It’s only a friendly. Just a game without actual consequence in which the manager can try new things, mix it up a little bit, experiment with some of the big ideas that have been floating around in their heads.
But for Phil Neville this is actually a pretty big one. England go into their encounter with Portugal this evening on the back of five winless games, and increasing suspicions that Neville is, rather than the managerial visionary you’d be forgiven for thinking he was if you just listened to what he said, actually no good at all.
It’s not just that England haven’t won in five, of course: one of those games was against world champions America; one of them was a third-place playoff, the game nobody cares about; the other three have been friendlies. Excuses can be made, results brushed off. As long as England are making progress, that’s what matters, right?
But therein lies the rub. There isn’t any real sense that England actually are making any progress. The same mistakes are being made as they were 20 months ago when Neville was appointed, including but not limited to a lack of creativity in midfield and an absolutely infuriating inability to defend crosses.
In response to questions about his future, Neville could well have reached peak Neville, hinting at an element of humility by suggesting that, of course, if he thought it was all going down the pan then he would resign. But ultimately concluding that no, things are going brilliantly and why would I, the second coming of Bela Guttmann, the manager you grunting proles are lucky to have, leave?
If I thought it wasn’t working, if I thought the players had switched off and weren’t listening to my messages, I would be the first to say we need to change. I’m not the kind of manager that hangs around waiting for a pay out – I want this team to do well.
I still believe in what we are doing and so do the players. We are in an era now – we saw it in the Premier League this week – you lose two or three games and all of a sudden it’s ‘out’. People are calling for your head. It’s gone that well for the last 18 months that this period might be what we need – a kick up the backside, a jolt.
Maybe another defeat, to Portugal – ranked 31 in the world and who didn’t qualify for the World Cup – on Tuesday evening, will set alarm bells ringing. Who knows: maybe it might even convince Phil himself that things aren’t quite as rosy as he seems to think they are.
Lloris out for the year, but is that entirely bad news?
Good lord, that Hugo Lloris injury was horrible. The Warm-Up can still see his arm twisted in a direction that arms should not twist, howling in pain in that Brighton goal. The good news is that Spurs have confirmed he will not require surgery, and that nothing is broken, but he has ligament damage after suffering a dislocated elbow and will not even return to training until 2020.
So Spurs are left with Paulo Gazzaniga in nets until at least January. Does that terrify you, Spurs fans? Well, perhaps it shouldn’t. After all, about a second before that arm went in the direction it shouldn’t have gone, Lloris made another calamitous, goal-conceding error, the sort of error that hasn’t exactly been isolated for the Frenchman in the last couple of seasons.
All the talk about this Spurs team is that it has needed freshening up, that the same old faces and voices have meant they are stagnant and this is the cause of their current malaise. So while Gazzaniga is not exactly a new face, perhaps this will force them to be different.
Clutching at straws? Perhaps, but the way things are going at the moment, anything has to be worth a try.
Salah avoids serious injury
It’s just all coming up Millhouse for Liverpool at the moment: eight wins to start the season, eight points clear at the top of the league, and now even their star player isn’t injured as badly as they thought he might have been.
The club have confirmed that Mo Salah – or should we say, GQ Middle-East Man of the Year Mo Salah – only suffered a twisted ankle from Hamza Choudhury’s…’spicy’ challenge on him during the win over Leicester at the weekend, and while he will not take part in Egypt’s games over the international break, things aren’t more serious than that.
And here’s all that in official language, from the Egyptian FA:
The technical team of the national team confirms the decision to exempt Liverpool star Mohamed Salah from joining the current camp for the desire to rest him and ease the burden of games in this period.
[That is] in order [for him] to recover and get rid of the stress resulting from his successive participation with his club so that he is in full physical and mental health to participate in the next official commitments.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: This ref
Look, if you’re going to be a referee, you might as well go all in. So hats off to this referee for being an absolute stickler for the laws, and quite frankly standing up for ignored dweebs everywhere.
Zero: Tomas Koubek
In case you missed this absolute calamity over the weekend…eesh. We’d love to tell you the rest of the game went really well for Koubek, but this was goal No.4, in the 39th minute, as Augsburg lost 5-1 to Borussia Monchengladbach. It’s a cruel world out there.
At Milanello, the Italian team’s country retreat-cum-training ground, Singer junior was being asked to sanction a minor transaction by Elliott’s standards: a €35m fee to acquire Brazilian forward Lucas Paquetá. But the deal broke the tight transfer budget its executives imposed on a club in dire financial trouble. Mr Maldini was among the team officials arguing it was worth gambling on a player that could change AC Milan’s fortunes. Mr Singer relented: “Let’s do it.”
“That was something that gave us a lot of energy,” says Mr Maldini, recalling the scene. “We saw the passion also to have something nicer and more attractive and, in the end, more successful for the business.”
In the Financial Times, Murad Ahmed and Arash Massoudi look at how a hedge fund is doing, running AC Milan.
One for the old school Man City fans here: it’s Ali Benarbia’s birthday, 51 today, so here’s a little compilation of his best bits of skill for you.
That England friendly in Portugal is just about the only show in town, aside from a bunch of European Championship qualifiers and a comprehensive English National League slate.