Opening line of the day
‘Well thank God that is over for a few months’ – The Sun’s Mark Irwin truly embracing his job writing the match report from the Emirates Stadium on Thursday. He does presumably get paid.
Irwin’s grumpy match report on Arsenal’s 6-0 win over BATE Borisov does not end there, you understand. He also wants to take the chance to give the Europa League a kicking:
‘The biggest laugh of whole evening came when the club announced a near-capacity 54,648 turn-out despite whole blocks of the Emirates being completely unoccupied.
‘Those comical figures referred to ‘tickets sold’ rather than actual bums on seats. So technically, that meant last night’s attendance was substantially higher than the 44,064 attendance for September’s Carabao Cup tie against Doncaster. But the reality was that the third biggest football stadium in England was at least half empty last night.
‘However much they tried to dress things up, there was no getting away from the fact the novelty of the Europa League has well and truly worn off in north London.’
Nonsense. The reason that the ground was half empty on Thursday was not because nobody likes the Europa League, it was because Arsenal had already qualified top of their group and therefore the match was a dead rubber.
If nobody turns up to Arsenal’s home tie in the last-32 knockout round and beyond, we’ll concede that Irwin is right. Unless the novelty suddenly comes back again?
Changed your tune
‘The Premier League has got the fear factor back — and the rest of Europe will want to avoid our Big Five in Monday’s Champions League draw,’ writes Mark Lawrenson in the Daily Mirror.
‘Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain — none of them will want to face an English side. They’ll take them in the quarter-finals or semi-finals, but won’t fancy Manchester City, local rivals United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Tottenham next up.
‘Our clubs were feared decades ago, when I helped Liverpool lift the European Cup in 1984. We lost it for a long time, but you can sense that fear factor is back… I would think we can look forward to having at least four teams through to the quarter-finals, possibly a full house – all five.’
Blimey Lawro, you are confident. Five of the eight quarter-final teams, you say. Sheesh.
Five paragraphs later:
‘The thing about the draw is that it’s a long time since quality teams like Real, Bayern, Chelsea and Juventus have been in the second pot. I would imagine that’s the strongest pot of second seeds there’s ever been.
‘Real are capable of winning it, so too are Bayern and Juventus. So, if any of the English sides draw one of them they’re going to have a tough task.’
So English clubs have no reason to fear. Unless they get drawn against decent teams.
‘David De Gea fires warning to Manchester City ahead of Old Trafford derby showdown,’ reads the headline on the Mirror Football website.
So, what has he said. That he’ll end them? That they should prepare for some ass-whupping? That he’ll take them down to Chinatown?
“We play at home, with the fans, a special game of course, it’s a derby. We are confident, we feel really strong and we want to win. The team is we are in a really really good moment.
“We won two away games, difficult games, so we are confident, we are strong, we know we play an important game and, like I said before, we really want to win.”
Mediawatch is sure that learning Manchester United want to win the derby will come as a great shock to City. Consider those warning shots fired.
Diagnosing the problem
In his predictions column for Sky Sports, Paul Merson has the answer as to why Tottenham are struggling. Fatigue? No. Insufficient squad depth? No. Read on.
“I think Mauricio Pochettino started off their poor run to be honest, when he took Harry Kane and Dele Alli off against Arsenal, when the game was still in the balance,” Merson writes. “Their performances have been nowhere near as good since.”
Is taking off two players after 75 minutes of a match in which Tottenham were losing by two goals and struggling to make any inroads really the likely issue? Particularly given that both Alli and Kane looked unfit and under par in that north London derby, and were replaced by other attacking players?
Mediawatch never thought we’d read that the issue with Kane is that he’s not playing enough football.
‘Eden Hazard has suddenly found his top level again and we all know how good he is from the season before last’ – Mark Lawrenson, Daily Mirror.
And indeed last season, when Hazard won the Premier League title with Chelsea and was named as Chelsea’s Player of the Year.
‘The FA have admirable plans to be much more accommodating towards the media during the World Cup in Russia, in contrast to the Gary Neville-inspired ‘Don’t even smile at them’ approach at Euro 2016.
‘However, the proposed charm offensive doesn’t extend to holding press conferences at the exclusive England base. Instead, unnecessary expense will go on staging the media events at another hotel in Repino on the Gulf of Finland. The FA claim their team hotel is too small to accommodate media events’ – Charlie Sale, Daily Mail.
Going on about something that annoyed him in the past? Tick.
Dig at Gary Neville? Tick.
Making something out of nothing? Tick.
England holding press conferences in six months’ time at a hotel just down the road from the team hotel. It truly is the story everyone is talking about.
Bold shout of the day
“I think the atmosphere at Old Trafford will be ramped up for this one” – Mark Lawrenson, BBC Sport.
‘Fernandinho claims losing Paul Pogba for Sunday’s derby is a blow for United’ – Daily Mirror.
Worst headlines of the day
‘Ronaldo joked he wants another baby for Christmas – and his girlfriend’s reaction was priceless’ – Mirror Football.
‘Sky reveal the major change they are making to Soccer AM – and here’s why’ – Mirror Football.
‘Arsenal fans loved what happened to Jack Wilshere during Gunners’ win over BATE Borisov’ – Mirror Football.
All on the homepage, all dire. Quickly becoming the worst culprits for clickbait headlines.
Recommended reading of the day
Ian Ladyman on Manchester City in 2007.
Liam Rosenior on BAME coaches.
Jack Lang with Gabriel Jesus.