on Voetel Int:

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

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

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

Newsweek (April 2017):

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

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

The numbers are huge in football’s arms race.

Posted: 20th, May 2017 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, Sports | Comment


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

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

The FT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plus ca change.

Posted: 19th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then in two stories dated May 16 Sky mused:

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

“Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez offered to Man Utd”

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

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

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

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

 

James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united

 

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

Says 365:

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

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

James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united

 

James Rodgriguez Sky Manchester united

 

Such are the facts.

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


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

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

 

Daily Mirror wenger quits Arsenal

 

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

 

wenger stays arsenal

 

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

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

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

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

Or as he wrote on March 7:

 

Alexis Sanchez John cRoss

 

Or as he wrote waaay back on March 31:

 

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

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

Posted: 18th, May 2017 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Watford balls: insulting Walter Mazzarri in English is easy

On Twitter, Daily Mirror football writer John Cross is having a pop at Watford FC’s Italian manager of the moment Walter Mazzarri,  a man he calls “an insult to the Premier League”. How so? Cross explains: “He has been in England for a year and not bothered to learn English. Really poor.”

 

John CRoss WAlter Watford

 

You’d suppose the internationalist, hyped and gilded Premier League, with its oligarch owners, absurd wages and massive dividends would possess a pretty thick skin and be largely unaffected by one man’s struggles with the English language.

And there was this from February 1 2017:

Walter Mazzarri returns to familiar surroundings as Watford look for Manchester United scalp – Watford boss Mazzarri spent four months immersing himself in English culture

The story appeared in the, er, Daily MirrorMazzarri said:

“I know Manchester very well – I used to walk around the city a lot. When I go back, I can’t really call it my home… but almost. For three or four months last year, before I came to Watford, I travelled back and forth between Italy and the UK.

“I stayed in Manchester and I enjoyed it very much – it gave me an understanding of life in Britain because, from a personal perspective, I wanted to understand the culture.

“I chose Manchester because it is not as cosmopolitan as London, which helped me to settle in the environment of life in England faster…

“It would have been completely different if I had lived in London because it is full of Italians and I would have been stopped in the street more often than in Manchester.”

What an insult, eh.

PS – Given the number of foreigners in the Premier League and the power of the Champions’ League, British journalists could learn another language?

Posted: 17th, May 2017 | In: Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Ueli Steck climbs the North Face of the Eiger in 2 hours and 47 minutes (video)

Ueli Steck (4 October 1976 – 30 April 2017) died near Mount Everest. The Swiss climber fell 1000 metres to his death. He was an incredible athlete, who scaled the famed and feared north face of the Eiger in – get this – only two hours and 47 minutes. He did it carrying less equipment than a Highgate mum takes to the toilet. The video footage of the climb is awe-inspiring:

 

Posted: 15th, May 2017 | In: Sports | Comment