It has been widely reported that Jose Mourinho is set to return to Chelsea in the near future, but Matt Stanger ponders whether this is really a good thing for the Blues and the PL...
Roll up, roll up to have a good laugh at your Football365 scribes, as we look back on our pre-season predictions to see who was wrong, who was right and who was stupid...
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Theo Loves Theo
Over the past few months I have grown increasingly frustrated by the criticism aimed at Theo Walcott, and to a certain extent Arsenal. After Theo scored the winner (and his third goal in three games) against an in-form Brighton over the weekend, I felt compelled to write in to the mailbox to defend him and his team.
One of the main accusations often thrown at Walcott is that he is frustratingly inconsistent and hasn't built on his clear potential. Yet this season he has already scored a total of 10 PL goals in just 19 games (seven as substitute) - that's more than Rooney, Aguero, Benteke and Torres (okay, Torres doesn't really count). He's also laid on seven more goals for his team mates, with only Gerrard, Mata and his teammate Podolski assisting more. These are not the stats of a player who is inconsistent. He has also scored goals against Spurs, Everton and Chelsea - all teams vying for Champions League spots.
The combination of Van Persie's departure and Arsene Wenger's decision to play him in a more central role appears to have given Theo the incentive to step it up a gear this season. But the criticism still comes, particularly from a website not too far from here, who claim that it is 'worrying' for Arsenal that Walcott is their main threat. Utter tripe. The attacking players that Wenger purchased in the summer to offset RVP's move have come in and generally done a fantastic job: Cazorla and Giroud both have eight goals, and Podolski has also weighed in with a further seven goals and is top of the assists pile with nine.
Yes, Arsenal have struggled at times this season but is that a surprise given that they lost their top goalscorer and best player and had to bring in a new attack? Van Persie may be irreplaceable by any one individual, but Wenger has done a brilliant job in replacing him with a number of players who are all chipping in to make up the goals, and Theo has clearly taken it upon himself to be more assertive.
This has turned into a bit of an unintelligible rant, but if (and it isn't beyond the realms of possibility) Arsenal finish in fourth because Theo scores 20 league goals and gets 15 assists will people still be saying he is inconsistent and calling for Wenger's head?
Theo (and no, I am not defending him because he shares my name!) LFC
The Mystery Of Andre Santos
In response to Andrew Hedley's email on Andre Santos, what if he just didn't care?
I guess I'm more cynical but I don't believe any player would behave the way Santos does. Like he said, even though Eboue was abysmal, at least he tried his hardest every time he pulled on the Arsenal shirt. Plus, he has a wicked sense of humour.
But Santos just doesn't seem to care. Even though he knows he is out of position or lost the ball in a precarious position, he does little to rectify the problem. Sure, the smile on his face and the general bubbly disposition he portrays makes it seem as if he's just clueless but I think that may merely be a facade.
I know it's harsh to criticise a player's character from afar and he genuinely seems like a nice guy. But if he actually does have this sort of attitude, it might go some way toward explaining the mental fragility of the Arsenal squad.
I'm not saying he's the cause of it but may be the by-product/exhibit A of the environment within the club.
Ming Kiat Tan
...Maybe the reason Santos always has a smile on his face is because he's earning £60,000 per week.
To paraphrase Lee Evans, "If I was making that amount each week I'd be delirious. I wouldn't just hug somebody for scoring a goal, I'd shag 'em."
Paul C, Dubai
Re-Writing History On Eboue
Eboue wasn't 'liked' by Arsenal fans because he 'worked hard'. In fact, he was booed off the pitch against Wigan a few years back precisely because people perceived that he wasn't working hard. He was subsequently turned into a cult hero/court jester figure by the fans because they felt guilty about having savaged him so publicly.
Daniel Levy's Transfer Hunt
Once more as yet another transfer window winds down Daniel 'Lady GaGa wrote Poker Face about you' Levy is seeking to extract value from the transfer market rather like an eccentric searching for buried treasures under Blackpool beach with gold detectors.
