Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka is not in Unai Emery’s plans to play Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday.

The Switzerland midfielder appeared to tell supporters to “f**k off” as he was jeered while being substituted during Sunday’s 2-2 Premier League draw with Crystal Palace.

Xhaka said in a statement that death threats against his wife and messages wishing his daughter got cancer pushed him to “boiling point” and that is why he lashed out at fans.

He didn’t play in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup defeat to Liverpool on penalties in midweek and Emery has confirmed that he will be left out against Wolves.

Emery told a press conference on Friday: “He is training. He didn’t play in Liverpool for me he is continuing, above all [we are] focusing on tomorrow.

“The human, like everyone, feels. Xhaka’s issues last week is one issue that needs time. He needs time to recover the normality in him.

“He said sorry, he gave the apology to the supporters and to everybody. Now is the focus on the match.”

Asked whether he is surprised by how explosive the abuse has been, Emery added: “Everybody maybe we have some social media on our phone, on our internet, on our web. Really to use it is only being intelligent. We can respect the people on social media but we have to separate how much is real. Every supporter is not following that.

“For me the best supporters or the good response is how the supporters respond in our stadium. We have a lot of supporters around the world and we respect them but the real response is in the stadium. In the stadium sometimes it’s normal when we aren’t winning that they respond with some criticism. It’s normal to coach and players.

“Also a lot of players sometimes receive that criticism in the stadium and when you recover with a good performance they forget that and applaud the players and team.

“That’s our objective. To connect with the people, to win and respond the supporters to us, helping us in 90 minutes. This is our target tomorrow.”

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Marcos Alonso insists Chelsea are still a work in progress, and there’s more to come under Frank Lampard, despite climbing into the top four.

Alonso’s goal 17 minutes from time secured a 1-0 win over Newcastle, the Blues’ fifth consecutive victory in all competitions.

The Spaniard hailed the improvement under new boss Lampard but insists there is still more to come.

“We have many options in the team and this is good. The team is getting better, we are improving game by game and we need to continue in this way,” Alonso told the club website.

“We are moving the ball quickly, our press is good and we are doing a good job as a team. We have clear ideas and we have to continue in this way.

“It was very important to win after the international break. We played with a lot of patience and at the end we got the goal, we kept grafting and got a good reward.

“It’s a new season with new staff and there’s room for improvement but since the beginning we have improved a lot. We need to keep focused on each game and work hard in training.”

 

 

Defeat was harsh on Newcastle, who dropped back into the bottom three, and manager Steve Bruce saw plenty of reasons for optimism.

The Magpies now face a run of more favourable fixtures, with a visit from Wolves next up followed by a trip to West Ham and matches against Bournemouth and Aston Villa.

Bruce said: “We’ve had a really difficult start in terms of who we’ve played – we’ve played Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and now Chelsea, and we’ve been away to Leicester. We’ve had a really tough start.

“The way the players went about their jobs, and their effort and commitment, I couldn’t have faulted.

“We looked a threat on the break, and if we can be a bit more careful with the final pass, then of course the big thing is we have to find some goals.

“But, certainly in the first half in particular, we looked a threat.”

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Pep Guardiola does not believe Manchester City’s opponents are beaten before they arrive at the Etihad Stadium.

The champions have won 39 of their last 44 Premier League matches at home – a record they will hope to improve when they host Wolves on Sunday.

Such a statistic could intimidate visitors, but Guardiola claims that is not the case and that his side’s good results are down to their own hard work.

The City boss said: “My feeling is no (there is no intimidation factor).

“I cannot imagine when teams before the game are not thinking, ‘We can do it’.

“I know the managers and how competitive all of them are, how they’ll try to seduce the players and say, ‘We can do it’. They’ll be thinking, ‘We can go and do a good game’.

“Sometimes we don’t win but when we do it is because we do something good.

“We have to try it against a team we know quite well. We have played many times against Nuno Espirito Santo’s team in Carabao Cups and leagues and other stuff.”

Guardiola is proud of his side’s home record and feels that has underpinned their title successes of the past two seasons.

He said: “In some moments you need luck to win games, to make a lot of points, win titles.

“But we have effort and very good things, so I’m proud of the the effort and the way we have done it.

“Our first season (at City) was not consistent. We had problems. I didn’t expect it when I landed here. I thought at home we would be strong and away tough but it was completely the opposite in the first season.

“But since then, the second season and third season and this season as well, we have been strong at home. To try to win titles you have to be strong at home or you have no chance.”

Fernandinho is set to continue in central defence for City alongside Nicolas Otamendi, with John Stones and Aymeric Laporte still out injured.

It will be the 34-year-old Brazil midfielder’s third game in just over a week, but Guardiola is confident he can handle it.

He said: “He didn’t have many minutes in his legs before these three games. Except the last part of last season – in the previous seasons – he’s played every three days over 11 months. So I think he can do it.”

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Harry Maguire will find it “sh*t” playing against former club Leicester on Saturday, according to Dimitar Berbatov.

Maguire faces the club that shaped him into the world’s most expensive defender for the first time since leaving at the weekend.

The England international has had an indifferent start at Old Trafford, with the opening-day clean sheet proving a false dawn.

United have since drawn with both Wolves and Southampton, losing to Crystal Palace in a below-par start – although Maguire has been one of their better players.

Former United striker Berbatov still believes the centre-half will endure “a particularly difficult” match against his old club.

“United have a tough match against Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday,” Berbatov told Betfair.

“It could be a particularly difficult one for Harry Maguire who joined them from Leicester in August.

“Playing against your old club is sh*t. It’s very difficult to spend two seasons somewhere – as Maguire did at Leicester and I did at Spurs – showing what you can do then get a big move and have to play against your old teammates with whom you’re probably still in touch.

“As hard as you try to be professional, friendships can sometimes get in the way.

“United’s performance against Southampton last time out was not what I want to see from United. They need a win but that can make for a tense atmosphere and prevent you playing good football.

