Man United and Everton are making David Moyes look good enough for Newcastle. We have lots of mails on Steven Gerrard but mostly Man United and Van Gaal...
While Aston Villa look like temporary interlopers, there's something sustainable about Southampton's early-season form. Organisation is married to creativity...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Naming An England XI
With reference to Brian (Liverpool 2nd, Manchester United 7th) LFC,
RB: Johnson (just hope he doesn't let Italy run riot like Palace did, when it counted most)
LB: Baines, (but I agree with F365 to a large degree...blood the new youth (Shaw) for sure...but at the expense of Cole?? LB...the only position on the field that England actually have 'the best in the world' in...
This XI truly has, in my humble opinion, a sporting chance of beating anyone they face on their day in the tournament.
With an expressive game-plan and suitable formation, suited to the personnel, and the element of surprise an attacking youthful XI would surely bring to the table...this England would be like nothing seen for a while!
It's not a weak midfield by any means, and has raw and quite meaningful pace in attack. (Sterling doesn't just sprint sideways hoping to find a big hole now does he?). Hendo provides some much-needed grunt, and while England are not Liverpool, he was so sorely missed in those last three games, after a great season, that he has earned the trust being placed in him.
Wilshere and Stevie G provide their fair amount of grunt and physical presence too, while both being more than capable of very neatly dovetailing with the absurdly technically-gifted Lallana. So while the CMs and Sterling may not be Messi-like with the ball at their feet, they cannot in any way be fairly described as nothing but 'a worker', Hendo does more than just run and pant without the ball, be assured.
Rooney is first man on the bench, warming after ten minutes, ready to immediately replace anyone not putting in a 'top, top' effort, before anyone has a mild stroke about it.
I just agree with a portion of supporters who feel that he currently doesn't fit in with the rest of the expected first team and their preferred, or indeed more suitable, style of play, as he won't stay in formation, or finish the chances that come his way when is up top.
That XI actually PLAYS SOME FOOTBALL against Spain or Brazil, and if (probable to be reasonable) they lose I at least can't see it being a one-sided boring blowout, but at least an exciting all guns blazing last stand!
Manc in SA (TC23 could have won it alone though!)
Is Rooney Now A God?
Brian's Fat Albatross email hit the nail so perfectly that the nail went right in and then the head fell off; this now means that whatever the nail hit is now stuck in place. Forever.
But the point, or question, of the email is this, what else, besides the city keys, was Rooney given on hist last contract renewal?
I can only speculate that within the realm of Manchester he is now 'King of the North' and everyone must refer to him as 'Your Grace'. The club's elder Ewar Woowar has bewitched all and sundry to believe Wayne Rooney (or Beautiful Eagle as he is affectionately known) is a higher being sent down from the old Gods to save the realm from 'certain doom from afar'. The good, albeit entranced, people must make offerings to their saviour on a weekly basis in the form of pies and milk. Old Trafford (named after their previous messiah, Trafford the Great (rumoured to be shortly renamed to the Rooneydome)) via its maze of underground tunnels has become the world's biggest pie storage.
There are plans afoot to use the turf for grazing as 'foreign milk' is deemed unpure. Only pure milk can help the Beautiful Eagle return to his eventual resting place on his throne next to Zorgon.
Can anyone with inside knowledge of the realm of Manchester confirm or deny this rumour? Is he a god or simply a fat, impetuous overpaid, overrated t***?
Happy Friday xxx
Rooney Getting A Kicking
Nice letter from Brian LFC yesterday on Rooney. I just don't think he went far enough, this season I whispered to a friend while watching him (Rooney not Brian) lollop around the pitch ' Is Rooney really that good?'. My friend responded as any true white van driving, St George's Cross waving little Englander should and berated me.
What always sticks in my mind is this: if he wasn't English, what would be our opinion of him? From the safety of my laptop and out of reach of the bear paws of the most short sighted of England fans, I wondered what others thought?
I am intentionally not judging him on/ referring to his wages, it's not his fault in Man U were drunk enough to offer him that deal.
