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I was bored...

chelsea 3-1 arsenal 1-1 spurs 0-3

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23 minutes ago, ZAPHOD2319 said:

If Liverpool loses today, they can kiss top 4 goodbye. Get them Wolves!

We know the script, pool will pounce and get the G and a toothless Wolves will huff and puff........I will love it if they could beat them though.

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We are cursed. Other teams getting silly luck in front of goal while either we can't score ourselves or keepers turn into a hero against us. 😒

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horror injury on Rui patricio, hope he recovers. 15mins+ added on

wolves have been absolute shower of shite today. no desire effort or quality whatsoever. fabio silva must be the worst striker in pl history. cushioned the ball back to alisson with his shoulder from 4 yards out. 

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4 hours ago, Atomiswave said:

We know the script, pool will pounce and get the G and a toothless Wolves will huff and puff........I will love it if they could beat them though.

bang on the money

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The Fiver

Who’s the greatest: Messi or Ronaldo? The answer is obvious

 

Cristiano Ronaldo does it again.
camera.png Cristiano Ronaldo does it again. Photograph: Xinhua/Shutterstock

Scott Murray


A TRANSPARENT AND CHILDISH ATTEMPT TO ANNOY

It’s the question that’s been on everyone’s lips for years and years. Who’s the greatest: Messi or Ronaldo? The answer, as regular Fiver readers already know, is neither. Which is not to say that everyone’s favourite two contemporary superclub-shielded good-time Charlies aren’t amazing players in their own right – you can tell that by the sheer number of goals the pair have been bloodlessly running up – but in terms of windswept romance they’re nowhere near the likes of Obdulio Varela, Josef Masopust or Florian Albert [stop it, you’re trying too hard - Fiver Ed.] Cruyff, Maradona or Pelé.

Ah Pelé. Po’ Pelé. The great man’s stock has inexplicably fallen with the cognoscenti in recent years, his feats too shrouded by the mists of time for many today, yet too enshrined in the canon to attract the hipsters. No matter that he won two World Cups practically by himself while being kicked around like an old sock; established Santos as Os Santásticos, the best side in the world with a nickname to match; practically invented the concept of Brazil as a modern go-ahead nation; and spent the last knockings of his career preaching love to the Cosmos while lounging around Studio 54 in sunglasses Miles Davis would have thought twice about. This ... this is our guy.

Sadly our hero’s legacy suffered a new blow at the weekend, as Cristiano Ronaldo rattled in a hat-trick against Cagliari, goals that took his professional tally to 770, three more than Pelé’s official record of 767. “I’m filled with joy and pride as I acknowledge the goal that puts me on top of the world’s goalscoring list, overcoming Pelé’s record, something that I could never have dreamed of while growing up as a child from Madeira,” he waffled on some internet platform or other, while Pelé himself offered “congratulations”, although the most striking bit of Pelé’s statement was “Life is a solo flight, each makes his own journey”, the sort of new-age hokum one expects from a man who spent a chunk of the seventies staring blankly at women riding white horses around nightclub dancefloors.

Thing is, there’s a slight problem with this supposedly epochal moment in sporting history: the Czech FA claims Josef Bican scored 821 times, Romário says he notched 1,000 goals, and some historians argue Pelé’s total is in fact 1,283, a number boosted by some trademark net-bothering antics in “unofficial” matches. So who to believe? Regular Fiver readers already know our answer to this one as well. Yes, O Rei is still atop his throne. Better get cracking, Cristiano, just another 514 to go.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Scott Murray at 8pm GMT for red-hot updates of Wolves 1-3 Liverpool.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I am older than Mr Zinchenko, I have more experience and I don’t agree with him. The only thing he has to be worried about is trying to do a good game tomorrow. Four titles is a utopia” – Pep Guardiola gives his young full-back a dressing down over his claims Manchester City can win a quadruple.

‘The first rule of Quadruple Club, is that you do not talk about Quadruple Club’.
camera.png ‘The first rule of Quadruple Club, is that you do not talk about Quadruple Club’. Photograph: Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC/Getty Images

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

It’s Football Weekly, with North London derby chat and the question: what now for post-Wilder Sheffield United?

FIVER LETTERS

“Re: Pep moaning about the grass at the Etihad (Friday’s Fiver), I just lament the fact that they’ve already played Leeds at Elland Road so Guardiola won’t get to experience football on a surface more slippery than a Fiver hack trying to explain why they were three hours late for work holding a can of Purple Tin” – Jeremy Adams.

“Yes, let’s get rid of punditry (Friday’s Fiver letters). And co-commentators who clearly could be top coaches such is their wont to tell players what they should have done seconds after they did something else. Des in the studio, Brian in the box, and Saint and Greavsie to mop things up at the back. Happy days” – Peter Hehir.

“While it’s far from time to say There She Goes to the Ligue 1 title, PSG did themselves no favours by losing to relegation battlers on Sunday. The hosts’ coffers were the much heavier-laden but, in terms of the result, the guests’ sixpence, Nantes, the richer” – Peter Oh.

