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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'Arsenal Are Jinxed'
With the news of Wilshere's injury coming in last evening, I have really begun to feel that Arsenal are plain unlucky. While I understand that every team has injuries, which are an irremovable part of football, the extent of injuries at Arsenal is much more than at most other clubs.
Take the case this year. We have had 4 major midfielders who have been out for more than 2 months this season - Ramsey, Wilshere, Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain. We have Walcott who has only played for a month or two and will not play again this year. Is there a club in the top half of the league with so many serious injuries to key players? Van Persie and Rooney out for a month each, Chelsea have had Terry out for some time, Man City have had Aguero out for a while. But that's about it.
There is also the fact that when a player is out for 2-3 months, it takes another month or so for him to return to his best. So how should Wenger plan for 5 of his players, 4 of whom would probably feature in your best 11, suffering such injuries. He is the manager, and he will be blamed for poor performance, but how many more midfielders can a club stock? When will this jinx be broken?
(I read Gary Vance's mail yesterday, and plain and simple, he is wrong. Numbers for BPL and UCL are as follows -
Ramsey (goals+assist ratio) = 0.39 (despite 50% substitute appearances)
Cleverley ((goals+assist ratio) = 0.18 (despite 70% starts)
Why Do Some Players Have More 'Goodwill' Than Others?
This has been bugging me for quite some time. There are certain players who, despite their obvious limitations or the visual evidence, are still lauded by "pundits" or former players. Take for example Phil Jones. There seems to be a lot of love-in for him and the general consensus amongst "pundits" that his future position is as a centre back. This is despite the visual and statistical evidence that every time he has played there he has been our second best centre back. Given a choice between big Phil and gentle giant Chris, I would play the gentle giant every time. He has actually played at centre back with some distinction.
Despite both players being speed merchants, everyone seems more intent on having Walcott play in an England side ahead of Aaron Lennon. Why?
Could there be some reason why the football loving public want these kind of players to succeed as opposed to others?
Eddy, MUFC(Jonny Evans hasn't been one of most consistent defenders over the last 2years, he has been our best defender for 3years)
So, Guy S's solution to England is to play as many Man United players as possible?
If only we had some way of gauging how well that might work...
...Guy S (living in hope since 1998) doesn't put his allegiance in writing but I think it is pretty obvious. I am on the other side of the street so let me see about his arguments.
It isn't the Gerrard - Lampard - Scholes debate. It is the Gerrard - Lampard debate. I don't care how many more times he can hit a tree with a football from 50 metres than Ronaldo, he isn't in the same class as the other two.
It is Gerrard's movement that, while not at the level of his heyday circa 2008, that has made him such a fearsome midfielder for his entire career. I agree Gerrard can't play holding defence on his own but then neither can Michael "5 Yards" Carrick. Not even David Moyes is stupid enough to pick Carrick ahead of Gerrard.
You site 1 performance to prove that a 25 year old should play for his country. If we were guaranteed that performance then maybe, but I feel the chances of him turning in a performance similar to every other pretty poor performance are far more likely. Gerrard "plumping for the safety of a long pass" more often than not involves the ball landing at the feet of a team mate in space rather than Tom's 5 yard hospital pass speciality.
Lastly, Danny Welbeck to start. Really? Welbeck doesn't deserve to start for United even though they are playing terribly! Welbeck is Dirk Kuyt without the finishing ability, and I have been Dirkie miss some howlers. Welbeck starting is an admittance that you want to pat yourself on the back for a good effort when you finish 3rd in the group. Have some ambition, Lallana or Sterling surely!!
Brandon, LFC, (Sub-standard players from big clubs walking into the national team is not just an England problem unfortunately) JHB
The mail from Guy S touched on one the things I find most annoying about many English fans and pundits: bringing on players to
'make an impact'.
He suggested that England should play a safety first approach of Gerrard and Cleverly, and then we could always bring on some more skillful players to make that all important impact.
Here's a thought: Why not play the good players from the start when they will have up to 90 minutes to make an impact, rather than just 15 minutes late in the game? Thinkng especially about Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain, they are two players with the technique, creativity and pace on the ball to actually hurt teams. So why only restrict that to a scrambled 20 minutes when you're trying to save a game? Messi and Ronaldo are not kept on the bench so they can make an impact late on - they get the whole game to do it. England should do the same with out best players (and no this doesn't mean I am saying Lallana is as good as Messi...).
