Changing of the guard
On Monday, Manchester City announced that Pep Guardiola will replace Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the season. You may have seen the news. On Tuesday one set of players in Manchester decided to collectively pull their fingers out of their arses in response to the news after a series of poor performances. Come on boys, Pep’s coming, let’s play…
Headline on the Sky Sports website: ‘Man United respond in style after Man City’s Pep Guardiola announcement.’
‘On the field, United’s two wins from their past 10 Premier League games, their lowest goal-haul in 27 years and the continued uncertainty around Louis van Gaal’s future offered little suggestion a ray of hope would arrive with the visit of Mark Hughes’ Stoke.
‘Yet, 24 hours on from Man City’s big moment, the United players seemed inspired into a response.’
A reminder, were it needed, that Manchester United had lost only one of their last seven games before Tuesday night. They were not utterly, utterly sh*t, saw that Guardiola was taking over their rivals in six months’ time and then decided to turn on the style. Or did they?
Let’s hand over to The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson: ‘If this is how Pep Guardiola’s impending arrival across town can galvanise Manchester United then the rest of the season for Louis van Gaal and his men may be fruitful after all.
‘There is no certainty the Spaniard’s decision to join Manchester City had anything to do with this scintillating United display, of course. But it is fair to say that just when the embattled Van Gaal would want his players to return their finest display of the campaign they did.’
For f***’s sake.
Carry that weight
The Sun and Neil Custis have been pretty quiet on the subject since issuing ‘Louis van Gaal an incredible pounds versus points challenge’ on January 14, but we are keeping count; we presume that ‘fat man’ Custis is already more than six pounds lighter.
There’s clearly widespread annoyance in the national tabloids that Manchester United really did play quite well on Tuesday night. That’s that narrative f***ed. The Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman gives it away in his opening sentence:
‘ON the way to Old Trafford last night it was tempting to ponder the seemingly ridiculous. Would this be a night that we saw Stoke City come to Manchester and actually play the better football?
‘The story of the Barclays Premier League season so far suggested it may be the case while memories of Stoke’s 2-0 win over Louis van Gaal’s pitiful United just a month ago bolstered the rather mischievous thought.’
Hmmm. It’s bizarre that Stoke’s win over United stuck in your memory but not the Potters’ last four matches which had seen them score just one goal. And the ‘story of the Barclays Premier League season so far’ (as reflected in the, you know, table) suggested that United are better than Stoke and that the Potters would struggle to breach a United defence that has conceded just five Premier League goals at Old Trafford.
But still, they probably won because of Pep Guardiola, right?
‘IT says everything about Stoke’s emergence as a Premier League club of stature that they secured the biggest deal on transfer deadline day,’ writes David McDonell in the Daily Mirror, relegated to column duty as Chief Sports Writer Dave Kidd was in town.
‘The £18.3million capture of Porto midfielder Giannelli Imbula may not have been up there with some of the mega-buys of deadline day in years gone by.
‘But it showed boss Mark Hughes is determined to build on this season’s fine progress.’
‘Fine progress’? Mediawatch had to check but it does seem that Stoke are in ninth place, one point above newly promoted Watford and a full point ahead of where they were at the same stage last season. Is a full point ‘fine progress’ now? Or just when it’s good old Mark Hughes, touted as a possible Manchester United manager a month ago?
It doesn’t ‘say everything about Stoke’s emergence as a Premier League club of stature that they secured the biggest deal on transfer deadline day’, it says that no club in the top eight saw enough value in the market to make a significant signing.
The bomb quad
Manchester City have lost just one of their last 11 games in all competitions. They are in the final of the Capital One Cup. They are in the last 16 of the Champions League. They are in the fifth round of the FA Cup. If they beat Leicester on Saturday, they will return to the top of the Premier League. On Tuesday night they won 1-0 in their 11th game in 39 days.
The headline in the Daily Mail?
‘CITY NEED PEP!’
‘JUST when you thought Leicester’s challenge would fade, they showed that they are firmly in this title race,’ writes Charlie Wyett in The Sun.
‘We have all been waiting for the inevitable slide, the terrible run of results which would maybe not ruin their season but end their chances of doing something extraordinary.’
No, Charlie, YOU have been waiting. We can’t think why that might be…
— TFS Leicester City (@TFS_Leicester) November 5, 2015
How many points are Leicester ahead of your beloved Norwich now, Charlie? A mere 27. We would say ‘good luck in the Championship 2016/17’ but that would be petty.
My kingdom for a decent newspaper
The Sun have produced a ‘column’ from Richard III on Leicester. Mediawatch is lost for all words except these: It reads like something written by Jeff Powell of the Daily Mail.
Mediawatch is as impressed with Leicester as the next man with eyes (as long as that next man is not Charlie Wyett) but this from Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail made us throw up a little in our mouths:
‘It used to be that Leicester imitated the elite – now the elite seek to imitate Leicester. Liverpool are Leicester Lite right now. You can see the plan, you know what Klopp wants to happen, but he hasn’t got it off pat right now.’
Yep, the two-time Bundesliga winner and Champions League runner-up has definitely turned up at Liverpool with absolutely no ideas other than copying Leicester.
Money, money, money
Presumably that new Jamie Vardy contract is worth £300,000 a week. If not, he needs to sack his agent and send in The Sunday People’s Neil Moxley to conduct negotiations.
Change the record
Now the transfer window is closed, what can Metro football do other than claim new records for Mesut Ozil. It’s a bizarre fetish.
Metro, November 12: ’10 stats that prove Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil is having the season of his life.’
Metro, December 21: ‘Arsenal ace Mesut Ozil equals Eden Hazard’s Premier League assist record in 59 fewer matches.’
Metro, December 22: ‘Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil has more assists than Chelsea and Manchester United this season.’
Metro, December 28: ‘Mesut Ozil created more chances for Arsenal v Bournemouth than any player has in a Premier League match this season.’
Metro, December 30: ‘Mesut Ozil breaks Thierry Henry’s Arsenal record with 20 assists in a calendar year.’
Metro, January 1: ‘Arsenal star Mesut Ozil created most Premier League chances in 2015.’
Metro, February 3: ‘Stats show Arsenal need new striker after 0-0 draw despite Mesut Ozil creating record amount of chances.’
The latest ‘record’? ‘Arsene Wenger’s side drew 0-0 at the Emirates despite the German creating more chances in a single match than any other player this season.’
Ah, so not a ‘record’ at all then? Unless you want to claim that Jamie Vardy has now broken the record for number of Premier League goals scored? We await the REVEAL.
Rotten intro of the day
Trust Mediawatch, there were a lot of contenders, but we rarely have to look further than The Sun’s comedy Cockney Paul Jiggins: ‘EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR turned up late again last night – only this time it was not his fault.’
He was a substitute, you see.
The Daily Mirror’s verdict on Sergio Aguero: ‘Brilliant match-deciding goal non-stop wriggling.’
Freudian slip of the day
— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) February 2, 2016
PFM quote of the week
“They make a big fuss about it and that’s what they do. That’s mostly foreign players, they do make a big fuss of it. That’s in their nature – I’m not saying it’s in the way they are brought up. They react in a more volatile way to incidents like that than we do” – Sam Allardyce.
Recommended reading of the day
Rory Smith on the wrong-track mind of Pep Guardiola
Michael Cox on Arsenal v Southampton
David Hytner on Mauricio Pochettino