The result may have been meaningless as Arsenal again crashed out of the Champions League in the last 16, but the performance was anything but. The Ox was hugely impressive...
One Spurs fan has had quite enough of Tim Sherwood's schtick, whilst Jack Rodwell takes a kicking too. Plus one chap who thinks United will still get in the top four...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Wenger As A Chequebook Manager?
Arsene Wenger has a fantastic reputation of building successful team(s) - winning the title at OT, Invincibles, numerous Emirates and 4th placed cups! - but the only time he seems to find real success is when the chequebook is open. The invincibles team and that era were built when the chequebook was open, admittedly the transfer fees paid for the likes of Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry and Overmars (Not to mention Francis Jeffers) are modest by todays standards, but at the time they were big fees, and success duly followed.
Then Arsenal moved to the Emirates, the chequebook was colsed and subsequently the trophy cabinet was bare, for 8 years, in which time smaller clubs like Swansea, Wigan, Portsmouth and Liverpool have all picked up trophies.
Roll on to 2013, the chequebook opens up and Arsenal start to look like champions again. So, it remains to be seen, has Arsene managed to buy success for the Arsenal again, and will he be judged as harshly as other chequebook managers (Mancini/any of Chelseas previous 2,523 managers) if he fails this year?
Alan (unable to afford success) Walker
We don't want you back Cesc. Couldn't give a tuppenny hoot if you have Arsenal in your heart - you have Barca in your DNA and that quite frankly is akin to having the DNA of David Banner - it's corrosive and makes everyone angry.
Stay where you are Cesc or I'll get angry and you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.
Graham Simons, Gooner (Cue loads of mails about how great Cesc was even though he led us to the square root of jack sh*t before buggering off to Barca), Norf London
A Detailed Criticism Of Evans
In yesterday's mailbox Chris, SAF Stand wrote to say he feels Jonny Evans is United's best or at least most consistent defender. Around about this time last year I would have agreed. But then after watching United concede so many chances game after game no matter who the opposition I decided to analyse what was wrong (this may sound sad but I bet on football for a living). I came to the conclusion that while United's formation didn't really help, to play only two central midfielders and two out an out wingers is tough especially in away games, that it was Mr Evans that was the problem.
Basically, when the opposition have the ball Evans runs away, well, backs off. When Evans is in the back four United defend far too deep. He is almost always deeper than his partner and not just by a yard often he is a good five yards deeper. He drags the rest of the defence back with him leaving the midfield with a problem. Do they drop back in front or do they try and press the opposition and hope the defence squeezes. Against WBA they did the latter and left massive gaps behind in which Sessègnon, in particular, ran riot. Against Southampton they dropped enabling Southampton to press United deep inside thier own half allowing them to dominate possession and pile on the pressure as United struggled to get out from their defensive third.
If the defence is too deep too often it makes it difficult to pin the opposition back and sustain pressure. Often when United lose possession in the oppositions half Evans and co drop off instantly leaving big gaps in front of them giving the opposition an easy get out ball. Basically, if you're an opposition forward then just stand still and you'll be in space to receive a pass. My biggest frustration with Evans is how easy he lets the opposition's forward get possession. The best defenders attack the ball. As the ball is on the way to the forward they get tight and press testing the players first touch. If the player's control is good they continue to work his touch by forcing him to play under pressure. A great example of this was Kompany's performance in the Derby against Rooney. Against Southampton, Lambert's first involvement, after coming on as sub, was to back Evans to the edge of the box before receiving the ball under no pressure, as Evans was a yard behind him, he then took three more touches before laying the ball off. Evans makes it far too easy for the opposition players.
Next time you watch United see how often Evans id deeper than the other defenders. See how often the opposition forward pulls onto Evans and not onto his partner. See how often Evans is too far off to make a tackle/block. Evans doesn't stand out as making mistakes but his very presence at the back effects how United defend which is a real problem. Although the bigger problem is who else? Rio's past it maybe Vidic too, Smalling is probably(he hasn't played enough to be sure) not good enough and Jones is still very raw. Evans still could become a top centre half if he could learn to be more aggressive like Vidic but I doubt he has that kind of personality, unfortunately.
Embrace Fergie Book
Managers, media and ex-facebook friends alike expressing distaste and in some cases outrage over Fergie's is a load of guff really, isn't it?
Just admit it, you're all delighted be brought this book out. It gives us another chapter in the career of SAF (and he's still box office). It dishes the dirt on players you dislike and settles scores that you cant. It gives a fly on the wall perspective of incidents you could only hear about 4th or 5th hand. Fergie's book will act as an historical text on football, such was his stature. It gives brilliant context to what will be looked back on as the formative years of the Premier League. Genuine insight from the man at the top of the British game in the last 2 decades? Yes please. These books enrich football and enrich sport.
So let's just enjoy instead of getting outraged for the sake of it, eh?
Defending Singing Sections
I have been a regular at Old Trafford for the last few years, and a season ticket holder last season, although a new baby is limiting my attendance this season. From my own experience the atmosphere can be fantastic especially when rivals and major European teams visit, with plenty of singing heard in unison all around the ground, however this is often not replicated on a week by week basis in the Premier League.
Currently you get pockets of chants breaking out around the ground whilst the Stretford End generally remains lively throughout. Having spent a few seasons regularly standing up high in the Stretford End I know that plenty of noise is generated however this doesn't really reverberate around the ground too well.
