Mediawatch returns and to be honest we’d forgotten that January is the month of hypothetical Potential Line-Ups and now want to go back to bed for another fortnight…
We remain huge fans of the wildly successful yet utterly bizarre football story genre that is ‘How Team X could line up if such and such happens’. And as we find ourselves in the first week of January and not much has actually happened yet but certain teams (let’s call them Newcastle U – no, that’s too obvious; let’s say N United) almost certainly will do quite a lot of things this is fertile Possible Line-Up territory.
The Sun have a couple for us to enjoy, and they come from the two opposite yet equally partridgeshrug.gif ends of the spectrum. First up is Newcastle, and how they could line up if they eventually own six players they don’t currently own. Now Newcastle may very well sign six players this month despite that being pretty crazy January activity. There is almost no point looking at past history here because the combination of such wealth and the precariousness and urgency of their current situation are unprecedented. But why stop at six? It could be seven, or five, or eight and it will almost certainly not be these specific ones. How could Newcastle line up at the end of January? The whole point with Newcastle right now is that we have quite literally no idea what they will look like a month from now. And nor do The Sun. Even putting Allan Saint-Maximin in the XI is a bit of a punt as he recovers from a calf injury.
Then we have Arsenal. “How Arsenal could line up with Alexander Isak should he replace Auba” announces the headline, and to be fair here this one does exactly what it says on the tin. There’s the potential line-up, with 10 current Arsenal players and well-known striker Isak playing as a striker. Now it’s a bit churlish to criticise this when our main beef with the more common variant is that the sheer number of moving parts render it moot, but this one feels in its way even more pointless. We can probably all imagine ‘Just the current team but with Isak up top’ without seeing a graphic. Although fair play to The Sun for livening things up slightly by apparently forgetting that Emile Smith Rowe exists.
The Mirror have if anything gone one better, though. They’ve got not one but two hypothetical Liverpool line-ups post January. There’s a best-case scenario (sign Kylian Mbappe and Florian Wirtz) and a worst-case scenario (sell Mohamed Salah). Neither of those are in any way plausible outcomes currently, which therefore means this whole thing constitutes a terrible failure of imagination. If signing Mbappe is in your best-case scenario then, again, why stop there? And for the worst-case scenario, if Liverpool are selling Salah this month then why not Alisson or Van Dijk or TAA? I mean, what if Liverpool sold every single player on their books? What then? They’d struggle, I reckon. It’d be crazy. But it’s ‘not entirely out of the realms of possibility’ in the Mirror’s own words. If you’re concocting ‘a scenario which does not bear thinking about for supporters’ then that would be our choice, lads.
To be fair to Gary Neville, he was quick to back Romelu Lukaku’s honesty and even bravery in giving that interview – and we’ve said what we think of it all here – but also had plenty of criticism for the timing of it and the possible disruption it could cause and the most grievous crime of all: letting down your team-mates with such an interview in the middle of the season. Apologies are needed, according to the Neviller.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 3, 2022
Maybe Lukaku’s error was in giving that mid-season interview to Sky Sport Italia rather than in a nice chat on a golf course with… Gary Neville.
Luk who’s talking
Even as he axed Lukaku from the Liverpool game, Thomas Tuchel was pretty clear that there were absolutely no plans to sell the striker.
“He’s our player, he will stay our player,” was as unequivocal a post-match statement as you could hope for.
Obviously, that hasn’t stopped anyone writing features on where Lukaku could go and who Chelsea could sign to replace the man they aren’t selling and don’t need to replace.
It’s the game, we all have to play it. We could highlight literally dozens of stories from sites far and, ahem, near on this. But we’ll pick on the Express because they’ve got a great one-two punch.
‘Romelu Lukaku ‘informs Chelsea of transfer decision’ after private Thomas Tuchel talks’ is an entirely accurate definitely sneaky way of saying “He’s staying”.
Better still, though, is this one. ‘Harry Kane told to leave Spurs so Antonio Conte can complete Romelu Lukaku reunion’.
There’s a shiny penny here for any clever Mediawatch reader who can come up with the identity of the person telling Kane to do this. We’d like to think that you’re all clever enough cookies to know that it certainly wasn’t Antonio Conte or indeed anyone connected with Spurs. But we’d reckon most of you could get through possible a couple of hundred names before landing on former Middlesbrough striker Fabrizio Ravanelli (for it is he).
‘Rio Ferdinand picks out FIVE Man United stars who ‘aren’t showing what they’re about” – Daily Mail
‘Rio Ferdinand calls out 5 Man Utd stars for underperforming’ – Mirror
Hard to argue with Ferdinand’s assessment on any of Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford or Edinson Cavani, but equally there are surely others equally worthy of opprobrium currently. Does everything with Rio have to be five? Must even criticism of this admittedly criticism-worthy United side be so on brand?