While other managers have been quick to speak about limitations, Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez have pushed the boundaries to embarrass their peers...
Liverpool cult hero Luis Garcia is returning to Anfield on Easter Monday to take part in the 'Celebration of the 96' charity match. Jon Holmes caught up with him...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I can't believe the FA have let another team change from blue to red. Still, with two banks of four difficult to break down and the big lads always a threat at set-pieces, Everton deserved the win and Arsenal have just got to learn to deal with it.
...Enjoyed the fact there were three televised games on Hyperbole Sunday but I couldn't help thinking the games were basically the same: three plucky underdogs who scrapped their ways to 1-0 wins without much possession. United in particular looked like a team straight out of the 90s with their two banks of four and two great strikers who they hoofed it to on most occasions.
Wonder what other mailboxers think.
George Edmund (we ended up wishing they'd showed Stoke, how odd) LFC
...Great results this weekend for struggling, middle-table mediocrities against the title contenders. And...Utd.
Matt (We'll be back), Gooner, New York
Feeling Strangely Okay
I must say apart from the result (I know it's the most important thing, but go with me here...) I thought Arsenal were unlucky not to get a draw. United will lose more points than this Arsenal side over the course of 38 games. Redknapp and Carragher saying Rooney and RVP were amazing??? Dear oh dear, yes they scored a set-piece but that was it. I thought Vermaelen did pretty well as back-up to Mertesacker, big positive there.
Not many questions asked of either backline.
I agree Ozil was poor, as was Giroud, Ramsey and Cazorla but it won't be often that all four or five attackers we have will be that bad again. Walcott, Rosicky and Podolski will all be back for our next game hopefully and of course the BFG Mertesacker. Good options. Looking at our fixtures we are looking good, two points clear at this stage and no other team ready to make a move for the top just yet. Also looking to qualify in the group of death in Europe.
I believe City and Chelsea will be the top two still and we are on for third as the squads stand.
Buy a top striker in January, which seems more and more likely by the day, and we could be possible contenders yet as neither City or Chelsea seem ready yet to lay down their true markers.
Lee 'We are still top of the league fellow Gooners, calm down' Lisno
...Well frankly I'm writing this mail so that I can just ask F365 reading Arsenal fans to nip any fatalistic thought in the bid. That wasn't too bad a result and here's why
1. We are still two points clear at the top of the league, and now having played United, Liverpool, Spurs, West Brom, Aston Villa, Swansea and Stoke. That's not too bad and we would have grabbed this position with both arms if it had been up for sale at the start of the season.
2. Against United, fatigue was also always going to come into play. Having played Liverpool and Dortmund (away) in games of high intensity, and having one day less than United to recover was always going to be tough. For this reason, I didn't expect us to blow them away like we did Liverpool.
3. We have a long injury list as always, and we are still top. Without Mertesacker, I was worried our lack of depth will show, but Vermaelen did okay for a back-up defender. With Mertesacker we would not have lost this game. Also, the same midfield has essentially been playing every three days in high-intensity games. Fatigue was bound to show. When players return from injury (and I hope there won't be any more injuries in this international break) we can have fresher players for games such as this.
4. It's not like United deserved to win. It was a close affair and Arsenal could just as easily have won if we could have got someone at the end of Sagna's crosses. It must be remembered how lucky that scum got with his shoulder. That sort of a goal requires too much luck to go in, and it happened for United.
5. When Walcott returns we will get much required pace up front. And hopefully we get another striker in Jan. Frankly, aside from a good striker, we are one of the best squads in the league, and one with true quality. Players were tired and lost a very close match. Give them a break.
So gooners, please stay calm. Support your team with confidence, it will rub off on the performances. Some of Arsenal's recent difficult past is surely down to their fans' fatalism - that breeds the nervousness. The club has done its job this year, the fans must too.
Lacking Pace And Width
A lot has already and will continue to be written about the Arsenal-Man Utd match. In case this isn't highlighted, Arsenal have been excellent, but have at times got away with being very one-dimensional this year.
This weekend, as in other games, we have lacked pace and width and it is starting to cost us dear. Part of this problem is that some of our fast wide players are injured, Walcott and the Ox. The other part is trying to shoehorn in all of our very talented central midfielders, thus we have had Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky, Ozil and Cazorla all playing nominally as wide men.
