The Warm-Up: Time to give City the credit they deserve
Pep Guardiola's men can make history on Saturday - so why is no-one really bothered?
Make mine a treble?
Good morning, dear readers, and happy FA Cup Final Eve! Is the heart racing a little faster? No? Oh.
The FA Cup final used to be the showpiece event of the English football calendar and the unofficial first day of summer. Instead, the focus has been on two all-English European finals and The Warm-Up is still wearing a woolly hat to work and turning on the heating when it gets home.
Despite its boundless capacity, The Warm-Up has officially checked with Google and there simply isn’t room on the internet for another wistful piece about how the cup lost its magic. Instead we will just note that Manchester City are 24 hours away from achieving something unique in the history of the men’s game in England: winning a domestic treble.
It’s a testament to City’s incredible strength that even if they do achieve something which has never before been seen since league football was first introduced in 1888 (or more accurately, since the League Cup was introduced in 1960), their season may still be tinged with a slight flavour of disappointment due to their failure to reach the Champions League final. As if you had a nice jar of caviar and because Asda ran out of blinis you had to use Warburtons’ scotch pancakes instead. (Coincidentally this exact scenario occurred in the eurosport.co.uk offices yesterday - wouldn’t recommend).
The Champions League is the greatest competition in sport but the dominance it wreaks over football brings to mind a famous line from Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibi, who in 2009 described Goldman Sachs as the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
A never-before-seen treble of league, FA Cup and League Cup would represent a magnificent season even despite City’s VAR-fuelled exit to Spurs in the Champions League quarter-finals. So let’s finally give Pep Guardiola’s City, bankrolled like no other club has been before, the credit they deserve as they go forth in search of immortality against Watford at Wembley tomorrow.
Taking the Mkhi
Henrikh Mkhitaryan will return to Arsenal off the back of a major upsetGetty Images
European football? A grubby business. City are best out of it to be honest. What other concision could you really draw after a day which saw Arsenal lambast UEFA for its decision to host the Europa League final in Baku - as it became even more likely that Henrikh Mkhitaryan won’t be allowed to travel to Azerbaijan for the showdown with Chelsea. A completely unconscionable scenario which should leave those in charge taking a long look at themselves in the mirror.
In fairness, the only possible way in which the Azerbaijani-Armenian political conflict could have been a factor in this season’s Europa League final was of one of the 48 teams contesting the group stage made it all the way, but eight months later, here we are. And according to reports, it seems unlikely that Mkhitaryan will be able to travel.
As The Guardian reports: “There is significant anger within the camp that one of their players feels effectively forced to miss such a major match over safety issues.
" Assurances over Mkhitaryan’s security were sought with Uefa last week, because of the ongoing political tensions between Azerbaijan and neighbouring Armenia, and talks are ongoing. Arsenal’s decision will be confirmed by early next week at the latest, but they are not optimistic about a positive resolution. Both club and player are deeply disappointed."
Arsenal's public statement on the prospect of their fans having to face a nightmare journey to Baku was no less forthright. Arsenal and Chelsea have both only been allocated 6,000 tickets in a stadium which holds more than 60,000.
"Everyone at Arsenal is delighted to have reached the UEFA Europa League final and we are all very much looking forward to the match against Chelsea on Wednesday, May 29," read a statement on Arsenal’s official website.
" However, we are bitterly disappointed by the fact that due to transport limitations UEFA can only make a maximum of 6,000 tickets available to Arsenal for a stadium with a capacity of well over 60,000. Time will tell if it is even possible for 6,000 Arsenal fans to attend the match, given how extreme the travel challenges are. We have 45,000 season-ticket holders and for so many fans to miss out due to UEFA selecting a final venue with such limited transport provision is quite simply not right. The reality is that whoever reached the final would not be able to meet demand from their supporters... what has happened this season is unacceptable, and cannot be repeated."
If it seems illogical to complain about your reduced ticket allocation at the same time as complaining that not many of your fans will be able to make the trip, it isn't. The two problems are both borne out of the fact that this was not the wisest of choices for a Europa League final involving two London teams. Clearly UEFA can't have foreseen this would happen, but some flexibility would be advisable in future if it does transpire that fans are facing a nightmare. Let alone if one of the players isn't permitted to travel.
England players won't walk off
Southgate named his squad on ThursdayPA Sport
A quick bit of news ahead of the Nations League finals, with England boss Gareth Southgate saying his players have decided not to walk off the pitch in future if they face any recurrence of the racist abuse that came their way in the recent Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro.
"They are clear they don't want the story at the end to be about them as individuals," Southgate said. "They want football to be the story.
" In terms of walking off the pitch, that isn't something they're all on board with. None of the current team has expressed that as a preference... But they have had an opportunity to speak (publicly) and have an impact that way."
IN OTHER NEWS
Apparently it’s been an eventful week at Celta Vigo.
Why is Pione Sisto only eating fruit?? Who knows, but it hasn’t done him much good.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Matthijs de Ligt
Is there anything this man child cannot do? As Ajax celebrated their title win in Amsterdam, their captain came to the rescue of the mayor of the city, stepping to catch a can of beer thrown in her direction. The Warm-Up is only disappointed he didn’t take it with his head.
Zero: This Portsmouth fan
What compels a person to kick a footballer from a rival team? Especially when Luke O’Nein’s team-mate Lee Cattermole is in close proximity? O’Nein played down the shocking incident: “It was only a bit of handbags, nothing to worry about. My little cousin hits me harder, it's no big deal.”
IN THE CHANNELS
Some lovely club content here from Southampton as James Ward-Prowse has his interview disrupted by a celebrating Nathan Redmond after both players were named in England’s squad for the upcoming Nations League finals.
After Sunderland booked their place in the final, the League One play-offs continue when Charlton face Doncaster. Watch out for highlights on Quest!
And tomorrow, it’s FA Cup final day as Manchester City aim to complete the first ever domestic treble.