In the News: Why would United want to sign Ozil? If you are going to treat his time at Arsenal as a job interview it would be the same as you or I walking into a pub, p*ssing on the floor and then asking for a bar job. Joey Barton has branded Everton’s caretaker manager a “glorified PE teacher.” Anyone else who has made such a monumental pig’s ear of his own life might keep their head down, but thankfully he continues to entertain us with a constant stream of irrelevant b*llocks. Manchester City players were forced to wear matching outfits as part of their trip to Napoli. This in itself is far less tragic than the fact that their appalling denim shirt/tie homages to retro tastelessness cost £2,000 for each twat wearing them. James Milner says his smile is back after a difficult start to the season. Lie. I don’t think in the thirty years this man has been a professional footballer his facial expression has changed once. And, most shockingly of all, the Daily Fail claims to have been nominated for football newspaper of the year, or some equally unbelievable sh*t. Can only assume this award is run by FIFA. Or themselves.
So pub it was for this one. I wasn’t at all jealous of all my friends taking off to my second favourite city in the world and stuffing their faces with awesome pasta and gelato. They get the Pantheon and I get BT Sport. Woop. Jake Humphrey is starting to morph into Gary Lineker. Why would you intentionally want to look like you are having a tragic mid-life crisis with the open shirt button, perma-tan and tragic teenage boy overdose of hair gel/spike combo? Patsy (sitcom alias) cheered me up. Not seen her since the Atletico win and the first thing she says? “Morata. I’d wear that man like a gas mask.” This was Conte’s first time in Italy not managing an Italian team. I have to admit my heart sank when I saw Dave had been moved to right wingback, with Zappacosta dropping out. This left space to bring Cahill back into the side in the back three, and other than that it was as you were.
OK, we all said, let’s grab hold of this. A point will do. It looked promising with a run from Pesto (whatever, autospell) before thirty seconds had even elapsed, but before 45 had ticked by we were behind. Joy. Two on one and Dzeko somehow gets the ball, then when he puts it down George Michael is absolutely nowhere to stop el-Shaarawy from leathering it. F*ck sake Chelsea. Was George waving his arms about for a hand ball? Only if he had a hand growing out of his foot. On the side line Conte looked like me being forced to read another interminable biography of David Lloyd George. Still, plenty of time to get our sh*t together. Have faith, said I to Uncle Albert, because they will leave themselves open. Defensively they can be as w*nk as we are. Hazard was played in after three minutes and it looked like he just didn’t get hold of the ball to make the most of it, which was a shame.
I didn’t see much to entertain me in the opening 12 minutes, apart from the fact that their manager looks like he should be running an IT department somewhere in Leatherhead. On 19 minutes Hazard shot low to the corner and they didn’t look impenetrable by any means, but to score we’d actually need to have to mounted a quick, potent attack and that was something that was lacking all night long. Too many loose balls by far, but as the half wore on we did fashion more shots. In fact we had six decent attempts according to Bunch of Twats Sport, including Morata missing an absolute sitter. At the risk of sounding like a Gooner, if anyone deserved to score the second goal it was us. So naturally we were two down on 35 minutes. Rudi inexplicably let the ball go past him, and on my massive widescreen pub TV, no other member of the back three even appeared in shot as it was happening. This is unforgivable. We whimpered on for a bit, but ended the half frustrated when a curled shot from George Michael forced a decent save from the keeper and Bakayoko had basically the whole goal to aim at and headed it wide. In an attacking sense it was a repeat of the first half at Bournemouth. A fair performance in which we seized none of our chances. Sigh. Only this time your have to add to it two stupid lapses that left us with it all to do in the second half.
The rest of the night was f*cking shambolic. It’s really not fair to single anyone out of this travesty in particular but Morata was not in the game at all, and Fabregas was generally woeful unless he was playing the odd promising ball up the field. There was no pace either. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to look up and see Mikel dithering over the ball in midfield after the break. Conte doesn’t make early substitutions if he isn’t pushed, generally, so you knew when the walking stick comes out to hook Cahill on 54 minutes in favour of Willian that the sh*t was hitting the fan. The anti-Gary brigade will love that, but he was no more culpable than anyone else tonight. The part of this I don’t get is that it also required us to bring on Zappacosta to replace Dave who was moving back into the defence. This did not happen. Instead, Pesto went to pay right wingback. Um. OK. The most frustrating thing is that it would not have been that hard to score against this lot tonight, had we been remotely competent. This evening, however, you would have had more luck giving the kiss of life to a rasher of bacon in an attempt to get it to oink again than expecting us to get back on terms.
On 62 minutes the third goal went in and an immense cloud of sh*t rose up from west London as the nappy shitting chorus began. It should have been 4-0 five minutes later despite three players on Dzeko. Three. And it was only their incompetence that saved us. Morata went off for Michy on 74 and at some point Danny Drinkwater put Cesc out of his misery, but you can expect little from subs when you’re at the scoreline of death. 3-0 and the leaders sit back and the team on the other end of it lose the will to live. As far as anything else noteworthy is concerned, we narrowly managed not to really embarrass ourselves by conceding a fourth, and on 77 minutes their keeper was even forced to make a save. Patsy and I decided that watching this game was like experiencing the suffering of a Gooner, but with the added trauma of actually having expectations piled on top.
So: Maybe twenty minutes was all that Drinkwater was fit for tonight after two appearances last week, but it would have been better to bring him on ten minutes earlier. Fabregas in this position against decent opposition doesn’t work. Taking Dave out of the back three doesn’t work, and putting him back in it and having Pesto as a wingback when you had Zappacosta available to you, I think most people would have guessed that that wouldn’t work and looked at you as if you were bonkers if you suggested it. The manager’s choices may have been somewhat dictated by injury, but we were tactically poor tonight. Praise baby Jesus for FC Carrier Bag, who got a draw at Atletico. Diego and his mates can only now reach a total of nine points in this group, and to do that they would have to beat us and Roma. We are already on seven.
The thing that bugs me about us at the moment is the inexplicable, erratic performances. We are about as fickle as whatever brand of blue dye Bakayoko appears to have employed on his hair. We win in Madrid, then are complete a*se against City. We string three wins together and then this. It’s not difficult to explain why. This time last year we were focused on one simple competition. Having a comparable squad, but not a deeper or enhanced one we are currently juggling the league with the Champions League. Oh and we are still in the cowboy cup. We have gone from one game a week as a rule to a constant flow of them. This is what happens when you ask men to multitask. We have had more injuries, yes, but I don’t think the manager has quite got hold of effective rotation either. I have to say, too, that although it probably wouldn’t have made a difference tonight, Conte just does not have it in his psyche to play for a point, and sometimes a point is OK, and you don’t have to sell your soul like Allardyce to do it. We aren’t failing at anything yet – we’re within spitting distance of second in the league and we have every chance of going through in the CL, but on nights like this, and after games like City, it feels like we are hanging on by our fingernails. If we smash United on Sunday I may get over this, though Chequebook Pulis will now turn up and sit and sit and sit and just wait for us to fuck up at the back. Which on tonight’s showing we probably will. I’m pretty sure by morning we will be in complete crisis, Conte will be leaving, Morata will be leaving and someone will have sent a ambiguous texts criticising everyone down to the kit man. Bullsh*t, bullsh*t, and more bullsh*t. Let the Red Swarm enjoy their moment. I can’t listen to it. I’m going to hang out at the Queens house for a couple of days.