Get It Together, Englanders
I am honestly stumped by the English football supports and what seems to be some sort bi-annual flash-mob that you become embroiled in. This of course occurs every time a major competition comes around by the wonderful British tabloids, and eventually it goes from a couple of idiots dancing to the same tune in some obscure location, to a wide and diverse group who seem to be following their own beat but all the while they are still part of the group and contributing to the experience/atmosphere.
The English squad has been confirmed by Roy Hodgson and short of having much to complain about (you really don't have much to complain about), the British public have decided to start moaning about Frank Lampard being on the plane/in the squad. Most would agree that he is past his best and I would certainly go along with that assessment, but a Lampard playing at even 50% still potentially brings a lot to the party. He is a committed athlete, supremely professional, and by all accounts he is pretty good to have around young players by way of passing on advice. What is the harm in having an experienced head in the squad who can either make an impact from the bench, or play in Steven Gerrard's stead, particularly if something goes wrong and he gets injured, or if his long ball, Hollywood-pass approach to football isn't particularly successful.
In my opinion, Lampard would stroll into most International squads, whistling and twirling a cane, with the exception of course of squads akin to the Spanish national team, where they are so jam packed with terrific midfielders that someone of Lampard's ilk would just not fit.
You have some excellent players in that squad, who with the media and fans behind them are actually capable of achieving things. Great managers take standard players and make them successful over and over again, yet the English players seem to just collapse every time they successfully qualify for a major tournament. Those players, I'm sure, will pay attention to what the media and fans alike are saying about them and it will innately affect them.
Get a grip. We went to a World Cup with Kevin KIlbane and Gary Breen, the latter of which actually managed to score a bloody goal, and the Irish public were firmly behind their team. Maybe it's genetic and being a "plastic" fan makes it easier to not be a thunderc*nt or something.
Fancying France At World Cup
Argentina have a rotten defence but an incredible strikeforce, Brazil are the host nation, Chile press so well and have the magical Vidal and Sanchez. Outside of South America the Germans play like last season's Bayern and the Italians are capable of nicking a win against anyone.
However I think perennial under performers France are the form team coming into this tournament. The Matuidi-Cabaye-Pogba triumvirate is the most complete on the international stage. There is no Nasri of course but there is Ribery and Valbuena is a gem of a player. The back five might be the strongest in the tournament. Benzema has had a great season but they've also got Remy and Giroud that give them different dimensions.
They've some awesome youngsters coming through too so, if not the World Cup, I can't look beyond them for the 2016 Euros (sorry Belgium).
Thaiwolf (Oh, and don't forget England!)
The Best International Team Ever?
With the World Cup approaching, it's time for a change of focus away from the Premier League circus and onto the much-maligned international game. Whoever emerges victorious in around two months' time is bound to be compared to some of the great teams from history. This is bound to kick off the age old debate of just who the best team ever actually is.
I decided to look at this statistically, taking the points per game (three points for a win) achieved by each country over a rolling four-year period. Of course, when you look at things statistically, it's never perfect, but it is interesting. Here is the top 20 (note to Mailbox Editor - if this is too long, by all means reduce it to ten).
20 - Czech Republic 2002-05 (P46 W33 D6 L7) 2.28 points per game
Very strongly fancied to win Euro 2004, with current Ballon d'Or incumbent Pavel Nedved at the peak of his powers. They just fell short, but in 2002 and 2003 this team were unbeaten, hitting 53 goals for the concession of just 13.
18= - Croatia 2007-10 (P42 W29 D9 L4) - 2.29 points per game
Many would plump for the 1998 vintage if asked to name Croatia's best-ever team, but this team were nothing if not consistent, losing just four games in four years. A shame that all they had to show for it was a quarter-final appearance at Euro 2008.
18= - England 1966-69 (P42 W29 D9 L4) - 2.29 points per game
The fact that this World Cup-winning team has exactly the same record as the Croatia team above should speak volumes for Croatia! England were unbeaten in 17 games in 1966, but couldn't maintain it over a four-year period, with 1968's form in particular being poor.
16= - Germany 1994-97 (P53 W36 D12 L4) - 2.31 points per game
Not the team that would instantly spring to mind if asked to name one of Germany's best-ever sides. Infamously bowed out to Bulgaria in USA 94 before going on to win Euro 96.
