Friday brought the return of Paul Merson. Monday heralds the homecoming of another Mediawatch hero: Garth Crooks.
His team of the week for BBC Sport is relatively disappointing on first viewing. The pundit picks a 4-3-3 formation and, for the most part, players are in the correct positions. Raheem Sterling playing behind Nathan Redmond in a midfield three is questionable, but who are we to argue? Mind you, plenty is asked of the defence as a whole; Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Robert Snodgrass comprise an attack-minded midfield.
As always with Crooks, the gems are hidden within. And we start with his selection of Luke Shaw at left-back. He writes:
‘It’s not often I select both full-backs from the same side in my team of the week, but Shaw’s return to first-team football after a horrendous broken leg last season deserves recognition.’
‘Against Bournemouth on Sunday, he played his way into the game brilliantly without trying to prove any points. It’s clear manager Jose Mourinho rates him very highly, which is just as well because the expectations at United are now massive.’
Shaw was fine against Bournemouth. For a player who missed almost all of last season with a broken leg, and who is still recovering, it was an admirable performance. Of course, the Daily Mirror disagreed. Their match ratings, by the suspiciously named ‘Plplpplplp Plplplssspl’, said that the England international ‘was blowing hard early on’, and that he understandably struggled.
On Snodgrass, scorer of Hull’s winner against Leicester, Crooks writes:
‘When you have just scored the winning goal in the opening game of the season against the Premier League champions, you’re entitled to get into my team of the week.’
That’s right. Forget the winner in your club’s first game of the season against the defending champions, Snodgrass ought to be delighted to be ‘entitled’ to get into Crook’s team of the week.
Crooks then has terrible news for Liverpool fans. You may have beaten Arsenal in a frantic opening game, but you won’t finish in the top four. In fact, you could well be relegated.
‘Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is not averse to spending money if the talent is available,’ he begins, discussing his selection of Sadio Mane. ‘Having spent it wisely on Mane, he should seriously think about selling striker Christian Benteke – as he is surplus to requirements – and buying a decent left-back.’
Fair points, Garth. Klopp’s decision not to buy a left-back could prove costly; it almost did against the Gunners. He should definitely look into signing a new on…oh, you’re not done?
‘If he keeps Alberto Moreno in the team, he can forget the top four – he’ll get relegated.’
Pep Guardiola’s long-awaited arrival to the Premier League was met with the expected reaction by many: Wow, look at this man with his revolutionary revolutionising. What a revolution; what an innovator.
Of course, much of what Guardiola did in Manchester City’s victory over Sunderland on Saturday, while impressive, had already been seen throughout Europe. Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna were the full-backs who pushed on to sit in front of the central defenders when in possession, Aleksandar Kolarov was a makeshift centre-half, and an initial 4-2-3-1 became more of a 2-3-4-1 at times. But this was revolutionary, of course.
Richard Tanner was one of many impressed. ‘The Pep Guardiola revolution has begun at Manchester City – and not just on the pitch,’ he writes for the Daily Express.
‘Apart from deciding Joe Hart, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala are not part of his plans and making some intriguing tactical switches, Guardiola has also imposed a strict off-field regime.’
This sounds interesting. What has the Spaniard brought from the faraway lands of Barcelona and Bayern Munich? Must players now pass their food to each other at lunch?
‘Most bizarre of all, City players were spotted eating cartons of mixed nuts after their post-match meal following the win over Sunderland.’
He’s mental, is Pep. Bloody…. nuts.
By hook or by Crooks
Tanner may have been impressed with Guardiola’s Premier League bow, but Garth Crook was not.
‘Manchester City’s game against Sunderland on Saturday started like a scene from ‘The Big Sleep’ and almost turned into a nightmare!’ he writes for BBC Sport.
‘What happened to the exhilarating football we saw at Barcelona and Bayern Munich under the patron saint of football purists, Pep Guardiola? It was like reliving one of those torturous ‘keep ball’ performances under Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford last season.’
Manchester City scored two goals against Sunderland – only two sides (Liverpool, 4, and Manchester United, 3) scored more in their opening fixtures. City also had 16 shots – only three sides registered more. United ranked 15th for shots per game under Van Gaal last season.
But Crooks is not done. He adds:
‘It’s early days, but those pundits who have tipped City to win the title this season must be having second thoughts based on that performance.’
Fortunately for Crooks, he was not one of ‘those pundits who have tipped City to win the title’. He backed them to finish second.
