Mediawatch: Why Arsenal are in big trouble

Daniel Storey

Captain cock-up
Mediawatch loves a Martin Samuel straw man column more than we love largely unnecessary pedantry, so you can imagine our smile when we saw the Daily Mail’s chief sports writer’s column on Tuesday. Samuel is very angry at Per Mertesacker being named Arsenal captain, despite being injured.

‘There was more bad news for Arsenal at the weekend,’ Samuel begins. ‘They lost their captain to injury, probably until January. Yet that isn’t the entire story. Bizarrely, the injury came before the captaincy.

‘The player Arsene Wenger named as leader of his team, a team that has ambitions to win Arsenal’s first title since 2004, was already injured. And not a little niggle, either. Per Mertesacker has a serious knee problem that will keep him out, in all likelihood, until January.

‘It was July 26 when news broke of Mertesacker’s knee injury and August 13 when Wenger announced via official club media that he would be Arsenal’s captain this season. That is almost three weeks to come up with the name – any name – of a player who could lead the club this season.

‘Think of the leader of last season’s title winners, Wes Morgan, or the year before, John Terry. Morgan played all 38 league games for Leicester; Terry did the same for Chelsea. They led by example; they led with sheer presence.’

Two points, Martin:
1) Arsenal are allowed to have another captain when Mertesacker doesn’t play, you know? Like Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny or Petr Cech.

2) You mention Wes Morgan and John Terry as examples to fit your argument, which is lovely. However, you did carelessly leave out Vincent Kompany, who missed ten league games as Manchester City won the league in 2014. And Nemanja Vidic, who missed 20 league games as Manchester United won the league in 2013. And Gary Neville, who missed 22 league games as Manchester United won the league in 2009. And Neville again, who missed 14 league games as Manchester United won the league in 2007. And Tony Adams, who missed 25 league games as Arsenal won the league in 2002. And…OK, we’ll stop, but you get the point.

‘Arsenal have a self-inflicted crisis surrounding their own captain,’ the headline to the piece reads. It’s almost like it only matters when it fits Samuel’s point.


Klopp Out
Last week, Jurgen Klopp refused to speak to The Sun in general – and Antony Kastrinakis in particular – after the newspaper published claims about Dejan Lovren’s private life.

At the time, Mediawatch wondered mischievously how long it would take Kastrinakis to stick the boot in on Klopp. We didn’t have to wait long.

‘Despite their Emirates triumph there are several long-standing buts for the Reds,’ Kastrinakis writes (quite reasonably). ‘Firstly the defence, then the way they failed to press in the first half and switched off after going 4-1 up.

‘They (Liverpool) do have enough up front WHEN they switch on – and they were poor in the first half. Roberto Firmino drifts in and out of the game and does not press as Klopp would like. One or two flashes of brilliance are not enough.’

That’s a pretty impressive way of assessing a four-goal away victory, but our man is not finished yet.

‘Giving Mignolet a new deal last winter hangs as a question mark over Klopp. Ditto his failure to sign a proven winner between the sticks. Joe Hart, erratic England form or not, is a leader of men and has been the catalyst in Manchester City twice winning the title.’

The point on Mignolet might well be valid, although he hardly did anything wrong on Sunday. But to criticise Klopp for not upgrading on his goalkeeper is a little harsh when Klopp has bought a new keeper, one who is currently injured. Furthermore, Joe Hart has been available for a sum total of three days, if he even is for sale now.

‘Arsenal supporters fell out of love with the man they so wanted to be the man to replace Arsene Wenger [after Klopp celebrated Liverpool’s fourth goal]. The boos against Klopp spared under-fire Gunners boss Arsene Wenger. Klopp’s actions also galvanised Arsenal on the pitch.’

Weirdly enough, there is no mention of the half-time team talk which Adam Lallana said changed the game for Liverpool. Kastrinakis’ Sun colleague Tom Sheen did that one.  

Some might say that Kastrinakis was searching for a stick to beat Klopp with. They won remember, Antony.


Pile on the pressure
Pep Guardiola has managed one competitive game in charge of Manchester City. It was a victory against Sunderland, not achieved by any huge scoreline but achieved all the same. Reading Martin Blackburn’s column in The Sun, you would not get that impression.

‘PEP GUARDIOLA is not in full fire-fighting mode,’ Blackburn begins. ‘Not yet, anyway. But there are little blazes breaking out all around him. And unless he extinguishes them quickly, then things are liable to start getting pretty hot.’

‘Full fire-fighting mode’? They’ve played one sodding match, Martin. And they won it!

Blackburn’s numerous fire references presumably refer to Manchester City’s plane having to be temporarily evacuated on the runway after smoke appeared in the cabin. If so, it might have been an idea to mention that in the piece.

‘He goes into tonight’s Champions League play–off clash in Bucharest faced with a collection of annoying issues that threaten to disrupt focus on the first target of his debut campaign as Etihad supremo. Pep has plenty of talent to rely upon. But it is difficult to ignore the fact that things around him are all a bit messy. There are plenty of issues threatening to burst into flame.’

Yeah, it’s a complete sh*t tip, Martin, and you go ahead and list them all for us.

There’s Joe Hart, although that is less of a ‘mess’ and more of a ‘manager drops goalkeeper’, an issue that may be solved by the arrival of Claudio Bravo. Then there is Yaya Toure, which isn’t really an issue because he was slowing down last season and everyone saw this coming. Then there’s…oh, that’s it.

