Return of the ‘rats’
When Chelsea lost to Manchester United on Sunday, Antonio Conte must have been frustrated. His side failed to register a single shot on target and have allowed Tottenham to sneak back into the title race.
What Conte probably didn’t conclude is that three of his star players had deliberately downed tools. He left that assumption to Stan Collymore.
‘The big question on Antonio Conte’s lips this week will be whether the ‘rats’ have the minerals for the run-in,’ Collymore’s Daily Mirror column begins. This is ballsy even by his usual standards of wilful controversy.
‘Eden Hazard was man-marked out of the Manchester United game by Ander Herrera on Sunday. Diego Costa played like a man who was aching to be sent off. And when Cesc Fabregas came on as Chelsea’s Plan B he didn’t have anything like the impact his manager will have wanted with so much on the line.
‘We all know how those three threw it in under Jose Mourinho last season. So if I was Conte I’d be wondering if I needed to be concerned that something similar was happening again.’
Mediawatch can’t help but wonder why Hazard, Costa and Fabregas would have wasted so much effort getting Chelsea into such a dominant position in the title race, only to deliberately give up on the home straight. Just for the bants?
Or, and we’re going rogue here, maybe Chelsea just played badly for myriad reasons, including Manchester United playing very well? Who knows.
Mediawatch broadly agrees with The Sun’s Charlie Wyett that Arsenal supporters must have been hugely relieved that their team finally won away from home on Monday evening, but we can’t quite get behind his re-writing of Arsenal history:
‘Once the ultimate flat-track bullies, who revelled in feasting on the weak, Arsenal got away with this one.’
When exactly did Arsenal have a reputation as the ultimate flat-track bullies? It certainly wasn’t during the title victories of 2003/04, 2001/02 or 1997/98, when Arsenal were never the best in the Premier League against opponents in the bottom third of the league.
In fact, this season Arsenal have taken 2.53 points per league game against opponents in the bottom seven. That is a higher average than in any season between 1992 and 2013. Isn’t it their performance in the big games that has got worse?
Quaking in their boots
Mediawatch is looking forward to Leicester City’s quarter-final second leg against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening, and would not want to take anything away from their status as the Premier League’s last remaining club in the Champions League.
Yet there is one element of the previews for the game that feels more than a little optimistic: That Atletico’s players will somehow be scared at the prospect of playing at the King Power Stadium.
Take Neil Ashton, writing in The Sun:
‘Shakespeare knows the King Power will play a part, that those raucous Foxes fans will create uncertainty among Atletico’s players.’
This is a team that has gained positive results at the Bernabeu, Mestalla, Estadio da Luz, Camp Nou and Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul in the last two years. Unless they have a phobia of cardboard clappers and gold flags, are Leicester’s supporters really like to unnerve Diego Simeone’s team?
Where art thou, captain?
‘They might also encourage Chelsea to think very carefully before basing the merits of a new contract for their extraordinary captain on simply his on-field contribution over this past season. Even from the bench against Bournemouth on Saturday, you could sense Terry’s presence’ – Jeremy Wilson, Daily Telegraph, April 10.
Weird that Terry didn’t use that presence from the bench at Old Trafford on Sunday, when it was really needed. Some captain he is…
Laying it on thick
Says Garth Crooks in his BBC Sport Team of the Week feature, on Ander Herrera:
“It was Herrera’s dominance over Hazard that set the tone for United’s victory. Not since Italy defender Claudio Gentile outwitted Brazil legend Zico at the 1982 World Cup have I seen a marker nullify a top-class player so completely.”
So you’re saying he played well?
Says Garth Crooks on Phil Jagielka:
“When a centre-back scores goals in three consecutive games you have to consider whether the defender is just going through a purple patch or has a genuine knack of scoring goals. I think with Phil Jagielka it’s both.”
1) Can it really be both?
2) Jagielka had scored nine goals in his previous 279 Premier League games before this run. It’s probably a purple patch.
For God’s sake
‘Bournemouth’s on-loan Arsenal star Jack Wilshere reveals he turns to religion to get through his injury hell,’ reads The Sun’s headline, one which piqued Mediawatch’s interest.
Has Wilshere converted to Buddhism, a la Roberto Baggio? Or has he taken a solemn vow to live a monastic life? Well, let’s see…
“I’m a Christian but not one who goes to church every Sunday or who prays all the time. Of course I believe in God and stuff but I’m not that religious.
“Sometimes, you know what it’s like, you’re sat there thinking about everything, and everything runs through your head and you think: ‘Oh I wonder if there is a God.’ And I think there is. I do believe in that side of Christianity.”
“One thing that keeps me going through injuries is getting that feeling of running back on the pitch. Them long dark days in the gym, getting in at eight, getting home at five, when you’re watching the boys come in at 10, training and getting off. It’s hard but what keeps me going is knowing the fact that I will be back on the pitch and if I do this work to the best of my ability, I’ll probably be back on the pitch quicker.”
I think we can fairly label ‘turns to religion to get through injury hell’ as a sensational sell of those quotes.
All we want is consistency, except when…
‘Precisely why the experienced Mark Clattenburg had to caution the player for celebrating his goal with the fans, bearing in mind the week he’s had, I don’t know. It seemed grossly unfair. Was Clattenburg so blithely unaware of the sheer thrill his goal and performance would have meant to Barkley under the circumstances?’ – Garth Crooks, BBC Sport.
Nope, those are just the rules.
‘JT was 22 but he smashed me’ – Jamie Redknapp, Daily Mail.
Despite being present in the studio that day, Redknapp doesn’t mean in a Richard ‘Keysey’ Keys way. We checked.
“I’ve set the team up with a back four and some attacking players too” – Middlesbrough caretaker manager Steve Agnew’s response to being asked for his team’s strategy to Arsenal.
Prove him wrong.
Mental image of the day
Harry Redknapp parachutes in to take over as Birmingham City manager https://t.co/srlXpRKrN3
— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) April 18, 2017
We only hope that it was deliberate…
Headline of the day
‘All things Brighton beautiful’ – The Sun.
Top, top, top work. Hey, Harry’s back in a job.
David Squires on Melvin MacMenzie.