A Brodge too far
Mediawatch embraces any opportunity to reminisce about Neil Ashton (then of the Daily Mail) and his Brendan Rodgers-inspired propaganda against Liverpool’s ‘laptop guru’ Michael Edwards (you can read the original here and the Mediawatch take-down here) in which he memorably stated: ‘The committee have yet to explain how they came up with the figure of £29million to sign Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim, who finished eighth in the Bundesliga last season.’
We can all probably agree that Liverpool’s ‘laptop guru’ and the rest of the committee have done relatively well in the transfer market both then and since, with Sadio Mane and Mo Salah both arriving for a combined total of around £70m, Andy Robertson joining for £8m and Xherdan Shaqiri signing for just £13.5m. They have also sold Jordon Ibe, Dominic Solanke and Christian Benteke for large amounts of actual money, and Philippe Coutinho for a truly massive amount of actual money that made spending £75m on the best defender in the Premier League (though Ashton considered him ‘injury-prone’ and a ‘crock’ when he signed for Liverpool, who ‘blew their brains out to sign the Dutchman’) look like both a bargain and a no-brainer.
But what we really need to remember is that Brendan Rodgers really is bloody brilliant. Got that? Here’s Ashton in The Sun…
‘PEOPLE could not wait to put the boot into Brendan Rodgers.
‘Familiar insults, such as “fraud”, “an imposter”, “charlatan” – and much worse – were in circulation when he walked out on Celtic to return to the Premier League with Leicester City.
‘At Tynecastle on Wednesday night, in Celtic’s first game since Rodgers left, a huge banner in the away end read: “You traded immortality for mediocrity. Never a Celt. Always a fraud.”
‘That is how football belittles the grafters, the hard-workers and those willing to break new ground in the pursuit of perfection and excellence.’
Sorry, what? This is not how football belittles the grafters. This is how Celtic fans belittle a man who left them to manage sodding Leicester after repeatedly saying he was already in “the best job in the world”.
‘He is mocked for being devoted to football management, to improving players, broadening their outlook and maximising potential.’
Yep. We all piss our sides laughing about his devotion to football management. A million memes have been launched by his devotion to broadening the outlook of his players. That’s exactly why Brendan Rodgers – who said: “My biggest mentor is myself because I’ve had to study and that’s been my biggest influence” – has become a figure of fun. It’s all that really hilarious devotion to maximising potential that we poke fun at.
‘The legacy at his last three clubs – Celtic, Liverpool and Swansea – is of a man passionate about his principles and committed to a purist’s passing game.’
Let’s just gloss over what happened at Watford and Reading.
‘At Liverpool he found a way to get the best out of a fluid, dreamy front three of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and a young Raheem Sterling.
‘That stuff takes planning, with some real thought put into finding a way to play three superstars up front.’
‘Some real thought’ apparently resulted in Rodgers deciding to play three forwards. Which had of course never been done before – like, for example, by Sir Alex Ferguson with Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. How on earth did the saintly Rodgers ‘find a way’? It boggles the mind.
Oh and they only actually started together 14 times in the 18 months that Rodgers had this ‘fluid, dreamy front three’ at his disposal. But still, there has been a legacy…
‘Jurgen Klopp has adopted the same interchangeable system, with different personnel.’
He basically copied him. He didn’t even have to do any of the planning or the ‘real thought’.
The Daily Telegraph’s Matt Law wrote confidently on December 27 that ‘Tottenham Hotspur believe Real Madrid pose a bigger threat than Manchester United in their fight to hold on to manager Mauricio Pochettino’.
And that story of course prompted 124 re-writes (because that is how online journalism works), including this on The Sun’s website: ‘TOTTENHAM are more worried about the threat of losing Mauricio Pochettino to Real Madrid than Manchester United, according to reports.’
So quite why or how Neil Ashton can – two whole months later – claim an EXCLUSIVE on a back-page story claiming that ‘TOTTENHAM fear Mauricio Pochettino will quit for Real Madrid in the summer’ is anybody’s guess.
Mediawatch will of course take a pop – could it possibly be because Tottenham have lost two consecutive Premier League games and are now the media’s designated crisis club? Surely not.
F*** da policy
‘MESUT OZIL will almost certainly not start against Spurs tomorrow,’ begins Britain’s best sports writer  Andy Dunn in the Daily Mirror, ‘the theory being Unai Emery does not trust him in big games, particularly those away from home.
‘In their trips to Big Six opponents this season, Ozil has started just once and was replaced by Aaron Ramsey in the 68th minute of the game at Stamford Bridge when the score was two-apiece. Arsenal went on to lose 3-2.
‘Since then, he did not feature in the squads for the trips to Old Trafford and Anfield and was an unused substitute in the match at the Etihad.’
Well, he was injured when Arsenal played at Old Trafford and Anfield, so he has actually started one of the two Big Six away games for which he has been available. It doesn’t sound like a particularly rigid policy.
‘Emery has made a decent fist of his first season at the Emirates, but this policy falls into the category of being too smart for its own good.’
A ‘decent fist’ is excellent, by the way. He has taken the distant sixth-favourites for the Premier League title into fourth; Mediawatch would say things have gone pretty well indeed.
Headline of the day
‘Amsterdam parties, fights at yoga and go-kart trips…where it all went wrong for Claudio Ranieri as Fulham manager’ – Daily Mail.
Pesky fact, revealed in third paragraph: They didn’t actually do any go-karting. Presumably because everybody knows that’s why footballers lose football matches.
Roy of the Overs
The Daily Mail is also remarkable for Martin Samuel’s column in which he praises Claudio Ranieri extensively (which makes sense, as the back page of the same newspaper claims that he was sacked by Fulham ‘amid concerns over his outdated coaching methods’), while also pouring scorn on the idea that Roy Hodgson is doing an excellent job.
‘Roy Hodgson, we are frequently told, is doing a great job at Crystal Palace. He’s certainly not doing a bad one. But great?
‘Crystal Palace are 14th in the league, five points above the relegation places. They are a point behind Newcastle, a club in a permanent state of mutiny; they are five points off Leicester, who have just sacked another manager.’
Yes, being five points off a club that won the Premier League just three years ago is definitely a fantastic stick with which to beat an old man.
‘They have Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luka Milivojevic – a quartet of players who would get into any team in the immediate vicinity, and many others higher up the table.’
Indeed they do. But they also have James Tomkins, Martin Kelly, Jeffrey Schlupp and James McArthur. See, we can also play that game of picking four players.
‘Are Palace really so inferior to the likes of Wolves, Watford or West Ham? Shouldn’t they be contending for the Europa League places, rather than peering over their shoulders at the league below?’
Actually no, they really shouldn’t. They spent a grand total of £9.5m in the summer while Wolves spent over £60m, Watford spent over £25m and Samuel’s beloved West Ham spent over £90m. Oh and they lost their two most creative central midfielders in Yohan Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
‘Hodgson took over a club in crisis and did very well to steady them. They finished 11th last season, a revival which was, rightly, acclaimed.
‘Yet surely Palace should have pushed on from there, as Fulham and West Bromwich did under his stewardship, particularly as it is not known how long the club can keep its best individuals?’
Fulham did indeed improve – after Hodgson was allowed to bring in 13 new players in his first full summer. And as for West Brom? They ‘pushed on’ from 11th to 10th. Why oh why has Hodgson not managed to do that again after signing Cheikhou Kouyate?
Recommended reading of the day
Daniel Storey on Sean Longstaff and the ‘hidden army’
Jonathan Wilson on the Romelu Lukaku paradox