Rafa Benitez completely transformed Liverpool during his six years in charge of the club in the 2000s – and we celebrate that wonderful period in the latest episode of The Broken Metatarsal.

Rich, Mark and Pete are joined by comedian and Liverpool fan Adam Rowe on this week’s podcast as we remember Benitez’s arrival in 2004, the rivalry with Chelsea, that memorable night in Istanbul, and the team that went so close to winning the title in 2009, featuring the brilliance of Fernando Torres.

Neil Mellor also joins the boys on the phone with some brilliant stories, including how he nabbed an AC Milan runners-up medal after the first final against Milan.

And, as always on The Broken Metatarsal, the episode finishes with a game of Fact or Fiction in which Rich attempts to work out which of Mark, Pete and Adam’s unlikely stories about Benitez are, in fact, true.

If you love 2000s football as much as we do, you can find us on Audioboom and subscribe in all the usual places on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, CastBox, Deezer and RadioPublic.

Or you can just listen to the latest episode right here.

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith believes John Terry’s mentality as a “serial winner” with Chelsea is having a galvanising effect on his players.

Terry spent 20 years at Chelsea before joining Villa, initially as a player in 2017 for a season before switching to coaching, helping the club return to the Premier League under Smith.

During a glorious career with the Blues, Terry won the Champions League, Europa League, five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the League Cup three times.

For the first time since leaving Chelsea, Terry returns to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night on the opposing side, plotting to help Villa boss Smith as his assistant head coach.

“He’ll be excited for it,” said Smith. “He always said he would never go back and play against them, and I’m certainly not going to pick him!

“I’m sure he will get an unbelievable reception from their supporters, and rightly so, after the playing career he had at that football club, and his ties he has.

“He’ll be looking forward to going back, and I’m sure it will be a little bit different for him, but his mind has been solely on helping myself and the rest of my coaching team to try and beat the club he loves.”

Smith believes Terry has had a significant impact with Villa during his time at the club to date.

“He’s very important and I love working with him,” said Smith. “He’s brought something different to our coaching set-up, with his knowledge, his experiences.

“He’s lifted the Premier League title enough times, as well as the FA Cup and the League Cup. He was a serial winner for Chelsea, so he knows how to win things and that mentality can rub off on people.

“I also feel he’s come into his own with us getting promoted into the Premier League. He’s getting better and better as a coach.

“I’ve championed him for a long time, saying he will eventually be a top manager. At the moment he’s very keen to keep learning and making a major contribution to Aston Villa, certainly on the coaching pitches.”

 

 

Smith is naturally hoping Terry will continue to learn for as long as possible before making the inevitable move into management.

“We’ve a good enough and an open enough relationship for him to come to me at any time,” added Smith.

“I don’t expect it in the meantime because he’s enjoying the job so much at the moment, and the important thing is he feels he’s still learning as well.

“He has a thirst for learning, a real growth mindset, which I really like to see in people. He is always asking me questions about why I make certain decisions.”

Smith will be without winger Anwar El Ghazi for the game at Chelsea due to a knee injury sustained in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United but midfielder Jota returns after a two-month absence following hernia surgery.

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Roy Hodgson is happy with Crystal Palace’s recent performances and hoping they can soon turn that into winning points again.

The Eagles have not tasted success in the Premier League since October 5 when they struck late in a 2-1 victory at West Ham.

While the south Londoners are on a five-match streak without a win, the mitigating factors are the level of opposition they have faced which includes Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester, Chelsea and Liverpool.

On Saturday, Hodgson’s side will travel to Burnley looking to arrest a slide down the table from sixth to 13th.

“I don’t think you should confuse form with results,” he said. “I don’t know we are in mixed form. Our form hasn’t particularly dipped from the Man City game through to the Liverpool game.

“We have had five tough fixtures and I don’t think we’ve performed badly in any of them, but of course because we’ve been playing the top sides we’ve been unable to get many points.

“But we’ve been close to doing so on many occasions so I would not equate form and results. I don’t think our form is bad, but our results have been bad.

“We did fear we might be in for that type of period when we looked at the fixture list and we were playing the top five teams in the country one after another.”

 

 

Sean Dyche’s Burnley, on the other hand, are three points ahead of Palace and have triumphed 3-0 in their last two games.

Hodgson added: “We have every respect for them. We know they are a difficult nut to crack at all times and we have to be ready for the type of game it will be.”

This is the start of a busy schedule for all teams in the Premier League and Palace will play seven times between now and the end of the year.

It means the former England manager will have to consider rotation during a hectic period of the season.

“It’s a time when your squad is really tested,” Hodgson said. “You really need everybody in good form, physical condition and in good mental condition.

“It’s unrealistic to expect 11 players to carry out every 90 minutes you’re going to play, so it’s important everyone’s ready.”

The Palace boss confirmed he would be without Joel Ward for Saturday’s trip to Turf Moor after the defender suffered a serious knee injury in the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool last weekend.

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Arsenal legend Paul Merson explans why his former club should approach Mauricio Pochettino to replace under-fire manager Unai Emery.

Arsenal have won just four of their 13 Premier League games this season, leading many to question Emery’s position at the Emirates.

Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw by 19th-place Southampton at home on Saturday afternoon, with the Gunners fans booing at the final whistle.

A host of some of Europe’s top bosses – including Max Allegri and former Gunner Mikel Arteta – have been linked with a move to north London, and Pochettino is the latest man to be tipped to succeed Emery, having been sacked by rivals Tottenham last week.

The Argentine took Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final and oversaw four successive top-four finishes in the Premier League, establishing himself as one of the best young coaches in England.

And despite his past ties with Arsenal’s fiercest rivals, Merson believes ‘top manager’ Pochettino is the ideal man to take over, partly because Arsenal would not need to fork out any money for compensation.