This glut of central midfielders has also led to a return to the tippy-tappy stuff that we had shaken off a little at the beginning of the season. Our goal against Dortmund should have highlighted that we should be changing our approach a little more, one pass wide, one touch and crossed in by Sagna, goal. The only time we threatened against Man Utd was again when Sagna was able to start delivering some crosses in the last 20 minutes (as an aside, whilst a fan when Jenkinson plays his delivery really lets us down and highlights our reliance on Sagna's crossing). The players are trying too hard to set everyone else up with the perfect pass.
I would like to see Gnabry given more playing time when fit. He proved very capable earlier in the year. Possibly also some time for Miyaichi when possible as he is another fast wide player, and sometimes it may prove more beneficial to pick players to fit the system rather than the best 11 players available regardless of their positions.
So we lost to Man U again, this wasn't the battering of earlier periods but it was still a painful loss because we are a much stronger side than United. I think Arsenal got some of the tactics and personnel wrong. Arsene Wenger for all his quality has the tendency to concetrate on a set of 11 players and not rotate. Playing with five central midfielders and using two of them as wingers has been a clear weakness you can observe in this Arsenal side. It's either he trusts Gnabry or Miyaichi in the absense of Theo, Podolski and the Ox. If Gibbs was knackered it might have been the game to give Nacho a start or use Gibbs as a winger as he has the pace and skill to beat defenders on a 1 vs 1.
The games against Liverpool and Dortmund it was clear there was no out ball under attack and I could see the space that a speedy out-and-out winger would utilise. Same thing with Manchester United there was no one with pace to stretch their defence as all the other Mmdfielders and even the striker Giroud lack the necessary pace to run past defenders. Neat flicks may work a lot of the time but there is no substitute for real pace. In the beginning of the season Arsene tried to stick to the formula of having pace by incorporating his replacement young wingers. I think most of the games we will play will be very differrent when we have pace and someone who is more direct even Rosicky would have made a difference.
As for a title challenge, it's quite evident we are very much in it and all we need to do is keep battering the smaller teams but the team really needs pace at the moment and I hope Theo returns soonest. And to the Arsenal fans who had the sign da ting campaign it's high time you guys embark on one for Sagna he is desperately needed for one more season at least.
Ronnie Shumba (Eight-year drought is coming to an end and a Man U one is starting), Johannesburg
Piggy Ain't Coming Home
So it's the 89th minute of the United match with the result looking pretty much sealed when the Arsenal fans in the pub start chanting over and over "we are top of the league!"........I couldn't help but think of that episode of the Simpsons when Homer's chasing his hog roast through the streets shouting, "It's just a little muddy, it's still good! It's still good! It's just a little airborne it's still good! It's still good!"
Sorry to say Arsenal fans but in the words of Bart: "Piggy ain't coming home".
Somebody Not Happy With Our Conclusions
Really Nick Miller?! That's your conclusions on the Man Utd v Arsenal? I imagine you have done so to get responses (yes yes I fell for it) but is that really your take away for a professional performance against the in form team.
* Rooney '...didn't actually do much tangible...' - he showed more desire than the Arsenal team combined. Pressuring Arsenal's backline to hump it long to Giroud's head, where Vidic, Evans and Jones had him in their pocket. A constant menace who Arsenal backed off because of the fear factor. Van Persie, apart from the goal, did a hell of a lot less.
* Kagawa was clearly employed to drift inside and add another body to the centre of the park, where Arsenal are most dangerous. Evra was relied on to get forward as per usual.
* No mention of the noticeable tactics United employed to target Gibbs. Rooney said after the game they targeted Arsenal's small players and this was clear from the off. High passes down the right to Valencia or Smalling's head where they retain possession high up the pitch from.
* Not a single word on 'most improved player in the world ever' Ramsey being utterly woeful. Only thing he contributed was a ridiculous shot that rolled back to De Gea who looked embarrassed to pick it up.
* Yet a whole paragraph on an 18-year-old not playing. I actually thought it was a good call not playing him. In a match that required tracking back and discipline those are hardly traits of the young man. Whilst Kagawa is not exactly an upgrade on them, he has the experience of Champions League football and playing in high-profile matches.
