With Real Madrid playing at the Club World Cup, all eyes in La Liga turn to Atletico Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao this weekend. It could be brutal...
Plus Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks 'heart-breakingly well-suited to a Real Madrid shirt' according to one United fan. Plus, words from the good doctor and plenty more...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Fear And Loathing In The Transfer Window
I've come to the conclusion that the Transfer window is built on fear and willful forgetting, rather than hope for the new season. The mailbox has been a perfect representation of it:
- Arsenal's fans are afraid that letting former golden boy going to Chelsea will haunt them. They're afraid that the buzz from signing Alexis may be like the good vibezz from Ozil lasted till the winter, which is when Arsenal traditionally misplace their bottle and fall apart. They exorcise these fears by comparing Liverpool to faded beauty queens, quickly forgetting how they had their pants pulled down at Anfield by that hag.
- Liverpool fans are sh***ing bricks at the thought of 'doing a Spurs', even though that would mean finishing third. The even bigger fear is that last season may be a one-off, and more importantly, a one-off that didn't come off completely with a title. So close but no cigar is easier to swallow when you know where your next puff is coming from. They look at the lack of marquee signing and either attach huge expectation to potential talents like Markovic and Ibe, or turn on the big-name signings going to other clubs by calling them Barca/Madrid rejects. Mostly, they're just scared that United don't come back and take that fourth spot.
- United fans are probably the least scared. Mostly because when you don't worry about spilled milk when you've spent the last year cleaning the sh*t out of the cow shed...with your bare hands. But the positivity surrounding LVG is also tinged in the fear of finishing outside the top four again, of doing a Liverpool. They exorcise this by loudly claiming that Liverpool will be mid-table without Suarez, even though they spent most of last season arguing how Suarez wasn't a 'top top player' who bottled it in the big games. Also forgetting how Liverpool beat them both with and without the Uruguayan.
- Chelsea fans seem the most confident of the lot, but I'd venture there's some fear that Costa isn't actually all that. It's easier to be a bully forward in Spain than in England. But mostly their fear is that all their eggs are in this season's basket, what will happen to the now full grown jorse if he doesn't win? In Mother Russia, they are taken to the back and 'put to sleep'.
- City fans, while being fewer in number, are more difficult to gauge. I'd assume their main fear is a repeat of the season-after syndrome.
- Spurs fans, to bring around the circle of fear, are mainly scared of Arsenal speeding away ahead yet again after they'd been so close to stealing a lead on their bitter rivals. They're afraid that they will be the club that is forever in transition.
So stop being so damn scared. What will happen in the season will likely not be what you expected. It'll be long and exciting and unpredictable and that's why it's so damn great.
Stan Millworth, Portland Timbers
Right About Image Rights
It's that time of year again when the meaningless drivel comes out from all corners regarding transfers; why is player A worth more than player B when clearly player B is far better and will score more goals? And so on and so forth. Today is the turn of Ross Barkley. Barkley is very talented for his age and could no doubt turn out to be world class if he continues to progress (not always guaranteed as many English players past and present have demonstrated). A suggested fee of £50million for Barkley sounds ludicrous and of course could be plucked from thin air depending on the paper's inclination at the time of writing. However, what Barkley's football potential may or may not become is up for debate but, what his potential new team will be banking on is image rights and the media attention any of his good or bad press will bring.
Barkley is of course in the exact same mould of a certain Wayne Rooney. Wayne Rooney has been The England player of the last 10 years whether his performances have warranted that or not. Ask any non-English fan or casual English fan to name a player off the top of their head in under a second an inevitably that player will be Wayne Rooney. Its brand recognition which would see a similar result if you were to ask someone to name a soft drink, 99 times out of 100 they'll say Coca-Cola.
Over the last ten years, any story, any negative press about football players, English football players in particular, will see that piece accompanied by a picture of a recognisable face to Joe Public. Currently that picture is of Wayne Rooney. A few years down the line that picture could well be the most (possibly) talented and well-known English player, Ross Barkley. With that image consistently projected to the public on a constant basis you get to see that player's club football shirt (of course he could be pictured not in his club shirt but more often than not, he will be). Now of course the team's sponsor will get air time, the club will get air time and the make of the kit will get air time. The deal that the club strikes with their shirt sponsor will be inflated with each player's marketable value. I.e. to have a player in the spotlight will increase revenue from commercial deals elsewhere.
