HATCHETS AND BOGEYMEN
The Fiver is a cynical soul, but even we had to at least attempt a smile at the sight of 2,000 Arsenal fans turning up for Big Vase action on Thursday night and – checks notes – actually cheering on Mikel Arteta’s team, creating a feelgood vibe not seen at the Emirates since Bruce Springsteen rocked N7 back in 2008. But wait, who’s this? It’s bogeyman José Mourinho, trudging wearily into view. Mourinho has never lost at home to Arsenal in the Premier League and won’t fancy starting on Sunday, when startled Spurs fans will return to see their team in title contention for the the Norf La’hn derby.
Is Mourinho happy to see them back? “It depends on the fans. Do they want to go to the most beautiful stadium in England and enjoy that? Or do they want to go to play the game?” Mourinho barked, hurling shirts at bewildered punters outside Craven Cottage. Harry Kane missed the knockabout 3-3 Big Vase draw against Lask, so will Arsenal’s other bogeyman be fit for Sunday? “I’m not sure,” Mourinho said. “He’s having treatment but I could be doing some bluff and pretend he’s in trouble, but he’s not and I think he’ll play.” Whether Mourinho is bluffing, double-bluffing or simply bluffing himself, we’re not sure – but Arteta has his own issues up front, namely the disappearance of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang moments after signing a fat new contract in September. “When your top scorer is not scoring goals of course you are concerned,” Arteta muttered, showing the kind of analytical chops that have him marked out as the next Marcelo Bielsa.
Speaking of which (see what we did there), Bielsa’s Leeds take on Frank Lampard’s Chelsea in a game that might be an even beefier meeting. The two clubs’ historical rivalry has added spice thanks to the Spygate scandal that erupted between Leeds and Frank Lampard’s Former Club Derby County, back in early 2019. Have the managers buried the hatchet? “The relationship I have with [FLCMFL] is similar to the ones I have with the rest of my colleagues,” Bielsa mused, via a translation from whichever unfortunate Leeds tracksuit was nearby when he started talking. “I am not going to dwell on it going into this game,” added Lampard. “It was a great story at the time. It is long gone and I respect him and Leeds.”
Sigh. At least Jürgen Klopp has come out swinging - although not in the direction of Liverpool’s weekend opponents, Wolves (“nothing bad to say about them”). Instead, Klopp took aim at Gary Neville’s claim that sticking with three substitutes has made the Premier League more competitive. “I got numbers from the Scottish league, they had 65% substitutions for load management,” Klopp barked, veering dangerously close to going Full Van Gaal during a five-minute freestyle funk. Hang on, what’s that weird sensation? Wait, The Fiver is smiling again!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We are disappointed with the behaviour which doesn’t represent the standards the team upholds. The player is remorseful and has now left the club” – Charlton confirm that Madelene Wright is no longer an Addicks player after videos emerged on social media disgrace SnapTok showing her allegedly inhaling from a balloon at a party and drinking champagne while driving.
“Re: pleonasms (Fiver letters passim). I keep seeing correspondence regarding the use of unnecessary words in phrases. It’s like deja vu all over again” – David Mills.
“I think Porto are still upset with Manchester City (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs) because their fans sang to Hulk: ‘You’re not incredible’” – Paul Ruffley.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day prize is … Paul Ruffley, who wins a copy of The Got, Not Got Football Gift Book – Every Fan’s Catalogue of Desires, by Derek Hammond and Gary Silke [postage available to UK only, sorry – Fiver Postal Ed].
Available at our print shop now, Tom Jenkins’s pictures of the past decade.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
It took only those 2,000 socially distanced Gooners to get Ainsley Maitland-Niles pumped up like Technotronic. “It is just great to have that sound back,” he whooped after Arsenal’s 4-1 Big Vase win over Rapid Vienna. “That atmosphere, that is our 12th man so it was great to have the fans back.”
In insert-your-own-punchline news, Ed Woodward has distanced Manchester United from a European super league. Meanwhile, United are to install 1,500 rail seats early next year as they prepare to trial safe standing at Old Trafford.
Nice have bundled Patrick Vieira through the door marked Faire Un after a five-match losing streak. “Patrick put all his heart and professionalism into his service for Nice over the last two and a half years of their collaboration,” cheered the club, somewhat damningly.
Olivier Giroud reckons if he keeps scoring four goals a game he probably won’t need to leave Chelsea to book his place in France’s Euro 2020(ish) squad. “I am pretty sure I can get some more game time and stay at Chelsea,” he blabbed. “I want to win trophies with Chelsea so basically that’s it.”
The current longest-serving Premier League manager, Sean Dyche, has been growling at hacks who asked whether he was surprised to have lasted so long at Burnley. “I believe I know quite a lot about what I’m doing!” he roared. “I don’t think it’s easy for English and British managers at the moment to get 200 games in the Premier League.”
Motherwell are up to third in the Scottish Premiership after securing a pair of 3-0 wins over Kilmarnock and St Mirren due to admin bods finally getting round to sorting the paperwork for Covid-19 call-offs.
And Robert Lewandowski has been boasting about how a sizzling night in the sack with Big Cup has made him want to win it all over again. “I took it with me to bed!” kissed-and-told the Bayern forward. “It was in my room and, for a few hours, my trophy.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Suzanne Wrack reports on South Sudan’s daring drive on women’s football.
It’s Friday so, in a break with tradition, here are 10 things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend.
Drinking Tin under a railway bridge and then watching Arsenal in the flesh reminded Tim Stillman that matchdays are a precious ritual.
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