“Noble Francis had three (pretty good) letters published in The Fiver last week and didn’t win letter o’ the day (prizeless or otherwise) once. Can you give him some sort of Peter O’Toole-style honorary award or something?” – Andy Korman.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Peter Hehir.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING

If it’s weird goalkeeping from Poland you want, then this should hit the spot.

Post saves all: goalkeeper pins ball against upright in bizarre stop – video

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Mason Greenwood and Callum Hudson-Odoi have been called up for what looks a very strong England Under-21 Euro 2021 squad. The finals are split between Hungary and Slovenia and a group stage in March and June, when the knockout rounds take place.

Ángel Di María was substituted during PSG’s Ligue 1 defeat to Nantes, amid reports that his home had been robbed while his family were at the property. Teammate Marquinhos is also believed to have been targeted.

Lee Bowyer has marched himself out of the Charlton Athletic door marked ‘Do One’ and looks headed for Birmingham City. “Everyone knows how I feel about the club,” wailed Bowyer. “It will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Birmingham, Lee?
camera.png Birmingham, Lee? Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA

Fifa has opened disciplinary cases against three Russian footballers for suspected doping violations in 2013.

Funds in excess of £16m are being made available for the return of grassroots football at the end of March.

And Nat Phillips, the latest occupant of Liverpool’s centre-back drumming stool, hopes he can convince Jürgen Klopp he is around for the long haul. “My thought process is take things day by day, game by game, and try and improve,” he roared, while trying to head the sun out of the sky.

STILL WANT MORE?

The Premier League never really stops these days, but we’ve still carved out 10 talking points to take away from the weekend’s games.

Even a moment of jaw-dropping magic from Érik Lamela couldn’t save a desperately defensive Tottenham side, laments Barney Ronay.

Cristiano Ronaldo continues to rack up individual records even in a disappointing season for Juventus, writes Nicky Bandini.

It’s one step forward and two steps back once again for Bayer Leverkusen, writes Andy Brassell in his Bundesliga review.

Ligue Urrrrn latest: Jorge Sampaoli may be a fiery South American visionary, but that doesn’t mean he will recreate Marcelo Bielsa’s magic at Marseille.

Introducing the ‘Swiss system’ would take away what little drama Big Cup has left, laments Jonathan Wilson.

Barney Ronay takes a look at Pep’s Big Cup prospects at Manchester City, complete with a cracking illustration.

Yes!
camera.png Yes! Illustration: Nathan Daniels/The Guardian

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

BOGGY BRILLIANCE

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The Fiver

A pitiful state of affairs that often leads to painful introspection

 

Next up: Real Madrid v Atalanta.
camera.png Next up: Real Madrid v Atalanta. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Scott Murray


FIFTEEN MINUTES OF INFAMY

Earlier on Tuesday afternoon, The Fiver finally stopped emitting the peals of loud, rich, booming, theatrical, industrial-strength laughter that began when Juventus got themselves knocked out of Big Cup during the week in which the brains of their operation, Andrea Agnelli, revealed plans to reconfigure the very same tournament in ways designed to benefit certain badly-run behemoths. The continuous seven-day guffaw marathon came at a heavy cost to The Fiver, who dislodged two items in its special area, and is now sitting in a tepid puddle. But, on balance, it was still worth it. One hundred million euros for that, yet further away from the dream than ever. What a business!

But The Fiver isn’t exactly a roaring success story itself, a pitiful state of affairs that often leads to painful introspection. What if Agnelli was making a semblance of a point? What if he’s actually on to something? After all, the group stage of Big Cup is boring, and the Round of Arsenal/PSG/Barça/Juve isn’t much better. Look at Tuesday’s fare. Manchester City, who have won 148 games in a row against teams not managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, take on a Borussia Mönchengladbach side that has lost their past six, with two away goals in their pocket. Meanwhile Real Madrid also host a tie having already won the away leg, against a side who earlier in the season shipped five against Blackeye Rovers ‘96 revivalists Liverpool, for goodness sake.

So this proposal of Agnelli’s, which includes a scheme to televise only the last 15 minutes of matches to some of the new attention-deficient generation, might not be so whacko after all. Nobody loves Slow TV more than The Fiver, but if you’re going to put your feet up, roll a few tots of malt around the tongue and stare at a screen in a mellow mood for a two-hour brain-in-neutral stretch, better to watch a barge traverse a west-country canal than the likes of Thomas Doyle and Cole Palmer getting a rare run-out against some mid-table Bundesliga also-rans. A quick blast of City’s tyros for a quarter of an hour? Not so much of a problem. We might give it a try later, in fact, only tuning in at 9.30pm GMT, the time when even a stopped clock like Agnelli can be proved right every day. Less, please!