“It will be interesting to see which United players go looking for the ball on Saturday. I really hope they start as if they’re desperate to win. An early goal would ease the tension but Maguire and his team-mates will need to keep it tight at the back, as they failed to hold on to the lead at Southampton.

“I’m backing United to win a close match and, as they’ve only kept one clean sheet so far, will go with 2-1 as the score.”

 

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Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com in time for the afternoon Mailbox…

 

Johnny Nic neologism
I think it is time time for Football365 to add another new word to our lexicon. Now taking pride of place alongside the Proper Football Man is the Proper Football Fan (John Nicholson). The PFF only supports their hometown team–preferably while watching them loose in a driving rain storm while his friend in a trench coat . . . (long-time JN readers will know how story ends); uses the trope of everyone having their own idea about football to deny anyone who has an idea about football different from theirs from expressing it; hates the idea that people make money by presenting football to the wider public; believes that anyone who deviates from these principles is sell-out-tool of the man.

Sincerely,
Peter

 

…I admittedly struggled to understand the point JN was making in his piece. I was with him for paragraphs 1 and 2 (and that 2best” is subjective) then didn’t really get what he was trying to say. My summary is rather long, but I think that says more about the article…:

1. Nostalgia (declinism) is a real psychological phenomenon.

2. People with ideological views don’t necessarily identify their own hypocrisy (#Brexit)

3. Brexit, but also football

4. The opposite of “then was better” is “now is better”. (DS invents “hindshite”)

5. THE PREMIER LEAGUE INVENTED HINDSHITE TO MARKET THEIR BRAND

6. All Hindshiters call anyone who doesn’t agree a “dinosaur” and therefore (implicitly) fail to identify there is a middle ground

7. “Best” is subjective, it is therefore impossible to prove ether way.

8. 1/3 – paragraph discussing what “best” is despite concluding it is subjective.

9. 2/3 – paragraph discussing what “best” is despite concluding it is subjective.

10. 3/3 – paragraph discussing what “best” is despite concluding it is subjective.

11. Facts should be used to guide our decision on “best”. (finally building on para 7).

12. In reality then and now was/is a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the average.

13. The “Premier League Era” is an arbitrary line with zero use other than to reinforce the brand.

14. Any “in the Premier League Era” stat proves is proof you buy into hindshite.

15. We’re too polarised as a nation

16. We’re all miserable

17. Communism references, the PL re-wrote the past and we’re all buying it.

18. See the league for what it is.

Finally, I get it, and completely agree, you should judge the premier league based on what it is. However, I have some comments on the following paragraphs.

14. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the premier league era was a 20 team league (except for the 1st PL season), whereas the old first division was more. For goals in a season, I’d argue the different total number of game is a relevant factor to the statistic. If I had a good enough memory to use club sponsor to differentiate between a 38 and 46 game season you better believe I would. True it is arbitrary, but so is a season as opposed to a calendar year, yet one has a trophy.

15. I agree with this point, however the article polarises football supporters, so this article is more a symptom of the problem than it is offering a solution or a root cause (unless you actually believe the PL is to blame for Brexit).

17. This isn’t 1984. There’s nothing which says the Premier League is, and always has been the supreme league in the land. In fact, you mentioned “in the premier league era” in your article, therefore we (and you) clearly know there was a before.

So finally, in relation to real point of the article, when was it ever really “our” football? I think this is a generalised term for a time when clubs actually relied on match day revenue and therefore in effect fans had more power than they do now. If that’s your definition, start following the national league, or the Bundesliga with their lovely fan ownership models. If people stop going to PL games, or buying Sky Sports or BT subscriptions the next sale of broadcasting rights won’t bring in as much if they can’t gain revenue from advertising and subscriptions. This will increase as a % the reliance on match day revenue. Rinse and repeat, and football will be all “ours” again.

Just a thought, once gambling advertising gets banned from sports, we might already see a reduction of this, and it is betting companies who are willing to pay the big bucks for advertising.
Richard

 

Comparing Man Utd’s XI
Just read somewhere that Micheal Owen said that there is not much difference between Manchester united squad and the liverpool squad, wow…seriously? Lets not even talk about Manchester United bench with the likes of Rojo, Young, Mata, Matic, Fred, Greenwood, et all sitting pretty, instead lets compare Manchester United best XI with LEICESTER CITY’s XI (it would be an insult on Liverpool to make that comparison with Liverpool’s best 11).
De Gea is better than Schmeichel, yea..but Wan Bissaka, Shaw and Lindelof, are on current form inferior to Evans, Peirera and Chilwell.. Pogba has more pedigree than Tielemans (and I like Pogba), but comparing Ndidi and Maddison to McTomminay and Lingard is a non starter, James is good, but so is Ayoze…
Vardy is miles better than Martial or Rashford.. so a combined Man Utd/Leicester 11 will look like this.
DE GEA – Peirera, Evans, MAGUIRE, Chilwel – Ndidi, POGBA – JAMES, Maddison, MARTIAL/RASHFORD – Vardy
Kufre, Nigeria

 

More weight to the manager window argument
Further to my mail yesterday, today the news breaks that Huddersfield have appointed Lincoln City’s coach Danny Cowley six games into the season. To add insult to injury, Cowley is bringing his brother along, currently Lincoln’s assistant coach.

Of course Huddersfield’s Chairman Phil Hodgkinson was happy to say “We firmly believed that they were the best men to take us forward, and we didn’t want to give up on them”.

Did anyone of the assembled media multitude think to ask him the question “What about Lincoln City? You’ve taken not just their head coach but his assistant too, where does that leave them? Six games into the season, and they have no coach and no assistant, how do you feel about that?”

I’m sure you’d have got some platitude-ridden response, but internally Hodgkinson would be saying “F*ck Lincoln, not my problem”.

It’s time to stop the coach-poaching madness. The transfer window was introduced to stabilize the playing staff situation, and for the most part, it has succeeded. It’s high time to put the same controls in place for the people who (hopefully) have the most influence over the performance of a team and the well-being of the players from week-to-week.

