TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Barcelona are directionless and rudderless
Barcelona are a complete and utter mess. They have, by most measures, the best player to have ever played the game within their squad and have through incompetent squad management not capitalised on that fact.
Opinion: Havertz can take league by storm after debut season filled with challenges
The last time Barcelona partook in some solid transfer business was the summer of 2014, when they prised Luis Suarez away from Liverpool. The following year they won the Champions League. Granted, they have won Liga four times since 2014 but the Champions League is the barometer by which elite success is measured. They have been constrained, at that elite level, by incompetence in the transfer market: vanity signings made over prudent signings. Who of Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho or [insert name of any player signed by Barcelona since 2015] Improved their first team? Arguments could be constructed that they have barely improved their squad.
They have been so badly mismanaged that this summer it appears they have had to get creative with their accounting by signing Miralem Pjanic and selling Arthur. The financial reasons for that deal are explained here. Basically, by selling Arthur and signing Pjanic they can show a player profit this year.
On a sporting level, it is a bad deal. It speaks of a club lacking direction, a club who have become accustomed to winning by fortune - and that fortune is that they took a gamble on a prodigious Argentine named Lionel Messi. Messi has shielded the decision makers from the reality of their decisions but that is self-defeating. Messi is 33 and at some stage will retire. And when he does the chasm between what Barcelona think they are and what they are will be laid bare. It won't be pretty, but it has been building for years, and it will take years to address.
Just to cement the mess it looks like the club are set to sack the manager they appointed in January, Quique Setien, after sacking Ernesto Valverde.
Spoiler alert: the manager is not the problem
The curious case of Joe Hart
Joe Hart was an excellent goalkeeper; potentially still is. However, the, 75-cap England stopper has been a substitute for the last 18 months and is now officially without a club having left Burnley.
"Maybe from the outside, people are thinking it is a time for panic, but from the inside it is a time to look forward and see all the opportunities," began Hart.
The 33 year old remains insistent that he still has the requisite hunger to play - and excel - at the highest level.
"I am young when it comes to goalkeeping. I am even younger when it comes to the mental age of a guy who just wants to go in goal and have people whack balls at him," added the former Shrewsbury goalkeeper.
I am under no illusions that Real Madrid are going to knock my door down, get [Thibaut] Courtois out and bring me in. But there is plenty more to come from me.
"I just need someone to believe in me and I will repay that faith."
It is interesting that Hart should use the word faith. The beginning of his downfall - if such a word were applicable - seems to have its origins in Pep Guardiola's lack of faith in him. Did that have a knock-on effect of Hart's own faith or confidence? Perhaps.
As things stand it is difficult to see Hart, once seemingly destined to overhaul Peter Shilton as England's most capped player, returning to the elite level of the game. A very curious case, indeed.
Burnley v Palace was Burnley v Palace
Gary Lineker puts it well here:
The loose translation of that is rights holder says something is guff.
Or in other words it was an advert for why the 3pm blackout is a very good concept.
Dwight McNeil remains a fine footballer mind, and Ben Mee can head a football.
Burnley won 1-0 by the way. They are now eighth. Above both Arsenal and Sheffield United.
IN THE CHANNELS (BUT SHOULD DEFINITELY BE IN THE BIN)
This is terrible. On no conceivable level does this seems like it has the potential to be fun.
Arsenal are reportedly interested in Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst, who the Athletic refer to as Holland’s taller, chunkier answer to Jamie Vardy, which is a compliment, apparently.
Weghorst made a €10.5 million switch to VfL Wolfsburg in summer 2018, where he has notched 33 goals in 66 league games.
Have a spare two-and-a-half hours? Of course you do. Re-live in all its glory England losing to Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.
And, while you’re at it, have a read of Rob Smyth’s definitive long read on that tournament: The Hod Complex: England and the 1998 World Cup.
Ben Snowball makes an appearance here tomorrow, breaking down why Barcelona are guff again.
Andriy Shevchenko leaves his role as head coach of Ukraine
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