It’s a kind of Magic
The return of the Premier League season means the return of Paul Merson’s Sky Sports predictions. Hurrah.
After guessing seven correct results last week, the Magic Man has returned with a vengeance. And he has thoughts on this weekend’s action, which is handy. Here are the highlights:
* Newcastle are apparently under ‘less pressure’ than Huddersfield going into their meeting on Sunday.
* Chelsea ‘won’t lose’ at Tottenham because they can’t afford to. “If not a draw I would probably go Chelsea. I was not impressed with Tottenham at Newcastle, I thought they were poor,” says Merson, who was therefore presumably blown away by Chelsea losing to Burnley.
* “Will Arsenal improve at the back when they get players back from injury?” he asks himself. “No,” he answers. Because “they play a certain way and that’s why they won’t win the Premier League.”
* On Crystal Palace: “If you lose this game then you are behind the eight ball already.”
* On West Ham: “You need to get off to a good start in the Premier League and not be behind the eight ball.”
It’s bloody good to have him back.
After The Sun‘s failed attempts to illustrate the ‘MAD MARKET’ of the transfer window on Thursday, the Daily Mirror step up to the challenge 24 hours later.
‘Now City up Evans bid to £22m’ reads their back-page headline, with the incredulous addition of ‘The football world has gone mad…OFFICIAL!’ included in brackets.
That will by Jonny Evans, 29 years of age, with 11 years of Premier League experience to his name, who meets the Premier League’s ‘homegrown’ rules and has two years remaining on his current contract at West Brom. Throw Manchester City into the equation, and does a £22m fee really display how ‘the football world has gone mad’?
The Dunn thing
Sticking with the Daily Mirror, Andy Dunn is ‘Britain’s best Sports Writer’, and he has a column for you.
In it, he lauds the stance taken by Southampton over Virgil van Dijk. But first, he discusses how, ‘if executives had their way,’ the top six clubs would trade players between one another freely.
Dunn uses the example of Nemanja Matic to prove his point. ‘So why would Chelsea bolster a rival?’ he asks.
‘Maybe, just maybe, because they are not overly bothered if United win the title.’
That’s definitely it.
The Sun, August 18: ‘Chelsea face taking a £20million hit on their asking price for wantaway striker Diego Costa’
The Sun, June 10: ‘[Conte] sent a text to his striker to tell him he is not in his plans at Stamford Bridge – and it could cost the club £10million in the transfer market’
Costa lot more
Neil Ashton has ‘the inside track on football’s big stories’ in The Sun and, credit to him, he brings us a few interesting nuggets on Costa.
Ashton’s article includes a predictable hatchet job of sorts, questioning Costa’s lifestyle. He says that the striker ‘never quite took to life in London’, was the subject of complaints from neighbours, and that his ‘late night parties’ posed a problem for the club.
Furthermore, ‘learning the language seemed too much of a chore’ for Costa, whose constant ‘transgressions’ were ‘overlooked’.
But that pales in comparison to his real crime. ‘His fondness for a traditional Brazilian BBQ went too far,’ apparently.
Finally, the real reason Antonio Conte wants Costa out is revealed.
Ashton adds that Chelsea are in a bit of a difficult situation over Costa, and that they are having to be careful. Why? Well…
‘His iconic status and his relationship with the fans, means the club are tip-toeing around the issue as they cannot afford to alienate the supporters.
‘Chelsea are aware that the fans, whatever the rights and wrongs of this grisly episode, would take him back in a heartbeat.
‘This loveable rogue, 28, signed from Atletico by Jose Mourinho in July 2014, could easily set their pulses racing again.’
‘Iconic’? Are we thinking of the same ‘rat’ who was booed by Chelsea fans no less than two years ago?
If Ashton does not offer enough to fill your daily quota of opinions about Diego Costa, allow Martin Keown to help out. Here he is talking to the Daily Mail:
‘Why has no-one at Chelsea flown out to Brazil to see Diego Costa?’ he asks.
Perhaps it’s because everyone at Chelsea would consider it a monumental waste of money to go and visit a player who is on strike and has absolutely no intentions of ever playing for the club again? Heck, perhaps it has something to do with the potential legal proceedings against the striker that have been mooted recently?
‘I find it a real shame that one of the best front players in the Premier League may have to leave.’
There you have it: Costa ‘may have to leave’. That noise you can hear is of a stable door shutting after the horse has bolted.
‘Whatever happens, the Costa issue must be resolved quickly. Chelsea players are starting to sympathise with him – they may well be worrying that they could be placed in a similar situation.’
Mediawatch expects to reiterate this point on a few more occasions this summer, but Costa’s teammates can avoid the ‘worry’ about being ‘placed in a similar situation’ by following these simple steps…
1) Start by not telling your new manager on his first day that you want to leave the club on his first day in charge: “On Conte’s first day, I told him that I wanted to join Atlético and he was upset with me and didn’t even look at me. Luckily, I started to score goals.”
2) Next, don’t try and blatantly engineer a move throughout that first summer. “I did all that I could to return but it didn’t happen. When Atlético had to wait for me, they didn’t wait.”
3) After that, don’t then try and engineer a move away from the club again in January.
4) When that move fails to materialise, don’t have a blazing row with the manager in training.
5) Having been told that you are no longer wanted at the club at the end of the season, having spent 18 months telling them you want to leave, don’t effectively go on strike and refuse to come back to England until your club agree to sell you to the one club you want to join, despite being under contract and Chelsea having no obligation to sell to a specific club. Particularly when that club is banned from registering players.
Happy to help.
Sorry Martin, you weren’t done?
‘Conte needs to have a good look at himself and take charge of the situation.’
He did. He told him he was no longer part of his plans. Costa’s subsequent tantrum is hardly his fault, nor something Conte can sort himself. He’s hardly going to fly to Brazil, is he?
Coulda, woulda, shoulda
Hearts sank when reports emerged on Friday morning concerning Real Madrid’s interest in David de Gea. Not because anyone thinks Real will sign De Gea, but because it is yet another chapter in a tiresome transfer story.
It does herald the return of Neil Custis to the actual newspaper copy of The Sun, mind, after he was consigned only to the online pages for the past few weeks.
Considering Custis’ homecoming might well be brief, let’s savour all 122 words of his triumphant return.
‘Real Madrid could try again to sign David De Gea from Manchester United before the transfer window closes.’
‘Could try’. Solid start.
‘The Spanish and European champions’ interest in De Gea has been reignited after coach Zinedine Zidane decided that his team does not need another outfield Galactico after failing to land Kylian Mbappe from Monaco.’
So Real are going to sign a goalkeeper as a direct result of failing to sign a striker?
It’s at this stage we have to stop, because it’s a bit silly. But still, welcome back, Neil.
Fact of the day
Nemanja Matic admits @ManUtd is the biggest club he's played for.
"Manchester is Manchester."
— Sky Sports PL ? (@SkySportsPL) August 18, 2017
It absolutely is, to be fair.
Transformation of the day
Alex Sandro looks a little…different. pic.twitter.com/yJwHUvCvmA
— Football365 (@F365) August 18, 2017
Recommended reading of the day
Sid Lowe previews La Liga.
Michael Cox on Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud.
Sam McGuire on Jordan Henderson.