I believe in miracles
Have you heard? Sunderland retained their Premier League status on Wednesday evening, relegating Newcastle and Norwich in the process with a 3-0 win over Everton. It’s pretty big news, and the papers veritably revel in it on Thursday.
‘Sam Allardyce hails Sunderland’s ‘miraculous’ Premier League escape,’ reads the headline from the Daily Express, where Jason Mellor tells us that ‘the Wearsiders swept woeful Everton aside to seal their fourth consecutive Houdini Act’.
Over to the Daily Star, whose man Ian Murtagh praises Sunderland’s ‘Houdini-like qualities’ and describes them as ‘the Premier League’s perennial Houdinis’ twice in three paragraphs.
‘What a job Allardyce has done here,’ Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail writes.
Allardyce has indeed done a great job. Sunderland were 19th when he was appointed manager in October, with three points from eight games. But they were just five points from safety, with 30 games remaining, and armed with a decent budget heading into the January transfer window. Allardyce spent excellently, and while his achievements should not be downplayed, nor should they be over-exaggerated.
Houdini didn’t have eight months and £14million to spend, did he?
The greatest story ever told
On Monday, Martin Samuel wrote a Daily Mail column expressing his anger/disgust/disappointment at Christian Fuchs showering Claudio Ranieri with champagne. Lots of people laughed. Including us.
By Thursday, he has taken the time to respond to those who criticised the column by pointing out that even Scrooge wouldn’t want to invite Samuel to his house party for fear of lowering the mood.
The whole thing is a work of modern art, but allow Mediawatch to simply give you some of the exceptional lines. Sorry, but there are f**king loads:
– ‘And why is it always Gatorade dumped on American coaches? No other brands of sports drinks available? Ever consider that, corporate dupes?’
– ‘You can’t pour haggis’
– ‘A bottle of champagne to the head is not banter’
– ‘He sprayed the Chinese podium hostess at close range full in the face’
– ‘Peter, Kasper’s dad, was filming it all on a smart-phone. I did ask him what Ferguson would have done in similar circumstances, but didn’t get a reply.’
– ‘(In reply to a reader called ‘NottsFoxette’) I imagine they won’t either, Foxy’
– ‘There was always a teacher who wanted to be in with the class, but there was always one kid who misread the signals and tried to have a laugh at the wrong time. Then everyone was mystified when ‘sir’ went nuts.’
– ‘Never liked New Year’s Eve. In my younger days, when we used to, as I believe the term was back then, properly cane it every Friday and Saturday night’
– ‘It was always NYE that was the let down. Because then, our places got invaded by mugs who didn’t have a clue. Maybe you were one of them’
– ‘What does he do, drink through his head?’
– ‘I notice you afford yourself the full Richard, don’t you Dick?’
– ‘We were going to nip him in the knackers with a custard pie’
– ‘It’s Adelaide United, mate. They could have dipped him in s*** and nobody would have noticed’
– ‘You should never end a sentence with a preposition. See I can have fun. Taking out suckers on here is fun. This is fun’
Now go back to the start, and re-read them out loud in Alan Partridge’s voice. You’re welcome.
Friend or Defoe
The 2015/16 Premier League season is not yet over, but that does not stop Sky Sports looking ahead to the next campaign.
The dream team of Charlie Nicholas, Paul Merson, Phil Thompson and Matt Le Tissier have been asked what Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham need to win the Premier League title. How will we ever find out what Leicester need?
* First up is Nicholas, who believes that Arsenal’s ‘most important frailty in the team’ is in central defence. The Gunners have conceded 36 goals in 37 league games – only three sides have conceded fewer – but the point is still a fair one.
Nicholas suggests Arsene Wenger tries to sign Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, as he ‘fits Wenger’s mould in being French and still relatively young’.
Of the last 23 players Arsenal have signed for a fee, one fits the ‘Wenger mould’ of a relatively young Frenchman. Olivier Giroud, 25 when Arsenal purchased him in summer 2012, is the latest example.
* Not to be outdone, Merson steps up to the plate to discuss Chelsea. He believes the club need another striker.
The Magic Man ‘doesn’t see a problem’ with a move for Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge. That Chelsea cannot offer European football? That the Blues might be reluctant to meet Liverpool’s valuation for an injury prone 26-year-old? That Sturridge might be unenthusiastic at the prospect of re-joining a club at which he struggled to acclimatise for four seasons?
We then reach peak Merson. With Conte arriving at the club, all manner of striker has been linked to Stamford Bridge. From Antoine Griezmann to Gonzalo Higuain to Romelu Lukaku to Edinson Cavani, the Blues are expected to sign a forward to provide competition for Diego Costa.
Merson’s suggestion? Jermain Defoe. Never change.
Merson is not finished there. He also believes Chelsea need a new central defender. John Stones is that man.
‘Stones fits the style of the new manager,’ Merson says. ‘Antonio Conte likes to play three at the back and Stones would certainly fit into that.’
Pesky fact: Everton have started just two Premier League games with a three-man defence in the past two seasons. Stones started one – a 3-2 defeat to West Ham earlier this season.
‘There’s no defender better on the ball in Europe than Stones,’ Merson adds. Let’s just hope Conte doesn’t want his defenders to, y’know, defend.