16= - USSR 1978-81 (P32 W23 D5 L4) - 2.31 points per game
Something of a surprise this one, given that they failed to qualify for Euro 80 and the 1978 World Cup. Recovered with a strong qualifying campaign to get to the World Cup in 82. Statistically boosted by touring the likes of Japan and USA to play friendlies.
11= - Portugal 1998-2001 (P38 W27 D7 L4) - 2.32 points per game
The first of five teams at this level, Portugal's 'Golden Generation' were aptly named, reaching the semi-final of Euro 2000. Taking 1999 and 2001 together, this team didn't lose in 18 matches (not consecutive), banging in 63 goals and leaking just eight at the other end.
11= - West Germany 1971-74 (P41 W30 D5 L6) - 2.32 points per game
Another World Cup-winning team, with Franz Beckenbauer at his peak. This team also won Euro 72 but was let down by less than spectacular form in 1973. They won when it mattered though.
11= - Italy 1961-64 (P22 W16 D3 L3) - 2.32 points per game
This team crashed out of the 1962 World Cup at the group stage but any side that wins 16 of 22 games is pretty handy. Quite apart from the traditional perception of Italian teams, this team average over 2.5 goals a game.
11= - Germany 1934-37 (P47 W35 D4 L8) - 2.32 points per game
Third at the 1934 World Cup, ousting Austria's 'Wunderteam', this was followed up by defeat to Norway at the 1936 Olympics. 1937 though saw a ten-match winning run and Sepp Herberger's 'Breslau eleven' was born.
11= - Netherlands 1971-74 (P31 W22 D6 L3) - 2.32 points per game
Level in the standings with their adversaries in the 1974 World Cup final, this was the Dutch team that gave birth to total football. What makes this more remarkable is that in the 60s, the Netherlands lost more games than they won.
10 - Brazil 1979-82 (P42 W30 D8 L4) - 2.32 points per game
Romantics will tell you this is Brazil's best-ever team. They were good, but not as good as some of the others. This team, spearheaded by Zico, sadly never managed to get a trophy under their belts, despite their brilliance.
8= - Netherlands 2007-10 (P55 W40 D9 L6) - 2.35 points per game
This is the side that will be forever remembered for kicking Spain out of the World Cup final in 2010. They were though, something of a winning machine, especially in qualifying. In 2009 and 2010, this team suffered just one defeat in 28 games.
8= - Uruguay 1939-42 (P19 W15 D2 L2) - 2.35 points per game
This wartime Uruguay side, after declining to defend the 1930 World Cup title in 34 and 38, reached three consecutive Copa America finals, winning one. Both defeats occurred at the hands of Argentina.
7 - USSR 1959-62 (P25 W19 D2 L4) - 2.36 points per game
With Lev Yashin in goal, this team won the first European Championships in 1960 before going on to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1962. Tragically shorn of the mercurial Eduard Streltsov.
6 - Brazil 1959-62 (P46 W36 D4 L6) - 2.43 points per game
The 1962 World Cup winners with Pele and Garrincha at the fore. This team won a staggering 16 of 17 games across 61 and 62 (drawing the other).
5 - Italy 1935-38 (P27 W21 D5 L1) - 2.52 points per game
Giuseppe Meazza and co won the Olympics in 1936 and followed up this success by taking first place at the 1938 World Cup. Lost just one game, to Czechoslovakia, in this time, with the next defeat coming almost four years later.
4 - Brazil 1969-72 (P34 W27 D6 L1) - 2.56 points per game
Who thought that this lot would be top? Argentina were the only team to topple this team, in a friendly in 1970, before the Brazilians romped to World Cup glory in Mexico. At one point they smashed in 107 goals in a 39-game spell. Quite formidable.
3 - Brazil 1994-97 (P65 W52 D11 L2) - 2.57 points per game
Not traditionally heralded as one of the great Brazilian teams, but to lose just two of 65 games takes some doing. Reached three consecutive finals (Copa America 95 & 97, World Cup 94). With Ronaldo and Romario up front, they smashed a quite terrifying 71 goals in the the calendar year 1997.