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Paul Doyle from 8pm GMT for hot Big Cup MBM coverage of Manchester City 2-1 Gladbach (agg: 4-1), while Scott Murray will be on hand for Real Madrid 3-3 Atalanta (agg: 4-3).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I want to do something productive. If you are a banker you can do that for all your life, but if you are a footballer once you hit your mid-30s, you have to find something else to do … I see some similarities to football. In football if not all the team is perfect you will not win. It’s the same with a watch, if everything is not perfectly in place the watch is not going to work” – former Juventus, Arsenal and Switzerland defender Stephan Lichtsteiner on starting a six-month internship with Zurich watchmaker Maurice de Mauriac. Perhaps the Gunners’ current skipper should give him a call.

Stephan Lichtsteiner during his internship at the production facility in Zurich. Obviously.
camera.png Stephan Lichtsteiner during his internship at the production facility in Zurich. Obviously. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

FIVER LETTER

“Seven years into owner Dejphon Chansiri’s three-year plan to get Sheffield Wednesday into the Premier League, we are still in the Championship (although only for the next two months). Back in November we were second from bottom, so to reverse our fortunes the owner sacked Garry Monk, who had a rather pitiful 31% win ratio and replaced him with Tony Pulis, who himself was sacked due to his even more pitiful 10% win ratio with the club still second from bottom. He was replaced by Darren Moore, who currently has a 0% win ratio, albeit after only three games, leaving us … yep, second from bottom. If only Chansiri was aware that changing the manager rarely makes a difference, something he could have learnt from Big Paper time and time again” – Noble Francis.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Noble Francis.

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

It’s David Squires on … Andrea Agnelli and the Big Cup fans of tomorrow.

Here we go!
camera.png Here we go! Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian

RECOMMENDED VIEWING

If you missed it yesterday, here’s a screamer from Bulgaria that ultimately counted for nought as the game was abandoned.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Rui Patrício did not require hospital treatment after his horrible collision with Conor Coady but will be assessed by Wolves’ medical staff.

Think your club is in crisis? Dinamo Zagreb coach Zoran Mamic has quit after being sentenced to four years in jail for fraud. “Although I don’t feel guilty, I resign as I said before I would do if the sentence was confirmed,” he tooted. “I wish all the good luck to the club.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 94, is set to play in the European Championship after being recalled by Sweden for the first time since his international retirement in 2016. “The return of the God,” he parped in a social media disgrace post that doubtless elicited a measured response from the Robbie Fowler fan club.

Southampton netbuster Che Adams has been called up to the Scotland squad for the first time. Adams, who played for England U-20s, qualifies through a maternal grandparent and a nagging feeling that Gareth Southgate only has eyes for Danny Ings when he comes to watch Southampton.

Matteo Guendouzi says he will “work hard for the shirt” when he returns to Arsenal after his loan at Hertha Berlin. “We will sit down with my entourage and people at the club to discuss the future,” cheered the 21-year-old. “This summer will be a decisive moment. I belong to Arsenal for another year. I will give ever …” Hang on, he said entourage!

And Arsène Wenger, with his Fifa global development hat on, reckons the World Cup and Euros should be held every two years. “Kick all the rest out,” he roared, as the Nations League sheepishly waved in the background. “Organise only competitions of meaning and kick all the parallel competitions out of the game. People must understand what is at stake and only have games with meaning.”

STILL WANT MORE?

$tevie Mbe isn’t the first Liverpool legend to win the title as O’Rangers manager. Steven Pye looks back at the 1986-87 season, when Graeme Souness put his unique stamp on Scottish football.

There you go.
camera.png There you go. Photograph: Colorsport/Rex/Shutterstock

From the archive: The Joy of Six – rabonas.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

CONGRATULATIONS TO FAR MORE TALENTED COLLEAGUES OF THE FIVER

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That Liverpool game last night was some of the worst officiating I have ever seen, how Pawson walks away with any credibility from that game is beyond me. 2 blatant penalties not even reviewed. Fucking shocking.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seals new Man Utd contract as club hero gets huge pay increase

The Red Devils boss is about to enter the final year of his current contract, but he has secured an agreement on a new deal amid several Old Trafford changes

https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/ole-gunnar-solskjaer-seals-new-23710942

 

Mini Ole GIF - Mini Ole OleGunnarSolskjær GIFs

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I think most Man Utd fans at the Cafe, whether Ole in or Ole out agree this should have waited until he won something. Even the Ole supporters say it looks like the club is satisfied with just making the top 4.

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The Telegraph

Wednesday March 17 2021

Matt Law's Chelsea briefing

 
Matt Law
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Loan spell at Fulham has worked out well — now midfielder must convince Tuchel of his merits

By Matt Law,
Football News Correspondent

Ruben Loftus-Cheek this month made his 100th first-team appearance — while on loan at Fulham. For now, his only interest is keeping Scott Parker's team in the Premier League.

But what next for the 25-year-old? Will Chelsea give him a proper chance to fight for a first-team place before next season, or will he be stuck in the same situation he found himself in last summer: not getting enough games and forced to try to find a way out?

It was striking that in the same month Loftus-Cheek finally completed his century of first-team games, so too did 21-year-old Trevoh Chalobah, who is on loan in France at Lorient.

