Send your thoughts on the player of 2020 Bruno Fernandes and more to theeditor@football365.com

 

Why United will not win the league
So, we have a chap who’s one of the best strikers of his generation. His finishing ability has been the positive difference between us and the opposition in few games he’s been involved in. In actual fact, he scored the kinda goal no other player in the squad is capable of, in the very previous game.

So of course he starts on the bench against one of the best sides in the league, whilst a lazy pretender in the number 9 shirt (travesty, that), who is completely devoid of any cold-blooded finishing instincts, faffs around the pitch. You can expect this exact same scenario to play out in the next game. And the one after that etc.

A world where Martial starts ahead of Cavani. Strange times indeed.
Olu Omoloso, Lagos (this is also why Ole would never amount to more than a half decent coach). 

 

As a forty something year old Utd fan, a few months ago I was scalded for making the observation that I had never seen a Utd player have so much rapid influence over a team and control game since those days of King Eric, as Bruno Fernandes is now doing. I would also go as far as to say the quality of passing is as joyous and influential as another famous attacking midfielder in the the no. 18 shirt.

If anyone would care to argue with me now, let them present a better example; especially in this era.

Bruno’s stats are starting to look like he will develop the team single handedly into a world beater, and his love of the game is a joy to see, especially when he is so new to the English game.

His goals are impressive in numbers and for those who want to complain a lot are cheap penalties, just look who is creating the balls and passes which lead to the present day VAR decisions.

When he skips and smashed them in, it’s the perfect circle for his efforts.

For those Utd fans like me, who have rightly despaired at the majority of terrible football of the last 10 years masked with a sideshow of Ed and Raiola imports etc, we finally have the player which is bringing the very best of the rest of the team. Some are brilliant individuals; the majority are simply not, but all of a sudden there’s a cohesive unit out to win games; orchestrated by Bruno Fernandes.

Better than that, he appears quiet off the pitch, courteous to his peers, and a sound family orientated bloke…..and for those of old enough to remember, all that’s missing in the Eric comparison is that infamous short Gallic fuse, as he genuinely looks happy when scythed down, given he’s fairly handy with a dead ball too.

I can’t wait to be able to be in the stands with this Portuguese Magnifico in front of us soon. I couldn’t care a less what the defence do and don’t do. We have always been about intuitive and inventive attacking football.

It appears to be have returned and with it a hunger not seen for years.

Long may it continue
Chris, Utd……believing again

 

Hello gang

Happy Christmas & that.

Got a half baked idea for some #content. What about the one player each team wouldn’t want injured (eg Wilson, Bruno, etc) and then ranking the teams 1-20 for who is most reliant on their main man?

I would totally read that.

Anyway, keep up the good work!
Graham, DHFC / NUFC

 

Alli or Nothing
Ade Guilford
would take Dele Alli at Liverpool but I think the “All or Nothing” documentary has ruined his chances of playing for a top club unless someone is willing or desperate to take a risk on him. Edwards and Klopp definitely wouldn’t want to spoil our dressing room harmony.

The issue is that Alli comes across like an arrogant child. Mourinho tells him that he’s a “f**king lazy guy in training” and Alli laughs. I’m no expert but I am pretty confident Mourinho values work ethic above most things in football. If he said that to me I would take heed and work my balls off every day that followed. Alli seemed to make no adjustments from what you can see in the show and what has followed in real life.

If I were Klopp and saw that I would feel it’s no surprise his performances can swing from great to awful so much; Klopp and Pep are obsessed with repeating attacking drills to perfection so that on the pitch they look so fluid going forward. An attacker who won’t commit to this in training can’t perform to the expected standard when the pressure is on. Alli has elite level potential but doesn’t have the intelligence or ambition to fulfill it. He’s more likely to be a nearly man like Joe Cole rather than a true elite like Lampard at this point in time.
Minty, LFC

 

What’s the point in Palace?
Watching Palace against Villa and wondering what is the point of Crystal Palace? Its like a nothing club, like burnley. I mean What the actual f**k?
Darryl, Cape Town. 

 

Aston villa are genuine title contenders and Grealish and Watkins have made me fall in love with football again.

Tremendous stuff, from an Everton fan
Fat Man

 

Neverton
Short and sweet- at what point are Everton going to get any sort of media acknowledgment/ recognition?

2nd in the league- missing four key starters.

No goals conceded from open play in last four games.

Seems everyone else gets called “title challengers” except us.

Why so?
Ian, EFC

 

Paucity of pundits
Why are there so few good TV pundits in the UK?

Football is one of the most commonly talked about subjects in the UK – it might even be the most talked about. Why is it then that broadcasters can’t seem to find many people who can talk about it effectively on tv?

In my view, pundits should provide one of three skills / capabilities:

1) Technical analysis: ie providing viewers with new views / explanations of tactics such as low blocks, pressing, etc, etc. Example: Gary Neville

2) Football experiences: ie providing interesting story’s from their playing days (eg how it was to play with messi, play in a champions league final, etc) Example: Thierry Henry

3) Entertainment / humour: if they can’t do the two above they should at least be funny / entertaining to watch Example: Crouch

The problem with a lot of pundits is that they either don’t prepare well enough or don’t read up enough on modern tactics so really struggle with 1). A lot of the mainstay pundits used to know there stuff but are now outdated and simply repeat the same stuff over and over again (eg players not “working hard” enough). They could easily solve this by reading up more on the modern game in my view. I would also like to see more non-player pundits given airtime – particularly football journalists, football data analysts and tacticians, and more managers – as this would provide different points of view.

There is a lot of 2) on tv but story’s are only really interesting the first time your hear them so my view is that this is best covered by guest pundits who aren’t on tv too frequently and so can bring new and interesting stories from their careers

On 3) I would like to see more creativity in areas such as post match interviews – too many of these are v processy and formulaic – perhaps things like interviews with both managers at the same time or both captains could mix it up a bit and allow for a bit of a different dynamic
Alex

 

World class Klopp
Andy Flint of Brighton should have a look at the following before declaring Klopp inherited a squad full of world class players.

Of those present, Coutinho and Firmino would be the closest to that description. I’m not sure Henderson yet qualifies in that category but, if he does, his improvement and current level has been overseen by Klopp. Whatever he has spent in his time in charge has massively increased the value of the squad and club.
Steve

 

I almost choked on my leftovers, Andy Flint says ‘But I think you need to look at where both Klopp and Ole started from before making those sort of statements. Klopp joined a Liverpool team containing a lot of world class players that needed a few additions to challenge for the title’

Let’s look at those team sheets from Klopps 1st game vs OGS 1st game.

The line ups:

Liverpool XI: Mignolet, Moreno, Sakho, Skrtel, Clyne, Can, Lucas, Milner, Lallana, Coutinho, Origi
Subs: Bogdan, Toure, Sinclair, Texiera, Randall

Man Utd XI: De Gea; Young, Jones, Lindelof; Shaw, Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial
Subs: Romero, Bailly, Dalot, Fellaini, Fred, A. Pereira, Mata

Now i don’t know what Andy’s definition of world class is but if by ‘a few additions’ he means 11 players, than i fully agree.

Long live the Glazers.
Ryan ‘looking forward to ‘Coutinho’ was World class responses’ Liverpool Fan

 

Loved the reaction to the net spend point and how Ole has spent big no matter what way you look at it.

Huge gross and net spend. That was my point. He has been backed.

I never claimed he bought Pogba by the way. Read the original email.

Donough Carlow brings up the fact that the Coutinho sale is a big factor in how the net spend looks.Absolutely it is but you have to look at that both ways and say the same about the VVD & Alisson purchases for £150m.Would Liverpool have bought them if the Coutinho sale hadn’t gone through?

We’ll never know but if you’re going to mention Coutinho sale you have to mention the other 2 to give a balanced argument.

Andy Flint claims Klopp took over a “World class squad” & had to make a few additions unlike Ole.
Klopps first squad/ starting 11 included Mignolet,Clyne,Toure,Skrtel,Moreno,Allen,Lucas,Lallana,Origi,Ibe,Benteke and Adam Bogdan.

Not exactly the core of the 2019 CL winning team and 2020 title winning team. Only Lallana and Origi were there when the title was lifted and both were very much squad players.

Who,pray tell were these “world class players” he inherited?? Henderson wasn’t doing great at the time,Firminio had hardly played under Rodgers and was a virtual unknown at Anfield when Klopp took over. Salah, Mane, Wijnaldum, VVD, Robertson, Matip, Jota, Thiago weren’t at the club. TAA was but was a kid.

Who were these world class players? Am I missing something?
Ferg,Cork.

 

Andy Flint from Brighton mistakes the situations of Klopp and OGS when they took over. You’d be hard pressed to name a single world class player in the Liverpool squad when Klopp took over. Coutinho had the potential but only realised it for a few months in 2017 before his sale. Of the remainder of the squad, Henderson has probably now reached world class level but no one would argue he was in 2015. Milner was and is still an excellent pro but not in world class bracket. Gomez had just been signed and had the potential to be world class but that’s about it. The rest of the squad has been sold or upgraded on since with judicious work in the transfer market.

Liverpool finished 6th in 2014-15 with 62 points, got knocked out of the CL in the group stages and of the Europa League in the first knockout stage. They had to sell their best player, Sterling, that summer as well as losing their iconic captain, having lost their previous best player (Suarez) the summer before.

Mourinho had imploded in late 2018 but the squad OGS inherited had won the league cup and Europa League in 2017 and finished the 2017-18 season with 82 points, a very respectable points total that only looks bad by comparison with City’s 100 points..