“Arsenal should go for Mauricio Pochettino,” the former Arsenal midfielder told Sky Sports. “He’s not won anything, but he improved Tottenham over five years, tenfold. He’s a top manager and he is about at the moment.

“I know he managed at Tottenham, but George Graham had been at Arsenal when he went the other way. You’ve got to get past that sort of stuff. These top managers don’t come along too often, where you don’t even have to pay anything for them.

“Can I see it happening? No. Should it happen? Yes. But it won’t happen. The days of the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham are not what they were. When I was growing up, it was the big football match.

“For some of these players, that’s no longer the case. It’s probably Chelsea or Manchester City or Liverpool. It’s not the highlighted fixture anymore as there’s not a lot of home-grown players in the teams.

“You don’t have to pay compensation for him, and if you are going to bring someone in, he’s got to be better than the manager you’ve got.”

 

 

Merson is desperate to see a significant change made in the Arsenal dugout but thinks Emery will ultimately be granted an extended stay of execution, even if another loss is posted at Norwich on Sunday.

“I still see Emery being there for a while. They had a chance to get rid of him before the international break,” he added.

“They looked at the fixtures and saw Southampton at home, Norwich away. They thought they would win both and everything would be rosy in the garden again. But they were fortunate to draw with Southampton with some of the chances they had, and they’d recently lost 9-0.

“Their confidence was low, but they never looked like they would be on to a hiding. There wasn’t too much respect and they came and thought they had a chance.

“I’m a great believer in if you keep doing the same things, you get the same results. Something needs to change. The players are not that good, but at the same time, results have to be better than what they are.

“If you’re a football manager and you arrive at a club, the team must improve, and the results have to improve. If they don’t then you won’t be in the job for long. That was a fact when I was playing, and it will be a fact in 30 years’ time.

“It’s worrying times, and with Norwich away this weekend, I think Emery will do well to get on the coach if they don’t win that game.”

Before their trip to Carrow Road this weekend, Arsenal host Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on Thursday, where a win will be enough to book their spot in the last 32.

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is not interested in “bargain” bids for the Premier League club and remains fully involved at Stamford Bridge, according to chairman Bruce Buck.

The Russian billionaire is not believed to have attended a home match since the spring of 2018, having taken Israeli citizenship after encountering visa renewal issues in the UK.

Plans for a new 60,000-seat stadium were shelved around the same time, but Buck insists Abramovich has no intention to offload the club.

“So far as I know, absolutely not; to the contrary. I have never heard a word from Mr Abramovich: ‘Let’s get this ready for a sale,’ or something,” Buck told the Guardian.

“Because of the political situation, there are people who think they might want to buy Chelsea Football Club at a bargain. We do get enquiries and we really have nothing to say to these people.

“In terms of being involved, in looking at new players, talking about whether to extend players’ contracts, do we buy this player, do we sell this player, (Abramovich) was always intimately involved in that from day one and is just as intimately involved now.

“He talks to Marina (Granovskaia) – the board member who supervises the football operation – several times a day, every day. Marina has been doing that for seven or eight years; that hasn’t let up or changed at all.”

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Frank Lampard has insisted he will never follow Jose Mourinho’s lead and manage Tottenham.

Chelsea boss Lampard believes Tottenham are still a top-four threat for the Premier League this term, despite Spurs languishing down in 14th place after 12 matches.

Mauricio Pochettino was sacked this week and two-time Chelsea boss Mourinho jumped straight into the hot seat at the Blues’ bitter rivals.

When asked if he could ever envisage managing Spurs, Lampard replied: “I can firmly say no, and you can replay that again in 10 years.

“It wouldn’t happen but I think things are different for me.

“I was here for 13 years as a player and have an absolutely deep feeling for a club.

“Chelsea is certainly so close to my heart hence why I am so proud to manage the club and why I wouldn’t manage Tottenham.

“That’s no disrespect to anyone, it’s just because of what Chelsea has given me over my time as a player and now, it’s certainly not on my list.”

 

Asked if he was surprised Mourinho took the helm at Tottenham, Lampard said: “That’s only his decision, and you make that decision as you go.

“He’s managed a lot of football clubs and that’s what happens.

“If fans judge you that’s out of your hands. As a professional you have to understand the right to work.”

Lampard revealed he has sent Mourinho a good-luck message ahead of the Portuguese boss taking charge of Tottenham for the first time.

“We had a couple of messages just to wish him well in his new role as he has always done for me.

“Spurs are a very good team. At the start of the season Spurs were a lot of people’s favourites to be in the race.

“But if you look at what Pochettino has built, I have huge respect for what he’s built.

“They are in a slightly false position I believe.

“They have all the structure, stadium and all those things. They will be a threat without a doubt, Tottenham.

“Without a doubt they are in the top four race, that’s the start at the start of the season and it will be the story now.

“That’s why they reached the Champions League final.

“If you look at the strength in depth, they are going to be a threat. I knew that before and I know that now.”

Christian Pulisic is in contention for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Manchester City, with the United States forward back in full training after a groin concern.

Callum Hudson-Odoi could miss out however due to a minor hamstring issue picked up on England duty.

Champions City are already nine points shy of Premier League leaders Liverpool after a patchy start to the new campaign, but Lampard insists Guardiola’s men have not lost their edge.

“I still see them as the same strength,” said Lampard.

“I’ve watched them a lot this international break. They’ve had their injury problems but they are a great team and still as big a threat as they always have been.

“It’s a great test tomorrow, head to head, to see where we’re at.

“But anyone can go to Manchester City, play at their best and still and lose.

“So I won’t be making huge judgements win or lose tomorrow without a doubt.

