CRISIS BATON ROUGE
The current fight for ultimate ownership of the 2022 Crisis Baton is shaping up to be a fascinating one. Early in the season, it looked to be a shoo-in for Erik ten Hag, The Fiver anticipating him twirling and flinging it around ostentatiously, like Stevie Nicks in the video for Tusk, marching all the way to the end of the season, if he got that far. But Manchester United are suddenly four wins into an Are Back, Baby! sequence, so he’ll not be getting his hands on that stick again until approximately 3.55pm on Sunday 2 October when, well, you don’t even need to look it up, do you? Erik can start twirling it again on the way back across town, but until then he’ll have to wait.
The Baton subsequently passed into the brief possession of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, but surprising outbreaks of base competence resulting in hard-fought draws meant neither of the Golden Generation of English managers held on to the cursed pole for long. That allowed Brendan Rodgers to brazenly snatch it for himself. With his Leicester team a complete rabble, and his post-match gambits stopping only a couple of steps short of George Costanza performing donuts in the Yankees parking lot with the World Series trophy dragging behind, screaming “your triumphs mean nothing” through a megaphone, the Baton looked Brendan’s to keep for the foreseeable. But then suddenly, up rocked Jürgen Klopp, spoiling for a fight, ready and seemingly determined to wrestle it off him, stripped in front of the fire if needs be, with sensual oils, and there’s a mental image right there. You’re welcome.
Earlier in the day, Liverpool’s social media disgrace team had put Neapolitan backs up by emphasising to their travelling fans, in a fairly clumsy and undiplomatic way, the dangers of becoming “isolated” and “targeted” in the city. Well, it had to happen, didn’t it, and with a delicious narrative purity, that’s exactly the fate that later befell Joe Gomez, who was repeatedly swarmed by Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, before being Dejan Lovrened for his own peace of mind. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either, with sadly predictable consequences for – this seems rather quaint now – last season’s quadruple hopefuls.
Once Napoli had finally consigned gegenpressing to the next edition of Inverting the Pyramid, Klopp could only mutter something about “reinventing” his team. With Wolves to come on Saturday, followed by Ajax next Tuesday, we’d like to wish him the best of luck with successfully implementing that root-and-branch redevelopment. It’s almost as though a situation in which you’re forced to build a midfield around James “I’m 36, you know” Milner, 56, should have been addressed a good couple of months, maybe even years, ago because the hope of landing more prizes this season is already beginning to feel like a pipe dream. The Crisis Baton being the exception that proves the rule, obviously.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I get asked about him so much he must get bored of hearing me talk about him. He’ll be tired of me going on about how good he is” – Real Sociedad’s Martín Zubimendi isn’t tired of the constant comparisons to Xabi Alonso but he reckons Xabi Alonso might be, as he tells Sid Lowe.
“May I be the 1,057th pedant to point out that, technically, there is no such thing as a ‘seagull’ (yesterday’s Fiver). Mind those chips” – Peter Storch (and no other pedants).
“In light of Brighton’s willingness to allow Chelsea to make formal overtures to their current manager, is this the fastest someone has been able to see a GP in the last 15 years?” – Colin.
“Stevie Ewens’s missive about getting sent off for having a not-so crafty fag during a game (yesterday’s Fiver letters) brought to mind former West Brom and Scotland favourite Willie Johnston. The career of this colourful maverick (gloriously summarised here) included incidents as diverse as taking a swig from a fan’s can of beer while waiting to take a corner, and negotiating the purchase of a greenhouse from a supporter stationed near the touchline” – Allastair McGillivray.
“Many years ago, my friend, John, a more than decent goalkeeper, was sent off before we even started the game. We arrived late and were met by an irate ref who informed us, with considerable force, that kick-off was half an hour ago. ‘Really?’ said John. ‘What’s the score?’ As a consequence, we played with no recognised keeper and lost heavily” – Mark Bindley.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Mark Bindley.
The latest Football Weekly Extra podcast has dropped.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Graham Potter has verbally agreed to take the Chelsea manager’s job and leave his current gig at Brighton.
Rangers are dusting themselves down after another 4-0 shoeing, this time at Ajax on their return to Big Cup’s group stages. “We have to bounce back,” sighed manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst. “It is not going to be easy, but it is the only thing we can do.”
Having secured a 2-0 win for Spurs over 10-man Marseille, two-goal Richarlison can’t stop smiling. “I’m very happy, it was one of the best days of my life with my father and family here,” he cheered. “To have him here today was very emotional for me because he’s a huge part of my success.”
RB Leipzig’s new manager is Marco Rose after giving Domenico Tedesco the boot.
Nathan Redmond is teaming up with Dele Alli at Besiktas after signing from Southampton. “We had a fantastic time here together, nearly four years, with a lot of very good moments, some also not-so-good ones,” tooted Saints’ boss Ralph Hasenhüttl. “I am really looking forward to him playing there.”
And Spartan South Midlands Premier Division outfit London Colney FC have signed a crotch sponsorship deal with, er, adult toy brand Lelo. Yes, we’ve re-read that sentence. “This is a bold statement and will certainly raise eyebrows in the world of football,” purred chairman Donald Williams. “We look forward to seeing the response from our fans.”
STILL WANT MORE?
“If you are reading this and you want the game to get better, then you are part of this movement too” – Karen Carney on leading the government’s review into women’s football.
Our WSL season previews continue with Manchester United and Reading.
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