Cole, Baines Or Gibbs: You Decide...

We have a ridiculous number of excellent left-back options but who should Roy Hodgson choose? Should he take Ashley Cole at all? Plus mails on Rooney and more...

Last Updated: 15/11/13 at 10:59

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Which Game?
I'm an England fan, simple as, but when asked yesterday where I was going to watch them tonight I replied that I was going to find somewhere to watch Sweden v Portugal. Don't get me wrong, if there was a raft of friendlies tonight I'd be front row centre watching England (and wondering when did Chile get so good I expect), but even though I would consider myself a 'staunch' England fan, a competitive match, with those teams, for THAT prize, trumps my team playing a friendly in my books.

I further antagonised my fellow patrons by saying that any 'True' football fan would watch Sweden v Portugal. I was countered that a 'True England fan' would watch England. Anyway, the argument eventually descended into insults, degradation and expletives, I even got a word in myself at the end, but the distraction of a fine 3-0 win for the Under 21s meant it wasn't resolved. So I put it to the mailbox.

Which game should a staunch English fan watch? (Other football fans are available of course). It's Sweden v Portugal isn't it?!
Chris ITFC, Liverpool

Dropping Ashley Cole Would Be Crazy/English

Reading that Ashley Cole's status in the England team has been downgraded to 'potential' left back makes me a bit upset.

Let's get one thing straight, Ashley Cole is the best left-back in the world and has been for the last ten years or so. Cole has an incredible blend of consistency and being able to raise his game for the big matches that few players (especially in his position) have. It's hard enough thinking of any game in which Cole has had a notably poor performance but can you honestly think of a 'big' game when the LB did not show up? What's more, I am pretty sure if you ask Messi and Ronaldo who are the toughest full-backs they have played against, Ashley Cole would be near the top of their lists. Messi has never had a good game against him and he shut Ronaldo down for years when he was playing in the Premier League.

Without sounding too sycophantic Ashley Cole has been one of the few truly world-class things about England in the last 10-15 years or so. Dropping him in favour of someone just because they are younger or offer a better attacking option is foolish and a very English thing to do. We have a habit of forgetting about experience and putting too much emphasis on youth when it's actually a combination of the two that make you a world-class team. Baines, Gibbs are all great players but if by some miracle of luck we find ourselves in the knock-out stages of a major tournament against some of the best teams and players in the world, I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with Ashley Cole in the LB position.
Jonny (can't believe I just wrote a piece praising Cashley, I am going to have shower to get the smell out) Sauce

Dropping Ashley Cole Makes Sense

As a gooner I, more than most, hate Ashley Cole.

Having said that it's not the reason why I implore Hodgson not to take him to Rio.

The fact is there is little we gain from taking Cole in that this is going to be his last tournament while Leighton Baines is an as good, if not better, replacement.

You could relegate Cole to the bench but then long-term what would be the point in that? An exemplary career peters out in the sunshine of Brazil.

I'm biased but I think we need to take Gibbs to the World Cup. He's got plenty of Champions League experience so wouldn't be a great risk and will hopefully be playing left-back for Arsenal for years to come.

Ashley Cole, on the other hand, would be a waste of place with his squad position almost being given out as a reward for his sterling years' service.

It's up to you Roy to do what's in the long-term best interests of the country and pick Kieran.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

Is A Cole 6/10 Better Than A Baines 8/10?

Aiming for a hat-trick of mails getting published, (two in the last two days) with the fact it maybe a slow Friday taking off none of the gloss.

Firstly, not all Hammers fans are like that F365 thank you very much. But I will accept that our image could do with a bit of a clean-up. However we did win the World Cup in '66, so you're welcome.

Moving on, I had a thought regarding the whole 'only the big club players get in the England side' which admittedly is a bit weak when you look at the squad now compared to the sex and scandal soaked days of Sven.

Getting to the point, is a player from the top four's performance better than that of his counterpart at a lower club, like is an Ashley Cole 6/10 performance better than a Leighton Baines 8/10? (in the Prem).

I think it is because Ashley Cole goes into a game with Chelsea with more pressurised duties. For a start Chelsea expect to win, home or away, whereas Everton are more the plucky underdogs, expected to win some, expected to offer a challenge to the bigger clubs. Also the media spotlight is shined brighter on the bigger clubs, allowing a bit more freedom for the smaller clubs. Chelsea also have better players, meaning the emphasis maybe on the attacking players, allowing the defensive side of things to relax after battering their opponents.

What do you lot think?

Is a Rooney 7/10 better than a Lambert 8/10? A Cahill 5/10 better than a Caulker 7/10? A Milner 6/10 worth anything at all?

Of course this is very simplistic in its view and there are many variables to selecting a team I get that, but my assessment is that I'd rather have players from a bigger club who can win with heightened pressure applied rather than that of a lower club, who are willing to settle for mid-table. Otherwise if we just pick on form we're going to have Curtis Davis at the back, and ain't nobody got time for that!
TJ (looks like theirs two TJs now - I'm the moany West Ham one)

Altogether Now...

