WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Let’s revisit this day in December 2019, a time without lockdowns, U-turns and illegal Christmas. Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta have just touched down at Goodison Park and the Emirates Stadium respectively. One boasted three Champions League titles, the other not a single minute of solo managerial experience. And yet we all chorused the same thing – the apprentice will succeed, the master will fail.
We were duped. A relegation battle beckons at Arsenal. The club's mascot is funded by an outcast. Fans secretly long for the dull, but not dangerous, Unai Emery. And now a heavy bruising in the League Cup against Arteta's former employers, Manchester City.
It's time to quit pretending. Arteta got the job because he sat next to Pep Guardiola a few times and looks formidable in a suit. Had he worn some Tracky Bs, or his illegible clichés were not interpreted as "the project", he would not be in the hotseat.
"I'm pretty sure they are going to trust him," said Guardiola on his dear friend. "They will do a big mistake if they are thinking [of dismissing him]."
If your fellow managers are asking the club to give you another chance, it's game over. What are the benefits of sticking with Arteta? There is no evidence he can turn it around because, erm, there was no evidence of anything when they employed him - except the Etihad's seating plan from 2016 to 2019.
Just when you think Arsenal can't sink any lower, they jump into inaction. Given the Warm-Up once went through airport security with Arsene Wenger, we await your call, Mr Kroenke.
Mikel Arteta (C) consoles Arsenal's Icelandic goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson (R) after the English League Cup quarter final football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium
Image credit: Getty Images
Just because you support Newcastle United, doesn’t mean you’ve signed up for a life of misery. Steve Bruce may be doing a good job in the eyes of neutrals who rarely watch them – "oh look, Brucey’s banked another win" – but if the fans want more then, well, let them have it.
Losing 1-0 to Brentford in the League Cup wasn’t a "shock" as it was widely dubbed, if anything it was "completely expected", but it does seem the perfect excuse to try something different.
“You have to accept the criticism, which is fully justified. We should not be getting beaten with a chance to get to the semi-final for the first time in 45 years,” admitted Bruce. “I understand their disappointment because there is no one more disappointed than I am.”
Over to you, Mike Ashley…
When I started playing football I never thought I'd break any records. Least of all the one I broke today, that Pelé had. I can only thank everyone who's helped me over the years, teammates, family, friends and everyone who supports me every day.
There’s nothing left to be said about Lionel Messi, which is a relief as our deadline disappeared a few minutes ago, but a quick nod to him for breaking Pele’s goals record at a single club.
644 goals for Barcelona, bettering Pele's embarrassingly paltry tally of 643 for Santos, is some going. Even if you scored 40 goals a season for 15 years, you would still be 44 goals short of Messi. And we suspect that figure will keep going up until the summer, when he pretends to be interested in a Manchester City move before moving to the MLS.
IN THE CHANNELS
We're not sure when this is from. But wow.
With a white Christmas looking likely in some parts of the UK for the first time in five years, this festive season seems the perfect opportunity to revisit the ultimate spectacle: football in the snow.
Mikel Arteta has talked a good game, spoken of his long-term vision for the club - music to the ears of fans longing for some direction - and that has bought him some time. Arsenal did seem to be heading in the right direction last season, finishing the campaign off with a fine performance when beating City in the FA Cup final. Arteta was not brought in as a quick fix. But the cracks are starting to appear, and things could get a whole lot worse, of that we can be 67 per cent sure.
It's a little cringe to toot our own trumpet, but if you want a far more reasoned argument about Arteta, read this from Pete Hall on Eurosport.
Can Jose Mourinho do it on a cold, wet Wednesday night in Stoke? Probably, but expect him to suck the soul out of the match before it's over. Stoke City v Tottenham in the League Cup (17:30) before Everton and Manchester United (20:00) - join us for live text commentary later today.
Andi Thomas here with news of full-strength Tottenham's 1-0 win, and 4% possession, tomorrow.