No really, read the headline again and have a guess. The answer lies in the ‘On the plane’ section…
‘Liverpool stars arrive at training as they get to work ahead of United showdown’ – Daily Mirror.
Men go to work.
And here we were thinking that Jurgen Klopp would give Liverpool’s players the whole week off.
‘Rooney chauffeured to training, days after doing his community service at a garden centre’ – Daily Mirror.
If Rooney had finished an overnight community service spell at 7.30am and been picked up for Everton training at 8am, Mediawatch might have considered this a news story.
‘Days after’? Not so much. He does play for Everton as a professional footballer, after all.
Down down, deeper and down
You do almost have to admire the Daily Mail’s Charlie Sale for his near-constant negativity of everything to do with England, the Football Association and the England national team. Today is no different.
‘Even the most ardent England fan would be hard pressed to say the last two World Cup qualifying games against Slovenia and Lithuania have been exciting,’ begins Sale on Tuesday.
‘And for the first time in this less-than-thrilling campaign, it looks as though the remarkably loyal armchair support switched off from watching the England game in Vilnius despite its primetime kick-off at 5pm on Sunday.
‘The poor viewing figures for the dull 1-0 win were an average of 3.69million and a peak of 4.98m. That made it the only match in the 10-game route to Russia – all covered live on ITV – for which the ratings had sunk below a 4m average and 5m peak.
‘An average of 5.07m had watched the 1-0 victory over Slovenia at Wembley last Thursday, with a peak of 6.18m. By either measurement, well over a million viewers deserted England.’
Have they ‘deserted England’, Charlie? Or was this just a dead rubber match in which the result had absolutely no bearing on anything? Let’s see how many watch the friendlies against Germany and Brazil.
Also, we really must question the claim that Sunday 5pm is ‘primetime’ TV slot. Presumably that’s why BBC One are plumping for a repeat of Eat Well For Less at the same time this Sunday, to get a slice of that sweet primetime pie?
If only supporters had been told the details of that Euro 2016 darts competition, eh Charlie. None of this would have happened…
On the plane
Picking an England squad to go to next year’s World Cup is, by its very nature, a game of opinions, but it was still very interesting to read the thoughts of the Daily Mirror’s football writers on the subject.
– Chief football writer Andy Dunn leaving Joe Hart out of the squad in favour of Fraser Forster based on Premier League form. He must have watched a different Forster over the past year.
– Matt Lawless taking both Andy Carroll and Dominic Calvert-Lewin as two of his five forwards and Michail Antonio and Jack Wilshere in midfield, but leaving Adam Lallana at home. That seems a touch harsh.
– Darren Lewis perfectly reasonably leaving out Fabian Delph, Jack Wilshere and Danny Drinkwater because of a lack of game time, but then picking Theo Walcott.
Still, the last word really must go to Simon Bird, whose negativity towards England is, bizarrely, absolutely joyous:
‘It really doesn’t matter who Southgate picks, England are too pedestrian and fearful in their play to be contenders. He should stick with a first choice core. For instance: Butland, Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose – Henderson, Dier – , Rashford, Ali, Lallana – Kane.
‘Then fill the squad with the pick of last year’s U20 World Cup winners, who are now part of the U21 campaign, to fill up the squad and give them a good look at a senior tournament.
‘Don’t select middle ranking Premier League stars who won’t be around for the next two or three tournaments. Take lads like Kyle Walker-Peters, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Josh Onomah, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tammy Abraham, Ade Lookman, Sheyi Ojo and Dominic Solanke.’
Mediawatch expects that the media reaction towards Gareth Southgate would be entirely calm and collected if he took players on loan at Aston Villa and Fulham to next summer’s World Cup. Sorry Sheyi, but we wouldn’t get our hopes up.
Goals, goals, goals
You can tell it is a slow week of news in the middle of the international break when MailOnline are doing fluff features like ‘Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata are all flying, but which side has the most formidable attack?’. Yes, we’ve heard of the ‘goals scored’ column too.
It really is a bizarre piece. Teams are awarded marks out of ten for firepower, but it bears little actual resemblance to their actual record. Arsenal (11 league goals) are given 7/10 and Chelsea (12 goals scored) 7.5/10, but Liverpool (13 goals scored) are only given 6/10. That’s despite Arsenal having ‘a fairly average front-line’.
‘Goals have been few and far between’ for Liverpool, you see, despite them being the fourth top scorers in the division. Presumably they scored four lots of scotch mist against Arsenal at Anfield?
Still the best line is certainly saved for Chelsea, and their 7.5 rating:
‘Solely due to Morata’s precision in front of goal, Chelsea get a 7.5. They will be hoping and praying the Spaniard isn’t struck down by injury, though. Batshuayi is decent enough, but he’s not got the capacity to win Chelsea the league.’
Do NOT Google ‘Alvaro Morata injury’ whatever you do, guys…
Four is the magic number
You do sometimes wonder whether England managers can ever win. Mediawatch is not wholly convinced by Gareth Southgate – far from it – but he is at least trying something new.