Last year in order to preserve our unassailable 12-point third-place lead he drafted in Ryan Nelsen, a 35-year-old Kiwi with a dodgy knee to cover Ledley King who had no knees and Louis Saha a regular on Everton's bench also in his sprightly 30s. The year before, when again we were third, Levy's masterstroke was to bring in Steven Pienaar for a whopping £3.5m and bid a whopping £38.5m quid for Sergio Aguero whose club declined the opportunity to take cash and have no striker for the rest of the season as the bid was received 10 nano seconds before the window closed. Thankfully, Blackpool were unable to find all their shareholders to sign off the agreed Charlie Adam transfer (although Gareth's Bale's ankles were not so happy).
So far as we lie fourth with Sandro out for the season, Defoe with a pelvic injury and Adebayor suddenly deciding to go to the African Nations we are left with one 'striker' Clint Dempsey who is not really an out-and-out striker and Jonathan Chiedozie Obika who could be our next Andy Booth.
With Liverpool, Gooners, Rafa's blue army, City and Everton left to play with the scousers spending a combined £30m this window and us deciding to cough up a whopping £1.5m for Holtby six months before we were going to get him on a free I sense the next 48 hours could see Darren Bent coming on loan or Gary Hooper or a whopping £38.5m bid for Christian Ronaldo just to show, you know, Levy has ambition.
Still, the supermarket next to the new stadium is shaping up nicely...
David Harris, Hong Kong, soon back to Australia
Why Is Anybody Surprised By Liverpool?
Since Liverpool won the FA Cup in 2006, we have gone out in the third round, fifth round (to Barnsley), fourth round, third round (To Reading), third round and then losing in the final last year.
So, given that list of exits, I'd say this team is pretty much par for the course, with 2012 being the exception that proves the rule. Congrats Oldham, hope you stick it to the Toffees.
Now let's move on, we have Arsenal on Wednesday, and it would be nice if Sturridge and co. decided to play with Saurez this time.
Nathan (as anyone expecting anything less?), Cape Town
Should Chelsea Go More Defensive?
How tedious was that mailbox yesterday morning - have a light with that bitter next time lads. I know you can only print what you get but I nearly had to do some work it was that bad. Let's face it, we all love the magic of the cup as long as it's not our team doing the disappearing act. Anyway, I want to talk Chelsea.
Do we need to drop one of the three amigos (other nicknames are available) to give us a stronger formation? It's been great this season watching them tear apart defences but when we get in a position of strength we don't have it in us to control and see out a game (second half Southampton, nearly second half Arsenal, arguably cost us Champions League place losing two-goal lead at home to Juve) should we go back to a more rigid 4321 or 433 so we can control possession in the middle and stop opponents getting straight onto our back four creating chances and giving them confidence that they can get back into the game. This also gives us the option if a game's not going our way to bring on the other number 10 or striker and switch to 4231 or 4222 and go for broke.
Mixed reviews in the pub for this back to the old 'would you give up a bit of flair in order to win?' argument, unfortunately injuries and ACON mean we don't really have the players to put this into practise at the moment but if results/performances carry on with the same pattern would like to see it given a go maybe Luiz, Lampard, Ramires middle three, then you've got the problem of who do you drop up front obviously can't be Mata, and Hazard, Oscar have been pretty close in terms of form (both have their moments but also the ability to drift out of games) and with Moses to come back (could he play in the middle three?) would be a tough call but that's what you get when you buy 4/5 number 10s.
Quick thought to finish, have you ever thought of putting someone up against Degsy every week. You've could pick one of the regulars every week and see if they fancy a go, I know the extra admin for points/table would be a pain (or don't bother if anyone is bothered about who won they can look back at the column) but could be a bit of fun for our Friday afternoons.
Scott (oh and Torres scored a goal that mattered), London
Letters To Harry And Peter
Dear Harry Redknapp...
