The Warm-Up: Sanchez doesn't do Thursday nights, Roma are satirical geniuses
Adam Hurrey feels the new season coming, like the T-Rex causing ripples in the glass of water in Jurassic Park...
MONDAY’S BIG STORIES
Alexis Sanchez hammers the ball into Arsenal’s court
"I have made my decision, but now we wait for a response from Arsenal. It depends on them, I have to wait to know what they want."
In a summer full of pointlessly cryptic communications from in-demand footballers, Alexis Sanchez’s comments to a Chilean radio station struck a distinctly ominous note for Arsenal supporters. It’s taken Sanchez the best part of two months to complete his research, but it turns out Arsenal will be playing Europa League football next season, a situation rather at odds with his ambition to “play and win the Champions League…a dream I have had since I was little.”
A season out of the Champions League has long been regarded as something of a grave deal-breaker – for either a prospective signing or a player mulling over his future – but some perspective is probably needed. As Chelsea have shown (and Manchester United almost certainly will too), a break from European football’s top table is, at worst, something that gets forgotten very quickly and, at best, has a restorative effect on a club’s resolve for when they eventually return.
The spanner in the works, though, is that 1) Sanchez turns 29 in December and 2) appears to be one of the most fiercely impatient competitors ever to step foot on a pitch. That’s the theory – but Arsene Wenger seems unworried.
“Of course [he will stay],” Wenger said in Australia on Arsenal’s pre-season tour. “There is not a lot to resolve with the player. I have spoken through text and it was very positive. My thoughts are always positive.”
Either way, we might finally be treated to some clarity and, if we’re very lucky, a conclusion.
Joe Hart back to face the Premier League music
For all the credit owed to English footballers for taking the all-too-rare plunge of playing abroad, they all tend to scuttle back to the Premier League at the earliest attempt. But there is a perception – not entirely unfounded – that to be abroad is to be invisible. With a World Cup hovering on 2017/18’s horizon, Joe Hart wants to be front and centre for that No.1 shirt.
“This shirt’s not mine, it’s not nailed-on mine, it’s no-one’s,” Hart said recently. “We’ve got high-quality goalkeepers and I will have to be playing at the top level, to the maximum of my ability, even to get in the squad.”
A return from Serie A to between Manchester City’s sticks was a non-starter for approximately thirty-five million reasons when Pep Guardiola signed Ederson. With that door firmly shut, and Hart now resigned to that fact, it was all about finding a Premier League pond small enough to be keen to accommodate a big fish. Or, at least, a big-talking one. West Ham, on loan, are about to become that pond.
“It’s another exciting adventure, another move, the next step in my career, the next challenge for me personally. I love personal challenges. I have never shied away from one and I don’t intend to now.”
Joe Hart may have learned to curb his much-derided overenthusiasm, but he continues to talk a very earnest game. Welcome back to the goldfish bowl.
IN OTHER NEWS
Arsenal are heading to China on the next leg of their pre-season jamboree. Naturally, then, they commandeered their (oddly co-operative) squad members to perform some dragon-boating for the purposes of the internet laughing at it.
No wonder he wants to leave, honestly.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Heroes: England’s youth
If the phrase “Golden Generation” isn’t completely outdated yet, it’s only sticking around to be used with a sneer. When it comes to emerging groups of international players now, it’s all about “pathways”.
England’s low-key summer of encouragement – from under-17s to under-21s – has been rightly celebrated, but with a note of caution. There’s a good reason why “Where Are They Now?” content is so evergreen: youngsters tend to disappear off the face of the footballing earth with alarming frequency.
Each of the advancing England sides in the various age-groups this summer have, at times, shown some distinctly un-English traits: comfort in possession, a semblance of game management, some idea of how to penetrate the defence of a theoretically lesser side. Penalties remain an issue, but even that is fast becoming just a charming quirk.
But those “pathways” remain a problem. Those kids will return with their medals to their academies, their substitute benches and their next loan spell. The next step is to get them playing at the top of the club game, a level of football that’s several worlds away from tiny, empty provincial stadiums in the group stages of a tournament many people are only watching because they skipped too far down the sports channels by mistake.
Zero: Amateur football satire
Football clubs get pretty much all their own way but, up until this seismic summer, there is one thing they haven’t been able to gain ownership of: banter.
Various player unveilings – a trend we’ve all noticed, let’s face it – have now turned the tables. Clubs are laughing at themselves louder, and with more retweets, than any of us have ever laughed at them. But this is next level. Roma have taken on the niche genre of YouTube player montage – and rinsed it.
The title, the music, the production standards, the watermark….it’s all perfect.
"Everybody was laughing when I brought a diet regime to Sunderland, ‘Ah, Paolo Di Canio – ketchup! Mayonnaise! Then when it happens with Pep Guardiola, with Conte it’s, ‘Oh, very good, they are very severe people. They bring the culture of diet. They must be very professional.’"
On this day in 1995: the Copa America, Brazil v Argentina, an absolutely stellar cast list…and a penalty shootout. Monday mornings don’t come much better.
The UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 continues apace in the Netherlands, as defending champions and favourites Germany get off and running against Sweden in Breda. Enjoy it while you can: word on the street is that there are no more continental tournaments left this summer after this.
Tomorrow’s edition will be brought to you by Nick Miller, who remains fully committed to Tuesdays and won’t be seeking a move elsewhere.