ONE, TWO, THREE … DRAW!
Since The Fiver last saw you, a mere 24 hours ago, a tempest has raged across the south of England depositing 387 billion gallons of rainwater in its wake, the president of the United States of America and leader of the free world has contracted a potentially lethal virus, and three, not just one, but three big draws have been made in the ever-exciting world of association football. And to think some days we struggle for news. Actually, we’d still have struggled had the Big Cup, Big Vase and Energy Tin draws not taken place, the other subjects falling well outside The Fiver’s remit, but you get the general point. Thank goodness for that wild frenzy of hot velvet-bag-cupping, balls-out action, eh kids?
Energy Tin first, and Arsenal will be wondering why the hell they bothered, a quarter-final tie with Manchester City their reward for seeing off Liverpool in a non-event at Anfield. Meanwhile in Big Cup, Manchester United will be wondering why the hell they bothered, a group containing PSG and RB Leipzig their reward for somehow finishing fourth last season despite lumbering themselves with a captain who has the grace, poise and elegance of a sack of unwashed tatties. And then on Friday there was Big Vase, which goes at least some way to answering United’s aforementioned philosophical poser, given that anyone in their right mind would bodyswerve these interminable Thursday-night commitments if they had an out.
Which is not to say Big Vase is utterly devoid of glamour. There are some seriously big names in this season’s competition. Milan! Benfica! Napoli! PSV! Bayer Leverkusen! Real Sociedad! Red Star! Feyenoord! Roma! And of course Sevilla, when they get cashiered from Big Cup halfway through before doing their usual thing. Arsenal are in an eye-catching group with Dundalk; fallen giants the Queen’s Celtic meet fallen giants Milan; fallen giants the Pope’s Newc O’Rangers meet fallen giants Benfica; and Spurs and Leicester can look forward to some match-ups for the purists, let’s leave it at that. It all starts up in three weeks’ time, theoretically, although with the events of 2020 continuing to unfold in unpredictable, scarcely believable, borderline psychedelic fashion, don’t press down too hard on your pencil while filling in your diary.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s a magical night, for us it would have been a shame not to get past this round” – Stefano Pioli, coach of aforementioned fallen giants Milan, sums up the lowered expectations after one of the more spectacular penalty shootouts The Fiver has had the pleasure of witnessing, opponents Rio Ave missing three sudden-death spot-kicks that would have secured victory before losing 9-8. All after Milan equalised with one of the last kicks of extra-time. If the link’s working, do try and watch.
Football Weekly Extra is here.
Calvert-Lewin on fire and fake crowds leaving games early
Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen https://audio.guim.co.uk/2020/10/01-59024-gnl.fw.20201001.ic.everton.mp3
“In the episode of All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur that recounts the days leading up to the coronavirus lockdown, there is a scene in which a staff member describes to a group of players how easily and quickly germs can spread. ‘Coronavirus isn’t the only thing you can catch,’ he begins. ‘Say, in the morning, you shake 40 hands.’ When he goes on to pose the question, ‘how many of those people have been to the toilet and not washed their hands?’’, guess which player the camera is trained on? None other than Eric Dier” – Peter Oh.
“Re: Fiver letters passim. My name’s Bill Muskett and I’m a Sunderland supporter and Fiver reader. I don’t know about relief, that probably just makes me some kind of masochist, especially as I’m a Labour Party member as well” – Bill Muskett.
“With the consecutive days of people professing to be Sunderland fans, I felt I should note I am not a Sunderland fan” – James Armstrong.
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 … Bill Muskett. Next week, though … prizes! We will be giving away copies of Football’s Black Pioneers: the Stories of the First Black Players to Represent the 92 League Clubs [postage available to UK only, sorry – Fiver Postal Ed].
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Kilmarnock v Motherwell is off after the hosts’ entire squad was advised to self-isolate for 14 days, with six players having tested positive for Covid-19.
Wolves winger Adama Traoré has been called up for international duty by Spain and Mali. Awkward. “As far as I’m aware, he wants to play for us, but it’s his decision and we’ll always respect players’ decisions on these things,” tooted Luis Enrique.
Sergiño Dest insists it wasn’t a truck-load of Euros that persuaded him to join Barcelona over Bayern Munich. “I followed what my heart told me to and for that I signed for Barca,” he cheered.
Liverpool will pocket £23.5m from Sheffield United for Rhian Brewster, while also negotiating a 15% sell-on clause and buyback option for the next three years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær reckons his Manchester United squad would be strong enough should there not be any further strengthening. “After two games already I’ve seen many of the players who didn’t play too much last season performing really well,” he line-towed.
Arsenal could loan William Saliba back to a club in France as they look to clear space for a traditionally over-priced deadline-day acquisition.
West Ham’s right-back hunt has taken them to a £5m deal for Slavia Prague’s Vladimir Coufal.
Manchester City will face Everton in the Women’s FA Cup final after seeing off Arsenal 2-1.
And expect to read plenty more about old friends Pep and Marcelo before Leeds host Manchester City in a 19-19 draw on Saturday. “I do not feel like a mentor to Guardiola,” sighed Bielsa. “It’s not just how I feel, it has been evidenced to not being the case. If there’s a manager who is independent in his own ideas, that is Guardiola. It’s not just because I say it is, it’s because his teams play like no other team.”
STILL WANT MORE?
A season with Verona, 20 years on. By Rick Hough.
Jonathan Wilson casts his eye over the Big Cup draw.
You’ll be shocked to learn there are 10 things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend.
Next off the rank for Manchester City’s luxuriously-priced defensive arrivals: Kalidou Koulibaly Rúben Dias. Will he become their rock, wonders Jamie Jackson.
As the National League resumes, Ben Fisher catches up with Wealdstone.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!