“This might sound silly, but I’d be shocked if Manchester City won this game. I’d be shocked.”
It did sound a little silly, Paul Merson. Colour you shocked.
Neil Ashton was at the Etihad, likely also shocked at the Premier League champions winning a match at home.
That is the only explanation for these first three paragraphs of his match report for The Sun:
‘Nothing will top Sergio Aguero’s title-winning goal here against QPR in 2012.
‘Even so, Leroy Sane is running it a close second.
‘Have Sane of that.’
Dicking around with Van Dijk
Ashton’s entire piece is full of the usual flip-floppery, declaring that City fans are ‘daring to dream it is all on’. This is the same man who said ‘there are question marks about the desire of this side, the motivation to successfully defend the Premier League title’ on Wednesday.
But he excels himself when discussing Virgil van Dijk.
‘The way people have been talking about Virgil van Dijk of late you would think he was better than Beckenbauer, Moore, Maldini and Cannavaro put together.’
Or you might think the ‘Dutch colossus’ was ‘starting to feel like a snip’ at £75m. Who would be silly enough to think that, eh?
Perhaps Ashton was simply aiming a dig at one of his colleagues. One page further back in The Sun, Dave Kidd writes that Van Dijk ‘had been looking as close to flawless as a centre-half can ever come in recent weeks’.
Just talk to each other, guys.
To complete the Ashton hat-trick, here he is describing Sergio Aguero’s goal celebration.
‘The Argentine held up seven fingers as he sprinted away – taunting travelling Liverpool fans after scoring against them for the seventh time in a Premier League game at the Etihad.’
Aguero definitely seems like the kind of player who will keep a record of how many goals he has scored in consecutive home Premier League games against the same opponent, then use that to ‘taunt’ their fans.
Also, he held up six fingers. Just like he did against Cardiff. And Southampton. Look.
Sergio Aguero after scoring v Cardiff in September.
Sergio Aguero after scoring v Southampton in November.
Sergio Aguero after scoring v Liverpool in December.
He wasn't 'taunting' anyone, despite what some (one person in particular) may say. pic.twitter.com/4wuYzPvH5z
— Football365 (@F365) January 4, 2019
He was ‘taunting’ Liverpool fans about how many goals he scored against them as much as he was ‘taunting’ Southampton supporters about how many games they won under Mark Hughes. Or he was just worshipping the devil/showing his appreciation for rock music.
You think he’s done? No chance; he’s back for just a little more.
‘Sane was the best player on the pitch – by quite some distance – and he deserved that goal.’
Fernandinho and Bernardo Silva want a word. The ‘best player on the pitch by quite some distance’?
Hell, even The Sun‘s own player ratings disagree with Ashton. Sane is given a 7/10, the same as Ederson, John Stones, Bernardo Silva and Aguero. Oh, and Andy Robertson and Roberto Firmino. And the ‘nervous as a kitten’ Van Dijk.
Raheem Sterling gets an 8. Funny, that.
I’m sorry, Mr. Jackson
The best player ratings come courtesy of The Guardian‘s Jamie Jackson.
He gives Aymeric Laporte and Vincent Kompany a 9. Between them.
He gives Bernardo Silva, who ‘struggled to get on the ball and offer control’ with the third-best pass-completion percentage of any City player, a 6.
He gives Alisson a 4 for not reacting within a millisecond to a player smashing a ball towards his head.
He gives Lovren and Van Dijk a 7. Between them.
He gives us all a good laugh.
The Dunn thing
Writes the Daily Mirror‘s Andy Dunn:
‘The Liverpool boss has always been laughingly dismissive of the mind-games concept so quite what he was doing staring at and studying a circle of warming-up City players is anybody’s guess.’
a) How bizarre of a football manager to watch the opposition train. He might accidentally notice something he could use to his side’s benefit in the match, the silly sod.
b) He does it before literally every game. Not everything has to be sinister.
⚠️'LIVERPOOL STILL IN POLE POSITION'⚠️
Graeme Souness insists Liverpool remain in pole position in the Premier League title race despite their first defeat of the season by champions Man City 👉 https://t.co/XJsFfmHG78 pic.twitter.com/T8dLj6GrHI
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 4, 2019
Man ‘insists’ team with four-point lead at top of Premier League ‘remain in pole position’. If Merson was shocked before…
Headline of the day
‘Klopp strangles the life out of a water bottle while celebrating Firmino’s goal’ – The Sun.
Who wants to tell them?
By hook or by Crooks
But enough about Manchester City’s win over Liverpool. The festive period has brought us that rarest of delights: multiple Garths. And Mr. Crooks excels himself with his latest Team of the Week.
Not only does he choose both Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones, who really weren’t that great against Newcastle, but he has a message for Tottenham. He decides to deliver it in his selection of Christian Eriksen. Obviously.
‘Spurs have got to rid themselves of this Jekyll and Hyde personality. We need to know what team is turning up every week.’
Probably the one that has won as many Premier League games as Manchester City this season, and one less than Liverpool. Yeah, that really bloody good one.