Martial no longer ‘brilliant’ as ‘gormless’ Arsenal scrape win

Editor F365

Martial awe
It was August 2020 when Neil Custis and Jamie O’Hara clashed on talkSPORT over the quality of strikers at Manchester United.

The latter was adamant that they needed “a number nine” to replace Anthony Martial, who “is not the number nine who is going to take Manchester United back to the top and back to the Premier League title”.

The former argued that “that front three is excellent” and would not be so easy to upgrade, taking particular exception at O’Hara claiming Manchester United “need a number nine”.

You can read the full transcript here if you so wish.

Mediawatch only brings it up because Custis was back on talkSPORT on Friday morning, with Martial once again the subject matter.

“Martial, you know, he had a decent game in the derby but I think he’s scored two goals since New Year’s Day, and both of those were in the Southampton 9-0 win when Southampton had already given up and were 5-0 down.

“He’s the Manchester United number nine and he offers absolutely nothing up front in terms of movement, in terms of opportunities. His instinct as a goalscorer is just not there.”

Ah. So ‘that front three’ is no longer ‘excellent’ just seven months later? Mason Greenwood has dropped out and now Martial “offers absolutely nothing up front” so soon after you rallied against the idea he wasn’t good enough to lead a title-winning team. How very strange.

Not quite as strange as this, mind:

“I’m not picking on him. It could be anybody. I could be talking about Wayne Rooney now. I can’t be talking about Wayne Rooney now because he never had a patch like that.”

Well alright. Fair enough.


Amad world
Custis has seemingly had a pretty long morning, judging by the absolute rollercoaster of his piece on Manchester United beating drawing with AC Milan:

I forced an AI to read 10,000 newspaper match reports, then asked it to write its own. Here are the results.


Midfield minefield
‘Matic, the most impressive at Goodison Park over seven months ago, was only withdrawn due to a caution and Van de Beek, in his first major start for his new club, made way for Bruno Fernandes, who found Rashford for the clincher. United’s midfield department has not been this imposing since they last hoisted the European Cup in 2008’ – Manchester Evening News, October 29.

‘The loss of Paul Pogba continues to rob United of invention and quality in the centre of the pitch and without him United have generally looked too predictable. And the worry for Solskjaer might be that the issues exposed over the last couple of weeks will require more than a positive fitness update. He might be picking up the phone to newly installed football director John Murtough to discuss whether the balance of this midfield is something that needs to be fixed in the transfer market, rather than on the training ground and in the medical room’ – Manchester Evening News, March 12.


Grump ‘n’ grind
One would assume that winning the first leg of a European knockout tie 3-1 would earn at least a degree of praise for the victors, no matter the quality of performance. Yet Arsenal are Arsenal, Mark Irwin is Mark Irwin and The Sun are The Sun.

It takes a single paragraph for Irwin to point out that Arsenal ‘have to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself,’ as if that needed a reminder.

A paragraph later, he warns them not to ‘shoot themselves in the foot’ in the second leg after ‘the gormless Gunners were so nearly the architects of their own downfall once again’ as they ‘pushed their luck to the limit’.

How does he describe Youssef Al-Arabi’s goal for Olympiakos with the hindsight of it being in a 3-1 defeat? As ‘an error which could yet have massive repercussions’ for Arsenal.

You really wouldn’t think they’d just had four times as many shots on target and three times as many shots overall as their hosts. But yes, an Arsenal side that has lost by three clear goals just four times since the start of the 2017/18 season – three of which were to Manchester City – should be petrified of Olympiakos because they beat them at the Emirates last season by a scoreline that would not send them through this season.


Melt tip
Compare that coverage with Paul Jiggins’ report on Tottenham elsewhere in The Sun, where he writes of a team that ‘could be celebrating in Gdansk on May 26’ after taking ‘a step closer to the Europa League Final’ by the third paragraph.

They won 2-0 at home. Arsenal won 3-1 away. Who is really in a better position?

Definitely not Arsenal, who Irwin believes will want ‘to prevent their season from going into complete meltdown’ in Sunday’s north London derby.

They are tenth, 12 points clear of the relegation zone and 12 points behind fourth place. As important as a game against Tottenham will always be to Arsenal, they are openly prioritising the Europa League at this point.

Harry Kane scoring twice in a game where Tottenham have 5 per cent possession will be annoying for and typical of Arsenal, but it absolutely won’t send their season ‘into complete meltdown’.


Ode to joy
Martin Odegaard is damn lucky he scored, though, as Tom Barclay of The Sun believes that his goal came ‘just as supporters were starting to lose their patience’.

He writes this in a piece for which the headline centres around the claim that ‘Gunners fans were giving up on him’. Really? He joined on loan in January. It’s March. He’s started six games for them. As fun as it is to pretend all Arsenal fans are ludicrous humans, had any actual ones written off Odegaard before Thursday?


Scores on the Daws
‘Craig Dawson is three Premier League starts away from triggering a permanent move to West Ham United… West Ham paid a £1 million loan fee to sign Dawson and will have to pay only £2 million to complete a permanent deal’ – The Athletic, March 10.

‘CRAIG DAWSON is 135 minutes away from becoming a £3million permanent player at West Ham… West Ham have already paid Watford a £1 million loan fee which means there is even less to pay in the final instalment: just £2million’ – The Sun exclusive, March 11.


Christian belief


Recommended reading of the day
Suzy Wrack talks to Lucy Bronze.