Monday's big stories

Rafa gone, Rooney next?

So long, farewell, and what was the point in all that…
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From the very start, it was an appointment that needed positive results to get the Everton fans on board, so it was somewhat surprising to see it took one win in 13 to finally sack Rafael Benitez.
It's another half-season wasted by Everton, and at what cost? They're thrown their recruitment strategy out the window, with director of football Marcel Brands leaving last month, they've boosted a Premier League rival by giving them Lucas Digne last week, and all for what? To get rid of their manager midway through a transfer window that could have perhaps corrected some of the past mistakes.
There is of course an issue that runs deeper than the manager, and the fans will likely turn on the ownership too (as they have done already this season) as bemusement and anger wrestle with one another, so with that in mind it wouldn't be at all surprising to see a figure like Wayne Rooney come to in try and steady the ship. Emphasis on try.
And in the meantime, maybe even get Big Dunc to steer them in the right direction first. Nothing says forgetting the recent last like replacing a Liverpool legend with an Everton one, and Duncan Ferguson would likely be able to provide the short-term bounce that can restore a little pride before, perhaps, Rooney takes over in the summer.
That said, a Roberto Martinez return is reportedly on the cards. If that materialises, then the club will have learned nothing this last decade.

This game’s on, this game’s off

So you've got the London game that was and the London game that wasn't, yesterday. Both of which will be talked about when future postponement requests arise.
First, the game that was: West Ham vs Leeds. Remarkably, it was Leeds who won 3-2, prevailing thanks to a Jack Harrison hat-trick, a superb Raphinha display, and done so while boasting seven teenagers on the bench - two of whom came on for their Premier League debuts.
No calls to have the game put back here, just a "triumph", to quote Marcelo Bielsa, and proof that the bigger clubs can certainly cope with Covid, injury and AFCON absences if a Leeds squad out to stay a healthy distance above the relegation zone are able to.
And so, to Arsenal vs Tottenham: the game that wasn't, but will be with an extra sprinkling of spice when it eventually takes place.
Spurs were fuming, their statement said as much anyway, and it's left the table looking more skewed than ever and adds another fixture to the pileup that will likely have teams complaining further down the road.
David Moyes was already unhappy about West Ham playing Norwich in midweek, between playing Leeds in the FA Cup and league. Expect that to be just the start of managers grumbling over this congested schedule.

Klopp wants to believe in miracles

Jurgen Klopp admits that in a normal season Manchester City would go on and win the Premier League given their current cushion at the top.
The Liverpool boss' wish is that this isn't a normal season.

'A tough one' - Klopp after Liverpool beat Brentford

"We don't have to convince anyone outside to believe. If they want to believe they can believe," said Klopp, after his side's convincing 3-0 win over Brentford.
"If you are with us, you will enjoy the ride and we will go for everything. We are ready to go as much as we can."
Of course, it would be a huge ask, but why not?
Okay, there a good few reasons why, but regardless of whether their league efforts come to nothing, Klopp will know a winning mentality that starts now could well result in the Champions League. It worked in 2019, and helped catapult them towards the Premier League the following season.
So, in short. There's no harm in believing.

In the channels

Drama, as ever, in the Africa Cup of Nations. And it resulted in SERGE AURIER going in goal for the dying moments of Ivory Coast’s draw with Sierra Leone.
Not *entirely* sure, but this could be the first injury where embarrassment meant the goalkeeper was unable to continue…

Retro corner

'Benitez magic' is still the fifth most searched thing on YouTube after you type in Benitez, so for no reason at all, here's a throwback to the magician who just made his future Premier League prospects disappear.

Coming Up

So. The Australian Open has started. Yes, there's a tournament after the Novak Djokovic Saga. And you can follow it all on Eurosport. In the world of football, hosts Cameroon are back in AFCON action against Cape Verde, and there's a hat-trick of Serie A games too. Enjoy.
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