It’s absolutely right to say that Utd can and should spend big given their revenue but with that spending power comes expectations and scrutiny about how that money is spent, not just in fees but on wages too. Utd have underperformed in the transfer market and on the pitch since Ferguson left. They have made steps under OGS but major questions remain unanswered, both domestically and in Europe.

They are hugely reliant on Bruno Fernandes (his involvements accounting for half of all Utd’s goals since his arrival) and he is the only signing who has kicked on significantly since arriving. Klopp has succeeded at Liverpool because of excellent recruitment and coaching, we’re yet to see either with any consistency at Utd under OGS but we may have a better clue by the end of this season.
Andrew, Cambridge 

 

Sorry Donough, writing a very long email to say that Net Spend is not a good metric and, instead, you need to use a percentage of revenue, is a bit precious and totally offside. Especially when you maintain that Utd have oodles of cash abs they are all just rolling around in it in the executive boardroom or in a safe in Switzerland because who wants it in the bank with such low interest rates.

Revenue  on its own is a worthless comparator. What if the club has a huge debt or is losing money or both? Perhaps we should measure against profit or debt? If I am not mistaken Utd has a debt of £474m and most recently had a loss of £23m. So not sure Utd are ‘rolling’ in it at this time. The debt is increasing because they don’t have the income to cover their debt. Rather than spending the money on buying players, perhaps they ought to be thinking of paying down some of that debt which is at a rate higher than the current interest rate.

As a publicly traded company they also pay out dividends to shareholders every year – especially when the Glazers decided to sell shares in the club (at lesser voting rights.)

Finally, as has been commented a lot recently, the stadium is in dire need of some ‘touch ups.’ What was once considered the jewel of the Premier League, when Utd were truly leading in every way – on the pitch and in the boardroom – has now become a big tatty. Given you may not be able to have too many fans in the stadia right now, but can seem to still do construction work, what a perfect opportunity to show the fans it is thinking of them by engaging in some long overdue updates and maintenance.

However, regardless of OGS’s capabilities, Utd have fallen from the pinnacle of football management, which does impact his ability to buy more players. But they have bought many players except Utd are not the (sole EPL) attraction they once were and can’t buy the players they want. Plus Utd don’t seem to have a very good ‘scouting’ team anymore or did they ever really have one given the prior point.

And to the point Dave made, which is related, Of the team Klopp inherited, only Firmino has been playing in the recent games. I doubt few others, let alone Liverpool fans, would have claimed he was taking over a team with plenty of world class players. What has been done is a testament not just to Klopp but the overall club management. FSG were laughed at when they first came it but I would dare say are doing a better job than the Glazers right now.
Paul (Hi to my Scottish friend Steve) McDevitt

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Rash decision

One incredibly fun aspect of the otherwise dreadful dystopia that is football without fans has been the ability to hear players yell at teammates for being a bit rubbish. Anyone who watches live matches with the artificial crowd noise is wrong and should be ashamed of themselves.

This global pandemic has been awful but without it there would be no Aaron Ramsdale almost murdering his entire Bournemouth defence for letting Mason Greenwood take a shot. So swings and roundabouts.

The Daily Mirror not only promises another example of the genre – it positively revels in it. This headline is top of their football website at Wednesday lunchtime:

‘New footage shows Man Utd stars Maguire and Rashford involved in on-pitch spat surrounding Martial’s red card in Tottenham thrashing’

Oh dear. How strange that it has taken two full days for an ‘on-pitch spat’ between a couple of players at one of the biggest clubs in the world during a chastening home defeat to surface. You’d think someone would have spotted such a remarkable bit of controversy earlier.

Then you read the transcript of this heated exchange:

Rashford: “Nothing for that elbow? Why? It’s the same.”

Maguire: “It’s not violent conduct, they’ve checked.”

Rashford: “He’s elbowed him!”

Maguire: “They’ve checked it, and said it’s not.”

Rashford: “How’s it not? How?”

Wow. It’s a wonder they didn’t need to be separated. That is some truly acerbic stuff.

Or it’s a captain relaying information from the referee to a teammate who was risking being booked himself for remonstrating. Whatever your opinion on whether Maguire should have done his best Roy Keane impression and screamed in Anthony Taylor’s face until the red card was overturned and Man Utd were awarded a 3-0 victory by default, surely everyone can agree that is no ‘on-pitch spat’? It’s barely even a conversation.

 

Cease and insist

The rest of the story is pretty weird, from a line suggesting Maguire was ‘appearing to side with the referee’ to a picture caption that reads:

‘Man Utd captain Harry Maguire insisted that it was not violent conduct’

He didn’t. He was told it wasn’t violent conduct by the referee and subsequently passed that news on to Rashford. He never put forward any sort of opinion himself, never mind ‘insisting’ anything.

A reminder that this is being presented as the single biggest piece of football news going currently.

 

Hidden agenda

It did not take long for the story to catch on elsewhere, mind:

‘New footage shows Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire disagreeing over Erik Lamela only being booked for clash with Anthony Martial as Man Utd captain sides with the REFEREE’

Because it JUST wouldn’t BE a story without the MailOnline‘s RANDOM capitalisation somewhere, WOULD it?

And again, he didn’t side with the referee..

*ahem*

…the REFEREE, he simply listened to his judgement and quite sensibly decided that protesting against it when he already had a yellow card in his hand and the replays had been checked was pretty futile.

Still, all this is better than the Metro referring to the video as ‘hidden footage’, as though it was found on a lost camcorder in some random forest as opposed to being filmed on high-resolution equipment by professional cameramen.

 

Shame difference

This all could have distracted entirely from the biggest scoop of the international break. Thankfully the tabloids are in no mood to let that happen.

‘Kane leads meeting warning England stars of discipline amid latest Covid-19 shame,’ the Daily Mirror tells us.

That certainly suggests this was a gathering called to ‘warn’ players after Ben Chilwell, Jadon Sancho and Tammy Abraham breached coronavirus guidelines. Yet John Cross tells us ‘the latest incident is not being seen as serious’ and the meeting actually revolved around ‘social media activity, being in the spotlight and observing strict rules in and around the camp while on England duty’.

Kane is definitely worthy of headline status: he is named once in the story – in the first paragraph as one of ‘England’s senior players’.

The Sun then do that typical thing of presenting their own words as if they are quotes with this:

‘HARRY KANE and Gareth Southgate told England players: Don’t bring shame on your country.’

Mediawatch has seen almost four full years of Gareth Southgate press conferences as national team manager. Mediawatch saw Harry Kane’s inspirational team talks on that Tottenham Hotspur documentary. Mediawatch cannot envisage either man addressing a room and telling them not to ‘bring shame on your country’.

Charlie Wyett only actually says players were reminded of ‘their responsibilities’ in a meeting that was planned before Chilwell, Sancho and Abraham’s violation of the guidelines. But no, Kane and Southgate – why does the player receive top billing there? – definitely ‘told England players: Don’t bring shame on your country.’

It just seems as though new call-up Harvey Barnes wasn’t listening:

“It wasn’t a telling off, it was more reminding ourselves of what is acceptable and what’s not.”

Shame on him.

Spill the Thi

Props to the Liverpool Echo for this…

‘Next Lionel Messi’ describes playing alongside Thiago Alcantara before Liverpool move’

…which is accompanied with a URL of: liverpool-sign-thiago-alcantara-messi

Oh my. And thanks to Gerardo Bruna for describing playing alongside Thiago Alcantara ‘before Liverpool move’. About 16 years before.

 

Red Devil’s advocate

FourFourTwo have spotted a market and credit to them for trying to exploit it.

‘Why Manchester United’s transfer window was better than you think’

Apparently we should ‘forget the pounds spent for a moment’ and ‘forget that the business should’ve been completed weeks ago’. Both seem quite important when evaluating how well a club has done in the transfer window but still.

In fact, ‘whichever way that is spun, that is a transfer window straight out the book of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson’. Good lord.

What about the new centre-half that was clearly needed? Well Teden Mengi is the ‘obvious answer’ there. Teden Mengi, the 18-year-old whose professional first-team career comprises of six substitute minutes in a 7-1 aggregate win over LASK Linz.

He hasn’t made a Premier League bench yet but will definitely sort out that defence. And it really ‘could prove to be a very successful window after all’ for Man Utd, as long as you ignore all the bad bits and accentuate the good ones.

 

Anecdote of the day

As Simon Jordan recalls in The Sun:

‘In 2005, we tried to sign Dean Ashton for Crystal Palace from Crewe – but my lamentable integrity led me to suggest to the chairman of two other bidding clubs that we should coordinate our bids.

‘My idea was that we didn’t strangle each other for the benefit of Crewe and just let the player choose where he really wanted to play.

‘That lasted five minutes as Norwich changed their mind – and whacked millions on.

‘Off the player went to Carrow Road, not that Delia Smith cooked up a tastier dish as they finished below us in the league.’

Yes. On goal difference. As you both suffered relegation to the Championship. Your ‘lamentable integrity’ hasn’t stopped you from obscuring the context somewhat.

 

Recommended reading of the day

Ben Fisher on Macclesfield Town.

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Aston Villa have completed the signing of Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

The 28-year-old shot-stopper has signed a four-year deal at Villa Park, moving for a reported £20million.

Martinez helped Arsenal to FA Cup victory last season and Community Shield glory last month, but manager Mikel Arteta will be going with Bernd Leno as his number one at the Gunners.


