You might notice that we haven't included a single mail about teams in pubs, because most of them were terrible. Instead we have a disgruntled Fulham fan and Scouse maths...
Villa are the latest team to get the pub treatment, while the morning mailbox also includes missives on Tony Pulis leaving Stoke and Chelsea's future under Jose Mourinho...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Which Is The Best Club To Join?
There were a fair few tweets aimed at Eden Hazard last night, pointing out that joining Chelsea may not have proved to be a wise decision. I chuckled, still bitter that he didn't choose Arsenal (I know, I know...), but then it got me thinking...who is the team to join in the Premier League now? Which club is the one that stands out as the one that great players would want to be a part of?
First of all, please forgive me Newcastle/Everton/WBA fans, despite performances in this and recent seasons, I've highlighted teams who can be considered 'European top level' having qualified for the CL within the last 5 seasons. And so these are things I imagine I would consider if I were, let's say...Neymar, and I was looking at the Premier League.
Pros - Champions of PL/CL and likely future contenders, major resources at their disposal, very strong squads.
Cons - Abject European record this year (and last for City) - and the 'excuse'/reason most players give for moving is CL football, perceived as being devoid of soul and just about money (with the added problem of increased competition from PSG, Zenit, Anzhi et al) and FFP may (big may) cause some concerns for the long term future.
Pros - Challenging for European spots for last few seasons, stable club that seems well run with reasonable financial performance.
Cons - Very limited experience in CL, not certain to qualify for CL next year, weak squad when looking at high level performers, not likely to win silverware anytime soon.
Pros - Good history, profitable and stable, reputation for playing good football, reputation for bringing young players to their full potential 13 successive seasons in CL knockout stages.
Cons - Viewed as a stepping stone to bigger clubs due to financial policy, losing reputation (which I believe was vital in securing players) for playing the game beautifully, underperforming at present and not certain to qualify for CL next year, haven't won a trophy for years. FFP may be misleading if commercial revenue doesn't significantly pick up.
Pros - Great history, amongst top 10 commercial earners in Europe, relatively recent successes in CL.
Cons - Currently weak squad, underperforming in league for a few seasons now, chances of qualifying for CL this season are poor.
and now for the painful part...
Pros - Genuine title contenders for 20 years (even when 'playing poorly' as now), runaway leaders in financial revenue streams in UK (the Arsenal will benefit most from FFP is nonsense, United will own the league), regularly compete well in CL, best manager in the game, repeatedly invest in footballing talent
Cons - Weakest squad in recent years, erm...have to play with Wayne Rooney?
Unless something radical happens, Manchester United are going to be in the best position to attract the best players for another decade, and FFP will only re-enforce that. We can chuckle at Hazard, but only if he turned down Manchester United for Chelsea.
How can I be bitter about RVP joining them? Because I'm a football fan and logic means diddly. Therefore, all great footballers should want to play for Arsenal, just because we're Arsenal. Are you listening Bacary? Good.
Support For Euro 2020
The only people complaining about the Euros being hosted across different cities will be people from countries with a good chance of being host nations. For most countries in Europe this represents a chance to host the Euros without having to cough up for the whole thing. This means cities like Glasgow, Dublin, Riga, Bucharest, etc will get a chance to participate, cities which'll be great places to go and watch football in.
Glasgow has done a great job of hosting the Champions League and UEFA Cup finals in the last decade and now the fact that it's in a small country won't prevent it from hosting the Euros. It will be a waste of time if it tours around London, Milan, Madrid etc and then the whole shebang moves to Italy in 2024 however, this is a chance to widen access to football's second biggest party, not a greatest hits tour. Don't complain because it means England can't have it all to itself, for four of the five countries in the British Isles this is great opportunity, bigger countries can go back to grabbing the whole lot for 2024.
Also, it's much preferable to the double hosting farce where two teams get a by to the party, often at the expense of better teams
So, do the rest of your countrymen, and nearest neighbours a favour Wembley, and step aside, it's time to widen the net and take the road less travelled. You never know, you might like it.
...So, Euro 2020 is going to be...Europe Euro 2020. And that's UEFA being evil cash grabbers, right?
