THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
It's been coming all season. At some point, by the immutable laws of probability, science, and expected goals, Brighton were going to click. This team that plays good football would get a couple of good results to go along with it.
Perhaps what's been most impressive about their last two wins, at home to Tottenham and now away at Liverpool, is the differing approaches. Against Spurs, soft-centred and without Harry Kane, they were pro-active; here, against Liverpool, they defended tightly, passed the ball around, and waited for the spaces to emerge. That's four clean sheets in a row, too. It all seems very well put together.
But though Brighton's good form and function is very much a team effort, the Warm-Up would like to specifically pick out Dan Burn, who is by our reckoning the most wonderfully strange footballer in the Premier League. A six foot seven defender with licence to roam up and down the left flank, clanking from box to box, terrifying both sides in equal measure. Like a fighting robot from some future war sent back to the 21st century and hiding as best he can.
Of course, we should take a moment to acknowledge the victims of Burn's magic, and Brighton's sudden emergence into excellence. Liverpool, according to their manager, looked "mentally fatigued," to which the Warm-Up would add "and also physically fatigued. Just knackered, on the whole." And fair enough, there's a lot of that going about.
Even Pep Guardiola, after watching Manchester City rack up their 13th win in a row, was a little unhappy. "Today more than usual we lose simple balls". But that win, set against Liverpool's, makes this Sunday's big game even Bigger. The defending champions are seven points behind having played a game more: make that 10 and we can probably call it.
Mourinho 'optimistic' that Kane will return next week
J-Lingz Is Back
The Warm-Up loves a good comeback story. And we also have a lot of time for Jesse Lingard, who has always been a useful footballer but, more importantly than that, has managed to avoid taking either himself or his ridiculous job too seriously. Scoring at the Emirates: pretty good. Declaring it your dancefloor: delightful.
And it turns out that a 28-year-old with more than 200 appearances for Manchester United and 20-odd England caps is still pretty useful. With Lingard alongside Michael Antonio, Saïd Benrahma, and the tremendous Tomáš Souček, who scored his eighth of the season last night, all of a sudden West Ham have attacking weapons everywhere.
In fact, and while we don't want to get ahead of ourselves, has David Moyes solved one of the great Premier League conundrums by simply not solving it all? West Ham have been looking for a "proper striker" for as long as we can remember: maybe the answer was just to stop bothering. Keep buying attacking midfielders and ignore the curse completely.
We're still not ready to commit to West Ham actually being good, yet. Something about it still seems weird, as if this fifth place in the table is just the long set up to another disaster. But maybe that's just our lack of imagination. The results keep coming, so who are we to argue?
It's Chelsea away at Spurs this evening, and that means it's time for a fun game: Count the Narratives! Ready? Deep breath … and go!
One: new manager at Chelsea, replacing a much-loved club legend. Two: Mourinho in trouble at Spurs? Three: the Dele Alli redemption story begins here. Four: what's up with Timo Werner? Five: what's up with Kai Havertz? Six: no Kane, no party. Seven: might want to start pushing for those European places, lads. Eight: who are you, and what have you done with Gareth Bale? Nine: "London derby". Ten: hey, didn't Mourinho manage Chelsea once? No, twice!
There's a chance, then, that with storyline sparking off storyline, the game becomes something extraordinary. That all these narratives combining into one grand Voltron-like super-narrative, bigger and more powerful than anything we've seen before to create the ultimate evening of Barclays. The game that stomped off into the middle of London and burned down St. Paul's with its laser eyes.
Look, a Warm-Up can dream. And do be aware that the value of your emotional investment may go up as well as down. We accept no liability for any tepid 1-0 wins that you may incur. Terms and conditions apply.
Juventus still chase Pogba but have 'luxury' Plan B – Euro Papers
IN OTHER NEWS
We're not going to try to work out if Barcelona are good now: they're still a near-bankrupt superclub that alienated the best player in the world and are about to have an election, and that's far too confusing for us. But they do at least look like they're having fun.
Hey, you remember the other day, when Grafite scored that ridiculous backheel for Wolfsburg against Bayern? Well, that was 12 years ago. Here's Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, taking a look back at the "last great Bundesliga strike partnership" of Grafite and Edin Džeko.
Grafite turned away from the goal, put his head down and backheeled the ball delicately, putting just enough pace on his shot for it to evade the three defenders between him and the goal. The ball rolled in so slowly that the keeper was already back on his feet, staring wide-eyed back towards his own goal … As the back four looked at each other and the ground in disbelief, Grafite raced off towards the home fans and into Wolfsburg folklore.
Let's go back another few years, to February 4, 2004, and to an FA Cup fourth round replay between Tottenham and Manchester City. Spurs go 3-0 up in the first half and then Joey Barton, the silly sausage, gets himself sent off at half-time! Only one way this is going, then.
As noted, it's Tottenham against Chelsea, and we could not be more hyped. But before all that, there's also the second round of the 2020 Club World Cup. Howay the Tigres.
Tom Adams will be here tomorrow to talk you through all the Chelsea-Spurs nonsense.