NIL SATIS, NISI OPTIMUM
Currently in seventh place, their spiritual league table home, Everton have the luxury of two games in hand over the half-dozen teams above them. Winning both those games would catapult them past Liverpool, Chelsea and [Fiver double-checks league table] West Ham into the dizzy heights of fourth, a position the majority of their fans would have happily settled for at this stage of the season, even five months ago when they were top and three points clear after four straight wins.
Of course, while Carlo Ancelotti’s success at Goodison Park has come as no great shock, not even a man of his considerable talents could be expected to drum Everton’s innate “Evertonness” out of them in just a little over a year in the job. After all, the ability to lose football matches they have no real business losing has long been embedded in the club’s DNA. If they were a stick of rock, the recent scoreline Everton 0-2 Fulham would run through them. If you’d been forced to bet on any team pulling off the undignified double-whammy of losing home and away to Newcastle this season, you were never going to go far wrong with Everton.
Tonight, they welcome Southampton-in-freefall to Goodison Park, with the team from the south coast seeking to end a run of seven league games without a win, six of which have ended in occasionally comical defeat. Having enjoyed a one-night stand with the top of the table in November, Southampton are currently on a slippery slope towards the relegation zone but will travel to Goodison Park knowing that where there is life in the form of Everton playing at home, there is always hope.
In the buildup tonight’s game, Ralph Hasenhüttl called on his players to stop being so nice, bawling out James Ward-Prowse for offering to do an elderly neighbour’s shopping, ticking off Che Adams for sending a signed jersey to a poorly child and getting in a monumental funk upon learning Ryan Bertrand and Nathan Redmond are planning a surprise 25th birthday party for Jan Bednarek that the not-so-nice Fiver has just ruined.
“The behaviour we have here is too nice,” he said, demanding his players work on their in-game sh1thousery. “We are nasty in the sense of being aggressive on the ball and attacking, but in other parts we are too nice.” Well, Ralph ... they don’t call them the Saints for nothing.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“At a time when female football journalists were rarer than today and could still be given a rough time by certain old-school male colleagues, I appreciated Glenn’s subtle support – particularly his occasional phone calls to pass on information he suspected I might otherwise be excluded from” – the Guardian’s Louise Taylor pays a personal tribute to Glenn Roeder, who died on Sunday at the age of 65.
Over here! It’s the latest Football Weekly, as the pod cast their beady eyes over all the weekend Premier League action.
“Perhaps Zlatan Ibrahimovic [Friday’s Fiver] is attempting to postulate his own variation of the Epimenes paradox, in order to bag a start in this prestigious event. This would make up for the disappointment of the last World Cup when, despite loudly clearing his throat and pointing at himself, Zlatan was overlooked in favour of some blokes who’d actually contributed to qualifying” – Jon Millard.
“I was playing on Football Manager earlier when I got offered the Schalke job! I politely declined, hung up the phone and went back to playing my game” – James Vortkamp-Tong.
“Why is Bale happy? He’s happy because he is playing. Had José Mourinho given him the game time he deserved since his return, Spurs would probably be in a much better position. Sadly, it seems Mourinho decided to let us all be happy a little too late” – Roy Keane Marcio Aquino.
“In reading about Steve Bruce’s thoughts on Newcastle’s current plight in the Premiership, I was reminded of a scene in Carry On Nurse involving a daffodil and Wilfrid Hyde-White’s bottom end. Could it be that Steve’s tendency to describe football through the use of Carry On imagery explain the club’s position in the league?” – Tony Timms.
“If Steve Bruce is feeling daffodils coming up his bottom end [Friday’s Fiver] then it is surely likely to be neither tickly nor squeaky but more trumpety?” – Robin Hazlehurst.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Police have raided Barcelona’s Camp Nou in a search and seize operation, with the club’s former president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, among those reported to have been arrested. The club say they are collaborating with the investigation.
Steve Cotterill, the Shrewsbury manager, has returned to hospital with Covid-pneumonia, having previously spent 33 days there for treatment.
The sudden folding of Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu FC by the Suning group has thrown the future of Internazionale into doubt. Suning have owned the Serie A leaders since January 2019.
Paul Lambert has been shown the door marked Do One by Ipswich Town’s incoming owners. “There are significant differences of opinion as to the order of immediate priorities and we agreed it was best for us to part company,” roared outgoing suit Marcus Evans.
Darren Moore has left Doncaster to become the new manager of Sheffield Wednesday – and Donny aren’t happy. “We have made significant efforts to support Darren over the past 18 months,” growled their aptly-named chairman, David Blunt.
Manchester City have won their last 20 games, but Pep won’t be kicking back. “We are delighted with what we have done so far … but what counts is if you lift the trophies or not,” he hooted. “We cannot sit on the sofa and say how good everything is.”
And Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likely to miss Milan’s Big Vase first-leg trip to Old Trafford with groin-gah, but won’t be sticking to sports while he’s laid up. He will reportedly still appear as a guest at the local Sanremo music festival later this week.
STILL WANT MORE?
Jill Scott is shining at Everton, while Arsenal may have left their revival too late. Rachel Brown-Finnis reviews the latest Women’s Super League action.
The pressure was on in La Liga this weekend but Atlético Madrid responded, as Sid Lowe explains.
Schalke, after months of trying, have finally hit rock bottom, says Andy Brassell.
Campionato! Di Calcio! Italianoooo! Was a 1-1 draw at Verona fatal for Juventus’s hopes of a 10th straight scudetto? Maybe, writes Nicky Bandini.
Nine weekend Premier League games, ten talking points. How do we do it?
Daniel James is good at running, according to Jonathan Liew.
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