It’s a kind of magic
On Tuesday, Arsenal were in full-blown crisis. They had lost three consecutive games, conceding three goals in each. There were suggestions that some players had become ‘confused’ by Unai Emery’s tactics. There was a John Cross article blaming a glorified coach driver for their slump. It had – and this cannot possibly be stressed enough – all gone to sh*t.
On Thursday, Arsenal won 3-1 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Valencia. They have never had a two-goal first-leg lead overturned in European competition. Everything seems to be alright again.
But not for Cross of the Daily Mirror, who seemed to miss Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s final goal.
‘The Arsenal boss lifted this trophy three times in consecutive seasons with Sevilla and will have to work some more magic next week because his team lack confidence and authority.’
He ‘will have to work some magic’ to defend a 3-1 first-leg lead? Arsenal had a two-goal first-leg advantage against a better team in a more daunting stadium in the quarter-finals. They seemed to fare pretty well there without managerial ‘magic’.
‘They look a long way from being capable of winning a major European trophy, have stumbled in the race for top four and yet Valencia are a pale shadow of their former selves.’
Which is a weird way of saying they’re 3-1 up after the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, with two points separating them from fourth place in the Premier League.
Oh, and Valencia are 6th in La Liga, losing fewer games (7) than everyone but Barcelona (2) and Atletico Madrid (5). Considering ‘their former selves’ finished 12th in two of the last three seasons, these Europa League semi-finalists, on course for European qualification once more, seem to be doing okay.
But Mediawatch has it all wrong. Valencia aren’t very good, yet Emery and his ‘baffling’ team talks ‘must fear the worst’ in the second leg. Quite how both of those things can be true is anyone’s guess.
You do realise one of these teams have to qualify for the final, John? And the one that is apparently ‘a long way from being capable of winning a major European trophy’ are currently on course for that spot.
At least Cross doesn’t choose to have another laborious pop at Mesut Ozil. He doesn’t mention him once in his report, in fact, which seems fair.
To that extent, Mark Irwin of The Sun is justified in describing the German international as ‘a peripheral figure’ who ‘continues to frustrate’. Why we have to be told this after Arsenal have won the first leg of a major European semi-final is another matter, but still.
Irwin obviously pokes fun at Ozil’s ‘miraculous recovery’ from injury to feature at the Emirates, then goes for the jugular.
‘And with tackles flying in from both teams, this was never going to be a night for the faint-hearted.’
Pesky fact: The only player on either side to make more tackles than Ozil’s two was Jose Gaya (3).
Gary Neville has gone into great and interesting depth on the importance and evolution of full-backs for Sky Sports. It’s a great piece, but the following two paragraphs did raise an eyebrow:
‘I don’t know why United have had such problems at right-back. You can’t keep signing full-backs for £15m. Over the past few years they’ve spent nearly £100m on five full-backs.
‘City spent big on Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy. Maybe United would be better buying the correct full-back first time up for £40m or £50m and have them for seven years, because it’s cost them that much in the end trying different full-backs!’
Andy Robertson (£8m) wants a word.
And I’ll hold you tightly, I’ll give you nothing but truth
Also from Gary Neville is this utter filth:
That escalated quickly. pic.twitter.com/uUoHzWWrRE
— Football365 (@F365) May 3, 2019
Fifty shades of that 1996 grey kit, eh?
‘United’s preference is to sell Sanchez abroad as there is great reluctance to see him join a top-six Premier League rival’ – Sami Mokbel, Daily Mail.
Is that from United or their top-six Premier League rivals?
Writes Neil Ashton in The Sun:
‘As a player, Souness won consecutive championships at Anfield in 1979 and 1980, and again in 1982, 1983 and 1984 before taking up a new challenge at Sampdoria.
‘Trophy hunting became an obsession. Chelsea had it for a time, finally fulfilling owner Roman Abramovich’s dream to win the Champions League against Bayern Munich in 2012.
‘Since then they have fallen away, scarcely making an impact in Europe under a series of high-profile, demanding managers.’
They won the literal Europa League in 2013, and reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2014. Imagine if they hadn’t ‘fallen away’.
Writes David Maddock in the Daily Mirror:
‘It was a reality check for Liverpool – evidence in the Nou Camp that for all the distance they have travelled, there are still crucial steps to take.
‘Jurgen Klopp suggested as much immediately after the sobering lesson from Barcelona, admitting it has become a season where fine margins, tight decisions, are cruelly conspiring against his club.’
Now Mediawatch has spent far too long trying to find the quotes from Klopp where he says ‘fine margins, tight decisions, are cruelly conspiring’ against Liverpool. There is the delightful use of the phrase “football nerds,” the concession that “I’m not sure if we deserved a lot more than we got,” and the praise for “world-class player” Lionel Messi.
But any suggestion that Liverpool have been ‘cruelly conspired against’ by having to play against Barcelona in the Champions League and compete with Manchester City in the Premier League? Nope. Weird, that.
He's 24 now. Can't see him getting much taller. pic.twitter.com/Y7WjoOQAWO
— Football365 (@F365) May 3, 2019
Recommended reading of the day
Sid Lowe on Lionel Messi.
Michael Cox on Eden Hazard.
David Nesbit on Brian Clough.