Huddersfield want The Cowley Chuckle Brothers? OK, get the deal done in July. Don’t wait until September when you have one point from a possible eighteen and then kick Mark Hudson to the curb and pull the rug out from under the feet of another club.
Steve, Los Angeles.

 

Assessing Chelsea
Seeing as it’s international break, it seemed like a good idea to assess Chelsea’s performance so far. Results-wise, they could have been a bit better, but they could have been a hell of a lot worse. As games to watch, however, they’ve been great. That isn’t to say it’s all been dizzying highs, although I guess that’s pretty obvious to everyone. As well as some great attacking play and lovely goals, there have been plenty of moments of nail-biting tension at the ends of the games, particularly against Leicester, where Leicester could have easily grabbed a winner, and Sheffield United, where Chelsea unsuccessfully tried to prevent United from equalising. And of course, the opening game at Old Trafford, which is officially the terrifying low of the season so far. Ultimately though, we watch football for the entertainment, which is exactly what the games are providing this season (credit to the opposition too) and that’s why you’ll find that most Chelsea fans are happy with the way things are going this season.

The Old Trafford result seemed, and has indeed been treated like, a freak result. They scraped a point against Leicester, who I think have proven to be a good team so far and will do very well this year, and the game against Norwich was absolutely fantastic, with the first win and Abraham and Mount getting some wonderful goals. The only real disappointment has been the draw at home to Sheffield United, considering the way that they conceded in both the first and last minutes of the second half, denying them a win to take into the international break. There are plenty of more difficult fixtures coming up (Wolves, Valencia, Liverpool in quick succession after the break, how about that?), but there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful too, namely players to come back like Rudiger, Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, and of course, Kante. Reece James is another one everybody is looking forward to seeing play soon, particularly given Azpilicueta’s unfortunate Ivanovic-esque decline.

Another Chelsea fan wrote in fairly recently, seemingly pretty positive about Chelsea’s chances of making it out of their Champion’s League group. Most other Chelsea fans I’ve spoken to do not share his optimism, and while we certainly believe it’s possible, it’s going to be no walk in the park and possibly too tall an order. Anyway, it’s nice to be playing some strong but beatable European teams, all of which are relatively close too, which is great for the fans. That’s what you want from the Champion’s League isn’t it? And if these things mean anything, Ajax’s stadium was where Chelsea won the 2013 Europa League, and Lille was where Hazard was signed from, who won the Europa League with Chelsea in his first and last season. Which means Chelsea… will finish third and win the Europa League..? Yes, that’s what it must mean. But then, the last time Chelsea played Valencia in the group stage of the Champion’s League was in 2011, which means….

A cautiously optimistic and entertained plastic armchair Chelsea fan,
Juanito

 

De Bruyne on fire
I don’t know how he does it, but that guy is extraordinary, I just love watching him. He is the only player I still wish we never sold, never over complicating things; keeps doing simple things extraordinarily. By the way last night he had a hat-trick of assists and off course added a goal, and if he remains fit all through the season, Man City might win the UCL as well.
All hail the Midfield Maestro, KDB.
Meziri CFC, Anambra, Nigeria

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Thank you for your mails. Send more to theeditor@football365.com

 

Who Man Utd need now…
I know the English window has only just slammed shut, and we’re only two games in, but looking at that United team last night if United were to go back to Crystal Palace and Leicester with Ed’s big wad and got Maddison and Zaha (with Lingard and James becoming squad players) it would be a pretty dam sexy team; whether they would come or not is another issue, one could have Jones and the other Smalling . . .

All the best for the season.
David (hoping tedious VAR arguments die down) McDougall

 

Feeling positive…
Let’s start with the most important takeaway from the game. This game was televised past midnight in my country and ever since SAF retired, the biggest challenge has been not falling asleep through the boring football on display. Yesterday was fun. I didn’t notice the time fly by and despite the draw was quite pleased with the way United played.

The main worry before the game was how United would do against a competent team that just sat back and defended, looking to break on us. The initial signs are promising. We controlled the ball and created a few chances. We off course did give the ball away, but that is expected from a young team learning a new way to play, it should improve over the season. From my perspective the deep-lying midfielder suits Pogba. He doesn’t get closed down and crowded as quickly as he did when he used to play further up the pitch and that enables him to pick his passes and occasionally make a mazy run. Martial and Rashford look good up top and should only improve with more game time together. Maguire again looked solid and the defense looks composed, while Wan-Bissaka looks like a steal as his defensive side of the game is excellent.

McTominay is a young kid and a lot of expectations are being placed on him and he is going to be hit or miss in games, its the same with James. Lingard should have been a bench player, but Woodward didn’t deliver a midfielder, so he or Perreira will have to start most games. Holding out hope that Perreira can fulfill his potential with this extended chance he will receive this season.

Solskjær has really impressed me as a manager. The players are very fit and no long fade after 70-75 mins and he has asked them to pass from the back and more importantly they are always looking for a potential forward pass, not just pass it around. Yeah it isn’t refined like City’s, but its an encouraging start and can only improve. And most importantly Ole is actually playing the lineups most fans would have picked (no Matic, no Young, no Sanchez and Mata off the bench).

Only criticism I have is the fact that he waited for 85 mins or so to send on Greenwood, I’d have preferred to see him enter at 75 mins, so he could get in some playing time and possibly create a goal. Fred and Dalot must be really terrible in practice to be behind Matic and Young in the pecking order.
Jarron (Can’t believe someone in the mailbox suggested putting Ashley Young in to defend. Guess they have amnesia from last season), MUFC

 

…How dare United fans be happy !

This is a letter to all the ‘banter fans’ who find it hilarious that we are proud of a team drawing 1-1 at the Molineux:

We are sorry, we really really are. You lot have a problem when we shout out that we are a top club, and have a problem when we try to enjoy the small moments (Like a draw or a good performance) in life? What exactly do you want? Us to all be miserable, drown our sorrows in a bottle of gin and then burn down Old Trafford? Absolute joke you lot. Let the fans be happy.