* To make Arsenal look that ordinary is the sign of a well-executed plan by United. When Arsenal did the same tactic of soaking up pressure at Dortmund and being prolific in front of goal it was praised as being a professional job well done. United do it and it's '...they did enough, and not a huge amount more.'
* Carrick. Man he does it for me. Brilliant in the middle with composure and ability to get the ball back and get the team ticking over. Yet no mention of him from Nick. Guess he doesn't get many clicks/views rather than mentioning Ozil, Januzaj, RVP and Rooney.
* De Gea could have had the night off to design doughnuts. He did more for Arsenal by taking out man mountain Vidic than their whole front line.
* What a weekend for United! They could have ended up 11 points of the pace, but with City, Arsenal, Spurs losing, Chelsea drawing they are now five points off, with RVP and Rooney finally looking like clicking.
Being a West Ham fan falling out of love with football because of the pathetic signings and tactics Big Sam is employing, I really loved the match. RVP's celebrating, Rooney roaming about all menacing and Phil Jones being Phil Jones. Bloody loved it.
And There's More...
With 16 conclusions not really numbering 16, I thought I'd try and contribute to it with some more salient points:
- Arsenal could afford to lose this game while Man Utd had to win, this different mindset was evident from the first whistle. Arsenal looked strangely disinterested and even when dominating possession left De Gea with barely anything to do. Man Utd on the other hand played with a passion and aggressiveness that managed to overcome their 3 vs 2 central midfield disadvantage, making me wonder where the hell was this fighting spirit against Man City and Liverpool?
- Completely agree with Nick Miller's assessment of Rooney's performance, plenty of hustle and bustle yet not entirely effective at times, Jones was the real star here. Man Utd have had their share of utility players, O'Shea and P Nev spring to mind, but Jones is a different beast altogether. He looks infinitely more comfortable in any of his nominated roles, and while his passing could still improve, there were a few driving runs from midfield that were really pleasing. No surprise we lost the midfield once Clevs came on, Miller again nailed it when he said Fellaini should have entered the fray instead
- I'm not sure why there were people slating Sagna's crossing at the start of the season. Last evening they were all fizzing and bending straight into that uncertain corridor commentators love to mention. Evra should have gotten tighter after the first couple of warnings, luckily it didn't cost us this time.
- Great to see RvP celebrate like someone just told him he won the Euro lottery. Gooner fans who have been giving him abuse since he left don't really have the right to complain.
- Does De Gea have a claim to being the best keeper in the league now? Certainly amongst the top two or three. His game has improved immeasurably since arriving in Manchester, his punching and catching on crosses was immaculate again. I just hope he stays for another 10 years before inevitably going back to Spain.
- I find it a bit odd that Wenger admitted to his team being under a bit of psychological pressure due to OT becoming a bit of a hoodoo ground. I would have thought rather than manifesting it in words, which would reinforce and perpetuate that pressure, he would have tried to deflect the blame to something else. Like Sir used to do with our Stamford Bridge hoodoo, although his methods have had mixed results, it's still better than actually mentioning it in the media.
- Seen some Gooner blogs laughing at how we celebrated at the final whistle like we won the league. Not sure what that is all about, perhaps they are a bit unfamiliar with a league champion celebration. The Utd team were under pressure and delivered so of course they would celebrate, but it wasn't that exaggerated, would say it doesn't even come close to that fourth place trophy champagne popping in May.
- That being said, Arsenal are still in the driving seat and hold all the cards. This team looks more steely than the ones in recent memory and I expect a title tilt within the next season or two if not this. Kudos to Wenger for sticking to his guns, they'll be alright if they don't have their annual star player sale.
- Absolutely loved Sir pointing at his watch, questioning the ref and standing up to applaud the team at full time before anyone else in his vicinity. Enjoy your retirement you young buck.
Nick's Conclusions Were Brilliant
Nick Miller, I felt compelled to write in after reading one of the best '16 conclusions' I have read. In this letter, I may only end up repeating what you have already mentioned in your column but your analysis of Rooney's performance, Kagawa's inclusion at Januzaj's expense and Moyes' tactical preference/borderline ineptitude while substituting Vidic is absolutely spot on.