Yes, it has 'become a bit all too public', hasn't it? I wonder whose fault that might be? Not content with a striker whose £80k-a-week salary is more than the highest earners at Albion, Newcastle, Everton, West Ham, Sunderland and every other team in the league apart from five others; and not content with Cisse, Mackie, Zamora, Johnson, Campbell, Bothroyd, Hulse, Remy and Taarabt, he wants to pinch ours. Classless actions from a classless manager at a classless club. We run ours well, and we do not expect to lose leading players to teams nailed on for relegation run by short-termism of the highest order. Keep your car window shut.
Dear Peter Odemwingie...
Thank you for your goals which kept us up a few seasons ago. Thank you for your hat-trick against the Wolves. If you want to turn your back on the club which rescued you from Russian football and gave you the chance to shine, for one which has less than half our points total and will be playing in the Championship next season, then good riddance. We questioned your commitment last season due to your flimsy injury excuses and poor body language after we made you our highest earner. Even Hodgson had a pop and quite rightly so. Take your moaning self, your greedy agenda and your insulting comments and never pull on an Albion shirt again.
Richard (£4m for a 31-year-old? Any replacement must be a consistent performer with a point to prove please), Cambridge
How To Defend A Terrible 'Tackle'
I know that F365 has mentioned this in a number of articles, but the decision for Whelan not to be punished by the FA for his tackle on Garcia is astonishing. The agenda at the FA is clearly set by the national media, especially when you look at the witch hunt in the press for Hazard. I have this image of an emergency script in the Stoke City dressing room for when either the manager or the player has to front up to the cameras for another bad tackle they have committed. The statements are always the same like they are reading from a list of default sound bites and clichés. Glenn Whelan was almost parodying Tony Pulis. Just read what he says:
"I've gone in for the challenge and I don't think I tried to be dirty but if it looks that way on TV then I'll have to hold my hands up.
"I don't think I caught him as much as he was rolling about. It's the English game, the old-fashioned game, and that's what the Premier League is so good for.
"There is massive pressure on the referees from the media and the people they're accountable to. Hopefully it (tackling) can stay in the game and people just get on with it."
It's like there is a check list:
Number one - distance yourself from the tackle by saying if it looks like that on TV then maybe I did it and say you don't think you were doing it deliberately. It is absurd. If it looks like that on TV, its because it looked like that in reality. You haven't been stitched up by a camera that reveals your intent.
Number two - always, without fail, reference 'Englishness'. It's only foreigners who don't like a tackle, and they can't be trusted can they? And no Glenn, it isn't an old-fashioned game because the rules have changed. This isn't the 1970s, you can't just kick players because they are better than you.
Number three - always say that you're scared that football will be played without tackling. It is absurd. Tackling is not under threat. Dangerous tackling is. You are not allowed to endanger another player, no one is saying don't tackle, they are saying don't tackle in a way that can hurt someone.
...I'm in the process of catching up on the weekend's football and just read Glenn Whelan's comments regarding the 'tackle' he made in Saturday's match against Man City. His excuses and the FA's lack of balls to take action, in my opinion, epitomises one of the biggest problems (and dangers) in English football. Until greater action is taken, and a complete shift in the mentality of English football is undertaken, England will continue to be also-rans and legs will continue to be broken.
Everyone wants to see tackles remain a part of football, but there is no reason that these should not be as much a skill (and therefore honed and practised) as any other aspect of football, rather than being the sole 'quality' of substandard English footballers preferred by substandard managers.
As an Arsenal fan, I'll wait for the backlash from Stoke fans (and supporters of other clubs that have not kept up with the world-wide changes to modern football). However, until we as a country (starting with the FA) take a dimmer view of such actions that remain too regular an occurrence, our footballers will continue to be overtaken by their counterparts elsewhere. Yes, all teams are guilty of such tackles, however there are certain teams where it is the norm, rather than an aberrant.
Jason (Arsenal, obviously), Southampton