I love the way we played, we are missing a lot, but the energy of the players, the fact we are able to keep decent possession is an upgrade over the last five years. Rashford and Martial are bright spots, AVB and Maguire look fantastic, and NO MORE YOUNG. We are proud to have a team with so many players coming from the academy. We are proud to finally have a team that plays for the shirt (at least most of them do). We are okay with the fact we will not win the title this season, and have a long way to go maybe. But somehow oppositions fans are not.

So we are sorry that we are not trashing all the teams and winning 7 trophies a season, sorry for being happy at getting a measly point at Wolves, sorry for supporting a club and finding joy in it when they put in a decent shift. Sorry for forgiving a player who missed a pen. Sorry we have a manager who loves United as much as any fan would. We are sorry for finding peace with our situation. Cheers to all your toxic fans, and have a good season to all 🙂
Aman Sheth

 

Wolves v Manchester United: Some random thoughts
I am usually a voyeur of the mailbox but perhaps through some misguided sense of self-importance, I wanted to share a few red-tinted thoughts following yesterday’s game.

1) The first-half display was one of the more dominant United performances that I can remember in recent years (albeit without creating an abundance of chances). The constant pressure from the front four or five players rushed Wolves into difficult passes which the defensive five then won back very quickly. Having watched United miserably over the last few years sit deep and wait for the opposition to make a move, it is pleasant to see a very proactive approach (similar to what City, Spurs and Liverpool have been doing for years).

2) Given our recent history, particularly against Wolves, it was worrying that we went into half time with a single goal lead. It was inevitable that Wolves would come back into the game since United do not (yet) have the fitness levels to maintain the high intensity pressing for the full 90 minutes. Indeed, Wolves had an excellent 20-minute spell where they hit the post and scored the equaliser but I believe previous United teams (including last year’s) would have capitulated further and conceded a quick second, so to leave the game thinking we should have won it represents some progress.

3) Lindelof and Maguire certainly looked far less assured than they did against Chelsea last week, with a number of hacked clearances and misplaced passes. This says a lot about the attacking quality of the opposition – Jimenez is an exceptional striker and was a constant danger, the same cannot be said for Abraham last week. Having said that, Wolves failed to create that many clear-cut opportunities I think largely due to one man snuffing out the danger before it developed…

4) AWB has quickly become my favourite player. He has a gangly almost unnatural style but his touch is clearly excellent and he always seems to pick the right pass. I imagine he is an absolute nightmare to play against, just as the winger thinks he is in the clear a rogue AWB initialled boot will sneak in from six yards back and poke it to safety.

5) Lingard on the other hand is exceptionally infuriating. I feel United as a team perform better when he plays but his definitive contributions are simply not good enough. There is a stat (unverified) doing the rounds on Twitter that save for December 2018 where he scored four and assisted two, Lingard has no goals or assists in any month since May 2018. For a club with top four ambitions, that is not good enough and his position is one that we can improve on in the next transfer window.

6) Now to the penalty miss. Pogba clearly cannot be trusted with penalties. Obviously he is a confident chap, but that doesn’t matter if you are sh*t at penalties, which he has demonstrated a number of times. Rashford has proven himself to be an excellent penalty taker and he needs to assert himself as the number 1 going forwards.

7) Rashford does however need to stop taking free kicks. Nine times out of 10 they are comically bad. Generally I think attacking set-pieces are an issue for United – what is the point of paying all that money for the most dangerous head of the WC2018 if you can’t whip a corner in with any pace? Seeing Luke Shaw step up every time to float in a harmless corner to the back of the penalty area was as sad as it was irritating.

8) I think I read Daniel Storey mention somewhere that Chelsea v Leicester on Sunday represented the battle for 6th and 7th, but with no clear preference over which way round. I would say those places are definitely under threat from Wolves. They have an established squad which NES has conditioned into an efficient, functioning unit with defensive solidity and attacking prowess. Lampard has a very tough job on his hands to match that.

9) The optimist in me thinks United will finish fourth this year. In the limited number of games this season we have looked decent defensively and a constant threat going forwards. However, this optimism is heavily predicated on keeping the first-choice attackers fit and healthy. The substitutes like Mata and Pereira do not offer the same threat and the style that Solskjaer is working hard to implement is difficult to replicate with the second string players. We cannot be expected to rely on the teenagers, no matter how promising they appear.

10) I am pleased that VAR didn’t play a large role in this game. I am sick of it already and would greatly appreciate a limited number of VAR-centric mails going forwards.

That’s probably enough.
Charles, London (typical…)

 

Pogba penalty talk
There seems to be a lot of hand-ringing going on over Man Utd’s penalty situation so I thought I’d add my twopenneth:

Firstly, they didn’t drop two points because they don’t have a designated penalty taker – they dropped them because Pogba missed, as he still would if he’d been the main guy and so might Rashford had he been the one. Ole’s approach doesn’t reduce his team’s chances of scoring in itself but it does open him up to criticism when it goes wrong. Maybe it’s admirable that he doesn’t care about that but it can create unwanted pressure if results don’t go his way.

Secondly, this whole debate reminds me a bit of the time when Liverpool (under Rafa, I believe) were constantly being taken to task over their stringent use of zonal marking at corners; whenever they conceded a goal from a corner, the old zonal marking debate was rolled out and pundits were unified in their criticism of the system, but nothing was ever said after the dozens of corners they defended that did NOT lead to a goal. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

It also demonstrates how quick pundits and journalists are to judge these days. The obvious thing is to reserve judgement for a few more months and assess the setup then; I have a hunch that Pogba and Rashford will score far more than they miss and this whole thing will blow over.

Another thing the criticisms possibly highlight, is how Man City’s relentlessness has put huge pressure on clubs to be absolutely perfect if they are to catch them. Every point dropped now seems disastrous; every little plan, tactic and gameplay is vital and will be pulled apart and analysed. On face value, Ole’s approach to choosing his penalty takers is really not a big deal – but if it leads to two, three or four points being dropped over the course of the season, it will be deemed disastrous.