MAILBOX: Arsenal confusion, successful flops and more…


Aston Villa boss Dean Smith said: “We are really pleased with the signing of our new goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

“We know how highly Arsenal rated him and we watched his outstanding performances last season in a trophy-winning top side.

“We moved for Emi when we saw the opportunity, as it is rare to be able to buy a top-class goalkeeper who hasn’t yet reached their peak age and who can therefore be a key player for our club for the long term.”

Martinez ends a 10-year association with Arsenal by following Matty Cash and Ollie Watkins in making big-money moves to Villa Park.

He was signed by the Gunners from Independiente in 2010, making 39 first-team appearances as well as spending time on loan at six clubs – Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Wolves, Getafe and Reading.

“Thank you, thank you for all of the years (of support),” Martinez told Arsenal.com. “I thank God for having the opportunity over the past few months to show the Arsenal fanbase what I am made of, and why I went on loan so many times.

“It was always to come back and win them trophies and give them silverware. I did it, I feel prouder than ever.

“They made me as a goalkeeper; not just the club, not just my goalkeeping coaches but the fans as well because they supported me, gave me the confidence to perform as well and I wish them all the best and hope they win many, many trophies. Thank you. That’s all I can say.”

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

We feel we need to remind you that Manchester United are fifth, because apparently they are about to win the title…

 

Pog days are (not) over
How fitting that Neil Custis has the pleasure of exclusively announcing that ‘PAUL POGBA is close to agreeing a new five-year Manchester United deal’.

After all, we are rapidly approaching the two-year anniversary of Custis telling us ‘this is the beginning of the end for Paul Pogba at Manchester United’.

And we are pretty much bang on the one-year anniversary of him saying: “Paul Pogba will go down as the most disliked Manchester United player of all time.”

That didn’t quite happen so in January: ‘PAUL POGBA’S Manchester United career is over with both player and club desperate for a parting of the ways.’

And then again in January: ‘MANCHESTER UNITED will let Paul Pogba leave in a cut-price deal this summer after finally signing Bruno Fernandes.’

And in February: ‘PAUL POGBA has been given the green light to leave Manchester United.’

And then in March: ‘PAUL POGBA’S Manchester United career is over. Despite suggestions that a peace deal is being made, both sides want a splitting of the ways.’

In July that all rather feels like wishful thinking on the part of Mr Neil Custis.

 

It’s getting hot in here…
There’s another Manchester United exclusive on The Sun website as Daniel Cutts (how we have missed him) reveals that Manchester United staff are having temperature checks at Carrington. As Mediawatch had a temperature check before a haircut on Wednesday, we would be more surprised if there were NO temperature checks at Carrington. Next you will be exclusively telling us that they have to wash their hands…

 

Preferential treatment
Express website
, February 13: ‘Manchester United are now firm favourites to complete a transfer for Jadon Sancho with the Borussia Dortmund preferring a move to Old Trafford over Chelsea and Real Madrid despite their ongoing struggles under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.’

Express website, April 10: ‘Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho reportedly prefers a move to Manchester United over Chelsea and Liverpool because of his budding friendship with Marcus Rashford at international level.’

Express website, also on April 10: ‘Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho reportedly prefers a move to La Liga over Manchester United in a huge blow to Ed Woodward’s summer transfer plans.’

Express website, May 7: ‘Jadon Sancho wants a move to London this summer, despite reports suggesting the striker is close to signing for Manchester United.’

Express website, June 6: ‘Manchester United could be forced to look at other transfer targets aside from Jadon Sancho, as the Borussia Dortmund ace would reportedly prefer a move to Liverpool if the Reds come knocking.’

Express website, July 16: ‘Manchester United target Jadon Sancho has decided he wants to return to Manchester from Borussia Dortmund when the transfer window reopens, reports say.’

We would reportedly prefer the Express – and others – to admit that they haven’t got a clue.

 

NBU
Over at the Manchester Evening News, we learn that ‘Willian could save Manchester United millions on Jadon Sancho transfer’. Isn’t that nice?

‘His Dortmund contract is set to expire in the summer of 2022 and he’s unlikely to pen fresh terms as he seeks to return to England. The longer Dortmund go without cashing in on their star forward, the cheaper he becomes for United to sign.

‘In January or next summer, United will be in a much stronger position to thrash out a deal for the England international, especially considering match day revenues may have returned and the financial climate will be much clearer.

‘In the meantime, Willian can provide the answer at a fraction of the cost.’

It sounds perfect. If you entirely discount that other teams – potentially better teams – might quite like to sign Jadon Sancho. This might come as something of a shock to the propaganda machine of the MEN, but other football clubs are available too.

 

Level 23
Elsewhere on the MEN, a headline that entirely baffles Mediawatch:

‘Manchester United can go one better than Sir Alex Ferguson at Crystal Palace’

Manchester United are currently fifth so it seems unlikely that this particularly sided can go ‘one better’ than anything Sir Alex Ferguson managed at the club, so we will read on…

‘Manchester United are unbeaten in 18 and the last time such a run extended to 19 games in a season was in 2010-11 with the ‘Unconvincibles’ side that somehow won the league by nine points, reached a Champions League final and the FA Cup semi-finals.

‘United actually avoided defeat in their first 23 matches that campaign until the League Cup aberration at Upton Park.’

Ah, so what Manchester United can actually do at Crystal Palace is ‘go four short of Sir Alex Ferguson’. Not a great headline, but at least it’s true. Which we are increasingly realising is no longer really a consideration.

 

Striker light
The Daily Mirror hit pay-dirt with their ‘Anthony Martial’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer comments suggest Jose Mourinho has lost his touch’ headline, because of course Manchester United are now fifth and Martial is now brilliant so basically Mourinho was a fool for ever questioning that the Frenchman was a striker.

‘Unlike his predecessor, Solskjaer has always seen Martial as a striker and putting faith in him has paid off.’

Always? Five of his nine Premier League starts last season under Solskjaer was on the left wing. He was actually on the bench more often than he started as a striker.

‘He handed Martial the No.9 shirt last summer and has given him the responsibility of leading the line.’

Cynics might suggest that he literally had no other strikers.

 

Fool me once…
Clearly, the Mirror have decided that there’s clicks in former Manchester United managers being made to look foolish by the club sitting in fifth with the capacity to finish on a points total (68) bettered by both managers, so…

‘Louis van Gaal left looking foolish after comments on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man Utd’

Yes, he looks like a right d*ck for what he said last April when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United really were shit.

 

Reality show
‘Manchester United are a year away from being a serious challengers for the Premier League title,’ begins Mark Ogden on ESPN.

Big call.

‘That’s not an opinion based on the progress made by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with his squad in recent months, but a reality borne out by the numbers that tell you when a team is ready to become champions.’

A ‘reality’? That is a really big call.

He then goes down a big old rabbit-hole about age…

‘Solskjaer has named the same starting XI for each of United’s last five games — injury to Luke Shaw ensures that run is likely to end at Crystal Palace on Thursday — and its average age is 24.9 years. At 31, midfielder Nemanja Matic is the oldest member of that side, with Greenwood the youngest. What history shows us is that an average of 24.9 years is not quite old enough for a title-winning team, but isn’t far off.’

We might suggest that age is not the only factor in whether a team becomes champions but Ogden is not to be put off. He keeps on his chosen road, via Alan Hansen, the class of 92, Arsenal’s Invincibles, Manchester City’s centurions and this Liverpool side to here…

‘History suggests that title-winning teams enter a season with an average age of between 25.5 and 26.5 and Solskjaer’s side will be in that area at the start of the 2021-22 season rather than the 2020-21 campaign, which is expected to begin in mid-September.’

It’s an excellent theory and is why Newcastle, Brighton, Leicester, Norwich, Arsenal, Southampton, Everton, Aston Villa and Chelsea are all competing for the title alongside Liverpool this season.

And of course we all remember an age-appropriate Manchester United themselves competing for the title in 2018/19, when they finished *checks notes* one place below where they are now.

 

Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Liew on Arsenal

Daniel Taylor meets ‘that’ crying Leeds fan

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Thank you for your e-mails. We love you. Keep sending them to theeditor@football365.com

 

Recruitment is a tricky business…
I think Ade needs to put his crayons away and start to grow up, yes United are 5th and Liverpool are top guess what for the last 30 years Liverpool were nowhere and United were for the most part top that’s football. United currently sit 5th but before Covid-19 stepped in were on a good run and looking good for a top four place, now this for United should be bare minimum but the way the club went after Fergie left what with naff recruitment both managers and players he has had a lot of fire fighting to do but Ole is getting us back on track. Dalot was signed by Jose not Ole, I presume every player Klopp have signed have been imperious and successful? Karius, Klavan, Grujic, Grabara? Recruitment is a tricky business Ade even Jürgen can vouch for that.

I for one am quite happy with what Ole is doing at United and if a couple more of the right players are brought in then we can be challenging again. Watch your backs Liverpool we will return soon.
Paul Murphy, Manchester

 

There is no point coming second if left utterly broken…
Oh God, not this 2nd place nonsense again.

Apologies to F365 for the long email here, but I feel that Man Utd’s 2nd place finish needs to be regularly given a public flogging and seen for what it was – a win at all costs approach that didn’t come close to winning.

It’s galling that there are still people who are yet to realise why there is no point in coming 2nd, even 1st, if you are left utterly broken and unready for the next season. Not at a club with ambitions of staying at the top. A Premier League season is a lap of the circuit. If you post the second fastest lap but your car’s on fire, has three wheels, you’ve dumped all the fuel and you’ve thrown your steering wheel at the pit crew, you’re a bit fucked going into the first corner of the next lap aren’t you.