In Adnan Januzaj, Man Utd have a special talent both in terms of technical ability, composure on the ball, temperament and attitude. It is not a case of being carried away but genuine recognition of his importance to this United team. He is the only true 'creator out of nothing' in the current United team. Nani can do it every now and then but he is far too inconsistent and tends to err on the side of individual showmanship rather and effectiveness through creativity.
To answer one of the questions you asked - what exactly did Rooney do apart from the corner and showing passion in running around, the answer is - miss a golden chance that a truly world-class player would have put away. The one that he pulled wide with his left foot on the hour mark.
David Moyes is going to take a loooong time to feel like a Man Utd manager and Man Utd fans are going to take a looong time to truly believe that Moyes is the man at the helm. His DNA and Man Utd DNA somehow do not match. Moyes is a good guy. An 'honest' British manager. The problem is that Man Utd need a ruthless bast@rd with balls of steel. When Vidic had to go off, the smart thing would have been to put Smalling in the middle and pull Valencia back into the right-back position and introduce Januzaj on the right side of midfield. He would track back to support Valencia and the right side would be a much more potent attacking threat. More importantly, it would not have disturbed the one thing that United did exceptionally well in the first half - not give any time on the ball to Arsenal in the middle of the pitch thanks to Phil Jones.
Lastly, I would love to know you thoughts on Michael Carrick's performance in this game (or any other big game really!). I know last season was Carrick's best in a United shirt and it has become fashionable to not to criticise Carrick since. I feel the lack of quality in Man United's midfield options makes Carrick look better than he actually is (or performs) and the fact that Man United end up winning things at the end of every season (well most of them anyway!) make people think Carrick must be doing something right that they are unable to see. He keeps it simple, makes interceptions, drills a pass forward every now but IMHO Michael Carrick (and Wayne Rooney too) are actually poorer players than they look.
Typical United fan cribbing even after winning :)
Is Rooney Doing More Harm Than Good?
First of all, absolutely thrilled with the win. We were high on energy and the atmosphere was brilliant. Something seen after a long time at Old Trafford. We defended well for the most part and I can say United v Arsenal is a big game again and I can go back to loathing Arsenal as our rivals rather than feel sympathy for them as was the case for the last 2-3 years.
Now, Rooney! He may run around a lot and track back, but I feel he is hindering United's attacking prowess somewhat. The English would be loving him seeing he is all charged up and up for the game. That is all right, but what about the quality in terms of first touch, that turn of speed. He sure assisted with the corner and I am not for once saying that he is an Ashley Young aka waste of space and mind.
But, he keeps Kagawa from playing down the middle and the team loses balance somewhat as Kagawa will not keep kissing the byline all game. People may say that Kagawa is not contributing that much, but I feel it's down to the position he has to occupy curently. This belief was validated in the last half an hour against Sociedad where Kagawa was stationed centrally and created a couple of good chances and showed good touch and vision. Ramsey's turn of form is a good example when played in the correct position.
Whereas, Rooney yesterday showed a lack of touch atleast on three occasions and gave the ball away when a better touch could have set up a goalscoring opportunity. His mind may be quick, but his feet certainly aren't. He cannot leave a defender for dead in tight spaces as seen again and again this season. He ends up slowing down play or giving away the ball on quite a few occasions.
IMHO, I would have Kagawa behind Van Persie with Janujaz on the left would be a better option and more creative one. On the right, you can have any of the mediocre wingers we have. Rooney will not be happy with a substitute role, and should he leave we do not have back-up of the quality of Van Persie. But then the team is always bigger and he is hindering our attacking impetus. With Rooney we are good, but with Kagawa we can be better.
I am all in for the energy and gung-ho approach, but quality should be the first attribute. I am interested to see what other fans think about this? or I am the only one who wants to see this change.
Ankur, MUFC (Rob Robin Van Persie...Rob Robin Van Persie...)
...Am I the only one who is sick and tired of all this Rooney love-in? Don't get me wrong I appreciate his commitment on the field but when your no. 10 is lauded more for his work-rate and tackling instead of his subtlety and creativity then you know you have a problem. If he really wants to be all over the show he must then drop into midfield.