Loftus-Cheek’s appearances, which stand at 101 at the time of writing, have all come in the Premier League, for Chelsea, Crystal Palace and now Fulham.

Chalobah is yet to make a Premier League appearance, but has already stacked up 100 first-team games on loan at Ipswich Town, Huddersfield Town and Lorient.

Of course, Loftus-Cheek’s progress has been delayed by a terrible run of luck with injuries and, for so long, he was the academy graduate who was deemed too good to go on loan. Indeed, in a recent interview with the Sunday Times, Loftus-Cheek admitted that, if he had his time again, he would have followed the route of Chalobah and so many other Chelsea’s youngsters.

“If I could go back, I would try and go on loan earlier," said Loftus-Cheek. "I did try but certain things don't happen. If the club wants you to stay, sometimes you can't do anything about it. I went on loan as early as I could. I was 21. It was a bit late in terms of how much football I played, but that was the earliest I could have gone.

"A player with my ability should have played more, but because of injury I haven't. I feel like 25 to 30 is going to be my 18-year-old to 23, 24. I'm doing it a little later than everybody else."

The loan to Fulham has worked out perfectly so far for Loftus-Cheek and Chelsea, even though it had to be rushed through towards the end of the summer transfer window when options were in short supply.

Under Parker, Fulham’s excellent manager, and at a club where he knew he would get opportunities, Loftus-Cheek has rebuilt his confidence in his own body and, most crucially so far, he has played a full part in the club’s survival bid with no major injury setbacks.

Loftus-Cheek’s 23 league appearances for Fulham are six more than Ross Barkley has managed while on loan from Chelsea at Aston Villa during the same period.

The next challenge for Loftus-Cheek will be to try to convince Thomas Tuchel that he can be part of his first-team squad next season. It will not be easy, but the former England international won over Maurizio Sarri and will believe he can impress the German.

It is hard not to imagine at what stage Loftus-Cheek would currently be if he had not suffered the ruptured Achilles tendon that kept him out for more than a year in a post-season charity friendly on a terrible pitch against New England Revolution almost two years ago.

At that point, Loftus-Cheek was enjoying his best-ever spell at Chelsea, having gone to the World Cup with England a year earlier, and it is not outlandish to predict that, without the setback, he would now be playing alongside Mason Mount for club and country.

There remains a strong belief he can get back to that level, as demonstrated by Chelsea’s decision to award Loftus-Cheek a new five-year contract and healthy pay rise just a couple of months into his rehabilitation back in 2019.

One hopes that the next demonstration of faith will be to give Loftus-Cheek a real opportunity to show Tuchel what he can do, no matter how many players he might have to compete with. The sense remains that he has not given up on Chelsea and neither should the club on him.

The Chelsea Briefing newsletter will return on April 6, after the international break. Get in touch on Twitter @Matt_Law_DT or by emailing [email protected]

 
 

Chelsea's boost for London businesses

Chelsea are helping small London businesses get back on their feet by offering free advertising space across the club’s social media channels for the remainder of the season.

In a bid to help give small businesses a boost as coronavirus restrictions in the UK are gradually lifted, Chelsea have launched the ‘Proud of London’ initiative.

Businesses with a London postcode can apply for free advertising space on matchdays, including a branded Instagram story that will be shared among Chelsea’s millions of followers around the world.

Details of how to apply can be found on Chelsea’s official website.

 

A Telegraph Sport subscription gives you unlimited access to our exclusive inside stories, live match updates, expert analysis and dedicated newsletters – sign up today for £39 for a full year.

 
 

The week at Chelsea

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Tightening up: How Thomas Tuchel made Chelsea the Premier League's meanest defence

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Ken Bates interview: 'Foreign owners should never have been allowed in English football'

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Antonio Rudiger: Jose Mourinho tried to sign me at Tottenham, Chelsea defender says

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The best type of goal: Thom Gibbs ranks the ten most spectacular styles

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The Fiver

Chelsea, Atlético and a kind of avant garde jazz football

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Numbers, with El Cholo.
camera.png Numbers, with El Cholo. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images
Barry Glendenning

Barry Glendenning


‘BECAUSE IT’S WEDNESDAY …’

Much like the idiot scorpion who fatally stung the generous but gullible frog with whom he’d hitched a ride across the river, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Atlético Madrid set up so defensively in the opening leg of their Big Cup last-16 tie because they just couldn’t help it; it’s in their nature. For most of this season in La Liga, a division they currently top, Diego Simeone’s team have removed the braces, loosened the belt and played the kind of avant garde jazz football that would have John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman toe-tapping with approval.

But upon finding themselves at the business end of Big Cup against Chelsea, the handbrake was abruptly pulled and they went about their business with uncharacteristic timidity; almost as if they considered themselves to be the vastly inferior side. Desperate not to concede, they would have got away with it if it weren’t for that pesky Olivier Giroud bicycle kick, which leaves them with not so much a mountain but a hefty speed-bump to climb at Stamford Bridge. Behind they may be, but there’s only the kick of a ball between the sides and this tie is nicely poised.