But there are two final points about Ole’s approach that do concern me: the first is that Pogba is still part of the equation at all; four misses (three of which admittedly have not had a particularly hurtful) shows that he should no longer be in contention as a penalty taker. He’s simply not good enough – regardless of how confident he is feeling, how much he cost or how many shirts he sells. The second is that it concerns me that Rashford is okay with the situation. He’s clearly a good lad and a fantastic talent but, call me old fashioned, I like my strikers to be hungry for goals and desperate to pad out their records with penalties – like Kane, Salah or Shearer clearly are/were. Rashford’s ‘meekness’ here doesn’t convince me that he is (atleast not yet) the ruthless, killer striker we really want him to be…
Bob Stokes (scored one of three pens against John Lukic at a charity event once)

 

…You said Rashford converted six out of six of his competitive penalties but you are not giving Pogba’s stats a fair share.

Prior to yesterday, Pogba has taken a total of 17 career penalties but only missed 4 (3 was in the 18/19 season, other one was way before). That is a 76% career conversion rate, a quarter lower than 100% yes but also triple the sample size as Rashford.

You are also ignoring how many he has scored lately. Last season Pogba scored 8 penalties out of 11 for Man United. That is a 72% conversion rate. You say he missed the most among players – but he also took a lot and scored most of them. He took twice the amount of penalties – in last season alone – than Rashford has in his career.

Sam Allardyce has a 100% win record as England boss – but nobody cares because only led one game. Sample size is very important cos going by win record he should be managing Barcelona!

Also, why assume Rashford wanted to take it? There wasn’t an argument about it that I recall. The advantage of a team is that you can delegate and change tasks when you’re not up to it. For all we know, Rashford didn’t feel like it on the day and Pogba stepped up.

Pogba also did a good job winning that penalty in the first place – without him there wouldn’t even be that opportunity. Not saying there aren’t other legitimate reasons to wanting Pogba to go, but yesterday’s penalty wasn’t one of them.

I also want to clarify that I am not knocking Rashford here, he is a great taker so far but it is early days for him. He will get plenty more chances.
Yaru (Thank god MU drew just to take the topic off You-Know-What), Malaysia

 

…Ian Watson’s analysis of the Pogba-Rashford incident is harsh.

Rather than Pogba having ‘overconfidence bordering on misplaced arrogance’, maybe Rashford just had the jitters. He was having an average game, and five minutes before the penalty he took the worst free-kick of the season so far.

Both can take penalties, but Pogba looked more capable in the moment.
Benedict O’Neill

 

And from Wolves…
Just a few comments on last night’s game from a Wolves perspective:

· Slipping on my Sean Dyche hat – James dived horrible twice in the first ten/fifteen minutes, two yellow cards under the laws of the game. Now I know there’s the whole narrative around his goal last week and how much raw joy he showed etc. etc. (yawn). But he should’ve been sent off and if he’s going to dive, he needs to get an awful lot cuter at it or he’ll accumulate a lot of yellow cards. The person who compared his behaviour to Moutinho in this morning’s mailbox needs to go and sit down in a dark room for a while.

· United dominated the first half and had it gone on five minutes longer I think they would’ve got a second. The break definitely came at a good time for Wolves and Nuno was able to have a word and reset, which we did. Despite some of the rouge tinted comments, the second half was much more even, Wolves piling on the pressure for the first 15, United coming back after Neves’ bit of sexiness and finally, the two teams trading drunken punches for the last fifteen minutes. Like two p*ss heads at 2.30am on a Friday night outside of the Civic Hall, arguing over the last sausage in the Mr Sizzle van.

· I’d like to see Vallejo in for Bennett asap. The big man has made a lot of people (including myself) look silly with his performances in the premier league. But I think he’s still very vulnerable against pacey teams breaking forward.

· Jonny is going to be a big player this year. Get him in your fantasy team before the points start racking up

· Big year for Neves, while he didn’t disappoint last year, he just about hit par in terms of expectations. I think he’s got it in him to be Michael Carrick with maybe a few more goals. If he can reach those heights then Wolves won’t be keeping him for too much longer

Big night in Turin awaits

UTW
John Collins, Wolves, London

 

All of the isms are wrong
As a United fan for 50 years, I just wanted to express my disgust at the so called ‘fans’ who think it’s ok to post racist comments aimed at a Manchester United player because he missed a penalty! This is clearly unacceptable and in no way represents the vast majority of United fans or football fans in general come to that. These people need to be named and shamed and made to explain their actions to the player/s in question.

Whilst on the subject of ism’s, I find any kind of discrimination deplorable whether it be racism, homophobia, religion, ginger, tall, short, skinny or fat nobody has the right to make a person a target for abuse because of the way they are. While watching the game last night, I felt equally outraged that every time Luke Shaw was on the ball, thousands of Leicester fans thought it perfectly acceptable to chant ‘you fat bastard’, is this any more acceptable than racist abuse? I’m sure if you are an overweight person, being abused for it is equally upsetting (not that Luke is really overweight!)

I would be interested to hear what fellow readers think on this subject so here’s the question; if you’ve ever chanted on the terraces ‘ you fat bastard’ would you feel comfortable substituting the word ‘fat for ‘black’? And why?
Graham

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended Paul Pogba over the missed penalty which cost Manchester United three points at Wolves.

Pogba saw his second half spot-kick saved by Rui Patricio after an apparent debate with Marcus Rashford over who should step up to take it.

After watching his side take a deserved lead through Anthony Martial only to be pegged back by Ruben Neves, Solskjaer dismissed the penalty confusion, insisting both Pogba and Rashford are designated to take spot-kicks for the club.

Solskjaer said: “The two of them are designated the penalty shooters and it’s up to them there and then who feels ‘this is mine’.

“Sometimes players just feel they are confident enough to score – Paul has scored so many penalties for us and today Rui Patricio made a good save.

