Head-in-the-clouds positivity and baseless optimism

In today’s Fiver: Sánchez-Özil Arsenal exit talk returns, Gordon Strachan departs and palindromes get their day in the sun


It was with happy timing that, on the day Michel Barnier and David Davis surfaced for their now-regular bouts of not-so-passive aggression, a fresh dispatch was offered on another potentially ruinous separation. The protracted severing of ties between Arsenal and their two highest-profile players will, you’d think, be completed far sooner than Brexit and certainly has a more realistic chance of actually happening so any fresh development is always worth paying due heed.

This morning’s morsel came from Arsène Wenger, an avowed opponent of … errrm … SanchOzExit but one who has tended to take a more Davis-esque stance of head-in-the-clouds positivity and baseless optimism where his key men are concerned. Not so, this time. The impasse might reach a conclusion mercifully soon – if you can call January soon, but in the context of the many agonies undergone in this excruciating tale it feels like forever.

“Once you are in our kind of situation we have envisaged every kind of solution yes,” Wenger said when asked about the prospect of a premature parting. “It’s possible.” He followed that by reverting to type and observing how content the players seemed at the moment – an image that might darken when Alexis Sánchez, desolate in the knowledge that there isn’t at least the prospect of a World Cup to look forward to anymore – jets back into London Colney tomorrow. Sánchez will just have to channel any residual energy into tearing his hair out at Theo Walcott; Mesut Özil’s current peace with life may actually be genuine given nobody else seems too hellbent on getting hold of him at all.

Mesut Özil
Mesut Özil at rest. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

This saga is fuelled by the unspoken assumption that losing the two would be rotten news. It really would not, which automatically separates it from Brexit; the world will keep turning and Arsenal will keep enjoying false-dawn months like September, batting away Bournemouth, Brighton and BATE before coming undone when in-form opposition from the top five bowl up.

If you’re among those who think it would all be too much, though, an early Christmas present seems to be in store. Not a new contract for MesChez, but literally an early Christmas present – a trip to watch your boys in action hours before the big day. Wenger’s drawing of a 2pm line in the sand for the mooted 24 December fixture with Liverpool did not look particularly arbitrary so 60,000 people can probably get their apologies in now. Arsenal don’t have any further home games in December so what could be more festive than a proper north London send-off? That would, admittedly, assume exit negotiations have moved onto the next stage by then, perhaps facilitating trade talks with PSG or, in Özil’s case, more likely someone in China or the Middle East; the present glacial rate of progress is a state of affairs nobody in N5 or beyond would have voted for.


“My seat was in the middle of the airplane. I didn’t have my seatbelt on, and when they found me I was near the cockpit” – Edu Nandlal on his remarkable survival on board Surinam Airways flight 764 in this forgotten story by Nick Miller: the tragic tale of the Colourful XI, a Dutch-Surinamese team who were virtually wiped out in a plane crash in 1989.


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“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. Could you not have omitted the comma in ‘Concacaf whipping boys, Panama and Paul Merson in Wales’? I laughed, unusually for your headers as I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses” – Wee Scottie.

“A man, a plan, a canal, Panama. Palindromes of the world (cup), unite!” – Mike Edwards.

“As an expat who will be watching my seventh World Cup here next year I will definitely not miss the “USA! USA! USA!” chant being hurled at me in every pub. But I confess that I will miss Teddy Goalsavelt” – Patrick Carr.

“In response to Rob Morgan’s letter [Wednesday’s Fiver letters] on the residency period in rugby, even though I’m not an oval-ball-loving pedant, I still know that the residency rule in rugby is now five years. So not only was he probably not using irony correctly, he wasn’t using the rugby residency rule correctly either. If only Alanis Morissette was an oval-ball-loving pedant we could settle the matter entirely” – James Crickley.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And if you’ve nothing better to do you can also tweet The Fiver. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Mike Edwards.


The Scottish FA will be either be looking for a big, strapping new manager or an expert geneticist after Wee Gordon Strachan left his job as national team manager.

Gordon Strachan
Gordon Strachan heads through the door marked ‘Do One’. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

PSG and BeIn Sports head honcho Nasser Al-Khelaifi could be in the soup: Swiss federal prosecutors are looking into allegations that he bribed officials to get broadcast rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

Paul Scholes, he scores goals, but can he manage football teams? We might find out soon enough, as the bloke who used to kick footballs at colleagues having a wee on the training ground is speaking to Oldham about their top gig.

Nerves jangled like a late-80s indie pop guitar at the end, but Chelsea Ladies held on to win their Champions League tie against Bayern Munich on away goals.

Good news for fans of Tottenham and the phrase ‘like a new signing’: Danny Rose and Erik Lamela are both firmly back on the mend after long-term knack.


Sign up and receive the best of Big Website’s coverage, every Friday, it says here. Seems to be a curious lack of mentions for The Fiver …


Pass the sherry and the denture glue: it’s the age of the old-timers. Simon Burnton looks at the willingness of clubs to look beyond youth and to the wise old experienced heads.

Oscar moved to China for the bunce, but not to pay for gold toilets or hire diamond-encrusted monkey butlers, rather to help out his family. Fair play.

Oscar in action for Shanghai SIPG
Oscar in action for Shanghai SIPG. Photograph: Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Will the USA! USA! USA! men’s national team actually benefit from missing their first World Cup since 1986? Tom Dart has a ponder

Turkish side Altinordu are trying to succeed using only Turkish players. Could it work? Emre Sarigul has a look.

Ever wondered exactly why playing at home is such an advantage for footballers? Here’s a real live footballer, Liam Rosenior, to explain.

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