We bring you the best of the ‘expert’ Paul Merson, an ’emergency’ that involves Calum Chambers not playing, Liverpool’s ‘rookies and kids’, chips and fried potatoes and an egg-shaped pensioner…
State Of Emergency
‘999: Emergency! Just NINE Englishmen started in Champs Lge’ says The Sun’s back page. Yes, the back page of the nation’s most popular newspaper on Friday brings the ‘news’ that not very many Englishmen played on Tuesday and Wednesday night. We are just astonished it is not an ‘exclusive’.
It’s the ‘lowest figure on match-day one for six seasons’ (because that’s famously how we measure these things) and that apparently leaves English football in ‘critical condition’ and these figures will give Roy Hodgson ‘serious cause for concern’.
We are pretty certain that Hodgson will not be remotely surprised, given that none of the 42 players he has called up to the England squad in the past 12 months plays abroad, and only 15 of those 42 players are currently on the books of a Champions League qualifier.
- Seven of those 15 started (Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Kieron Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gary Cahill, Joe Hart, Raheem Sterling).
- One (Theo Walcott) came off the bench.
- Two (Calum Chambers, Michael Carrick) were unused substitutes – and Carrick is coming back from injury.
- Five (Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Fabian Delph) were either injured or ill.
As a bonus, there were another two English starters who haven’t been included in recent England squads (Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ashley Young).
So the Sun’s story of an ’emergency’ is that 10 out of the 11 fully fit and available English players who could have played in the Champions League this week, did play in the Champions League this week.
Call a doctor.
Question Of The Day
Would English football have not have been in a ‘critical condition’ if John Stones had joined Chelsea and there had been ten English starters? It would certainly have f***ed the headline.
Mediawatch simply does not have the time – or frankly, the inclination – to painstakingly go through Steven Howard’s latest ‘English football is sh*t’ diatribe in The Sun but we must bring your attention to a couple of headline grabbers:
* ‘In three of the last four campaigns, we have managed to get just three sides into the last eight – one of them the 2012 Chelsea side that won the tournament against all odds.’
Does winning ‘against all odds’ mean that it doesn’t actually count? It does if you’re Steven Howard and you’re trying to make a point.
* ‘The reasons include a lack of technique, tactical naivety by both players and managers, playground defending and, worst of all, a continuing failure to retain possession couple with an extraordinary ability to give the ball away.”
Aren’t those last two things exactly the same thing? It’s like ‘coupling’ chips with fried potatoes, which is, by the way, an acceptable meal.
Oh and all the English clubs in the Champions League had more possession than Real Madrid, who won 5-0.
* Howard largely blames the Premier League’s failure on the ‘grotesque’ spending of the clubs, who spend ‘absurd sums’ on new players every summer: ‘Players who have scarcely clapped eyes on each other are pitched in together with no time to bond and expected to get successful results. No wonder we get all the basic mistakes. The players simply don’t know each other.’
One word, Steven: Arsenal.
* While bemoaning the lack of ‘home-raised players’ coming out of academies, Howard writes: ‘Chelsea had Englishmen John Terry, Frank Lampard and Joe and Ashley Cole.’
Only one of which came out of Chelsea’s academy. Presumably clubs are allowed to spend ‘absurd’ and ‘grotesque’ sums on Englishmen?
Unless it’s £49m on Raheem Sterling, which is apparently ‘madness’.
Mediawatch is officially confused.
The Kids Are Alright
Writes Brendan Rodgers acolyte Phil Thomas in The Sun: ‘The Liverpool boss sent a host of rookies and kids into his first Euro battle of the campaign, yet they were only denied victory by a late leveller.’
That Liverpool side of ‘rookies and kids’ had eight full internationals.
Five Ridiculous Headlines From More Successful Websites
‘Juan Mata: What I really think about Louis van Gaal’s Man United transfer business’ – Daily Express. What he ‘really thinks’ is that competition for places is A Good Thing. And what the Express have is a headline with a) intrigue and b) the word ‘transfer’. Bingo.
