The Fiver | Churning out a substandard product and somehow clinging on to our job

FRANK DISCUSSIONS

The Fiver knows a thing or two about churning out a substandard product and yet somehow clinging on to our job. We’ve been dodging our appraisal with The Man for the best part of two decades. When it comes to accountability you can count on us to be invisible. So in a surprising turn up for the books, perhaps your favourite second-rate daily football missive is actually well placed to dish out some advice for once.

You see, after Chelsea slumped to their fifth defeat in eight Premier League games at Leicester, poor old Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is moving ever closer to becoming Plain Old Frank Lampard again. Or even worse, there has been talk of Avram Grant being parachuted in to help him fix things at Chelsea. It is an idea almost as ludicrously bad as the time Weird Uncle Fiver was given a temp job as a window dresser in Debenhams.

The current look for FLCMFL is not a good one. Having harped on about not having been able to spend any cash in his first season at Stamford Bridge, Roman Abramovich loosened the purse strings to the tune of almost a quarter of a billion fat ones for Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech and Édouard Mendy. An influx of nascent talent that has propelled the club to the giddy heights of one place and three points below David Moyes.

So is FLCMFL prepared to carry the can for not making his astronomically-priced team sparkle? Of course not. “There are players who are not playing as well as they should be,” he scapegoated, as James Maddison ran rings around Havertz behind him. “They are the only ones who can deal with that.” More helpful for those costly youngsters would be a bit of confidence-building by FLCMFL not always shuffling them around like a pack of cards at a Premier League Poker match.

Perhaps FLCMFL’s blame-shifting attitude is not surprising. He has purred through life in football experiencing very few bumps in the road. After prangs at Leicester, Arsenal, Wolves, Everton and more in recent outings it is not surprising that he has found fault with the car, not the driver. It’s a decent stab at avoiding accountability but it won’t wash with us or Abramovich.

FLCMFL’s constant meddling with team selection is a sure-fire giveaway that he probably cares too much. Our advice to him would be to relax, kick back and stop trying too hard. Stick to the same old tired formula. It’s kept us in a job for long enough. And Abramovich has never looked happier than when he’s bored.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Scott Murray for Manchester City 2-1 Aston Villa at 6pm (GMT) and then hop on board with John Brewin for Fulham 2-2 Manchester United at 8pm.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Leicester leading, Lampard losing, Ligue Urrrrn latest, er, Lars Sivertsen: it’s all in today’s Football Weekly.

Football Weekly

Leicester go top, Lampard feels the heat

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Lopetegui’s sacking hurt me personally because he is a top person and manager. He just went through a sh1tty period when he became Real Madrid coach. I was really happy for him when he won the [Big Vase] with Sevilla. He deserved it” – the always-good-value Toni Kroos gives a shout-out to Julen Lopetegui on his podcast.

Toni Kroos: just chillin’. Photograph: Alvaro Cabrera/EPA

FIVER LETTERS

“Can you stop your endless pathetic and unfunny jibes [unlikely – Fiver Ed] at Manchester United? What was it that hurt you so much in your puberty? It’s as tiresome as it is predictable” – Malcolm Reynolds.

“Your mention of ‘Agadoo’ in Tuesday’s Fiver brought back a question about the meaning of many dodgy song lyrics. I never knew how and why you could ‘push pineapple’, and I still have no clue what a ‘Wonderwall’ is. Thanks for getting the brain cells working again” – Gerry Rickard.

“The real Black Lace problem is I am the ruddy Music Man, a god awful song I’ve had to endure at every birthday, wedding, anniversary, retirement do and football awards night across the north of England, and induces actual grown adults to mime a German song for the under-fives” – Jon Millard.

“Joe Exotic got his hopes up with thoughts of glitz, glamour, and better times ahead, only to have them dashed. Us Spurs fans know his pain” – Craig Fawcett.

“Leicester may be top of the table, but as any proper fan like me will tell you, it’s the race to 40 points that really counts. In that season, we were on 39 points after 19 matches – one point from safety. This season we are on 38 points, two points from safety. Twice the distance as in 2015-16. Bah, Rodgers out!” – Rod de Lisle.

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 prize is … Malcolm Reyn Jon Millard.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Jürgen Klopp is easy-breezy despite Liverpool goals now being as rare as hen’s teeth. “Goals are not flying in, so we have to work on it. We will score again,” he blathered.

Arsenal have bundled Sokratis Papastathopoulos through the door marked Do One. “He has been a model professional throughout,” technical director Edu drooled. “We wish Papa and his family well for the future.”

Sokratis with the FA Cup.
Sokratis, in happier times. Photograph: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC/Getty Images

Scottish deputy first minister John Swinney has come steaming centre stage to reprimand Neil Lennon over the Queen’s Celtic’s trip to Dubai. “I’m at a loss for words,” he gasped. “I think his comments have been absolutely appalling”.

Danny Ings longs to hear that sweet Big Cup music.

The Premier League is investigating the curious incident of the Snod in the night-time. “Before I can answer anything that might put me, West Ham or anybody else in a bit of trouble I’ll see what the Premier League say,” blabbed Sam Allardyce after Robert Snodgrass was left out of West Brom’s 2-1 defeat by the Hammers.

Want to distract yourself from our dystopian reality with a bit of Newcastle v Palace? You’re in luck!

Brendan Rodgers says he’s not dreaming about leading Leicester to Premier League glory, which means he definitely is. “I don’t really think about it,” he fibbed. “We’ve seen changes at the top all season.”

USA!USA!!USA!!! midfielder Mix Diskerud has called time on a productive three-year spell at Manchester City (first-team appearances; zero) by joining Turkish Super Lig outfit Denizlispor.

And Roma manager Paolo Fonseca has promised an “internal discussion” after mistakenly sending on six substitutes in Roma’s Coppa Italia defeat by Spezia.

STILL WANT MORE?

Now Mesut Özil has floated through the door marked Do One at Arsenal, Nick Ames assesses what he symbolised at the Emirates.

Bryan Armen Graham profiles Brazilian playmaker Catarina Macario, who left home at 12 and is now at Women’s Big Cup champions Lyon.

Catarina Macario in US College Cup action.
Catarina Macario: skills. Photograph: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos/Getty Images

Spanish minnows Cornellà have their big neighbours Barcelona in their sights when they meet in Copa del Rey. Alexandra Jonson tells their story.

It won’t all be a party in the city where the heat is on for shy, modest Big Phil Neville at Inter Miami, warns Jakub Frankowicz.

Kevin Lasagna made a piping-hot start for Udinese today, scoring after 23 seconds. He’s in the latest Knowledge, which feasts on players with tasty names.

After we gave Po’ Frank Lampard a hiding up the page, here comes Jacob Steinberg with another boot in the swingers for the beleaguered Chelsea man [at time of writing – Fiver Ed].

Ings to get his Big Cup kicks at Spurs? Demarai Gray to Leverkusen? Speculate the hours away with the help of the Rumour Mill’s latest outpouring.

Ten players that should be on Premier League radars this month, care of Martin Laurence.

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