THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES

All square in the Carabao Cup

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You know what that was, at the King Power Stadium last night? That was a pretty good cup tie. Villa, as is entirely understandable when playing away against a team 24 points ahead in the league, turned up to defend in numbers and see if they could burgle something. And they were excellent, and Tyrone Mings was colossal, and they came this close to pulling it off.

*holds thumb and forefinger very close together*

However, Leicester pushed and probed and prodded and pouted and eventually the ball ended up in the net. One loose moment in midfield, and suddenly Kelechi Iheanacho, who is turning into an extremely useful foil for Jamie Vardy, was poking it home.

Jamie Vardy - Leicester City

Image credit: Getty Images

A draw that will satisfy neither side entirely, yet offers something for both to work with. Poised, as they say. At least one of the second legs will be worth watching.

Before the game, Sky made much of the “clash” between James Maddison and Jack Grealish, two very exciting young playmakers that Manchester United will soon try, and fail, to sign.

Maddison probably did more overall, since Leicester had 183% of possession, and it’s harder to be a playmaker when there’s no play to make. But Grealish sparked Villa’s goal with a lovely surging run and he appears to be leading a resurgence in footballing short shorts, so we’ll call it a draw.

Sticky Toffees

Well, it’s one way to make your new Italian manager feel at home. A small group of extremely peeved Everton fans visited the club’s training ground on Wednesday, which is never a good sign.

They met football director Marcel Brands and had an “amicable” chat. The Warm-Up wasn’t there, but we imagine the conversation began with the weather, moved on to the humiliation at the feet of Liverpool Babies, then ended with a group lament about how tiring it is, day after day, week after week, to support a football club this utterly cursed.

This, along with Fabian Delph rowing on social media and reports of unhappiness within the squad at the teams’ tactics, rather suggests that Carlo Ancelotti has had the shortest managerial honeymoon in recent years. An appointment that looked bold a couple of weeks ago is already under scrutiny. There are talks of a dressing room purge. That eyebrow is going to be getting a lot of exercise.

Still, if fans are looking for signs of life in the squad, they can perhaps take heart from reports (£) that some senior players decided to give a little back to an angry Duncan Ferguson. Anybody brave enough to try that has to have a little spine about them.

Awkward Associations

Wouldn’t be a week in English football without the FA being in some kind of bother. After a number of FA Cup games were streamed live via the websites of seven different gambling companies, government ministers have called on the FA to reconsider their media arrangements.

The FA doesn’t licence the games directly; rather, they were sold in January 2017 to media company IMG. However, later that same year the FA announced that they were ending all partnerships with betting companies, amid criticisms that they shouldn’t be taking money from gambling while at the same time disciplining players for placing bets.

Whether they have any clean way out of the deal with IMG remains to be seen, but it’s not a great look, is it? “No more of this! A big moral stance! The right thing to do! You may applaud. Now, let’s get on with this mental health awareness campaign, and … oh. Oh dear.”

IN OTHER NEWS

Poor Jesse Lingard. You can’t buy a goal, you can’t even borrow an assist, and now Southern League Division One banter merchants Corby Town are having a pop on Twitter. Just think of all the damage this must be doing to the JLINGZ brand.

RETRO CORNER

Twelve years ago today, Arsenal went to Anfield to play a League Cup quarter-final. They conceded three, which might have been a problem, had they not scored six of their own. You’ll remember Julio Baptista scoring four, of course, but the Warm-Up had entirely forgotten the shift that Jérémie Aliadière put in. What a silly game of football.

HAT TIP

George Sephton and Peter Gilham: you may not recognise their names, but if you’ve been to Anfield or Griffin Park over the last forty-odd years, you’ll know their voices. For the Guardian, Richard Foster has been talking to English football’s longest-serving stadium announcers.

COMING UP

Barcelona are playing Atlético Madrid in the semi-final of the Spanish Supercopa, which for some reason — probably the weather, right? — is being held in Saudi Arabia. Winner plays Real Madrid in the final. Also the Italian season is waking up again after its winter snooze. Torino take on Genoa in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia.

Like Cleopatra, Tom Adams will be comin’ atcha tomorrow.

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