‘Arsenal and Chelsea in stunning manager swap with Wenger and Mourinho to change places?’ – Daily Express. Note the question mark. The story is based on odds from that bastion of sensibility over at Paddy Power.
‘Top physio: How Luke Shaw’s broken leg will affect his Manchester United career’ – Daily Star. Do we really need a ‘top physio’ to tell us “it shouldn’t have any effect on him in the long term”?
‘Belgium international: Liverpool move would be a ‘good challenge” – Daily Express. “The Premier League would be a good challenge,” says Dries Mertens. ‘Bournemouth move would be a good challenge’ would have been equally accurate.
‘West Ham want revenge against Aston Villa, says Darren Fletcher’ – ESPN. They’ll have to wait until Boxing Day. What does West Brom captain Darren Fletcher know about West Ham’s thirst for revenge, anyway?
Merson’s Predictions: Friday’s Greatest Hits
‘I have to go with Chelsea. Their record against Arsenal is fantastic, they just don’t lose to them. I know Arsenal won in the Community Shield…’
‘Bournemouth are not as bad as they were last week. They have been in the games they’ve lost, especially at Liverpool.’
‘They (Stoke) are like a poor man’s Arsenal.’
‘I can’t go against Stoke at home. I just can’t do it.’
‘This depends on Vincent Kompany – if he doesn’t play it will be a different game…if City can get David Silva on the ball, then it is a different game.’
‘I wouldn’t be at all shocked if it ended in a draw. PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1’
‘Spurs should have more points than they have, that’s true, but they haven’t and there must be a reason for that.’
‘Norwich scored three goals against Bournemouth the other day and played very well. I didn’t see it coming. I’ll go with Liverpool, but I could easily be sitting back on Sunday thinking ‘why didn’t I go for what I fancied with a draw?’
‘Think you know better than Merse?’ it says on the Sky Sports website. Hell yes.
Worst Opening Paragraph Of This Or Any Other Day
‘THE pressure is off Brendan Rodgers – but only Jussie’ – The Daily Mirror.
And yes, a 1-1 draw against Bordeaux is definitely enough to ease the pressure on Brendan Rodgers after scoring three goals in five Premier League games.
On The Grapevine
Neil Ashton, Daily Mail, March 25: ‘Dave Bassett and Wally Downes are to set the record straight about the glory days at Wimbledon after agreeing to write a book about the club’s incredible rise through the Football League.’
Neil Ashton, Daily Mail, September 18: ‘WHAT I’M HEARING…Former Wimbledon manager Dave Bassett and ex-Dons midfielder Wally Downes have collaborated on a new book to provide an accurate reflection of events at Plough Lane during the club’s glory years.’
It’s the kind of gold you pick up when you have your ear to the ground/get e-mails from ‘veteran journalist Tony Stenson’ asking you to give their book a plug.
Worst Headline Of The Day
‘EU’VE LOST THE PLOT’ – The Sun.
Non-Football Story Of The Day
‘An “egg-shaped” senior who could be pushing 70 years old is one of two people wanted for allegedly breaking into a North End home, pepper spraying the occupants and robbing them, police say Officers were called to a home on Burlington Street between James North and Hughson around 4p.m. Monday According to the people who live in the home, the suspects broke in, chased them around the place firing pepper spray, and demanded cash and drugs, police say
‘One of the residents handed over a small amount of cash and the suspects took off. One of the people who lives in the home chased after them – only to be pepper sprayed again, police say. The suspects escaped the area, police say. The three people who live in the home were treated for minor injuries.
‘The first suspect is described as an “egg-shaped” white man, about six feet tall and 65 to 70 years old. He has a grey beard, grey hair and was wearing a light coloured “Tilley-style” hat. The second suspect is described as a white man with a beard and dark clothes, who is around 20 to 30 years old and has a bandage around one hand’ – CBC.
Thanks to the lovely Steven Chicken. If you spot anything that belongs on this page, mail us at theeditor@football365,com, putting ‘Mediawatch’ in the subject field.