International week is difficult for football media outlets. Fridays are difficult for football media outlets. Fridays on an international week? Oh boy.
The struggle to generate clicks leads to more hilariously ridiculous headlines than usual. Let’s take a look at some of the best:
‘Xabi Alonso: I will be at Liverpool next season’ – the Daily Express report on how Xabi Alonso will visit Liverpool at some point next season.
‘What Premier League stars do when they are not called up by national sides during the international break’ – the MailOnline need no excuse to peruse some Instagram accounts.
‘Ex-England and Arsenal star nets summer transfer deal’ – Daily Mirror. Good for Jay Bothroyd.
‘Winger: It wasn’t easy to leave Man United – he could return in summer’ – Daily Star. It would be weird if Adnan Januzaj didn’t return in the summer after a season-long loan, to be fair.
‘Arsenal fan plots sensational crowdfunding campaign to BUY the club from unpopular owner Stan Kroenke’ – when one Arsenal fan attempting to raise the small sum of £904million becomes news in The Sun.
Having a laugh and a party
One of the more understated yet still impressive aspects of Gareth Southgate’s nascent England regime has been his desire to move away from having one permanent captain.
The manager will name his fourth different skipper in six games for the World Cup qualifying clash with Lithuania on Sunday, and has expressed his desire for “more players to be given responsibility”, instead of just one leading the side.
It is a memo David Woods of the Daily Star was either not sent, or one he has wilfully ignored. Because he preaches the case of one player in particular to be named as captain for the future.
You might roll your eyes as you think ‘another person tipping Dele Alli for England captain? Boring’. But oh no. Woods believes that Jamie Vardy is the perfect candidate.
‘Imagine, just prior to Euro 2016, if a bookmaker offered 5,000-1 about Southgate and Cahill being England boss and skipper right now, how many of you would have snapped up those odds?
‘Funnily enough, that is just what the price was on Leicester winning the Premier League last season.’
‘Funnily enough’, you can’t ‘imagine’ that the odds offered for a hypothetical scenario would miraculously be the same as something that happened. Any bookmaker offering 5,000-1 on Southgate and Cahill being England manager and captain respectively in March 2017 would be really bloody stupid.
‘So how about – and I know I’m going to get plenty of stick about this,’ Woods continues, predicting his fate, ‘Southgate appointing Jamie Vardy as his skipper for Sunday’s clash against Lithuania at Wembley?
Well firstly, it really doesn’t matter. Southgate has proven that he doesn’t really care about the captaincy. It’s not a thing any more, or not as much of one, mercifully. But please, continue.
‘Whatever your views on the 11-time capped Vardy, he does have something about him, an edge to his game and a rags-to-riches tale to tell – one that is being turned into a movie.’
‘An edge’ is one delightful way of putting it. And are you proposing this just so the movie has a perfect ending?
‘Safe-hands Southgate will probably opt for another rather bland character in Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, when he is fit, for his permanent skipper.
‘He will do an okay job, but is the midfielder the type to make teammates roll up their sleeves when the going gets tough.’
Henderson is, at least, captain for his club. And he has captained England before. So yeah.
Mediawatch particularly enjoyed earlier in the season when Vardy ‘made teammates roll up their sleeves when the going got tough’ at Leicester. Captain fan-bloody-tastic.
And so it begins…
Writes Neil Ashton in The Sun:
‘Jose Mourinho is starting to have concerns about Marcus Rashford’s form in front of goal.
‘Rashford has not scored in the Premier League under Mourinho since the 4-1 win over Leicester way back in September.
‘Mourinho fears that the reliance of Rashford’s family on the United striker to provide for them is starting to become a distraction for the 19-year-old.
‘As well as the numerous cars he has bought for himself and his brothers, Rashford has also helped fund a £300,000 house for his sister Chantelle.’
Careful Marcus, you’re only one step away from ‘enraging fans’ and making front-page news by ‘flaunting’ the house you have just bought for your mother, you ‘footie idiot’.
You might remember that a few weeks ago, Andy Dunn of the Daily Mirror aired his views on the two incidents involving Tyrone Mings and Zlatan Ibrahimovic during a recent game.
The crux of the story is that Mings stamped on Ibrahimovic’s head, with the Manchester United striker retaliating with an elbow to the Bournemouth defender’s face. Neither of those things are acceptable.
The FA deemed as such, banning both players in the aftermath. But Dunn remains perturbed at the fact that while Ibrahimovic’s ban was three games, Mings received a five-match suspension.
Of course, this was partly due to the fact that Ibrahimovic accepted his charge while Mings contested his. The nature of stamping on an opponent’s head is also fairly unique.
The written reasons for the bans have since been published, and Dunn has a point to make.
‘The reasons for him getting five matches is intriguing – “…the opposing player could have suffered a serious injury but thankfully did not.”
‘Fair enough, but clearly the FA thought an elbow smashed into the head of Mings could not have caused serious injury, hence just the standard suspension.
‘They have obviously forgotten Gary Mabbutt and Iain Hume, who were seriously injured after blows to the head.’
Or perhaps they understood the distinction between stamping on an opponent’s head and elbowing an opponent in the face? Again, neither are acceptable, but the former is clearly more dangerous.
Granted, the exceptions saw Mabbutt and Hume seriously injured by elbows. But the fact that there is little precedent for serious injury as a result of a stamp on the head tells its own story. It doesn’t happen all that often, yet is eminently more dangerous, so it is imperative that the deterrent is greater.
‘Simon Mignolet claims the Merseyside derby banter has already started with rivals Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas,’ writes David Anderson in the Daily Mirror.
‘The Liverpool keeper says he has been joking with the duo, as they all prepare for Belgium’s World Cup qualifier against Greece tomorrow.’
So what has Mignolet been saying? Has he joked about Liverpool’s current six-point gap over Everton? Has he left everyone in stitches by claiming that he might save a Lukaku shot?
“I see Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas every day and it’s really nice to talk about it. We are all together at Liverpool. We’re in a good place, and we have to keep that going until the end of the season. Everton are playing very well at the moment, but it’s very important for us to take the three points at Anfield.”
Opinion of the day
“The results against Bayern Munich were very bad but, in my view, they are on the same level as Arsenal” – Granit Xhaka.
Burn of the day
Writes Andy Dunn in his column for the Daily Mirror:
‘Tim Sherwood pointed aggressively at referee Mark Brown and repeatedly called him a “f*****g mug”.
‘Reading this type of transcript makes you realise just what an unusual, restrained type you have to be if you want to make it as a football official.
‘It’s hard to imagine Brown didn’t just want to land one on him.
‘Sherwood, proving a roaring success as Swindon Town’s director of football, was given a two-game stadium ban for his rant.
‘Ahead of that suspension, the Robins had won twice in 15 matches.
‘With Sherwood banished, they won two in two. On his return, they have lost four on the spin.
‘And the mug is who exactly?’
Ouch. Apply cool water to your gilet immediately.
Recommended reading of the day
Emre Sarigul on Manchester City’s Enes Unal.
Nick Miller on Jack Wilshere.
Daily Telegraph writes debate how to save international football.