WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES

The music has stopped

First came Arsenal, fans daring to chime "the project" after one successful outing. It was soon the turn of Brendan Rodgers' outstanding Leicester City, before Everton briefly became our second favourite team... until Jordan Pickford killed Virgil van Dijk (RIP) and Liverpool seized the narrative. Next were Southampton - they lost 9-0, did you know? - who snuck in just long enough to get a commemorative mug on the shelves. Then Tottenham's bus rolled in - "Mourinho had it right all along!" they cried - until 1-0 became 1-1 for the 400th time. That allowed Frank Lampard (remember him?!) and Chelsea to buy their ticket before Liverpool restored order for a while. But over in the East, a strange phenomenon was occurring - the PE teacher could actually manage and Manchester United swooped in.
The Emirates FA Cup
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And then, in this crazy game of musical chairs, came Manchester City. The ninth leaders of the Premier League in this chaotic season and quite probably the last. Amid all the squabbling, we forgot about Pep Guardiola. After all, they couldn't defend, couldn't score. It was a hopeless combo. So when they embarked on their 11-match winning run, we forgot to pay attention. Turns out, big mistake.
John Stones is peak Beckenbauer. Ilkay Gundogan is Xavi 2.0. Joao Cancelo is a Cafu-Pirlo hybrid. Who cares if they haven't got a striker and their best player is out for six weeks? The music has stopped. City have grabbed the only chair. This is their Premier League to lose.

'Tuchel is an exceptional manager' - Guardiola on new Prem rival

The Tuchel sweepstake

At the time of writing, Thomas Tuchel is still the manager of Chelsea. If he survives the rest of today, fingers crossed, he'll be in the dugout for the match with Wolverhampton Wanderers at 20:15. Bet he was hoping for an early kick-off, just to be sure.
Has he been appointed because he's German and the club's two biggest flops are German? And more pertinently, has there been a more reluctant announcement than an 18-month contract "with the possibility of an extension"?
So let's kick off the sweepstake - how far will Tuchel get? Christmas? June? January 28? A 26-day period straddling February and March will likely decide his fate, which sees the Blues face Atletico Madrid (twice), Manchester United, Everton, Leeds and Liverpool.
For what it's worth, the Warm-Up actually thinks this will work. Until January 2022. Then a phone will ring somewhere in Russia. A man will drag himself out of the pool, haul a towel around his waist, and hobble over. "Guus, how's retirement? It's happened again."

Mourinho sorry for Lampard being a victim of the 'modern brutality of football'

Saka bucks the trend

We've definitely been here before but, somehow, this time it feels different.
Carlos Vela, Jack Wilshire, Shkodran Mustafi, Nicolas Pepe, Granit Xhaka, Gabriel Martinelli have all punched us with the hype train, then disappeared (Gabriel, you alone can prove us wrong). And yet a young lad from Ealing is making us rethink our scepticism towards Arsenal's breakout acts.
Every ounce of us is screaming "don't hype him, this will surface in five years when he's just missed an open goal for Rotherham", but we can't get enough. Bukayo Saka's individual heroics are threatening to save Arsenal's season. Forget what's come before, this kid is going to the top. Bookmark this now if you must.

IN OTHER NEWS

Zlatan v Lukaku

One benefit of supporters being banned from football stadiums is being able to hear what’s being said. Unless you’re Romelu Lukaku’s mum or Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s wife.
We have to add the usual disclaimer – don’t fight kids – but let’s not pretend that this wasn’t an enjoyable watch. Lukaku earned a points victory in the Milan derby, by virtue of not being sent off and a last-gasp winner from Christian Eriksen. Mad to think these two were team-mates at Manchester United. We eagerly await the rematch.

IN THE CHANNELS

Anyone else think Sterling was going to sky it?

COMING UP

FIVE Premier League matches on the menu, including Chelsea 0-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (18:00), Everton 0-1 Leicester City and Manchester United 0-1 Sheffield United (both 20:15).
Who would win a fight between Marcus Foley and Andi Thomas? That's right, and that's why Mr Thomas is here tomorrow.
The Emirates FA Cup
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