‘Pep’s first few days in charge, now that the season has actually begun, have been nothing like as controlled and calm as he would have wanted. And those little fires continue to spark up around him…’

To repeat: Played one, won one.


Definitely maybe
Mediawatch is an odd soul (sad f**ker), long entertained by the nonsense of ‘probable’ line-ups in the daily newspapers. Manchester City’s trip to Bucharest brings a wonderful edition of the genre:

The Daily Mirror’s ‘probable’ City team includes Jesus Navas and Raheem Sterling, with David Silva playing alongside Fernandinho in central midfield.

The Sun’s ‘likely’ line-up has Fabian Delph alongside Fernandinho, David Silva playing as a right winger and Nolito on the left, with Sterling and Navas both out.

The Daily Mail’s ‘probable’ team contains Nicolas Otamendi in defence in place of Aleksandar Kolarov, different to both the Mirror and Sun. Nolito will play on the right wing, with Raheem Sterling moved over to the left wing.

The Daily Express’ ‘probable’ team has Fernando playing with Fernandinho in central midfield, which is a new name entirely. Poor Nolito is back on the bench.

Summary: Nobody has a clue.


Slight difference of opinion

‘Kante: Yellow carded after just two minutes. Precision passing. 8’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, awarding Kante the highest mark of any player on the pitch.

‘N’Golo Kante – The Chelsea debutant was booked inside three minutes leaving him on tenterhooks but that didn’t stop him providing a trademark display’ – Sami Mokbel, Daily Mail. Only Eden Hazard was awarded a higher mark.

‘Kante was unsettled from the off, careless in possession on the edge of the area before he tangled with the big man up front for West Ham. Perhaps Kante cannot play without Danny Drinkwater after all’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun.

‘Trademark display’ to ‘cannot play’ without former teammate. ‘Precision passing’ to ‘Careless in possession’. Funny old game, Saint.


Neil Ashton might want to have a word with whoever chose the numbers for The Sun’s match statistics segment on Chelsea vs West Ham.

Just two inches below Ashton’s ‘Careless in possession’ line is the following nugget:

‘29 – Summer signing N’Golo Kante made 29 passes in the first half, and the French midfield enforcer completed every single one for a perfect 100 per cent pass completion rate.’

Maybe he can play without Drinkwater after all?


‘No bullshit zone’
On Sunday, the Daily Telegraph and MailOnline websites both published quotes from Andrea Pirlo, in which the Italian said Juventus were “still laughing now” at how Manchester United allowed Paul Pogba to join them.

‘Juventus ‘still laughing’ over decision from Manchester United to let ‘special’ Paul Pogba leave in 2012,’ was the headline to Rob Draper’s story for the Mail.

‘Juventus were laughing at Manchester United when they took Paul Pogba from them for next to nothing… and they are still laughing now, according to Andrea Pirlo,’ Draper’s story began, and used various quotes from Pirlo in the piece.

The Telegraph piece followed a similar path and used the same quotes with plenty of outlets following suit, crediting both the Telegraph and Mail as they went. All very normal.

Except that it wasn’t normal at all, not by a long shot. Come Monday afternoon, and Pirlo posted the following picture on social media:

While the Independent and Daily Express still have the story, crediting the Telegraph, within hours the Telegraph’s story had mysteriously disappeared from their website. Later on Monday evening, the MailOnline did the same.

The phantom interview?


To be Frank
As the country’s only 24-hour sports television station, Sky Sports News HQ understandably wants to act as an authority on all matters. To do so, it relies on expert guests to provide insight on an array of topics. Expert guests like Frank Sinclair, for example.

Asked for his opinion on Yannick Bolasie’s move from Crystal Palace to Everton, Sinclair offered the hottest of hot takes:

“He’s what every Premier League team would want, someone with that pace and trickery who can cause problems when running with the ball. He’s been excellent at Crystal Palace for the last couple of seasons and he causes problems. If you put him in a strong Everton side he’ll be one of the main focal points of attack, and then you could see him going on and playing for England.”

You could see that, but only if Bolasie hadn’t played 27 times for DR Congo in the last three years.


Wright on time

‘It breaks my heart to say but I can’t recall the last time an Arsenal fan really looked forward to the start of the season. The weeks before the big kick-off should be among the most exciting for football supporters everywhere’ – Ian Wright, The Sun, August 2016.

“Of course the fans should be excited. They’ve been desperate for a striker for ages, now all of a sudden they’ve got Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. Welbeck’s just scored two goals for England and it is very exciting” – Ian Wright, September 2014.

We take the point though, Ian. We’re all hurting.


First. Fast. Comfortably after the oracle

Fifteen hours later…


Sweeping generalisation of the day
‘All that counts is that Chelsea won. It is the Italian way’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun.

Is it? Or is it the ‘almost any football manager from any country’ way?


Revelation of the day
‘I’m going to come out and admit that, unlike most in this game, I’m not overly bothered about ‘learning’ things from football matches’ – Daily Mirror’s chief sports writer Dave Kidd.


Recommended reading of the day
David Squires on the return of the Premier League 

Matthew Stanger on a career from Football Manager 

Tom Mortimer on Balazs Dzsudzsak – The Playboy Footballer