Sarri, you haven’t a clue
‘SARRI-BALL was supposed to transform English football.’
Or was it supposed to bring some much-needed stability to Chelsea and simultaneously take them closer to Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in both style and results?
With such hyperbolic bombast, that can only be the opening to a column from The Sun’s Neil Ashton, fresh from writing off Liverpool’s 2019 on the eighth day of January.
Three days later it is Chelsea who are in crisis. Yes, the same Chelsea who have lost just twice in their last ten games, are fourth in the Premier League (after starting the season as fourth-favourites for the title) and still in three cup competitions. That Chelsea.
‘Everybody was supposed to be addicted to it, overwhelmed by the latest trend shipped in from Italy.’
You’re just being weird now. You are literally the first person to say or write any such thing.
‘They have been brought up on success, spoiled by the title wins under Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte.’
And then devastated by campaigns that have seen them finish sixth, tenth and fifth within the last seven years. Don’t forget that, Neil.
‘They are lacking ambition, the drive that saw this club fight it out at the top of the Premier League, year after year.’
Pesky fact: In two of the last three seasons, Chelsea have finished at least 30 points behind the champions.
‘Playing Eden Hazard in the false nine position, a system conceived in the 2-0 victory over Manchester City last month, has turned into a tactical crutch for Sarri.’
A ‘tactical crutch’ that he has used once in Chelsea’s last four games.
‘It is tedious and difficult to watch them passing for passing’s sake.’
It’s fair to say that Sarri owes Neil an apology. Because of course his target is to entertain The Sun’s chief football reporter and not to take Chelsea back into the Champions League and perhaps pick up a trophy along the way.
Mediawatch suspects that Sarri knows Chelsea need a striker. Somehow being fourth in the Premier League – with the highest points total of any fourth-placed side in history after 21 games – without a goalscoring striker is quite the feat. We imagine that they are pursuing Gonzalo Higuain so they no longer have to perform that particular miracle.
Ashton then writes that Chelsea have ‘fallen away from the title race’, even though this was a title race that no sane person expected them to run. They finished 30 points behind Manchester City last season, remember. It’s against that backdrop that no BBC pundit tipped them for a top-two place and only nine of 24 thought they would finish in a Champions League place.
‘They have left it to others to fight it out – with City, Liverpool and Tottenham in the clear.
‘Finishing fourth is the target for Sarri but that would be far from satisfactory at a club like Chelsea.
‘Instead, there is more likely to be a revolt.’
This is what Eden Hazard said at the end of November: “We are thinking about finishing in the top four, not to be the champions.”
And this is what Maurizio Sarri said at the end of December: “We have to try to stay close to the top four. The target this season could only be to stay close and to enter into the Champions League.”
Call us crazy but Mediawatch suspects that they might know a little more about what is acceptable for Chelsea this season than a man who wrote off Liverpool’s 2019 on January 8.
F*** you, a**holes
MIRROR SPORT: Arnie: I won’t be back #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/HZDbzmg5ef
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) January 10, 2019
That’s not what he said, is it? But why let the truth get in the way of a Terminator-inspired headline, even if it erroneously suggests a footballer is about to go on strike.
Loyal flush Harry Redknapp on Arnautovic on talkSPORT: “They come and they go. A mate of mine had a horse and named it ‘We’ve Got Payet’. And I told him in six months he’ll have to rename that horse ‘We Had Payet’. That’s how it works.
“Forget loyalty. The days of people staying at clubs forever is long gone.”
Says the man who said this when Portsmouth manager: “Go down the road to Southampton? No chance.”
…before he promptly went ‘down the road’.
Congratulations…and jubilations ‘Britain’s best Sports Writer’ Andy Dunn has adopted a bizarre stance in the Daily Mirror, crediting Pep Guardiola for showing respect to knock-out competitions despite basically doing what every other Premier League manager has done this week.
While Jurgen Klopp made nine Liverpool changes and then lost to Premier League mid-table side Wolves away from home, Guardiola made eight changes and then nine changes to beat Championship and League One opposition at home. So well done, Pep.
‘His squad has wonderful depth. A few of his players actually need games. But that should not lessen the credit he deserves for currently treating knockout competitions with the utmost respect.’
Oh it really should.
Admission of the day When not hilariously falling out with Jim White, Neil Custis is a football journalist for The Sun.
And he has the honour of writing the story which dominates the back page of the nation’s best-selling newspaper on Friday morning. Well done, Neil.
‘OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER admits Mauricio Pochettino could break his heart and take his job as Manchester United boss.’
What he’s actually done is say – not ‘admit’ – that “the speculation is there for a reason because he’s done well”. Which are certainly pretty explosive quotes.
Apparently this justifies the billing of ‘SPURS v MAN U…IT’S PERSONAL’. Which sounds like just about the shittest trailer ever for what we think might actually be a decent game of football. Remember football?
Man at work The Sun website quite rightly moves on from that shock admission and their top football story at 11am on Friday is an exclusive. A Manchester United exclusive, no less. Custis must be fuming.
‘MANCHESTER UNITED midfielder Fred has been training alone this week in an effort to prove his fitness for the Premier League trip to Tottenham on Sunday.
‘The Brazilian was absent from the club’s warm-weather camp in Dubai and stayed in 4C Manchester in order to be with his wife, who is due to give birth to their first child this week.
‘Sun Sport understands Fred has continued to work to impress interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has spent several hours at the club’s Carrington training ground this week to focus on his conditioning.’
So the big ‘exclusive’ is literally ‘man turns up for work’.
Shock of the day ‘Gareth Southgate will be at Burnley’s Premier League clash with Fulham on Saturday as he considers a shock recall to the England camp for Tom Heaton’ – Daily Mail.
Gareth Southgate has been calling up Fulham’s second-choice goalkeeper; not recalling Tom Heaton would be the shock.
Football is weird. Part 427 Darren Lewis on Mauricio Pochettino in the Daily Mirror: ‘His relationship with some Saints players he turned into stars – such as Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana – was so strong they stayed in touch after he left for Spurs.’
Because keeping in touch with old work colleagues is extraordinary. What a man.
Recommended reading of the day Daniel Storey on the sorry plight of Ipswich Town
Paul Doyle on Wilfried Zaha, via Scarlett Johansson and porn
Simon Hughes on Liverpool’s ongoing Liverpool problem
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