IT’S ALL MEME, MEME, MEME
Jürgen Klopp, the Premier League’s pre-eminent high-fiving, high-pressing Eurocoach, is having a tough old month. Liverpool’s last five league games have yielded three points and one goal. Truly, there are cross-Channel lorry drivers who have enjoyed January more than big Jürg. But can it be mere coincidence that in the days before Britain took back ruddy control, the wheels came off so spectacularly for football’s favourite Remoaner?
In their barren run, Klopp has been tactically bested by the top flight’s own three lions – Bernard Cribbins, Sam Allardyce and now Burnley big cheese Sean Dyche. Liverpool have also been stymied by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the sort of inoffensive trans-North Sea diplomat who could thrash out a decent fishing agreement, and Austria’s Ralph Hasenhüttl. And on Thursday night, along came Hasenhüttl’s compatriot, the apres-skiing, oompah-pahing Ashley Barnes, to riff on his misery. All of which leaves Klopp getting the full Foreign Fraud treatment on various social media disgraces, his coupon mercilessly photoshopped on to the ‘this is fine’ dog. It’s a punishment befitting the heinous crime of losing a home league game for the first time since April 2017, when Marco Silva was making waves at Hull City and Brexit gags were still an acceptable way to pad out a tea-timely email.
What was Klopp’s reaction to the most dramatic, inexplicable collective loss of form since the opening act of Space Jam? “It would be silly to talk about the title race now,” he mused after the defeat. Perhaps, but not as foolish as attempting to engage Dyche in a no-holds-barred, mano a mano exchange of views in the Anfield tunnel at half-time. It was Burnley, of course, who triggered a similar existential crisis at Arsenal by winning there in December. They might actually be quite good and deserving of greater recognition than an avalanche of memes. But that’s not the narrative, so we’ll move on.
Klopp’s red mist might melt away at the thought of facing Manchester United again this weekend – this time in the FA Cup. With both managers likely to make changes, it promises to be half as good as their recent league game, if you can imagine such a thing. So if he wants to avoid waking up to several hundred images of a bemittened Bernie Sanders pasted into his dugout seat, he might need help from elsewhere. How about Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, whose assignment – at home to Luton – fits a little too neatly after the phrase “relieved of his duties after an embarrassing FA Cup defeat”? Then there’s taciturn stepdad Nuno Espírito Santo, whose toothless Wolves take on non-league Chorley later on Friday. Pep Guardiola will be expanding his horizons at Cheltenham Town’s Jonny-Rocks Stadium, while Mikel Arteta takes on Hasenhüttl in a fourth-round clash where only one manager can leave with their credibility intact. Ah, the magic of the Cup.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I had a literacy exam, then had to do fitness exams and a bleep test, but then Doncaster asked me for a trial and I had to put that on hold. Luckily, it’s gone pretty well” – Andy Butler, who lines up to face West Ham this weekend, tells Ben Fisher how he was all set to join the South Yorkshire bizzies last summer.
“As a Liverpool fan, the past few years have been amazing. My good friend (and fellow occasional Fiver letter contributor) Ethan Mackintosh is a Manchester United fan. Anyway, as you can imagine, he’s giving me bare b@ntz over Liverpool’s current run. Frankly Fiver, he’s jerking my chain. Enough is enough. Fiver, he respects you. Tell him to stop baiting me. A short, sharp, rebuke from the nation’s favourite almost-funny tea-time footballing email would make him stop for a moment and consider my feelings. You may not be able to stop football, but you can stop Ethan” – Sholem Lenkiewicz [is this like a Cameo thingy? – Fiver Ed].
“May I register my confusion with the statement included in yesterday’s Fiver? I have deduced that ‘solidarity’ and ‘subsidiarity’ are Fifa-speak for ‘I eat the foie gras, you pay for it’. However, I can’t get my head around the inclusion of ‘promotion and relegation’ as cornerstones of football’s success and holding its absence up as a justifying principle for preventing internationals from internationaling. I’m in Toronto and, around these parts, promotion to MLS can only be achieved by way of Fifa-style buffets and David Beckham photo-ops. What’s relegation?” – Alon Eizenman.
“Re: Poland’s new manager (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Has there ever been a more drastic change in vowel percentage of two names, from 23.1% (Jerzy Brzeczek) to 60.0% (Paolo Sousa)? And does anyone care?” – Mike Williams.
72 HOURS IS A LONG TIME IN FOOTBALL
18 January: “Five years ago today, manager Jim Gannon returned for his third spell in charge at Stockport County. The rest, as they say, is history” – a warm tribute from the club’s social media disgrace team, there.
21 January: “Stockport County have parted company with manager Jim Gannon. The decision is not results-based but centred around culture” – oh.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Kevin De Bruyne will miss Manchester City’s key games with Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal after being ruled out for up to six weeks with hamstring-twang.
Meanwhile, Champ Manager legend Michael Duff is resisting the temptation to churn up Cheltenham’s pitch for their tie with City. “It isn’t a League Two pitch so to speak,” he blabbed. “You aren’t going to get a Ronnie Radford scene where it’s like a ploughed field.”
FLC manager Frank Lampard says he couldn’t care less what people in the media say about him. “I don’t listen to the noise,” he honked, before calling out a hack for “confirmation bias” in pieces about Chelsea he had clearly listened to.
West Ham owners Gollivan are going to reward David Moyes with a bumper new contract for taking the club into the light. Unless it all goes belly-up before May, mind.
And Dean Smith’s sarcasm has cost him a ban from Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle on Saturday. “I will accept the charge of insulting the officials,” sighed Smith.
STILL WANT MORE?
Ten things to look out for in the Premier League FA Cup fourth round this weekend.
Chorley coaches Andy Preece and Irfan Kawri talk to Nick Ames about the long road that lies ahead before diversity increases among football coaches in Britain.
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