“The two of them have been very confident. I like players with confidence and the feeling that ‘I can do this’.”

Rashford added: “Paul wanted to take it – it’s that simple.

“Everybody can miss a penalty. He’s scored countless penalties for us so it’s normal to miss one.

“I took one last week so for me it’s no problem for him to take one this week. It’s unfortunate he didn’t score but it’s not on him, it’s as a team and we take it forward to the next game.”

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Send your innermost thoughts to theeditor@football365.com…

 

It just Ney work
Re the Neymar situation, I have a quite bonkers idea which may suit all parties. Neymar should move to the premier league. More specifically, he should move to ARSENAL.

Take a moment to stop sniggering and hear me out. The guy is obviously at sixes with PSG so would need to leave pronto. No one can afford his astronomical fee, so the best solution would be to go out on loan for the year. Realistically, there are only a handful of teams in Europe that can afford his ridiculous wage, so let’s whittle them down. Barca have just got Griezmann and are almost a billion dollars in dept, so probably won’t sort a deal out this summer. Real don’t need another winger/attacker and have invested the GDP of a small country to bring players in this window. The only Italian team who could afford him have CR7, and could you imagine the two vying for the spotlight in Turin? No Way.

Bayern could afford and do need a winger, but they are genuinely quite sensible and know full well that Neymar would screw up the team dynamics within the squad. This leaves the prem teams. City don’t need another attacker, Chelsea can’t sign anyone and seem to be giving youth a chance, Ney Ney is the complete opposite of a Klopp player, and Levy + Neymar is something I can’t envisage happening in this universe. Noodle sponser United would probably be a great fit, but perhaps the north of England wouldn’t be as jazzy as London for our Brazilian prima donna. That leaves Arsenal… They are obviously not going to get Zaha, and may get Tierney as their only major signing, thus leaving about £20 Mill left in the kitty. Arsenal need a winger, need a signing to uplift the fans, need someone to ensure 60,000 are willing renew their joke of a season ticket cost. He’s worked with Emery before, and although they had their differences, Emery knows how good of a player he can be.

F365 has mentioned it already, Neymar needs to be a footballer first again, and what better place to roll his sleeves up then a massive club like Arsenal, but without the pressures of being in the biggest of spotlights like he would at Barca or City.

It’s a win win situation in my books, as without the signing, the immediate future holds nothing but darkness for the club.  Give the man 400K per week  for the year, and if (albiet a big if) he can get his act together, at least there would be a buzz around the club, and they can fail/progress gloriously. Its so mad, it just Ney work…
Henry Innes

 

Arsenal’s new formation?
Interesting plan being hatched by Ian, LFC this morning. I did some quick maths however and wonder how fitting Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ozil, Mhkitaryan, Bellerin, Kolasinac, three centre backs and obviously a goalkeeper into a team will leave our midfield? Also, losing Koscielny on a free will pretty much guarantee Mustafi a start every week so I don’t think there’s legs in this approach.

I do generally agree with the ‘riding out the storm’ sentiment though.  I would much rather we spent all of our money on the defence and used the likes of Nelson, Smith Rowe, Sako, Martinelli as attacking squad options, give Maitland Niles a run of games in his favoured position once Bellerin is fit again and see where that takes us.

Much has been made of the supposed transfer budget and whilst I believe the figures being mentioned aren’t too far from the truth, I suspect there is some kidology involved. Whether it’s so the selling club can’t ask for too much money etc. I don’t know but I reckon there’s a few more quid available to get Tierney and another centre back in.
James, Kent.

 

Arsenal mess
Hello Ian, riding a storm would mean rebuilding after a short period of time (Like after Hurricane Kartina). Arsenal are more like Chernobyl, after a nuclear meltdown in 2006. They have been in abysmal shape ever since. Blaming the stadium costs, other teams money, board, manager, player attitude, coaching, staff, purchases, sales, contracts and everything else. There is no rebuilding to do. The only option there is to scorch the current team to the ground and start anew.

Other than Auba & Laca, there is not a player in the 28 man arsenal squad that would be a value addition to the top teams in the world (Barca, Madrid, Bayern, PSG, City, Liverpool, United, Juventus, Chelsea, Atletico). Most would struggle to get into the Wolves, Inter, Leicester, Everton line ups too. The entire squad is horrific to be honest, and as a United fan, that is the only solace i find in these difficult times. This scorched earth policy will take either time, or immense money (500m+ over 2 seasons) to rebuild. Do the Arsenal board have that in them ?? Is Stan really that passionate? I doubt it.

The only way this gets better for Arsenal fans is for the club to be sold (preferably to someone with a decent human rights record and a passionate football man or a supporters trust). But there is not value in Arsenal for the price Stan will ask for. So they are stuck in the radioactive & harmful environment till the people at the top realize the suffocation and hurt of the people who live Arsenal.

As a United fan, wish them the best, and hope they can be good enough for 2nd but never 1st 🙂 🙂
Aman (No expectations from United, only hope).

 

Hi,

It’s actually the first time I write to the mailbox, I’ve been an arsenal fan for more than 15 years and a keen f365 follower. I’m sorry to say this but I believe the current mess we are in partly because of our fans. Don’t get me wrong, the current ownership is a joke and the club is clearly is getting worse under their stewardship, however we were doomed since the day David Dein left our club.

