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Hi guys,

I love this time of the season. Everything is concluding, gradually and dramatically, with final outcomes materialising in ways that none of us can predict. Take Wednesday night. Everton men have had a terrible season and yet, when it mattered most, they pulled out the performance needed to take a huge step towards their own survival, while seriously shitting on rivals Liverpool’s hope of winning the title. Stunning.

It’s hard to look away when there are so many games in which each goal is a further twist in a club's tale, of which there are so many running concurrently. We are spoilt.

It makes writing about it a bit harder, though, cuz normally a lot of what people have to say about football involves observing shifts in trends or making predictions, which is less intriguing when the big full stop is so rapidly approaching. We'll find out soon enough. Let's just... find out?

What's more, with pressure at its zenith, so much of what is going on out there is attributable to sheer psychological mettle, and it’s too late to make big changes, so speculative statements about what teams are lacking or ought to do differently are redundant.

Of course, it doesn't help that Man Utd being on the verge of potentially winning some actual silverware puts paid to any Marc Skinner rinsing, for the moment.

For the moment.

Yeah, everyone is too scared of what might or might not happen to say anything too bold about what might or might not happen. I’m cool with that. Sometimes the footie just speaks for itself. Enjoy it guys!


Do That Again

With all that in mind, time to fall back on a treasured old skill of mine — writing a whole lotta something about a whole lot of nothing happenin’ on social media.

Except this time, I’m pleased to say the footballer in question has something a bit more inspired than your classic ‘we go again’ to share.

Fans are so unused to players expressing themselves in a considered way on the internet that the moment Arsenal and England defender Lotte Wubben-Moy shared an Instagram post with a caption running beyond one paragraph, supporters imploded, imagining that such an endeavour could only be inspired by a need to thank the fans before she sadly moves onto another club.

“Gave me a freaking heart attack,” a fan called Erin commented, while another instructed, “Jesus, don’t do that again”.

Well, Lotte, allow me to step forth and say ‘thanks’ for actually saying something nice, not out of obligation to fans, or in accordance with custom — but just ‘coz.
“home is a place where you know the people, the smell, the layout,” she wrote on Monday. “where familiarity means comfort and comfort means belonging. at home is where you can be most yourself.

“just as I am eager to go home in the evening, am I too to return to the Emirates next season. to hear the same songs, see the same people + smell that good good grass.

“because who needs to step outside your comfort zone when home is where the most growth has happened this year. records broken n all.

“have loved making the Emi cosy with you, Gooners. can’t thank you enough. x”

Arsenal’s nesting at the Emirates stadium has been a triumph this season. I went twice to watch Jonas Eidevall’s lasses on the giant stage and both occasions were fun, comfortable, and unlike any games I’ve seen elsewhere.

It’s remarkable how quickly I’ve grown accustomed to watching England women play football in front of huge crowds, but I didn’t anticipate that hearty, regular attendance at domestic competition would come so soon.

If you’d told me this time last year that, for their sixth and final match at the Emirates this season, Arsenal sold more than 40,000 tickets, I’d have been surprised — that Arsenal would lend their stadium to their women’s side as many as six times and that they’d sell as many as 40,000 tickets after five other opportunities to do so. That they should have done it against (no offence, just sayin’) anonymous old Leicester City, when in previous years the big stage has been reserved for matches against their traditional rivals, is even more impressive.

Is it a surprise? We’ve always known that football is loads of fun, but now Arsenal are doing it really well in a place where you can be confident that you won’t be groped or hate-crimed, and you don't have to fork out crazy money for a ticket.

The tens of thousands of supporters who showed up on Sunday were treated to a brace by Gunners stalwart Beth Mead, a goal by Lioness babe-of-the-moment Alessia Russo, and a stunning save by Manuela Zinsberger. Arsenal confirmed their chance to compete in next season’s Champions League as three points put them out of reach of fourth-placed Manchester United. Shame.

The Shimmying Shot-stopper

Chelsea veteran Ann Katrin-Berger has left London in pursuit of opportunities that will help her to secure a place in Germany's squad for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The Blues looked overwhelmed in the shot-stoppin' department at the start of the season when Hannah Hampton arrived from Aston Villa to join the experienced 33-year-old Berger and goalkeeping hero of the 2023 World Cup Zećira Mušović.

Berger might have been relieved as Mušović has proved unable to bring her international form to the Women's Super League, but did she expect Hampton to emerge with such aplomb after the young player was previously dropped by Sarina Wiegman for having attitude problems?
Hampton was surprised, too. "I never thought I'd be able to get to a big club like Chelsea," she told Sky Sports this week. "I didn't think I was good enough." Yet Hampton, the newest and most junior of the trio, is favoured by Hayes at the moment.

With Berger's contribution limited to just five league appearances this season, she had to find a way to get her practice in if she wanted to compete with the big guns in France this summer. But with just two games of the WSL season left, what could she do?

Fortunately, as England's domestic season is winding up, the National Women's Soccer League over in America is just getting going, so Berger has signed a one-year contract with NJ/NY Gotham, who sit 11th in the NWSL table after four games.

She departs Chelsea with four WSL titles, two FA Cups and a League Cup to her name. She did all that while dealing with thyroid cancer, and it might have been just the three titles had she not made this cracking stop in April 2021 to deny a winner to City, hot on their heels in second place (look out for baby Alex Greenwood and the commentator wrangling with so many blonde ponies).

What AKB may be remembered for most, though, is the heroic penalty shootout performance by which she secured Chelsea's place in the Champions League semi-final last March. In her honour, I'm whipping out this timeless gif from a vintage edition of 31/7.
Go well, AKB. For your services to shimmying, we salute you.

Things I dig this week

Coming Up

  • Saturday — the Champions League
    • If the Blues can repeat their success in Barcelona, Emma Hayes' side will seal their place in Europe's biggest club final. Chelsea have sold more than 30,000 tickets. It could be their first ever sell-out at Stamford Bridge.
    • Kick off is at 5.30pm and you can stream for free on Dazn.
  • Sunday — the Champions League
    • After a strong start to the first leg, PSG absolutely capitulated to hand a one-goal advantage to Lyon. Can the eight-time winners seal the deal in Paris?
    • Kick off is at 3pm and you can stream for free on Dazn.
  • Sunday — the Women's Super League
    • Bristol City will be relegated if they lose at home to Man City, while the league leaders have the chance to extend the gap to second place to six points while Chelsea are busy doing European stuff.
  • Sunday — the Championship finale
    • The fight to be champions of the second tier has been entertainingly contested between four teams, who face each other on the final day, with leaders Crystal Palace hosting third-placed Sunderland and second-placed Charlton Athletic at home to fourth-placed Southampton.
    • Barring a mad miracle, Palace will be crowned overall winners and advance into the WSL.
  • Sunday — West Riding County First Division
    • If my team, Leeds Hyde Park, win our final two games, we'll gain promotion to the ✨Premier Division✨ On Sunday, we face Golcar at home, maybe, after our last home fixture was fulfilled on our opponents' pitch due to general continuous sloppiness.

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