Well maybe not; if you look at the other bids for Euro 2020. There was a half hearted bid from Turkey (who'd rather host the 2020 Olympics) and two last minute bids from Ireland / Scotland / Wales (on the day of bids closing) and Azerbaijan / Georgia (9 days after the bids were meant to have closed). Both also couldn't make their minds up about whether they wanted to collaborate or be individual hosts.
So what were UEFA to do? Give it to hosts who didn't really want it - and would have been stretched by trying to afford it? Now it's not to say that it's an amazing idea but they didn't really have an amazing option.
It could work as long as UEFA stick to a few key principles. 1) Make sure the host cities are in countries who cannot sustain an entire Euros (Dublin, Baku, Budapest, Copenhagen etc.) 2) Separate the groups into geographical regions - Group A in the Celtic nations, Group B in the Baltics etc. 3) Let smaller countries who qualify play in their own capital cities.
Oh, but do get rid of the ridiculous 24 team idea - that one really is a stinker.
...I think F365 editorial is confusing the situation by merging two different and separate issues. The first is expanding the European Cup from 16 to 24 teams. This is indeed a bad idea because it dilutes the quality by adding 8 average teams, and it also screws with the neat mathematical precision of 4 groups of 4 and will necessarily introduce 'best seconds' or 'best thirds', or 3-team groups. It screws with a hugely successful format, it's messy, it's unnecessary.
BUT... once the flawed decision to move to 24 teams has already been taken, having the cup held in venues across Europe and with no national host makes sense. Firstly, a 24-team tournament will require at least 12 modern grounds of minimum 40k capacity, ideally quite a few 60k and a couple of around 80k for the big matches. That means there's only 2 countries that could ever host the Euros alone (England and Germany). For most other co-hosting options, it would mean 3 or 4 countries involved, and even more teams that are taking part as hosts.
With matches spread around Europe, there would be no hosts, so although the 24-team tournament dilutes quality, at least all the teams will be there on merit. This will also allow hosting of matches by big cities with great stadiums in otherwise poor footballing countries (Dublin, Glasgow and Cardiff all spring to mind, as well as Istanbul, Moscow, Stockholm...) who would have very little chance of ever hosting a European Cup game. Such cities could host games even if their national team isn't taking part.
And Europe is sufficiently small that the distances don't matter too much. Gdansk and Donetsk, the 2 furthest-apart venues in this year's Euros, are almost 1500 km apart. Rome to London, or Madrid to Berlin are shorter distances, and a LOT better connected.
Rafa Be Cool With It
I think there is a need to question the meta-narrative that Rafa Benitez is having a problem at Chelsea as he is felt to be an interim choice. Mr. Benitez seems to be a reasonably intelligent fellow, and it just doesn't seem like someone would walk into the situation as described.
It's become clear that there is no possibility of a manager staying for longer than 12 months under Roman Abramovich. He would clearly like to be doing it himself, but cannot, and so those under him shall only survive for as long as they fit within his own personal vision. The management of the club cannot be understood outside this context. There is no project, there is no long-term vision. There is only Roman playing FIFA 2012 with real players. He can't play himself. He can't coach himself. Anyone at Chelsea is only there to fulfill his desire to live vicariously.
I think Rafa Benitez knew this going in. His only goal, therefore, is to march the team as far as he can in the competitions it has remaining, and get the team playing as a professional, effective unit. Then, try to quit before he can be sacked, so that he can say "Of course I intended to be an interim manager. You've all seen the way Chelsea is run. No long-term project or management is possible. I only could control team selection and tactics and so took the team as far as was possible under the limitations of the Chelsea organization. Did you honestly think anything else was possible?"
Then he can promote himself to other teams on the basis of how far he took Chelsea while handicapped by Chelsea, essentially saying "you've seen how I coped with Liverpool's situation, and Chelsea's." Listen to me and think how far we can go if you let me do it my way.
I honestly don't see any other reason for a professional manager with a reputation to protect to walk into Chelsea and accept the job. It is strictly career suicide unless the coach can control the messaging on those terms.
Last season I went to both Santiago Bernebeu and Camp Nou; on both occasions I had wonderful seats behind a goal, and situated just behind the 'ultras' of both Real and Barca.
