‘Surrounded by ice and snow, Arsenal managed to avoid one almighty slip-up in Sweden last night’ – Sami Mokbel, Daily Mail.
‘In the ice and snow of sub-Arctic Sweden, Arsenal kept their feet and avoided the slip-up their travelling fans had feared’ – Mark Irwin, The Sun.
‘It wasn’t quite the avalanche of goals Arsenal threatened in snowy Sweden, but three was enough to leave the Gunners with one foot in the last 16’ – Adrian Kajumba, Daily Mirror.
Conclusion: It was cold.
The holy grail
Fridays can often be a struggle for the football media in terms of generating website traffic. But considering there was an actual game of football featuring a Premier League side on Thursday evening, there are games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday and there were interesting games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday too, there should be no such issue.
Try telling that to the MailOnline, whose top story on Friday lunchtime is ‘Real Madrid ready to launch summer swoop for Pogba as United’s under-fire star takes family out for a meal in £250,000 Rolls Royce’. Because those two things definitely go together.
Ben Nagle proceeds to tell us that Real Madrid are ready to ‘submit an audacious bid’ for Pogba, before seamlessly discussing his dinner plans on Thursday evening.
‘It is understood that United have no desire to sell one of their star players though, while Pogba is happy in Manchester and does not intend to leave.
‘Indeed, there was a smile on the 24-year-old’s face on Thursday as he headed out for a meal, wrapped up against the cold with a white hoodie pulled over his head.’
We are then told that Pogba went to Wing’s, took his ‘£250,000 Rolls Royce Wraith’, and ‘wore glasses and a cap’. So their favourite restaurant, an expensive car and fashion all dressed up in a football story: the MailOnline’s holy grail.
One of the picture captions (there are nine pictures in a 241-word story, one picture for every 27 words) reads:
‘The following morning, Pogba drove the same car to Manchester United’s training ground’
That’s because it’s his car.
Keeping up appearances
What the MailOnline did not realise is that Pogba was not only ‘seen walking alongside his mum Yeo’; The Sun have got the real scoop.
‘Paul Pogba enjoys evening out at Wings with freezing girlfriend Maria as mum and brother wrap up warm,’ reads the headline to their story, which is also top of their website. Obviously.
By the third line, they are weirdly less certain of the identity of the individuals joining Pogba for the meal. ‘He appeared to be joined by mum Yeo and his model girlfriend Maria Zulay Salaues, who he spent the summer partying with,’ writes Alex Terrell.
There are seven pictures and 284 words – so one every 40 words. The MailOnline ‘wins’.
Flying without Wing’s
Two ain’t bad, but fear not for the Daily Mirror are here to complete the hat-trick. It is Friday lunchtime, and Paul Pogba going out for dinner with his family is top of their website too.
‘Pogba dines out with his family at popular Manchester restaurant as legend Ince fears star could leave United’ reads their headline. Because the only reason Pogba went to Wing’s is because Paul Ince is fearing for his long-term future.
Apparently Pogba ‘brushed aside speculation’ by going out to eat. Would he have been ‘sending Real Madrid a come-and-get-me plea’ if he had ordered in?
Five pictures, 238 words and one video, if you were wondering. The MailOnline still wins. But actually we all lose.
The Dunn thing
In his Daily Mirror column on Friday, Andy Dunn is eager to preach about the ‘maverick’ that is Dele Alli. He is the yin to Harry Kane’s yang, but just as valuable, you see.
‘Less than twenty-four hours after his Tottenham team’s very fine performance in Turin, Dele Alli was, understandably, in the news,’ he begins. Which is fair enough, because he played well.
‘He was in for a good Valentine’s Day, it was suggested, alongside a photoshoot featuring his girlfriend Ruby Mae and her underwear.
‘Alli’s girlfriend is a lingerie model.
‘Of course she is,’ you can almost hear the snobs sigh.
‘And you can hear those snobs and curmudgeons talking about his arrogance, his cockiness, about too much too young, about how he could become an identikit example of all that is wrong with over-indulged Premier League stars who have won nothing.’
When did Dele Alli’s girlfriend become even vaguely relevant? Was it when the Mirror wanted to embed a video ‘explaining’ (showing loads of pictures of) who she was four lines into Dunn’s piece?
The reason behind the mention of Ruby Mae and her underwear becomes slightly more apparent (but hardly any more relevant) a couple of paragraphs later.
‘He is hardly a golden boy of Harry Kane proportions, is he?
‘Few, if any, are.
‘An exceptional goalscoring record, a ready smile, a liking for the TV camera, an all-round impression of being a very good egg, a homely character, a family man. There is nothing un-golden about Harry.’
Absolutely. But the difference is probably that Kane has been in phenomenal form this season while Alli has struggled somewhat. Not that one has a girlfriend who is a lingerie model.
‘In the wake of Spurs’ comeback, most of the plaudits were for Kane, Mousa Dembele and Christian Eriksen. Fair enough.’
Did you not hear? Alli was Tottenham’s ‘saviour’ in Turin.
‘Alli is the maverick to Kane’s straight guy and it is a combination that serves Spurs brilliantly and is England’s best hope of success this summer, make no mistake.
‘For one reason or another, elements of doubt and negativity still follow him but Tottenham, the Premier League and England are lucky to have him.
‘It is just that sometimes, as the song goes, I just don’t think we understand.’
The only thing we don’t understand is why the identity of his girlfriend is at all relevant.
‘Make that ‘Bullshit started’. Where will it end?’ asked a despairing Mediawatch on Friday. The ‘bullshit’ in question was Marouane Fellaini agreeing to join Besiktas, and the answer is ‘not yet’.
The BBC‘s gossip column includes the following under the sub-headline of ‘Best of Thursday’s Gossip’:
‘Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini has agreed a deal to join Besiktas at the end of the season. The Belgium international, 30, is out of contract at the end of the campaign and could leave on a free transfer.’
The headline? ‘Gossip: Pogba, Hart, Alisson, Malcom, Terry, Alderweireld, Fellaini, Lamela’
This is now a nine-day old story. Congratulations to us all.
Recommended reading of the day
Anything by Daniel Taylor on Barry Bennell. It is important.