The absolute wurst
Do The Sun run a back page that features the line ‘Full house for Prem… and NEIN Germans!’ on Thursday? And does Dave Kidd begin his article within the newspaper by writing ‘And so it’s Premier League uber alles’?
You know the answer. But does the best-selling newspaper in Britain know that the war ended bloody ages ago?
After performing something approaching a post-mortem on a live subject three weeks ago, the nation’s media are more than happy to pronounce Liverpool as perfectly fine on Thursday morning.
What better place to start than with the king of the U-turns? Step forward Neil Ashton of The Sun.
‘The confidence, the belief they can beat anybody in a big game, is slipping away,’ he wrote after Liverpool drew 0-0 with Bayern in the first leg.
‘Liverpool, powering into the Champions League quarter-finals, looked unstoppable,’ he writes after Liverpool beat Bayern 3-1 in the second leg.
Textbook. But there is more.
‘Last season’s finalists, held at Anfield by Bayern Munich, are looking shaky and uncertain in the final stretch of the season,’ he wrote after Liverpool drew 0-0 with Bayern in the first leg.
‘When they play like this, Liverpool look ahead of the game,’ he writes after Liverpool beat Bayern 3-1 in the second leg.
From big-game confidence ‘slipping away’ to an ‘unstoppable’ force ‘powering’ into the next stage. From ‘looking shaky and uncertain’ to being ‘ahead of the game’. You can’t teach it.
Kick van Dijk
Writes Neil Ashton of a player he calls a ‘superhero’ a few paragraphs before:
‘It turns out Van Dijk is not flawless after all because he escaped a penalty appeal when he gave Robert Lewandowski a shove.
‘The Italian ref Daniele Orsato had the option of referring it to VAR but chose not to. Bit odd.’
How ‘odd’ that a referee opted not to punish what wasn’t a foul.
‘Before the game there was great confidence in the streets around Anfield, with locals predicting an emphatic victory – three, maybe four goal margins, were not uncommon estimates’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail, February 19.
‘There were close to 70,000 in the Allianz Arena, and they came expecting only one outcome’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail, March 14.
Stop talking to impressionable fans, Martin.
Oh, and do you still think Liverpool ‘didn’t have a whole lot to show for rather a significant shift’ in the first leg?
Tim, nice but…
BREAKING SKY SOURCES: pic.twitter.com/kHHwqX860S
— Football365 (@F365) March 14, 2019
Cycle of grief
Mind you, Sherwood is ahead of the debate. BBC Sport are asking: ‘Are English teams the new dominant force in Europe?’
Apropos of nothing, here is an excerpt from a BBC Sport article from March 2015.
‘Why are English teams struggling to match their performances of six years ago, when the Premier League provided three semi-finalists for Europe’s elite club competition for the third consecutive season?
‘Is it just cyclical?’
Brian Reade is ‘at the heart of football’ for the Daily Mirror, and is beating the drum for Tottenham to ‘loosen the purse strings’ to keep Mauricio Pochettino happy.
The appointment of Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid and imminent Manchester United coronation of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer means Daniel Levy should ‘toast his fellow suits’ for ‘closing off’ his manager’s ‘summer exit routes’. Don’t the four years left on Pochettino’s contract do precisely that?
Apparently not, because ‘the noises coming from Pochettino are that he’s growing tired of devoting his considerable talent to keeping Spurs in the top four and banging his head against a glass ceiling’.
That’s weird, because the quite literal ‘noises coming from Pochettino’ in January were as follows:
“I hope, or I wish to be here 20 years, and decide to leave or to finish my career here. I am so focused here, and want to help the club to achieve what the club want to be in history. It would be fantastic. I am so happy to be here. I am so happy to work in that pressure. Why not?”
Sounds sick to death of ‘banging his head against a glass ceiling’, doesn’t he?
Reade even references those comments, writing that ‘Pochettino brought it up in a discussion about how long he thinks he’ll be in charge of Spurs’, and that he ‘cryptically said he’d like to ask Wenger in private if staying on under such conditions had been worth it.’
He continues: ‘It clearly showed he was pondering if, after five years under Levy in which he’s had to operate on a net spend of £29million, his own groundhog day position is worth it.’
Or it clearly showed that he was contemplating emulating Wenger by trying to establish a long-term dynasty in north London. “I wish to be here 20 years” is hardly cryptic.
But no, a Tottenham side that have only just built an entirely new stadium should ‘properly bankroll Pochettino this summer’. Because that is a wise financial decision.
Pochettino will have money to spend in the next transfer window, and if he doesn’t then you have a point – he probably will be ‘growing tired’. But he doesn’t need to ‘compete with the top clubs’ in the market; Manchester City were hardly after Moussa Sissoko or Heung-min Son, were they?
The following headlines all appear on the Daily Mirror website‘s football homepage:
‘REVEALED: What sparked Roy Keane and John Terry’s heated touchline spat during Aston Villa’s win over Nottingham Forest’
‘What Messi said about Ronaldo’s Champions League hat-trick’
‘What Van Dijk shouted at Andy Robertson after Liverpool’s Champions League win’
‘What Mane did before scoring made goal even more impressive’
‘What Klopp spoke to referee about after Robertson picked up suspension’
‘What Cristiano Ronaldo did after his Champions League heroics’
‘REVEALED: What Josh Kroenke told Arsenal fans at surprise Emirates meeting’
‘What happened last time four English teams made Champions League quarter-finals’
And they say football journalism has been dumbed down by online media. Pah.
On that note…
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) March 13, 2019
Probably not much. Liverpool were playing against Bayern Munich at the time.
Accidental dig of the day
Writes Henry Winter in The Times:
‘They tried to close Bayern down quickly, Henderson soon fouling James Rodriguez. The England midfield player, knowing his international place is under significant pressure from Declan Rice, was keen to make an impression on this gilded club stage but was soon hobbling, having hurt his left foot, which needed bandaging.
‘Liverpool’s captain went off for attention…’
It was probably more for treatment to be fair.
‘Manchester United have had such a bad transfer window they might win the league’ – Manchester Evening News, August 13 2018.
‘Manchester United must learn from disastrous summer transfer window’ – Manchester Evening News, March 14.
By having an even worse one? After all, how else will they win the league?
Recommended reading of the day
Barney Ronay on Virgil van Dijk.
Simon Hughes on Liverpool.
Brad Jones on the fall of Dnipro.