Blame Thomas Tuchel because he has taken Frank’s fun Chelsea and made them dull. But first…
After a pretty dire 0-0 between Chelsea and Manchester United, what on earth were national newspapers going to splash across their back pages?
Oh, along comes Luke Shaw to save the day – claiming he overheard a conversation between captain Harry Maguire (H, not from Steps) and referee Stuart Attwell in which the latter said that it was a penalty but he was afraid of the backlash. Now this is news. Real news.
Of course, Manchester United attempted to spoil it all by announcing that Maguire had contradicted Shaw’s story and claimed that the left-back had misheard the comments. So not really news after all.
But by now it’s too late. Not too late to change those back pages, you understand, but too late to change tack and definitely too late to dial down the bombastics when the alternative is focusing on the football (as if).
‘STU WHAT!’ is the headline on the back page of The Sun, which features a speech bubble of the words nobody but Shaw heard coming out of the mouth of Attwell, with a caption of ‘Maguire cannot believe what he has heard from referee Attwell’ despite Maguire himself denying he ever heard such a thing from referee Attwell.
We are told that ‘LUKE SHAW sensationally accused ref Stuart Attwell’ on the opening page of the back-page story, but it takes until the ninth paragraph (now on p51) before they mention that ‘United later insisted Shaw misheard what was said between Atwell (sic) and Maguire’.
Now that seems quite important to Mediawatch, but then we work for a website daft enough to write 16 Conclusions on a poor 0-0 instead of just splashing on an overheard conversation that may or may not be accurate.
They arguably go even further at the Daily Mail by screaming the word ‘CONSPIRACY’ across their back page. It’s a pretty incendiary word to use in a headline when nobody involved actually uses that word.
Oh and ‘late last night, United said Shaw had misheard the claims’ really does not seem like enough of a clarification considering the size of the actual headline.
Mountain to climb
Mediawatch has some sympathy for Andrew Dillon, tasked with writing a ‘BIG-MATCH VERDICT’ for The Sun. He spotted that that there were ‘SEVEN England internationals puffing away at Chelsea’. And we know that’s a lot because of the capitals.
‘Which makes it all the more frustrating that the only name most of us will remember from yesterday’s stalemate against Manchester United is Mason Mount.’
Will that be the same Mason Mount who created one chance and made one tackle? The same Mason Mount whose name appears exactly once in The Sun‘s own match report from the game?
We think you will find that the only English names any of us will remember from that stalemate – thanks in part to The Sun’s own back page – are Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Stuart Attwell.
The Third Man
‘Paul Scholes now the third person to pick up on Bruno Fernandes problem at Man Utd’ – Mirror football.
Not got Twitter then?
Where has all the fun gone?
Chelsea have picked up more Premier League points than any other club barring runaway leaders Manchester City since Thomas Tuchel took over from Frank Lampard, so of course this is exactly the time to start asking whether actually, all he has done is make them a bit dull (and unbeaten, but mostly a bit dull).
Or in Daily Mail language:
‘LET’S BE FRANK, TUCHEL’S LOST THE FUN FACTOR’
Because of course, everybody knows that the real ‘fun’ comes from winning one game 3-0 and then losing the next 3-1. That’s what supporters really love. And they definitely don’t like long unbeaten runs because they are just so bloody boring.
Before we properly begin dissecting this particular piece, it’s worth remembering what author Matt Barlow wrote in January when Lampard was sacked:
‘As Frank Lampard departs Stamford Bridge so too does the fanciful notion that Chelsea actually care about the club’s identity, the connection with the heart of the fanbase or the development of young players.’
So we already know where this particular wind is blowing.
Barlow lists the not-insignificant successes of Tuchel’s reign – unbeaten in nine games, in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and winning 1-0 against Atletico Madrid less than a week ago. This is described as ‘evidence of progress’, which is some phenomenal under-selling.
‘Frank Lampard’s first nine games in the job produced a blaze of 38 goals and his last nine produced 27, with almost as many conceded as scored in each case.’
It should be noted here – because it absolutely isn’t in the Daily Mail – that two of those last nine games were against Morecambe and Luton, which produced an FA Cup aggregate score of 7-1. In Chelsea’s last nine games against Premier League and Champions League opposition under Lampard, there were 21 goals in total; Chelsea scored just nine of those goals. Does that sound like tremendous fun?
‘Tuchel’s Chelsea have scored just 10 – three of them penalties – and let in only two. It is a familiar cycle when a tactical coach steps into a misfiring team in the middle of a season.’
Mediawatch enjoys the admission that Lampard is not a tactical coach, but it sounds awfully like Tuchel has found a way to stop Chelsea leaking goals but has not quite improved their attacking side just yet – after five weeks in which they have played nine games. Which sounds like an improvement. Certainly, the league table would suggest as much.
‘Lampard is probably at home thinking that he could have made them tighter at the back at the cost of scoring.’
Could he? He had 18 months to solve that particular problem and never did. And there has been no ‘cost of scoring’ because Chelsea are scoring goals at roughly the same rate as long as they are not playing teams from League Two or the lower reaches of the Championship.
This is a pretty poor argument from Barlow – robbed of his ‘development of young players’ argument by Tuchel being keen to develop young players – who ends by making it seem like Chelsea have made no real progress after all.
‘When Tuchel arrived, Chelsea were ninth. Now they are fifth, and in touch with qualification for the Champions League, which is always a factor in the boardroom.’
(Yes, because fans and players famously don’t care about being in the Champions League).
‘But they are no closer to the top. They are 18 points from the leaders. When they sacked Lampard they were 11 points adrift and those leaders were United.’
Embarrassing really, to be only the second best team in the Premier League on recent form. Why has Tuchel not transformed the ninth best team in the Premier League into the very, very best in five weeks? Bring back Frank and all that fun of beating Fulham 1-0.