Man United's winning run was halted by ten-man Aston Villa as Louis van Gaal's side struggled to crack the hosts' resistance. Van Gaal is still waiting for a big performance...
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...
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Warm Apple Pie
You know that moment in a teen comedy when a girl catches a virgin out and asks him 'you have actually done this before right?'
That's how I feel every time Ed Woodward opens his mouth and adds £10m to every transfer target's price. And I'm not even a United fan!
Why The Obsession With The Captaincy?
Can someone please explain the English media and supporters' obsession with who will captain the national side (or even club sides)? No other country seems to care as much. It's a personal honor for the player, sure, but why should anyone else care? What difference does it make on the pitch?
Put it this way, I can't imagine England's World Cup campaign would have been much different had Rooney, Baines, Hart or any other player been captain instead of Gerrard.
There has been a bit of media noise about the whole "lack of captaincy material" for England now that Gerrard has retired.
I've a simple solution to propose. Just give the armband to whoever has the most caps in the current line-up. This will all so avoid any silliness around dramatic media narratives when whoever is the captain inevitably does something naughty and has to be "publically stripped" of the position "not being the right sort of character" etc. No one will really care when you take the whole moral narrative out of the captaincy and as an added bonus - more capped players (read, players in their 30s) are probably less likely to be found rolling around in a pile of XXXXX at a XXXXX XXXX than some 23-year-old.
...I can understand why having an official captain is necessary for a tournament, but during qualifying do England even need one? The side are going through a real transition at the moment, and Hodgson has shown himself to be reasonably prepared to drop big names and bring in young/unfashionable players. So it's hard to name many players who are guaranteed a starting place at the moment, let alone will still have one in two years time. So why doesn't Hodgson just name a captain on a game-by-game basis. Or even better, do what West Brom did back in the 2004-5 season and get the squad to vote on a captain before each match! (Admittedly that didn't work out too well for them).
...Rickie Lambert should captain England. He worked in a beetroot factory, in case anybody didn't know.
Well, He Can't Defend Himself. POW!
I wouldn't have Baines as captain either - he doesn't have the mentality or personality to influence an entire team from left back, in my opinion.
But the idea that Baines is somehow not good enough for the England team or even squad, as put forward by a youngster with terrible English skills in the Tuesday afternoon mailbox, is frankly absurd. Yes, 24 is young and no, I'm not bothering to remember your name.
Baines didn't have a good World Cup but was no worse than anyone else. Literally the same as most of them, under-par and played a part in the team's elimination. But where does the idea that we should just start Luke Shaw from now on come from? Luke Shaw who, at just 18 and in his first England start was at fault for one of Ecuador's goals in the pre-tournament warm up (remember those games and the one against Peru at Wembley where Baines got 2 assists from corners? No? You surprise me). This makes him more suitable for international football than Leighton 'Lets a good player get a cross in because he was out of position covering for Rooney' Baines? Interesting idea but not for me.
Maybe Gibbs is the answer but I'd like to see him play a full season first before I judge him. He'll be 25 this season and I'm still waiting - how can England rely on a player who is permanently injured? They can't. Gibbs was getting stick for not closing Deulofeu down one of the last times I saw him. Was that 'defending like a 6 year old' too?
Every team needs a few steady players and Baines should be one for England because he is always available, performs to a similarly high level every game and won't cry off because his club manager tells him to.
That really should be enough but in this country we like to obsess over every mistake and hold them against a player, preferring to hurry the next one along so we can burn him once he makes his mistake in the spotlight.
Baines and Gibbs (if fit, and in that order) will be fine for Euro 2016. Shaw can be brought along slowly - he'll still be defensively naïve, 19 and still without European experience by the end of this season - what on Earth is the rush to have him starting for his country?
...There have unsurprisingly been a lot of emails covering the identity of the next England captain. I would like to just chuck in a thought each on 3 of the mentioned candidates.
Leighton Baines. It is a shame that the recent emails have been deriding his ability. I never believed the permanent class of Ashley Cole (footballing class) should have been overlooked. However that doesn't make Baines a bad player. But I think that Luke Shaw should be, and likely will be the first choice left back at least by the time we reach the Euros (along with almost every other team in the qualifiers - oh dear, but that's another story).
Gary Cahill. It has been pointed out on many occasions that he is not the leader in the Chelsea defence, and I don't believe he takes on that role in the England defence either. Whilst Cahill is arguably more talented, Jagielka seems to be the voice and the organiser. Therefore I believe Cahill to also be unsuitable for the role.
Joe Hart. It has been said somewhere that he is the only guaranteed starter. I would suggest that there is a possibility he may not be Manchester City's first choice, therefore could not be England's first choice over the coming few years. Allow me to explain. Man City have signed Willy Caballero. He is really an excellent goalkeeper (and he's called Big Willy). He could well despose Hart in the Man City goal, as alluded to here on F365's 'Spanish Thing'. Pellegrini is a fan of him after managing him at Malaga. Therefore the England captain could not be playing. That, and the lack of influence a goalkeeper can have (unable to get about and talk to/pass instructions to team mates) suggests that Hart would also be a bad choice.
