The Fiver

Scott Murray on 19 September 2018


Tottenham Hotspur don’t like playing Internazionale at San Siro very much. They’ve done it three times now, and it never goes well. Eight years ago they were three goals and a man down in 14 minutes, eventually losing a Big Cup group game 4-3, a young Philippe Coutinho running at them again and again with great purpose as ‘Arry Redknapp surveyed the damage with shocked impotence, the closest a football manager has ever come to recreating the cover of McCartney II. Then in 2013 André Villas-Boas and his side squeaked through a Big Vase round-of-16 tie, but only after shipping a three-goal first-leg lead, and a 4-1 defeat on the night is a 4-1 defeat, whichever way you spin it. And now the events of Tuesday. Oh lads! How could you!

Tottenham’s late capitulation against Inter is their third defeat in a row, following a 2-1 loss at Watford and a 2-1 thrashing by Liverpool. It’s the first time such a sequence has been suffered during the Mauricio Pochettino era, and it caused the manager to lose the place completely in the post-match presser. When it was suggested it might have been an idea to play the rested Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld, steam whistled out of his lugs with immense force. The word “disrespect” could just about be heard amid the skirl. It was left to Érik Lamela to look on the bright side. “We’re not losing our confidence, we believe in each other,” he insisted, the sort of claim you make when confidence and belief are very much at a premium, and you’re beginning to worry quite a lot about what Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy might do if you concede a corner at the weekend.

Still, for all Tottenham’s current problems, at least they’re not avant garde art movement PSG, whose team and tactical approach appear to have been assembled using techniques described in the Dada Manifesto. By cutting up a load of words from an old match report, putting them in a bag, drawing them out, and placing them in the order in which they were picked, they’ve ended up with a front three of Kylian Mbappé, trainee referee Edinson Cavani, and the former footballer Neymar. Somehow, it’s not quite clicking, and Tuesday’s random abstractions at Anfield strongly suggest yet another failed Big Cup bid is on the cards. Having said that, the Dada movement did eventually develop into full-blown Surrealism, so let’s not rule out PSG lifting the trophy in Madrid next June just yet.


Join Scott Murray from 8pm BST for hot Big Cup coverage of Young Boys 1-2 Manchester United, while Jacob Steinberg will be on hand for Manchester City 3-1 Lyon.

Artificial surface alert for United there.
Artificial surface alert for United there. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images


“I’m the boss here‚ I’m paying you … I’m giving you the last warning. You come here at your own risk. I’m saying this before the media … How many penalties [did you turn down] there? And three weeks ago the same. Please, we can do without you. I’m asking you‚ please‚ my brother‚ don’t come [to our games]. Go and do the other games” – Black Leopards chairman David Thidiela takes ref Victor Hlungwani to task, pitch-side, after a 1-0 loss to Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa’s PSL, before offering some choice slurs. “I had [by] no means intended to be tribal on the matter,” he later parped, “and have always regarded him [with] high regard and [as] a homeboy.”


Producing the Guardian’s thoughtful, in-depth journalism [the stuff not normally found in this email, obviously – Fiver Ed] is expensive, but supporting us isn’t. If you value our journalism, please support us. In return we can hopefully arm you with the kind of knowledge that makes you sound slightly less uninformed during those hot reactive gegenpress chats you so enjoy. And if you think what we do is enjoyable [again, etc and so on – Fiver Ed], please help us keep coming back here to give you more of the same.


“One must appreciate the prescience of Mauricio Pochettino’s ‘trainspotting cows’ analogy (yesterday’s Fiver): 64,000 people who were at San Siro witnessed Spurs defend a corner like a herd of grazing cattle” – Joe Rodrigo.

“Bad dessert puns (Fiver letters passim). Apparently the Arsenal restructure (yesterday’s Bits and Bobs) will see them buy a New York franchise that will look good in early-season MLS before becoming a bit rubbish when the weather turns bad. It will be called the Big Apple Crumble” – Robin Hazlehurst.

Send your letters to And if you’ve nothing better to do you can also tweet The Fiver. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is Joe Rodrigo.


“I also deal with mafia trials, every week I write sentences on mafia infiltration in the economy, and yet I have to say that this football gives me some problems” – Franco Frattini, a former Italian foreign minister now working with the Italian Olympic Committee’s high court of sports justice, on how dealing with Serie B football clubs - and ruling on whether or not the league is suspended – is trickier than dealing with the Cosa Nostra.

Ethan Ampadu is ready to set the Eredivisie alight for the next half decade after signing a new five-year deal with Chelsea. “I’m really proud and happy,” gulped the Wales international.

Spanish bizzies removed 20 hooded Valencia supporters from the Juventus team hotel after they let of fireworks and unfurled a banner reading “Juve merda” in a bid to disrupt His kip before Wednesday’s Big Cup clash.

Meanwhile, Juve forward Douglas Costa’s attempt to rehydrate Sassuolo’s Federico Di Francesco have landed him a four-match spell on the naughty step.

Sergio Ramos is being Sergio Ramos.

And in poetry corner: Spartak Moscow captain Denis Glushakov and defender Andrei Yeshchenko have been left out of their Big Vase tie with Rapid Vienna, supposedly for liking a post on Social Media Disgrace Instachat in which Russian actor Dmitry Nazarov recites a few verses sl@gging off manager Massimo Carrera.


A net €750m spend for that? Jonathan Wilson bodies PSG.

Oh PSG! Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Barney Ronay on Spurs.

Football tactics bloggers! Rene Maric reveals to Nick Ames the route from basement-dwelling Monster Munch-addiction to the real world at RB Salzburg.

Dressing as an elf, Malcolm X, sobbing at Mamma Mia 2 and rock cakes: Ben Fisher’s chat with Rotherham United’s Paul Warne is a little bit different.

Which team has the record for highest combined shirt numbers in one substitution? As ever, The Knowledge knows.

Nabil Fekir’s likely Big Cup appearance for Lyon meant Ed Aarons could finally dust off this piece he wrote when it looked like the forward was off to Liverpool.

And just as it looked like Ivan Gazidis was going to do some work, he’s jetted off to Milan, writes David Hytner.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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