“Nothing is different under Unai Emery,” said Jamie Carragher at the end of Sheffield United’s 1-0 win over Arsenal on Monday night. In a way he is right, in that the same old Arsenal vibe of inadequacy, the sense that they couldn’t scrap their way out of a soggy newspaper. But in other ways he’s not, because Arsenal seem to come up with new ways to be rubbish every week.
Perhaps things aren’t actually that bad: after all, this was only their second defeat in all competitions this season, and the other one was at Liverpool. But it was more the sense that this was inevitable, that they’ve been doing the football equivalent of riding a wobbly bicycle along the edge of a cliff for some weeks, and it was only now that they fell off.
There remains the sense that you’re not entirely sure where Arsenal are going under Emery: the inconsistent team selection is weird; the fact that Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney remain on the bench nearly a month after both had very encouraging runouts in the Carabao Cup; what’s Lucas Torreira done wrong to be worthy of only one start (curtailed after 55 minutes) all season?
Perhaps we’re just ignoring the most straightforward bit here and failing to give Sheffield United credit for a terrific performance, in which they pressed and harrassed Arsenal into a stupor, not allowing them room to breathe and continuing their brilliant defensive record: nobody has conceded fewer goals than them this term and they’re now up into ninth with 12 points from nine games.
Still, at least everyone knew who the real star of the evening was.
Tottenham wobble unsteadily towards another potential calamity
Harry Kane admitted the other day that this is the toughest period of the last five or so years under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. He probably would’ve looked foolish saying anything else, but it was another reminder of the pickle Spurs currently find themselves in.
Just a reminder: Spurs have only won three games in all competitions this season, including one in the last seven, a run which has seen them flop out of the Carabao Cup and be absolutely hoyed 7-2 by Bayern Munich. This evening Red Star Belgrade/Crvena Zvezda visit, and it could well be another kick in the pants for a team whose pants have been kicked pretty thoroughly of late.
“In this type of period, our worst opponent are ourselves. It’s difficult to do the things that you were doing before so easily. That is normal because it’s the pressure and the stress. You believe you need to run more, to show we are all together, to show we are with the manager, but it’s not like this. You need to usemore intelligence.
“The most important thing is to build our confidence again. For sure, we have the capacity and quality to turn this negative around. The belief is there. We only need to stay calm. We have to stay strong with our principles.”
Neymar out, Tadic in for the Ballon d’Or
With the Warm-Up’s usual caveat that individual awards in a team sport are very silly and shouldn’t really be taken very seriously, we do have to draw your attention to the men’s Ballon d’Or ‘shortlist’, which isn’t very short (it has 30 names on it) but does have some interesting omissions.
You will note, for a start, that there seems to be some form of admin error because Hugo Lloris’s name is on there. Hmmm. But you’ll also see that Neymar is absent, with just Kylian Mbappe and Marquinhos holding the PSG end up, while Dusan Tadic – old Dusan Tadic, unable to get a game at Southampton a couple of years ago – is on there. Extraordinary scenes.
The women’s list is rather more sensible, only 20 strong but at least fulfilling both elements of the word ‘shortlist’. Megan Rapinoe is on there of course, joined by teammates Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath, while England’s Ellen White and Lucy Bronze make it, looking to take the title off Ada Hegerberg, who again is among the nominees.
IN OTHER NEWS
Brilliant work to spot the run and thread the through ball there from the lad.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Heroes: Chichester City
Due to the wretched circumstances that led to Bury going out of existence, one team was going to get a bye in the first round of the FA Cup, and that team was Chichester City. Look how happy they are that they won’t have to play a game.
The slightly churlish might think it’s distasteful to celebrate that, but any of those thoughts are surely dismissed by the fact that Chichester confirmed they will be making a donation to the fund going towards getting Bury back into existence again. Well in, chaps.
Zero: Steve Dale
Let’s just remind ourselves why Bury aren’t in the FA Cup and who is (partly) responsible for that.
Tickets were £8.50 in advance, a little more on the door. The event is a sellout; a few disappointed hopefuls are turned away by the bouncer, diverted to the main bar. At which point it is worth noting that this is not some massive club. A footballer’s money and connections could probably open a few doors, secure a spot at some garish palace of the ego. Mendieta is spinning discs in the event space of The Shacklewell Arms. It is literally the back room of a pub.
For no particular reason, here’s a compilation of Andriy Shevchenko’s goals for Milan.
The Chaaaaaaaaaammmmpioooooooooooooons. Hello Champions League, delightful to see you again. Tonight’s slate looks relatively low-key, but Spurs v Red Star will be interesting, as will Galatasaray v Real Madrid and Manchester City v Atalanta. Get involved. Plus there’s a job lot of Championship football for your earthier desires, too.
Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Ben Snowball, assuming his Gazprom hangover isn’t too bad.