Another rotten day for David Moyes, whose desperation for a win was epitomised by the selection of an unfit Robin van Persie in attack. It's looking pretty worrying indeed...
One Mailboxer may have spent lunch in the pub in suggesting Van Persie could go back to Arsenal. Also, some Premier League meh-ing and a fine Acewatch suggestion...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Pre-Tournament Qualifying
Aiden in Northumberland raises an opinion occasionally expressed in the Mailbox, that smaller nations should have to face each other in a series of play-offs before they get the opportunity to meet the bigger footballing nations. While I can see that it must be a rotten inconvenience to have to play these small-fries in one-sided victories, I just wanted to chip in to say how elitist, spoiled and thoroughly wrong this idea is.
It was touted at the weekend that UEFA are considering a Nations League of 9 Divisions of 6 teams instead of regular international friendlies, as a means of increasing interest in these games, of offering bigger teams more testing opponents and of course of increasing revenues. This is a great idea - for the teams at the top. If England only ever played Spain, Holland, Germany, Italy and Portugal, maybe the greater test would improve the English national team, and if not, everyone would watch regardless. Interest in international football in those nations would soar. With promotion and relegation between divisions, if you're in the second or third division, like France, Russia or hipster's choice Belgium, you're a few good results away from sitting at the top table. Fun times and great games.
There are however 36 whole nations sitting below that it's less fun for. When you've no hope of reaching a major tournament - I'm a Scotsman - then the most you have to look forward to are the big guns coming to Hampden, where we begin every game thinking that if we can nick one on the break and defend properly we might sneak a result they'll be talking about for generations. It's a whole lot less fun if your diet consists of nothing but Armenia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia and Belarus, with all due respect to our fellow minnows. Win all the famous victories you like, the best you can realistically hope for is promotion to Division Five. Exciting, eh?
Whenever the idea of a breakaway European Super League is touted every so often, those who aren't fans of Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal et al (and many who are) are outraged at the idea, as it ends the Premier League as a meaningful contest, to say nothing of the rest of Europe's domestic leagues. Wanting to play no one but the big boys of international football is no different, and completely misses the point.
Football games, at all levels, are boring sometimes, but that's why you appreciate the great games. In the same way, we savour the clashes of footballing giants exactly because they are rare. If they happened every week, you'd soon get bored of them too.
Alistair Gilmour, Glasgow
The Ball Literally Can't Do The Work, Ruud
Joe Weston, you do realise that when people say 'make the ball do the work' they don't mean that they expect the ball to kick itself? They don't expect the ball to jump on a sit on mower and make some nice patterns on the pitch. They don't expect the ball to nip into the kiosk and start selling pies and bovril for extortionate prices at half time.
'Make the ball do the work' means play a pass rather than run with the ball. I don't care if you're Theo 'Hippy Crack Addict' Bolt, you can't run faster than a well hit pass. Do you not think that playing the ball rather than consistently carrying it makes for a faster pace?
I don't know if you've ever played football Joe, but at even the lowest level you are taught to find space to receive the ball. Finding space involves running. If you are not willing to do this, or not any good at doing this, you are not going to make a very good footballer.
Jim, Bali (Core)
In my humble opinion, Welbeck epitomises English football now, both for Manchester United and England. United on one hand are utterly bereft of "good" options on the wings. And Hodgson won't pick a decent winger from a club out of top 6 if he danced naked in front of him with 'Arry's old hat.
The point is that Welbeck looks to be a simple guy who gives it all for his team. But he is not good at what he is supposed to be. A striker. Who scores Goals.
If we wanted to see a workhorse who tracked back, occasionally held play up and linked ok with the rest of the team then we should be praising Valencia or Park Ji Sung. But Welbeck, we have been told, is a striker. Not a winger. Not a defender. Not a Midfielder. But a striker. And he sucks at being a striker. He doesn't shoot well, cannot make those flurry runs into the boxes like Chicarito and cannot link play well enough like Van Persie. And that is why he is mostly never played as a striker at either United or for England.
Welbeck is playing at wings not because he is good and amazingly well suited there, but because he is not good enough to be a striker and his club/country don't have viable options for left wing. (As it turns out his alternative would be Young for both club and country. You take your pick). I duly hope that he is just a temporary sticker and not a solution to everybody's winger issues.