Asked in the first leg’s immediate aftermath why his side had approached it so cautiously, Simeone went all scorpion and responded by asking his inquisitor what on earth else he expected. While it would have taken a brave reporter to suggest “at least one shot on goal” to a volatile, nails-hard Argentinian in bad form, his players will have to come up with such efforts if they are to have any chance of turning this tie around. “We have to take the match where we want so we can win,” said Simeone. “You can start winning in the 84th minute or the 10th minute because they are all possible results. The aim is to take the match to them. We don’t know how they will think about the match, but I know what we want and that’s to win it.”

While unbeaten under Tommy T, Chelsea have been less than prolific in front of goal on his watch, scoring just 13 in his 12 games in charge. What’s more, the German is becoming impatient with his goal-shy strikers, warning them they’re running out of time to start troubling the scoreboard operator. “The time simply doesn’t exist,” he declared, tapping his watch. “There is no time to get four or five matches in a row to score regularly. That simply does not exist.” Spotting a sheepish-looking Timo Werner welling up nearby, he went on to insist “we are not pointing fingers” and that “inside Cobham we blame nobody”. Outside of Cobham, Chelsea fans are less forgiving and a Big Cup exit is unlikely to be greeted so magnanimously.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Simon Burnton from 7pm GMT for WSL MBM coverage of Everton 1-3 Chelsea, before Barry Glendenning guides you through Chelsea 0-2 Atlético Madrid (agg: 1-2) in Big Cup at 8pm, with Paul Doyle on hand for Bayern 3-1 Lazio (agg: 7-2).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The FA acted far too slowly to introduce appropriate ... child protection measures [from 1995]. These are significant institutional failings for which there is no excuse. During this period, the FA did not do enough to keep children safe” – Clive Sheldon QC’s independent review finds that generations of young people suffered horrific sexual abuse at many of England’s professional and amateur football clubs due to a wholesale absence of child protection policies, ignorance and naivety.

FIVER LETTERS

“Re: ‘Congratulations to far more talented colleagues of The Fiver’ (yesterday’s last line). Talk about setting a low bar” – Stuart McLagan.

“In yesterday’s Quote of the Day you suggested that the punctuality-challenged Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should give Swiss watchmaking trainee and former Gunner Stephan Lichtsteiner a call. Seeing as how Lichtsteiner’s favourite watch is a ‘Seesred’, I reckon it’s actually Granit Xhaka or David Luiz who should be getting in touch” – Peter Oh.

“In the hope of being constructive and in light of several recent VAR controversies where the referee, on checking the pitchside monitor, has stuck with his original decision, why can’t we, on close offside incidents, have a system of linesman’s call (like the umpire’s call used in cricket)? As it is widely recognised that the technology isn’t accurate to within a foot or so, surely the adoption of such an approach would get us back to the original ‘clear and obvious’ intention of VAR” – Geoff Spinner.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Stuart McLagan.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

It’s the latest Football Weekly podcast.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING

The absolute business, Cremonese’s Michele Castagnetti scoring an utterly ridiculous goal from his own half in Serie B.

Cremonese player scores extraordinary goal from own half in Serie B – video

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

The Netherlands will allow 5,000 fans who have tested negative for Covid-19 to attend their Ethics World Cup qualifier against Latvia this month, as part of a government study that could help get supporters back into games quicker.

Meanwhile, the 18 Belgian Pro League clubs have voted to back the possibility of a joint competition with their Dutch neighbours. “There is unanimous support to realise the possibility of the BeNeLiga and give it every opportunity,” cheered a statement. “The management of the Pro League will now take an active role in this.”

Reports in Spain suggest spectators will be able to attend both Copa del Rey finals in Seville next month, although travel restrictions mean fans of Athletic Bilbao (who play in both), Real Sociedad and Barcelona may be unable to travel.

Police in Scotland have charged a 22-year-old man in connection with an allegation of racially aggravated online abuse aimed at Middlesbrough’s Yannick Bolasie.

The Italian FA will investigate a post on Social Media Disgrace Instagram by Milan’s Theo Hernández after their 1-0 defeat to Napoli. The defender posted a photo of match referee Fabrizio Pasqua alongside several ‘vomiting’ emojis, in the modern style.

Gareth Southgate could be forced to leave Dortmund tyro Jude Bellingham out of his next England squad due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Southgate is also without Jordan Pickford, and is pondering call-ups for Patrick Bamford and Jesse Lingard.

And former Oldham and Lincoln forward Maheta Molango will become Gordon Taylor’s successor as PFA chief suit at the end of this season.

STILL WANT MORE?

Birmingham City have finished 19th, 19th, 17th and 20th in the Championship over the last four seasons. Can Lee Bowyer keep them afloat this term, asks Ben Fisher.

That’s possibly your answer.
camera.png That’s possibly your answer. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

What do Michael Ricketts and Mario Balotelli have in common? The answer to this question, and much more, in this week’s Knowledge.