Arsenal became scared of the fans’ reaction of selling our best players, even though it might be in the best interest of the club in doing so.
Remember the time where we had to sell our best player year in year out? Think of Fabregas, Nasri, RVP, Adebayor, Alex Song and Alex Hleb.
The club had to sell their best players because the players were impatient and didn’t believe in the project at the time, where as it was an extremely talented young squad that was so close so success, but for bad luck with a series of long term injuries, such as Rosicky, Diaby, Eduardo and RVP, and some stubbornness from the manager, where he assembled a gifted squad with huge potential but lacked 1 or two wise heads at the back and a decent goal keeper.
We mounted a series challenge in the PL culminated in the game where Eduardo suffered a double leg fracture and Gallas sitting at the Centre circle when Clichy conceded a late penalty. Had we won that game I think we would have been 8 points ahead of United.
Players didn’t want to stay because they didn’t believe in themselves and the project and the club had to sell to protect the value of the players so they don’t risk losing them for nothing, as is happening now.
This led to despise and extreme anger from Arsenal fans towards the club, and Arsenal was too nice to come out publicly and throw the player under the bus by announcing they clearly want to leave. And Arsenal were also too nice to them to allow them to train and play while they clearly indicated they will not renew their contacts. Look at what Liverpool did when Suarez publicly indicated he wanted to join Arsenal, even though he had an agreement with Liverpool they would allow him to leave. They ousted him form the first team and made him train with the kids until he changed his mind. Wenger was a gentleman and father figure and the players used this against him.
At Wenger’s last five years at the club, he allowed a lot of first team players to run out their contracts and leave for nothing, which they though was a better option than facing the wrath of fans.
We arsenal fans were the first to witness player power and were quick to criticize the club for selling the players who don’t want to play for us, rather than the ungrateful players that we gave them their name and career but could stand by the club when they needed them the most. Remember Arsenal didn’t buy stars at the time, they bought talented youngsters and invested time money and a lot of points for them to play and develop. All of them came here Unkown and left one the the most sought after players

Arsenal should’ve been more transparent and tougher with the players and the fans should’ve been more understanding of the situation the club were in.

The most depressing fact about the whole situation is that the 08/09 team were miles better than the 18/19 team.
Ahmed Ammar, Egypt

 

Which player would you swap with your rival?
So after seeing the lack of mails this morning I thought I would write in with this question that I recently had on my Podcast (don’t worry I won’t be plugging it……yet) anyway, the question was “If you could do a straight swap deal with a Premier League rival for a player which one would you choose and why?”

Now the rules we had were you couldn’t just pick your worst player and choose your rivals best, it had to be a deal that would benefit both parties, my choice was Jorginho for Sergio Aguero, City at the time needed a Jorginho type player and Chelsea always need a striker, so what are some of the mailboxers choices?
Mikey, CFC (It is a Podcast all about Chelsea and football in general if you’re curious)

 

Equality and womens football
I’m very glad that the debate on the USNWT’s equal pay lawsuit has continued and developed in the mailbox. I think it is a more nuanced subject than many acknowledge.

In my opinion (as an American and as someone who has long considered himself to be a Feminist/ally), from a political and legal perspective, the USWNT seems to clearly deserve equal pay and equal conditions to those provided to the men’s team, and I believe their fight for equality is very important in the US’ current sociopolitical climate.

However, if you remove politics and law, and instead focus on the matter from a purely sporting/competitive* perspective, I think there are strong arguments which show why treating the USWNT equally is problematic.

I have followed the USWNT for a few years now, and much more closely over the course of this world cup. They are often praised for their togetherness and team spirit; they are criticized for their perceived arrogance. My observation is that they are entirely inwardly-focused and oblivious to what goes on outside their circle. This is fantastic for team building and their competitive record evidences that, but this is how you end up with Alex Morgan doing a “sipping tea” celebration and earnestly believing it was obvious that she was mimicking the Kermit the Frog internet meme, rather than taking the p*ss out of her English opponents (Ugh. Millenials). This obliviousness leads to what could be seen as a lack of solidarity towards their competitors:

1. Women playing for other national teams face similar institutional sexism that women in America face. However, female athletes in America are provided with vastly superior conditions from a young age through adulthood, compared to conditions female athletes experience elsewhere. This takes the shape of practical considerations like training facilities and budgets (Title IX), but also in the way American society encourages girls to take up competitive sports more than in other nations. Despite the USWNT not being treated equally over the past 30 years, they have won 4 out of 8 world cups, several Olympics, and have only finished below third once. What effect will providing even-better facilities and incentives to the next generation of American female footballers have on the competitiveness of the women’s game? The USNWT might argue it’s not their problem and they don’t care. I would argue that if they want to be as irrelevant to the world as the US men’s basketball team winning the Olympics every 4 years, this is exactly the right attitude to take.

2. The women’s league in America, NWSL, is subsidized by US Soccer. The men’s leagues in America (MLS, NASL, USL) are not – in fact, from what I can tell, IS Soccer actually draws revenue from MLS indirectly via Soccer United Marketing (SUM). There are 28 players on the USWNT; there are many women who are not. The 28 women are using for equality. If US Soccer treated genders equally, the 28 women would reap the rewards but NWSL would no longer be viable. It is problematic to demand equality while simultaneously expecting continued subsidization. Not impossible, not hypocritical – just problematic.

The compensation scheme for the USWNT (and other WNT’s) seems to have been specifically designed to provide its members with additional remuneration, to compensate for female club football not being able to pay players much. If you want to read details on the subject, I would recommend the ones written on FiveThirtyEight, WaPo and Sports Illustrated (the ones cited by Paul, T.Wells don’t actually contain much detail or thoughtful analysis). Basically, WNT’s seem to all pay their players annual salaries on top of bonuses, while MNT’s pay larger bonuses for selections/appearances/results without paying any annual salary. This provides the female players with additional financial security protecting them from non-selection due to poor form or injury, given that their club salaries aren’t enough of a safety net, while Male players at international level have financial security from club careers. WNT’s, especially the USWNT, also seem to organize additional friendlies and other tournaments outside of the official FIFA international fixture calendar. The purpose of these additional games would appear to be promoting the women’s game, generating extra revenue to support the annual salaries, and provide players with opportunity to earn more via bonuses. This accounts for why the record for men’s international caps is 184, while there are 20+ women with 200+ international caps (including two with 300+).

