Nice one UEFA, but not far enough. We have some ideas to make the Europa League better as well as more views on Wayne Rooney, Vermaelen in midfield and...
Each club in the top five needs a new striker this summer, so Matt Stanger evaluates the different options. Lewandowski to United? Should Chelsea sign Gomez?
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What Would Happen If Jose Took Over At Arsenal
June 2013, and Arsenal having finished outside the top 4. Season ticket renewals are down 62% and the fan pressure finally gets to the board. Arsene takes the chance to walk before he is pushed and before the week is over, his successor is announced; It's Jose.
At his first press-conference he announces to the men of the press (not one of them un-tumescent) that the squad have been told there is one way to play football; Jose's Way. He then proceeds to shell out £130 million on Pepe, Khedira, Lewandowski, Coentrao, Begovic, and Mark Van Bommel as an experienced head to offer some steel. On transfer deadline day, Frank Lampard is reported to have missed his medical with LA Galaxy, his Range Rover is spotted entering The Emirates complex; Jim White announces the news a little after 10pm that Lampsy has signed a 2 year contract at £100,000 a week with The Arsenal.
The season begins with a 1-0 win away at West Ham, followed by a 1-0 victory at home to Sunderland. By October Arsenal are top of the league, they've won 11 of 13 and drawn the other two; scoring 12 and conceding just once. A particular highlight being the 1-0 win away at Stamford Bridge; Lampard breaking Chelsea hearts with a 92nd minute penalty in a game where Arsenal had just 39% possession. Mourinho's "pragmatic" style winning over few neutrals but sweeping all contenders aside. By March it's not a case of if Arsenal will win the league, but by how much. They finish on a record-smashing 99 points (their only loss coming away to Blackburn*) and Jose vows to build on this success next season and in Europe if the board will only allow him another £150m to buy Iniesta, Ozil and Falcao.
Now just imagine the mailbox, the fan forums and the phone-ins; swamped with pissed-off Arsenal fans complaining that Mourinho is going about things the wrong way with his ugly football, confrontational personality and his non-prudent spending. I mean, it's not like football fans would be fickle enough to climb down from their high horses for a sniff of success is it?
Scof, BRFC, Manchester
Everything About Suarez In One Game
Luis Saurez last night, delivered the most astonishing performance of his career in that he managed to squeeze his career to date, and all of its traits into one ninety minute performance. Frustrating solo efforts where he was dispossessed followed by stunning strikes requiring incredible cunning (both free kicks were highly intelligent shot choices, expertly struck). He managed to get about in his usual maniacal manner and rob the ball repeatedly and for the icing we have the alleged "stamp".
Now whether it was deliberate or not is highly debatable, although just to point out to some Pool mates I watched the game with, you cannot spend over an hour boasting about the fella having the best balance and most intelligent feet in the game and then act like he's some sort of clumsy oaf when he lands, feet first on top of a man like that. Also, I'm not sure who was commentating from 3e (Irish channel) last night, but they immediately began accusing Hubocan of play acting on the deck - then realised upon replay that Luis "might be a bit fortunate to get away with that".
The incident that got me more frustrated was the injury to Lombaerts in the run up to Joe Allen's goal - it led to Lombaerts lying on the deck as Enrique crossed the ball, and collapsing in pain when he couldn't stop Allen at the rebound. Like most, I didn't see what happened and no subsequent replay showed it, but during the interval, Brian Kerr (doing analysis on 3e) pointed out with replay that Suarez had trampled on Lombaerts Achilles as they ran into the box - I only saw it once but it looked like he deliberately tried to catch the man off the ball (bearing in mind the guy left the pitch on a stretcher as a result). Luciano Spalletti has discussed it at his press conference this morning referring to it as a deliberate foul and to put it mildly, if Liverpool had progressed last night at Zenit's expense, having lost their centre half and conceded a vital goal before half time, because of that injury, I'm quite sure we'd hear a lot more about it.
I'm just sayin' 's'all.
As much as I agree that the substitutions in last nights game caused Liverpool a visible disruption in rhythm, I think people are highlighting the wrong thing. Both Allen and Downing had excellent games last night but were waning due to tiredness when they came off. Although I thought taking Henderson off was a mistake, his replacement Assiadi actually did okay and stretched the play. The players brought off were probably the right ones to come off.
The problem is, Liverpool's squad is sh*t. Proper sh*t. It's shown more than once this season. If a key player gets injured (think Sturridge vs WBA) then there is no one to replace him. If we want to bring a player on to change a game, you look at the bench and don't know whether to laugh or cry. Last night highlighted that perfectly. No strikers on the bench, and the options to bring on included a child woefully short form (wee Raheem), and someone who's recent performances suggest he has a better chance of making a career as an Uncle Fester lookalike than a Premier League footballer.
