In case you forgot, Arsenal beat Leicester in the final minute on Sunday lunchtime, taking them two points off top spot and making them favourites for the Premier League title.
Now, you may have thought that this was a reason to be optimistic about their prospects. In that case, you are not The Sun’s chief sports writer Steve Howard.
‘Right, so now where do we stand?’ Howard begins, before telling us exactly where we stand. ‘So Arsenal got off the hook. But they still won’t win the title. They’ve still got at least another two defeats in them.’
Fair enough, that’s Howard’s opinion. But what’s the explanation?
‘Arsenal fans will point at the return of the likes of Welbeck and Francis Coquelin. But, funnily enough, I just think this will confuse Wenger. Make him increasingly uncertain of what his best team is.’
‘You can still see Wenger getting to the stage where he’s not sure whether to recall Santi Cazorla, where he can’t chose between Walcott and Olivier Giroud and where he hasn’t quite got the guts to drop the out-of-touch Alexis Sanchez.’
Only in Steven Howard’s world could players returning from injury be interpreted as bad news, and strength in depth be viewed as a weakness.
At least there’s not a recent example of the importance of a strong substitutes’ bench helping Arsenal. Like both subs scoring in a recent home win over the league leaders.
D. I. S. R. E. S. P. E. C. T.
The development of a modern football story, via two Sky Sports and one BBC Sport Twitter accounts:
9.08pm, Sunday: Lionel Messi passes his penalty to Luis Suarez rather than shooting.
9.10pm, Sunday: ‘GOAL! Barcelona 4-1 Celta Vigo: A ridiculously confident penalty from Messi and Suarez’ – @SkyFootball.
9.11pm, Sunday: ‘Oh my! Lionel Messi with one of THE cheekiest penalty routines, rolling the ball to Suarez’ – @BBCSport.
11.20pm, Sunday: ‘He did what!? Lionel Messi & Luis Suarez team up to score with audacious penalty routine’ – @BBCSport.
7.30am, Monday: ‘WATCH: Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez recreated the ‘Cruyff’ penalty for Barcelona’ – @SkyFootball.
7.31am, Monday: ‘Did you see it? Messi & Suarez combined for the most outrageous penalty of the season’ – @BBCSport.
8.52am, Monday: ‘Barcelona coach Luis Enrique defends Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez’s penalty against Celta’ – @SkyFootball.
9.33am, Monday: ‘Use #bbcsportsday THAT Messi penalty – great moment or just a bit disrespectful?’ – @BBCSport.
111.26am, Monday: ‘Anything you can do, I can do better! Messi and Suarez succeed where Pires and Henry fail’ – @BBCSport.
12.00pm, Monday: ‘Was Barcelona’s penalty disrespectful? #SSNHQ’ – SkySportsNewsHQ.
1.30pm, Monday: ‘There was no need to do it” – Was Barcelona’s penalty genius or disrespectful?’ – @SkyFootball.
2.30pm, Monday: ‘A touch of genius, or disrespectful? Messi’s penalty is really dividing opinion…’ – @BBCSport.
3.30pm, Monday: ‘Enjoy that penalty, that skill & all the fallout from @FCBarcelona’s win over Celta Vigo with our @TwitterMoments’ – @SkyFootball.
4.43pm, Monday: ‘Vote on our twitter poll here: Was Barcelona’s penalty disrespectful? #SSNHQ’ – @SkySportsNewsHQ.
5.00pm, Monday: ‘”I’m uncomfortable with it” – Players, managers, pundits give their verdict on Barca penalty’ – @SkyFootball.
5.04pm, Monday: ‘67% of you said Lionel Messi’s penalty was a great piece of skill. Thanks for voting!’ – @BBCSport.
7.30pm, Monday: ‘Was Barcelona penalty genius or disrespectful? Read the verdicts and have your say’ – @SkyFootball.
7.31pm, Monday: ‘Here are the final result of the poll. 61% of you say Barcelona’s penalty was NOT disrespectful. #SSNHQ’ – @SkySportsNewsHQ.
7.29am, Tuesday: ‘Was Barcelona penalty genius or disrespectful? Read the verdicts and have your say’ – @SkyFootball.
Issue. Covered. To. Death.
Don’t see no vroom for improvement
When do you think Jamie Vardy officially ‘made it’? Was it when he won his first international cap? When he went to the top of the Premier League scoring charts? Or when his abhorrent actions were overlooked and easily forgiven because of his ability to kick a ball?
If you answered yes to any of those, then go sit in the naughty corner. For it was only Tuesday February 16, 2016 that Vardy truly hit the big time. That was the day Leicester’s striker buying a new car became a back-page story in The Sun.
The Sun’s world, where ‘man spends two-and-a-half-week’s wages on luxury item’ is not just sold as ‘netting a £168,000 Bentley Continental’ but is treated the world’s second biggest sports story.