To be absolutely clear, i think that the political and legal perspective is far more important than the sporting/competitive perspective in the grand scheme of things. I believe that all female football players representing their countries should be given identical conditions and benefits to male players, despite any arguments against and any potential drawbacks. I believe that if there is any inequality it should be completely limited to club football and directly quantifiably justified by revenue generation (and hopefully one day female club football will generate billions too). The purpose of this mail was to highlight many nuances which do not seem to ever get discussed, NOT to argue against equal treatment.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Arjen Robben
“Show him outside… OUTSIDE… f*ck’s sake… stop the shot… NO SHOT… NO F*CKING SHOT!…”

The backing track for so many of Robben’s 188 career goals was translated by goalkeepers into Dutch, Spanish and German across his five-club, four-league, 19-year career which came to an end this week. It wasn’t the only tool in the winger’s box but when one is so effective, why bother reaching for the others?

The wonder of Robben is a tale in three parts. First, the fake. A simple drop of the shoulder which still fools left-backs into thinking that this of all days will be the one when Robben finally opts to go outside. Then comes the dribble – a run from right to left which can last for anything between two touches and three days. By now, stage three is inevitable. But when the curling shot into the far post comes nobody knows. Keepers set, re-set and re-set again with each touch Robben takes in-field but it’s all a waste of time and energy.

Even when there’s no keeper, Robben still insists on cutting inside…

 

Antonio Valencia
Valencia is Robben in reverse. Barely ever in a decade at Manchester United did he cut inside off the right touchline. And when he did, without fail, he’d trap the ball and pass it backwards.

The Ecuador winger has made a career of chuffing up and down the flank in immaculately straight lines. Sometimes, it looked like Sir Alex Ferguson had painted Thomas the Tank Engine red and stuck him on the right wing, such was Valencia’s apparent devotion to staying on a single branch line. But for a while, it worked.

And we still don’t know how. Because Valencia never had a trick. The recruit from Wigan was the most predictable winger in Europe, but for a couple of seasons, around 2010, he was on fire. When Wayne Rooney was named United’s player of the season after scoring 26 Premier League goals in 2009-10, he credited Valencia for the assist. “I couldn’t have scored the amount of goals I have this season without him,” Rooney said. “The quality of balls he puts into the box has been unbelievable.”

That’s the other thing. Because once Valencia had somehow beaten his defender with neither disguise nor imagination, most of his deliveries where thundered across the box around shin height. Very occasionally he might vary it with the odd dink towards the far post, from where Rooney generally nodded it in, but more often than not, getting in the way of one of Valencia’s Exocets from the right represented a health hazard.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Valencia was shuffled into a right-back role because once that initial burst of pace started to wane, he had nothing in his locker to worry a defender.

 

Peter Beagrie
We can exclusively report that the former Everton, Manchester City and Bradford winger is still using the same trick, aged 53, and it still bloody works.

Beagrie made a 23-year playing career out of a simple dummy. A  fake to shoot or cross, lulling his defender into a false sense of security and the presumption the danger was covered, before cutting the ball back onto his other foot. If the full-back was lucky enough to recover once, they rarely did twice, and never the third time. Beagrie’s opponent just had to pray that cover was on hand while he regained his footing and his senses.

Unlike Robben or Valencia, Beagrie was happy going both ways. He could chop the ball onto his left foot to cross, or unleash a rocket with his right. On 103 of those occasions, all the way into his 40s, Beagrie was able to indulge in his other party trick: a somersault celebration.

Now in his 50s, Beagrie swerves the somersaults now but he’s still torturing defenders with the double and triple dummies. Admittedly, now it’s Dave the 40-something sparky in the veterans league or six-a-side pitch rather than international full-backs in the Premier League arena, but we at F365 know this to be true to because one of our own has been treated for twisted blood having gone to block many a Beagrie shot which never came. At least not when you thought it would.

 

Darron Gibson
Unfortunately for the former Manchester United, Everton and Sunderland midfielder, Premier League opponents needed a lot less time to suss his party piece. Championship rivals didn’t take long either. Because Gibson’s game was based solely on being able to tw*t the ball really f*cking hard.

It was a skill that helped Gibson stand out in a crowded field when coming through the ranks at Old Trafford. He was not quick, not particularly mobile, no discernible threat in the air and he probably hadn’t dribbled past a man since primary school. But Gibson could hit a ball far and hard.

“Darron is the one player in our club who can score great goals from outside the box,” Ferguson once claimed, presumably forgetting the existence Paul Scholes. “He has such tremendous power in his shot.”

Indeed, in 2010, Gibson scored one of his 10 United goals in the Champions League against Bayern Munich in just that fashion, while Scholes watched on from the bench. He scored similarly against Schalke in the following season’s semi-final. But that was as good as it got for the Derry-born Republic of Ireland international.

After United, he flopped at Everton before disgracing himself at Sunderland with a drink-driving conviction. The last we heard from Gibson, he was released by Wigan in May, around about the same time he sent his solicitor to court to say he was too busy to carry out his community service, while he was on holiday in Spain and without an employer for next season. Another long shot way off target.

 

Adama Traore
For an attacker with little technique to speak about, Traore is bloody exciting to watch. Because there are few players in the world game who can accelerate like the Wolves winger.

To look at him, you would not expect the 23-year-old to be rapid. Traore is built like a train but once he gets in his stride, he’s equally hard to stop.

Championship defenders certainly found that to be the case in the second half of the 2017-18 season, when Traore finished with five goals and 10 assists. According to Opta, he dribbled past an opponent on 267 occasions, 132 times more than any other player in the division. Traore’s stats also stood up to scrutiny in comparison to the game’s very best.

Such form tempted Wolves into paying a club-record fee for the Boro flier. But Nuno quickly sussed why Traore was yet to put down roots. His final product was generally bloody awful.

In 67 top-flight appearances with four different clubs in England and Spain, Traore has only one goal and four assists. Consistency may well come for the former Barcelona schoolboy, but it seems a long way off.

So what? That’s for Nuno to worry about, or whomever might be his next manager should reports of his availability this summer be true. In the meantime, the rest of us should just get on board the Traore train. No one knows where it’s going or where it stops, but it’s a f*cking great ride.

 

Ian Watson

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