‘This was surely the night when Manchester City surrendered their grip on the title. The night when it all went wrong for Pep Guardiola as the champions blew it in one of the most unlikely results of the season. The night when they effectively handed the title to leaders Liverpool’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, January 30.
‘Manchester City have returned to the top of the Premier League after the title pendulum swung back in their favour’ – David Anderson, Daily Mirror, February 7.
To go top just eight days after ‘surrendering their grip’ and ‘effectively handing the title’ to Liverpool is quite an effort. And a prime example of why conclusions on a season that ends in May should probably not be drawn in January or February.
‘Manchester City returned to the top of the table, and their wealth of experience, resilience and technical quality means they will take some shifting’ – Henry Winter, The Times.
They certainly will. Either that or Liverpool can go back above them if they draw at home to Bournemouth, who have the fifth-worst away record in the Premier League this season, on Saturday.
Six degrees of trepidation
‘So, for the time being, advantage City,’ writes Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail.
‘It has been an impressive reaction to defeat at Newcastle nine days ago. After that, City must have thought they could be looking at a seven-point deficit by the following night.
‘Instead, maximum points later, it is Liverpool who must view the table with a degree of trepidation.’
‘A degree of trepidation’ at being level with the Premier League leaders on goal difference in early February, having played one game less? Sure.
‘Cause I love summer, no Harry Wilson
So with Liverpool now out of the title race, the inquest into how they could and should have avoided such a spectacular implosion continues.
Wednesday brought us the suggestion that failing to foresee one player getting injured and another suffering a setback before loaning out his third-choice right-back was literally the biggest mistake Jurgen Klopp has made as Liverpool manager. It was hilarious.
By Thursday, the Daily Mirror‘s Brian Reade sheds a light on an even bigger misstep made by the German.
‘There’s been a lot of talk about Liverpool dropping a clanger by letting Nathaniel Clyne go on loan to Bournemouth.
‘But I’ve a sneaking suspicion there may have been a bigger one dropped in the transfer window: Not triggering their option to recall loanee Harry Wilson from Derby.’
So Klopp’s error was not in loaning out his third-choice right-back, but in not recalling his fifth- or sixth-choice forward? Righto.
And the dictionary definition of a ‘clanger’ is ‘an absurd or embarrassing blunder’. Pray, tell us how not recalling a player who has literally never played in the Premier League fits that description.
‘The 21-year-old has been in sensational form, showing an ability to score goals out of nothing – even against Premier League opposition.’
So why would you disrupt such ‘sensational form’ by prematurely swapping regular competitive minutes for a place on the bench? And do two free-kick goals against Manchester United and Southampton really constitute ‘goals out of nothing’?
‘With Jurgen Klopp having little of quality to supplement his front three, Wilson could have made a difference coming off the bench.’
Behind Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Liverpool have Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi. ‘Little of quality’ cost £35m between them, and have a combined 17 goals and assists in 22 starts. They should be reasonably expected to ‘make a difference coming off the bench’ when three of the best forwards in the Premier League struggle.
Wilson is good. He could be very, very good. But being excellent as a Championship regular is no guarantee of being an effective top-flight impact substitute halfway through a season.
‘Remember Federico Macheda at Manchester United in 2009? Liverpool do. Because the goals the Italian scored arriving as a late substitute were the difference between them losing and United winning the title.’
An example of a player not being recalled from loan a decade ago before scoring crucial goals in a title race to support your argument that a player should have been recalled from loan to help in the title race?
Mediawatch is convinced: what a ‘clanger’.
John Cross is not known for his Manchester United exclusives, but he has an absolute doozy for the Daily Mirror here.
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now ‘in pole position’ to be Man Utd’s full-time manager,’ he writes, preparing to offer us the sort of valuable insight that only journalistic contacts can.
Apparently Solskjaer’s job prospects have been given ‘another major boost’ as ‘other runners and riders are falling away’.
It turns out that Tottenham don’t want to lose Mauricio Pochettino, Zinedine Zidane can’t speak fluent English (having never worked nor spent much time in England), and Antonio Conte is too similar to Jose Mourinho. Who knew?
This is the meltdown
Reads the first paragraph of Duncan Wright’s Sun exclusive, a story apparently good enough to make the actual paper:
‘Mauricio Pochettino, David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane will send the rumour mill into meltdown after enjoying dinner at a swanky London restaurant.’
Read the final three paragraphs of Duncan Wright’s Sun exclusive, a story that really shouldn’t have made the actual paper:
‘Pochettino and his assistant at Spurs, Jesus Perez, were spotted sneaking out of the kitchen exit at 10:55pm.
‘Becks and Zidane, who remain on good terms with Real president Florentino Perez, left the same way moments earlier.
‘The pair are believed to be in London to film an adidas advert.’
So Pochettino had dinner with his friend and colleague at the same time and place as two former Real Madrid employees, who were only in London because they are working together on a separate project?
It’s a wonder it didn’t make the back page.
Case for the defence
Dean Saunders was on talkSPORT on Thursday morning. Here is but one of his pearls of wisdom.
“It’s alright being able to play out from the back and play nice passes into midfield, and have centre-backs who can control the ball and look really good on the ball. The back four are on the pitch to head goal kicks away, head corners away and head free-kicks away. It’s like as if we’ve gone the full circle in coaching defenders that can all play but can’t head it.”
And it’s a wonder he didn’t make it as a manager.
‘Is it still 2019?’ headline of the day
‘How diamond-loving, private jet-setting Man City WAGs will come face-to-face with down to earth Newport counterparts who sell scrap metal and shop at Morrisons’ – The Sun online.
Recommended reading of the day
Gary Al-Smith on how Ghana’s football has ground to a halt.
Adam Bate on Maurizio Sarri.