“Our story is three months in the making. Their story has been four years and more of hard work from top to bottom.”

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Jose Mourinho was at Tottenham’s training ground to meet his new squad on Wednesday afternoon following his appointment as Mauricio Pochettino’s replacement.

The former Chelsea and Manchester United boss signed a three-and-a-half-year contract less than 12 hours after Pochettino was sacked.

The 56-year-old, who had been out of work since leaving United last December, was at Hotspur Way meeting the club’s players and staff.

He was due to take training in the afternoon ahead of his unveiling press conference at 2pm on Thursday and first game in charge at West Ham on Saturday lunchtime.

Mourinho revealed he was relishing the chance to work with the players, who have under-achieved so far this season.

The Portuguese said: “I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters.

“The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me. Working with these players is what has attracted me.”

Mourinho also moved quickly to appoint his backroom staff, with Joao Sacramento and Nuno Santos joining from Lille.

Sacramento will be the assistant manager, while Santos becomes the new goalkeeping coach.

A statement on Lille’s official website read: “Following discussions between Lille and Tottenham, an agreement has been reached to allow the departures of Joao Sacramento and Nuno Santos, members of the Lille technical staff, and for them to join the English club as of this Wednesday.”

Despite his troubles in the latter stages of his tenure at Old Trafford, Mourinho remains one of the most sought-after managers in the game.

His success at delivering trophies is not in question, having won three Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues and a host of domestic cups, and that was a clear attraction for Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

 

Levy previously tried appointing Mourinho in 2007 when he left Chelsea for the first time and has admired him since.

Levy said: “In Jose we have one of the most successful managers in football.

“He has a wealth of experience, can inspire teams and is a great tactician. He has won honours at every club he has coached. We believe he will bring energy and belief to the dressing room.”

A statement from the club described Mourinho as “one of the world’s most accomplished managers” who was “is renowned for his tactical prowess”.

It added: “He has won a domestic title in a record four different countries (Portugal, England, Italy and Spain) and is one of only three managers to have won the UEFA Champions League twice with two clubs, FC Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010.”

Pochettino was dismissed after five-and-a-half years in charge, less than six months after he took Spurs to the Champions League final, with the club lying 14th in the Premier League table after the opening 12 matches.

Mourinho, who has most recently been working as a pundit for Sky Sports, had turned down a number of opportunities to coach abroad since leaving United, including with clubs in China, Spain and Portugal.

His first match in charge will be the London derby away to West Ham on Saturday and they are due to play United at Old Trafford on December 4.

Spurs also play Champions League games at home to Olympiakos and away at Bayern Munich before hosting their new manager’s former club Chelsea on December 22.

Mourinho’s side host Liverpool on January 11 and Manchester City on February 1 before making the trip to Stamford Bridge on February 22.

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

As ever, this represents our estimation of Gareth Southgate’s thoughts. And we feel like we know him well. Numbers in brackets pertain to this ladder from October…

 

1 (2) Harry Kane
Twelve goals and five assists in eight qualifying games. His goal against Kosovo saw him become the first England player to score in every game of a qualifying campaign and it also took him back to the top of this ladder, mostly because he has never grabbed somebody by the throat in a canteen. Or at least he has never been caught grabbing somebody by the throat in a canteen.

 

2 (1) Raheem Sterling
Oh you daft bugger. There is no defending that. He is still England’s second-best source of goals and best source of running really fast and scaring the sh*t out of full-backs, mind.

 

3 (5) Harry Maguire
The only player to feature in all 720 minutes of European qualifying. And yet he still looks about half a second from dropping a bo**ock and a full second slower than most strikers he faces.

 

4 (4) Jordan Pickford
His place is safer than his hands.

 

5 (6) Marcus Rashford
Three goals in his last three England games as part of a really encouraging return to form. We would be astonished if Rashford is not in every England squad for which he is fit until the end of the next decade at least…

 

6 (3) Jordan Henderson
Two victories in his absence have damaged his cause a little, but it still feels like Henderson + 2 in that central midfield.

 

7 (7) Trent Alexander-Arnold
Remarkably, that’s the first time he has started back-to-back England games. Even more remarkably, ‘he’s yet to produce a performance for his country which doesn’t look like this one did – distracted, inaccurate, lacking in the locked-in intensity which seems as standard at Liverpool’ (and I absolutely agree with Seb Stafford-Bloor).

 

8 (10) Ben Chilwell
Perhaps those three assists against Montenegro – and solid defensive performance against Kosovo – will put an end to Gareth Southgate’s lingering and needless flirtation with Danny Rose. Chilwell is and should remain England’s first-choice left-back.

 

9 (18) Harry Winks
Six England caps, six England wins. And a goal and a man-of-the-match performance against Kosovo. It might well be Henderson, Winks + 1 with Declan Rice hopefully sidelined until he learns some of the basics of defensive midfield play.

 

10 (13) John Stones
‘Needs to play football. Absolutely needs to play football,’ is what I wrote last month. Now back in the Manchester City side and an England recall duly followed. 

 

11 (16) Nick Pope
Confirmation that he is England’s No. 2. And a clean sheet is lovely.

 

12 (17) Joe Gomez
What has become very clear is that Southgate has picked his four centre-halves and Gomez is on that list despite not playing a great deal of Premier League football. Luckily for him, Liverpool have an awful lot of games coming up. He might still be the big man.

 

13 (8) Jadon Sancho
His form has dipped for Borussia Dortmund
and he failed to pad his stats against Montenegro; just one assist from 90 minutes on the wing is not a compelling return from a 7-0 victory. Right now, he has slipped some way behind Rashford.

 

14 (15) Tyrone Mings
And there’s centre-half No. 4, who has (slightly awkwardly) claimed another cap and another clean sheet. He is literally the big man.

