THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES

The Disappointing Sequel

This should have been a cracker. Last weekend, West Ham and Manchester United played out a very silly game of football with a historically ridiculous ending, and just a few days later they had to go out and do it all again. Barely time to knock the narrative off its boots. Bring on part two!
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But this being the League Cup, both managers did their best to disrupt any sense of continuity by picking totally different teams. For Manchester United, this meant an even more disjointed performance than usual. For West Ham, this meant 90 minutes of Mark Noble, not 90 seconds. And for anybody watching on TV, it meant the lingering suspicion that all the really fun games were happening somewhere else.
West Ham were the better team for approximately 10 minutes, and made sure to get a goal out of it. Manchester United were on top for the rest of the game, but their long shots went high and wide and their passing moves foundered. They had 27 shots in all, along with an xG of "yeah, probably should have scored one of those". West Ham defended stoutly, Alphonse Areola threw himself about with effective abandon. Hey, Wolves came back from two goals down against Spurs.
That all makes it sound like the home team were laying siege to West Ham's goal, which isn't quite correct. It was more like those awkward moments — late, a little tipsy — when the key just will not go in the lock. Anthony Martial will probably get the main share of the blame, but in truth he played exactly as might be expected for a man who has watched his employer get other people in to do his job, repeatedly, with great fanfare and at great expense. Oh look, Chelsea and Villa went to penalties.
Of course, while Noble stole the show right at the end, the real player of the match last weekend was VAR. And the all-seeing-eye of the ref-in-the-box took centre stage here, too, despite the League Cup not actually using the thing. First Noble dragged Jesse Lingard to the ground in the box, to nothing more than a smile from Jon Moss. Then Nemanja Matić kneed Vladimir Coufal in the groin.
Why did he do this? It wasn't a nasty match. There didn't seem to be any running battle between the two. We can assume, from Coufal's response — surprise, rather than earth-shattering pain — that there wasn't much contact, that Matić didn't fully commit. Having given the matter some thought, we can only assume that this was the frustrated gesture of a man who'd rather have been watching the Tottenham game.

Press Monologue

Yesterday, our very own Marcus Foley concluded his section on Barcelona by asking:
What will Wednesday bring? More turmoil probably and maybe the sacking of Ronald Koeman.
He was spot on about the turmoil. And while we didn't get the sacking, you sense that's just a matter of time. As befits the world's most luxury crisis club, Barcelona's road to the inevitable is going to be elaborate and very, very silly.
So Koeman didn't get sacked. He did, however, do one of those things that coaches only do when they're feeling really good about their job, about their job prospects, about the general state of things. He turned up to his press conference, read out a statement, and left again. No questions.

'Thank you' - Watch the moment Koeman walks out of press conference

We don't meant to be churlish, but Koeman's missed an opportunity here. Having decided to go down the No Questions route, Koeman gave himself the chance to say something properly controversial. "Joan Laporta, show us your medals," perhaps. Or "Have you seen the state of our kit? No wonder we're playing like clowns." But no, it was all "patience" and "support" and "time" and "perspective". Boring.
Still, if the content wasn't exactly sizzling, the fact of the matter is that Barcelona's manager doesn't want to answer questions about Barcelona because there aren't any good answers. At least, not for him, stuck as he is with a boss who didn't appoint him and doesn't rate him, and a squad with a giant Messi-shaped hole in the middle. And what will Thursday bring? Defeat to Cádiz, possibly, and maybe the sacking of Ronald Koeman.

Black and White and All Over the Place

Heartwarming news from Italy yesterday. Plucky Serie A minnows Juventus, a small team from the north of the country, picked up their first victory of the season against fellow strugglers Spezia. This moves them up to 12th and provides a real boost to their bid for survival, and ho ho ho, aren't we funny.
Points-wise, this officially ends Juventus' miserable start to the season and gives them a big shiny "1" in the wins column. Performance-wise … hmmm. Coming back from 2-1 down says all kinds of positive things about character and commitment, and that's good, right? Federico Chiesa was good: that's good, right?
On the not good side of things: defending. The whole concept of defending. The total absence of the whole concept of defending. Spezia came back from 1-0 down with baffling ease and will be disappointed not to have added a third. And there's probably something important in that disappointment. It's not just that Juventus are vulnerable at the back, it's that everybody knows it.
The aura is gone. This was a scrappy comeback. and ultimately a successful and admirable one. But at no point did it feel inevitable. Time was, not too long ago, when Juventus taking the lead meant you could think about changing the channel. Now, for the neutral and for the opposition, it's when things start to get exciting.

IN OTHER NEWS

Here's Marco Asensio, scoring his third against former club Mallorca. A lovely goal, but the real skill here is what comes after. How much self-control does it take to keep the celebrations going when you've just completed a hat-trick from outside the box?

HAT TIP

Derby County have slumped into administration, been docked 12 points, and are in trouble with a capital … well, with hardly any capital at all. That's the problem. But if you'd like a slightly more detailed explanation of what's going on, here's Matt Slater, Philip Buckingham, and sundry other Athletic writers to tell you what's what. It's not pretty.
Curtis Davies had been the hero of the hour, the man to help bring Derby momentary respite amid suffering with a 2-1 victory over Stoke City on Saturday. The veteran defender also delivered a succinct assessment of the events that had bundled Wayne Rooney’s team into the boot of a car and sped them to the cliff edge. "Madness," said Davies.

RETRO CORNER

There was a penalty shootout at Molineux last night, which is all the excuse we need to dust off this classic. It's 1995. It's the FA Cup fourth round replay. And it's Kevin Pressman. It's Chris Waddle. It's 3-0 to 3-3. It's haircut after haircut after haircut.

COMING UP

Cádiz vs. Barcelona, which could be the last act of Ronald Koeman's time in charge. There's a few Serie A games as well, including Roma vs. Udinese.
Tomorrow's Warm-Up will be brought to you by Andi Thomas, who will not be taking questions at this time.
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