Which centre-backs should be in the England squad for Euro Not 2020? Martin Laurence marks your card.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

DARREN DRYSDALE WOULD NOT HAVE STOOD FOR THIS

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The Fiver

After years of Premier League braggadocio, something has changed

 

Chelsea celebrate their safe Big Cup passage.
camera.png Chelsea celebrate their safe Big Cup passage. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

Rob Smyth


ENGLAND (AND SCOTLAND) EXPECTS

Not content with routing every European country in the Covid death stakes, England is now teaching them how to play football, again. It’s impossible to convey how hard it is to admit this but, for the first time in The Fiver’s lifetime, England might actually have the strongest league in the world. Premier League also-rans Chelsea’s disturbingly easy victory over La Liga leaders Atlético Madrid reinforced the feeling that, after almost three decades of ludicrous braggadocio about the Premier League being the best in the world, something has changed.

This, admittedly, is hard to reconcile with some of the erratic fiascos we have seen in domestic football this season. But the litmus test will always be European competition, and English teams have already seen off some of the finest in Spain, Germany and the Republic of North Macedonia. On Thursday, there’s a chance to add Italy to the list, with Manchester United visiting Milan in the kind of the tie that could give Big Vase a good name. Milan drew 1-1 in the first leg at Old Trafford, and were the better team, but United can be lethal away from home and nobody will remember last week’s performance if they do the necessary. It’s a huge game, almost as big as West Ham at home last Sunday. “The league is always the bread and butter and that’s when you see how capable you are,” roared Ole Gunnar Solskjær. “The cups are sometimes an ego thing for managers and clubs. It’s not like a trophy will say ‘we are back’, no. Sometimes the cup competitions can hide your progress a bit.”

In an unrelated development, José Mourinho is hoping to win his 26th trophy and his third Big Vase. His Spurs side have a 2-0 lead going into the second leg at Dinamo Zagreb. The Croatians will have a new coach, Damir Krznar, after Zoran Mamic signed a four-year contract with Big House FC. Spurs are likely to be joined in the quarter-finals by Arsenal, who are 3-1 ahead from the first leg and will have to work extremely hard if they are to embarrass themselves against Olympiakos for the second year running. Last, and definitely not least, are the Pope’s Newc O’Rangers, who host Slavia Prague after a 1-1 draw last week. $tevie Mbe’s side have had Solskjær’s cake and eaten it by making so much progress in the league that they won the bloody thing and got to lift a trophy as well. Anything that happens in Europe is a bonus, though it would be quite an achievement to reach the last eight for the first time since 2008.

The draw for both the quarter- and semi-finals of Big Cup and Big Vase will take place on Friday, and England could provide six of the 16 teams. That would be at least twice as many as any other country. On the back of the 2018-19 season, when all four finalists were English, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that any tea-time emails with an allergy to jingoism might want to spend the next few months at a digital retreat on the Kerguelen Islands.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Rob Smyth and Simon Burnton from 5.55pm GMT for hot clockwatch coverage of the Big Vase last-16 second legs.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The matter was blown out of proportion as Fenwick only chose to express his disapproval of a certain member of the media fraternity being present at a scheduled media briefing. Apologies were exchanged and Fenwick and Fuentes have since agreed to put the incident behind them” – the Trinidad and Tobago FA denies reports that Terry Fenwick butted the national team’s media director Shaun Fuentes before a press conference on Wednesday.

FIVER LETTERS

“I like Belgium. They specialise in beer, chocolates and smothering chips in mayonnaise. But their latest little wheeze of combining their league with the Dutch top flight (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs) will only have one guaranteed outcome. Residents of Scotland will be subjected to acres of painful newspaper and social media disgrace coverage, as the grasping associates of the Old Firm make yet more ponderous claims that their clubs should be allowed to join the English Premier League, even if that league doesn’t particularly want them. Stop it now!” – Colin Reed.

“The infamous German police file Gewalttäter Sport that lists people potentially showing delinquent behaviour at future sporting events has had some new entries since March 2020 – from issue No 158 (March 2021) of Austrian football magazine Ballesterer. This came as no surprise to me, I must say. I knew there was something wrong with all the others” – Karl Leigart.

Our eyes on you lot.
camera.png Our eyes on you lot. Photograph: Ballesterer

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Colin Reed.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Here’s Football Weekly Extra.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

The FA has confirmed that former Crewe manager Dario Gradi is “effectively banned for life” from football. It suggested an assessment concluded that Gradi, suspended since 2016, “could potentially cause or pose a risk of harm to children”. Meanwhile, the Offside Trust has called on Gradi to have his MBE revoked.

Morecambe midfielder Yann Songo’o is beginning a six-match suspension after using a homophobic slur in a League Two match against Tranmere.

