MONDAY'S BIG STORIES
At the top with Tottenham
Huge volcanic ash cloud shut down an entire continent? That'll be a treble, please. Global pandemic rearranging life as we know it? Tottenham to the top of the league, thank you very much. If José Mourinho were any better at profiting from international disaster, he'd be selling PPE at a 600% markup.
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Spurs, and perhaps this is not normal, just make sense. A nicely balanced midfield. Harry Kane at both 9 and 10, with runners around him. A team with a plan, with the personnel to carry out that plan; a team that look incredibly annoying to play against. And, in Tanguy Ndombele, a player that can delete the opposition's entire midfield by simply turning round.
You can tell Mourinho's feeling good about things because his fire is currently directed outwards: poking at Gareth Southgate, lathering City with backhanded compliments. And letting the nation know exactly who should get the credit. The players, obviously! But also whoever came up with the strategy. Him too. Definitely him. Whoever that might be.
For me, I prefer the players to speak because they are the ones, they were fantastic, they gave everything. They follow a strategy and football sometimes, more than ever, strategy plays an important part. They were amazing […] City is a fantastic team that lost against a team that strategically was very good.
Obviously Mourinho has to pretend that Spurs aren't in the title race — "We are not fighting for the title, we are just fighting to win every match." — but, well, if you're top of the table in November, then the title race is definitely happening to you, whatever you think about it. It's okay to dream, José. It's okay to believe …
… except for the fact that Liverpool, even when ravaged by injury, are still just so much better at scoring goals than anybody seems able to cope with. Three unanswered past Leicester, a winning run at Anfield that stretches back to the Reformation, and the sinking feeling: this "most unpredictable season ever ever ever" is going to end with a comfortable title retention.
Pépé Le Pillock
Arsenal are dull. And not just boring, in an ordinary, Newcastle sort of way. Arsenal are a refined, pedantic, glossless dull: a side that has sacrificed everything they could be in search of precision, but can't find it. A bit like Louis van Gaal's Manchester United, perhaps, except without the compensation of comedy press conferences.
So did Nicolas Pépé place the head on Ezgjan Alioski so that he wouldn't have to watch Arsenal's next three games? No. But if he had, would you blame him? Also no.
Mikel Arteta was very angry, of course, and fair enough. But in a way, playing against a strong team with 10 men rather suits this Arsenal side. It allows them to focus on their strengths — being organised — while absolving them of any need to try to win the game. Indeed, they were so relaxed they nearly won it by accident, Bukayo Saka only denied by some lovely scrambling from Leeds' keeper Illan Meslier. There will be no more baby-faced one-on-one this season.
On the other hand, they got battered. Leeds hit the post, they hit the bar, they hit Bernd Leno from various angles. They blammed shots into defenders and shots into the stands. You could make a joke out of it: Arsenal looked like a plucky midtable side that came for a point, hung on for it, and got it. And it would be funny, because it would be true.
The Warm-Up is not one of the illustrious opinion-makers involved in choosing the European Golden Boy award, given every year to the best youngster in a European top division. But even though we weren't there, we can safely report how this year's meeting went. Over Zoom, obviously.
"Yes." "Duh." "Obviously." "Absolutely." "Oui." "Ja." "Of course."
"Right. Lovely to see you all. Same time next year."
To celebrate his award, Europe's most ludicrous talent scored four goals against Hertha Berlin, including a 15-minute hat-trick. Then, to demonstrate the generosity required in a public figure, he anointed his successor: apparently Dortmund's 16-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko, who came on for the last five minutes, is The Absolute Business. Or he will be.
I would love to play alongside him. I think he's the biggest talent in the world right now. He's 16 years and one day old, that's amazing. He has a big career ahead of him. We're lucky to have him.
Moukoko, to be precise, was 16 years and one day old when he jogged into professional football. This means he was born in November 2004. Yes. November 2004. That's … well, that's quite recent. Amazing how time just keeps marching on, without even asking for permission.
Over to the Guardian for Donald McRae's extraordinary interview with Anton Ferdinand, ahead of a documentary — Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism and Me — screening next Monday.
That connection with John Terry means Ferdinand has been associated with the case before everything else he has achieved. In a depressingly familiar way, the innocent victim of alleged racism had been made to feel guilty while receiving relentless abuse, death threats and bullets in the post.
It's been 24 years since Ali Dia — cousin of George Weah, Senegalese international — came on for his Southampton debut, an early substitute for Matt Le Tissier. Which means it's been 24 years since Ali Dia (who wasn't either of those things, not really) was subbed off again, having made Graeme Souness look rather silly.
Speaking of Southampton, they're playing Wolves in the Premier League tonight. But Ralph Hasenhüttl's far too sensible to get taken in by "George Weah". Burnley play Palace as well, if you're feeling masochistic.
And Eurosport's very own Golden Boy, Marcus Foley, will be with you tomorrow.
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