A pitiful state of affairs that often leads to painful introspection | Football


Earlier on Tuesday afternoon, The Fiver finally stopped emitting the peals of loud, rich, booming, theatrical, industrial-strength laughter that began when Juventus got themselves knocked out of Big Cup during the week in which the brains of their operation, Andrea Agnelli, revealed plans to reconfigure the very same tournament in ways designed to benefit certain badly-run behemoths. The continuous seven-day guffaw marathon came at a heavy cost to The Fiver, who dislodged two items in its special area, and is now sitting in a tepid puddle. But, on balance, it was still worth it. One hundred million euros for that, yet further away from the dream than ever. What a business!

But The Fiver isn’t exactly a roaring success story itself, a pitiful state of affairs that often leads to painful introspection. What if Agnelli was making a semblance of a point? What if he’s actually on to something? After all, the group stage of Big Cup is boring, and the Round of Arsenal/PSG/Barça/Juve isn’t much better. Look at Tuesday’s fare. Manchester City, who have won 148 games in a row against teams not managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, take on a Borussia Mönchengladbach side that has lost their past six, with two away goals in their pocket. Meanwhile Real Madrid also host a tie having already won the away leg, against a side who earlier in the season shipped five against Blackeye Rovers ‘96 revivalists Liverpool, for goodness sake.

So this proposal of Agnelli’s, which includes a scheme to televise only the last 15 minutes of matches to some of the new attention-deficient generation, might not be so whacko after all. Nobody loves Slow TV more than The Fiver, but if you’re going to put your feet up, roll a few tots of malt around the tongue and stare at a screen in a mellow mood for a two-hour brain-in-neutral stretch, better to watch a barge traverse a west-country canal than the likes of Thomas Doyle and Cole Palmer getting a rare run-out against some mid-table Bundesliga also-rans. A quick blast of City’s tyros for a quarter of an hour? Not so much of a problem. We might give it a try later, in fact, only tuning in at 9.30pm GMT, the time when even a stopped clock like Agnelli can be proved right every day. Less, please!


Join Paul Doyle from 8pm GMT for hot Big Cup MBM coverage of Manchester City 2-1 Gladbach (agg: 4-1), while Scott Murray will be on hand for Real Madrid 3-3 Atalanta (agg: 4-3).


“I want to do something productive. If you are a banker you can do that for all your life, but if you are a footballer once you hit your mid-30s, you have to find something else to do … I see some similarities to football. In football if not all the team is perfect you will not win. It’s the same with a watch, if everything is not perfectly in place the watch is not going to work” – former Juventus, Arsenal and Switzerland defender Stephan Lichtsteiner on starting a six-month internship with Zurich watchmaker Maurice de Mauriac. Perhaps the Gunners’ current skipper should give him a call.

Stephan Lichtsteiner during his internship at the production facility in Zurich. Obviously.
Stephan Lichtsteiner during his internship at the production facility in Zurich. Obviously. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters


“Seven years into owner Dejphon Chansiri’s three-year plan to get Sheffield Wednesday into the Premier League, we are still in the Championship (although only for the next two months). Back in November we were second from bottom, so to reverse our fortunes the owner sacked Garry Monk, who had a rather pitiful 31% win ratio and replaced him with Tony Pulis, who himself was sacked due to his even more pitiful 10% win ratio with the club still second from bottom. He was replaced by Darren Moore, who currently has a 0% win ratio, albeit after only three games, leaving us … yep, second from bottom. If only Chansiri was aware that changing the manager rarely makes a difference, something he could have learnt from Big Paper time and time again” – Noble Francis.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Noble Francis.


It’s David Squires on … Andrea Agnelli and the Big Cup fans of tomorrow.

Here we go!
Here we go! Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian


If you missed it yesterday, here’s a screamer from Bulgaria that ultimately counted for nought as the game was abandoned.


Rui Patrício did not require hospital treatment after his horrible collision with Conor Coady but will be assessed by Wolves’ medical staff.

Think your club is in crisis? Dinamo Zagreb coach Zoran Mamic has quit after being sentenced to four years in jail for fraud. “Although I don’t feel guilty, I resign as I said before I would do if the sentence was confirmed,” he tooted. “I wish all the good luck to the club.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 94, is set to play in the European Championship after being recalled by Sweden for the first time since his international retirement in 2016. “The return of the God,” he parped in a social media disgrace post that doubtless elicited a measured response from the Robbie Fowler fan club.

Southampton netbuster Che Adams has been called up to the Scotland squad for the first time. Adams, who played for England U-20s, qualifies through a maternal grandparent and a nagging feeling that Gareth Southgate only has eyes for Danny Ings when he comes to watch Southampton.

Matteo Guendouzi says he will “work hard for the shirt” when he returns to Arsenal after his loan at Hertha Berlin. “We will sit down with my entourage and people at the club to discuss the future,” cheered the 21-year-old. “This summer will be a decisive moment. I belong to Arsenal for another year. I will give ever …” Hang on, he said entourage!

And Arsène Wenger, with his Fifa global development hat on, reckons the World Cup and Euros should be held every two years. “Kick all the rest out,” he roared, as the Nations League sheepishly waved in the background. “Organise only competitions of meaning and kick all the parallel competitions out of the game. People must understand what is at stake and only have games with meaning.”


$tevie Mbe isn’t the first Liverpool legend to win the title as O’Rangers manager. Steven Pye looks back at the 1986-87 season, when Graeme Souness put his unique stamp on Scottish football.

There you go.
There you go. Photograph: Colorsport/Rex/Shutterstock

From the archive: The Joy of Six – rabonas.

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

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