Furthermore, the fact that you might need to bring on an impact player suggests the starting XI didn't actually do a good job in the first place! If the team is already 3-0 up, there is less need to try and rescue something. Much better would be to play some skillful players from the start, and then bring on someone like Carrick (or maybe even Cleverly) to see out the game once it is (hopefully) won.
I'm aware that the argument is that players will have more impact (I'm now starting to actually dislike this word!) against tired legs. But it seems to forget that the other team can also make substitutions, thus you end up with your fresh skillful players up against some fresh opposition players, only for less of the match.
I was just reading the Mediawatch section with a tinge of sadness where you mention The Sun comparing this new England set-up to the 'Golden Generation' of Becks, Scholes, Owen, Ferdinand etc circa 2002 and it got me thinking. Mainly on what I would have done to get the most out of that 2002 England team.
I then started to remember how some players were shoe horned in the team, almost as if to appease the masses. Yes, I refer to Paul Scholes. I remember seeing how ineffective the master passer was after being shunted out on the wing to accomodate Gerrard and Lampard in the middle of the park. Long story short, that 2002 England team should have been built purely around Scholes, who was at his peak. Everything should have been organised to compliment how he played. It wasn't, and the rest is history. Scholes eventually couldn't take any more, so retired early from international football. A footballing crime if ever there was one.
Slightly different scenario now in the fact that England don't have a midfielder anywhere near as good as Scholes, but I really hope the same nonsense doesn't happen with this England team, having players in obvious form (Sturridge) merely in the team to accomodate an out of form regular (Rooney).
Racism At Grassroots
I was watching an interview on SSN this morning on the case of a young 17 year old footballer playing in Scotland suffering racist abuse.
Simple question really, why are things like this still occurring? It can't be lack of education/understanding, in this day and age in must be pretty obvious what behavior is acceptable and what is not....
The 'fan' who was found guilty of abuse, was fined £300 and give a ONE YEAR banning order.... ONE YEAR?!
How is this acceptable? Young Jordan Tapping was reduced to tears and taken off the pitch, and Donnie Fraser (scum) was fined £300 and one year ban? That's absolutely ridiculous! It's not even really a punishment!
Would it be the same punishment if someone shouted racist abuse at Adebayor, Toure, Sagna etc etc? Most definitely not, so the question I have is why is it such a lenient punishment? You can be given a lifetime ban for throwing a coin, but for reducing a one lad to tears after such a disgraceful tirade it's nothing!
This type of thing really grates at me, especially as I've experienced racism at grass roots level (much bigger problem for Asians in football opposed to black players), and I feel the biggest statements and punishments SHOULD be made at the lower levels of football where it is obviously more prone to occur!
Would love to hear thoughts on this from others, especially ethnic minorities who may have suffered from abuse in football themselves.
Bhavesh Lakhani, AFC
It's Not Time, To Make A Change...
Loved Shaun Russell's list which as it turns out was pretty solid. It really is unavoidable to include the Neville brothers but any way here is my offering.
G: Pepe Reina
D: Cesare Maldini/ Jack Charlton/Frank De Boer/ Phil Neville
M: Miguel Alonso/ Frank Lampard Sr/ Michael Laudrup/ Guiseppe Baresi
A: Thorgen Hazard/ Arnur Guðjohnsen
Gk: Miguel Reina
D: Gary Neville/ Paulo Maldini/ Franco Baresi/ Ronald De Boer
M: Xabi Alonso/ Frank Lampard Jr/ Sir Bobby Charlton
A: Brian Laudrup/ Eden Hazard/ Eidur Guðjohnsen
I would also suggest that any football team that includes Xabi Alonso, Paulo Maldini and Brian Laudrup in the same team deserves extra kudos - imagine the team photo.
More On Cleverley
In reply to Gary Vance, MUFC supporter... We didn't say we don't think his career totals aren't better than Ramsey or Henderson. We said we don't want him in the England Squad. As you say, he has had a bad season... So why is he in the squad?
Callum (I signed the ting... I mean petition)
Lies, Damn Lies...
Thank you to Garey Vance, MUFC supporter for his perfect example of how statistics can be misleading.
Tom Cleverly is gash.
Alan, Abdn, LFC
Andy Swain. Gooner, obviously, what the rusty cockslice does "a left-back with a 310 score" actually mean? Also would it not be more prudent to break all those arbitrary rankings to a per 90 minute average? And disregarding the fact that Baines both scores and assists seems pretty damn churlish.
Dave Woodgate, THFC (also Gibbs' crossing is like strained diarrhea)