I don't have a suggestion as to who it should be, I just wanted to point out that most of the suggestions were not good ones.
I guess I want to pass comment on the fourth candidate too.
Wayne Rooney. Oh please no! His lack of suitability has been covered elsewhere.
DF (So think of someone else...) AFC
Liverpool Doing A Spurs
I have just read Stanger's article (who I do really like BTW) about Liverpool 'not doing a spurs'. I have to say I'm getting fairly p*ssed off with this Daily Mail style put down of Spurs. Tell me you guys at F365 haven't jumped on the click monster brigade. Now believe me, I am far from a fanatical 'everything my club does is right' fan and the problems that arose from our transfer business last summer are evident - Namely AVB's sacking. But I just want to really clarify and dissect these flops/failings Spurs made last year and do a little comparison, which Stanger admits is the popular pastime of modern football:
First of all the signings, the fees and success/failure they achieved.
Roberto Soldado: £26M - Many see him as a flop, he scored 11 Goals (obviously not great but hardly disastrous in a team that play 1 up front). Torres has 11, Rooney 19.
Erik Lamela: £26M - Injured since Christmas and had a couple of sub appearances before that due to power struggle with AVB and Baldini etc - Hardly his faulty and hardly a flop.
Christian Eriksen: £11M - Undoubted success to even the most ignorant of opposing fan.
Vlad Chiriches: £8M - Very astute and competent defender that has a very good career ahead of him.
Paulinho: £17M - 50/50 season, started well and faded later after the annual Charlie Adam assault on the spurs players ankles - No doubt a very good player but does need to show more of course.
Etienne Capoue: £8M - After a nasty ankle injury against Arsenal, simply couldn't get back into the team with Sandro, Dembele, Paulinho and then Sherwood's stepson Bentaleb ahead of him.
Nacer Chadli: £7.5M - I can't even defend him, I will give you him - - He's Cack.
So overall this collective Spurs failings/flops tag is ridiculous when you actually look at these and not just resort to lazy profiling and even lazier journalism. A quick glance at just some of the mighty Rogers and his world beating signings in the last two windows, Sturridge aside, he has signed: Iago Aspas £9M, Joe Allen £15M, Luis Alberto £7M, Thiago Ilori £8M, Sakho £18M. And yet nobody says (name club) are doing a Liverpool.
Just Ridiculous and Lazy really.
Lee (not even mentioning - Moses, Cissokho or Sahin)
They Grow Up So Fast
Maybe it's because he's just fighting the good fight against mailbox verbosity. Or maybe it's because he has had a secret crush on me all these years (i've told you before Chris, if you wanna be my lover you've gotta get with my friends) but it appears the day has finally come.
I've been waiting for a long time. And so it is. Finally Chris ITFC, Liverpool has been criticised by someone in the mailbox. Yep, that's how much it means to me - I'm actually writing in to express my joy. After years of being killed by this guy in the mailbox, someone has finally given him a sharp jab back into place.
How does it feel, Chris? I hope you enjoyed it. Because this is just the start. This the first step in my eventual plan to let us youngsters take over the mailbox.
The future's now, old man.
Jack, 20, London (yep, not a teenager anymore)
I enjoyed your top 10 youngsters tipped to breakthrough this season and wanted to add Jordan Ibe into the mix. He is similar to Sterling a couple seasons back but taller and possibly stronger naturally than Sterling was when he first came through.
Ibe played a big part in keeping Birmingham up in the championship on the last day of the season and under Brendan's influence his decision making should improve which means Liverpool will have another pacey and direct wide forward.
So by all means call me up on this if I'm wrong but Ibe will be a hero.
So finally someone has summoned up the courage, looked inside themselves and asked the toughest question a professional player can face - "Yeah but can I do it on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke?".
Fair play Bojan. Good luck sir. I look forward to cringing at the terrible "Mr Bojan-goals" headlines to follow in the future.
David (all square Simo) P, MUFC
...After playing at Barcelona, Roma, Milan and Ajax, at all of 23, Bojan Krkic, Champions League winner Bojan, the first "next Messi" Bojan, is moving to Stoke. Stoke! I am totally speechless. I think this probably tops Gravesen to Madrid or even Faubert to Madrid (seriously, what were they smoking?).
I wonder how he'll react to being Shawcrossed in training.
AB MUFC (In the words of the immortal Tommy Wiseau, "You're tearing me apart, Mark Hughes!") Atlanta, Stateside
Olly Cole, THFC's one club XI makes me moist.
I'll try my best to be a bit different. Some pretty nice finds here. Germans.
GK Packie Bonner (2nd greatest goalkeeper of all time - after Shay Given)
DF Gary Kelly
DF Tony Adams
MF Wolfgang Overath
MF Steven Gerrard
MF Joao Pinto
FW Uwe Seeler
FW Lionel Messi