Southgate watched England play Slovenia and saw central midfielders drop too deep to pick up the ball, thus slowing down possession and causing attacking midfielders to be isolated. He decided that playing a back three might help, allowing a central defender to step up out of defence and meet the central midfield, rather than the other way round.
Before we carry on, it’s also worth saying that this plan hasn’t been proven to be foolish yet. We’ve used it a couple of times, and it’s done okay. England have natural wing-backs, and they have central defenders who are playing, or have played, in the same shape at club level.
And so to Neil Ashton’s astoundingly negative piece in The Sun. Short version: Won’t work, no point, stupid for trying.
‘Gareth Southgate must be dreaming as he confirms England are permanently switching to three in defence – meaning John Stones is our version of Franz Beckenbauer,’ is the headline on Ashton’s piece. Or just our version of Manchester City’s John Stones?
‘THE Germans had Franz Beckenbauer while Holland had Ronald Koeman and Frank Rijkaard. England have John Stones.’
Yeah, but Beckenbauer, Koeman and Rijkaard aren’t English. So Southgate has gone with the best English passing central defender. It seems a pretty logical plan to us.
‘The system is unconventional and unorthodox, alien to English players brought up on a diet of 4-4-2.’
Mediawatch does not have the time nor inclination to do the research of every academy and first-team side that Stones, Gary Cahill, Michael Keane and Phil Jones have played in, but we do know this: none of those four central defenders have been brought up solely on a diet of 4-4-2. It isn’t 1994 anymore.
‘Sadly it will be an easy system for opponents, especially top class opposition such as Germany or Brazil, to overcome. They are England’s next opponents, heading to London next month for two prestige friendlies at Wembley.’
Yes, it might be overcome. But that’s largely because – newsflash – those teams are significantly better than England.
Mediawatch is not sure that this change will work, but we do know that the old way wasn’t much better, and any system that utilises Stones as a passer is worth trying in our book.
A reminder: England conceded two goals against Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Iceland since the start of last year, all with a back four. If it might be broke (and you have eight months of preparation time), trying to fix it is not the worst plan.
A(nother?) Mediawatch gripe
People who say international football doesn't matter any more should just look at the Irish & Welsh players and fans. It matters the world.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) October 9, 2017
Over the last few days, Mediawatch has seen a lot of people say ‘People who say international football doesn’t matter…’. What we haven’t seen is anyone actually saying that international football doesn’t matter.
‘The England team bore me’ and ‘England games bore me’ isn’t the same as ‘international football doesn’t matter’. It’s a big world out there…
‘England in danger of becoming ‘the Harry Kane team’ admits Gareth Southgate after Tottenham star scores again,’ reads the headline on the Daily Mirror website, and it made Mediawatch double take. Has Gareth Southgate really used the same phrase at Pep Guardiola?
Well no, he hasn’t. Here’s what Southgate said when asked if England were too reliant on Kane:
“It’s fantastic if we have a centre-forward like Harry, but what if we don’t have him for a game? We have to get goals from other areas.
“What’s important is that the likes of Rashford, Alli, and Sterling, Lallana can also provide those goals. Rashford is 19, Alli, 20, I had Harry at that age (with Under-21s) and he wasn’t the finished article either. Those guys have the potential to come through as well.
“Sometimes, the others need opportunity. That’s not to say we are going to. I think Vardy is an important player for us as well, and will score goals, and give us a different threat with his pace. We have goalscorers.”
So Southgate named four other players who he believes can contribute goals, and said “we have goalscorers”. And that’s him supposedly describing England as a one-man team? Mentions of ‘Harry Kane team’ are conspicuously thin on the ground.
Play fair, guys. You can’t really use quote marks in a headline, followed by ‘admits Southgate’, if he said nothing of the sort.
Are you gonna go my way?
The obsession with selling things with numbers is nothing new. Five things we learned, six players who could and 16 conclusions; all are blatant and shameful attempts to get people to click.
Still, Trinity Mirror outlet Football.London did produce an absolute doozy on Monday afternoon. And by ‘doozy’, we mean bleeuurgh.
‘6 ways Arsenal can cover for Shkodran Mustafi against Watford and until he returns in 2018,’ the article is headlined, and that intrigued Mediawatch. We thought that there was one very obvious way: pick another central defender.
So would this be an assessment of six strategical or tactical options for Arsene Wenger? It would not. What it would be is a straight list of six Arsenal defenders, four of whom played in their last bloody match.
Not quite sure ‘Nacho Monreal’ counts as a way of covering for Mustafi, given that he was standing next to the bugger against Brighton. Unless Wenger is going to splice him?
It’s an addiction
For those of you keeping count of the astonishing number of versions of ‘The [insert literally any word] One’ that English newspapers manage to produce to label Jose Mourinho, The Sun have called him ‘The Crafty One’ for apparently going to watch a player.
The only times Mediawatch has seen the word ‘crafty’ used previously is to describe illicitly smoked cigarettes or acts of self-pleasure. Mourinho, it is important to stress, is accused of doing neither.
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson on Argentina.
Suzanne Wrack with Hope Powell.
Nick Ames on Iceland.