THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
You cannot escape the narrative
That Erling Braut Haaland, then? Ooof. Boom. Crikey. Wow. And other exclamations. That's two more for Borussia Dortmund's clanking blond goal-robot, who leads the Champions League scoring charts with eight goals. In just five games.
Euro round-up: Muniain claims win for Athletic against Villarreal, Leipzig trail Bayern and Dortmund
That the tie isn't quite dead yet owes much to Sevilla, who recovered well in the second half after spending much of the first looking around and saying "Hang on, this isn't a Thursday." "Are we in the right competition?" "Which League is this again?" And also to BVB's defence, which tends towards the colander-esque.
But it's definitely advantage Dortmund, since three away goals beats two home goals by more than one. In any case, the result of the actual games are but minor diversions, compared to what really matters. The new big narrative is here, and nobody is safe.
Two goals for Haaland, at precisely the same time as Cristiano Ronaldo, away in Porto with Juventus, was huffing and puffing and asking the referee to do something about his side's limp performance. This comes the day after Kylian Mbappé outscored Lionel Messi three goals to none.
The guard is changing. The football world, wearied by years of argument over which best player is the bestest of the best, looks up in horror as the old banners are lowered and new ones spring up in their place. Choose your fighter. Prepare your statistics. There's internet points to be won. Here's Haaland roaring his way into the challenge:
I love the Champions League and when I saw Mbappé score the hat-trick yesterday I got free motivation, so thanks to him. [...] He scored some nice goals and I got a good boost from him.
Oh. Well that was rather polite. Still, nobody can stop the inevitable. Haaland and Mbappé share that special superstar gravity, that ability to bend reality (and perfectly competent defences) around themselves. Why shouldn't they reshape the internet too? The GOATs are dead. Long live the GOATs.
While we were all watching the Champions League, Manchester City were busy dealing with that game in hand they've had knocking about for a while. You know, the one that was keeping the title race just about alive. If they lose that…
They did not, in fact, lose that. Everton weren't terrible but City were very very good, again, despite the continuing absence of Sergio Agüero, the new absence of Ilkay Gündoğan, and the fact that Kevin De Bruyne could only make a quick cameo. Seventeen wins in a row. Ten points clear at the top. Name on or around the trophy.
The highlight of the game was Riyad Mahrez's goal, a long-range strike from one side of the box that hammered into the far post with a resounding kthwack. A great goal, made into a great moment by Ally McCoist, who barely paused before unrolling the perfect response: "Peter, that's ridiculous. I'm tell— oh, that is… Holy smokes. That's unbelievable."
Can you vote for a co-commentator as player of the year? We're going to give it a go.
The Warm-Up has long suspected that in a dusty room somewhere, far from prying eyes, the footballing powers-that-be keep a giant spinning wheel of fortune that throws players, managers, and teams around at random. Round and round and round it goes. Where it stops, nobody knows.
In unrelated news, it appears that Thierry Henry is favourite to take over as manager of Bournemouth.
It seems obvious what's happening here. Bournemouth enjoyed five seasons in the Premier League, punching above their weight under the sensible guidance of Eddie Howe. They were respectable, modest, even a little admirable… and that, frankly, is not what the Premier League is all about.
Henry's managerial record, as far as we can tell, is pretty mixed: poor at Monaco, and minimal impact in Montreal. But he is pure, uncut, 24 carat Premier League. They say you should always dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and this is Bournemouth slipping into the shiniest, sexiest suit they can find.
They want to make it back to the big time, and they're going to do it in big time fashion. Big names. Big gestures. And, yes, a pretty big chance that everything goes entirely to pieces. But hey, that's the Premier League. Even when it's technically the Championship.
IN OTHER NEWS
"A terrible blow here, as Luciano Pavarotti pulls up with what looks like a hamstring… They're turning to the bench. Looks like Aretha Franklin is coming on. Let's see how this turns out… Oh! You have to say that's magnificent."
Happy birthday to Roberto Baggio, Divine Ponytail and divine footballer. Here's every goal he scored for Italy, a poignant reminder that he was actually a pretty good penalty taker. Most of the time.
Manchester United take on Real Sociedad tonight, which means it's time to think about Adnan Januzaj, who was once upon a time United's next big thing. What went wrong? And, more importantly, who should we blame? Daniel Taylor and Adam Crafton have the answers over at The Athletic (£), including this delightful email from Louis van Gaal:
I have absolutely no need to defend myself against so much injustice! The self-image of players leaves the wishes! And my career as a coach/manager shows just how many young players could take their chances under my leadership! With a kind box, LvG"
These are not the best teams. These are not the grandes équipes. This is… the Europa League! Approximately a million games, as is tradition, but if you're feeling Premier League-centric, you can make a lovely double bill of either Real Sociedad vs. Manchester United or Slavia Prague vs. Leicester, followed by Arsenal away at Benfica.
And Tom Adams, a.k.a. the Divine Warmer-Upper, will be here tomorrow.
Bellingham on target as Dortmund cruise past Bielefeld
Haaland ruled out for 'a few weeks' after suffering hip injury