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...
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Giroud v Soldado
After seeing Soldado struggle against Spurs (and many other teams recently), I couldn't help but compare and contrast Wenger's treatment of Giroud to AvB'S treatment of Soldado.
Both players were brought in from foreign leagues to lead the line at their respective clubs - Giroud for 12m and Soldado for a then club record of 26m. Yet Wenger eased Giroud into the EPL - playing him sparingly (mostly substitute appearances in the first few months). Wenger actually preferred to experiment with Gervinho as a striker for us, as he knew the pressure post-RvP would be too much for a striker new to England & failure would have negative long term effects. Fast forward 12 months & Soldado comes in, post-Bale, is thrust straight in to lead the line & he seems to be losing confidence with every passing game that he fails to make an impact. Giroud, on the other hand, is reaping benefits of being given time to settle into the EPL.
Genius from AW or what?
Lee (can't wait to read Arsene's autobiography) Moyo, Durban, South Africa
Often, we are told that one of the great traits of a manager/leader (especially one who leads more than 20 years - Gates, Buffet etc) is to have a succession plan. This is done so that after your retirement/departure, you leave your club/organization in a healthy state; with the ability to continue performing well at the top of your league/market.
A key pitfall in succession planning or an indicator of failure to plan is doing too much, too fast in a bid to secure YOUR legacy amidst increased competition in the game/market. The obsession to capture RvP from Arsenal, the fixation to get to European final (see his fury after the Real Madrid UCL defeat), the handling the Rooney saga towards the end of his reign - some of many signs that hint towards the fact he wanted to leave on a high, whatever the cost - even if that cost is the short term future of the club.
I know it's been only half a year, but ManU's performances have left me thinking: maybe Ferguson was a great great manager but actually had no appropriate succession plan to compensate for his departure after 27 years at the helm.
Lee (not Manyoo fan, but have studied them closely - maybe enviously - in their golden years) Moyo, Durban, South Africa.
Defending Wee Joe
Joe Allen is getting a lot of stick from fans and media alike for his miss in the Merseyside derby. While the miss was horrendous, and in turn possibly game changing, he should not be made the scape goat. Rodgers needs to shoulder the blame for dropped points because of his poor team selection and poor changes mid match.
Now I am not a football manager but I am a teacher of young children (which is a bit of the same). The most important thing I can do to help in the development of a young child is to place the child in situation in which he can be successful. If the child is comfortable then he will be confident and if he is confident he will be successful.
The cauldron which is the Merseyside derby is not the place to hand a struggling midfielder who is low on confidence his first start of the season. A home game against a struggling Fulham would have been the perfect opportunity to start one or two fringe players to build up the confidence that is need during the hellish holiday schedule.
Brian (at least we are still in 2nd and United is still mid-table rubbish) LFC
City Not Unstoppable
Following all the deserved plaudits about Manchester City's devastating home performance, there's still something nagging at the back of my mind, telling me that they are not really that great. Like when your girlfriend cheats on you with the rich bloke from the office, years later you still cannot fully learn to trust, you cannot bring yourself to believe everything is going to work out fine. You will always have your doubts.
After City lost at home to Bayern, I sent an (unposted) rant about their performance to the Mailbox. I was incandescent with rage, even though I do not support any top flight team. The way they were toyed with, chewed up and spat out is always nagging at the back of my mind, like the ex-girlfriend who cheated on me. I see them battering United and Spurs yet the only word that comes into my head is "Bayern". I always thought Mancini got away with murder with his non-performances in the Champions League, and it always bugged me that by January it was almost as if their European campaigns never existed. Six games without a win last season - shameful! They should have been given a five-year European ban for embarrassing English football.
I realise now that Bayern are almost unstoppable, but I don't care if City win the league by 20 points because I'll never forget the night in October when they were totally humiliated, and that one single performance will always taint my view of them this season. Do any City fans feel like me or does losing to Cardiff and Sunderland bug you more?
Jamie Bedwell, Cheltenhamshire
Some of my fellow North Londoners aren't half a bunch of a moaning ninnies aren't they?
So Spurs took a pasting from City - so what? no matter how the papers or the media like to portray the so-called Superscorcherscreamersuper Sundays as in the cold light of day they're worth precisely the same number of points you would get for beating Palace and yet time after time when one of the so called contenders beats another it's viewed as a sure sign their star is in the ascendancy while the other club's is on the wane.
This is what us Gooners were told before the international break and yet after the weekend's games we've actually extended our lead at the top including our lead over United.
The only criticism I have of AVB is he needs to remember who he's managing. As much as I hate that lot up the road you can't say they don't entertain. Spurs need to go back to their roots - bring back Adebayor as the focal point of the attack and get all those tricky players you signed supporting him up front. But make sure you get Paul McKenna in to persuade Ade he's making his debut as he always scores in his first game.
Three points in the next game and everyone will forget about the loss at City. It's three points lost but only three points currently. Go for three rather than one point in the next game and I can see Spurs back in the mix for the Champions league places.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Spurs And Tactics
A mail on Spurs. Tactics are making them less effective. There are two huge problems that need addressing, or they will be losing more games than winning for the rest of the season.
