Alan Shearer is pretty damning of Tottenham in The Sun, while lavishing Jose Mourinho with praise for orchestrating victory over a team and manager he derides as ‘not all that’.
‘Much has been talked about Mauricio Pochettino but Jose Mourinho showed him who was boss on the big stage.
‘When the players look to the sidelines they saw one manager who has won nothing and one who is a serial winner.
‘Mourinho managed the game superbly.
‘He was raging after the first 20 minutes but gradually orchestrated a turnaround.
‘He got Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic closer to Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele to give them no space.
‘He had Chris Smalling and Phil Jones drilled not to allow Spurs striker Harry Kane a chance.’
Genius. How the hell has nobody else thought of this? Sean Dyche gets an awful lot of praise but he clearly did not think to drill Ben Mee and Kevin Long not to allow Kane a chance in December when he scored a hat-trick.
Makes you wonder why such a serial winner did not think to drill Eric Bailly and Smalling not to allow Wissam Ben Yedder a chance in the Champions League last-16.
All creatures great and Smalling
England have many problems as the World Cup looms. One of those problems is not a lack of centre-halves, as illustrated by their record of conceding just one goal (from a penalty) in six matches that have included friendlies against Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands and Italy. Mediawatch would gently suggest that scoring goals may be a rather bigger problem, with England scoring only four goals in those six matches.
All this has apparently escaped Garth Crooks, who is making a case for the England recall of Chris Smalling in his BBC team of the week:
‘The Manchester United central defender was superb against Spurs at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final and didn’t give Harry Kane a kick. Smalling may not be particularly skilful but there isn’t a better competitor in the Premier League.
‘England are not blessed with enough centre-backs to leave Smalling out. The World Cup in Russia will be nothing if not a test of bottle and Smalling has plenty of it.’
Pretty sure the World Cup in Russia will be a test of football, Garth.
Mind you, Crooks is not the only one to miss the fact that England have been rather good defensively of late, even without the services of Chris Smalling.
Paul Jiggins of The Sun has somehow manage to watch Smalling and Phil Jones keep out Kane and Dele Alli (who scored, but that just means that they ‘kept the Tottenham pair in their pockets for most of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final’) and decided this is A Good Thing for England. Because Jones and Smalling are English.
‘They were the perfect antidote to concerns England fans and the watching manager Gareth Southgate must now be having over Kane and Dele spearheading their attack.’
Nope. We’re more worried than ever before. See above.
‘With Russia 2018 just weeks away, one is battling to regain fitness, the other fighting to regain form. Their cause was hardly helped by being outshone by Smalling and Jones who, on this evidence, showed that the Three Lions have no such worries at the other end of the pitch.’
There is other rather more compelling piece of evidence available – like six England games with just one penalty conceded, achieved entirely without Smalling and almost entirely without Jones.
Make it big
Congratulations are due to Crooks for including Paul Pogba in his team without mentioning his hair. He even concedes that the £89m four-times Serie A winner is ‘not a bad player’ when he bothers to turn up. But as Crooks writes…
‘It’s all very well turning up for the big games – but what Pogba has to realise is that in order to get to the big games, you have to win the less attractive fixtures first.’
Couple of things, Garth…
1) That’s not how the Premier League works.
2) Paul Pogba probably knows how cup competitions work; he has won four and is in the final of another.
Blame the foreign fella
‘I’ve gone on record as saying I don’t think Salomon Rondon is good enough for Premier League football and that’s probably why West Brom are staring at relegation’ – Garth Crooks.
Yep. That’ll be it.
Mark Irwin of The Sun, whose miserable demeanour gets ever more miserable with every day he covers Arsenal:
‘Wenger hopes that Mesut Ozil will be available to face Atletico Madrid after the £350,000-a-week playmaker was laid low by yet another bout of illness.
‘What a sickly chap he is.’
Pesky fact: Only four Arsenal players have played more minutes than Ozil this season.
Playing the mind guerilla
According to the back page of the Daily Mail, ‘ANTONIO CONTE has already started the mind games with Jose Mourinho and Manchester United by saying Chelsea will be underdogs in the FA Cup final’.
Alternatively, Antonio Conte has seen the league table. And so have the bookies.
Some might think that Jamie Redknapp is a little bland but when we want a Big Opinion we turn to his column in the Daily Mail.
‘This has not been a bad season for United. We have waxed lyrical about how exciting Tottenham and Liverpool are to watch but Mourinho is set to finish above both. You would have to argue he is the most likely to win a trophy, too.’
That is one hell of a call with Tottenham literally out of every competition and Liverpool three games away from winning a trophy rather than one.
The biggest story in football at 12pm on Monday? The Sun say ‘PAMPERED Manchester City stars celebrated thrashing Swansea and winning the title with a slap-up meal – before being driven just 100 yards to a nightclub to carry on the party’.
Apparently ‘they were keen not to waste any energy by being chauffeured just 100 yards down the road to the Panacea Nightclub as the evening continued. It would have taken the champions just a couple of minutes to walk to each destination but they stayed incognito by travelling in blacked-out Mercedes vans and cars.’
Google Maps says it’s a 350-yard walk down one of the busiest streets in Manchester that takes four minutes, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of some contrived sh*te about ‘pampered’ footballers.
Intellectuals are over-complicating the beautiful game. Column on why managers don't need to understand regression theory in order to succeed… https://t.co/j1ORisJV1c
— Matthew Syed (@matthewsyed) April 23, 2018
Matthew Syed there, telling us that ‘intellectuals are over-complicating the beautiful game’.
And these are Matthew Syed’s opening paragraphs in The Times as he explains how intellectuals are over-complicating the beautiful game:
‘Conventional wisdom says that the industrial revolution was a triumph of intellectuals. The theoretical breakthroughs of Sir Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle inspired the creation of the steam engine and the like. Indeed, technology is often defined as “the application of scientific knowledge to practical projects”.
‘This would have come as some surprise to Thomas Newcomen, however. Biographies of the inventor of the steam engine reveal that he was a semi-literate lay preacher who knew nothing of Newton or Boyle. Instead, he patiently tweaked his machine, increasing its effectiveness and, therefore, profitability. His machines were not created by theory, but through trial and error.
‘The great iconoclast Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls this the “scientism fallacy”: the tendency to over-intellectualise the expertise of craftsmen…’
Recommended reading of the day
Paolo Bandini on Napoli.
Nick Wright and Keith Downie on Newcastle.
James Piercy on Omar Abdulrahman.