The Fiver | Defending is going the same way as democracy and dignity

The Fiver | Defending is going the same way as democracy and dignity


The Fiver’s a bit bleary eyed. Our weekly Premier League Years marathon started on Tuesday morning and despite staying up all night we’re still only on 2008-09: fact. It means we’ve only just caught up with the Big Cup action. There were a whopping 36 goals in eight games, it says here. That’s 4.5 per match, another reminder that defending is going the same way as democracy, dignity and the private digital conversation. So far it’s been a triumphant Big Cup season for our brave boys. Liverpool’s 5-0 shellacking of Atalanta and Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Olympiakos mean that, in this season’s competition, English clubs have a combined record of P10 W9 D1 L0 F28 A2. How d’ya like that fruit and veg, “Europe”?

There’s every chance the good form will continue on Wednesday: Chelsea are at home to their goalkeeper-feeder club Rennes, while Manchester United are hoping to turn another corner away to Istanbul Basaksehir. Alas, BT Sport does not yet offer a red-button service that allows us to watch the game while listening to Roy Keane’s internal monologue. United will also meet up with an old friend: Rafael da Silva, the right-back who captured the hearts of their fans when he offered out the entire Liverpool team at Anfield in 2011.

Even if Chelsea and United win, they will struggle to match Liverpool’s spectacular dehipsterisation of Atalanta in Bergamo. Diogo Jota, who played instead of Roberto Firmino, scored his first Liverpool hat-trick. This prompted much talk of a changing of the guard from those unfamiliar with a concept called rotation that has been in existence since the early 1990s. Such talk did not impress Jürgen Klopp much. “Good performances never give me a headache,” he said, violently headbutting a wall six times to show how little his head was hurting, and how often Liverpool have won Big Cup. “But the world is sometimes a really bad place that in the moment when somebody is shining, we speak immediately about another player who played for us, it feels like, 500 games in a row. We would not even be in [Big Cup] if Firmino were not with us. On a good day he is impossible to defend against.”

More to the point, Liverpool’s usual front three allows The Fiver to bang on about $exy MFS in the hope our Prince-spired acronym will catch on. MJS just doesn’t compare. Besides, it’s already been taken by My Job Scotland and MJS Construction Ltd, a company that was originally established as a reinforced concrete frames specialist, before expanding into groundwork and complete construction solutions. Maybe their next expansion should be into football: there are a few managers who could do with tips on how to build a solid foundation.


Join Gregg Bakowski from 5.55pm BST for hot MBM coverage of Istanbul Basaksehir 1-3 Manchester United, while Rob Smyth will be on hand for Chelsea 2-0 Rennes at 8pm.


“I’m just absolutely speechless at how much money we’ve raised, how many have been donated and how many kind messages of support have come in” – 11-year-old Imogen Papworth-Heidel, who has completed her challenge to reach 7.1 million keepy-uppies, one for every UK key worker, to raise money for a number of charities. She completed 1,123,586 herself during an unbroken 195-day run, reaching more than 7,000 a day during lockdown and the summer holidays. The remaining 5,976,414 were donated by around 2,000 people who took videos of themselves joining in the challenge and emailed them to her parents. Go Imogen!

Imogen wrapped up the last 3,000 at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium.


Fresh out of the editing suite, here’s the latest Football Weekly podcast.

Football Weekly

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“Remember how Small Talk always used to ask ‘who’d win in a fight between a lion and a tiger?’ Well, looking at the Colombian Primera B, the Tigers have been up against the Lions five times this year with one win, three draws and one loss each. So, sadly, there’s no conclusive winner, something the great Samuel Eto’o was presumably aware of during his infamous appearance” – Noble Francis.

“Re: Mark Jones on football dinosaurs (yesterday’s Fiver letters). I always thought Zinedine Zidane in his playing days (especially when he still had some hair, at least around his head) resembled this. Of course, after the 2006 World Cup final, this was highlighted even more” – Leon-Ben Lamprecht.

“StegArturosaurus. A football dinosaur native to Chile that is clearly identifiable by its spiky ridges resembling a mohawk” – Adam Mungin.

“Plain Old John Terry-dactyl, Duvan Zapat-osaurus and Richard Keys” – Tim Jones.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Tim Jones.


Diego Maradona is in recovery following successful surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.

Mamadou Sakho has won a libel action against Wada and is to receive “substantial damages” after it repeated false claims about a drugs test taken by the defender. “It’s not easy when you are a professional athlete and are accused of doping,” he said. “It is the worst thing that can happen to you.”

Mamadou Sakho there.

Southampton striker Danny Ings could be out for six weeks with knee-gah. “It could be worse, but he’ll be out and it’s not good news for us,” sighed Ralph Hasenhüttl.

$tevie Mbe has a right funk on with Jordan Jones and George Edmundson after the Pope’s Newc O’Rangers pair breached Covid regulations to attend a party. “The players know they’ve let themselves down and their families, they’ve also badly let their teammates down and the supporters,” he fumed, before seemingly conjuring up some Middle Ages disciplinary action. “They will be punished, internally.”

Manchester United head coach Casey Stoney isn’t best pleased after their Conti Cup tie at Everton was called off for safety reasons. “I must make it clear that we as a club wanted this game to be played and were accommodating in the options that were put forward,” she sniffed.

Swindon boss Richie Wellens is now Salford City boss Richie Wellens, dropping down a division to return to his former club. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to take the club to where they want to be,” he cheered.

And Vrelo Sport have been awarded a 3-0 win over Spartak in the Serbian lower leagues after the visitors pitched up with seven players and got one dubiously knacked inside the first five seconds, forcing the referee to abandon the match.


Like a student in freshers’ week, Liverpool are reinventing themselves. Jonathan Liew has more.

Segue alert: what is the heaviest league defeat suffered by a title-winning team? This week’s Knowledge has the answer.

Manchester United’s Emily Ramsey tells Suzanne Wrack about hunger, talent and playing for the club she grew up supporting.

Brendan Rodgers deserves more praise for Leicester’s brilliant start, so says Brendan Rodgers Martin Laurence.

And they got there in the end. Tom Jenkins was there for Wimbledon’s return to Plough Lane.

It’s been too long.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!