Matt Stanger watched Mesut Ozil answer his critics with a telling contribution in Arsenal's 3-0 thrashing of Aston Villa. It's now a question of playing him alongside Alexis Sanchez...
That's the message from a Man United fan in the mailbox. Plus, thoughts on Paul Lambert's new contract, the Alan Pardew dilemma at Newcastle and lots more...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is Travel Really An Issue?
I read Chris, ITFC, email this morning and while much of what he says I agree with - big clubs going afar in pre-season for purely commercial gains is correct. However, his assumption that travelling far and wide could hamper the preparations may be out-dated. Didn't Liverpool go to Australia last year and subsequently have their best run in the league in donkeys years? Pretty sure Man City went to the USA and didn't do too bad. Likewise Real Madrid - La Decima wasn't the worst return. While I agree that travelling thousands of miles can't be the best preparation - these are professional athletes who are conditioned to recover pretty quick.
He also suggests that results in friendlies are by and large meaningless as its just about preparation, honing formations, team cohesion etc. I too used to believe that and then some years ago I realised I was wrong. Two years ago Liverpool have a poor pre-season they carried it into the league - got off to a dreadful start. Last year was a good pre-season and they carried that form into the season with a good start. Utd were poor last pre-season and while they won their opening league match - they quickly reverted to form.
I think form and results in pre-season can be more important than we like to believe. It may form and shape the general morale and mood within a squads camp.
Suck It Up, Louis
I'm a Man U fan, but come on Van Gaal - where do you think the pennies are coming from to buy the players? If you want to make signings, you are going to need money. In a corporate world of modern football that we have these days you need to give the sponsors an incentive to part with record-breaking amounts of cash. And yes we need to be selling Rooney shirts too.
I might suggest to my company that they take us on a 13,000-mile, all expenses paid, pre-season trip around the USA before we all get back into the work season. I can't imagine it's all that exhausting to be honest. Are they slumming it on cheap flights & youth hostels?
Let's not forget they are playing football too...football. They have it hard these Premier League lads.
Van Gaal The Best Manager?
I opened the mailbox today and the first entry was from a Man U fan lamenting the team not signing Vidal. It was mostly a sensible view of the world, but one comment made me wince in frustration : "We already have at least the 3rd best squad in the league with the best manager " I'll take each point in turn, but this seems to be a classic Man U fans way of looking at the world with a sense of entitlement comparable only to Liverpool.
Firstly, the comment about the squad. On what planet can a Man U fan believe they have at least the 3rd best squad? This is a team that has lost experienced pros (Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra) from what was an average defence by their standards and only brought in Herrera (no international or champions league experience) and Shaw (talented, but again, very limited top level experience). As for the rest of the squad? Except for 3 world class forwards in Rooney, RVP and Mata, all I see is a blend of "not quites" in Wellbeck, Nani, Chicarito, Smalling, Kagawa" etc and "definitely not good enoughs" in Anderson, Young, Cleverley, Zaha, Valencia etc".
Sure, there are some decent squad players there, but having a large squad does not mean it is full of quality. Assuming that he means that Chelsea and City are #1 and 2, Arsenal must be 3rd with a great selection of midfielders, 2 very competitive goal-keepers and well rounded options in defence. They only really look weak in the out and out striker position. You could even make an argument that though Liverpool lost Suarez, their actual squad has much more talent than Man U and they certainly have less of the utter dross. Wasn't everyone else saying that Man U needed major rebuilding but all of a sudden LVG shows up and its "the third best squad in the league"?
This segues nicely into LVG- the "best manager in the league". Firstly, on what basis? The fact that his team beat LA Galaxy in a friendly? In terms of pure win % LVG (61%) is behind Mourinho (67%) and is also behind in terms of major trophies, with Mourinho having won 7 league titles + 2 Champions leagues compared to LVGs 6 league titles + 1 Champions league, and Mourinho has been managing for a significantly shorter period of time. There are also other great managers in the league, if you chose not to measure on stats - Rogers has done great things at Liverpool, Pellegrini has shown himself to be both versatile and highly adaptable and Wenger has as great track record over his whole league career.
While Van Gaal is undeniably a good manager, he is up in a league against some highly successful managers and clever and resourceful tacticians (and Sam Allardyce). Putting him on a pedestal without him having ever managed in the league is ludicrous and he needs to show that he can lead one of the biggest clubs with massive resources to sustained success to be considered one of the best in the league. Simply showing up is not enough,
Honesty, it's shaping up to be a great season, without the daft hyperbole.
Supporting The Local Team
I'm fortunate to live within a mile of the team I support and certainly don't envy those who have to travel a colossal distance for home team matches. Whilst respecting the travels and commitment of Robbie DFC and Darth_Harro who clearly have their local teams they make the effort to go see, they're emails reminded me of something I really don't understand. Those who support a club as their first team who they will never have the opportunity/gumption to see in the flesh. I'm sorry to rant, or if this sounds snobbish but the emails that end a long the lines of : 'So and So, insert far off town (MUFC till I die)' saddens me. Not just the MUFC ones.