Manchester United, like all clubs has some incredibly loud, passionate supporters, however due to the clubs success and global popularity we do unfortunately attract a different type of supporter who is more likely to spend a small fortune in the club shop and less likely to sing their lungs out at the game. Hopefully the louder fans grouped together can influence the rest of the stadium to be a lot more vocal.
Much of the focus has been towards the name of the plan, calling it a 'singing section' is inappropriate however, as it is in no way a designated area where singing fans have to go, and it is ridiculous to suggest that fans will be castigated by stewards for singing in other areas. The point of this scheme is to bring more of the vocal fans together so they can start songs in unison which will then ideally be picked up and carried on by the rest of the stadium.
Whilst I expect the 'singing section' to continue to be mocked, I'm sure we'll hear countless renditions of "we're (insert club name here) and we'll sing where we want" etc etc, this 'singing section' idea is a fan led initiative, aims to make a real improvement to the club and whilst I wish it wasn't required, I am very glad that some fans out there are trying to bolster the club.
Matt (loves singing at games and doesn't understand those who don't), Manchester
European All-Star Trophy
We all love picking our Premiership team of the year. How would Suarez and Van Persie play as a front two? Would you pair Kompany and Vidic. I am sure similar discussions happen all around Europe.
What I am getting at is how much would you love to see an All Star Team from each of the top 8 leagues in Europe fight it out in a tournament at the end of the season.
Firstly it would be a sponsors dream. There is no debate as to who is in the team (subs are the players with the 2nd most votes) as it is picked from the PFA player of the year votes. This is great so players can't rely on their previous reputation to get in the team and allows the potential for a player to get recognition for his performances over the course of the year.
This all seemed a magic idea until some wise old head piped up and asked why would the players bother and more importantly why would the clubs care or release their star player. The answer - We offer an extra Champions league qualifying place for the next year to the European team that wins the tournament.
For the clubs, we are only talking about at most 3 games extra for one or two of their players (quarter final, semi-final and final). With the top 4 looking like it will become more hotly contested you can see that an extra place would be valuable in the Premiership and I am sure the rest of Europe would not turn their nose up either. Each of the 8 participating countries could take it in turns to host the tournament however the committee in the Mill pub in Dublin would like its opening year to be hosted in Dublin in recognition of their intensive work.
Over to your UEFA.
PJ O'R (if this happens we at least want tickets) Dublin
An Arsenal Fan Called R. Snell. If True, It's Made Our Friday
I've been reading the Mailbox on and off for a few years and the term 'plastic' to refer to a fan of a big team arises with regularity. It's usually used disparagingly.
I know what the term means loosely - "A person who roots for a Non-Hometown team based on that teams good record. Or from having some childhood memory of going to a game" (Urban Dictionary)
Clear and simple - although the usage in the Mailbox seems to change occasionally to include 'fickle' fans or sometimes recent/younger fans. (Full disclosure: I also follow a non-hometown team but I chose Arsenal in 1986, as their team name is closest to my name; R.Snell. It seemed as good a reason as any).
But I am too recent a reader to know the derivation of the word 'plastic'. Why plastic? Where did it come from? Is it to do with the flimsy and temporary nature of the material? (Which takes far longer to biodegrade than paper or wood or cheese, any of which might be better). Or a reference to the "plastic" of a credit card as they are buying only fans, "put it on the plastic"? Is it plastic as in a modern, non-traditional material? Or because it is easily shaped and malleable? Or is there some link between plastics and distance / travel to grounds that I can't figure out?
Can I ask for the Mailbox to discuss the term more broadly? What does it mean to you? How do you spot a 'plastic'? Is there anything wrong with them supporting your club and paying money for TV subscriptions / merchandise which benefits your team? Are all overseas fans plastics? And where did it originate and why "plastic"? It's been steadily infuriating me for about a year!
Snelly, Nelson, NZ
Is it just me, or did anyone else wince considerably when they read "who both survived relegation by their skin of their balls last season." in Chris Henderson's' BRFC email?
Christ - it was worse than reading Mediawatch!
Sam (no you do some work) LFC
What's Your Greatest Footballing Achievement?
Anticipating the usual eclectic Friday mailbox; what is the highlight of the mailbox readers' football 'careers'?
My showreel moment came a few years ago. I had managed to arrange a place on a corporate sponsor training day at Old Trafford for a kid that lived in the care home I worked in. After arriving we were taken to one side and told that we would be unable to join in the training session as the insurance didn't cover anybody under the age of 16. I was waiting for the kid to have a meltdown (he was as mental as a bum full of frogs) when we were informed that we were welcome to go and have a kick about on the pitch. This remains the only time, to date, that a grown man's words have given me a twitch in my pants.
So, the kid and I were having a knock about, when one of the guest coaches for the day came and joined us. This is how I came to have a game of 'Headers and Volleys' with Denis Irwin. At one point Mr Irwin dinked a little ball to the penalty spot which I volleyed into the top corner so ferociously it would have literally (genuine, not Jamie Redknapp style) killed the poor child if it had caught him.
Denis turned to me and congratulated me on my exquisite finish by saying, 'Calm down, he's only a kid' (He had a point, the child in question was only 11)
'Denis', said I, 'When will I ever get to score a volley in front of the Stretford End ever again?'
Not only my footballing highlight, but the best moment of my life.
Jim, Bali (A couple of people on the stadium tour clapped the goal too. Their view of the keeper was obscured)