Any neutral will tell you we didn’t pass the eye test. We weren’t well drilled defensively or fluid in attack. We finished 2nd and Liverpool finished 4th – but nobody objectively thought Utd were a better side than Liverpool, certainly not going into 2018-19. Going by the numbers, we conceded nearly 16 goals fewer than we should have (De Gea having prevented 10 more goals than expected), and scored 9 over our expected goals. On expected points, we should have finished 6th. Mourinho apologists will dismiss the xNumbers, of course. The table reflects what actually happened, there is no point winning an imaginary table. But expected goals, assists, points etc show how repeatable a season’s performance is likely to be.

And we were set up to collapse in 2018-19.

Mourinho burnt bridges with so many players. He routinely put his own players down. We lost games and Mourinho would point blame at his squad. Players would make a mistake and he would drop them for weeks, months even. We were knocked out comfortably by Sevilla, and he would say this is United’s level based on their European heritage.

(This is the man who made his name winning the Champions League with Porto, ranting exactly 12 months before United knocked PSG out over two legs under his successor.)

Questioning Ole’s performance based on wages and money spent is trite and unfair. Of course he has the 3rd highest wage bill in the world – he can’t shift half of the massively overpaid rubbish Mourinho left him with. Of course he has to spend hundreds of millions – Mourinho didn’t build for the future, and himself wanted to replace virtually all of his own signings. Of course he hasn’t matched 2nd place yet – it was only by the miracle of De Gea’s season that Mourinho achieved 2nd despite himself.

Back to the present, we’ve lived out 3 or 4 seasons in 2019-20 without actually completing 1. It may be that Ole will hit his own ceiling in his progress with the side, and it will probably be the case that not having a DoF will prove a mistake that needs fixing in future. But we are undoubtedly a more appealing side for potential signings to join right now, than we were at the end of 2017-18. Ole ‘finishing’ this season 5th puts us in much better stead than Mourinho’s pyrrhic 2nd place.
Hoffbeadle

 

The most important result in Premier League history
I have been watching the void/ non-void/ start when safe to do so discussion with interest. However, it all appears to be coming down to what is best for your own club and then a series of fancy arguments to justify the stand point.

What I wanted to mention was that I think Watford beating Liverpool just before lockdown might turn out to be one of the most important results in Premier League history. Imagine for a second that Liverpool had won or drawn that match. They would still be unbeaten (in the league) in 2019/20. Now the void/ non-void discussion would be very different. If the season were voided Liverpool fans could (and would) claim forever that they had gone a season unbeaten. Even if voided, it doesn’t erase it from people’s memories. I would envisage any mentions of Arsenal’s unbeatables would have to carry an asterisk which denoted Liverpool were unbeaten in the voided 2019/20 season.

As it is, Liverpool were beaten and it comes down to the voting of individual clubs, rather than an objective governing body, as to what happens to the title. I am thinking it will be voided because more clubs benefit from that than they do from continuing.

As an aside, the draw for the Preliminary round of the Europa League is due to be held on 9 June. People usually think about the Champions League and Europa in terms of the big clubs. However, the qualifying rounds start hideously early. If decisions on individual leagues aren’t taken pretty soon I cannot see how the Champions League and Europa League can take place next season at all.
Micki Attridge

 

Defending Pochettino
I think Roode, MUFC is wearing some heavily MUFC tinted glasses in general but the point I take issue with the most is regarding Pochetinno. To use how well has he bought backup for Kane as a stick to beat him with is not very fair. Imagine tottenham approach a player and their offer is we want you but we already have a main guy but hey you will get some games. Now the modern way around that obstacle is throwing money at it. Somehow I can’t see Daniel Levy happily throwing big money at someone who isn’t going to play a big role because it doesn’t make sense business wise and that’s what Levy is a business man. So the player says well team X are offering me to be the main guy and team Y are offering me the big bucks so why exactly would I go to Tottenham.

Starting to see why it’s much harder to recruit decent quality back-up players for Tottenham than Man United? You can also point to the fact that one of Tottenhams best selling points was you get to work under Poch who has a track record of improving players. I don’t think Ole has that yet, he needs a lot more than the fleeting success so far anyway.

Then you have to take into account that Poch did a very good job of making do with what he was provided with and helped Son become one of the best all round forwards in the world, and also a competent backup for Kane when he was missing. Thus solving the problem of how do i make this work without having the money to throw at it. That’s the difference so far, Poch is a problem solver, Ole may be eventually but he certainly hasn’t looked like it the last year or so.

Never thought I’d see myself defending Tottenham so staunchly, but to compare the United free flowing never ending throw cash at it transfer policy to Levys Tottenhams penny pinching is madness. To then try say it was Pochetinnos fault they didn’t buy adequate backup to Kane is doing him a massive injustice. (Not wrong about peps dodgey fullback dealings though)
Aaron. CFC. Ireland

 

It’s not about Liverpool
I understand why Liverpool seem to be the main focus of the end-the-season debate. It’s absolute Top Bantz for many to imagine Liverpool not winning the title. But this is absolutely not about Liverpool. Laurence says this morning, is it fair on Liverpool? No, but tough. He mentions no other team.

The problem with the “void it” argument, is that football is that it’s not as simple as, saying oh well, never happened, start again. The money that sloshes around the game, has a dramatic effect on things. Whatever decision is made could potentially have financial implications for clubs that last for the next 10 years or longer.

Think about Norwich, with £100m extra cash, with another chance to establish themselves in the Premier League at the expense of Leeds or West Brom, who now have to start from scratch.
What about Leicester who are looking to kick on to the next level and make themselves a Champions League level club? Now they could be back to square one. That could dramatically alter their ability to hold on to key talent.
On the flip side, is it fair that Spurs will get to play in next season’s Champions League, reaping the financial rewards that brings?

That obviously continues down the leagues, with teams such as Coventry, Rotherham, Crewe, Swindon & Plymouth denied the opportunity to take their club to the next level.

In the grand scheme of things, who wins the Premier League is probably the least important effect of voiding the season. The consequences for some clubs could be absolutely catastrophic and deeply unfair. The only way to try and make things in any way fair is to finish the season. Things are getting better. The country will begin to open back up. In those circumstances, IF deemed safe by the experts, then the league should try to be completed.
Mike, LFC, London (Also, another Solskjaer debate? Haven’t we suffered enough?)

 

He will bring death, and they will love him for it
Hello mailbox compiler,

I am reading the clueless man’s (Raab) comments about football returning and have 2 points:

Firstly, there will be no crowds. So I assume, if it will lift spirits, then I assume all games will be made available free to air? Now being a sceptic, I can’t see sky or BT allowing all those games they have paid ridiculous amounts of money for, being allowed on freeview tv or free for streaming (not including season ticket holders, who should be entitled to watch the games they have paid for), as we get back to the same point of what is the point of us paying all of this money when there is no games/ all games are free! Can we have our money back/have a competitive advantage in the next round of bidding.

Secondly, the liability issue. If they do return, someone will get Covid 19 and maybe die from this (or a family member). Would this not be gross misconduct from an employer? If so, could people making decisions be prosecuted?  Which reminds me of a scene it gladiator where one of the senate members comments:

“I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they’ll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they’ll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it’s the sand of the coliseum. He’ll bring them death – and they will love him for it.” Replace Rome for football and we pretty much have it.

A more realistic solution is to cancel the season, give Liverpool the title as they are so far clear. Promote the 2 automatic clubs. Have no relegation and use the money saved on parachute payments to help the EFL clubs.
Chris (I’d love to watch it, but health before wealth)

 

Mrs Di Maria got me thinking
The hilarious quotes from Di Maria’s missus got me thinking about players who left clubs and ended up been despised by the former club’s fans for various reasons.

There can be many reasons – player kissing the badge and promising undying loyalty and then leaves 5 mins later. The player joining a hated rival. The way a player orchestrates the move. Or even religion/race issues.

Some examples I can think of including the relevant recent one of Raheem Sterling leaving Liverpool for City and from ancient history Luis Figo going from Barcelona to Real Madrid. Or from pre-historic times Mo Johnston ending up at Rangers after previously playing for Celtic.

Any others spring to mind?

Aido (praying for the Bundesliga restart)
Kildare, Ireland

 

Reading this morning’s piece on Jorgelina Cardoso (Angel Di Maria’s wife) and her dislike of all things Manchester, I was wondering where it might rank in an all-time list of disgruntled new residents in PL history.

So many legends have made clear that they hated the rain in Manchester (Vidic, Ronaldo to name a few), while Kieron Dyer was less than complementary about the experience of resettling on Tyneside. Thibaut Courtois eventually left Chelsea because his girlfriend couldn’t stand to live in London, but I can’t remember many more withering put downs of a city than Senora Cardosa’s. Has anyone got any better that come to mind?
Jamie

 

Not 90 minutes? Why not just play next goal wins
There was a girl called Bertha (I might have changed this) when I was 12 in year 7 and we were best friends, though I was a little bit in love with her. She didn’t feel the same, or if she did she never showed it, and I was still far too inexperienced to know how to engineer my behaviour to make things more likely to happen romantically.

So we were just really close friends. We hung out all the time. We walked home from school together and we talked on the phone most nights, and it was amazing because she was amazing and it felt so great that she enjoyed spending time with me.

But it also felt like a sweet, happy torture, because I wanted things I didn’t even know how to explain to myself, let alone her. All the time we spent together, getting closer, it felt like I was constantly wasting the chance of it being something more by letting it be so good as it was.