I'm disappointed with yesterdays result, and I think taking Henderson off was a mistake, but the other two were correct. Rodgers overall did a good job last night but made one mistake, he will hopefully learn from that. I know the in vogue thing is to slate Rodgers for all and sundry, but to look at things with a bit of perspective, he's doing okay, not amazing but not terrible. He talks a lot of nonsense sometimes, but it's becoming a bit like a self fulfilling prophecy; even his reasonable comments are being described as lunacy. Everyone just needs to calm themselves and be happy that Liverpool displayed real character last night, something that seems to have been missing for a lot of this season. If they learn from last night, and react accordingly, I think we'll start to see a much improved side overall.
As long as we sort our squad out as well. It really is proper sh't.
With Nick Hamblin's analogy of comparing Jesse Owens to Usain Bolt, are we to assume that in 50yrs time, with things progressing as they are at the moment, that players like Ronaldo and Messi will become average, and we'll have the super Nano-Footballers? (it sounds futuristic). No, of course we won't.
Great players were great players regardless of the time period, and despite the limitations at the time. If anything these 'olden day' players would be even better today, given the advances in sports science/nutrition and ...errrr Twitter.
Just Youtube Cruyff dribbling and tell me that defenders today would find it easier to defend against that then against Ronaldo running at them. They would struggle just as much regardless. I do take his point that as a team, Real Madrid wouldn't have come up against as strong opposition as today, but I disagree with the down grading of these older legendary players in the strongest possible way!
Kiraldo (those pesky kids)
A Thorough Mail On Spurs
I've seen some mails criticising Spurs style of play and Bale drifting in, I'd like to make the following points:
Firstly, Bale drifting into the centre is not the same issue as last season. All these moronic chants, of 'he plays on the left' are bloody infuriating. The problem we had last season was that Harry didn't pay much attention to tactics (this isn't specifically a Harry only thing) but preferred to tell the players to go out and express themselves. Now that is great, because it can result in free flowing attacking football, and despite not being the biggest Harry fan, I can admit we played some scintillating football at times last season. But, we also played some awful ponderous aimless football too. The whole team looked completely unbalanced at times and the predictability of some of our play and the refusal of Harry to trust his squad rather than just our first 11 cost us Champions League football. (Harry cost us, not Chelsea, we had a 13 point gap, a gap Harry had no problem in taking credit for, but struggled to take responsibility for losing)
Now if we look at this season, and specifically last night, we have a fairly fluid and interchangeable front four. You often see Adebayor dropping to the left and in the channels, Holtby can play across the front 3 or in a false nine, Lennon and Bale can swap flanks and so on and so forth. I have noticed Bale drifting inside a lot more than last season, but as we're so tactically prepared these days, and only a fool would say otherwise, I rarely see a lack of balance in the side at all. Last night, whenever Bale went forward or drifted inside, Holtby dropped out to the left or Adebayor drifted into the channels and we kept our shape. Just as we have done all season. Second half, it was fairly obvious to anyone with eyes that we practically played three at the back, with Disco Benny practically playing left wing, with Dempsey coming on and playing as a second man up top. It is a continental way of playing and it is working for us, despite Levy leaving us with a laughably thin squad (apart from Hudd, guffaw) and seemingly point blank refusing to buy any player that AVB actually wants. We don't play the free flowing mesmeric football anymore but we are a functioning machine. AVB had a lot to contend with when he came in, losing Modric and van der Vaart, missing key players from last season due to injury (Parker, Kaboul and Ekotto, whilst Adebayor has also struggled with fitness) and yet we are still bang there. Have a little faith in the manager and the system he uses that gives Bale a free reign to cause havoc.
The most impressive thing for me with AVB, is not only how he has managed to free Bale to cause havoc, but how he addressed the issue of conceding goals in the last 10 minutes and making us more defensively solid.
We let a couple in at the start of the season, most notably costing us points at home v WBA and Norwich...the press picked up on this (a handy bat to hit AVB with I suppose) and it kind of became a self fulfilling prophecy, as the more we spoke about it, the more the players got nervous and the more late goals we conceded, which culminated in the dramatic late collapse at Goodison on December 9th. We had conceded 10 goals in the last 10-15 minutes of games, and apparently if games finished on 80 minutes we'd have been top. AVB made a point in a press conference that him and his coaching staff were working on very specifically tailored training sessions that duplicated pressure and concentration in games in an attempt to cut down on errors. Since then, Spurs have not conceded a single goal in the last 10 minutes of a football match, and if I recall correctly, have only conceded one goal in the 2nd half of a match, in an FA Cup tie away at Leeds. Not bad for a coach who is clueless and 'Borderline Aspergers (c) Ian McGarry
For various reasons I have been out of the communication loop during the last week so haven't been able to follow football news at all. However, I have managed to catch a couple of headlines where Rodgers described the away leg as "near perfect" and the home leg as "phenomenal" and "incredible".
I can't wait to find out who we get in the next round.
