The Warm-Up: Arsenal's title misery, Southgate's war on booze
Arsenal are mired in their own personal Groundhog Day once again. It's Friday's Warm-Up.
FRIDAY’S BIG HEADLINES
Groundhog Day at the Emirates
The world of football was enveloped in shock yesterday when Arsenal’s title challenge was dealt a potentially fatal blow by the news that a key player had suffered a serious injury.
Okay, it’s his ankle this time, not his knee, but the injury originally suffered against Ludogorets in the Champions League on October 19 again threatens to derail Arsenal’s season.
Losing Cazorla does not necessarily mean Arsenal cannot win the title: in January last year, well into his absence, they were briefly top. But that was in a campaign when the usual title suspects were all descending into chaos. This year the picture looks rather different, even if Arsenal’s annual injury crisis is almost identical.
Southgate calls time
England Manager Gareth Southgate poses after the press conferenceReuters
Gareth Southgate held his first press conference as England manager yesterday and it was a chance for the Football Association to convince the public they had held a rigorous interview and recruitment process, rather than just quickly establishing that Southgate isn’t the kind of guy to neck a pint of wine* and starting blabbering about how to circumvent FA rules to undercover newspaper reporters.
Southgate strove to distance himself from the booze-induced downfall of his predecessor, and send a message to wedding crasher Wayne Rooney, by indicating that he will be cracking down on drinking habits now he has the top job.
" As a playing squad and group of staff, it’s important we recognise we want to be a top team, so everything we do has to be geared towards improving. There has to be some time to unwind, to have a glass of beer or wine, but that has to be done at the appropriate time and at the right level if we aren’t going to inhibit the way we perform. Fundamental to it all is how we are going to perform at the high level because, in international and top European football in this day and age, physical preparation is key."
* It’s quite clear to The Warm-Up, and should be to anyone else, that Sam Allardyce was clearly drinking a pint of lager, not white wine. But in our post-truth and post-facts world, this is clearly the much funnier version.
New revelations in football's abuse crisis
The club initially attached a confidentiality clause to the payout but the Daily Mirror now reports this has been lifted, allowing Johnson to tell the paper:
" I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this. Millions of fans around the world watch Chelsea. They are one of the biggest and richest clubs in the world. All their fans deserve to know the truth about what went on. I know they asked me to sign a gagging order and how many others are there out there? They may have paid others for their silence. I hope and pray no clubs are allowed to cover this up – no one should escape justice."
The cases which have emerged so far are of a historical nature - with as many as 350 victims contacting police in the wake of Andy Woodward’s brave revelations in the Guardian - but Chelsea signed off the £50,000 payment to Johnson just last year. Searching questions must now be asked of the club as football’s culture of silence continues to crumble.
IN OTHER NEWS
The Warm-Up’s best friend at primary school had family on Merseyside. He decided to be a Liverpool supporter, but had to change to Everton when his blue nose uncle refused to let him in his house. True story. Now Everton boss Ronald Koeman has experienced the full force of football factionalism in Liverpool too.
The Dutchman came under fire yesterday when he posted a picture of his Christmas tree on Twitter.
No, not because it looked like he had nicked it from a window display in Debenhams, but because it was too red of course.
Remarkably quickly, he tried to cover his tracks.
And on a day when Steven Hawking wrote an article for the Guardian under the headline ‘This is the most dangerous time for our planet’, Koeman’s final tweet on the matter had it right.
IN THE CHANNELS
Clubs’ social media channels are usually havens of banter but they can be powerful tools too. On Thursday, Arsenal posted a simple but devastating video message from defender Gabriel Paulista, who lost friends and former colleagues in the plane crash which destroyed the Chapecoense team. It’s difficult to watch at times, with the viewer intruding on personal grief, but Gabriel had something important to say. “Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today”.
Permit The Warm-Up a brief diversion away from football to basketball (at least there’s a ball involved, and exorbitant salaries). Sports Illustrated yesterday named LeBron James as their Sportsperson of the Year for 2016 and marked the occasion by publishing a remarkable profile of the Cleveland Cavaliers star.
Incidentally, if you agree with Sports Illustrated you can vote LeBron World Star of the Year in our end-of-year awards. Or, if you prefer your heroes to be more pouty, Cristiano Ronaldo is also an option.
You can watch Bundesliga minnows Bayern Munich as they continue their attempt to reign in titans RB Leipzig, who currently top the table, with a match away at Mainz. That one’s on BT ESPN from 7.30pm. Sky have Nottingham Forest v Newcastle in the Championship at 7.45pm. Your FA Cup action sees Macclesfield host Oxford live on BBC Two.
On Monday, Adam Hurrey will be opening the door marked 'December 5' on your Warm-Up advent calendar and greedily snaffling the chocolate inside.