So all this pent up unfocused wanting and frustrated happiness was in my head and growing.

And then one summer day after school we walked back through the manicured London park outside school. It was warm and sunny with just enough breeze that it was the perfect temperature, and as we walked the sunlight shone through the leaves of the tall trees that gently swayed above and dappled shaded patterns of gold and green on the path at our feet, so it was as if we were walking on a sunlit river of beauty while the canopies of the trees curved and met over our heads, turning the path into our own private secluded magical world.

And she didn’t say anything, but she reached out and held my hand and we walked slowly through the golden green hazy soft summer air, and it was both the best and yet the worst feeling I’ve ever had.

So, anyway. I for one know exactly how it’ll feel if the world being devastated nevertheless results in Liverpool not winning the league title.
Tim Sutton

 

Pele isn’t on your list?
Stu, Bromley – I’m not sure this sport is for you fella if Pele doesn’t make your list. Let’s start with the “never played in Europe argument”. Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United  and Inter Milan all tried to sign him. In 1961 the President of Brazil declared him an “official national treasure” to prevent his transfer overseas. So he stayed in Brazil, where he made his league debut at 15 (fifteen!!) and scored, the following season he was top scorer in the league at 16, won the title at 18 after scoring 58 goals (still a record today). In 1962 he won the Copa Libertadores  (second highest scorer) before retaining both that and the league the following season whilst adding the Intercontinental Cup by beating Benfica (hat-trick in the second leg). Santos won the national title six times with Pele and only two other times in the 100+ year history of the club, ,their ONLY Intercontinental Cups were won with him and they’ve managed one other Copa Libertadores without him. His impact on Santos is right up there with Maradonna at Napoli.

You say that he played with some great players, well let’s see what his contemporaries say…

“Pelé was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic.” – Cryuff
“He had an extraordinary perception of the game.” – Carlos Alberto
“Pelé was the greatest – he was simply flawless” – Tostao
“Pelé is the greatest player of all time. He reigned supreme for 20 years. There’s no one to compare with him” – Beckenbauer
“The greatest player in history was Di Stéfano. I refuse to classify Pelé as a player. He was above that.” – Puskas
“When I saw Pelé play, it made me feel I should hang up my boots.” – Fontaine
“Pelé was the most complete player I’ve ever seen” – Bobby Moore
“I sometimes feel as though football was invented for this magical player.”  – Bobby Charlton

The trouble with judging people like Pele is massive recency bias and a lack of surviving video but even with all that, any list of GOAT players without him is just a collection of names.
Lee

 

Stu from Bromley dropped Zinedine Zidane in his Top 5 players of all time this morning in the Mailbox, now I must admit i was a bit naive to Zidane, maybe this was due to my age, being born in 1993 my memories of Zizou are mainly from Euro 2004 and the infamous World Cup final in 2006, however during lockdown I have found myself indulging in not just documentaries but also some really good football related books, I am sure many are aware of a book by Michael Cox called Zonal Marking, in that book one of the eras of football he covers is the France side from 1998 into the 2000’s, he talks about how Zidane changed the game, how his style, his flair were mesmerizing, it has certainly given me a different perspective on the French international legend for sure.

One extra point I wanted to make, I dropped it in the comments this morning but DD, MUFC mentioned about a right hand man for Ole, similar to how Sir Alex had his, well to me the perfect person to fulfill that Kidd/Phelan/Queiroz role, very intelligent and once completed his coaching badges could become a top manager one day.
Mikey, CFC

 

Football began in 2000?
Hey there

Hope everyone is safe and well. I’ve just noticed an interesting phenomenon in all things football in that our memories now seem to have a range of about 20years. Having plugged the live football gap with endless Youtube compilations, I’ve noticed how all highlights reels (great counterattacking goals, best free kicks etc) rarely use footage from the 90s now. Meantime, recent talk about the Treble season is being treated like some rare found footage item. Now this morning, you have done a list of stopping the season at 29 games but included nothing before 2000. Now sure whether to find this interesting or annoying (honestly) Anyone else notice this?
Hugh, Cork/Dublin

 

Nearing the end…
It became clear early on that I wasn’t going to find enough players to form complete XIs for certain letters of the alphabet, so Q, U, X & Y join forces to form a team. R & S were very hard to pick with so many potential options. T was surprisingly difficult, assume I’ve missed a few there!

QUXY football: Widely considered the greatest goalkeeper of all-time, the legendary Lev Yashin is in goal. Jacinto Quincoces (Spain & Real Madrid) plays as sweeper behind a back three of Chilean great Alberto Quintano, big Ron Yeats (c) & the Uruguyan Luis Ubina. The midfield four is comprised of Bulgarian star Dimitar Yakimov, Xavi, Roberto Ufart (Spain & Sociedad) & appropriately for lockdown, the prolific Quarentinha (14 goals in 13 appearances for Brazil). Up front are Niall Quinn (with his disco pants) & Spaniard Quini who won seven top scorer awards. Subs include Quim, East Germany’s Klaus Urbanczyk & Santos Urdinaran (WC winner with Uruguay in 1930).

The R-soles: Thomas Ravelli in goal and a back three of Ramos, Ruggeri & Reuter. A solid three-man midfield consisting of Robson (c), Rijkaard & Redondo. Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho attack from wide with Ronaldo & Rush up front. Bench options include Romario, Rivaldo, Rivelino, Rats ,Raul, Rai, Riquelme, Riva, Rydell, Rummenigge, Rieldle, Rensenbrink, Rep & Rossi.

The S-entials: Schmeichel wins an amazing battle for the gloves (see bench), behind a back four of Djalma Santos & Nilton Santos (not related!) as attacking full backs with Stam & Sammer in the middle. Souness (c) & Seedorf run midfield, with Stoichkov pulling the strings behind a devastating attack of Salah, Shearer & Suarez. Bench options include Southall, Seaman, Shilton, Elisha Scott, Scirea, Schwarzenbeck, Shevchenko, Socrates, Savicevic, Stoikovic, Scholes, Sensini & Seeler.

The T-bags: The iconic Bert Trautmann in goal and a back three of Mauro Tassotti, John Terry (c) & Phil Thompson. Thuram & Argentine ’78 WC winner Alberto Tarantini as wing backs. Marco Tardelli anchors midfield behind a creative trio of Jean Tigana, Totti & Tostao. Torres leads the line. In reserve are Jean Thissen, Marius Tresor & Lajos Tichy.
Vinny (LFC) Colchester

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

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Solskjaer improves players
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been rightly criticised for failing to inspire or set this team up to win against weaker opponents.

The fact that my nerves were more prevalent in the Watford game than the Chelsea game says enough.

Nobody, however, seems to ever praise Ole for the players who have improved under him.

Rashford, Martial, McTominay, Fred, Williams and Greenwood have all had their best season at Manchester United thus far. While you can’t necessarily say that Ole has improved Williams or Greenwood, he is the one giving them the minutes to keep getting better. Martial and Rashford have a combined 34 goals in all competitions this season too, which is a very high tally for a team who struggles to score goals. Fred’s resurrection and his partnership with McTominay before the latter got injured also seems to be a direct result of Ole’s coaching (everyone needs to remember just how bad Fred was.) I’d even go as far as saying that Ole is improving the already excellent Wan-Bissaka, as his attacking intent seems to be growing with each week.

This could all obviously be a coincidence, and all these players could very likely have gotten better in the past year with or without Ole, but it feels like the ridiculous lack of ability in players like Lingard and Peirera has retracted from acknowledging the players who actually have improved. I also cannot think of a player who has actively gotten worse under Ole, which is more than I can say for Mourinho.

Point is, maybe sometimes you can praise Ole a little more.
Gaaavie, Kaapstad

 

We need to talk about Tony…
It’s time for a proper conversation about Tony Martial, possibly the most enigmatic player to grace our league since Dimitar himself.

He divides fans’ opinions because, on the one hand he’s clearly highly technically gifted but, on the other, often seems lethargic or even disinterested.

Personally, I don’t hold sway with the ‘disinterested’ thing at all. Yes, he seems unusually devoid of facial expression, but that does not mean he’s lazy. To assume so would be just that. However, it is fair to say that he’s not one to bust a gut to get into the six yard box and sniff out a tap-in a la Nistelrooy or Owen. I think it’s a matter of his style of play more than anything else, personally.

Then there are those who say he’s simply not a good enough goal scorer to lead the line for a club that would like to challenge for the league/UCL again in the coming years. Here’s where I’m on the fence. To me, it seems his actual finishing ability is certainly good enough for the very top level (maybe he’s not Henry or Aguero but the boy can clearly put his chances away). So what has stopped him from scoring more prolifically in recent years? I think there’s a few factors:

1 – he has often been asked to play wide, where goals are harder to come by;

2 – he has played for a United team that have struggled for their own consistency in style/shape/tactics for the last 6 years;

3 – he only recently turned 24. It’s perfectly possible that he’s yet to reach his peak as a striker (Jamie Vardy was playing for Halifax at this age); and

4 – he has suffered a chronic lack of chance-creation from midfield for years.

For me, the last factor is most important. It can be no coincidence that he has scored in his last three games, benefiting hugely from having a decent no.10 (Bruno) in the side to give him a bit of service. One wonders what he might be capable of when being supplied by a combination of Pogba, Bruno and Rashford?

Personally I remain undecided as to whether or not we could improve the front line by replacing Tony. One part of me wonders whether an all-action, scampering opportunist (like Tevez) would work better in Ole’s system. But I do believe Tony is now showing enough form to be given the fans’ full support to try to make the no.9 shirt his own. If he can do that, he could lead the line for the next 6/7 years. He’s at a fascinating crossroads.