 

15 (9) Ross Barkley
It’s telling that he has played more minutes in this qualifying campaign than any other midfielder bar Henderson and yet almost nobody thinks he should start for England. Will he eventually be ejected like a stockier Ryan Bertrand? The initials are a clue.

 

16 (11) Declan Rice
As I wrote last month: ‘He is only 20, so there are caveats, but right now he looks far from good enough to anchor that England midfield. Still, we persuaded him not to be Irish anymore, so his squad place is probably safe for the foreseeable.’ We wanted him to be so much better than Eric Dier; he isn’t.

 

17 (12) Mason Mount
He has played a part in England’s last six games so he is clearly integrated into this England squad. Unfortunately for him, he has started twice and struggled twice. Fortunately, he can do this from the bench…

 

18 (14) Kieran Trippier
Called up but then left on the bench. It could be worse; he could be Kyle Walker.

 

19 (20) Tammy Abraham
His first England goal and confirmation – were it needed – that he is Southgate’s first-choice back-up to Kane.

 

20 (22) Fabian Delph
Even grown men need a comfort blanket. Let it go, people, let it go…

 

21 (19) Danny Rose
Clinging onto a place in the squad but for how long? Until Luke Shaw gets and stays fit, you should think. Right now, Rose is holding off Aaron Cresswell and Matt Targett in the battle to be the left-sided fireguard with the thinner chocolate coating.

 

22 (32) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Back-to-back England starts for the first time since March 2018, when he was set to start in England’s World Cup midfield before injury struck. “We’ve a huge belief in him,” said Southgate. “Whether it’s as a midfield player – where he’s excellent with or without the ball, provides a goalscoring threat, works hard for the team and presses well – or a wide player or a forward player, we’ve got huge belief in him.” And that versatility might well be what keeps in this 23 ahead of more vaunted competition.

 

23 (23) Tom Heaton
The old man completes the 23. For now.

 

24 (21) Callum Hudson-Odoi
Reclaimed and then lost his Chelsea place, while his 59 wasteful, hesitant minutes against Kosovo suggested that he might be better getting some more England experience with the Under-21s this season while he searches for his form.

 

25 (24) Callum Wilson
Nobody takes three strikers for a one-striker system. Especially when the third striker on the list has stopped scoring.

 

26 (26) James Maddison
Most chances created by Englishmen this season:
Trent Alexander-Arnold (42)
Jack Grealish (25)
James Maddison (24)
Mason Mount (23)
Raheem Sterling (22)

Sorry James, but we don’t think Gareth likes the cut of your gib. Or the gib of…

 

27 (35) Jack Grealish
Though at least Southgate hinted that Grealish could be the next cab off the attacking midfielder rank. That’s progress.

 

28 (25) Kyle Walker
Sip sliding away. Slip-sliding a-way.

 

29 (31) Fikayo Tomori
They definitely didn’t bring him on for a few minutes to claim him from Nigeria (oh yes they did). But most importantly for this ladder, he was in the squad ahead of the falling Michael Keane.

 

30 (30) Dean Henderson
England’s…No. 4. England’s, England’s No. 4.

 

31 (29) Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Clearly, Southgate is not a fan of a 90s-style full-back.

 

32 (34) Dele Alli
Back in the Tottenham side at least. Shame it’s a really poor Tottenham side.

 

33 (27) Michael Keane
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

34 (28) Jesse Lingard
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

35 (33) Eric Dier
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

36 (40) Phil Foden
We will surely see him in a (senior) England shirt soon, but first Pep Guardiola needs to give him more than Carabao Cup football.

 

37 (NE) Aaron Ramsdale
The Bournemouth goalkeeper is making a compelling case for a long-term battle with Henderson.

 

38 (36) Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Love the player, hate the injury.

 

39 (37) Luke Shaw
Love the player, hate the injury. And the body type.

 

40 (42) Dwight McNeil

 

41 (41) Rob Holding
42 (38) Angus Gunn
43 (39) Ryan Sessegnon
44 (43) Max Aarons
45 (NE) John Lundstram
46 (NE) Harvey Barnes
47 (44) Reiss Nelson
48 (45) James Tarkowski
49 (47) James Ward-Prowse
50 (50) Phil Neville

 

Sarah Winterburn

If you enjoyed this, feel free to give us some love in the the FSA awards. Head here to vote…

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

It’s international week, so send some mails to theeditor@football365.com. What else are you going to do? Aside from vote for us. Please.

Gareth’s right
The Sterling/Gomez fracas couldn’t be more suited for the current climate if it originated in a Sun journalist’s wet dream. Perfect for every pundit & rent-a-gob to weigh in, so I suppose I might as well too.

Southgate has, once again, taken the most reasonable, common-sense approach available to him. He’s already been getting it from both sides, from calling his reaction overly sensitive, with Bellamy’s golf clubs bought into it as though that were a perfectly regular, comparable event, to those who want the book thrown as they invariably do.

The fact is, the (moderate) punishment is perfectly suited to the (minor) crime. Sterling was at fault, and Southgate demonstrated such behaviour isn’t acceptable. He exercised his authority fairly and decisively, and made it clear he considers the matter closed.

Of course there’s going to be a continuing circus around this, but that was frankly inevitable the moment the incident occured. If anything, Southgate’s transparency has kept the tabloids neutered.
Damien

 

…I’ve been interested to see what F365’s reaction to the Sterling/Gomez fallout would be, considering that Raheem has (rightly) been praised so effusively on the site over the last year or so.

