...what happened to the fourth Champions League place the last time an English team won the thing. Plus, who would want to pay £60 to watch the current England team?
A Sunderland fan in the mailbox is surprised by Jack Colback's call up to the England squad. Plus, thoughts on Welbeck and Liverpool's Champions League draw...
Share your views with us here at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are The Worst Any Worse Than Ever?
Reading the ever-excellent Big Weekend feature, Daniel Storey raises the point about how awful the bottom half of the PL has been this season and that Aston Villa have nothing to be proud of if they survive relegation. Having digested that sentence, I realised that I've read this about pretty much every PL season, about how dross-ful the dross has been each season.
Pretty much without fail, there will come some point in the season where some F365 writer will point out how terrible the worst of the PL have been. Which brings me to my point, the whole reason the lower half has been crap is because they're lower half isn't it? You don't really expect a CL-chasing team to be described as bad, while I admit that happens from time to time, generally they're pretty good to be challenging for fourth and above.
Ergo, the same applies to teams expected to fight relegation, they are perceived as the worst of the division and it is no surprise that they are exceedingly bad compared to the rest. Unless Storey is comparing the gap between the top halves and the bottom halves, which then is bleeding obvious that CL money has widen the gap considerably and thus again it really doesn't need pointing out.
Aston Villa winning the tallest dwarf contest is nothing to crow about, but it is not really pertinent that they are competing with the dwarfs. As an aside, has there ever been a strong relegation battle? My memory seems to recall a 42-point relegation for West Ham, but that seems to be the only season of its kind.
Best Of The Worst XI
With the relegation scrap in full flow, I looked at the quality (and lack of) of some of the teams down there, and wondered: what if a player from all of the bottom half teams was selected to form a 'best of the also-rans', and with this in mind, how would it do?
I decided to pick one player from each team, with a stand-out keeper from any team added, to create a starting XI.
Playing in a 3-5-2 formation:
GK - David Marshall (Cardiff)
CB - Stephen Caulker (Cardiff)
CB - Winston Reid (West Ham)
CB - Curtis Davies (Hull)
RM - Lewis Holtby (Fulham)
CM - Nathan Redmond (Norwich)
CM - Jonathan De Guzman (Swansea)
CM - Graham Dorrans (West Brom)
LM - Adam Johnson (Sunderland)
ST - Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace)
ST - Christian Benteke (Aston Villa).
I feel Johnson's lack of tracking back could be solved by De Guzman playing the traditional holding role, and Puncheon playing a false 9 behind Benteke could bring the best out of him. Plus, it's British enough for the Daily Mail, with seven natives making up the ranks (eight if you count Holtby, which would be massively cheating).
Any ideas or improvements? I'd like to think that team would be looking at a solid 10th-place finish, with success in a cup run.
More Musings On Chelsea
Late, I know, but a few thoughts on Chelsea:
- Mourinho made mistakes for the Atletico game, but being too unadventurous wasn't one of them. The real mistake was selecting Hazard and keeping him on, even though he clearly wasn't fit. Schurrle should have played, and would have made a difference (better at tracking back for a start). Eto'o also wasn't fit and shouldn't have come on ahead of Ba or Schurrle. These were important errors.
- That said, we were missing Lampard, Mikel, Matic and Oscar from our central midfield places, so it's no major surprise that Atletico eventually dominated midfield.
- Cech (or Courtois, who was excellent) and Matic would have made a big difference.
- Chelsea scored too early. The game plan was surely to keep it 0-0 until about 75 minutes and score then. You could see that the team was unsure at 1-0 whether to go on and score more or to defend the lead.
- Whatever happens, this has been an excellent season for Chelsea. Real progress not just in results, but in the mentality of the team and the way that several key players have developed. Missing out on the league by failing to beat the weakest teams in the division isn't a bad way to end up - this is surely one of the easiest problems to solve for next year. I expect Chelsea to strengthen significantly (Costa + 2/3 others) in the summer, and we have the advantage that we already own half the players we want to sign.
- Those who criticise Mourinho for needlessly playing down expectations should remember that he works for Roman Abramovich.