I’d be interested to hear people’s (grown-up) thoughts…
RQT (MUFC)

 

Tory Parrott could be the answer…
A good few years ago spurs were having striker issues and f365 quite reasonably said something along the lines of ‘they need an answer and that answer is not harry kane’. Kane was completely untested at that stage and his style, which we now know leads to lots of goals, did not make him look particularly impressive. But by necessity/luck/incredible foresight they stuck with playing Kane and he kept scoring (and was real).

Maybe another manager would take the same chance on Parrot. But Jose won’t. Nothing but excuses and just generally poo poo the idea of playing an unproven young player, especially a striker.

Parrot may never be good enough or he may be amazing, but we may never know until it is too late.
Joe lfc

 

Referees should be a commodity
After watching the VAR debacle this weekend (you can decide which one I’m referring to) it got me wondering why it is that good referees are not viewed as a valuable commodity. Players, coaches and managers are paid millions a year to ensure that they are performing to the highest standard, yet those in charge of the game are viewed more of a hindrance than a valuable asset.

To this end, I ask why referees aren’t transferrable in the same way that players are. Why hasn’t the Premier League looked at standards and said we could use some more elite referees lets go and employ some. A certain Damir Skomina spends his time refereeing in Slovenia yet was voted best referee in the world last year. He refereed the 2019 CL final and surely if you can referee that, you’re good enough to do Burnley Bournemouth…

The purpose of this exercise would be to drive up standards. Commoditise the referees and free up their salaries. Theoretically it results in the elite referees being paid more, and being held to higher standards as a result. Each league competes over the best referees and that should therefore drive standards up across the board. It also means that top referees in Africa/Asia/S America et al could also move into higher quality leagues, thus resulting in better refereeing in major tournaments. As an aside it could also make refereeing a more attractive prospect and thus encourage more people into it at the lower level.

In a sport where everything and anyone is a commodity, it just seems a bit weird that ultimately the person with the ability to impact the game more than anyone else is so widely undervalued…
Charles Benson (can we not just clone Collina?

 

VAR Taboo
On F365’s 16 Conclusions of the Chelsea v Spurs game, point 15 was a rather brief “Lo Celso should have been sent off. Michael Oliver should have checked the monitor. VAR should have advised him far more effectively – and have since admitted as such. Next.”

All I ever hear or see on every podcast, radio show or article, is people pleading “please don’t talk about VAR” or “We won’t bore you with any VAR chat because I’m sure you’re sick to death of it”.

Why are we burying our head in the sand over how much of a shambles it is? It’s so infuriating. I look forward to seeing the backlash after another weekend of laughably inept VAR decisions, because I hate it, and am thoroughly enjoying it crashing and burning.

We are treating it like an act of God, a natural disaster that we have to just brace ourselves for. But this isn’t a Coronavirus pandemic, this is a MAN MADE, implemented solution to incorrect refereeing decisions that is getting just as many decisions wrong, at the expense of time, money, and the ire of everyone. That is insanity. It is pretty much unanimously scorned by all pundits, fans, managers and players.

However instead of speaking up and voicing our disdain against it, we bottle it up and move on. Heaven forbid we would want to embarass the likes of the official who couldn’t see that a Lo Celso’s stamp is a red card offence. That level of ineptitude should not be protected. It’s not the same as turning the camera away from pitch invaders to starve them of attention, this is something that is genuinely ruining the game we love, and all we are doing is sweeping our disgust under the rug and accepting it.

Stop treating VAR like an inevitable cold winter.

(Oh and Garth Crooks, the VAR being 25-30 miles away has nothing to do with it. You could watch a game from the ISS and see a foul, just as long as you’re not an idiot.)
Gerard, Belfast

 

Keeper liberties
Interesting email from Graham, LFC (Retired member of the GK Union) about protection for goalkeepers. As a former member of the GK Union myself this is a topic I have mixed feelings about, as I do think keepers get away with bloody murder at times as well.

Taking the exact law from Graham’s email re jumping at an opponent in a careless manner, can anyone explain why it seems to be perfectly permissible for goalkeepers to jump to claim a high ball with one of their legs raised in front of them for protection? Having a leg raised is surely careless given that the whole intention of jumping with a raised leg is to make contact with one’s opponent – if the keeper was giving care or attention to avoid harm their leg would be lowered.

Also, and forgive me for this is a long-standing gripe, but has anyone actually bothered to count how long keepers hold onto the ball for these days? The law says 6 seconds – it’s very often 10 or more, and towards the end of tight games you often see keepers claim the ball, slowly drop to the ground to hug the ball tighter for a few more seconds whilst watching the ref, slowly get to their feet, start to look around for options and then spend well over the allotted 6 seconds before releasing. I’ve seen this regularly take in excess of 15 seconds and in some cases over 20. Surely there’s a quick, simple VAR-free solution, which is a verbal count from the ref. It’s not difficult, requires no additional technology and instances of referees being capable of counting in other sports include rugby league (tackle count, also to 6) and boxing (obvious, and all the way up to 10). Alternatively why not have a clock, a bit like the shot clock in basketball. You could also enact this count-down at other stoppages e.g. throw-ins, goal kicks etc… to reduce time-wasting.

I’ve also wondered why opponents, noticing this practice, don’t start their own loud verbal count as soon as the keeper claims the ball, to highlight the issue to the ref.
Jonny Dance

 

What happens to England goalkeepers?
Dear F365,

The mails about Jordan Pickford got me thinking about England’s recent sequence of goalkeepers – and made me wonder why apparently good goalkeepers seem to regress so badly over time.

Received wisdom has it that unlike outfield players, ‘keepers don’t peak until they are in their 30s, and can carry on until they are 40-odd like Shilton or Seaman (or Buffon, Friedel etc.). But England’s recent ‘keepers seem to have gone the opposite way. Since Seaman retired, there has been a succession of ‘keepers that have been picked very young and initially done well, but then regressed so badly that they have been dropped by the time they are 30.

Paul Robinson (picked at 21, dropped by 29); Ben Foster (picked at 22, never picked consistently); Joe Hart (picked at 21, dropped by 30); Jack Butland (picked at 19, currently out of favour); now Pickford (picked at 23, dropped by 25?). There has also been a succession of ‘keepers under 30 who have been selected but only, so far, made a handful of appearances (Wright, Kirkland, Carson, Forster, Pope).

Rob Green got the last of his caps at 32, and Tom Heaton has made a few appearances aged 30/31. But since Seaman, only David James has played for England significantly into his 30s, carrying on until he was 39. I can fully imagine England picking Henderson in the near future, only to ditch him a few years down the line.

So what’s going on? Is the idea that ‘keepers peak in their 30s just not true in the first place? Have England ‘keepers actually regressed for some reason (loss of confidence associated with England pressure/changing role of ‘keepers in the modern game)? Or were they just not much cop to start with and it took a few years for them to be found out?

What does the mailbox think?
Benedict, Sussex

 

James T in Japan
I was lucky enough to read James’ email on Friday just before the Shonan Bellmare v Urawa Reds game – which I got home for having missed the opening 20 mins.

What a ridiculous game of football.

Lots of great things – passionate fans, some skilled players, a frenetic pace, one manager in a tracksuit,  the other looking like he had strolled out of Savile Row, a silly penalty concession and then the penalty itself which was missed and a 3-2 scoreline which doesnt even begin to tell the story of a topsy-turvy game, and a ref who looked at VAR himself (very happy to see this)

The bad things – the overall standard of defending, a Brazilian who looked good when he wasn’t trying to get people carded…that’s about it.

It was in fact a great way to spend a Friday morning. Long live free football on the TV!!

Best,
Aidan, EFC, London

 

Crystal Palace
Dear Football365,

So much moaning to referees and about decisions, both on the field and after video review. Why oh why can’t rugby union be more like football?

*There remains just one team in the professional divisions of English football yet to win in 2020: for banter purposes, it’s Brighton and Hove Albion. Less banterously, it should be said that Crystal Palace were the penultimate team to get all three points.

*This was a huge win for the Eagles, and came with a much-improved performance. Scoring a rare first half goal, they managed six shots on target; according to CPFC Analytics, in all their previous home games, they’d managed a pathetic total of just eight. Just generally, there was a lot more energy about the team, clearly benefitting from the winter break, that enabled them to play on the front foot.

*However, this is still a Roy Hodgson team, so it was not all attacking verve and swagger. In fact, Palace restricted United to an xG of 0.16, the lowest of any opponent this season. Though the score was only 1-0, this was a dominant performance.

*In the battle of the underfiring strikers, both Christian Benteke and Joelinton lived up to their billing by failing to trouble the scorers, Benteke’s commitment to this reputation epitomised by endeavouring to head wide a chance that was significantly easier to score than to miss. Now that Cenk Tosun is on the way back from injury, surely he will be the first choice for the rest of the season.  Tosun offers more mobility than his Belgian counterpart, as demonstrated by his tracking back to win the ball near his own penalty area with a sliding tackle that started a counterattack.

Given that Miguel Almiron scored his first goal for United in the reverse of this fixture, it seemed that the stage was set for Joelinton to break his duck on Saturday. That he didn’t have many clear cut chances is great testament to how well Palace defended as a team.

