The contrast between the comments of Mauricio Pochettino (“It only builds your ego”) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (“We are about winning trophies”) is dominating the news agenda on Tuesday morning, so Mediawatch was intrigued by the Daily Mirror website’s claim to have a whole new take on the pair.
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Mauricio Pochettino? Man Utd fans spot intriguing difference between duo’
Ooh, what have they ‘spotted’? It’s billed as ‘intriguing’ so we really are intrigued.
Unfortunately, we have to wade through a whole load of filler to get there, but finally we arrive at the seventh and eighth paragraphs:
‘And comments made by both managers over recent days have got United fans talking, as they look towards the future.
‘The key difference they’ve noticed is the two managers very different takes on trophies.’
‘Noticed’. For f***’s sake, it’s on every back page. Give them all a spotter’s badge. And give the Daily Mirror zero respect for trying to eke out clicks on the day’s only real story by pretending they have anything new to offer.
Promised you a miracle
Mediawatch largely agrees with Stan Collymore in the Daily Mirror that Mauricio Pochettino’s comments about trophies only building your ego are basically bunkum – quite why the Argentine is talking himself out of bigger jobs is a mystery. But of course Collymore could not get through a whole column without a ridiculous claim that we have literally no choice but to greet with a ‘sorry, what?’
‘In fact, if Pochettino this season wins the Premier League or Champions League either of them will be the singular biggest achievement of an English club manager since Brian Clough won back-to-back European Cups with Nottingham Forest.
‘I’d consider it better than Leicester as their title win a few years ago was a true one-off while Spurs are expected to compete.’
The winner takes it all
The Manchester Evening News go further. Much further. They are throwing their weight behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the permanent Manchester United manager under a brash headline of ‘Manchester United chief Ed Woodward should end his search for the next manager’.
‘Tottenham described their 4-3 Champions League ejection to Juventus last year as ‘proud’. This was a tie where they outplayed the Serie A champions in Turin and led 1-0 in the return leg at the interval. They choked. A Sunday journalist commendably penned a column ‘in praise of Spurs’ after following their League Cup tie at Chelsea. They choked.
‘There is a mentality issue at the club dating back to the black and white days of Bill Nicholson that were appropriately referenced by Mauricio Pochettino on Friday.’
Come again. Was there a ‘mentality issue’ when Spurs won three trophies in four years in the early 1980s? To dismiss almost 60 years of a club’s history with a throwaway line about a ‘mentality issue’ is ridiculous.
We will fast-forward through the nonsense about memes and the ‘stars aligning’ for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until we get to this magnificent paragraph:
‘United are facing the choice between a masterful man-manager with tactical acumen who is readying his players for a championship challenge next season and another who is focusing on Champions League qualification. The supporters do not need to be told which is which.’
And you would think the supporters would know the difference between aspirations at clubs whose annual revenue is separated by over £300m and whose five-year net spend is separated by around £400m. Or at least they should. Pochettino would no more target only Champions League qualification at Manchester United than he targeted a top-half finish at Tottenham after leaving Southampton.
You might as well ask why Solskjaer did not target the title when he took over at Cardiff City in 2014.
‘In fairness, ‘being consistently in the top four and playing in the Champions League’ ticks the Glazer siblings’ boxes. Only the incumbent United manager will not settle for that and nor will Solskjaer’s followers. That includes the United players.
‘United have a winner.’
Eight games, guys. Eight games. And you are ready to anoint him for saying he would like to win trophies.
Chapter and Merse
* ‘Arsenal are flat-track bullies!’
Arsenal’s last Premier League result: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0.
Reminder: Paul Merson is a Chelsea fan.
* ‘West Ham are doing well in the league so that’s what was so frustrating about their defeat in the FA Cup to AFC Wimbledon.’
Pesky fact: West Ham have picked up four points in their last four Premier League games.
‘Lionel Messi reveals eldest son Thiago criticises him to his face after a bad game’ – The Sun.