Ollie Watkins and Sam Johnstone are in the England squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers, but Trent Alexander-Arnold has been cast aside. Full squad: Henderson (Manchester United), Johnstone (West Brom), Pope (Burnley); Chilwell (Chelsea), Coady (Wolves), Dier (Tottenham), James (Chelsea), Maguire (Manchester United), Mings (Aston Villa), Shaw (Manchester United), Stones (Manchester City), Trippier (Atlético Madrid), Walker (Manchester City); Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Foden (Manchester City), Lingard (West Ham), Mount (Chelsea), Phillips (Leeds), Rice (West Ham), Morris-Dancing Fiver (Fiver Towers), Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Kane (Tottenham), Rashford (Manchester United), Saka (Arsenal), Sterling (Manchester City), Watkins (Aston Villa).

Former Italy defender Daniele De Rossi is the Azzurri’s new technical coach, joing Roberto Mancini’s national team staff.

Charlton have named Nigel Adkins as their new manager. “I believe Nigel is the perfect personality, with the perfect background and the perfect experience to get us to where we want to be,” cooed owner Thomas Sandgaard.

And after a flamin’ spell with Newcastle Jets, Wales midfielder Joe Ledley has now rocked up at Newport County for the rest of the season.

STILL WANT MORE?

David Conn analyses the findings of the Sheldon report, and how the horror of sexual abuse managed to take hold in football.

Clockwise from top left Barry Bennell, rhe FA, Bob Higgins, Kit Carson and George Ormond.
camera.png Clockwise from top left Barry Bennell, rhe FA, Bob Higgins, Kit Carson and George Ormond. Composite: BBC; AFP via Getty Images; Hampshire Constabulary/PA; SWNS.com; Northumbria Police/PA

Sid Lowe picks the bones out of Atlético’s defeat to Chelsea … and it’s not pretty.

Meanwhile, here’s Barney Ronay on a Chelsea goal that exemplified “the fevered, whirring dreams of Thomas Tuchel, waking at dawn murmuring about rejigs and combinations, the launch codes for an attack assembled last summer in the way you might sluice together a hopeful late-night omelette”.

David Hytner reckons Luke Shaw’s England recall rewards a player in the form of his life.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

LET’S NOT BE TOO SNIFFY ABOUT THE PAPA JOHN’S JUST YET

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The Telegraph

Friday March 19 2021

Football Nerd

How Emile Smith Rowe revived Arsenal's season with and without the ball

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By Daniel Zeqiri

If Mikel Arteta's Arsenal are improving so much, how come they are still 10th in the Premier League?

The reason is they spent half of their league campaign playing like the 15th-best team in the division and the second half playing like a top six outfit.

The bookmark in the season was a Boxing Day victory over Chelsea, since when only the Manchester clubs and Leicester City have accumulated more points.

That also happened to be Emile Smith Rowe's first Premier League start of the season, and the attacking midfielder has been the catalyst for Arsenal's revival.

In this week's Football Nerd, I look at how his presence in the team has improved Arsenal's attacking output and also their pressing from the front.

 

Looking for up-to-the-minute coverage, live match updates, dedicated newsletters and inside stories? Get a 12-month Telegraph Sport subscription today for £39.

 
 
 

The best of this week's coverage

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Divided they fall: Hugo Lloris calls Spurs' Europa League exit a 'disgrace' and hints at dressing room split

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Talent factory: The secrets of the Arsenal academy - and how it drives ambition to mirror Barcelona and Ajax

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Comment: Chelsea's improvement under Thomas Tuchel proves they were right to sack Frank Lampard

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The Amad Diallo story: Smuggled into Italy by traffickers, a child 'phenomenon' and a dream move to Man Utd

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Make or break: Newcastle must win at Brighton to silence Steve Bruce's most rabid critics

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'I don’t agree with it because in a head-to-head with Kieran Trippier, for me it's a no-brainer. Alexander-Arnold should be picked.'

 

In one of two columns this week, Jamie Carragher says Trent Alexander-Arnold's omission from the England squad is not a shock - but is still a mistake.

 
 

This week's best stat

 

10
Should Tottenahm lose at Aston Villa on Sunday, it would be the first time in Jose Mourinho's career that his team have suffered 10 defeats in a single league campaign.

 
 

The week in a picture

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CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Down and soon to be out?: Harry Kane looks dejected after Tottenham's best chance of Champions League qualification slips away with a collapse at Dinamo Zagreb.

 
 
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The Fiver

Throwing everyone under the wheels of Funtime José's party bus

 

All aboard!
camera.png All aboard! Photograph: Luka Stanzl/PA

Scott Murray


ALL ABOARD FUNTIME JOSÉ’S PARTY BUS!

Beep beep! Parp parp! Honk honk! On Thursday, Funtime José Mourinho took the lads out for another exciting ride in his Party Bus. It’s usually a laugh riot on the Party Bus, everyone loves it, but sadly the beano for once didn’t go exactly to plan. Parking up in front of goal in Zagreb, Funtime forgot to let everyone out to play until it was way too late. Then on the way home, the ride became very uncomfortable and extremely bumpy, less to do with Croatian motorway disrepair and more with Funtime oppressively sulking while his captain systematically threw everyone else out of the door and under the wheels.