*A deeper selection dilemma for the Eagles is what to do about Luka Milivojevic. A few weeks ago Michael Cox wrote a piece for the Athletic in which he (while winking down the camera with his tongue firmly in his cheek) described Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kevin de Bruyne and Wilfried Zaha as “failures”, because statistics show how many times they concede possession, shoot off target and get dispossessed respectively. The point of the article was to highlight the difference between what the data tells us and what we can see with our own eyes, though the real entertainment came from those who believe the numbers don’t lie queuing up to tell Cox he wasn’t using them correctly. Anyway, to a lot of people the obvious reason for the increase in dynamism in the midfield was the combination of James McCarthy, James McArthur and Cheikhou Kouyate or, to put it another way, the absence of Luka Milivojevic. He has become a bit of a bete noire for certain elements of the Palace fanbase, with many believing he come to embody many of the negative aspects of the team’s play, and that the Eagles are far better to watch when he isn’t playing. On the other hand:

*The red card for Valentino Lazaro shows why cynical fouls can never be punished appropriately. In allowing the defending team to assemble their players who were previously unable to affect the play, in a perverse way United gained from the transgression of one of their number, while Palace lost their advantage – specifically Zaha running in one on one with the goalkeeper. One way to properly punish cynical fouls would be to put a ten-metre halo around the ball at the spot of the foul, with only the fouled player allowed within it, and only defenders who were goalside at the time of the foul allowed goalside of the free kick, with everyone else behind the ball. Then, the fouled player can restart play by shooting, passing or dribbling, at which point everyone else is eligible to touch the ball. Anyone got Arsene Wenger’s number?

*Next up for the Eagles is the “why is this a derby” derby against Brighton & Hove Albion, in Saturday’s early kickoff. A revitalised Palace away at their fiercest rivals? Could be fun, could also be another chapter in the ongoing battle between the Five Year Plan fanzine/podcast and Sussex Police.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

What is football really about?
Good Day Kind Editor.

After reading John Nic’s piece about Haaland reminding us of what football was about, I started questioning whether football in its total package was really that much better before. I was born in the late 80s, my first experiences of top level football was the mid to late 90s, so I experienced the transition of the game into the commercial product that it is today. My aim is not to try to change any minds, rather it is to bring perspective to both sides.

I’ll start off with what was good about football of days gone by… I don’t mind football from every league in the world being televised, depending on how much you can consume it is interesting to watch something different. However, it does get tedious when some random person on social media constantly tells everyone how good “Carlos Kickaball” is and prides themselves as being the “first” to know about how good said player is. It removes the mysteriousness of having a player arrive as a relative unknown but turn into a cult hero. The amount of football on offer has also resulted in numerous podcasts and the likes of the FPL show providing analysis on what is essentially an elaborate guessing game. It’s a bit too much of side content, video games, etc, so there’s a reason why shows like Football Italia or games like Champ Manager 93 bring back such fond memories.

The commercialism of the game also means that local fan bases of bigger clubs get priced out, and very little can be done about ticket prices because there’s always someone who is willing to pay that amount to make a “pilgrimage” to their favourite club. When we talk about “famous European nights at Anfield” or “Tuesday nights in Stoke”, that uniqueness is only made possible by the local support. It must have been a great feeling for a group of mates to scrape enough money together for a match ticket and a few pints at 3pm on a Saturday. Imagine, not having 7pm kick offs…

As for the actual football, there’s obviously an enjoyment in having the unpredictability of mostly technically flawed teams playing each other, which makes the game feel more human and something we as mere mortals can relate to. And when a team does enter a period of dominance, it just felt that much more spectacular.

And now for the modern day bit…

It’s safe to say that the overall quality of the game has improved, with players conducting themselves more professionally, with better fitness regimes and diets and more focus on the tactical side of the game. This has contributed to making the game more interesting for the analysts, journalists and podcasters, but not so much for the people who are in it for the thrill that comes with unpredictability. Which is why there will be those who would be happier to accept an incorrect decision over having celebrations cut short because VAR has disallowed a late winning goal.

As for VAR, everything changes and the technology is required to make the game better. However, like every technology that has been invented, the product that we see today is far more sophisticated compared to the first version, so we have to give it a chance. Very few of us would be keen on using cars or electricity if it was still the same as it was 100 years ago.

The commercial part of the game is hard for most of us to digest, however football has become a global game with global sponsorship money which for the most part has made the overall spectacle better. The unpredictability which came with having a lower quality across board has decreased, but the standard has improved so much more because of the access to greater resources.

Now I’ve mentioned all the feel good stuff, but the defining factor for me is the crowd treatment and behaviour, which is probably one of those things that JN had at the back of his mind when he wrote “The future of football will be forged from the best of yesterday and the best of now, to make a new hybrid tomorrow”. Football supporters were unjustly treated by police etc, the tragedies of Hillsborough, the fences around the field caging supporters in and so on. There was the bust ups, hooliganism, racism, the banana throwing, the monkey noises and overall a place where you would not feel comfortable taking your kids. These incidents still happen in the modern game, but it doesn’t get overlooked and definitely doesn’t get treated like something normal. The atmosphere is obviously sterilised to a certain extent because of the better policing and the better treatment of match going fans, and if this means that we never see another Hillsborough tragedy again, and you can take your kids to a game feeling that its much safer then for me, football is better now. Let’s leave the people in suits to worry about money. When it’s time to fight against it, I have no doubt that fans will continue to fight against the exorbitant ticket prices and so on.

But for the players and supporters, football will always be just for that, the enjoyment of the game. For every passing generation this will always transcend every new element which disrupts our beautiful game.
Clyde, Tax Brackets

 

Complaining about things that haven’t happened recently
I think Steve, Los Angeles meant to be referring to the Northwest Derby, rather than the Merseyside Derby (hard to imagine any fans less likely to mock Hillsborough than Everton fans!) Three quick points:

First, the obvious: fans singing horrible songs to each other is horrible.

Second: why has the behavior of the majority of United and Watford matchday fans respecting the death of Harry Gregg provoked a lengthy riposte towards the behavior of a minority of United and Liverpool matchday fans?

Third: I watch every single Liverpool fixture, obviously including games against United – are you sure you can really “hear” these songs being sung at “every derby”? In my experience it is a rarity for any explicit mention of either disaster to be audible over the TV broadcast, from either set of fans. The last time I remember clearly hearing “Murderers, Murderers” was probably the 2008/09 title challenge year? Obviously there will always be individuals or even small pockets of morons being horrible to each other at each game, but I don’t think those of us watching on TV would perceive that when tuning in.

Given the above, I’d be willing to bet that the horrible behavior being referenced by Steve was witnessed on social media, especially Twitter, rather than from matchgoing fans inside the ground. In which case, I’d desperately ask again for everyone to stop conflating Twitter/social media behavior and views with those of matchgoing fans.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland

 

For some bizarre reason, the F365 Show was not cancelled after the pilot episode. So we’ll be back every Thursday with more irreverent nonsense intriguing insight. Subscribe here.

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Duncan the Third
‘MIKEL ARTETA is daring to dream of Champions League qualification,’ writes Duncan Wright in The Sun. ‘Arteta’s Arsenal are now six points adrift of fifth spot in the Premier League – and with Manchester City’s Uefa ban that could be enough to secure a place in Europe’s top club competition.

‘The fact four of their next five league games are against sides in the bottom half, means the Gunners have a real chance of stringing a run of results together.’

All very positive, all very realistic when you look at the league table and take into account a run of Arsenal form which has seen them lose just once in 11 matches. Arsenal really are in the race for a Champions League spot as they have earned more points than Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United and Wolves since Arteta was appointed, scoring more goals than Tottenham and conceding fewer than all but Liverpool.

So presumably it was a different Duncan Wright whose piece on The Sun website is headlined ‘Arsenal STILL won’t get Champions League spot despite 4-0 hammering of Newcastle’.

The challenge is to guess at what point in the 90-minute match Wright stopped actually writing about Arsenal’s performance? Actually, it’s not a challenge; it’s there in the opening line:

‘IT took 32 minutes for the Arsenal fans to remember they had to boo Danny Rose – and the same amount of time to prove why they can forget a surprise run for Champions League qualification.’

Oh. Well a football match takes place over 90 minutes so writing them off at 0-0 with two-thirds of the game to play sounds ridiculous…

‘And throughout all that opening third of this match, the evidence was there for all to see that this Arsenal side haven’t a hope in hell of returning to Europe’s top competition next season.’

This is just weird now.

‘What they needed was to set about Newcastle with the kind of intensity and desire which signalled they believed they could bridge the gap over the remaining 12 matches of the campaign.

‘Instead, to a man Arsenal were so woeful in the opening half an hour you thought it was Steve Bruce’s men who were sniffing a late assault on the big prize.’

No. What they needed was to win the football match over 90 minutes. Which they did. Wright’s Sun colleague Mark Irwin calls it a ‘dominant display’ and he is a miserable sod.

‘No matter that Arteta’s men improved markedly after that, finally deciding to turn up for work when only an hour of the match remained.

‘That 32 minutes is all the reason you need to know why Arsenal have no chance of making it back into the Champions League next year – or any time soon.’

Jesus. ‘Only an hour of the match remained’ is accidental comic genius. They were drawing 0-0 and then they won 4-0, for f***’s sake.

‘When the prize suddenly opens itself up, this mis-match of players cannot even raise themselves to get going from kick-off against a side who probably turned up just hoping for a point.

‘They had no drive, no belief and no leaders when they had the chance to set the tone for what could be a massive month to make a push.’

And then they won 4-0. We can’t help thinking that might be important.