It would be really sodding weird if he criticised him on Twitter.
The very worst of months
ESPN’s Mark Ogden never knowingly writes anything interesting so Mediawatch was intrigued (again) to read his piece on why there is so little transfer business this January. And so he begins:
‘Sir Alex Ferguson would always claim that the best way to participate in the January transfer window was from the outside, looking in on those clubs who had allowed themselves to be dragged into what the former Manchester United manager described as the “chaos” of the month-long, midseason transfer market. Jurgen Klopp, who persuaded Liverpool to spend a world-record fee for a defender by completing the £75 million signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton last January, might beg to differ with Ferguson’s long-held view but generally, the biggest and best-run clubs avoid the January market at all costs.
‘Van Dijk has been a huge success for Liverpool during his 12 months at Anfield and is, perhaps, the exception to the rule that states the January window is dominated by panic buying and expensive mistakes.’
Mediawatch would like to gently nudge Ogden and remind him that Arsenal and Manchester City broke their own transfer records last January, and both Aymeric Laporte and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have done rather well. We would think that City are the very definition of one of the ‘biggest and best-run clubs’.
‘Tottenham didn’t sign a single player last summer, and their lack of depth is now threatening to ruin their season, with injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli coinciding with exits from the League Cup and FA Cup. But if Mauricio Pochettino adds to his squad before Thursday’s 11 p.m. deadline, it will be because injuries have forced the club’s hand. That scenario is when mistakes are made because the January window, and certainly the final week of it is a market for the desperate and ill-prepared.’
What about the final minutes? Because that’s why Tottenham signed Dele Alli just four years ago? That went quite well. Nobody is doubting that mistakes can be made in January, but the winter window has also brought Alli, Theo Walcott, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Matic, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Agger, Luis Suarez, Branislav Ivanovic, Edin Dzeko, Laporte, Aubameyang and others to the Premier League. To claim that Van Dijk is ‘the exception to the rule that the January window is dominated by panic buying and expensive mistakes’ is ridiculous.
‘United signed Alexis Sanchez 12 months ago, with his contract running out at Arsenal, and the Chilean has so far done little to make his former club regret their decision to sell him. When Liverpool sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50m in January 2011, injuries had already started to take their toll, and his dismal performances at Stamford Bridge suggested that Liverpool knew that the forward’s best days were already behind him.
‘And while Liverpool may have wasted £35m by signing Newcastle’s Andy Carroll as a replacement, they were also able to complete a £22.8m deal for Luis Suarez, who became a major star at Anfield. But again: why was Suarez available in January? Because he was serving a seven-game suspension for biting an opponent, and Ajax wanted to cash in rather than risk missing out with wealthier clubs being put off by the Uruguayan’s reputation.’
Does that mean that Suarez was not a phenomenal signing? He scored 69 goals in 110 Premier League games and Liverpool then sold him for a profit to Barcelona. Which is really quite similar (without the goals) to Coutinho. There clearly is value in the January market. And to pretend otherwise is just bizarre.
‘As the January window enters its final four days, there is little prospect of Liverpool, Manchester City or United adding to their squads. Chelsea, who have been busy this month for reasons already mentioned, may yet allow Gary Cahill, Danny Drinkwater and Callum Hudson-Odoi to leave Stamford Bridge before the deadline, but there it’s unlikely that there will be further arrivals.
‘Arsenal, faced with an escalating defensive crisis, might have to find a new centre-half, but with the clock ticking, they will do well to find a signing who will prove as reliable as Van Dijk. But Liverpool and City now have settled squads due to intensive recruitment over the past 18 months, and neither are likely to do business for a quick fix that solves a short-term problem this week.’
Yep. He’s right; Arsenal will ‘do well to find a signing’ as good as one of the best centre-halves in the history of the Premier League. The January window is clearly a piece of sh*t.
Recommended reading of the day
Suzanne Wrack talks to Megan Rapinoe
Jack Pitt-Brooke on Arsenal 2011 and Tottenham 2019