Here at Mediawatch, we often track transfer rumours. Many outlets are so keen to produce a constant stream of articles that they often regurgitate the same stories. The actions of common culprits – the Metro, the Daily Express, the Daily Telegraph – have been well-documented. But what about BBC Sport?
Martin Odegaard to… Liverpool?
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 15, 2016
Now, reading that tweet, one would expect a link to the BBC’s gossip pages. You would expect right; it leads directly to a round-up of Monday’s rumours. And there we find what was promised: a story on Liverpool’s supposed interest in Martin Odegaard. ‘Liverpool could sign 17-year-old Real Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard but West Ham are also interested in the Norwegian,’ reads the BBC’s link.
The rumour comes from Ouest-France, and immediately upon clicking on the article question marks are raised. First, the headline makes no mention of Liverpool, nor even West Ham. Second, the picture is of Dani Osvaldo. Time to investigate (read the rest of the story). And because we’re lovely, here is the full story. Google Translate is our friend.
‘The transfer window Stade Rennais accelerates. The young Norwegian Martin Ødegaard (17) is loaned a year by Real Madrid. The Italian-Argentine striker Pablo Osvaldo (30 years), free, engages him for a season.
‘On the sidelines of the first championship game on Sunday in Nice (17 h), the Stade Rennais accelerated transfer window side. As revealed exclusively by Ouest-France Friday, the attacking midfielder Martin Ødegaard is on loan from Real Madrid for a season (without option to buy). The Norwegian International-17 landed in Britain in search of playing time, Zinedine Zidane not counting on him with the first team of Real. The French coach has weighed in choosing the tennis stadium, the player preferring a loan from Germany.
‘Martin Ødegaard will not be the only new face this week at the Piverdière, since it will cross the Italy striker Pablo Osvaldo, expected in Britain earlier this week. Centre forward 30 years (14 caps for Italy, 4 goals), declined three offers of Series A (Genoa, Pescara, Sassulo), including, for engaging one year (+ 1 year option) with Stade Rennais.
‘Free after a complete experience abruptly Boca Juniors, Osvaldo, past notably by Juventus, AS Roma, Fiorentina, Inter Milan and Espanyol, is known for her strong character and sense of purpose.’
The eagle-eyed among you will notice one pertinent thing: Not only are Liverpool (or West Ham) not mentioned in the headline to the story, there is no mention of Liverpool (or West Ham) whatsoever in the story itself. It is about French club Stade Rennais signing Real Madrid player Odegaard on loan.
So, to answer the BBC’s initial question, ‘Martin Odegaard to… Liverpool?’
No. As you well know.
‘Joe Hart will fight to save his Manchester City career as boss Pep Guardiola closes in on a deal for Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo’ – Jeremy Cross, Daily Star.
‘Joe Hart fears his Manchester City career is over after he was dropped by new manager Pep Guardiola’ – Chris Wheeler, Daily Mail.
One too many
‘Jose Mourinho confessed he became the ‘Nervous One’ before winning his first Premier League game in charge of Manchester United’ – Graham Nickless, The Sun.
Let’s get physical
“I feel we could see we played together for a while, physically we look ready” – Arsene Wenger, August 7.
“We are not ready physically’ – Arsene Wenger, August 14.
Wrote the Daily Mirror‘s David McDonnell on June 30:
‘But actions speak louder than words and City’s decision to buy Nolito, beating Barcelona to his signature, suggests Guardiola is not entirely convinced by Sterling.
‘With Kevin De Bruyne likely to start the new season on the right for City, David Silva in his favoured playmaker role and Sergio Aguero up front, that leaves only the left-wing position up for grabs.
‘And with Sterling’s woeful displays for England at Euro 2016 following the pattern of his frustrating debut campaign for City, it seems Nolito will begin the new campaign ahead of him in Guardiola’s thinking.’
That went well.
Ask a simple question…
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 15, 2016
Was it No 27?
Unnecessary ‘revealed’ of the day
‘Revealed: Antonio Conte discusses Diego Costa’s Chelsea future’ – The Metro.
Worst headline of the day
‘Klopp takes goal-d!’ – FAO the Daily Star: the exclamation makes it worse.
Recommended reading of the day
Dion Fanning on Arsene Wenger.
Michael Cox on Ander Herrera.
Miguel Delaney on Antonio Conte.