Bala (I've never played with anyone like Messi as well) MUFC, perhaps you haven't heard the ancient southern proverb, but I believe it goes something like this:

He plays on the left,
He plays on the right,
Adam Lallana,
Makes Messi look sh*te.

I hope this helps.
Simon (Getting sick of the Southampton w@nkathon as well - and I'm a Saints fan) Goddard, SFC

Feeling The Lovren

On that whoscored site you can see who the best players are in Europe either weekly, monthly or seasonally.

According to them Dejan Lovren is the best defender in Europe.

They're alright those lads are. Alright indeed.
Martin Ansell

Don't Make Makelele A Scapegoat

I don't think that the defensive midfielder position is necessarily a negative move, it has more to do with the set-up of the rest of the team. When Makelele was at Madrid he had Figo, Zidane and another attacking midfielder in there, plus Carlos and Salgado bombing on from full-back, so the protection was needed in much the same way Flamini is helping to provide a protection at Arsenal giving more freedom to the attacking players.

Helenio Herrera would always say that his system at Inter was misunderstood and gained an unfavourable reputation because other lesser sides attempting to copy it implemented it so badly so Catenaccio was seen as negative even though he wanted his team to score 100 goals a season. When Mourinho first came to Chelsea he played 4-3-3 with two proper wingers in Duff and Robben with Lampard pushing on from midfield and attacking full-backs. Other teams copied it and in reality played 4-5-1 with a lot less attacking intent.

A holding midfield isn't something that has been a recent invention they were around in the sixties, it is just that they are being played in increasingly pragmatic/defensive sides with wingers whose major contribution is that they will track back. Which is why the league is increasingly boring the arse off me.
Ron French

...Interesting idea from Conor saying that the holding midfielder role is killing football. A few of my own thoughts:

* I have always thought that the emergence of the holding midfielder is a consequence of two things we would normally say have been positive progressions in the game. That is, the pace of the game increasing and the outlawing of the tackle from behind (*childish giggle*).

As the game is much faster now (by this I mean the games top speed is higher), you cannot get back defensively in time if the opposition break up your attack and counter. As a consequence you cannot get ahead of the play too often as a central midfielder. Add to this that if you cannot tackle from behind (ha haruumph sorry), it makes it near impossible for a midfielder to make amends if he is caught out upfield. Looking at all this, pragmatic managers have used holding midfielders to counteract swift counter-attacks to the detriment of the openness of a game.

* Sadly, it does mean box-to-box midfielders are dying out. Their role of linking defence and attack is effectively being transferred to box-to-box full-backs. Deep-lying midfielders or centre-halves rarely step out and dribble up the pitch anymore. It's one of football's great sights - a dying one sadly.

* To me though, not all holding midfielders are inherently killing the game. Some are of course (I'm looking at you John Obi Mikel) but Bayern, Barca and Dortmund all tend to play with a holding midfielder but throw players forward with abandon using the holding midfielder as cover. So maybe it's not solely about the use of holding midfielders but the attacking intent of the team employing one.
Dave P, MUFC

You Don't Want Iniesta? Mental

@ Ross and anyone else stupid enough to disregard the potential signing of Iniesta at Man United.

The man is an absolute genius, and unlike a playmaker whose main attribute is passing the ball, Iniesta can do it all. Pass, dribble, shoot. He is one of the most influential players in the last 50 years.

To conclude. You're talking absolute bollocks saying it would be 'false logic' to sign him. As an Arsenal fan, I only hope Man United don't!

Well, When You Have Ryan Tunnicliffe...

Following the news that Michael Carrick is out injured for six weeks or so, I'd like to see David Moyes grow a pair and give one of the reserves a chance in that role. In terms of the deep-lying playmaker role, United only have Fellaini who, if we're honest, is a shadow of the player who dominated midfields every so often at Everton.

I haven't kept an eye on United's reserves like I used to when I had more time to burn, but it's not so long since Ryan Tunnicliffe was the one to watch. If I were Moyes, I'd be tempted to recall him from his loan spell at Ipswich now and give him game time with the option to send him back out on loan in January once Carrick's back.

I'm a firm believer that you don't gain anything if you don't take risks. All the rumours suggest that DM is planning £30m+ moves for every decent midfield player in Europe. If he's willing to give a chance to a young player, he may well discover he doesn't need to spend that money. Look at Januzaj (though, admitttedly I'm sick of hearing that kid's name!).

I'd be really interested to hear from fellow Mailboxers on the topic of which young players at their clubs look like the next big thing. Mails from fans of clubs in the Football League particularly appreciated!
Alex, Leeds

Rooney No Scrum-Half

Chris MUFC - 'Whereas Ronaldo has achieved and maintained exceptional fitness, power and pace, Rooney fluctuates between 'robust' and fat, has lost his pace, and isn't as powerful as he was. He wouldn't look out of place as a scrum-half.'

