After the departures of Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois to Chelsea, plenty are saying Atletico Madrid won't retain their title. Tim Stannard thinks otherwise...
While the focus is on Liverpool's move for Mario Balotelli, one Man United fan tries to convince the mailbox with nine reasons why Angel Di Maria would prefer them to PSG...
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If Liverpool Win The League
...can I just ask that Steven Gerrard picks Suarez up on his shoulders and does a Steve Morrow on him to keep him out the World Cup game.
Throwing In The Towel
Seeing as we are no longer going to win the title could I be the first to say that I'd like Liverpool to win it. I couldn't bear a rubbish end to our season made worse by ManCiteh/Chelski winning.
JazGooner (Knowing it was going to fall apart doesn't make the reality any easier)
On Suarez's Release Clause
In response to the vociferous Arsenal bashing and shouts of 'Suarez is ours, hands off!' from Liverpool fans following John Henry's comments, you really are forgetful aren't you? Your fans idolise someone who has tried to force his way out of the club last summer and undoubtedly will try again this summer.
You're like an average looking guy who managed to bag himself a stunning girlfriend before she got pretty, and are now desperately clinging onto her leg as she tries to struggle away from you and your fading looks. Guess what? She'll be dating that hot Spanish stud in a few months' time and you can go back to listening to Beatles records in your dark bedroom while muttering "why does no one remember what I used to look like?"
You should have gone out and landed a bug eyed, greasy haired German gal like we did, she ain't going nowhere.
J Walker (AFC)
Liverpool To Be Even Stronger Next Year?
Beyond the obvious (yet still somewhat unnerving) delight at Pool's recent run, it just dawned on me how clever Rodgers really is off the pitch. It was clear that Champions League qualification was always the goal from the start of the season, yet it is only clear now (at least to the ignorant me) why there was little transfer activity and lots of loans so far this season. Imagine that Pool has just finished in the top 4 come May (the barren years have taught me the dangers of expectations, so Stanger don't seduce me into all this title talk please).
Next season will be a hectic one if we make it through the Champions League qualifiers. What does Rodgers do? He has been prudent so far, slashing wages through loan deals and not spending much (doesn't matter that he couldn't attract anyone because of lack of Champions League football, no money spent = savings, which is pretty important since Henry isn't lubed in oil money). Come July, Rodgers would have (in theory anyway) secured a couple of big-name signings with the promise of *cough Man United cough* CL football. Suarez stays, joyous that he will finally be able to witness the spine-tingling European nights for himself.
And then this - a whole army of loanees return, fresh in the knowledge that more matches next year means more chances that they will feature, although most probably as squad players at first. Suso, Wisdom, Borini, Assaidi, Robinson, Ilori (not Reina though) - all reportedly playing much (except for Ilori who just moved recently) and doing well at their respective clubs, one more year of experience and regular football under their belts. All, having been exposed to Rodgers' methods before, tuning in quickly and seamlessly. Hopefully, some will make the step up and start fighting for first team spots, while a couple will morph into Victor Moses. We also have forgotten man Coates, Lucas and Enrique coming back. And then hopefully a couple of new, genuine class acts.
It wouldn't look too bad eh? Makes all the doomsayers of the last few months who said Pool can't compete look a bit silly, no?
weech (haven't felt so positive in years, not even in the good Rafa years), Singapore
Should Wenger Move Upstairs?
An uninspired loss to Stoke on the heels of losses to Liverpool and Bayern and a dreadful run of games up ahead in March. Though I am hopeful for FA cup - and CL progress and impressive wins in the league, history and form dictates that as the month concludes the 'Wenger Out' cries will echo around the interweb again. Why? Because Wenger's mentality ultimately costs the team games. He still talks about respecting Manchester United and plays like it despite being the only manager with that mind-set this season. He talks about the physical game of Stoke but does not adjust for it. He plays coward defence against Bayern first game last year and this, when we all know that unleashed Arsenal attack can match any team as was shown in the second leg against Bayern Munich last year. But as we all know Wenger will not be fired, because key players are conveniently always out (and sure a healthy Ramsey and Walcott could have meant the world in difference) and 'the other teams' break the financial fair play.
Here is my thought: Arsenal is a club with great finances, exceptional talent pool and some of the best informed scouts to continually replenish it. Young promising players want to come to the good side of London. The team has a large modern stadium, massive fan base around the world and the club is a fixture in the last-16 of CL every year. Not to forget, that there are TWO billionaires at the helm that at least theoretically could step in, open the wallet and change the game, KEEP the talent and BUY superstars. But the latter won't happen because of Wenger's philosophy. So why not move Wenger UP to say Director of Football or General Manager or something and appoint a field coach that doesn't instil a fear in his players before games against Manchester United and Stoke, but is aligned on the general idea of playing style?