- I'm amazed by how many in the press seem to think Chelsea still have a chance of winning the league. For that to happen both City and Liverpool need to lose a game. City face two relegation candidates at home, plus Everton away. Liverpool have two games. Liverpool could lose to Palace, but they surely won't if Man City lose to Everton (and City play Everton 48 hours before Liverpool play Palace). City surely won't lose to either Norwich or Villa at the Etihad. So the chances are next to nil.
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, London
The Rich Man's Fat Sam
Actually, any rich man/poor man comparisons should be between Jose Mourinho and Sam Allardyce. Both are vehemently anti-football, both spend a significant amount of money on players of their liking in the context of their league standings, both can be seriously self-inflating in press conferences and both are brilliant at finding excuses for failure.
So yes Fat Sam and Jose, peas in a pod.
Jose The Lucky One To Avoid Sack
I don't mean to upset anyone, but am I the only one who thinks that Jose will be a tad fortunate to remain in employment next season?
This will be the first season since 2004 that Chelsea have failed to either finish in the top two or win a trophy. Given the high expectations for Chelsea at the start of the season, surely an average league campaign (their worst in a decade on paper), a limp exit from the Champions League, and no domestic silverware as compensation constitutes a failure by any objective measure.
This despite spending big on Matic, Schurrle, Willian etc. Jose might argue that these aren't his players and he needs a striker, but Benitez enjoyed greater success with the same group (minus this year's acquisitions) and facing a backdrop of intense disapproval from the Chelsea 'faithful'.
Having also come up short last season at Real Madrid (who incidentally are having a much stronger season under Ancellotti than they ever had under Jose), and given the negative way Chelsea lost last night (being thoroughly outplayed was just reward for starting with five defenders and playing for a 0-0 at home), would mourinho survive in his current role but for his history with Chelsea and special relationship with the media? That is to say, would for example AVB be afforded more time if he had presided over a similarly unsuccessful season at Chelsea? I think not.
Clock End John
Coutinho > Willian
Willian - is one of the most overrated player in the league, he runs around and gets some tackles in, doesn't do much else. For a £30m player in the position that he was brought in for he has been dire. About four assists and seven or eight goals in all competitions all season.
£30m for an attacker that has been converted to a defensive midfielder, I'd rather have our Coutinho for £8m all day long, see his stats as a comparison and his tackles made, higher on both counts.
Now you could argue it his not his fault that he has to defend, however it is his fault he doesn't create much!!
Atletico's Win For Football
I really hoped Atletico would win on Wednesday, I know your supposed to always support the English team but seeing Jose's mind games and negative football win the Champions League would have just been bad for the game in general. Imagine if all the big teams decided to play this way against each other - the neutrals would become disinterested and even supporters wouldn't look forward to watching the big games. I think most people who aren't Chelsea wanted them to lose for football's sake.
But what a spectacular performance by Atletico and what a team. I'm sure they'll be stripped by the vultures in the summer (sadly they are heavy in debt) but now I hope teams with less money get more shots at the big time. This has really been a season where these teams have been able to push the wealthier sides this season despite the odds against them. Atletico and Liverpool have really given hope to the smaller teams and is a refreshing change from oligarchy dominance
First, Dave is absolutely correct. I do not understand why anyone other than Chelsea fans would be pulling for them to succeed against Atletico Madrid. Perhaps they feel a bit of the glow will reflect onto their team, but one must understand it only makes your opponent stronger in relation to your team. Why would you possibly want that? I'm a Blackburn man and it likely won't affect me anytime soon, but Chelsea can now pursue their desperately needed striker with the line (reasonably true) that they are the missing piece which will put them into the Final next year...which will only serve to make it more difficult for others to climb above them in the league standings. This seems a steep price to pay for any tiny amount of imaginary reflected glory. I want ALL the others to lose...and badly. It improves my team's relative standing.
Second, I like Tony Pulis as a manager. I have always like him and I think he's doing an amazing job with Crystal Palace, but the argument that he should win Manager of the Year ahead of Brendan Rodgers is a bit hard to sustain. Clearly there was some small degree of talent there as he is tapping into it and pulling the Eagles up the table, but let's take a moment to examine the teams Palace have bypassed: Cardiff, Fulham, Norwich, Sunderland, Aston Villa, West Brom, West Ham, Hull and Swansea. While Pulis has been brilliant, that's a pretty low bar to jump over.
