Intro of the day
‘MANCHESTER UNITED star Marcus Rashford could be forced to give up on his Old Trafford career if Jose Mourinho lands Patrick Kluivert in the summer’ – Express.
Fair enough. If you lose your place to a 41-year-old who hasn’t played professional football in ten years…
Jamie Redknapp has noticed something. And it is always good to notice something when you have a Daily Mail column to write…
‘Alexis Sanchez is only three games into his Manchester United career but has already been fouled 15 times. When you take into account his time on the pitch, that works out as a foul every 17 minutes.
‘Against Huddersfield alone he was fouled seven times, the most for a single player in a Premier League game this season. Are opponents deliberately targeting the Premier League’s best-paid player?’
Well, as the third-most-fouled player in the Premier League this season – higher than Sanchez on that list – is Swansea’s Jordan Ayew, we suspect not. But do carry on…
‘Players are not going out to kick Sanchez because he earns £350,000 a week. It is simply because nobody can get near enough to get the ball off him!’
They ‘can’t get near him’, and yet Sanchez was dispossessed five times against Huddersfield – more than any other Manchester United player at Old Trafford by some distance. And the same happened last week at Tottenham. It certainly seems like opponents are getting near him.
‘It is no coincidence that Sanchez was fouled just four times in his last three games for Arsenal. His head was turned by the prospect of a move and he lacked the desire to get on the ball.’
That may be true (if you ignore the fact that he played only 24 minutes in one of those three games) but if you look back another game – to a 3-2 win over Palace – he touched the ball 101 times, which was more than anybody else by some distance. He also dribbled past five opposition players while also scoring two goals.
In fact, the Daily Mail‘s match report from that Palace game begins: ‘Alexis Sanchez is one of the elite breed of footballers capable of seizing a game when they fancy and shaking it into a different shape.’
So presumably he was the victim of a spate of fouls in that game as that is clearly the most accurate barometer of a player’s desire and thus worth?
Pesky fact: Alexis Sanchez suffered one foul against Palace when he ‘seized a game and shook it into a different shape’, while Jack Wilshere was fouled seven times, the most for a single player in a Premier League game this season. We have searched the internet but we cannot find a piece from Redknapp saying that ‘nobody can get near enough to get the ball off’ Wilshere.
Still, it could be worse. You could have reacted to a 2-0 home win over relegation-battling Huddersfield Town by writing that ‘Jose Mourinho had his own Cantona moment in the form of Alexis Sanchez’.
Step forward Neil Custis of The Sun. And behave.
Oh when the Saints…
Garth Crooks of the BBC includes Jack Stephens in his team of the week, February 6:
‘The Saints, however, on the back of a fabulous 3-2 win, must decide whether they are a feeder club for the top-four sides or are going to try to win something themselves. An FA Cup triumph, perhaps, or even a period in Europe, will provide stability.
‘They have certainly produced the players over the years to do both. What they are doing – and have done for far too long – is flirting with relegation. When you flirt with relegation, the inevitable always happens.’
Well yes, they have been in the bottom six of the Premier League for about five weeks in five years so they really have been flirting with relegation for far too long.
Garth Crooks of the BBC includes Mario Lemina in his team of the week, February 6:
‘This lad is playing for the wrong team. Seriously. Mario Lemina is an Arsenal player if ever I have seen one.
‘For far too long in my opinion, Arsene Wenger has faffed around with the likes of Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin. Wenger should have invested in Lemina during the summer and got in there well before Southampton did.
‘Lemina is wasted at St Mary’s. Sorry, Southampton fans, but you just do not have the class of player to bring the best out of this lad.’
Is anybody else getting slightly mixed messages?
On slightly different pages
Charlie Wyett, p54, The Sun: ‘Two men who emerged with credit, despite Jurgen Klopp’s moans, were referee Jon Moss and his assistant Eddie Smart. They made big decisions under major pressure and they seemed to get everything right. Despite some deliberation, they made the calls a hell of a lot quicker than if VAR was being used.’
Mark Halsey, p55, The Sun: ‘HARRY KANE was in an offside position for the first penalty. Yes, the ball has come off Dejan Lovren before falling to Kane, but the Liverpool defender has tried to clear the ball knowing that Kane is behind him – and not knowing if the Spurs striker is offside or not. So Kane has clearly impacted on the Liverpool man, thus interfering with an opponent. The assistant should have flagged at this point so the Loris Karius foul is immaterial.’
Other than that, they seemed to get everything right.
And then there’s Graham Poll in the Daily Mail:
‘WELL done Eddie Smart. The assistant got involved in both penalty decisions and he was right to do so. For the first penalty, he called for Jon Moss because he questioned whether Harry Kane was in an offside position and could not be clear if a Liverpool player had touched the ball before the Tottenham player was fouled.
‘They discussed the decision and Moss had seen the touch from Dejan Lovren, which meant Kane was onside before being taken down by Loris Karius.’
When your media-appointed refereeing experts cannot agree, what chance the rest of us?
Story of the day
‘THEO WALCOTT has been banned from taking picture frames from his private box at Arsenal’ – The Sun.
Translation: Man banned from stealing.
It’s lovely that Manchester City get a chance to refuel this week without a mid-week game and we join The Sun’s Martin Blackburn in showing sympathy. But putting together a list of ‘MOST GAMES PLAYED BY PREM PLAYERS SINCE NOV 1’ to illustrate their tiredness loses its power when the man at the top of the list with 23 games is Bernardo Silva.
Silva has started only 11 of those 23 games and has invariably played one, two or three minutes in others.
We suspect there are at least 47 Premier League players who deserve a tad more sympathy. We will start with Burnley midfielder Jack Cork, who has played more Premier League minutes than any other midfielder this season.
Recommended reading of the day
Sid Lowe on Gerard Pique rescuing Barcelona.
Dermot Corrigan on Cristiano Ronaldo at 33.
Matthew Evans on Daniel Passarella.