The greatest satisfaction I've had from football was in 11/12 when I managed making it to every 1st team fixture, home and away. For that year the stats in travel read as 9000 miles covered, and about 6 solid days spent in a car. One highlight was being one of 4 away fans to travel to fleetwood on a Tuesday night... We got spanked 6-2, but I was one of four Fleet fans who made that trip, and looking back I feel quite privileged to have made it there. I appreciate this is a pretty extreme example but on the other side of this I feel sorrow for fans who will never even have the privilege of turning up and seeing a solitary home win.
I apologies to those who make the monumental trips to see their teams when they can and who do also support their local/hometown sides as I appreciate the efforts they make and also their outsider perspective on the English game, I'm certainly not aiming my ire at you, I would just love to see a few more mails that finished with a correspondents home town team being who they support. Rather than it being a rare novelty.
Thomas Dixon, Gravesend (EUFC)
The mail this morning about the world cup spray reminded me of an idea one of my mates had when we were drinking (no excuse) which deserves to be shared but perhaps not implemented.
He was annoyed about goalkeepers moving forward off their line when facing a penalty and said that the vanishing spray should be used by the ref to draw a line which the keepers should not be allowed to move in front of when a penalty is being taken.
You and I might call this the goal-line.
Garey Vance, MUFC
To follow on from Lily, AFC's observation regarding teams having two 'first-choice' goalkeepers - I noticed this too, specifically when City bought Willy Caballero the other week. I've not seen many live Malaga games in recent years but from what I've read on this site, he's been very impressive and it shouldn't be assumed that Joe Hart is head and shoulders above him, nor that Hart will be the first-choice pick for Pellegrini.
My immediate thoughts on why teams are doing this are:
- They can afford it.
- With the transfer window in place, losing a game-changing goalkeeper through injury early in the season and replacing them with a good but not great back-up keeper just isn't good enough for teams challenging for titles.
- There's generally competition in every other part of the pitch, so why not in goal too?
And from the keepers' point of view:
- With two equally good keepers vying for contention they will both (in theory) get more game-time than a traditional second-choice goalkeeper would.
- It's a chance to play, if not every week, at clubs who are regularly in the Champions League and challenging for honours, rather than being the outright first-choice at a club in the next tier down.
And from Man City's point of view:
- They're trying to stockpile goalkeepers named after body parts. Next signing: Magnus Hedman. You heard it here first.
Dan, (now trying to think of other keepers with body part names) Hove
A Bit Harsh
In response to Silvio Dante's email about Marko Marin, I think he's being a bit harsh on Chelsea (I know that's an Oxymoron)
Marin went from being a great prospect in his first couple of seasons at Bremen, the German Messi (yawn) no less but apparent ego issues, lack of hard work and constant falling out with team mates saw him being benched for the a lot of his last two seasons before Werder let him go to Chelsea for 6 million Euros.
When he first arrived at Chelsea he obviously had competition for the wide spots but failed to make an impression and looked hopelessly off pace and generally woeful whenever he came on. I completely understand that players need time to regain their rythmn, confidence etc but at no point did Marin look like he had the hunger or tenacity to even attempt to make a career for himself at the Bridge. Compare this with Mata, Oscar and Hazard when they arrived. They came with bigger names and transfer fees but all of them shone immediately in the team and Marin looked lightyears away from them when he easily has the talent to be at their level.
I watched Bremen quite a lot when Marin was in his pomp and he was one hell of a player, capable of easing past opponents like they didn't exist and finding repeated killer balls but that was a long time ago and the fact that Bremen were happy to cash in on him for a relatively paltry sum shows you all you need to know about his standing when he left. He went from the German World Cup team of 2010 to not being anywhere near their 2012 Euro team.
I hope I'm proven incorrect as he clearly has bags of talent and despite looking like he belongs out of Grimms Fairy Tales he could be an amazing player but I get the impression his ship has sailed at the top level and he'll just end up as another flash in the pan footnote see: Diego Ribas, Hatem Ben Arfa, Laurent Robert, Denilson et al
I enjoyed the article this morning on cricket commentators and pundits as opposed to football's. As a football fan in a family of cricket nuts, I've been exposed to my fair share of cricket (and I do enjoy it if I'm honest), and it's always amazed me just how good the cricket coverage is.
Part of this I think is down to time. Cricket pundits have a lot more time to form opinions, find niches and points interest in the game and express them. Concepts like the 'third man', where a commentator takes time to watch video during the match and find points of interest that can't be covered by the regular team (bowling technique for example), would be fascinating if translated to football, but also more difficult to do. Where would you put it? You've got fifteen minutes at half time, and that's it really. There are rarely lulls in play that allow for anything more than a very quick mention. Features like Neville and Carragher's pre match analysis on Monday Night Football should be far more prevalent before and after the match (who both do an excellent job of matching cricket output in my view).
This leads to situations where very few pundits seem engaged or interested in what they're delivering. Whether this is due to time constraints, instructions from above to keep it simple, or lack of interest, I'm unsure (with Lawro it's definite lack of interest though!) This also translates to commentary, where 'say what you see', as if it's radio, and 'ooh was that a dive was it?' is favoured over allowing silence, interjecting opinions and humour where necessary - something cricket commentary does very well. The commentary is also carried out by the pundits which means the same qualities are carried over, and they continue to be insightful, engaged, etc. The networks do sometimes look to do this, but too often it seems to be more about hitting the demographics and not ruffling feathers.