A case in point; it's hard to argue that Rooney has been better than Yaya Toure in the past three seasons but Rooney will be plastered across every Sky advert in papers and on billboards. I.e. he has better market value. This is in no doubt obvious to deals such as David Beckham and certain Asian players but it becomes less obvious when you think of players such as Ross Barkley. A player which is instantly recognised by an affluent country of 50 million people is hot property regardless of their talent necessarily.
I think I've made some sort of point anyway.
Tim (Trying not to get sucked into meaningless transfer gossip) NCFC
Don't Quibble, Just Spend
In the few hours each day that remain after my Transfer Blog duties I buy CDs for an independent record store. I have learnt that quibbling over 50p difference in wholesale prices just wastes time, time that I could be putting to much better use (like reading the blog!).
If the price is roughly what I expect it to be then I buy, if it is too high then I pass. If it turns out that I have missed out on a big seller, then them's the breaks. Swings and roundabouts etc. It doesn't make a huge difference to the business come the end-of-the-year round-up.
It strikes me that real-world economics are so far removed for the footballing world to be untrue. Surely the time spent going back and forth about a couple of million (for the big clubs, anyway), or an extra 10 grand a week is just wasting precious time that could be spent having a new player in for pre-season training.
If he has a good pre-season under his belt I would say that he is more likely to hit the ground running and maybe influence a match result which would repay that extra cost straight away. Similarly selling clubs trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of buyers is just reducing the time and options available to spend their ill-gotten gains as the transfer window is closing.
So Mr Woodward, listen to me, I know these things...just get your hand in your pocket! Thank you.
ET King (Manchester United)
To Alex in this morning's mailbox. Anyone who think using a quote by Chris Kamara actually enhances their argument needs to take a long hard look at themselves.
...leaving to one side the fact that Alex in this morning's mailbox contradicts himself repeatedly by claiming his 'over a hundred years old' club to be young and sexy...
'had a stadium in Highbury that was called 'the home of football' by Chris Kamara'
Morgan (one FA Cup and Gooners are total bells again) Goford
Rodgers > Wenger
Three quick 'Ifs', in response to Alex from this morning's mailbox:
If Alex and other Arsenal fans don't think Sanchez chose Arsenal over Liverpool due to being located in London, they are deluded.
If Alex thinks Wenger's current reputation exceeds Rodgers' at this point in time, they are deluded. (Partly because Rodgers' work last season has been noticed around the world, but mostly because Wenger's decline over the last ten years has been noticed around the world.)
If Liverpool are a 'former beauty queen', that would make Arsenal the fat ugly gullible friend of a rich guy (Manchester City), the one that the girls use to make the rich guy's acquaintance before moving on without putting out (in this metaphor, winning trophies.)
Oliver (Liverpool to finish 3rd, Arsenal to finish 4th) Dziggel, Geneva, Switzerland
Arsenal To Outscore Liverpool?
In reply to Minty's mail where he states 'Even if nobody replaces any of the Suarez goals, we still outscored Arsenal last season, so I won't worry about that either', I'd like to point out that Suarez scored 31 league goals last season and Liverpool had a goal difference that was 24 better than Arsenal's.
Considering Suarez has left Liverpool and that Arsenal have added Sanchez, lost no attacking options (bar Bendtner who did not contribute) and could still possibly sign another proven goalscorer I think it's safe to assume, at this moment in time, that Arsenal will outscore Liverpool next season. Of course it's possible that this will not happen, anything is possible, but, any intelligent human being would admit that it's more likely that Arsenal will outscore them.
Liverpool done incredibly well last season and I'm glad they got Champions League football but it was an anomaly. They will most likely be fighting for fourth place with Utd next season. Some Liverpool fans are too cocky for their own good and they're expectations are unreasonably high. This isn't the 80's any more!