* The aren't getting enough bodies into the box on a regular enough basis. This all stems from playing two defensive midfielders with limited technical ability and instruction to break up play by sitting, essentially. The pattern of attack almost always breaks down for Spurs just past the halfway line. As neither Sandro or Paulinho is inclined to overlap or to stray too far from central midfield (or even be remotely adventurous), they are giving little option to their wingers for inside passes and keeping moves going. Similarly, when the wingers to get to the byline, neither make late runs to the edge of the area for cutbacks or second balls. The system is set up to overload the flanks. This is all well and good, but let's say that Lennon and Walker play to make space on the right wing. For whom and for what? The disinclination of either to get on the end of anything makes for most attacks breaking down.
All defenders have to do is mark Soldado and perhaps one other as the alternate winger becomes isolated and there is usually only one midfield runner. This happened countless times in the first half on Sunday. As they have attack minded fullbacks, I would instruct one to hold, and play two attack minded central midfielders - Dembele and Sigurdsson - just in front, so the fullbacks can go forward, and two players are always available to run and "play" in the final third. It would also improve the numbers in offensive positions from one potentially to two for certain. Just an idea. For home matches, why not be more adventurous, and play neither Sandro nor Paulinho and do away with the defensive midfield pivot since neither like to get forward? Spurs have good enough options up front, but the lack of options from midfield make them easy to defend against.
* An alternative explanation is that maybe they don't bother because of some terrible wing play. Why make the runs when all they do is try to cut inside and shoot way off target every time? Perhaps the time has come to dispense with wingers and let Walker and Vertonghen provide the width and the overlaps. I am not a fan of Townsend, and whilst Lennon is good, he can have some anonymous games. Why not therefore play either two up front with one in the hole, or two in the hole and one up front? Defoe is fine, Adebayor can hold up play and Lamela (I think) is really a second striker. Soldado is not a bad player at all, it's just that Spurs create no chances in the penalty area as the wingers almost always take the incorrect options, or the likes of Holtby and Sigurdsson are played there who do not naturally provide this. He's never had fair service in a system designed to provide loads of service from the wings via fullback/winger overload in the opposition full back spaces. This is not the case in practice as Townsend, Lennon and Lamela are either not playing the positions correctly, or are producing inaccurate delivery. That, coupled with a lack of midfield support is why they can't score.
Richard (come on Baggies, let's score a few ourselves tonight), Cambridge
Amidst the wailing and knashing of teeth after another insipid United performance (Thiago, whose signature you pulled the plug on, might, conceivably, have improved United on Sunday Davey), it's been conveniently forgotten that Rooney and Welbeck both had very good chances to win the match. Whatever his other qualities, Welbeck simply does not have the composure to be relied upon as a United player. The volley he put over was, for a striker at the League champions, an easy chance, and I doubt any United fans expected him to score it. And Rooney's awful attempt to lay the ball off to Welbeck when clear on goal was as brainless as his hack at Mutch, and most of his other contributions.
The Moyesiah's United actually look ok when they play on the break. Rooney can pick a pass when in the space one gets playing on the counter, Fellaini makes much more sense in his Everton position than playing deeper (although he should still messyrs Rooney, Young, Valencia and Moyes out of the club post haste), and Welbeck has the pace to hurt teams as a runner (if not actually with the ball).
But United don't have the players at present to play like Dortmund (or Bayern when they decide to play on the break). Welbeck has pace, physicality, and, despite an awkward gait, pretty good technical ability until he gets in the box. Nani, Zaha (please, please play him. He cannot be any worse than Valencia), Kagawa and Januzaj have the brains and pace to be horrible on the break, and Rafael and Evra overlap with speed. The problem in this is "Wazza", who hasn't the skill or intelligence to play properly as a 10 if United try to dominate possesion, and hasn't the pace or speed of thought to play like Kagawa, Reus o Goetze on the break.
So cheers David. Celebrate retaining a fat, over-paid and over-rated Scouser, when a manager with balls would have sold him, and bought young, more tactically and technically competent, and less complacent, players.
...Well, we just looked devoid of ideas didn't we.
It's not that we're weak, just missing that critical flair in key places. I like Cleverley - been a big fan since he finally broke through - and he and Fellani can build a decent partnership. But we need to find a way to accommodate a creative player in there too. Because they are never going to be that player, and I'm growing tired of relying on our wing play, especially in the form of Valencia. It took Giggs to come on and float that lovely pass around the back of the defence, only for Welbeck to run the wrong way... (For that matter we need our forwards to get time together to actually develop an understanding. Cole would have known what Yorke was up to, for example.)
Finally, I just have to ask, did anyone else see Smalling actually make a single successful pass in the entire game? Every serious forward pass (not including those 2 metre ones a 6 year old can make) went straight to the opposition. Every single one. I can't remember a tackle either. What in the name of hell has happened to him!?
Come back Rafael, as fast as you can lad. Sad sign when someone who used to be a liability is now that important to the functioning of the entire right side of the pitch.
Guy S (no woe, just a bit whoa)
Lukaku Helping Chelsea
16 conclusions touched on Lukaku continuing to 'embarrass his permanent boss' but if Lukaku hadn't gone to Everton on loan Liverpool would be 2 points ahead of Chelsea after this weekend instead of level on points.
Ok Chelsea may have more points with Lukaku in their team but this way Chelsea can slip up and still have a way of indirectly damaging their title challengers as Saturday proved.
Was this all part of the grand plan? We will most probably never know but at the end of the season it will be interesting to see how important Lukaku proves to be to Chelsea without ever playing for them.