FRIDAY'S BIG STORIES
The Mighty Tammys
Settling down to watch Roma against Udinese, we had an important realisation. Almost a revelation. The sight of Tammy Abraham singing along to Roma's pre-game anthem sparked something, and we realised just what is going on in Rome this season.
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Abraham, and the excellent start to his time in Rome. José Mourinho, and the fact that Roma are winning and playing well. We're in the early stages of every single Disney sports story. And also that film about drumming.
There's Mourinho, the grumpy old man that used to be something, but has long since retreated into his own misanthropy. And along comes Abraham, a gift of the universe, a thrilling and chirpy youngster whose excellence will drag the bitter old man back into the sunshine, and remind him how it feels to win.
Saying that, it's always seemed a bit odd that the old man is the star of these stories. Sad bloke becomes a bit happier: a fine story, as far as it goes, but it doesn't really compete with scoring goals. Or drumming. Of course, an awful lot of football coverage falls into this same trap, of focusing on the mysterious figure in the dugout over those working away on the pitch. Football as Great Man(ager) Psychodrama.
Anyway, The Tammy Abraham Story continued against Udinese, as he scored the only goal of the game. His second for the club, his first at the Stadio Olimpico, and a pretty good one as well. A striker's goal: smart adjustment in the six-yard box to tap home a sharp cross. And Roma held on, just about, despite a late red card and a few good chances for the visitors.
That bumps Roma back up into the top four, just three points off Napoli at the top. The late red may prove important, though: captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has started the season in tremendous form, will miss the weekend's game. Which is [checks fixture list] against Lazio. Oh.
If we're following the Disney arc, Abraham will score the winner on Sunday, then produce another month or so of excellent performances. You will experience those as a montage, with some suitably boisterous backing music. Then, at some point in November, he and Mourinho will have a blazing row and everything will threaten to fall apart. And then …
Well, let's wait and see. If Disney are in charge, then Christmas will bring a big dance number, talking wolves and glorious reconciliation. If, on the other hand, we're all still stuck in The José Mourinho Story, then things will get worse and then worse again, and Abraham will have a new manager by springtime. Either way, keep your popcorn handy. Drum solo!
This two-year men's World Cup plan, then. Arsène Wenger's disruptive baby. FIFA like it, UEFA hate it, and FIFA's own market research provided mixed results: a slim majority in favour of a World Cup every one, two or three years, but the most popular option across all age groups being the existing four-year cycle. Statistics, it's a game of opinions.
But to give Wenger his context, that particular proposal — which came from Saudi Arabia, not Wenger — comes as part of a more general reorganisation of international football. He's been talking to the BBC about his overall plan, and there's some interesting and not immediately horrible stuff in there.
For a start, he's going to war with international breaks. Wenger's plan is for international football to happen in just one or two months a season: October or, if required, October and March. Fewer qualifiers, all fitting into that. His contention is that this will reduce disruption to the club season and ensure that the clubs — who pay players — have their players for longer, uninterrupted periods. That strange sound you can hear is Pep Guardiola, applauding and whooping.
This would of course be hugely disruptive to the rhythms of international football as we know and tolerate them today, but it certainly isn't overtly evil. Likewise the suggestion that all international competitions should come with a 25-day mandatory break afterwards. That's 25 days before players go back to training. Almost a month of enforced Dubai sunlounger time!
But there's a strange tension at the heart of the project. Like them or hate them, those two suggestions at least purport to solve widely recognised problems: clubs releasing players, interrupted seasons, player welfare. But neither of these ideas necessitate a two-year cycle for World Cups. And when the BBC ask about that, Wenger says, essentially, "If we don't put a competition in there, somebody else will."
That pivot, from something notionally welfare-based to something overtly opportunistic, rather sours the whole package. A land grab with a cherry on top is still a land grab, and there's gold in that there summer. That solves a problem too, of course, assuming you think "FIFA only makes money from World Cups" is a problem that needs solving. Never been high up the Warm-Up's list of priorities.
Wenger seems confident that the women's game won't suffer, and that the men's World Cup — one of humanity's greatest creations — is just too good a thing to be diluted. And maybe he's right. But the prospect of a 48-team World Cup every two years makes us so tired that we can't … even really … get to the end of the … sentenzzzzz.
IN OTHER NEWS
Just a pity the clip isn't long enough. We'll never know if Courtney Cox climbed out of the crowd to dance with Ally.
We only noticed this after picking out the clip above, but today is Ally McCoist's birthday. A happy coincidence, and happy birthday to our finest co-commentator. To celebrate, here is Bruce Springsteen scoring five well-taken goals for Scotland. (Not really. Sorry.)
The marriage of Jorge Sampaoli — twitchy, intense, always ready to shout at somebody — and Marseille — more or less the same — seemed, in theory, to be a perfect match. And isn't it nice when things work out? Here's Adam White over at the Guardian looking at OM's excellent start to the season.
Sampaoli has based his success this season on a gung-ho outlook. It is working, with four wins and two draws from Marseille’s first six games. Their asymmetrical setup falls somewhere between Bielsa’s preferred 3-3-1-3 and Hungary’s 2-3-3-2 formation from the 1950s, with Dimitri Payet playing Nándor Hidegktui's withdrawn striker role, albeit with a holding midfielder dropping in at right-back when needed. This seemingly unwieldy team has worked perfectly so far this season.
Greuther Furth host Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, while West Brom welcome QPR in the Championship and Gil Vicente face off against Porto in the Primeira Liga. Something for everybody.
Tom Adams has based his Warm-Up success on a gung-ho outlook, and he'll be here on Monday to shock and amaze you.
UEFA Europa Conference League
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