My two pennies on it (not that anyone cares): Rio Ferdinand has chirped up, saying he has “seen players get punched in the face, ribs broken, nose busted, head kicked like a football” in squads before. Assuming these statements are true (heads kicked in like footballs sounds very hyperbolic to me), why should the idiotic and violent acts of others excuse Sterling’s bad behaviour? It shouldn’t, and it’s a backward, knuckle-dragging stance to think that grabbing someone around the throat is remotely acceptable in any setting.

Gareth Southgate has clearly worked very hard to try and eradicate club bias and rivalry from his squad to ensure harmony among his players when they’re on international duty. He’s right to do so, with former England stars — like Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in particular — so public about how their time in England was negatively affected by disharmony. Behaviour like this threatens to destroy all that hard work and should not be accepted from anyone, even key performers. I admire Southgate for his bold stance; he will understand better than anyone the potential ramifications of it.

Sterling’s importance to the England team means this can not have been an easy decision. But it’s principled and sends a message to the rest of the squad that such behaviour will not be tolerated in this day and age. Bravo, Mr Southgate.

Sterling is a great advocate for tolerance and acceptance, having spoken out so bravely against racism and admonished the unsavoury parts of British media for the role they play in perpetuating prejudice. But that should not make him immune from punishment when he does something worthy of it. Southgate’s reaction is strong and shows to all players (in the squad and fighting to get in it) that such ill discipline, and frankly appalling behaviour) will not be accepted any longer.

Cheers,
Tom, Devon, NUFC

 

….So Rio Ferdinand feels Gareth Southgate made a mistake by dropping Sterling and opening him up to abuse.

Not that Raheem made a huge mistake attacking a fellow team mate in the canteen. A player who has done great things to combat racism by calling people out using the media and social media. The same tools that would at some point have made the incident public. If it comes out later it would look like Sterling got away with one.

By not reprimanding Sterling what message would that have given to the rest of the team? By dropping Sterling the message is loud and clear – standards are expected – at all times by everyone.

For all his great work Sterling showed a lack of maturity Sunday, constantly going into histrionics for every nudge and constantly confronting TAA and later, Gomez. (Compare to Liverpool players who just got on with it and used that to their advantage.) By letting it rollover to the England squad Sterling has let himself and Southgate down but will come out of this for the better.

The haters will always hate, Rio. The media, which includes you, will always make a mountain out of every molehill and provide ‘sage’ advice as if they have any experience or credentials to give it. Rio, you have never been a manager so have never had to actually be the one that has to make the call on what to do. By calling out Southgate it only reflects negatively on you.
Paul McDevitt

 

…This morning I read about the Sterling vs Gomez issue and thought back to an old interview with Rio Ferdinand talking about how the “golden Generation” couldn’t put club loyalties aside during England duty and how it affect team bonding and performance. So here Southgate has dealt with it decisively “go home we don’t need any of this S**t affecting the team. you can come back next time in a better frame of mind”. It draws a line in the sand and sets the tone, and to be fair to both players they admitted what they did was wrong letting their egos slide and accepted it without complaint. End of story right…..

No Here comes Rio To talk about how wrong it is as and un fair it is because Sterling has been a model pro so far, I’m sorry Rio but surely Sterling accepting he was wrong taking the punishment and moving on for the good of the team is also “being a model pro”. Southgate is creating a team ethic where by it doesn’t matter who you play for England is England, Spain and France did something similar and did alright as I seem to remember, this is not the England of Old where every players ego is massaged so they think they are untouchable and don’t need to put the hard yards in. Southgate also has form for this its pretty obvious that after Rooney turned up at someone’s wedding whilst on duty a word was had about behaviour and the consequences and it probably helped lead to his early retirement
Phillip

 

…Awwwww – is da iddy biddy baby getting a teensy bit fwustwated??!

Cheers Raheem mate, i think I snorted milk out my nose as I read this story over breakfast. Laughter is good for the soul.
Steve, LFC

 

City’s slump
While everyone is talking about how good Liverpool’s form has been this season, I don’t think anyone is talking about how far City have fallen from last season. While Liverpool are getting a fairly unsustainable (34 points/ 12 games) – 2.8 points/ game, which would leave them with a ridiculous 108 points for the season, if continued, City’s form has dropped off massively from last season. City last year earned (98 points /38) – 2.6 points per game, this year it has dropped off very significantly to (25/12) – 2.1 points per game, which over a full season is 79 points. This would not win the league in the majority of seasons and is a full 19 points swing from last season.

Even if City were to revert to their form of last season (2.6 points per game) from this point on, they would only get to 92 points. For Liverpool to get to 92 points after this start, they’d need to earn 2.2 points per game, which in real terms is three wins and two draws out of every five games. This is taking Liverpool as having no loses this season, which is again unlikely.

While Leicester and Chelsea are in the picture, there is nothing to suggest they could achieve the type of winning run required to get to 90+ points, which is likely to be total points mark which wins the league this year. Current form would leave them in the early 80 point mark.

Basically, City have suffered a significant drop off in form, and are no longer achieving the standards they have set out for themselves over the last few years. Liverpool could afford to start dropping a significant number of points and are still likely to win the league. The obvious problem with this is that City could go on a long run of wins which would alter this situation quite quickly, but judging on their form this season, it does sound unlikely.
Morgan (Available for Parties) – Dublin

 

How dare they?
Yeah Southgate, how DARE Manchester United play their record defender signing – that they also pay a huge salary to – every minute in the last month.

It as of Manchester United only care about making the most out of their money and their own performances as of caring about a different team………it is as if they only bought Maguire for themselves!
Yaru, Malaysia

 

Dance with the one that brung ya
Having moved to the US a few years ago I’ve come to learn a certain Yankee phrase: ‘You gotta dance with the one that brung ya’. This sums up why I have zero sympathy for Emery, zero sympathy for Xhaka, and zero sympathy for the board for the discontent shown by the Arsenal fans.

