Mo Salah sensationally shunned as Premier League stars warned NOT to celebrate goals

·6-min read
Liverpool forward Mo Salah puts his head in his hands Credit: Alamy
Liverpool forward Mo Salah puts his head in his hands Credit: Alamy

International breaks are hard for everyone, but it really does seem to be low tide in Content Bay this mid-lull Wednesday. ChatGPT riding to the rescue feels distinctly dystopian to Mediawatch and gives a vague and unsettling end-times feel to it all. Happy Wednesday, anyway.


Chat sh*t, get banged
In one of those curious incidents where all the tabloids appear to have the same idea at the same time, dystopian Artificial Intelligence chatbot ChatGPT has been asked to name all-time XIs for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. We have literally no opinion on the teams selected – we don’t waste our time on all-time XIs selected by humans so we’re not going to start now for some Skynet bastard that will one day rise up and enslave us all.

What we will say is that, unlike the easily shocked and startled snowflakes at The Sun and The Mirror, we are not remotely surprised to discover that English football’s three most successful clubs of all time have each had more than 11 very good footballers across their entire histories and thus some very good footballers are missing from these computer-generated all-time XIs.

Honestly, we’re vaguely exhausted at the very idea of pretending to be furiously bewildered that a computer hasn’t picked Mo Salah in an all-time Liverpool team.

But mainly what we’re left thinking is that online football churnalists being impressed by ChatGPT feels very much like that bit in The Simpsons where the hack radio DJ is impressed by a formulaic slogan-spouting ‘DJ-3000’ machine that could easily replace him.

We know it’s international break and that’s always a struggle, but try and see past the end of your nose, guys!

If ChatGPT can already churn out serviceable all-time XIs (and each XI really is inoffensively fine as far as such an impossibly subjective thing ever can be) then it’s only a matter of time before it also masters ‘How Team X could line up if they sign Players Y and Z’ at which point an entire proud industry of churning bullshit is just lost to the machines forever.

Don’t praise the chatbot!


Turn and turn again
‘Premier League stars warned NOT to celebrate goals as FA confirm latest VAR U-turn’ barks a Mirror headline that requires vast amounts of unpacking.

If you’re as keen a student of football headlines as Mediawatch then a) we pity you and b) you will already have twigged that the key word doing all the heavy, misleading lifting here is ‘as’. There’s even some foreshadowing in our own sh*thouse cake-and-eat-it headline right at the top of the page there, look. We’re allowed, because when we do it it’s cute and knowing and meta. That’s what we tell ourselves anyway.

Anyway. In the Mirror’s example, as they know all too well,  it’s an ‘as’ that fully implies it’s the FA giving that grim, joyless warning about not celebrating goals and that this constitutes part of some U-turn on the ever-reliable clicks-and-anger generator that is VAR.

You’ll be shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that in fact none of that is true.

Julen Lopetegui reacts to assistant referee Gary Beswick during Wolves' defeat to Leeds. Credit: Alamy
Julen Lopetegui reacts to assistant referee Gary Beswick during Wolves' defeat to Leeds. Credit: Alamy

The warning NOT to celebrate goals comes is in fact ‘managers telling players to tone down celebrations’ which takes us to a Daily Mail story that reveals it is actually one manager, Julen Lopetegui, who said last month that his players (note the ‘we’) had to “start knowing we don’t have to celebrate goals”.

So from an FA warning, to Premier League managers suggesting a thing to one Premier League manager making an off-hand comment several weeks ago.

But what’s this VAR U-turn? We’ve scoured the story and can only conclude that the U-turn is the rescinding of Matheus Nunes’ red card for his reaction to Leeds’ fourth goal. So it’s not a ‘VAR U-turn’, which deliberately and obviously implies some usage or protocol change for the system as a whole, but the overturning of a red card that wasn’t even awarded by VAR but in response to VAR.

Still, it’s undoubtedly a catchier and more successful headline than ‘Wolves boss Lopetegui tells specifically Wolves players not to celebrate goals as Wolves player Nunes has red card overturned’ if a vastly less accurate one. Because who cares about Wolves, honestly?


Four warning
‘How Team X could miss out on Champions League even if they finish fourth’ is a classic March international break staple, a format that relies almost entirely on everyone’s hazy memories of laughing at Spurs for missing out in 2012 when – and this is important – the rules were entirely different.

Back then, you could only have four teams from one country in the Champions League. So it ‘only’ needed a team from outside the top four to win the Champions League and bang, you’re screwed. Chelsea delivered, Spurs were screwed. Everyone had a good laugh.

But under the current rules, Spurs would have been fine because the maximum is now five. The Sun know this because it’s right there in the story, buried deep. Now for fourth place to miss out you need English Champions League and Europa League winners and for both to finish outside the top four.

Thus, Newcastle fans don’t really have to worry at all because ‘How Newcastle could be denied Champions League spot by Man Utd even if they finish fourth’ is for Manchester United to win the Europa League (very possible) while finishing outside the top four themselves (quite unlikely) and also for Chelsea to finish outside the top four (certain) and win the Champions League (very unlikely).

And even if we ignore 16/1 Chelsea sorting out Real Madrid and winning the Champions League for a moment, you don’t need a supercomputer to conclude that Newcastle finishing fourth but also ahead of Manchester United – and thus behind one of Spurs, Liverpool or Brighton – is itself already so unlikely as to not really be worth worrying about at this stage.

The whole sequence of events required is way more far-fetched than even the papers’ last such excitement over United’s 100/1 quadruple chances.

But by this point The Sun have got your click. And everyone else’s by the look of it, because this panic over something with almost no chance of happening currently spent Wednesday morning sitting proudly second behind some Declan Rice to Arsenal transfer tish on their ‘MOST READ IN FOOTBALL’ tab. Job done.


Red missed
The Sun did miss one obvious trick, though, a mistake avoided by the Mirror in their own rehashed version of this panic over a thing that won’t happen.

‘Liverpool and Newcastle could be denied Champions League place even if they finish fourth’

Rookie error from the Currant Bun, you have to say.

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