Charlie Nicholas on Manchester United: ‘I could see Juan Mata being sold as I’m not sure he fits their system and Jesse Lingard has proved good enough to take on the mantle.’
Mediawatch is also unconvinced by Mata’s credentials in this United side, but how does six goals and five assists in 33 Premier League starts ‘not fit their system’, while ‘four goals and one assist in 18 ‘has proved good enough to take on that mantle’?
Charlie Nicholas on Tottenham: ‘They also need another defender.’
Tottenham have conceded 30 Premier League goals in 37 games this season – the fewest of any side. Even using Nicholas’ argument of back-up being required for the first-choice pairing of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, Kevin Wimmer hardly fared badly when called upon. In the nine games the Austrian started, Spurs conceded just seven goals.
I believe in miracles. Again
Writes David Maddock in the Daily Mirror:
‘The sight of a still-full Anfield said everything about the new desire of the fans and the new spirit of this team.
‘”We decide when it’s over,” Klopp had said when supporters streamed out to leave the ground half empty as they trailed to Crystal Palace in November.
‘This time no one left, because they know miracles can happen here.’
Christian Benteke might not have enjoyed the most stellar of debut campaigns at Liverpool, but describing him scoring a goal against a mid-table team as a ‘miracle’ is a tad harsh.
Mediawatch hopes the London Evening Standard do not pay Harry Redknapp too much for his weekly Thursday column.
In his latest edition, Redknapp tells us how ‘angry’ Newcastle fans can help Tottenham finish above Arsenal this season. The hypothesis is simple: Newcastle fans will use their final game of the season against Tottenham to express their frustration at the players, who will in turn perform poorly.
Redknapp’s article comprises 154 words, as well as an embedded tweet which praises him for being ‘spot on’.
Who is Granit Xhaka?’ the Daily Telegraph asks us. Hopefully they can inform us too. Among the many glorious tidbits are:
* He is both the ‘young Schweinsteiger’, as well as ‘a bit like Jack Wilshere’. Well, which is it?
* He is a ‘leader and winner’, because he ‘led Switzerland to U17 World Cup glory in Nigeria in 2009 and nearly repeated the feat at the Euro U21 finals in 2011,’ and also won a couple of Swiss Super Leagues with Basel. That he has not won a trophy since 2012 is not mentioned.
* ‘He’s not afraid to get stuck in’, which is quickly followed by the similarly vacuous ‘He used to get suspended… a lot!’
* ‘His girlfriend will fit right in’, which is a section solely comprised of a single Instagram photo of Xhaka enjoying dinner with his girlfriend. Lovely.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is online debate.
Lee Clayton has taken to the Daily Mail to ask ‘Why DID this farewell party turn so ugly?’ The ‘farewell party’ in question is, of course, the final game at Upton Park, where West Ham fans attacked the visiting bus of Manchester United.
Clayton, a West Ham season ticket-holder, writes a leveled piece on the poorly managed situation on Tuesday, but above his article sits a delightful picture.
‘INSIDE MANCHESTER UNITED’S £400K BATTLE BUS,’ reads the headline, which is accompanied by a detailed graphic comprising half a page. Said graphic describes:
* The ‘kitchen equipped with two Neff hot-air ovens (£770 eahc), a Panasonic microwave (£630), Kenco single self-serve coffee machine (£540), refrigerator, sink and taps, as well as a hot-water boiler tap, a coffee percolator and catering facilities’.
* The ’38 seats, all of which are upholstered with luxury Italian-made ecological microfiber Dinamica suede’.
* The ’24 Blaupunkt TV monitors – most are in the seat backs but some hang overhead’.
* The ‘aeroplane style small toilet and washroom area’.
* Not only the ‘rear staircase’, but the ‘forward staircase’.
But Mediawatch’s favourite detail in the graphic is the depiction of Adnan Januzaj and Anthony Martial sprawled in the aisles, with Michael Carrick on his phone.
It really is excellent.
Mediawatch is disappointed to break the news that Guillem Balague has had his ‘Spanish football expert’ licence removed after naming his La Liga XI of the 2015/16 season for Sky Sports. Accompanying the excellent Bruno Soriano of Villarreal in central midfield is Antoine Griezmann. Atletico Madrid and France striker Antoine Griezmann. Striker.
‘James Corden shares alleged Jack Colback quote after he swapped Sunderland for Newcastle,’ reads the headline on The Sun‘s website.
The story contains ‘quotes’ from Newcastle midfielder Jack Colback which have circulated social media since the club’s relegation on Wednesday. They are quite obviously fake, but that doesn’t stop The Sun publishing a story concerning them.
Of course, it took a tweet from James Corden to justify producing an article on said obviously fake quotes. Toby Gannon is kind enough to tell us what Colback ‘is alleged to have said’, going along with the pretence that the quotes are real.
Still, not like The Sun have a history of misleading their readers over a football issue.
Recommended reading of the day
Raphael Honigstein on Bayern Munich’s spending.
Leon Barton on Jason Koumas.
Christopher Weir on Celtic’s 2003 UEFA Cup run.
Thanks to Chris MacGregor and Joseph Carew-Bourke.