You are in charge of a multi-billion dollar company. But – more importantly – you are in charge of something that has been cherished in people’s hearts for 133 years. You want the crowd to not vocalize their passion and except mediocrity? Go work for that team down the road. You gotta dance with the one that brung ya.

The thing that staggers me most is the board seeming to believe Arsenal fans are irrational. We had one of the best summer transfer windows we’ve ever had… and we are EIGHT points off top four… THE EXACT SAME POINTS AS SHEFFIELD UNITED! All due respect to the Blades, but what are we Arsenal fans supposed to do? Smile and say – oh well – we did our best.

Being close to something can hinder objectivity. That is why Wenger stayed on for years past when he should have been shown the door (at least 2012, in my opinion). And that is why Emery is still in charge. The board have to see that we will not improve. The dressing room is lost. You’re not just choosing Emery to stay, you are choosing Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ozil and Torreira to leave. That is why Arsenal fans are so pissed.

We will be at least 13 points off top four come the new year. It will become untenable to keep Emery. I suspect Freddie or Arteta to take over until the end of the season and who knows what happens from there, because there’s no way we’re getting Champions League football back at the Emirates any time soon.

You think social media and instant opinion is ruining the support? Deal with it. Adapt. It’s the way of the world. You gotta dance with the one that brung ya.
Tom

 

Why walking off isn’t the answer
While racism at football matches is nothing new, it has certainly become a much bigger issue in the media in recent times. Players like Raheem Sterling and others deserve nothing but praise for highlighting it. They have taken the lead in bringing it to, and keeping it at, the forefront of our attention. Governing bodies, especially UEFA, have completely failed to respond to the problem in a decisive or appropriate fashion. It is totally understandable that players and other interested parties have stepped forward to try to lead on the issue and to think of ways in which they can act to tackle it.

At present, there is one main idea that everyone is focusing on and rallying around. The idea of walking off the pitch during an international game to highlight the issue and force UEFA to act more strongly against the nation whose fans are involved. The intention behind this is entirely laudable, but there is a deep flaw in the idea that nobody seems to have considered.

Racism isn’t limited to a few thugs and hooligans. It reaches every level of society. There are rich and powerful racists too. They fund far right organisations, contribute to election campaigns and act however they can to promote division and hatred in our society. It is these people and their potential actions that everyone is ignoring.

It took 50 or so racists to disrupt the recent Bulgaria versus England Euro qualifier. That’s a coachload. In every country, every large town even, and not just the ones we think of as having a particular problem, there are plenty of racist idiots and thugs.

In order to understand why walk-offs aren’t the solution we need to put ourselves inside the mind of a rich racist. A powerful man who also has contact with other like-minded people and connections that reach all the way down into everyday society. We also need to do a little maths. How much would it cost to recruit 50 idiots, who needn’t have any interest in football or the least care about a lifetime ban from attending games, and to pay them, say, £200 each (or Euros)? How much to hire a coach and to buy them all tickets to a game? How much to cover any fines that they might get from local courts if they get arrested and convicted? £10 000 to pay them. £3000 for tickets £1000 for the coach and driver. Let’s assume every single one of them gets arrested and fined £1000, another £50 000. That’s a total of £65000, rounded up. In reality the fines would be far less and there are plenty of thugs who would probably do it for the laugh and the day out. For arguments sake we will overestimate the total costs, so we’ll call it £100 000 including paying the intermediaries who would do the actual recruiting and organising. The rich people behind this will not get their hands dirty, they will remain well hidden.

So, for £100 000 it is possible to hire a coachload of thugs whose sole purpose is to create unrest and division and hopefully get a game abandoned.

With a budget of five million pound these racists could easily target 40-50 games. There are 10 rounds of qualifying games for the Euro’s or the World Cup. That’s 4 or 5 games each round. Think of the disruption this would cause if a decent proportion of these games were abandoned because players had decided that walking off the pitch was the right way to deal with the problem. Football is the global game. Worldwide coverage would be enormous. There is the potential to throw qualifying for a World Cup or a Euros into total chaos. The racists would have achieved something spectacular and hugely harmful to society, not just football.

To you or me £5 million is a fortune, but there are evil people out there who could easily fund it on their own. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t have to. These people are in contact with each other. We cannot even guess how many might be willing to put their hands in their pockets to contribute to such a scheme. Pay what you can, all contributions welcome. Don’t forget that the real cost would almost certainly be far, far less. Half the budget is to cover fines, £50 000/game. The total fines dished out to fans after the Bulgaria game was less than £2000 in total, between four fans.

The rich racists are out there, the money required is not an issue. The disruption, the chaos, the divisions it would cause are huge. This is exactly what these people want to achieve. If an ordinary concerned citizen can think of this, then you can bet that they have too. Plans may already be in place, even for next weekend. Perhaps the Bulgaria disruption was actually the beginning. Perhaps they are waiting for the first walk-off to happen before they pounce and put their plans into operation.

It is for this reason that walking off the pitch is not and cannot be the answer. It is what the racists want, it is what they would happily pay to make happen.

It is a terrible burden that our black and ethnic minority footballers have to face, but they cannot walk off the pitch, it is not the answer. They must endure the provocation, try if they can to think of the harm it would cause wider society. This is a great deal to ask and it isn’t fair either, but a different solution must be found.

So, what can be done. The answer lies with UEFA and FIFA. These organisations must be made to tackle the issue. To throw teams out of tournaments if necessary, to act decisively. How do we make this happen?