“We had a great moment in the past because we could trust the togetherness that was in the team,” sighed Hugo Lloris, reminiscing of those glory days when Spurs nearly won the Milk Cup, and nearly won the Premier League, and nearly won Big Cup. “[Now], I’m not sure about that. It is not [enough] to stay on the side and complain.” A searing indictment, and one which Funtime was only too happy to embellish: “On behalf of my team, in spite of some of them maybe not sharing my feelings and emotions, I can only apologise.” Given he once required nearly eight minutes to deliver the unprompted soliloquy that prepared the groundwork for his dismissal at Chelsea, kudos to him for whittling this particular art-form down to a mere 22 words. Years of practice paying off there.

Despite the fractious atmosphere, and the suspension of the Party Bus being tested to its limits by prone members of Thursday night’s starting XI, Joe Hart remained asleep in the back. When he finally awoke, the near-empty Party Bus pulling back into the garage, the somnolent shot-stopper was horrified to read that one of his vast team of social-media disgrace lackeys had posted “job done” using his SMDT account. “I’ve literally just woke up, someone thought we’d won 3-0,” he yawned. “As sloppy as it sounds, it’s the truth.” It speaks volumes that this was, by some distance, the least farcical element of Tottenham’s big day out. Beep! Parp! Honk!

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Ben Fisher from 6.30pm GMT for WSL MBM coverage of Arsenal 2-2 Manchester United, before Scott Murray is on hand for Fulham 1-2 Leeds in the Premier League.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Let’s be clear, it’s disparaging. There’s an element of xenophobia about it. There are negative undertones. It’s clear that football is resisting this appointment through feeding journalists with negative information about the candidate – what he can’t do, why he shouldn’t be there, the process is wrong” – Gary Neville condemns elements of English football for their reaction to Maheta Molango’s appointment as PFA chief suit.

Gary Neville criticises reaction to Maheta Molango's PFA appointment – video

FIVER LETTERS

“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. You just didn’t want to preview the FA Cup quarter-finals today, did you? So you thought you’d tempt fate and see which team(s) nibbled so you could cover them instead. I beseech you – you must use your powers for good in future” – Jim Hearson.

“Here in the land of soccer, we have a concept called the woof god, malignant sports deities who smite those who brag (woof) about their team(s). Clearly, they were listening to yesterday’s Fiver when it hyped the British teams in Big Vase – smiting Tottenham. Then, seeing it was The Fiver, they took pity on the other English teams, and let them escape by a single goal, but still took down the last Scottish team. Beware the woof gods, for they are mighty” – James Armstrong.

“José Mourinho must be the only manager in history who, in the space of six days, has watched his team score a goal-of-the-season contender literally off the back foot and then seen the scorer sent off for two fouls of Scholesian predictability; seen a two-goal lead overturned in Europe and then offered to play the role of internal critic himself, because ‘I don’t need external critics’. Remember when his teams used to score once and shut up shop? These days they can score as often as they like but it’s open all hours, and Spursiness abounds” – Justin Kavanagh.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … James Armstrong.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Liverpool will face Real Madrid in Big Cup quarter-finals, knowing victory would lead to a semi against Chelsea if they can overcome Porto. Elsewhere, Dortmund’s Erling Haaland has a date with his dad’s former employers in Manchester, while PSG are out after being drawn with Bayern.

In what must be a first, Manchester United will face their former ITV region Granada in the last eight of Big Vase. Arsenal, meanwhile, must tackle LWT. Sorry, Slavia.

United have also announced a five-year £235m shirt sponsorship deal with TeamViewer, which starts from next season.

The Queen’s Celtic will not give the Pope’s Newc O’Rangers a guard of honour to mark their Scottish title when they meet on Sunday. “For us, we spoke collectively about it and we won’t do it,” sniffed caretaker boss John Kennedy. “It is not about lacking class, nothing like that, because we are a club that always shows class and dignity and do what is right.”

And in Vietnam’s second tier, Can Tho’s goalkeeper celebrated saving a last-minute penalty he had conceded in the 1-1 draw with Cong An Nhan Dan by knee-sliding at the referee.

Very foolish behavior by Can Tho Capital’s goalkeeper. He was already carded for the tackle that led to the penalty, runs at the referee after blocking the shot. pic.twitter.com/hxYudgWAEk

— Viet Footy (@VietFooty) March 19, 2021

STILL WANT MORE?

Stick or twist for Brucie? Louise Taylor on crunch time for Newcastle.

Powered by Abu Dhabi’s wealth, the Guardiola blueprint works in India and across Asia – although conflicts of interest await. John Duerden digs deeper.

Phil Foden should be central for City and England, neutrals should root for Brighton and the Queen’s Celtic seek a long-term plan. Yes, it’s 10 things to look out for in the FA Cup, Premier League and beyond this weekend.

Suzanne Wrack sets the scene as Arsenal and Manchester United battle it out for the third automatic Women’s Big Cup spot.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

BETTER TIMES AT THE WHITE HART

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