As the season began, Liverpool could reasonably expect to be a much better team and still not improve much on last year's finish. I think we were all agreed a place in the Europa League would be seen as a very successful season. Instead, they're straight into the group stage of the Champions League and may yet still win the League. In doing so they've hurdled Man U, Everton, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea (likely) and may yet beat Citeh. As brilliant as he's been, Tony Pulis hasn't quite matched that.
Jay (Greenville SC)
Some Support The Brits In Europe
In yesterday's mailbox, Arsenal fan Dave asked why he should be supporting rival English clubs in Europe. We hate these clubs, so why should we suddenly root for them in Europe?
Well firstly, I think a bit of self-interest should come into play here. England has four spots in the Champions League precisely because we tend to do well in European competition. Though Dave might find it funny if other English clubs all got knocked out in the group stage, that would bugger up our ranking points and over time we'd lose that fourth CL spot. As that would directly affect Arsenal (fourth place is a trophy, remember?), that's as good a reason as any to hope your rivals do well.
Personally, my patriotism overrides footballing rivalry when it comes to Europe. I know modern-day multinational squads aren't the most obvious of outlets for fervent national pride, but at heart these are traditional English institutions flying the flag for good ol' Blighty. As a topical analogy, Gina G may have been Australian, but when she represented the UK in Eurovision '96 ('Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit'), to my mind she became an honorary Brit!
As an Arsenal fan myself, I really can't stand the likes of John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney etc. But when the World Cup rolls round, I will support these guys with all my heart - cheer when they score, root for them to win. As such, it's only a small extra step to cheer for them in European club games, too.
Ryan Frost (yes, even Spurs!)
Tuned into the Europa league last night...nearly begrudgingly as had found over the years that this competition had lost its sheen. the poor second cousin to the Champions League. So thought to myself ...Meh, what harm can it do..I'll throw a half-eye to it for 15 mins or so before I'd flick channels to see what saucy northern lass they have frolicking among the mucky fields on Emmerdale.
Instead, I resisted my urges to drool over the wellied temptresses. The Juventus game had me hooked. Couldn't ask for any more. Drama. Passion, nerves, frayed tempers, torrential rain in Turin. THree red cards! Two for players who were not even on the pitch at the time, and one of those players hadn't even taken off his tracksuit for the duration of the game! A 10-man Benfica bravely holding off a dominant Juventus! Late disallowed goals! Blood on the pitch! and to top it all off eight minutes of injury time! I was f**ked after the game! An emotional rollercoaster! And that's without having any vested interest in any of the teams. Just when my heart rate was creeping back to normal they throw on the highlights reel of the Valencia/ Sevilla game. Valencia overthrow a two-goal deficit to bring them to 3-2 on aggregate! And a late injury-time goal rips it from their grasp at the death! Sevilla coaching staff and squad members going ballistic and losing their sh*t on the sidelines...brilliant stuff!
I've fallen back in love with this competition!
Pog Eat Pog
Pogba's seal dribble last night was a thing of absolute beauty.
Not sure TC23 will be unveiling anything similar this weekend.
...I was feeling a bit bohemian whilst on holiday so decided to watch some Europa Cup. I'm not sure if people are aware but Paul Pogba is quite good at football.
Does anyone know the story behind why Fergie didn't play him because he seems very suited to English football?
Adonis (That Pirlo chap isn't bad either) Stevenson, AFC
Along With Ziegler
Schadenfreude sounds like a player Tottenham would have signed in the 90s.
On The Latest Poll
Or should that have read pollocks? Of course I'm referring to the poll asking readers to vote on the brightest young managerial thing in Europe. However when I scan the list I instantly recognise a glaring, and frankly offensive, omission. I speak of one Tim Sherwood. Best Spurs record ever don't you know? Being undermined by job hunters isn't he? Seriously F365, LIFT!
Dr (please can't the FA offer this insanely idiotic youth obsessed Anglophile a job with the U21s to get him the damned hell away from Spurs) Oyvind