1=- Spain 2007-10 (P62 W54 D4 L4) - 2.68 points per game
What more can be said about this team that hasn't already been said? These four years yielded a fantastic win rate as they picked up the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 titles. Take 2010 out of the equation and the record reads W41 D3 L1. Frightening.
1=- Hungary 1951-54 (P28 W24 D3 L1) - 2.68 points per game
As close as it gets to international football's 'Invincibles'. The Magnificent Magyars lost just one game in this spell. The 1954 World Cup final to an unfancied West Germany. Netted 59 goals in 14 games in the calendar year 1954.
Is It Wise To Give Rodgers Money?
United possibly got rid of Moyes as they needed to spend £200m and Dithering Dave wanted to buy ten players that play number 10, but what about Liverpool and their 60 million?
After reading Brendan Rodgers and his piece on transfer targets and how he will make them better players, the tactically intelligent, specialist multi-functional players that he is looking out for I couldn't help but think...
Who has Rodgers actually bought to Liverpool that is doing any good? Granted he may have got the better out of the players that he inherited (the ones he couldn't sell) but his buying record is terrible. I may be wrong but the starting 11 that beat City not so long ago had three Rodgers players - the keeper who may well prove not up to the task, Coutinho and Sakho. All the rest were there previous to Rodgers.
60 million is a lot of money to give a guy that isn't very good at buying players - the list of his rubbish loans and signing is far too great for me to remember.
Why Don't City Get Fouled?
I was browsing WhoScored.com for interesting stats on the season, and I found one that, unless I'm missing something obvious, seems absolutely stunning: Manchester City, the best attacking team in the league, and the second highest in possession percentage, were fouled less than any other team in the league.
I assume this means that teams sat deep, and rarely challenged the man with the ball. But lots of teams did the same thing against Chelsea, and Chelsea were the second-most fouled team in the league. Liverpool and Arsenal, high-possession attacking teams, were sixth and seventh on the list. The six teams directly above City were Aston Villa, Newcastle, Stoke, Crystal Palace, West Ham, and Cardiff, none of whom could be mistaken for attacking juggernauts.
So what gives? And perhaps the more important question: had teams been willing to challenge City more, and disrupt their rhythm more by fouling, would they have been less successful?
Oh, and one more thing. How did Sunderland wind up the most-fouled team in the league?
PeterG, Pennsylvania, USA
Real Expectations Count For Little
Conrad, your point about Real spending mega bucks in their bid to win the Champions League might hold more weight if not for the fact that they haven't won ol' Big Ears in the last decade. In that time they haven't even appeared in a single final, up till this year. In fact, our last final appearance is a more recent one, so Real's 'higher' expectations don't seem to have counted for much.
Yes, Real have done well domestically but La Liga has been largely dominated by two teams in recent years, trading titles without much competition from the rest. We were very much in a similar situation with Man United up till the point where Russian money flowed in to tip the scales.
There are certainly many sticks to beat us with, but I do think the continual qualification for the Champions League is something we Gooners can be truly proud of. Yes, we shouldn't be satisfied with finishing fourth every year, but that has been a minimum expectation consistently achieved in an increasingly competitive league, without spending crazy cash on transfers and wages. That's no mean feat in my book.
Aaron, Singaporean Gooner
Palace End-Of-Season Awards
This is a long 'un but comes in easily digestible chunks. Basically I'm sick of reading the same end of season awards (Suarez, Moyes, The Slip) and thought it would be interesting for Mailboxers to compile their own, specific to whatever club they support. Here are mine for Palace.
Player of the Season: Julian Speroni. Jedinak and Ward both have very strong cases but the fans voted Jules as Player of the Season and I agree with them. In every game we picked up points Speroni made at least one fantastic save when the result was still in doubt. (And with eight 1-0 victories that's a lot of doubt.) A slightly lesser keeper and we'd have been gone by Christmas.
Least Brilliant Player ('worst' is so cold): Kagisho Dikgacoi. I feel mean but KD is a very limited footballer. A defensive midfielder who doesn't really tackle/intercept, yet has a breakdown if he gets anywhere near the opposition goal. In every match there will be a moment when KD receives the ball under no pressure, takes a touch, sizes up his options, and then calmly passes it out of play. Yet somehow I feel that remove him from the midfield and it would fall apart. Strange. He's going to the World Cup too.