Jon - I just don't understand how Bayern Munich can be that much better than the rest of the world's top clubs - Gunner
Arsenal & Liverpool 'May Have Little To Play For'?
Whilst this probably won't gather much interest given that there has been a cup final and a headbutt to discuss, I feel like I have to take issue with the Newcastle entry in the ever excellent Winners and Losers article today. Whilst Newcastle are clearly not going to trouble the top 4 or the bottom 3 between now and May we do have slightly more to play for then a battle for 8th or 9th.
We currently sit 2 points behind the worst Man Utd team of my lifetime who have to play their two biggest rivals and have a visit to SJP before now and the end of the season. Newcastle on the other hand now have a relatively gentle run of fixtures between now and a final three games which include trips to Arsenal and Liverpool (both of whom may have very little to play for by the time we face them). If finishing above Man Utd wasn't incentive enough, the possibility of an Arsenal - Man City FA Cup final means that 7th place could also be a Europa League qualification spot. Now whilst Mike Ashley probably doesn't want another Europa League campaign, I very much enjoyed the last one we had.
Now Newcastle's season has been something of a mixed bag to say the least but if someone had offered me 7th place at the start of the season I'd have taken their hand off given that we'd only signed Remy on loan and had just appointed Joe Kinnear. No our "race" for 7th place probably isn't going to gather much interest from the media but make no mistake 7th place for NUFC would be an achievement given the circumstances surrounding our campaign so far.
Chris "there's no shame in midtable", Newcastle.
And Hindsight Says It Was A Massive Mistake
Have to say that I find Matthew Stanger a bit harsh in blaming AVB for signing Roberto Soldado. This is a case of hindsight being 20/20 in my opinion. It's one thing when a big money signing like Torres to Chelsea goes sour when it smelled a bit dodgy from the off. Torres had struggled the previous year for form, fitness and motivation, and a big money signing always had the possibility of going pear shaped. But can anybody honestly say they predicted Soldado to be quite as poor as he has been?
He had scored 20 or more goals for four consecutive years previously, each year more than the last. Last year he scored 30 in 46 games. He doesn't have any obvious flaws that would cause him to struggle with the English game (unless I'm missing something?), and he doesn't appear to have struggled with injuries much. It may be that the team aren't playing to his strengths, or that he has been mismanaged and is struggling for confidence, but on paper his lack of success is pretty baffling. Blame the manager for what he can control, but it seems harsh to kick a guy for not having the foresight that a 30 goal striker is going to have this poor of a season.
...Yeah, I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there, mkay. The view that Bobby Soldado is terrible, is a flop, was a mistake is actually pretty misguided. Yes, his form in front of goal in recent weeks has been shocking. He is a man devoid of any confidence in his finishing. But to say the players' celebrations with him were "almost patronising", and to chastise AVB for signing him, is very wide of the mark.
The issue with Soldado has been the way in which he's been used. I don't want to go over the issues with AVB's strategies again, but suffice to say the team was essentially set up to play to Bobby's weaknesses. It wasn't really that he was missing easy chances early in the season, but more that he wasn't really getting any. He missed straightforward chances (Southampton, Dnipro and Norwich instantly spring to mind), but that is a natural finisher totally overthinking things.
The fans are usually a good barometer of how appreciated all round contribution is, and White Hart Lane has never stopped backing him. He has exceptional vision for a striker (the cross vs Southampton was one of the best assists I've ever seen) and works very hard, and his teammates obviously appreciate that. To draw on a cliché, it just hasn't happened for him in front of goal. But that doesn't make him a bad player by any stretch of the imagination.
Alex G, THFC (his face when he scored made me want to give him a hug)
Having bided my time over the past few months, I thought it was time to give a careful and well thought out assessment of Tim's spell as manager thus far. The main changes I have noticed since Tim took over are;
1. Adebayor is playing.
That's pretty much it.
I don't want to say Sherwood was lucky that he had a fully fit, experienced premiership striker on the bench, desperate to prove himself.....but he wasn't unlucky was he?
Let's pretend for a second that Adebayor wasn't an option, that AVB hadn't picked him this season because he wasn't at the club....has Sherwood done anything else to really make me sit up and take notice? No.
We'll Try Our Best
I'm begging 365 to stop throwing out their overused phrase of Norwich only having until game 34 to save their season. Yes, you noticed this and mentioned it a few months back but for the love of god does it have to be brought up every time that Norwich are mentioned on the website?
Yes it is a tough run of fixtures but how many times have we seen teams play a group of 'unwinnable' games and get something from at least one of them. I have no doubt in my mind that they will win at least one of them and your continuing highlighting of the opposite may make you look very silly.
John Whelan, Dublin