TUESDAY'S BIG STORIES
What’s Gareth up to eh?
Oh no, not an England squad rant. Trying. To. Resist. But. Can’t… And Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram going down hasn’t helped either…
Southgate holds Hudson-Odoi talks with Ghana switch looming - report
Right. Shall we all just take a moment to consider what it takes to get into Gareth Southgate’s England squad? If you’re Ben Chilwell, 231 minutes of football this season warrants a call-up – which includes just the one Premier League appearance. Hmm.
If you’re Tammy Abraham, four goals to kick-start your Roma career in style also warrants a call-up. Deserved.
All this after Reece James was initially named in the squad despite Thomas Tuchel revealing last week he was training in the swimming pool and no one at England had thought to contact Chelsea.
Now James is out, with Chilwell replacing him as a full-back option, while Abraham has been handed a call-up with seemingly no explanation attached four days after the original 23-man squad was named and five days before England face Andorra away.
He’ll compete with captain Harry Kane and Ollie Watkins for a start, but where was he originally?
Southgate already openly admitted Jadon Sancho does not deserve a place based on current performances, but feels “invested” in the Manchester United winger and wants to help him go up another level.
So what exactly is the criteria? His explanations create a web of confusion for those knocking on the door but getting no reply. There seems to be little reward for the actual in-form English players. Conor Gallagher, Demarai Gray, Ivan Toney and Andros Townsend immediately spring to mind, and the quartet all feature in the top 50 Premier League players in terms of rating this season so far on WhoScored.com. Yes, yes, by no means a barometer Southgate is consulting, but of the 11 English players in the top 50, only Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish and Declan Rice are in the squad (Dwight McNeil, Jarrod Bowen, Mason Greenwood and Aaron Wan-Bissaka the other overlooked players).
If he doesn’t consider form, though, then Abraham’s inclusion contradicts this, to tangle matters, but it’s getting difficult to keep up. There’s also Jude Bellingham and Mason Greenwood, who both missed out.
“They don't come as a pair but they're both in similar situations, they are young players with heavy workloads at the moment,” Southgate had said last week, which seems fair of course, although Sancho is only a year older than Greenwood, and also played the Euros when the latter did not. Again, consistency is somewhat lacking, and okay I’ll shut up now.
Some say Watford’s media team are already drafting the “we wish Claudio Ranieri well for the future” article and social media posts.
Yes indeed, it’s another very original take on Watford’s hire-and-fire policy, but is anyone expecting this to last the season?
If Watford slip further down the Premier League table, Ranieri won’t be hanging around, if they remain 15th – and yes, they’re still 15th and not rooted to the bottom of the table – then it’s unlikely Ranieri will hang around either.
The only possibility of Ranieri staying till the summer is if they somehow improve on their standing, but what exactly the expectations are remains unclear given they hadn’t started all that terribly anyway.
They’ve hired the man who miraculously steered Leicester to the league. They’ve also hired the man who was sacked by Fulham after just 106 days. The Pozzo family probably (you never know) don’t expect the former to happen, but let’s face it, this has echoes of when Ranieri joined Fulham in a November and was sacked by the following February. Stopwatches at the ready, this could be quick.
Mbappe’s £197m gift rejected
Kicking off the tradition of footballers speaking their mind around the international break is Monsieur Mbappe, who told a radio station (why is it always a radio station?!) about his desire to leave Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.
"I asked to leave,” he told RMC Sport. “Because at the moment that I did not want to extend my contract I wanted the club to have a transfer fee to get a replacement of quality.
It (PSG) is a club that has brought me a lot. I have always been happy, the four years I have spent here, and I still am.
Ancelotti tells PSG forward Mbappe there is nowhere better to play than Real Madrid
"I wanted everyone to come out of this stronger, that we leave hand in hand, to make a good deal and I respected that. I said, 'If you don't want me to go, I will stay'."
Y’see, he was just trying to be helpful. He wanted to gift the club a tidy £197m or so and fulfil his dream of playing for Real Madrid. Instead, that’ll likely happen next year, and PSG will get nothing in return for the departure of the future Ballon d’Or winner (one day, surely, you’d think).
IN THE CHANNELS
Ted Lasso fans may be intrigued to know future episodes of the show will be able to use Premier League footage, jerseys and the actual trophy after striking a licensing agreement. Pretty cool.
Let’s go back to a time before WhatsApp and Instagram were even launched, all the way back to… 2008? And yes, a thrilling meeting between Liverpool and Manchester City – who served up a treat on Sunday – as Dirk Kuyt scored an injury-time winner against a City side who took a 2-0 lead through Stephen Ireland and Javier Garrido.
Per BBC Sport, in case you were interested in the line-ups:
- Man City XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Dunne, Richards, Garrido, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Kompany, Elano (Petrov 85), Robinho (Evans 80), Jo (Fernandes 70).
- Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Hamann, Ben-Haim, Sturridge.
- Sent Off: Zabaleta (67).
- Goals: Ireland 19, Garrido 41.
- Liverpool XI: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio (Dossena 70), Mascherano (Keane 71), Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera (Benayoun 81), Torres.
- Subs not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Babel, Leiva Lucas.
- Goals: Torres 55, 73, Kuyt 90.
The internationals are drawing ever closer, but tonight you have some Women’s Champions League to tuck into – including WLS leaders’ Arsenal and their big trip to holders Barcelona – and a large helping of EFL Trophy, National League and FA Cup qualifying action. If you’re looking for something to do tonight, why not find out who’s playing near you. Anyone for Marine vs Atherton Collieries?
Africa Cup of Nations
Nigeria accuse Watford of ‘baring fangs’ with Dennis out of AFCON squad
Rangnick revolution rolling with wild new formation - The Warm-Up