Brazilian players have not been an unmitigated success in England, but there is no doubt that Roberto Firmino has the credentials. He's Brendan Rodgers' ideal player...
...and how much you have to pay - largely for games you don't actually want to watch. Many of you are forced to go illegal. We also have mails on Chelsea, Angel di Maria and...
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at some of football's pundits and commentators and try to pin down what makes them good, what makes them bad, and what makes them ugly. Second man up is BBC Match Of The Day big beast Alan Shearer...
Famous for his line of elaborate shirts, but paired with sensible slacks to create the unsettling overall effect of a bloke who has made some serious money from his medium-sized regional sprocket factory, retired at 42 and now plans to enjoy himself a lot at the golf club. Receding hairline is a legend in its own right.
Strikers and the business of goalscoring. Almost always approves of forward players cheating (aka "being professional").
Strengths and Weaknesses
Seems to be living every thumping header and thunderous shot, has a genuine enthusiasm of seeing good, powerful, exciting football. Generous in praise of things that have impressed him, and shares the rank-and-file viewer's awe at moments of magic. On the downside, is not blessed with an engaging voice, and does not have the gift of being able to deconstruct exactly what a player has done and why and then convey it to the viewer. This leads to a situation where he's essentially going "Wow! That was amazing! I liked it when he did that amazing thing."
Tactical genius or tactics truck?
We feel that Alan has actually raised his game over the last year, perhaps fearing the same fate as Hansen, or perhaps his competitive juices have been stirred by the praise heaped upon Gary Neville. He's given some more insightful views on why things have happened as they have on the pitch but, not to be unkind, this is improvement from a very low base. Worst moment remains the remarkable assessment that "nobody really knows a great deal about Hatem Ben Arfa", as if the bloke had arrived under cover of night from Mars, rather than being a French international. Even if that was an outlier, Shearer rarely projects the air of a man who has done much in the way of homework, which we suspect he would regard as being for weeds and nerds.
Leg squeezer geezer?
Alan is very much of the class of ex-professional who obviously believes that if you haven't done it, you have no right to talk about it. See the Colin Murray situation. Given that he is now rarely called upon to discuss football with a non-entity non-player, this isn't too much of a problem.
It was always said of Wor Al that, despite the bland exterior, he had a great sense of humour and was fond of a practical joke. Thanks, but no thanks. We can imagine him being "brilliant value on the golf course", but then again, we're not on a golf course, are we? High levels of matey banter with fellow pros on the TV, again reinforcing the impression that you're hanging around on the edge of the playground watching the cool kids have fun.
High. A serial offender on the "say-what-you-see" side of things and never knowingly misses an opportunity to tell the viewer if a player will be happy (kicked ball in goal) or sad (did not kick ball in goal).
Why does he get gigs?
It's easy to sit on the sofa slagging Match of the Day and bemoaning the level of analysis or broadcasting flair on offer. This column has done its fair share, God knows. And Football365 readers have, over the years, made it quite clear that they don't rate Shearer. But are we a minority? Consider this: it might be that the BBC football bosses are idiots and don't know a TV personality that their viewers want from one that their viewers don't. This seems implausible. Or might it be that the average football viewer is happy with what he gets from Shearer. Sure, Shearer doesn't know too much about the non-obvious players, and he can't really tell you why xyz happened. But then, nor can the average viewer, so they find him reassuring and familiar, one of us. Is that so terrible, really? He's doing the job that he's paid to do, and at the end of the day, obviously, he'll have to be pleased with that.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
See extracts from Alan's new book 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects' here.
Johnny's new crime novels are here.