THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
Here’s Carlo Ancelotti a week or so ago, reflecting on Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s first hat-trick of the season:
I had a fantastic striker in [Pippo] Inzaghi, who scored 300 goals and 210 with one touch. A striker has to be focused in the box and I think Calvert-Lewin understands really well because in the box he has speed, he jumps really high, he has power. Where he has improved more is there, in the box.
But did the great goal-hanging Italian ever score back-to-back hat-tricks at Goodison Park? No, he did not. Probably. We, er, haven’t actually checked.
Anyway, as suggested by Ancelotti, DCL is starting to show that brutal efficiency that separates the Pippos from the Simones. Three goals from just four touches, including a Berbatov-esque caress to kill a looping pass and set up the first. It was all too much for poor West Ham, who folded inwards like a cardboard box in the rain.
That’s eight goals in five games for Everton’s no. 9, and only the mighty Fleetwood Town have managed to keep him quiet. He’s looking a certainty for the England squad and the Euros. And at this rate, if our calculations are correct, he’ll surpass Dixie Dean’s record 60-goal season at some point in February. Congratulations in advance.
ONE REGULAR DAY OF BARKLEY’S
Honestly, the Warm-Up is starting to wonder why anybody bothers. We put all this energy into transfer rumours. We read them, we hear them, we laugh at them and dismiss them. We worry they might happen anyway. We fret — oh, how we fret. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a transfer just happens. Like that. With no build-up whatsoever.
On balance, this move looks like it could be quite a good one. Presumably this will lessen the pressure on Jack Grealish to Do All The Cool Stuff and, though we don’t quite see how everybody gets into the first team all at once, a bit of quality in the squad is never a concern. Everybody’s going to have an injury crisis at some point in this campaign: too much season; not enough time.
And even if this does mark the end for Barkley at Chelsea, then he shouldn’t be short of motivation: there’s a Euros coming at the end of the season, and presumably a transfer to come after that. The Warm-Up will always have a place in our cold, cold heart for any player that’s willing to shoot from 30 yards regardless of how many of his team-mates are in better positions. Accordingly, we wish Barkley all the best.
Houssem Aouar will reluctantly join Arsenal – Euro Papers
MEANWHILE IN THE CONFERENCE
Steps 1 and 2 of the English football pyramid — that’s the National League, plus North and South to you — are due to get underway this weekend. But having successfully argued back at the beginning of the coronabreak that they counted as elite, and so been permitted to hold the play-offs, the league have now run into a problem: elite leagues still can’t let any fans in.
Spectators were due to return in limited numbers from today, but those trials have been postponed, and empty stands pose an immediate existential threat for non-league clubs. The National League North have been making noises about postponing the start of the season, lest clubs find themselves locked into contracts they cannot pay. But it appears that support is coming. Here’s sports minister Nigel Huddleston talking to Parliament:
Yesterday we provided the National League with assurances that financial support from the government will be forthcoming so they can start this season this Saturday. Funding will be focused on those most in need and it will be based on the loss of gate receipts. I can’t give details today. We are working on those details as I speak.
This, though still vague, appears to have been enough to allay the worst fears of the league’s clubs, and it looks as though the league season will begin on schedule this weekend. However, this doesn’t mean things aren’t still weird. Here’s how Wealdstone are coping with the restrictions on who can, and can’t, come to their FA Cup game on Saturday.
IN OTHER NEWS
Our Welsh is a little rusty. How do you say, "What’s he doing shooting from there... OH MY GOD?!"
Going all the way back to 1977 today, and to New York, where a little-known Brazilian called Pelé played his last ever game — one half for Santos, the other for the New York Cosmos — and scored his one millionth goal. Some enjoyably lyrical commentary too: “The music is Auld Lang Syne. But it isn’t New Year’s Eve, because there is no tomorrow in the career of Pelé. No new year coming.”
Over on the Guardian, we find Jonathan Wilson with his tactics hat on, picking the bones out of that argument Jürgen Klopp had with Roy Keane. “Sloppy” or daring: you decide.
Klopp is prepared to allow a greater element of risk than late-period Alex Ferguson. It’s clearly something to which he has given significant thought. He described sitting deep against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, bunkering down and hoping for a counterattack, as being like buying a lottery ticket.
Just, like, so much Europa League. 21 qualifying games, including Spurs against Maccabi Haifa, Rangers against Galatasaray, and Celtic away to FK Sarajevo.
In order to prepare for tomorrow’s Warm-Up, Tom Adams will be watching all 21 games simultaneously.