WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES

Well done, they’ve got an average age of 19

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AN HOUR AGO

The surest sign that a social media joke has reached saturation point and becomes the absolute hackiest thing anyone could possibly do, is when official club accounts pick up on it. Usually that also means the joke instantly becomes not funny, but exceptions can be made. Like, for example, during Aston Villa’s 5-0 victory over a collection of children in Liverpool shirts in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday evening, essentially everyone with access to a Twitter account and a working knowledge of early 2000s football ephemera tweeted the same thing: well done, they’re 13.

In case you’re not familiar with the reference, it’s from a Michael Owen soccer skills video in which he toyed with a young goalkeeper being coached by Neville Southall and after one celebration too many, big Nev – god love him – loses patience with the international footballer and has a pop. All of which leads you to the conclusion that, for Nev’s dig to be included in the final tape the producers must have really hated Owen.

But we digress. Such has been Liverpool’s domestic dominance this season that they must have genuinely thought a team comprised of squad numbers that would look more appropriate in the defensive line of the Chicago Bears could feasibly beat Aston Villa. But of course it was a chastening evening for the children of Liverpool, the score 4-0 at half-time and frankly they should be pleased they kept it to 5-0 by full-time.

The goals came from Conor Hourihane, an own-goal by Morgan Boyes, two from Jonathan Kodja and one by Wesley Moares. Villa celebrated each and every one, and so they should as well: it’s not their fault that things have conspired to lead everyone to this point, and they’re a newly-promoted team who has just qualified for the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup. Of course they should celebrate.

The whole situation was incredibly unfair on the youngsters involved and probably avoidable if everyone really wanted to move this game to a time when Liverpool’s grown-ups weren’t in Qatar for the Club World Cup. But on the quiet Jurgen Klopp will probably be pretty pleased they don’t have another couple of games to worry about when there are four competitions ahead of this one in their list of priorities.

Should we expect footballers to comment on the ethics of playing in Qatar?

Everyone loves Jurgen Klopp, with his charisma and his exciting football and his head full of at least two people’s teeth. We do too. But we can’t help thinking that he has fudged the issue of whether the Club World Cup should be taking place in Qatar, with the myraid human rights abuses that have been well documented.

“This is a real serious thing to talk about I think and the answers should come from people who know more about it,” he said. “I have to be influential in football but not in politics. Anything I say wouldn’t help, it would just create another headline, positive or negative. I like you ask the question but I think I am the wrong person.”

Is he not the perfect person to speak out, though? The idea that he should be “influential in football but not in politics” would be wrong even if Klopp never spoke about things away from football, but he has done and indeed does. Perhaps he’s right that anything he says in a pre-game press conference would simply create a headline, but is that not a headline that we need? Who better than the most high-profile manager – and probably the most high-profile person full-stop – involved in the competition to highlight the obvious concerns about merrily playing football in a country like Qatar?

Presumably Klopp wanted to keep the focus as much as possible on the football, as he prepares Liverpool to face Monterrey on Wednesday evening, but his response feels inadequate.

Arteta set to take the Arsenal job

After their late night liaison on Sunday night, it seems that Arsenal have persuaded Mikel Arteta to leave working in the most lavishly-funded football project of all time where he is coaching some of the finest players in the world and being groomed to take over from this generation’s most influential and possibly best manager, in favour of watching at close quarters Granit Xhaka’s big diagonals sail over everyone’s head and gently into the crowd.

Still, Arteta is a highly-rated young coach and one that Arsenal probably should have appointed instead of Unai Emery a couple of years ago anyway. Will he be the man to solve all of Arsenal’s problems? Maybe, and he undoubtedly has some exceptional players at his disposal.

But equally will he just be eaten by the gaping yaw of Arsenal’s infinite sadness? After the club was allowed to decay in the final Arsene Wenger years and are now owned by a man whose interest in running things basically extends to sending his son to peruse things every now and then, will he actually make any difference?

Who knows. It will at least be interesting to see how he fares. Good luck Mikel – you are almost certainly going to need it.

IN OTHER NEWS

Weird old world, isn’t it?

HEROES AND ZEROS

Hero: Jadon Sancho

After registering his eighth goal and fifth assist in the last seven games, we’d like to let you in on a closely-guarded industry secret about Jadon Sacho: he’s quite good.

Zeros: Fifa

While it would have been nice if Klopp had said something more constructive, let’s not pretend all of this is his fault, and remember who is to blame.

HAT TIP

Dad passed away peacefully last month. I’ve not been back to Old Trafford since. In the 18 months since our last game together I’ve realised that the older you get, watching football becomes less about your team winning or losing and more about who you’re watching with.

A tale that many will be able to identify with and fear. For Joe, Si Lloyd writes about going to football with his dad, and how it isn’t the same without him.

RETRO CORNER

On this day in 2001, Newcastle United beat Arsenal 3-1 to end a long run of winless games in London, in what would turn out to be the Gunners’ last league defeat of the season as they fairly romped to the league title. Many topical morning round-ups would show you the goals from a highly entertaining game, but instead here’s Thierry Henry going postal at the officials afterwards, over a series of perceived refereeing injustices.

COMING UP

We’ve got the three Carabao Cup quarter-finals that will be played between two sets of adults this evening: Everton face Leicester, Manchester City visit Oxford United and Manchester United host Colchester. And, of course, the hoo-ha in Doha, as Liverpool play Monterrey in the semi-final of the Club World Cup.

Reaction to that hoo-ha will be brought to you tomorrow, by your friend and mine Andi Thomas.

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