‘Wenger gave a further heavy hint he will still be at the Emirates next season when he insisted there were no issues with the Arsenal crowd, despite fans staying away in their droves from recent home matches’ – Daily Mirror.
Yeah, about that…
‘BRENDAN RODGERS has been backed in to become the favourite to take over from Arsene Wenger as the next Arsenal manager’ – The Sun.
‘Carlo Ancelotti emerges as favourite for Arsenal manager’s job after Arsene Wenger decides to step down’ – Daily Mirror.
‘Stop building entire stories around betting odds’ – Mediawatch.
Of all the fitting tributes to the outgoing Wenger, former Arsenal midfielder Stewart Robson, who served as Arsenal TV co-commentator until 2012, offered the most heartfelt on BBC Radio 5 live.
“You can’t take away the good things. When he came he changed the philosophy of Arsenal.
“He was fantastic in that period but, like a lot of dictators, they think they are going down the right road – but even when people are saying you need to change, he wouldn’t change.
“Arsenal under Arsene Wenger in the last few years have been too one-dimensional and behind the times in recruitment and physiotherapy. It is the best thing that could happen to Arsenal that he is leaving now.”
Who could forget Benito Mussolini’s revolutionary approach to dieting and training? Or Mao Zedong’s affable nature in press conferences? Or Adolf Hitler’s seven FA Cups?
Bob Wilson might well have put it best back in February 2013:
“This is a guy who worked for this club up to a few weeks ago, doing the pre-match stuff on the opposition, who then went to a newspaper, without naming anybody who had given him the so-called facts about him [Wenger] being a dictator.
“Today, he’s been on every half hour on BBC Radio Five live, and this is a guy who obviously is a bitter guy because he’s no longer got a role or any employment here.”
Roll the Dyche
‘Antonio Conte followed up his sly dig at Sean Dyche by stealing his tactics!’ writes David Facey in The Sun.
‘Chelsea boss Conte claimed Burnley chief Dyche has a “simple” life because avoiding relegation is his big priority.
‘But Conte took a leaf out of Dyche’s play book for this revenge mission, after the Clarets won 3-2 at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season.’
Because Sean Dyche invented playing two strikers at the same time.
Don’t be Rash
Neil Custis is in The Sun telling us that Alexis Sanchez is ‘facing FA Cup semi-final heartbreak’. He’ll be on the bench again, basically.
But this means that Marcus Rashford ‘played his way into’ Saturday’s Wembley line-up. That is hardly a surprise, given Rashford ‘was excellent’, and only Paul Pogba’s performance ‘stopped the 20-year-old England international from getting star-billing and the BT Man of the Match’ award.
Maybe Rashford isn’t ‘in danger of losing touch with reality’ after all?
The Dunn thing
Asks Andy Dunn – ‘Britain’s best Sports Writer’ – in his Daily Mirror column:
‘The debate on VAR – whether it is a system that should be used or not – is over. We all understand that refereeing mistakes are part of the game, but there is not stopping the use of VAR in top-flight football. Yet the Premier League has decided to delay its implementation. Why?’
Because clubs voted for “advanced testing” to take place to iron out all of the issu… oh, you aren’t done?
‘It is simply delaying the inevitable. A World Cup Final cannot now be decided by a rank, bad refereeing decision – but destiny in the Premier League can. VAR is coming to the Premier League and there is no point in putting it off.’
What about if clubs voted for “advanced testing” to take place to iron out all of the issues?
‘Juve would clear path for Pogba’ reads the headline on the back page of the Daily Mirror. With the Daily Mail reporting on Friday that Manchester United wanted at least £120m for the midfielder, the Serie A side must have something up their big Italian sleeve.
‘Juventus have opened the door to a sensational return for Paul Pogba,’ writes Darren Lewis. ‘The Italian champions admit both the troubled Manchester United midfielder and Chelsea flop Alvaro Morata are in their sights – but fear they will be unable to afford them.’
Well then. What is it general manager Giuseppe Marotta has actually said?
“If Pogba or Morata could return? I don’t believe in riding a horse more than once, but there are exceptions.
“They are two great professionals who left a great memory but the value they have now reached is not feasible for us.”
That second sentence seems more important than the first.
Mediawatch agrees with Paul Merson that Everton should probably not have asked fans to rate Sam Allardyce as a manager through a survey.
Mediawatch chuckled at the claim that Merson would “expect that when I was manager of Walsall”, but that Allardyce deserves more respect.
But Mediawatch cannot agree that Everton were on the brink of relegation when Allardyce was appointed.
“If it wasn’t for this man, where would they be now? They were going absolutely zilcho nowhere,” Merson tells Sky Sports.
“They’d just been beaten 4-1 by Southampton and they looked like they were gone.
“He came in and he made it look very easy and kept them up.
“Now it’s like ‘well we don’t want Sam, we would have stayed up anyway.’
“No they wouldn’t have stayed up – they’d have gone down. If he’d have gone to West Brom on the same day that he’d gone to Everton, West Brom would have stayed up.”
Everton were 13th when Allardyce was appointed. They are now ninth, an improvement for which he deserves credit. But this was hardly a great escape.
To say “they looked like they were gone” and “they’d have gone down”, seven clubs were doing worse. And now 11 are. Simple, really.
‘The FA have changed their council meeting set-up so the blazers now sit around tables rather than in rows. This has been very well received – probably because the croissants and cakes are put on the tables ready to be scoffed straight away rather than the ravenous councillors having to wait until a break.’
Thanks, as ever, to Charlie Sale of the Daily Mail with this hard-hitting update.
Recommended reading of the day
Amy Lawrence on Arsene Wenger.
Henry Winter on Arsene Wenger.
Daniel Storey on Arsene Wenger.