Game of the Season: In the equation of 'result x opposition x importance' then it probably has to be the Chelsea match. But I wasn't there so it doesn't count. Thankfully I did attend the Liverpool game, which was far less important and we only drew. Yet it remains (and probably will for some time) the only Palace match to spawn its own hashtag.
Goal of the Season: John Terry's, obviously. But a close second is Dwight Gayle's first against Liverpool. Those seconds in which Bolasie left Johnson for dead and burnt down towards a baying Homesdale were probably the most viscerally exciting I've ever experienced at Palace. Lovely finish too.
Worse Game: Quality wise, probably 0-0 at Sunderland. But the 4-1 home thrashing by Fulham was deeply traumatic. (Plus that f*cking Kasami goal will be shown forever.)
Hero: Tony Pulis. Obviously. Also, after Holloway it's nice to have a manager for whom 'wacky' is only what he does to James Beattie in the showers.
Unsung Hero(s): Keith Millen. Drew against Everton to end a seven-game losing streak at a time when people were genuinely thinking we might 'beat' Derby's record. Then beat Hull (the first of many 1-0s) in a victory that many erroneously attribute to Pulis. Indeed the defence Pulis inherited had kept successive clean sheets. Also, in the world of Vincent Tan, Steve Parish is a wonderful owner and true fan of the club.
Villains: Cardiff's reaction to 'Spy-gate' was pretty pathetic. And while not exactly a villain I'd be amazed if Ian Holloway manages in the top flight again. Woefully out of his depth, poor man.
Special Mentions: The fans. Lovely to see your club get recognition for the quality of its support. And if anyone has a better mascot than a goddam bald eagle please get in touch. (Although Hull has both the nickname and owners for it.)
Hopes for Next Season: Consolidate. Keep hold of the current players and add that touch of quality in the final third. (Holtby, anyone?) Try not get caught next time we filch the opposition team sheet. Bring Wilf home.
I could make up categories all day but this is already far too long. Let's here from fans of other clubs, especially ones without much media coverage. (Stoke springs to mind.) And if fellow Palace fans - I'm thinking Ant and Ed Quoth the Raven - want to dispute my awarding then feel free. Happy Friday everyone!
Max, CPFC (F365's recognition of 'Glad All Over' was also great.)
Having read some great ideas and thoughts about potential ideas on play-off set-ups etc. It got me thinking how the current Football League play-off system should really benefit the team who finish third over the rest of the play-off positioned clubs.
I love the play-off system as it is a great end-of-season watch and wouldn't want to get rid of it but I can't help but think the team who finish third should have some sort of advantage over the team who say creep into the play-offs finishing 6th. If you look at the Championship table this season Derby finished 3rd with 85 points and Brighton finished 6th trailing Derby by 13 points. Now over the course of a long season surely Derby deserve some distinct advantage for coming third? I think the third-placed side should automatically go into the play-off final as their reward for finishing higher in the table and then teams who finish 4th to 7th qualify for the right to go and play the third-placed club in the Play off final.
Here is how it would work:
- 3rd place automatically into Play-off Final.
- 4th to 7th-placed clubs qualify for the right to go to the final.
- 4th place vs 7th place and 5th place vs 6th place, in a one-off game at a neutral venue (Extra time, pens if needed).
- The winners go through to play each other again at a neutral venue for the right to play the third-placed club in the Play-off Final
This way the clubs are only playing a maximum of two games to get into the final which is the same as the two-legged system we have now. I also think the one-off games would be another audience grabber and then of course you have the main prize of the play-off final for the chance to get into the Premiership. It would certainly give the third-placed club an advantage and a just reward for finishing higher in the league. Just a thought...
Nathan (AFC, Melbourne)
Nominate A Song
Graham Simons' mail in Thursday afternoon's mailbox about songs was interesting. I think Arsenal should take the field to John Cage's seminal 4'33, given how their fans seem to spend most of the game singing a version of it.
Ed Quoth the Raven, CPFC the Glaziers, Notts