There was a lot said by the comentators about how astonishing a comeback it would have been had Liverpool actually managed it.
Boro did it twice in the same competition.
That is all.
Tony D (they should have brough Maccarone on) MFC, St Albans
If Nikhil N, Chelsea was wondering why Mikel was not featured in F365's top ten midfielders who divide opinion, it is because he does not.
He is pants.
Ming Kiat Tan
The Away Goals Issue
I'm sure this subject has been discussed before, but it seems appropriate to mention it again now; the "Away Goals" rule is completely unfair and, in this day and age, obsolete.
While I am most certainly not a Liverpool fan, as a fan of football as a whole, I can't help but feel that Liverpool were very unfortunate to be eliminated last night. I know that the system is well-publicised, and everyone involved knew what needed to be done in order for their team to progress, but that doesn't make it fair.
Liverpool were eliminated on the principal that the opposition scored one goal in the away leg. Both teams scored 3 goals each, yet one of these goals was "worth more" than the other 5, simply because of where it was scored. Granted, it could be described as more difficult, generally, to score a goal at an opponents ground, but it's hardly impossible. Why should achieving that feat alone be worthy of doubling the value of said goal?
Liverpool managed to score more goals at their home ground than Zenit did; why is that not worthy of extra reward? It's not, because one goal is worth one goal, and always should be; regardless of the location at which it was scored. Will every team who achieves a score draw versus Brazil at next year's World Cup go through on "Away Goals"? No, of course not - that would be ridiculous, but it's not that far from being the same situation.
Last night also saw Lyon score early and try to play for the 1-0, which would take them through. Fortunately this negative attitude came back to bite them on the arse, thanks to that tonk from Dembele, but had they shown a bit more ambition/killer instinct, they could have finished that match off by going for a second goal.
I understand that when a match is tied after 180 minutes of football you need a way to find a winner, but this should not be it. Furthermore, Extra Time is inherently flawed as well. Why should the team who had the fortune of being drawn away from home in the first-leg have the potential advantage of an extra 30 minutes on their own ground, should the two teams prove equal for the 180 before it? Add that to the potential penalty shoot-out in front of their own fans, if 210 minutes of football just can't produce a winner.
Forget away goals, forget 2-legged matches; one match, 90 minutes, at a neutral ground (based on a geographically determined "middle ground"), 30 minutes extra time, followed by penalties if there is no winner after normal time. Everyone gets the same crack of the whip then. It's the same principal as the Capitol One Cup, with the exception of a neutral ground, and that works well.
Ok, fans might grumble about not getting a home tie to go to - but there are plenty of fans who go and watch away matches in Europe already, it shouldn't be an issue. Split the ticket allocation 45% each with 10% for local/neutrals, and you're a step closer to a "fair" environment. You also get rid of the bullsh*t "seeding" system, which sees the stronger sides given an unnecessary advantage.
I'm sure it's not a flawless idea, but this is just off the top of my head. But one thing is for sure: the system needs to change.
Brendan And Mediawatch
Well that has to be the most pithy mediawatch I've ever read, was it a slow news day boys (and girl)?
"I don't think the players could have done any more, the crowd certainly couldn't have done any more. It was one of those nights. It was a fantastic night but unfortunately we probably lost the tie over there." - From this you take it that Brenden doesnt realise they lost. Despite the fact he openly states that the tie was lost in Russia. Can you really blame the man for being proud of his players after the effort to come back last night. No they didnt go through but to be anything other than possitive would crush already their low confidence right now.
"So we're bitterly disappointed and we lost the battle tonight, but in terms of the war going forward we very much look forward to that." You use this to have a dig at Brendan, saying they have nothing left to play for this season. Ever though he may have been refering to more than just this season?
Rodgers and his Brentisms usually give you plent of ammunition to rip in to him without you needing to make fun of him for nothing surely?
Joe, LFC, having just wrung your letter dry of faux, teary eyed pathos, I'll respond with just two words. Roy Hodgson.
Tim Stillman (Sang "We Love you Arsenal" at the final whistle on Tuesday with everyone else). AFC
Is Stoke Really That Wet?
Johnny and Alan again make reference to "A wet Tuesday night in Stoke" in their latest article. Yet with an annual average of 783mm of rainfall, Stoke is considerably drier than Manchester (806mm), Liverpool (859mm) and well under the UK average of 1,125mm. Furthermore, at 168m above sea level The Hawthorns must be one of the coldest grounds, though Oldham's Boundary Park is nearly as high and also exposed to a biting wind thanks to its open corners. Vale Park, to be fair, is both high and friggin' freezin' - though the locals wouldn't take too kindly at being called Stokies. And apparently the wettest day of the week in the UK is Saturday.
Therefore, if you insist on perpetuating the stereotype using The Potteries, the correct expression should hitherto be known as "A wet Saturday night in Burslem".
Jamie Bedwell (As It's Friday...), Cheltenhamshire