Here's Jack Lang on Chelsea vs Arsenal, Man United ticket wars, AVB's driving career and more...
V! A! R U still awake?
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. One week on from The Match of the Season So Far™, Chelsea and Arsenal served up a platter of tepid gruel on Wednesday night, playing out a goalless draw in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final.
Two-legged domestic cup ties are a drag at the best of times, but these, in a competition most teams don’t bother until precisely this stage and coming at the end of that frantic, sapping festive schedule, are a recipe for… well, the word “disaster” implies at least some level of intrigue, so let’s go for “an unscheduled early night”.
There were actually a few semi-interesting subplots lurking at the fringes of the match: Alex Iwobi starting after his recent foray into outraged tabloid headlines, Alexis ‘Just Bloody Sign Me Already and Get It Over With’ Sanchez being left out of the Arsenal XI, Alvaro Morata battling his inner finishing demons. But the occasion failed to spark into life, drifting by in a bleary blur of blue and red underachievement.
If there was a silver lining, it was that there was no real momentum to be broken up by a series of increasingly painful will-he-or-won’t-he close-up shots of Martin Atkinson deciding whether or not to consult the video assistant referee.
Indeed, The Warm-Up suspects that the current method of deciding which incidents to examine, which presumably involves a dartboard, a blindfold and a starry-eyed intern, might actually have been a more watchable spectacle on this occasion. Perhaps the fans chanting “V! A! R!” in the stands had access to an illegal stream on their phones.
Overall, it was telling that the highlight of the evening was the sight of Arsene Wenger – banned from the touchline – sitting with the journalists in the Stamford Bridge press box. It remains to be seen whether the Frenchman will be gracing our sports pages when he finally decides to hang up his tactics board, but the omens are surely good: that is an absolutely vintage 700-words-on-the-final-whistle-but-eff-all-to-write-about furrowed brow.
Anything you can do…
Hey, you know which fans are really important? Our fans, that’s who.
Yes, welcome to Manchester United vs Sevilla, a battle that has begun raging – albeit in a very tedious, logistical way – long before the teams themselves begin their last-16 tie in the Champions League.
If you’re new to this, the background is that the Spanish club hiked ticket prices for United fans planning to visit the Sanchez Pizjuan to a whopping £89 – fully £35 more than they charged Liverpool fans during the group stage.
United announced yesterday, in an email to their supporters, that they would subsidise the difference, which is nice. But they’re funding that by… increasing Old Trafford ticket prices to £89 for visiting Sevilla fans, many of whom, you imagine, will have been dismayed by their own club’s cynicism at the outset.
Sevilla’s response? A subsidy of their own, of course, and a promise to talk to UEFA about United’s price hike. It’s like a stalemate in a really dull game of chess: everyone’s a loser.
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