THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
What on earth was that?
There's a fundamental cruelty at work in this uneasy union of José Mourinho and Tottenham. One of the game's great control freaks, in charge of a team so prone to falling over, or blowing up, or falling over and then blowing up, that they have their own adjective.
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Of course, they were playing Everton. And when the inexplicable object meets the inexplicable object, control goes out of the window. So does common sense, competent goalkeeping, and marking at set pieces. Marking at all, if we're being honest.
And so we got one of the silliest games in the silly season. Spurs were 1-0 up and in charge. Then they were 3-1 down and reeling. 3-3 and back in the ascendancy: that came after less than an hour, though it felt as if weeks had passed. 4-3 down. Back to 4-4. And then, in extra time, Bernard sashaying through the defence and finishing like Marcelo Salas in his prime.
The end results is that Spurs are out — despite the year ending in a one — and Spurs are, once again, a public mess. But rather than point and laugh, the Warm-Up would like to assert that Spurs should carry on in this fashion. After all, at one end of the pitch they were pretty good: they began the game with perhaps their most attacking line-up of the season, a front four of Son, Lamela, Bergwijn and Lucas Moura, and they created chances and consistent pressure even before Harry Kane came on.
Up the other end: lapses in concentration, limp 'keeping, a freakish penalty, some brilliant finishing… we haven't checked the xG, but we're betting Tottenham's was highly respectable while Everton's was just the shrug emoji. And we saw after the 3-3 against West Ham what happens when you try to solve freakish implosions with an abundance of caution. Results suffer and, more importantly, nobody has any fun.
To win football matches, one must accept the possibility of losing them. And to get on at Spurs, one must recognise that Spursiness cannot be outrun, only outscored. Back in happier days, Mourinho once declared that 5-4 was a hockey score that should shame any football club. Maybe he was right. But if hockey matches keep happening, it's probably best to try and win them. And perhaps those big pads might help Hugo Lloris.
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Arsenal lose again
In the interests of full disclosure, we didn't actually watch this game. Our internet fell over and we had streaming problems. However, looking at the scoreline, we're pretty confident in the following two conclusions: one, Arsenal's habit of losing big games in the WSL is starting to become, well, a habit. And two, Fran Kirby remains a delight.
There are three teams above Arsenal in the WSL table. And in five league games against those teams, Arsenal have managed just a single draw. This is why they find themselves seven points behind Manchester City in third and, after last night's defeat, a whopping 12 behind leaders Chelsea.
Yet performances remain pretty decent (er, as far as we can tell): this seems a problem of fine margins. City needed a late goal at the weekend; the first half against Chelsea was tight and intense (we think). Essentially Arsenal's season now boils down to attempting to catch one of the top three and secure Champions League qualification, and Manchester United still have to come to London. No need to panic. Not yet.
As for Kirby? Well, there's more to being a soft-shoed genius than goals and assists — it's a question of vibes — but one of the former and two of the latter does make the point nicely. Even to those that couldn't watch the game.
15 in a row
The sign of a very good football team: they keep finding new records to break. And as you may have heard, Manchester City's 3-1 win over Swansea was their fifteenth consecutive victory in all domestic competitions. This one's a proper record, too: none of your Premier League era nonsense. They've taken it off Arsenal '87-88 and Preston North End '91-92. That's 1891-92. A record of all-time, as Guardiola delightfully phrased it:
Interestingly, neither Preston nor Arsenal turned their 14-game streaks into trophies. Arsenal ended up sixth in the old Division One after collapsing over the winter, while Preston finished runners-up behind Sunderland. We're going to be brave here and predict that City will defy that curse and end the season with at least one shiny silver trophy.
In fact — checks calendar — it's probably about time we started talking about The Quadruple. It's on, you know. Just one more game in the League Cup, just three more in the FA Cup. A healthy lead in the league. It's definitely on. And anybody claiming that the Warm-Up is over-compensating for having had doubts about Guardiola and City earlier in the season will be hearing from our lawyers.
IN OTHER NEWS
Atalanta are the best football team in the world. That may not be true in the literal sense. But it is definitely true in an aspirational sense: if this world were a better world, they would be the best team in it.
IN THE CHANNELS
The Warm-Up must declare an interest here, having been a regular (and more recently a highly irregular) at Champion Hill. But this Twitter thread from Dulwich Hamlet clearly sets out the kafkaesque bind that many non-league clubs are caught in, with the season in limbo and no easy or non-ruinous way out.
Happy birthday to Steve McManaman. Younger readers may not be aware that the BT Sport co-commentator was once an actual footballer. And not just any footballer: a Real Madrid footballer, back when Real Madrid were intergalactic and had those amazing fat stencilled shirt numbers. Look, see? Proof!
Time to wrap up the fifth round of the FA Cup. First Wolves host Southampton, who could really do with a win, and then Chelsea travel to Barnsley in the hope of avoiding an upset. Interesting fact: in Yorkshire, Thomas Tuchel is known as The Homas, The Uchel. It's pronounced the same though.
Please direct all complaints about that last joke to Tom Adams, who will be here with the Warm-Up tomorrow.
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Round-up: King hat-trick inspires Watford to stunning win at Everton