Football

Mediawatch: Rejoice, for Paul Merson has returned

Merse code
The Premier League is back, which means Paul Merson is back, which means Mediawatch’s smile is back. The world is a bright and beautiful place again.

There has been plenty of criticism surrounding the early closure of the transfer window, but the main positive has been overlooked: Merson pulling double duty on Sky Sports with transfer grades and predictions. What a bloody treat.

The magic man is tipping wins for Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bournemouth, Southampton and Chelsea, as is his wont. He also says Watford v Brighton and Bournemouth v Cardiff ‘are six pointers already’, which is a lovely, heartwarming and much-needed return to clichéville.

And while he expects West Ham to impress this season, he does not see them enjoying a promising first result against Liverpool.

“I can’t see anything but a Liverpool win,” he says. “West Ham have bought well but so have Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp has targeted where he needs to strengthen and I expect Alisson, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri to improve them.

“They look a really good team and this is a really tough start for Mauricio Pellegrini.”

But how will Manuel Pellegrino fare?

Nordin off
It is in his transfer grades that Merson finds top form early on, however. The man is at his absolute best discussing Watford. Try and find the problem.

‘I like Ben Foster, he’s a top goalkeeper, but I really worry for Watford. I thought Nordin Amrabat , as one of their best players last season, I thought he played well a lot of the time. Gerard Deulofeu, one minute he’s great and the next, he’s not. He’s a five or a nine – you never get that consistent seven every week. Foster will save them points, there’s no question, but I think they’re in a relegation battle.’

Any ideas? No? Nothing?

Now check the revised edition on the Sky Sports website, and see if you can spot the difference.

‘I like Ben Foster, he’s a top goalkeeper, but I really worry for Watford. Gerard Deulofeu, one minute he’s great and the next, he’s not. He’s a five or a nine – you never get that consistent seven every week. Foster will save them points, there’s no question, but I think they’re in a relegation battle.’

That’s right. Nordin Amrabat played four games for Watford last season – being substituted in three of them – before joining Leganes on loan in September, yet was “one of their best players last season”.

Finders, keepers
In Merson’s transfer grades, he is not quite sure what to make of Chelsea.

“I like Jorginho, he’s top drawer. Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid could be anything, but the goalkeeper is only 23 – you tell me how many world class goalies there are at 23, if any.”

Gianluigi Buffon joined Juventus aged 23; he was alright. Iker Casillas had just finished his fifth full season as Real Madrid goalkeeper when he was 23, and was a two-time La Liga and Champions League winner. Petr Cech was just 22 when he moved to Chelsea.

Sure, these are examples of players who were likely ahead of Kepa in their respective developments at that age, but the point stands. Chelsea are buying him as much for his potential as his current level.

Southampton and Wolves were both given the same arbitrary grade, but with the added remark of it being a ‘B+ with potential’. Why is Kepa not granted the same courtesy?

Spoiler alert
Bear in mind those quotes as Merson gives Everton a B+ (despite the fact they “spoiled” the transfer window). His gripe is with the fee paid for Richarlison. His point is that ‘goalies will win you as many games as Richarlison will’.

‘You go through football in time with World Cups, Premier Leagues and Champions Leagues, those big tournaments that you win, no one does it without a good goalkeeper. I’ve got no problem with people paying £60m for a goalkeeper.’

But you have a problem with Chelsea paying £71.6m for one? Glad we’ve cleared that up.

Magic touch
Having said all that, this is a genuinely lovely example of self-depreciation.

“Mohamed Elyounoussi from Basel is a good player, he’s going to be a nightmare for me to pronounce.”

It’s great to have you back, fella.

Lost in translation
Yerry Mina appears to have gone slightly off-script to the subtitles Everton seemingly had pre-prepared for him.

One question: what did he actually say about Marouane Fellaini there?

Where’s my money?
Daily Mirror headline: ‘£71m? It’s no big deal?’

Daily Mirror first paragraph: ‘Kepa Arrizabalaga clocked on at Chelsea as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper at £71million, shrugged and said: “I don’t feel any extra pressure.”‘

What happened to that £142m, guys?

Mirror, Mirror
The end of the Premier League transfer window spells bad news for websites based on garnering traffic through speculation and rumour. Not that the Mirror Online are about to let that stop them.

They promise us ‘5 HUGE transfers that can still happen – including Rose and Batshuayi’. By the time you click into the story the ‘HUGE’ has been dropped. Wonder why?

Perhaps because the list also includes Matteo Darmian’s HUGE move to Inter Milan, and Yannick Bolasie’s HUGE switch to Middlesbrough.

HUGE.

Great Scott
Of course, the end of the Premier League transfer window means precious little for some. The Sun website goes about its daily business without a care in the world on Friday.

‘Daniela Basso: Mexican actress, who is dating Wolves’ leading man Raul Jimenez, attracts headlines on screen and stage,’ reads the headline to a feature from Jon Boon, who is not new to this dance.

His article takes an all-too-literal look at the ‘supportive Wag’. And by that, we mean there are 14 pictures of Basso in a 255-word article. So one picture every 18.2 words. And just one of the pictures has Wolves striker Jimenez in it, posing with his girlfriend; the rest are all taken from her Instagram page.

Sure, it’s standard fare for The Sun website, but it’s just a bit sh*t. Their top story at lunchtime on Friday is that Alex Scott will make history by becoming the first female pundit on Sky Sports’ Super Sunday this weekend, and it is a genuinely positive step that they have given that news such prominence.

It is just unfortunate that any forward step is undone by more regular strides back into the 1970s.

Guessing game

Burn of the day

Oh good lord. Lukewarm water needed.

Recommended reading of the day
David Squires on Jose Mourinho.

Adam Bate on Man United’s defender search.


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