ANOTHER SOFT BREXIT
The good news for Manchester City after their sorry Big Cup exit is that Pep Guardiola has been promised a wad of cash to sort things out in the summer. After all, if there’s anything to take from another miserable Premier League showing in Europe, it’s surely that throwing a tonne of money at the problem is the only cure. City have been notoriously stingy in recent years, so it’s about time the suits loosened those pursestrings and let Guardiola go on a spending spree. £150m should do it. Only then will City be ready to compete with the elite. As long as Guardiola shops ruthlessly, bringing in a keeper whose hands aren’t just for show and some defenders who haven’t mistaken The Fiver’s old copy of Nick Hanc0ck’s Football Nightmares for a training video, while eschewing the self-indulgence of signing 17 new midfielders and using the spare change to buy a year’s supply of turtle-neck jumpers for him and his staff.
There are, of course, plenty of people who will argue that City should have been capable of protecting their 5-3 lead from the first leg against Monaco. Some will even use this defeat at the hands of Leonardo Jardim’s free-scoring young side to pour scorn on Guardiola and his fancy, suspiciously foreign ways. Take our English cousin, $exually Repressed Morris Dancing Fiver, who is in an unusually chipper mood, a jaunty spring in his step as he gleefully noted that Guardiola doesn’t look so smart without Lionel Messi to bail him out every week. Guardiola? More like Fraudiola, yeah? Welcome to the future, poindexter. Leicester City, an English team playing the English way, are the Premier League’s sole representative in Friday’s Big Cup quarter-final draw. Boris Johnson’s the foreign minister. Craig Shakespeare is a better manager than Jorge Sampaoli, Jürgen Klopp and Fraudiola combined. The hipsters and the nerds have been silenced once and for all. Send us victorious!
Measured criticism is justifiable, mind you. For the third successive season, City have shown a frail mentality and a lack of desire in the defining moments, have once again failed to make their mark in Big Cup and are all but out of the title race, having drifted 10 points behind Chelsea. A fight to finish in the top four and win the FA Cup is all that’s left on the agenda for now, leaving Guardiola to reflect on a slightly disappointing debut season.
In the Catalan’s defence, however, just look at his defence. It doesn’t say much for City’s recent transfer dealings that Guardiola resorted to picking Aleksandar Kolarov as John Stones’s centre-back partner. Kolarov got the nod after squirting W1lly Caballero with water after tricking the Argentinian into smelling his funny flower, completing a faultless loop-de-loop on a tiny bicycle and shocking Gaël Clichy with a hidden hand buzzer. The Serbian’s feet duly proved more than big enough to fill Nicolás Otamendi’s oversized clown shoes and, confronted by Monaco’s electric attack, City’s defence inevitably looked about as comfortable as Brian Kidd in a pair of skinny jeans. Speaking of which, it must almost be time for Guardiola to take Kidd on another trip round the Arndale Centre. Spring’s on the way. Time to freshen up that wardrobe, Kiddo. Maybe £150m won’t be enough after all.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
9 March: “I don’t need to feel that [confidence] every day” – Boro boss Aitor Karanka doesn’t see any signs that a somewhat loveless relationship with Middlesbrough’s hierarchy means he’ll be doing one anytime soon.
16 March: “This club will always hold a special place for me and I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough football club the very best for the future. I’d also like to thank the fans for their support” – ah.
“As a USA! USA!! USA!!! reader, I am not up to date on British press standards, but let me try to understand: when Luis Suárez goes to the ground after contact it is just the latest and most blatant example of Barça cheating, but when Jamie Vardy taunts and slaps Samir Nasri into a head butt, he is clever and funny? I assume, therefore, you are following the Flanders and Swann school of journalism: ‘The English, the English, the English are best, I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest’” – Rick Collarini.
“As I stifled a laugh at the Manchester City result, it struck me how egalitarian the football results are, giving, as they do, equal prominence to the latest English disappointment in Europe, and the fact that Aylesbury United v Uxbridge in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division 1 Central was postponed” – Ian Crossan.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Cheltenham manager Gary Johnson has undergone heart surgery. “It went very well and he is now in recovery,” said the club. “Thank you all for your kind messages of support.”
Rochdale’s Joe Thompson has revealed he has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time. “I came back from a goal down before, not only to equalise, but to take the lead,” said the 28-year-old. “This illness may have found an equaliser but the quest for me to get the winner starts today and I can assure you I will get the most important win of all time.”
Jermain Defoe’s butler is doing wonders for the striker’s plants – and his brand: the 34-year-old Sunderland snaffler is back in the England fold. The full squad: Forster (Southampton), Hart (Man City), Heaton (Burnley); Bertrand (Southampton), Cahill (Chelsea), Clyne (Liverpool), Jones (Man Utd), Keane (Burnley), Shaw (Man Utd), Smalling (Man Utd), Stones (Man City), Walker (Tottenham); Alli (Tottenham), Antonio (West Ham), Morris Dancing Fiver (Fiver Towers), Barkley (Everton), Dier (Tottenham), Lallana (Liverpool), Lingard (Man Utd), Livermore (West Brom), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Redmond (Southampton), Sterling (Man City), Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Defoe (Sunderland), Rashford (Man Utd), Vardy (Leicester).
Meanwhile, Wales have given Liverpool toddler Ben Woodburn his first senior call-up before the super massive World Cup qualifier with Republic O’Ireland.
Samir Nasri has understandably taken those Jamie Vardy shenanigans badly. “For me, he is a cheat,” sniffed the Frenchman, showing more passion in a 10-second flourish than he has in his career to date. “Because if he was a foreign player, you, the English press, would say he is a cheat. They were winning 2-0; play the game like a man.” As you can imagine, Vardy has a very different hot take: “I’m not a cheat and I never have been.”
Madagascan football boss Ahmad Ahmad, so good they named him twice, has ended Issa Hayatou’s 29-year reign as African football president.
And, after his Mr 20% said a deal was 99.9% done to extend his Everton contract, Romelu Lukaku has made it clear that the 0.1% is quite a sticking point. “There were some players that we could have got, that I knew the club could have got, and they didn’t get,” he tooted. “Everton as a football club has a great history. But the future has to be written. You get me?” Ronald Koeman doesn’t. “Of course I am not happy,” he fumed.
STILL WANT MORE?
Aitor Karanka’s control freakery, funky mood and sleepy tactics only helped hasten his march through the Boro door marked Do One, reckons Louise Taylor.
The Joy of Six: football celebrations gone wrong, featuring Stuart McCall on the Tin, gloriously tumbling from an affordable car and dancing it off.
Is the lack of a winter break to blame for Premier League clubs tumbling out of Big Cup left, right and centre or are they just a bit rubbish, muses Paul Wilson.
Giancarlo Rinaldi offers up this warming read on how much it meant when his 10-year-old son finally agreed to start going to Queen of the South with him.
Grit, loyalty, the SAS and swearing feature in this racy Richard Foster piece on the making of Gareth Southgate.
And this week’s Classic YouTube features pilfered gongs and a slow-motion tumble at Tynecastle.
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