Not once did I see him play a one-two in a tight spot or slip someone in behind, never mind yesterday, the WHOLE season. Rooney is pretty ineffective at what he is supposed to do. He couldn't even give RvP a simple tap in yesterday (won't mention against Leverkusen). His touch is too heavy and his strongest suit is his long range passing which incidentally is best suited to the midfield role. Rooney is like the guy who is good at everybody else's job except his own.
I really believe that a combination of Kagawa and RvP would be more effective for United. I'm not about to declare Kagawa as our Messiah but when he's played behind, not just interchanging, he has looked much more dangerous. I feel he deserves a chance to put this argument to bed either way.
For someone who has told us where to shove our affection and contract it seems non-sensical to be investing so much in him. David Moyes needs to stop kissing ass and must put United first. I wouldn't be surprised if Rooney were to leave at the end of the season. So he must either commit or we move on and start building for life after Rooney.
@bossdez (Is it Jones or Rooney? Same difference!) City of Gold, RSA.
PS. I'm tired of writing emails which don't get printed, SO you better print this one or else i'll write my third email... EVER.
...There's a bloke in my office called Wayne. He joined as a young hotshot and was immediately impressive with the creativity and standard of his work. He gained himself a reputation. However, as the years as gone by I've seen him rest on his laurels while somehow maintaining his aforementioned rep. He still does good work but no more and no less than the rest of us. When he is doing a piece of work he couldn't make it more obvious. He may be drafting the same reports as you but he makes sure everyone from the CEO to Doris the tea lady knows he's putting a shift in, and if the right eyes are on him then boy can he make himself look busy whilst he's not really focusing on the role he is employed for.
Ok, I don't work with Wayne, I just watch him play for Manchester United and get fawned over by the media for pretty much doing the same thing as the rest of his team. "Man of the match", "head and shoulders the best player on the pitch", I say, watch out for the wool as it comes down over your eyes.
If ever there was a match won by a team it was yesterday. United were intense off the ball, they preyed on Arsenal's nervousness and denied them the time and space to play to their strengths. Rooney did this from the front showing a great attitude and commitment. The same attitude and commitment shown by RVP (I recall an excellent slide tackle to recover the ball in the final third), Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling...you get the idea. It was funny to see the highlights Sky used when detailing Rooney's immaculate display, I recall a shoulder barge to win a throw, some running, some tackling and best of all a dribble that was cut short by the editors before he did his best Shola Ameobi impression, tripping over himself and dribbling the ball out off play, World Class!
It's unfortunate that I feel like coming down hard on a player after he's put in a good display in what was a vital win but I think the praise really is due for the whole team. Fair play to F365 for alluding to this all in their 16 conclusions last night, albeit in a much more concise and readable manner I'm sure.
Michael, MUFC, Dublin
The Premier League Is Great
In this week's Winners and Losers section, can we please include the new TV deal please? The influx of TV money has been widely distributed among the Premiership clubs this season. It's amazing to see the likes of Sunderland, Southampton (though in this case there is more than just the money but nevertheless), Newcastle (despite Alan Pardew), WBA et al genuinely beat the likes of Chelsea, Citeh and United.
The draw at bridge may prove to be one of the many precious points that may push us upwards. Some points on the Chelsea game though:
1. Lampard's stock is falling day by day (it pains me to say this, one of my biggest heroes). His contributions in the pivot is questionable.
2. Though JT and Cahill are solid, Luiz brings that extra aggression in to him. Now, can Jose please channel it and bring the best out of the Brazilian?
3. Our biggest problem this season is the link between pivot and attack. Last season under Rafa, Mata was designed to provide the link and the little man did it in style. This season, the style has changed drastically with defined roles for every player, but there has been a compromise on the no 10. Oscar is bloody brilliant but I think with a stronger pivot, the work load on Oscar/Mata can be reduced thus utilising them for what they are originally designed for!
Aravind, CFC, Chennai
Should Never Have Doubted
This is the guy who said he'll be happy with a 1-2 United loss.
With Arsenal chasing the game, I saw their second striker warm up. It was Nicklas Bendtner.
I'm sorry I ever doubted my team.
AB MUFC (Where was the 40 million player they bought this summer?) Atlanta, Stateside