AndyK (Arsenal fan)
Copy Arsenal, Don't Denigrate Them
As much as it pains to say this, Arsenal are at a better position to sign world-class players than Liverpool. Consistent beautiful football for more than ten seasons, large stadium, established and respected manager, big money, London...the list is endless. However, I am not able to understand why we are worried by spending of Arsenal. In fact, we should be happy that Arsenal has sustained a period of financial struggle and are reaping the rewards. Aren't we looking at something similar at Liverpool?
Then we need to go through the same pain as Arsenal have gone through. Selling their best players every season, looking at rivals strengthening, buying unknown French players, converting them into stars, selling their best player...Last five years have been testing for us (expect last season of course) and there will be many more to come. So, my request to fellow Liverpool supporters is to start minding our own business and support what we have. Next year will NOT be our year.
Dushyant Jamwal, LFC, India
Let's Stop All The Fighting And Fussing...
I don't like these Liverpool vs Arsenal jibes and swipes. We used to be united against United.
Now that Man United have fallen can we fill the void left by joining together in our hatred of Chelsea or Man City thus bringing us closer together again?
I suggest Chelsea as they're just so much easier to hate and will be even easier once the season kicks off and they are looking down on both us.
I look forward to the scrap for third and fourth with Arsenal but as it will mean little, it will all be in good fun.
Gough, Dublin, LFC
No Reason For Arsenal Optimism
I have no problem with optimism, but because Wenger has signed a good forward, and a better-than-average right-back, why all of a sudden does this make you title challengers? Surely Sanchez will need the much vaunted 'adjustment period'?
Chelsea have signed Fabregas, Costa and Luis Filipe, and are probably near a complete Mourinho machine.
Man City have signed Fernando, Cabalero and more than likely Mangala to improve upon their title-winning season.
Man Utd have signed Herrera and Shaw, and will no doubt dip in again at some point, along with the messiah - Van Gaal.
Liverpool have signed experienced Premier League performers and some exciting youngsters to use for their top four/title push.
Moreover, it has been widely accepted that Arsenal lack leadership and bite, something that has yet to be addressed. I also don't really see Khedira as a destroyer as such, he's much more eloquent than that.
So yes, you have strengthened, but so have equally all other teams around you. Liverpool are accepting of fourth place now, and they chased City all the way to the wire last season, yet all of a sudden 'it's our year boys' starts bleating out from every gooner in the country.
For a Spurs fan, I really don't mind Arsenal FC that much. and I would make the same comment about any other club in the country. I like the football they stand for, and the financial footing they base themselves on. But the fans are insufferable.
Chris, THFC (Finally found a footballing point to make)
Germany v England
The respective responses of Germany's captain and England's captain post-World Cup seem to encapsulate so much of what is wrong with our attittude to football in England and the UK.
Philip Lahm has announced his retirement from international duty aged just 30. He has just led his team to the World Cup after an international career of excellence. He is a remarkable footballer - consistently brilliant and a leader. It seems that the motivation behind his retirement is: get in, do a bloody good job, move aside for the greater good of the team. Lahm knows he has reached the pinnacle of his achievements. Of course he could carry on, and would probably very well captain Germany in Russia in 2018. But, that would prevent a young full-back from getting into the team and thus prevent their development and damage the future of the team as a whole.
Steven Gerrard is still to decide if he will carry on at international level after an England career littered with underperformance and inconsistency. The attittude here seems to be: get in, stay in for as long as possible, win as many caps as possible; my Legacy is bigger and more important than the good of the team. It is, at heart, selfish. It also only serves to prevent younger players not just from coming through on the international scene, but more importantly from them getting on to the pitch and having to take resonsibility in an international game. It's this kind of Me attitude that holds England back so much.
Even Frank Lampard hasn't announced it yet! Is he planning on being 40 years old playing in Russia, still believing that he can make the difference.
Time to call it a day, Stevie. And Frank.
Philipp Lahm, what a player. Finally won everything to put him up there as one of history's all-time greats; international football will be a poorer place without him.
Alex G, THFC (wonder if he fancies spending his twilight years in N17)