Players, fans, clubs and national governing bodies like the FA and those of other leading countries must come together and act. A new protocol must be devised to replace the 3-step anti-racism one that is now in place. This might be something like: 3 minutes to stop the chanting, if that isn’t done a demerit is awarded. If the chanting is repeated, another demerit. A certain number of demerits result in automatic ejection from the current international tournament and the following one too. This is just an example. The actual protocol must be agreed by the clubs and nations themselves. UEFA and FIFA must be given an ultimatum. The biggest clubs must come together and threaten to boycott the Champions league, or better still, to break away from UEFA altogether and form a new organising body for European club competitions. The major nations must do the same thing for the Euros and the World Cup. There is little respect or goodwill towards these two organisations now, why not start again with new organisations if these two will not act upon this issue? UEFA and FIFA are rich. There is plenty of money available for extra stewarding, for extra policing, for more security cameras, for whatever is needed to help individual countries tackle this issue.

Once again, this is a huge burden to place on young men who just want to play football without having morons make monkey noises at them. It isn’t right and they shouldn’t have to endure it. There is however an opportunity for fans and for players to take a real lead on this issue, and by doing so to spur football as a whole into taking decisive action. Football is so important in so many people’s lives. If football takes the lead against racism and really works hard to kick it out then it will have a huge positive impact on wider society. I urge fans of every club to form action groups. I urge all players, not just those from minority backgrounds to band together, and to get together with the fans to put pressure on the clubs and the national organisations. Force UEFA and FIFA to act, or form new governing bodies and let them rot. If we get together and take this action then we really can make a difference. We really can kick racism out of football. The opportunity is in our hands and we have to grasp it.
Marcus Chapman.

 

City fallout
Firstly, I owe an apology to Liverpool F365 mailers. I didn’t read either of Monday’s mailboxes until last night chiefly as I was expecting a deluge of spittle-flecked, smash-up-their-coach, It’s Our Year nonsense. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The mails from ‘Pool fans were balanced, respectful and incisive. I should’ve known better. It’s why I read F365 in the first place and that’s to avoid reading puerile, hate-filled bile purporting to be opinion. Respect and congratulations on your well-earned win.

As for the game itself? I never thought we would win it. City’s prior performances have shown that we’re just not right and seem to be operating at 85% efficiency as well as lacking the clinical finishing and crisp, confident, dominating passing that we displayed so often last season. The game was, for me (Clive) a microcosm of the season so far. Unforced errors and missed goal scoring chances. Liverpool were the exact opposite and looked like they were certain to score every time they went forward. If that’s not a sign of Champions, then what is? That’s also why I think the handball thing was largely irrelevant. Even if we’d scored first, either from a pen or open play, I’m not convinced we would’ve gone on to win.

Top four/title winner predictions then (In November? Sheesh. Oh, and Sheffield Utd before either Spurs Arsenal or Utd for top 6 btw). Leicester look the finished article to me, and the relative lack of fixtures compared to ‘Pool, City or Chelsea will also work in their favour. Chelsea, on the other hand, are obviously a ‘work in progress’ and have that unpredictability that comes with outstanding youth prospects. You might not ‘win anything with kids’ but somebody tell me how it will be that this Lampard team won’t finish in the top four?

City won’t win the title this season. There. I’ve said it. I’ve posted in previous mails that I’m not sure winning the PL 3 times in a row is possible. Certainly not if you have Guardiola’s obsession with winning every available trophy put in front of you, every season and without exception. That’s not a criticism and I cannot but admire the man for his unwavering desire for excellence. It’s what makes him one of the best managers in the world. It’s more that I’m not convinced that you can instil the same belief in 30-odd players for three long seasons in a row, including the fact that the majority of same will also be regulars for their national teams.

Which leaves Liverpool. They have one Achilles heel and it’s the same regardless of how many fixtures they play or competitions they engage with. Injuries. Avoid them and it’s all gravy. Have ‘em and there are now three teams that will be looking to jump on their backsides.

I’ve written before that this hasn’t been the two-horse race that many ‘experts’ predicted and that surely can’t be a bad thing. With the greatest respect to Scottish football, the last thing the PL needed was the equivalent of an unrelenting Celtic/Rangers total dominance.
Mark (Another International break. Sigh. FFS). MCFC.

 

Sterling and MLS
1. Sterling – he is my personal marmite. Love how he has come through a torrent of abuse by the tabloids to become one of England’s marquee players.Loved his energy and drive while playing with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Hate that he had so little faith in the Liverpool project and shunned us as soon as he could. Am really surprised that he had an off field tiff with Gomez, suggests he feels really raw and hard done by, by Liverpool . But I don’t think he has been. We gave him a chance, Rodgers molded him into a hell of a player on merit yet as soon as he could get out and play the best years of his career somewhere else he did. Why should the Liverpool faithful show him any love or appreciation? What he does for England is another matter but I am lukewarm…I can handle a small amount of marmite on a bit of toast but more than that is unappetizing – so it goes with Sterling.

2. MLS – saw a compilation of this season’s MLS Cup playoffs over the weekend. I still remember rooting for MLS after the 1994 World Cup back when US commentators would yell “interception!” excitedly whenever there was a misplaced pass that went to the opposition. Back then they also could not get their heads around saying “offside” and would insist on calling it “offsides” each and every time (how you can be “off” two sides at once is beyond me). For at least 10 years the standard of play was pretty poor but what I saw for this year was impressive – lovely stretches of play, high quality goals. MLS is here to stay and the standard of play may eventually rival Europe’s top leagues. If this happens I predict we will see an expanded Champions League. You heard it here first!
Miguel L (not looking forward to the 2 week break)

 

Arsenal and racoons
My god I think Daniel Storey’s comparison of Arsenal to a perplexed raccoon in winners and losers may be one of the greatest things I have ever read. It fits them perfectly, making 2 goal leads disappear with Emery standing there wondering how it disappeared. Brilliant simply brilliant.
Aaron. Cfc. Ireland.

