Taking the lunge
“We have been stunned by the team,” said Martin Keown on BT Sport ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Tottenham on Saturday. “It’s hard to look beyond that.”
It’s really not that hard, Martin. What you do is focus and then consider that the man who trains those players all week – and is aware of their physical condition after playing less than three days before – might know a little more than you.
“I’m sure Tottenham will be looking at that and thinking they can expose Arsenal down the right with Mustafi at right back.
“We are scratching our head. Aubameyang has scored more than Henry did sometimes. You wouldn’t have Henry on the bench. Torreira has also been strong in midfield. For me there are too many positional changes.”
Forty-five minutes later: “I know we were criticising, maybe, the selection, but the shape has been perfect for Arsenal.”
“Maybe” is excellent.
Unfortunately, the Daily Mail have not called upon Keown to offer his views on that game, but instead on the 0-0 draw between Liverpool and Everton.
‘If Liverpool do not win the Premier League, they will look back on this as the day they blew it.
‘Their defence – led by Virgil van Dijk – deserve to be champions. This was their 19th clean sheet of the season and the first time since 2006 Liverpool have gone five games in a row without conceding.
‘It is their forwards who are letting them down. Liverpool’s best chances at Goodison Park fell to Mo Salah, but he seems to have lost his golden touch at just the wrong time.
‘When your team are solid at the back but misfiring up front, as a defender you are filled with despair.
‘I remember going to Leeds in May 1999 when Arsenal were battling Manchester United for the title.
‘As we kept missing a succession of chances, the realisation grew it was not to be our year. We lost 1-0 to a late goal and United went on to win the league.’
Poor Martin. Arsenal lost 1-0 to Leeds, they basically handed the title to Manchester United and none of it was his fault. They were ‘solid at the back but misfiring up front’, you see? And Keown was ‘filled with despair’ as Dennis Bergkamp and Nicolas Anelka missed chance after chance.
Let’s reminisce a little and take a look at the BBC report from that particular match in 1999:
‘Arsenal’s dominance continued, and Tony Adams forced a reflex save from Martyn after Emmanuel Petit’s corner was not cleared.
‘Kewell produced the first half’s most scintillating moment, his 30-yard effort tipped over by an otherwise quiet David Seaman.
‘But with both teams looking towards the half-time interval, Keown recklessly lunged in on Smith to concede a penalty.
‘Harte stepped up – but he blasted his kick against the crossbar and Seaman saved Hasselbaink’s rebound.’
‘Recklessly lunged in’. Not for the first or the last time, Martin.
‘I find it quite funny these days that, seemingly, you’re no longer allowed to say a team has bottled it,’ says John Cross as the Daily Mirror ask their ‘football experts’ (and Cross) whether Liverpool – who have lost one Premier League game all season – have lost their nerve.
He then goes on to say that Liverpool being ten points clear (they were never ten points clear) means that if they do not win the title, they will have bottled it. And not just lost form that is pretty impossible to maintain over a 38-game season.
‘Man City, in contrast, had their wobble over Christmas and are firing again. They arguably showed signs of bottling it at Christmas.’
Or alternatively, they just lost form that is pretty impossible to maintain over a 38-game season.
You are allowed to say that teams have bottled it, John. But it really doesn’t help your argument when other teams have apparently ‘bottled it’ but then recovered. What you are describing there is ‘form’.
Cowards and Crooks
‘I saw this lad come on against Liverpool and thought he was out of his depth. Unfortunately I’m sometimes prone to these snap judgements…’ writes the man who has a weekly column on the BBC website in which he picks a Team of the Week.
Quick question: Is the propensity for making snap judgements not a slight disadvantage when you are in a job entirely based upon making judgements?
Garth Crooks then excels himself by picking Hugo Lloris for one of the easiest penalty saves in the history of the genre, Jordan Henderson for doing a whole load of (very impressive) pointing in the Merseyside derby and Sokratis just so he could make an entirely unrelated point about Lucas Torreira’s tackle on Danny Rose. Crooks is also playing fast and loose with his formation, picking a right-back to play left-back alongside three centre-halves. Because, well, why the f*** not? It’s not just snap judgements that are a problem, it seems.
