SUCKING THEM DOWN
Maurizio Sarri rolled out of bed on Tuesday morning, then rolled his first cigarette of the day. Then he rolled his second and third, before lighting the first one. That’s standard practice, ensuring that, providing he keeps a steady pace, rolling one while smoking one, he’ll always have a buffer of two rollies, just in case he’s forced to break away momentarily to work on some other project, such as deciding which set of scrubs to wear for the match, or which minute he plans to replace Pedro with Anyone But Callum Hudson-Odoi. Then he slapped a few Nicorette patches on to his arms, popped a strip of NRT gum in his mouth, slipped a pouch of dip under each eyelid, and he was up and running for the day.
Well, you’ve got to get your stimulation somehow, and watching Chelsea at the moment would send a glass eye to sleep. On Monday night in the FA Cup, Manchester United became the latest team to realise that all you need to do to beat this rabble is let them pass it sideways quite a lot, wait until Eden Hazard gets either tuckered out or fed up with being lumbered with all the creative responsibility and slips into a sulk, and bang bang, the holders are out. So while it was a great night for the next permanent manager of United – they’ve got to give it him – it wasn’t such a banner evening for Sarriball, a philosophy once famous for making Napoli half-decent, but now heavily critiqued by the denizens of the Matthew Harding Stand in the intense colloquial style.
The result ensured Sarri’s breakfast was completely ruined. Over a quick cup of tea and 40 JPS, he flicked through the morning papers, many of which suggested his reign at Stamford Bridge will end very soon, if not sooner. Chelsea presumably wouldn’t be so brazen to get rid before the Milk Cup final on Sunday, but once that humiliation’s out of the way, all bets will be off. Zinedine Zidane, Gianfranco Zola, Laurent Blanc, José Mourinho and Plain Old John Terry have been touted as ready-to-go replacements, while Frank Lampard’s Derby County boss Frank Lampard has been variously quoted as a 4-1 shoo-in and a 33-1 outsider. In conclusion, nobody knows anything … apart from the likelihood of Sarri soon being handed his metaphorical pipe and slippers.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We see an opportunity to promote the brand of Spain without attacking sporting principles” – Luis Rubiales confirms the Spanish FA has given its Super Cup a good old shake-up: from now on it will be a four-team travelling circus, a mini-tournament that will presumably be played in whichever country the suits reckon will earn them most coin every year.
Grand designs: Tottenham Hotspur. By David Squires.
Here’s the latest edition of Football Weekly.
“Readers of The Fiver claiming they have been to football with people and then married them (Fiver passim)? Lol” – Tony Clewes.
“Re: yesterday’s Fiver on Alexis Sánchez and sauce. What if Ole Gunnar Solskjær issued him with 57 as a squad number? It would then be just a matter of educating relevant personnel in the specific technique to hit the ‘sweet spot’” – Sid McDonnell.
“In the sixties, when I was nine, I attended my first two sporting events. I was only allowed to go because my parents made my older brother, Julian, take me – much to his annoyance. The first game was a rugby match between Newport RFC and Cardiff. I was bored stiff until a Newport player kicked the oval ball into touch, hitting my brother full in his face. He was fine after a little TLC from the St John’s Ambulance crew. The next game we attended was Newport County v Southend United and this game was more memorable. Newport won 4-1, but what I remember was the Newport fans giving hell to Southend player Tony Bentley every time he touched the ball. This resulted in Bentley getting angry and kicking the ball out of play … where (once again), it landed in my brother’s face. Needless to say, my brother never took me to another game” – Mike Dax.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Mike Dax, who wins John Robertson: Super Tramp. Plenty more prizes to come.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
John Motson has personally apologised to Millwall striker Tom Elliott after describing him as “big, black and brave” on TalkSport.
Arsène Wenger reckons giving Mesut Özil a bumper new contract – a decision made while he was still Arsenal manager – has led to the German popping on a pair of slippers, brewing a healthy mug of cocoa and relaxing into the comfort zone.
They didn’t really break any rules, but Nasty Leeds have been fined £200,000 by the Football League anyway for spying on Derby County training. “The facts of this particular case were not ones we would have expected – and have to deal with a complaint about – and it is clearly impossible to have a specific set of regulations that will apply in all circumstances of poor conduct, so, this charge was brought under a general regulation,” parped outgoing chief suit Shaun Harvey.
Ilkay Gündogan has been speaking about Manchester City and Big Cup. “We should’ve won it at least once,” he said of seasons in which City were beaten in the last 16 by Monaco and thrashed in the last eight by Liverpool. “If we were to win it someday, the club would enter a new era – the same level as Real, Barça, Bayern or Juventus,” who have won the trophy 13 times, five times, five times and twice, respectively.
Phil Neville has added Manchester City defender Gemma Bonner to the interminable-sounding WhatsIn group for his England players, as she’ll be in the squad for the SheBelieves Cup in USA! USA!! USA!!! next month.
Eastbourne Borough have appointed Mark McGhee as interim manager. “I live in Brighton, and when the call came to ask if I could assist, I was delighted to offer my services,” he cheered.
And Pro Piacenza have been booted out of Serie C following their farcical 20-0 defeat to Cuneo.
STILL WANT MORE?
Things have hit the fan, refereeing-wise, in the Women’s Super League this season. Suzanne Wrack on what is being done about it.
Too old and porous? No, not Weird Uncle Fiver’s strides, but Bayern Munich. Marcus Christenson asks the question.
Chelsea managers have usually boarded HMS Do One before the fans have a chance to turn on them. Brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson therefore reasons Maurizio Sarri must have jiggered things up pretty bad.
Surely there isn’t a manager out there stubborn enough to ignore the skills and personality of Paul Pogba, muses Amy Lawrence.
We wouldn’t advise it ourselves, but as he tells Paul Doyle Bradford’s Lewis O’Brien has been paying attention to the abuse he gets on Social Media Disgrace Twitter, and using it as motivation.
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