 

England 2020
Finlay after all these years we still need to have the conversation about Lampard and Gerrard NOT BEING ABLE TO WORK TOGETHER!
Leon, Melbourne

 

VAR corner
One of the most tedious arguments about the Premier League’s adoption of VAR has been the complaint about the referees not using the pitchside monitors. I really don’t see what difference they’ll make.

Yes, they were used in the World Cup, but only after the VAR official had reviewed it. They then made the recommendation to the on-field ref to review, and I seem to recall that virtually every time they were instructed to review on the pitchside monitor, they then overturned their original decision. This effectively means that the VAR official made the correct/final decision. If the VAR official doesn’t think it’s worth the on-field ref reviewing it, then it’s not a clear and obvious error. If they do think the on-field ref has to review it, then they already believe it’s a clear and obvious error, so there’s no need for more time to be wasted in the on-field ref then going over to the pitchside monitor to review it himself.

I’ve read Micah Richards (and others) say that if the on-field ref reviews it and stands by his decision then “hands up” and “fair enough”….yeah riiiight. If Michael Oliver had re-watched the handball himself, he may well have stuck with his initial decision and you’d still have people claiming it was a fix, and that he’d never have the balls to disallow a goal at Anfield, etc etc. It’s what fans do. Complain about decisions that go against you and ignore or justify the ones that go in your favour. VAR will never ever change that, no matter how it’s implemented.

Now, the offside thing is different kettle of fish, and that has to be improved by better technology and quicker. At least 1mm offside is consistent for all teams. Son for Spurs, Firmino’s armpit for Liverpool and now Lundstrum for Sheff Utd. It appears incredibly harsh, but the threshold has been determined and is at least the only consistent application of VAR so far. It just needs to be done so much quicker and clearer and that’s where the technology currently lacks.

Blatter and Platini were initially reluctant to introduce Goal Line Technology, but once they caved in, their stipulations were that it had to be immediate and accurate to within 5mm. There doesn’t seem to be the same regulations for offsides. This needs to be a priority for IFAB to determine and instruct all associations how to proceed, otherwise it’ll just keep being a problem as it’ll keep happening.
Don L. Renegade

 

…I was listening to Neil Swarbrick talking about VAR last night and these are some quotes from what he was saying on sky with reference to on pitch refs using the pitch side screen.

“we’ve had feedback from stakeholders, clubs, managers etc within the game and the Premier League is built on tempo, speed and intensity and the less time we take out of the game the more beneficial it is for the Premier League package”

To be fair to Swarbrick he did say it was a work in progress and they need to be given time. However, 2 words struck me as a reason why they don’t use the pitch side screen – stakeholders and package.

Are Referees not using the pitch side screen as it will damage the brand? It might just be me (as I’m sure I will be told in the comments!) but it seems like they are making this decision to help the brand rather than for its actual purpose of making sure that all decisions are correct. Its no great surprise if a decision is being made to make sure they don’t damage the brand and stop the money coming in but they are making life very difficult for themselves if protecting the brand is forcing such decisions.

I think VAR can work but it has been a bit of a shambles so far and this will not help.
Neil, Glasgow (one of them, since there appears to be another one who writes in)

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

You could never have predicted that reaction six months ago. Chelsea named their starting line-up – shorn of the suspended Jorginho – and there was a flurry of ‘where’s Jorginho?’ that even the inclusion of N’Golo Kante could not muffle. Worried Chelsea fans around the world were quickly reassured that the Italian was not injured and Frank Lampard had not lost their mind; but now, the question of whether Chelsea could break down a deep defence without their driver and unelected leader.

For 52 minutes the answer was that this was an extremely onerous task as Palace defended deep and narrow. Possession and endeavour were not in short supply for Chelsea but teams need more than possession and endeavour to break down a deep defence. They need a change of pace, a switch of play, a moment of genius. The next 27 minutes brought all of those things and more as Chelsea carved out an impressive 2-0 victory without the man that makes them tick.

On Tuesday there had been chaos but on Saturday there was calm and patience. There was even a rare clean sheet as Chelsea fired nothing but blanks at their own feet, their defence undoubtedly improved by the decision to drop actual captain Cesar Azpilicueta and his fellow title winner Marcos Alonso. All that was required was a breakthrough and that came via the continually surprising Tammy Abraham, though the rejuvenated Mateo Kovacic and Willian should each take a third share of the credit.

“I think he can do even more – in the other half of the pitch, in the attacking areas. He has the ability to go past people,” said Lampard in August and we all wondered if he was talking about the same Kovacic who had ghosted his way through an underwhelming loan spell before his permanent move came by default. But the Croatian does really have the ability to go past people; his dribbling stats should be the envy of most wingers. And it was a burst of pace that proved the catalyst for Chelsea’s opener, though most will only talk of Willian’s sublime free-kick or Abraham’s cool finish.

And then when Chelsea needed another goal, it was Kovacic who picked up the ball in what we will regretfully call the quarter-back position, and pinged the ball to the left for Christian Pulisic to complete a slightly fortunate one-two with Michy Batshuayi for the game’s second goal. Do not be fooled by the most basic of statistics; a record of no goals and just one assist in 12 games is hiding an incredibly influential season from Kovacic. Kante might have taken up Jorginho’s literal position on the pitch, but Kovacic took on his responsibility to open up a defence armed with only intelligence and vision.

He was certainly not alone in producing a performance full of quality, with Pulisic and Willian also making strong cases to be Chelsea’s man of the match in a victory that showcased that indefatigable hunger for the ball that has become the hallmark of this exciting Blues side. But this was a day to celebrate Kovacic, who took the absence of Jorginho as a challenge to set the tempo and drive this team forward. Challenge accepted. Test passed.

Sarah Winterburn

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League