I’ve been away for a while, so lots to catch up on.
Let’s start with the FA Cup Final, and it was good to see one of our own, Emeli Sandé, belting out ‘Abide With Me’ from the roof of Wembley Stadium. Not quite sure why she was on the roof, I would’ve thought the back of the stands looking out over the ground would’ve worked just as well, she wouldn’t have needed a crane to get her in place and there might have been a bit more abiding going on for the poor lass.
The match itself was delayed whilst the teams held a minutes’ silence for mental health which is all well and good but I can’t help thinking that it’s all going a bit far. For instance, presumably because they were doing something for mental health, then they couldn’t take the knee for BLM, but what about gay rights, womens’ rights, child poverty and a thousand other worthwhile charities?
I’m not saying that it shouldn’t happen, but it just feels like every football game now has to be associated with a bigger issue - and the regularity of these events actually seems to be diluting the effect they’re trying to achieve.
As for the game itself, I didn’t really mind who won as long as it wasn’t Arsenal. So it wasn’t thrilling to see David Luiz having one of those rare games when he doesn’t look like he’s relying on solar panels for energy. And by the time Chelsea had had most of their players carried off or sent off, I’d convinced myself that by looking hard enough I could find an actual Country and Western singer called Tammy Abraham. Also thought that Frank Lampard had put on weight – the stresses of management obviously, but still has light years to go before he catches up with Garth Crooks, who looks like he’s morphing into Jabba The Hutt more and more each time I see him.
Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure there’s a Country and Western singer out there called Garth Crooks as well...
Anyway, Arsenal won the cup, in their new strips which have utilised the same font for players names as Indian restaurants use for their menus. Trust me, I might not know anything about country music, but Indian takeaways are my Mastermind specialist subject.
Not everyone was happy.
Chelsea fans for one, obviously, but Pep also needed to have a little dig:
I have all the respect for what Arsenal are on the pitch, not much off the pitch.
Handbags then. Pep has the huff partly because the Arsenal suits weren’t up front about tapping up Arteta to be their new manager – and who then knocked him out of the FA Cup semi-final, which has got to hurt, but also because of the legal problems that City have been having which I don’t profess to understand.
About six months ago, some authorising body that wasn’t one of the normal ones, ie FIFA or UEFA, came out and said that City were going to be banned from Europe for two years because I think, they had too much money.
But, as these things usually pan out, they said they’d think about it again in six months’ time when, lo and behold they decided they didn’t have too much money after all.
However, in the meantime, according to Pep, Arsenal had led a consortium of Premier League clubs who’d been sneaking around the authorising body and telling tales on City, about how they’d been caught smoking and staying out late so that the ban would be enforced, and Pep just isn’t having it. He’s demanded an apology and told rival clubs to stop ‘whispering’ about City behind their backs.
This will all be forgotten if they win the Champions League, which the media has already decided is going to happen. For this to become a cert, Pep has to find a defence from somewhere that understands what’s supposed to happen when the ball gets past their pressing attack and midfield and actually comes down their end of the field. Step forward John Stones for a last minute of glory before ‘leaving the club in the summer’.
And he better be pretty sharpish because between the CL final and the start of the new league he’ll probably have about a week and half the ways things are going.
On a more positive front Pep has spoken eagerly about the Premier League arrival of Marcelo Bielsa, the Leeds manager who he describes as:
...absolutely at the top of the list.
Not sure what list he’s referring to, but the guy is quirky, eccentric, a maverick - an academic when it comes to football, he’s worked out there’s a maximum number of formations a team can possibly play - I think it’s 29 - so he’s basically written the Kama Sutra for football, and if he walks out on the opening day of the season and chins Jose Mourinho on the touchline before kick-off, I for one will not be disappointed.
I must admit that I am sorry to see that Brentford won’t be joining the top table this year - I do feel for them. It would’ve been so refreshing to see them compete against the top teams under the spotlight, but it’s as their manager Thomas Frank said:
Football is 80% suffering and 10% joy.
If only he’d worked out what the other 10% was - they really might have made it