‘After all, Everton, Brighton, West Ham Southampton and Norwich are the next up in the league – a run of fixtures which offers every chance of maximum points for a side with lofty ambitions.

‘Six points is all they need to make up on fifth spot, and on paper you cannot rule them out.

‘But you cannot ignore what is in front of you – despite their 4-0 win, Arsenal haven’t got what it takes to do the job.’

‘Despite their 4-0 win’, Arsenal are crap. And you ‘cannot rule them out’ but then you absolutely can. Because you want to get your piece finished by half-time.

 

Will somebody think of the kids?
‘When will English football start trusting young English footballers?’ is the question in the Daily Mail. And what a bloody odd question to ask in the midst of a season which has seen a glut of young English players be given regular Premier League football. Nine English players under the age of 22 have played over 1000 minutes of Premier League football this season; the figure was exactly the same over the entirety of last season.

Only this weekend, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah started for Arsenal, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez (now an ancient 22) both started for the champions-elect Liverpool, Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons were in the Norwich line-up, Dwight McNeil continued to defy the odds for Burnley and Leicester literally started with four English players aged 23 and under. It’s almost like if players are good enough they will play in the Premier League, regardless of their age or nationality.

So what has prompted this column from Ian Ladyman? That would be a comment from Frank Lampard that suggested that Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori would probably have gone on loan if he had been able to buy players last summer. The Mail man calls this ‘jarring’; apparently it was a revelation that ‘jumped off the page’. For him but for nobody else, we would suggest.

‘Instead, Mount has started 22 of Chelsea’s Premier League games while Tomori has started 14. Both have been fundamental to a progressive Chelsea season and both have – as a result – played for England. They have been part of what has made Chelsea so watchable over the past six months. In short, they have been good enough.’

Well, Tomori is clearly not good enough as he has not started in the Premier League in 2020. He cannot get into a Chelsea team that has not made any central defensive signings, so of course he would have gone on loan for another season elsewhere if they had brought in reinforcements. Of course. This should surprise nobody but Ladyman.

As for describing this as a ‘progressive Chelsea season’…this is a Chelsea side nine points adrift of their points total from the same stage last season. They would literally be outside of the top six in most other seasons that are not absolutely bat-shit. Mason Mount has been ‘fundamental’ to this Chelsea season but this Chelsea season has been ordinary by their usual standards.

This Chelsea side is beloved of certain journalists because there is ‘clarity’; they are ‘watchable’ and there is less ‘drama and confusion’. But we suspect that Chelsea would prefer to be winning more than three of their last ten Premier League games.

 

You are my one and only…
With Manchester City briefing the media that Pep Guardiola intends to stay at the club for another season regardless of whether the club are in the Champions League, and crucially with neither Manchester United nor Liverpool playing on Sunday, The Sun and the Daily Mirror both lead their back-page football coverage on quotes from Alessandro Del Piero on Guardiola potentially going to Juventus.

Does Del Piero know Guardiola? We certainly don’t get that impression.

Is Del Piero invested in the concept of one of the world’s greatest coaches coming to Juventus? Of course he bloody is.

And he makes no attempt to hide the latter or claim the former as he talks about the Spaniard potentially joining Juventus.

“Every club in the world would love him as a coach and I would love to see Pep in Italy.

“He has won in Spain, Germany and England. If we follow that path I think maybe it is his destiny to go to Juve.”

So there’s an ‘if’, an ‘I think’ and a ‘maybe’ in just one sentence. Do those caveats make it to the back page? Do they balls.

We are told that ‘JUVENTUS legend Alessandro Del Piero claims it is Pep Guardiola’s destiny to boss the Italian club’ (The Sun) and ‘ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO and Ruud Gullit believe Pep Guardiola is destined to manage Juventus’ (Daily Mirror). He doesn’t either ‘claim’ or ‘believe’, he ‘thinks’ that ‘maybe’ something could happen ‘if we follow that path’.

Still, you have to justify a jolly to the Laureus Awards in Berlin somehow.

 

Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson on the Manchester City ban

Rory Smith on Russia’s problems

Daniel Storey on Liverpool and their normalised brilliance

 

The post ‘Despite their 4-0 win’, Arsenal are still crap… appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

League One Shrewsbury have the perfect incentive to see off a youthful Liverpool side in their FA Cup fourth-round replay with the winner facing Chelsea.

Sam Ricketts’ men fought back from 2-0 down to the runaway Premier League leaders at the Montgomery Waters Stadium on Sunday to make it 2-2 and earn a place in the hat for Monday’s fifth-round draw.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has already indicated he will field a youth team in the replay at Anfield with neither he nor his senior players in attendance as they observe the Premier League’s winter break, and that could open the door for the Shrews to book a lucrative visit to Stamford Bridge.

Third-tier rivals Portsmouth will host top-flight opposition after being paired with the winners of the final fourth-round tie between Bournemouth and Arsenal, while fellow promotion hopefuls Oxford will travel to Sky Bet Championship leaders West Brom if they win their replay at home to Premier League Newcastle.

Holders Manchester City are also on the road with Championship Sheffield Wednesday their opponents, and the Owls’ derby rivals Sheffield United will travel to either Reading or Cardiff.

Wayne Rooney could face his former club Manchester United, who will travel to the winners of the replay between the former England captain’s Derby side and League Two Northampton.

Top-flight Leicester will face midlands opposition whatever happens in the replay between Coventry and Birmingham, and it will be an all-Premier League affair for Norwich with either Southampton or Tottenham the hosts.

 

Full FA Cup fifth-round draw

Sheffield Wednesday v Manchester City
Reading or Cardiff City v Sheffield United
Chelsea v Shrewsbury Town or Liverpool
West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle United or Oxford United
Leicester City v Coventry City or Birmingham City
Northampton Town or Derby County v Manchester United
Southampton or Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City
Portsmouth v Arsenal

 

The post FA Cup draw: Rooney may face Man Utd, Shrews given extra motive appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Mohamed Salah’s late goal against Manchester United was an important symbolic moment. There was something poignant in the way the tension lifted, in the Kop casting aside superstition to sing of lifting the title, in the iconic image of Alisson Becker sprinting the length of the pitch to celebrate, the sky a literal shade of red.

Yet within hours of the final whistle the moment itself began to fade as thoughts turned elsewhere. The title hasn’t even been won, but already a two-word phrase – one that captures a troubling aspect of the football fan’s psyche – has entered the public consciousness. Liverpool are going to win the league; what next?

A cursory Google of the words ‘Liverpool’ and ‘dynasty’ reveals that projections of a Jurgen Klopp-dominated future have appeared in columns, podcasts, and panel shows repeatedly over the last six weeks, from The Times to The Telegraph, from Martin Keown on Football Focus to Stuart Pearce on Sky Sports.

On the one hand this is perfectly understandable. It is an analyst’s job to predict future trends and there are plenty of valid reasons to discuss the topic. Fear of how a monopoly would shape our experience of the sport is one, using the language of ‘dynasty’ as shorthand for praising the rich detail in their current success another.

But perpetually looking to the future can be an alarming tendency, and certainly it is always worth pausing to reflect on why we feel the need to do so. Sometimes – and I would suggest Liverpool’s genius is one such time – to project into the future is to miss out on fully experiencing and feeling the present.

Football means everything. It’s a microcosm of the socio-politics of the age. It’s a space for escapism, for venting anger. Perhaps most of all it’s an opportunity to cling to narrative certainty in a world that so often feels messy and outside our control.

It is inherently grounding to experience life in seasonal league tables, in clear boundaries of success, failure, hope, renewal – and improvement. How comforting it feels to muse on the controlled linear growth of our club. How regulating it is to visualise tangible goals and to feel (however deluded) that we know exactly what needs to happen for our team to make progress. If only real life was so simple.

The problem with all of this is that it’s mostly an unconscious process. The nature of our fandom – our gut reactions to defeats, our obsessive reading of transfer gossip – is not a choice but an automatic reaction. And that makes us susceptible to our default, hardwired setting: to live for the future, and as a consequence to forget to luxuriate in the present.

Forever looking to build on our accomplishments has been an important evolutionary tool; the driving force behind our nomadic ancestry and our species’ rampant expansionism. It took us out of the caves and to more prosperous climates, it stopped us settling for relative comfort and gave us the urge to cultivate crops and mingle with (see: invade and slaughter) other tribes.

But in the modern world it tends to get in the way of appreciating what we’ve got and feeling alive in the current moment. Many of the great philosophers and poets (from Neitzsche to Heidegger to Camus) have sought to reassert the importance of truly being, and that presence – real, spiritually awake presence – is the essence of life itself. As the romantic poet William Wordsworth discovered after a lifetime of searching for meaning: existence is about the ascent up the mountain, not the discovery waiting for you at the top.

Or in the words of a more contemporary figure, and returning to Liverpool’s present tense: ‘I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again. So watch it. Drink it in.’

Liverpool might build a dynasty; they might not. Man City’s season is a warning against such prophesies. Klopp might stay, or he might get tired. Everything could fall apart within 12 months. It doesn’t matter. Counting up trophies, overtaking Man Utd’s 20 league titles or building a lasting empire should be the material consequence of enjoying the feeling of triumph, not the other way around. To yearn for future success is to never fully indulge in the elation of what is unfolding, week after week.

The urge to push this year’s inevitable title to one side and focus on what’s next will be strong. But, Liverpool fans, resist it. This feeling, right now – of pride, of love, of smug superiority – is the thing itself. So drink it in.

Alex Keble is on Twitter

 

The post Forget what’s next for Liverpool; embrace the here and now appeared first on Football365.

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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