Henderson made Garth Crooks team of the week. Was he even playing yesterday?? pic.twitter.com/TafjUnJVLU
— Mick (@GOT_Micknick) March 4, 2019
But Mediawatch saves its most favourite eyebrow for this sentence:
‘Maurizio Sarri may have managed to get through some difficult weeks but there is still much to do. He is a ditherer, he has an errant goalkeeper and a weak captain. Apart from that they are not doing badly.’
A ‘ditherer’? As in ‘one who struggles to decide’? This is the man – usually derided for making the same decision over and over again – who dropped the most expensive goalkeeper in the world (far, far better than Lloris this weekend, by the way) just a few days ago. That seems pretty bloody decisive.
Mediawatch suspects that what Garth Crooks actually means is that Maurizio Sarri looks a bit old. Which is something of a snap judgement.
Sarri seems to be the hardest turd
Perhaps Crooks meant that Sarri was a ‘ditherer’ because he then chose to recall his ‘errant goalkeeper’ Kepa, a decision which has really got under the skin of the Daily Mirror‘s Darren Lewis. For there is nobody better placed to judge Chelsea and their morals than a Liverpool fan who usually writes about Tottenham.
‘WHEN the results keep coming morality goes out of the window.’
Alright fella, he didn’t actually do anything to you.
‘Defiance pays when you are a good player at a dysfunctional club. Kepa’s refusal to come off in the League Cup final last week is now a distant memory.’
Well, apparently not because you are still bloody going on about it. And Sarri was asked about it again before and after the match.
‘Sarri admitted he would have left a lesser player out for the rest of the season. When you are that promising with such a massive price tag, however, you are above the law at Stamford Bridge.’
Firstly, you know he didn’t break any law, right? Secondly, Sarri really did not say anything of the sort, which is why you have left out those quotes. What he said when asked if another player (not a ‘lesser player’) could have been banished for the same ‘crime’ was this: “With another man, yes, of course. I could have done it in another way. With him, I know him very well and know very well it wasn’t the right solution.”
So what’s happened here is that the wronged man/ditherer has spoken to a young man he knows well and decided on the correct course of action. And yet he apparently has to answer to journalists (not fans, who seem largely happy to see Kepa return) who have not been remotely wronged and have no emotional investment in his club? Because it’s 2019 and that’s what happens in 2019.
‘At Chelsea, a club where the investment matters more than the manager, he now has a second chance.’
From where Mediawatch is standing, it’s not Chelsea who are disrespecting their manager. They’re not the ones mis-quoting him to make a cheap point about ‘morals’.
City of delusion
Headline on The Sun website on Monday morning:
‘Deluded Sarri reveals talks with Chelsea board over transfer plans for next season, despite fears he faces the sack.’
We’ve checked again and we can confirm that Chelsea have actually won four of their last six games.
Damning with faint whiff of manure
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) March 3, 2019
Crumble, you say? That’s a heck of a word. And a hell of a (damning) confession.
‘Tottenham crack when the heat is on admits Harry Kane in damning confession’
Crack, you say? That’s a heck of a word. A different word to the one you promised in the tweet, but still a strong word. These must be pretty incendiary quotes, in which Kane clearly ‘confesses’ that there is a collective failure of mentality at Tottenham…
“The thing for us now, kind of like this week, when the pressure is on and we need to step up, we need to find a way to get it done. We haven’t done that in recent years, we haven’t done that this week and that will be the difference. That is the turning point that we need to try to achieve.”
Arsenal fan stretching anodyne quotes to conjure a ‘damning confession’ from a Spurs player? ✔
Rules and wisdom choke you
To be fair, the Daily Mirror were not the only guilty ones here. Of course they weren’t; how could they be when every football journalist at every game gathers together to talk about what ‘line’ has emerged from every interview. The consensus was clearly that the usually careful and painfully dull Kane had intimated (he hadn’t) that Tottenham – third in the Premier League with the sixth biggest wage bill and revenue, remember – were somehow falling short through a collective mental failure.
So we come to the back page of The Sun:
‘Kane rap for Spurs chokers’
Crumble. Crack. Choke.
And journalists have the nerve to claim that there is never a ‘narrative’.
Question and answer session
🤔 MIND GAMES? 🤔
Pep Guardiola insists table-topping Manchester City will have "no regrets" if they fail to retain the Premier League title.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) March 4, 2019