Poch and Emery must spice up the script

Offering an idea for sale to the week’s sport In the North London derby tomorrow afternoon, Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino will enjoy a welcome break from the tedious business of narrative control.

Poch and Emery must spice up the script

In the North London derby tomorrow afternoon, Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino will enjoy a welcome break from the tedious business of narrative control.

It is Poch and Unai who will have to work hardest in that department this season.

They will need creative writers to script their tricky campaigns. To bring their audiences along with them.

With the Premier League reduced to a two-horse canter after just three weeks, the main storyline looks after itself.

Though there are early signs that Pep Guardiola will at least spice up this year’s sequel with conspiratorial mutterings about technology making life difficult for City.

Were VAR, say, to deny them a goal at Anfield in November, expect Pep to portray this season as a remake of Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive, where the machines came alive and went on a homicidal rampage.

For his part, Jurgen Klopp will no doubt stick with the maudlin love story that has played to appreciative theatres so far.

There will be regular, self-conscious displays that underline how ‘this means more’, in Liverpool’s time-honoured style — his charge onto the field after the Super Cup shootout a moving opening sequence.

At Chelsea, meanwhile, Lamps is fortunate to have his script written for him.

A transfer ban gives Blues fans the chance to enjoy a parallel universe science fiction thriller where they are a club with values and patience and commitment to youth.

A surprisingly tender coming of age drama with Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount cast as Frank’s callow sons.

At Old Trafford, Ole’s period drama set in the Nineties will presumably throw as much nostalgia as possible at the screen until something sticks.

And if nothing does work, perhaps United can give Phil Neville next crack in their own remake of High Fidelity, where John Cusack sought out all his ex-girlfriends in a bid to figure out what went wrong with his life.

Most of the other gaffers will be happy to direct some kind of survival tale, as long as they are not the ones ultimately sacrificed and eaten for the good of the group.

Though a few leading men — the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Marco Silva — will have designs on showcasing a philosophy that ensures they get further plum roles.

Having achieved that much already, Nuno Espirito Santo may now need to attach himself to the right screenplay before everyone forgets his best scenes.

While Eddie Howe may just have to get out before he is typecast as Alan Curbishley.

It is certainly an added pressure on managers, this need to keep an eye on the narrative.

Witness the freedom Mick McCarthy enjoys with his Ireland ending already written, not even obliged to throw in Troy Parrott as a plot device to keep his audience interested.

However, Poch and Unai have more work cut out for them.

They need a story arc, a motivation for their characters beyond the quest for the third and fourth place trophies.

Poch must be aware he will soon enter that danger zone once inhabited by the man who invented those trophies, Arsene Wenger, a place where continual overachievement is eventually seen as underachievement.

Like Wenger in the days when a new set was being built around him, Poch has been able to make a virtue of shooting low-budget.

His shoestring Blair Witch Project might have made millions but now there’s a danger his actors are calling in Equity looking for proper pay.

It is not easy to keep churning out sequels for a franchise.

Like any director running out of ideas, Poch may soon need to throw in an emotional montage, perhaps in the shape of a frolic around Wembley with an actual trophy.

But then that didn’t save Wenger either. And there remains the nagging sense that Spurs is Poch’s uplifting second act before a twist in the tail leads to his happy ending elsewhere.

Emery has a different problem at Arsenal, where many see him as a caretaker, a holding pattern, the Spanish Bruce Rioch, supervising a little character development before the real drama resumes.

Emery’s immediate task is to return the club to the level Wenger was routinely lambasted for settling at.

With that in mind, he seems keen to recast Arsenal as a plucky underdog, a well-worn ploy made popular by supervillain Jose Mourinho.

He began work on this backstory pre-season, urging fans to be ‘realistic’.

And in the buildup to last week’s game there was a ‘joke’ that Arsenal never want to play Liverpool.

Emery then proceeded to park a diamond-shaped bus at Anfield while Liverpool drove around at 50mph — David Luiz as Keanu Reeves in a bizarre damage limitation exercise.

It drew surprisingly positive reviews from some of the critics.

Gary Neville was so gushing in his praise of their bravery that we can almost expect Arsenal to begin work on a sequel to 89, the movie about the miracle of Anfield.

In a downbeat follow-up, 85 will commemorate Lucas Torreira’s consolation goal with five minutes to go.

Unai’s script has divided Arsenal fans this week.

At a club where there will always be a soft spot for Rocky Rocastle, many were happy enough with a gallant losing bout with Kloppo Creed.

Some see Emery’s Valencification of Arsenal as a necessary embrace of humility before the grueling climb ahead.

To prolong his own spell in charge of that assent, Emery will soon need to unveil a philosophy of his own.

But he and Poch can forget all that tomorrow, when they just need to win.

Do that their audience will forget the script and simply enjoy the stunts.

Clifford hiding in plain sight

Mike Quirke this week doubled down on his insistence that there is no Kerry ‘media mafia’, no secret back channels keeping the Kingdom’s punditocracy on the same page.

There is a WhatsApp group for the 2009 team alright, honoured at a GPA function this weekend, but Mike says nobody posts on it, for fear they are accused of fuelling the latest conspiracy.

There was no phase two of the Gough controvassy this week, yet something more subtle presented itself.

They all wrote fairly and entertainingly and authoritatively as ever. Quirke, Fitzy, Darragh and co. Match-ups, kickout ploys, pressing strategies.

And yet one word was conspicuously missing from all their previews and theses. Clifford.

Not one word.

Have a people subconsciously aligned to protect the boy wonder? To shade him from the glare. Maybe even hide him in plain sight.

Naturally he didn’t appear at the press night. Though they couldn’t quite keep a lid on it all.

On Newstalk, Ger Gilroy likened Clifford v Con to Messi v Ronaldo.

Clifford has to be Messi. As PM O’Sullivan explained in this paper last year, he is the latest in a line of perfectly balanced cross-lateralized geniuses.

Left-footed, right-handed, like Messi and Gooch.

He is the boy who never makes a bad decision, the footballer without a weakness, the player who makes sense of a confused sport whenever he takes possession.

Each time he steps on the field, he looks a player born with a destiny. A player born for a very special occasion. A player born for tomorrow?

He’ll surely stick at least two goals and three points, which ought to be factored into the accounts somewhere, you’d think.

Maybe it just didn’t dawn on them.

Heroes and Villains


Eric Cantona: Belatedly delivered a show-stopping performance on the European stage.

What better time to muse on the downside of eternal life than during an interminable Champions League draw?


Bournemouth: Parable offootball and gambling’s contradictory affair: Free ice-creams at the ‘Vitality Stadium’.

But only to over-18s because they were sponsored by Mansion Bet.

Quirke's Extra-time: The final predictions. Who calls it for Dublin by eight or nine?

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