China in your hand
“Ohhhh. So that’s where China is. Thanks, Daily Mail.”
In which a fly buzzes around and lands on a new opinion
‘Louis van Gaal is being slaughtered by pretty much everyone, mainly because of his team’s lack of goals. Blaming him for yet another goalless draw – United’s fourth in six home games – doesn’t add up. It’s become the routine now that van Gaal gets the blame – he’s the bad guy. There’s no doubt he could be doing better. United look slow and ponderous, which could be improved, that seems to be fair criticism. But they created enough chances on Saturday, bad finishing from his players is hardly his fault’ – Adrian Durham, MailOnline, December 8.
‘Van Gaal looks like a loser. Just a couple of days after defeat by Southampton at Old Trafford, Van Gaal launched into the media again. The media didn’t leave Charlie Austin unmarked in the box. He would be better served trying to work out United’s best way forward in midfield – a problem he has yet to solve. Or he could coach Memphis Depay into becoming a better player, because quite the opposite seems to be happening’ – Adrian Durham, MailOnline, February 16.
So a manager can’t be blamed for strikers not scoring, but can be blamed for defenders not marking? Glad that’s clear.
As ever with Durham, the reasonable opinion lies somewhere in between both of his.
‘Did your Premier League team live up to expectations at the weekend?’ is the introduction to Nigel Winterburn’s grades on Skysports.com. It’s an indicator of exactly what was to come.
‘Chelsea’s result came against Newcastle, a team they would have expected to beat’ – Nigel Winterburn, Skysports.com.
‘I didn’t expect West Brom to get anything out of this game’ – Nigel Winterburn, Skysports.com.
‘Most people expected Arsenal to win the game against a very good Leicester team’ – Nigel Winterburn, Skysports.com.
‘The Cherries would have expected to get something from this game’ – Nigel Winterburn, Skysports.com.
‘Alan Pardew would have expected to get something from this game’ – Nigel Winterburn, Skysports.com.
‘Swansea would have expected to get something from this home game’ – Nigel Winterburn, Skysports.com.
Sorry state of affairs
“In the dressing room after the match, everyone was disappointed, not just for ourselves but for you as well, because 2,000 of you travelled long distances to the match and had nothing to cheer or sing about. I cannot apologise enough for that because it just wasn’t good enough” – Fabricio Coloccini, February 2015.
“On behalf of the squad we would like to apologise for the moment we are going through. Players and staff have come together in order to leave all past problems aside and to focus 100% on the three ‘cup finals’ that we have left” – Coloccini, May 2015.
“We don’t have words for them as it is a big disappointment for them as well. I’d like to say sorry and we will try our best in the next game, like we always do. We are all involved in this. We have to do more and be better than we are doing now” – Coloccini, November 2015.
“We don’t have time, now we have to improve as quickly as possible because we are in the middle of the season and we need points. We have to be careful and try to do it as soon as possible” – Coloccini, December 2015.
“We just say sorry about what’s happened – sorry from the team and everyone. It was very tough, totally negative. We lost the game in the first 10 minutes. We conceded two easy goals” – Coloccini, February 2016.
Sorry Improvement seems to be the hardest word.
Benfica are playing Zenit St Petersburg in the last-16 of the Champions League on Tuesday evening. So, what is The Sun’s biggest angle on the game? Is it:
a) Benfica again trying to exorcise the hex of Bela Guttmann?
b) The redemption of Andre Villas-Boas at Zenit?
c) ‘Meet Rafaella Szabo Witsel — Russian football’s hottest signing. Ravishing Rafaella is the wife of Zenit Saint Petersburg star Axel Witsel who will be facing Benfica in the Champions League this week.’
It’s c). It’s always sodding c).
‘Exclusive’ of the day
‘Manchester United line up £70m summer bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’ – Rob Draper, Mail on Sunday, February 14.
‘Exclusive: We’ll make you a £60m star’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, February 16.
‘United are ready to pay in excess of £60m to make him [Aubameyang] a global star,’ the Mirror piece states.
Who wants to take £65m for their ‘exclusive’?
Unfair accusation of the day
‘He has seemingly made it his priority to talk about reports of his departure from Old Trafford as much as possible’ – Adrian Durham, MailOnline.
Van Gaal’s responses regarding his future employment may have been inflammatory, but he can hardly be blamed for bringing up an issue that was (understandably) asked by journalists.
Headline of the day
‘If I were N’Doye’ – The Sun on Beyonce being a secret Sunderland fan.
For once, it doesn’t matter that the story is nonsense. It was worth it.
Recommended reading of the day
Adam Hurrey on Stonewall FC.
Daniel Taylor on Chelsea’s fear factor.
Tom Bell on Joel Matip.