While I can't fault your first statement, in the recent spirit of mailboxers politely correcting each other over pedantic issues I have to challenge your second statement. Rooney would look completely out of place as scrum-half. Rooney is carrying too much 'puppy fat' to be likened to the small, quick, agile breed of scrum halves such as Peter Stringer, Will Genia and Ben Youngs, while he is not as strong or powerful as the larger version such as Mike Phillips, Conor Murray or Ruan Pienaar.

I think you meant he wouldn't look out of place IN the scrum :)

As a typical Irish sports fan I follow Man United, rugby and the Irish sport of Gaelic Football, so I do like comparing the contrasting the different sports, and pointing out when others' comparisons are wrong!
Patrick, County Antrim, Ireland

...Chris, MUFC must not have seen a rugby player for about 20 years if he thinks the fat Wayne Rooney looks like a scrum-half. Rooney could only dream of being in the sort of shape an international rugby player is in. Unless he wants to play in the front row of course, then he's probably nailed it already.

I appreciate many people here probably hate the game with the funny -haped ball, but search for a video of Steve Thompson's try for England legends against the Aussie legends the other week. Awesome, and he necks two pints immediately after. What a man.
Ross, AFC, London

Watching Belgium v Colombia

Just got done watching the Belgium v Colombia International match, thought I would type up some thoughts whilst the game is still fresh in the old noggin.

Game finished Belgium 0-2 Colombia and to be honest it could, and definitely should, have been about 3-6 instead.

For Belgium;

Benteke looked completely out of sorts. You could quite easily tell he is very low on confidence right now, he had one glorious chance from a Fellaini cross that met his head at the perfect height, four yards out from the centre of the goal and he ballooned it over with no pressure from any of the defenders. He then had another chance immediately afterwards again only 4/5 yards out in the air, but decided to knock it down towards the penalty spot rather than go for goal. Two chances that the Benteke before the injury would have buried.

Fellaini was about as impressive as he has been this season, won a lot of tackles, made a nuisance of himself, was completely dominant when asked to defensively clear from corners and set-pieces, and pulled off his usual party trick of chest-trapping the keeper's goal-kicks. As always though, was quite inelegant and gave away a few niggly fouls and was lucky not to get booked. Hit the post.

Hazard was infuriating. At times he was quite easily the best player on the pitch, picking the ball up, turning on the jets and ghosting past two or three yellow shirts with absolutely no trouble. And yet throughout the entire game he was going down the very second any Colombian player touched him, he didn't even need to be knocked over and he would just fall down. He was going down clutching just about every body part, but never actually showing any signs of being injured. He is surely one of the most simultaneously entertaining and annoying players in football.

Vermaelen was solid, actually carried on his impressive form since his return to the Arsenal team, and set up Belgium's best chance of the game with a towering header. Unfortunately the ball fell to Fellaini's left foot.

Vertonghen had one of his quieter games, efficient and tidy on the ball, didn't really notice him. I thought Belgium's best defender was actually Toby Alderweireld who made a fantastic last-ditch tackle to spare Belgium the ignominy of losing 3-0 at home. Guts and bravery and the courage of a lion, all that stuff.

De Bruyne was disappointing. You can see how rusty he is from not playing any regular top-flight football. His first touch just wasn't there and most of the time his end product didn't really come to much. It's obvious how highly the fans regard him as there was a rather audible "huh...what?" around the stadium when he was subbed early in the second half, and the look on Mourinho's face in the crowd was priceless. Especially as it was a current Chelsea player being replaced by a loaned-out Chelsea player.

Mignolet looked very shaky. He flapped at a lot of shots and was spilling saves that he usually makes look very easy. His performance personified the general impression that you got from the rest of his teammates, nervous and not 100% focused.

Belgium actually looked at their most threatening when they introduced proper, orthodox wingers to the game in Mertens and Mirallas (who was impressive) and really should have scored at least once, with Mertens incredibly unlucky as his superb solo effort came back off the inside of the post, and went across goal but didn't go in.

Won't touch on Colombia too much as this post is rather long now, and I'm not sure how interested people will be in a team that consists of 0 Premiership players, but they really should have helped themselves to a bucket of goals. Falcao took his chance the way you would expect him to, broke the offside trap, 1-on-1 with Mignolet, every single eye in the stadium trained on him and he was just playing with his mates in the back garden, cool as you like. Ibarbo got the second and really stood out when he came on, tall, strong, incredibly quick, skilful and intelligent too, had the nous to fake to shoot with his right, flip it up away from the defender and score with his left. Jackson Martinez really should have made it three late on, James Rodriguez troubled Mignolet with his prowess from distance and Cuadrado was impressive (as he has been all season for Fiorentina)

Overall a very entertaining match.
Ben (not a hipster, just really like footy) Gleeson, Cardiff

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Please Stop Telling Us What To Think


ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

Wenger hails important win


s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

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