On both occasions there were 2 or 3 conductors, who, armed with loudspeakers, would conduct the crowd. The conductors would face the crowd, singing whatever song they felt was necessary or hadn't been sung for a while. They even pointed to members of the crowd who weren't singing in order to humiliate them into singing along too.
I found this as fascinating as the football; these were guys who clearly loved their clubs so much they weren't interested in watching them play, they wanted to make sure everyone was supporting their side as much as they were. Can you imagine paying whatever Barca or Real charge for a season ticket, only to spend the year with your back to the action? Ridiculous.
... Am I too late for the chants? Been away for a couple of days so it may have come up before but the best one I ever heard comes from 2004/5 era Liverpool to the tune of 'Blame It On the Boogie'
Don't blame it on the Biscan,
Don't blame it on the Hamaan,
Don't blame it in the Finnan,
Blame it on Traore.
He just can't,
He just can't,
He just can't control his feet.
Anyone who remembers this will easily understand where it comes from.
"I'm a versatile player who can operate in a number of different positions so I'm comfortable with whatever formation the manager picks." Ashley Young, December 2012
It's easy to be versatile when you're the sum total of bugger all use in every position.
Just to remind everybody, Mr. Young cost about £4m more than Mesut Ozil.
There seems to be an abundance of pessimism regarding United's chances this weekend which I find strange for the following reasons...
1. United have scored the most goals in the league this season, with arguably the best attacking line up currently on offer (agreed Rooney has been below par, but contributes by now playing a deeper role - allowing RvP and Hernandez to do damage)
2. By and large City have regressed since last season. Mancini doesn't seem to know who his best striking options are - not ideal when selecting your strongest XI for a big game.
3. Yaya Toure - pretty ineffectual when compared to last season, probably tired from carrying the team for so long.
4. Utd have sold Ji Sung Park. This has to be the game changer for me. With Park no longer an option, Ferguson will actually have to play attack minded players and not just another workhorse.
5. Attack is the best form of defence: See Utd 3-2 Chelsea, 4-3 Reading etc.
6. Gareth Barry and James Milner. I really hope these two play.
7. As for City being unbeaten in the league, that is nothing more than a hollow title seeing as they're 3 points behind Utd (who incidentally have already lost 3) so by all means I hope city keep on drawing, keeping their unbeaten status intact and handing the initiative to Utd.
8. Finally, Mancini's messing with 3 at the back. No doubt we will see this in some form this weekend to comical effect. Yes there are those opportunists who will claim it won the game at spurs...yada yada. Good, but facing teams with a lethal attack (i.e Real Madrid) it's been a shambles.
Obviously these are only a select few reasons, but thought I should at least suggest a counter to the overbearing Pessimism on display. Also, a significant factor is Utd's midfield now that our two/three most dynamic players are all out injured (Ando, TC23, Kagawa). Still better than Barry and Milner though.
More On Head-To-Head
Will Donovan appears to have missed the logic behind the head-to-head rule in the Euros. Each team played each other once, so in that format, head-to-head can keep each group alive until the last kick of the last group match. Exciting. But if applied to a league with a two game structure (mini-league or full domestic league) it becomes a hindrance.
It should only be applied, when teams are level on points and goal difference, at the completion of all games, as results of each match contribute the final table standings. In that respect, it still favours the side with the better head-to-head result. But if applied from the beginning, it means a team can qualify before the final games are played, and finish with equal points and worse goal difference than a team the head-to-head will eliminate. Hardly, induces nail-biting tension does it?
Regarding the Euros (one game league format), I'm with Will 100%, because it leads to teams trying in every game. But.if you want excitement in the two game league format, keep the head-to-head rule out it until the end, when there's nothing to separate teams and it becomes a perfectly legimtate way to determine who qualifies.
You Can't Tell Roy Keane To 'Man Up'
Dear Secret Footballer have you ever been shot in the back of your leg by a sniper ?
No didn't think so, so man up a little.
Thanks For Sharing
Earlier this morning I poked myself in the eye with safety goggles. One of life's little ironies.
It's not football related, but I thought I'd share it with y'all anyway.
Chris, Basildon (I only expect this to be even slightly considered for publishing if it's a horribly slow day for the mailbox)