Donnie , (hell Yeah !. Its good to be back. All this is gonna come back and bite me in the arse if he score tonight against Poland, you know) MUFC
As a Welbeck fan, a few issues with 'The Prosecution':
- His goalscoring record is questioned, yet even Stanger admits he's never played as a striker. Over his United career he has a goal/game ratio of 1:5 - not bad for a 22 year old learning a new position.
- United proved last season that you don't need a team of superstars to be successful; not everybody needs to be blessed with talent all over the pitch like Barca to win. Welbeck is a vital cog to the whole team dynamic as his movement is excellent and he's not afraid to drive at the defence.
- Fergie's selection in the second leg wasn't a "crippling lack of intent", it was a smart move to put Welbeck there, as he doesn't get frustrated and lose discipline like Rooney inevitably would. Up until Nani's sending off the decision was wholly justified.
- "Michael Carrick is often derided as the midfielder who never passes the ball forward". That is just plain wrong. According to Opta, nobody completed more forward passes than Carrick last season, and this campaign he's only preceded by Xavi. Some things really can be proven by statistics.
England Better Do It
Just a quick note to say that I sincerely hope England play well tonight, win the game and qualify. Not for footballing reasons, not because of the World Cup being in Brazil, and not because of national pride (although all those things do apply.) Primarily it is because if I have to endure the "I told you so" reaction of myriad indignant media types, I think I might have to stab out my own eyeballs with a pen.
My hat goes off to Roy for the quite classy way that he deflected the s**t-stirring from the media about 'Arry's book serialisation (very coincidental timing, lads?) but you can already see The Sun blarting out the same steaming crap on its front page and back page and 8-page special pullout with a call for a national petition to get 'Arry the job he always deserved and oh my god I want to kill myself already.
Members of the England team, I know you all read F365 diligently and pay close attention to the ramblings of individual fans in far flung countries - so please God, for our collective sanity, just don't be s**t.
Terry Hall, Switzerland
It's An Idea...
The BBC ran a piece at the weekend about how Brazil inducts 14 year olds into an academy and trains them up in a centre of excellence before selling them on to clubs.
Essentially the best of the best get to train together in the most important years of their development but why not take this a step further?
Clubs don't like releasing their players for international football so why not just separate international football from club football completely and increase the regularity of competitions.
Consider if you will each country preventing their top elite from competing at club level and instead developing them as international-only professionals. You could then have an international world league that takes place during the season with World Cup finals taking place annually.
This way clubs wouldn't care because they wouldn't be risking their players and we all get to enjoy a whole bunch of additional matches to the football calendar and a world cup every year? what's not to like?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Could Be Worse, You Could Want Roy Keane
Upon the final whistle tonight in Lansdowne Road, Irelands world cup qualifying adventure will end. OK it ended when Germany handed us our arses in a 1-6 home defeat, but we will not be Ole Oleing our way to Rio this summer.
The analysis of the problems of this campaign have been highlighted elsewhere along with the failings (recent) of Giovanni Trappatoni, so no need to go into them here.
Where this does leave Ireland now is in a state of real transition. Noel Kings tenure (is two games a tenure?!) as interim manager will end and we will begin the hunt for a new manager. Robbie Keane said last night that the new manager needed to have some balls. This is a refreshing attitude from our captain who often comes under fire, but who has a genuine love for playing for his country.
My own choice would be for Roy Keane and his beard to come in but that's by the by. Ray Houghton and someone called Ruud Doktor are the selection team for this so we will probably end up with Paul Jewell.
Also at issue is the fact that a lot of our stalwart players will be coming to the end of their international careers, leaving us with a real vacuum of players playing at a decent standard.
Here is where I would be advocating the anti-Wilshire approach to recruitment and try to cast the net far and wide in the hunt for talent. I fear that we are heading into a long period of wilderness that will take years to rectify.
So, England fans, rejoice that you are in the position you are in. Embrace Roy, Andros, Rickie, Theo and Wayne. There are fans near and far that would love to have the problems that you have.
A Final Question For The Mailbox
All this nonsense about townsend being better than theo, got me thinking, which do people rate higher, a great goal scorer or a scorer of great goals?
I would argue that Walcott is a better scorer of goals in terms of quantity, but Townsend would score nicer goals that would be more pleasing to watch. The more impressive looking goals make for more raving about a player, because we are more naturally impressed.