Headline on the The Sun website home page: ‘Kante scores after nutmegging THREE Spurs players then barely celebrates.’
(Because it was only an equaliser.)
Measure for measure
‘In any other year since 1980, had that scoreline remained, Tottenham would have progressed on away goals. Given those circumstances, try telling them the best team actually won’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail.
Chelsea had 38 shots (ten on target) to Tottenham’s 11 (five on target) over the two legs. The best team absolutely won.
Prick: A reaction
On the back page of The Sun, Andrew Dillon quotes Eden Hazard – when asked whether Maurizio Sarri’s remarks had inspired him – saying: “No I don’t care, I just play my football. It doesn’t matter what the manager says about me, I always focus on this team and do the best for this team.”
Seems pretty clear.
So of course Andrew Dillon then wrote an opinion piece for The Sun website that begins thus:
‘EDEN HAZARD’S showcase performance confirms Maurizio Sarri was spot on to dig out his little superstar and prick a reaction.
‘The player himself admits he winds up managers who are forever at him to do more and live up to his star billing and the number 10 shirt in honour of his hero Zinedine Zidane.
‘But if it takes a public put down to trigger the little midfielder then means there is only going to be more frustration in line for poor old boss Sarri.’
Seriously, what the f*** was the point of talking to the bloke if you then ignore his words in favour of a completely different narrative about a man you insist on calling ‘a former banker’.
But really, what else should we expect from a West Ham fan sent to report on a Chelsea match?
Neil Ashton, The Sun, January 24:
‘Given that this is Chelsea, where prickly players have routinely downed tools in the past, Sarri has shown scant regard for their influence. Either Sarri does not care what happens next or he is completely oblivious to the possible reaction of his men in this electrifying follow-up.
‘He should have been positive, particularly with his club possibly just 90 minutes from an appearance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley.
‘Instead it was wild and illogical.
‘Sarri-ball has been unwatchable in recent weeks, with his players protesting after Hazard was shoved up front again at Arsenal. He is floundering, with the scale of this job threatening to overwhelm him after he admitted to being unable to motivate this group.’
Neil Ashton, The Sun, January 25: ‘SILVERWARE is in sight for Sarri-ball. Chelsea’s manager is taking them to a Wembley final in his first season in charge.’
It’s unusual to see a man ‘floundering’ all the way to a cup final.
It might seem crazy what I’m ’bout to say
Neil Ashton, The Sun, January 24:
‘Sarri-ball is on dangerous territory, with his transformative approach meeting dressing-room resistance. There are some layers to unpick here because Hazard, the star player, regards Olivier Giroud as the best target man in the Premier League.
‘In short, Hazard wants his mate in the team. Sarri sees it differently, placing a big bet on Gonzalo Higuain to recapture the glory days in front of goal.’
Neil Ashton, The Sun, January 25: ‘With Hazard on the left and Gonzalo Higuain paraded before kick-off, everybody seemed happy. It was a spirited start by Chelsea.’
Happy? On ‘dangerous territory’? What are they – masochists?
‘GARY CAHILL should be immortalised by Chelsea after winning the 2012 Champions League,’ writes Ashton in his regular Friday Sun column.
‘The defender, along with the other ten starters, deserves special treatment for beating Bayern Munich on that giddy night in Germany.’
Now Mediawatch does not remember Ashton going into bat for Jose Bosingwa, Salomon Kalou and Ryan Bertrand in the same manner, but carry on…
‘Instead his life is being made difficult, with the Blues preventing their club captain pursuing a playing career elsewhere.’
Are they? Ashton’s colleague Mike McGrath wrote on January 1 that ‘Cahill will be granted a loan for the final months of his Chelsea contract if a permanent deal cannot be thrashed out. After winning the Champions League and two Premier League titles during his glittering career at Stamford Bridge the club will allow him to leave for the regular football he wants.’
The next update we got from The Sun came on January 10, when they claimed that Cahill and Chelsea were at odds because he wanted the Blues to continue paying the bulk of his £150,000-a-week wages at Fulham.
Then on January 19, Claudio Ranieri said: “Gary is a very important player and for us it would be fantastic, but I don’t know if he wants to come and fight with us.”
So it seems pretty clear that the issue here is that Chelsea do not want to pay Cahill to play for another club. Which apparently makes them a right set of [redacted].
‘He wants first-team football, to finish a respectable playing career on his terms. After playing such a big part in Chelsea’s history, Cahill has earned that right.’
It’s probably Sarri’s fault; he’s ‘floundering’, you know.
Writes Darren Lewis in the Daily Mirror:
‘He (Llorente) was replaced after 68 minutes, but it gave hope to every Spurs fan that perhaps Pochettino is right to hold his nerve in the window as he waits for Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Dele Alli to return.
‘Tottenham might have been robbed of their men to sink their teeth into opponents – but, playing the right way, they still have bite in their attack.’
Well that’s one way to report on a game in which Tottenham had one shot on target.
Andy Dunn is ‘Britain’s best Sports Writer’ (according to his employers, the Daily Mirror) so when the man writes something about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, we read.
‘When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is made permanent manager of Manchester United, as he inevitably will be, it will do the wider game the power of good.
‘Because it will go a long way to debunking the myth of the £15million-a-year (or whatever) super-coach and his sprawling entourage.’
‘Inevitably’? Surely we’re a long way from ‘inevitably’. If Dunn is so sure, we suggest he puts a rather large wedge on something currently priced at around evens.
If he is appointed, it will be a lovely story but will it ‘go a long way to debunking the myth of the £15million-a-year (or whatever) super-coach and his sprawling entourage’, if – as seems likely – the Premier League (and possibly Champions League) is won by one of those super-coaches in Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp? Will those clubs discard their actual trophy-winning managers in favour of somebody who – according to Dunn – has ‘selected the best players and told them to go out and enjoy themselves’?
Dunn’s whole piece is bizarre. On the one hand, he is entirely downplaying Solskjaer’s input at United, while on the other he is saying that winning a few consecutive games while making no real tactical change should make him ‘a shoo-in for the permanent job’.
‘Now why would United pay a small fortune to extricate Pochettino from Spurs and pay him an even bigger small fortune on a weekly basis?’
Erm, because you have already implied that Pochettino is a better manager than Solskjaer as Manchester United’s victory over Tottenham ‘was not down to Solskjaer’s tactical acumen, it was down to David De Gea’s freakish talent’? And maybe because they want to rely on more than a goalkeeper in order to win more than a handful of games? And maybe, just maybe, ‘selecting the best players and telling them to go out and enjoy themselves’ is not a flawless long-term plan.
Cheekiest headline of the day
‘Unai Emery admits Alexis Sanchez January transfer approach’ – Daily Mirror website.
Recommended reading of the day
Adam Bate on the rise of Lincoln City under the Cowley brothers
Musa Okwonga on paying big prices for defenders
Barney Ronay on Eden Hazard’s left-field performance