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 add on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Father Christmas
For Christmas, I don't want my Arsenal back (I didn't think my Arsenal had ever gone anywhere), but I would like my Arsenal to have a few more ideas and be a little less sh*t please! How about fixing up some of these:
Step 1: Stop picking Gervinho and Ramsey. Please.
Step 2: Remember how we used to have movement off the ball so that there were always options for the man in possession? Let's do that again instead of the incredibly frustrating 'give it to Santi or Jack and expect them to run round everyone' (notable exception of Rosicky, who was actually creating space for everyone).
Step 3: We're not barcelona. I've really enjoyed us trying, but surely now we all realise it's just not us. How about having four in midfield again? Like the good old days! Rosicky and Santi can be the pretend wingers popping up wherever to help keep the ball moving and take some shots just like Pires and Ljungberg used to! Which leaves Arteta and Jack to hustle in the middle, with us going narrow if we get caught short in the centre.
Step 4: Rhat leaves Giroud, Podolski and Theo to choose two from up front. No-one will expect us to play two up front. It will be like the Spanish inquisition only with two of Giroud, Podolski and Theo and less thinking people are witches.
Step 5: Stop picking Gervinho and Ramsey (it really is important). Ramsey could probably go on loan to someone like Wigan or Fulham, he might come good again and I'd welcome him back, but it's not looking likely in an Arsenal shirt. Gervinho seems like he's trying, but he ends up as such a menace to anything we try to achieve I'm starting to think he might actually support Spurs.
Step 6: Bradford were a tough nut to crack last night, and all the best to them in the semis. But I'm still a little bit bitter so can we give them all the players like Djourou, Chamakh, Santos and Squillaci (and Park, Bendtner and Denilson who somehow we still own) who are blatantly never going to (or should never) kick a ball for us again but still pick up massive wages that mean they won't leave, and we can't replace the inevitable transfer mishaps with others in an attempt to build an actual squad.
A nice kid (which you can tell as I didn't go in for any Santa/Santi shenanigans)
Marcelo Bielsa. Juergen Klopp. Laurent Blanc. Joachim Low. Unai Emery. Michael Laudrup.
There, off the top of my head, are six affordable young managers who could replace Arsene Wenger. Last night's shambles proved that there is something wrong in this current Arsenal set-up that is now beyond repair.
Surely, after Norwich and Swansea, Wenger wouldn't send another team out that was ill-prepared to deal with a supposedly lesser side? Surely lessons would be learned and we wouldn't underestimate our opposition AGAIN? Unfortunately. last night showed he doesn't have the gumption or willpower to inspire that ruthlessness anymore, or that the players he has signed and picked won't do it for him.
The promotion of Steve Bould was supposed to bring about a change in attitude, so that the sloppy mistakes and brittle back line of seasons past would be no more. But here we are again, with Arsenal conceding more goals due to individual brainfarts than any other team.
We can complain about restrictions from the board - but the board didn't sign Gervinho when we already had Walcott and Arshavin in the 'ineffective wide forward' role, Arsene did. The board doesn't persist with the promising but unreliable Abou Diaby. Despite what the board and the manager constantly claim, this league is full of bargain players and managers performing with far more limitations than Wenger does. Is fourth place on a 'budget' good enough anymore? Yes we're in the knock-out rounds of the Champions League but does anyone seriously believe this side has the cojones to win a penalty shootout in the Bernabeu/San Siro/Nou Camp? We can't even do it at Valley Parade.
The mindset of this entire club needs to change. Results like last night happen too often to write off as unlucky. And as the one constant in the last few years is Arsene, replacing him is the only way to do that.
Ben (was anyone even remotely surprised when Gervinho missed that open goal?)
...I am fully aware that you will probably receive an abundance of 'Wenger Out' mails tonight but I still need to make my point (somehow it helps). First of all I would like to highlight that it was not the Bradford match which caused me to come to this decision but it does serve as a microcosm for everything wrong with the club. Some people may blame the players and say that they are not performing etc but at the end of the day the buck stops with the manager.
His persistence of playing Ramsey as a winger is truly baffling. Ramsey has the potential to be a decent midfielder. However he has literally none of the assets to be considered a winger such as pace or the ability to beat a player. At the moment Ramsey struggles enough with playing in his preferred position of midfield, thus to play him out of position stinks of a manager attempting to keep players happy by giving them games. Furthermore when an actual winger, Oxlade-Chamberlain is sitting on the bench this is inexcusable.
He also persists on playing Gervinho as a centre-forward. I actually believe that he is a somewhat capable winger but a centre-forward he is not. He has literally no composure or technique. Furthermore Podolski proved at Cologne that he is a efficient centre-forward who can finish chances whereas Gervinho struggles to finish his breakfast.
Despite these obvious flaws the team should have won. The defence looked leaky, as it always does. This defence should be solid when you look at it. Sagna is arguably the finest RB in the premier league and Mertesacker and Vermaelen are two solid centre-halves. Gibbs is also a very proficient LB who could some day be a regular for England. However they do not perform like they should. Ferguson his heralded rightly as a legendary manager, in no small way down to his ability to get the most from his players. Wenger has players who palpably under achieve lately. Years ago when players like Hleb and Flamini left and failed to hold their standards on other teams Wenger was praised for his foresight. Someone tell me how this is true in the last few years? Nasri, Fabregas, van Persie...and more than liekly Walcott????
This is not some rash outburst and even if we qualify for the Europe like last year (probably due to some other team's failings rather than out success) I will maintain my opinion. Wenger is a legend no doubt who I will always admire. His philosophy and the ways he changed the club for the better will surely grant him adoration from all Arsenal fans forever. The longer however this mediocrity remains the more his image will be tainted. I would love to be proved wrong and for Wenger to guide us to another period of success but I can't see it happening. The fact remains though that he seems immovable with a board more concerned with the bottom line than any success.
...Will you either kindly change your footballing approach at Arsenal or kindly f**k off out my club? Your current style is not working and constantly playing players out of position is not helpful to your cause. You got super lucky last season, this season you've managed to drop further whilst other teams have stepped up.
I firmly believe Arsenal have a decent set of players, there is some real talent and I wonder what other managers could do with the resources you have?
You're a lucky chap in that your next game is away, try and hit a few past Reading and get three points. Or you'll sadly come home to an atmosphere that is entirely your own doing.
Ali (yes, this might be a tad reactionary), Kensington
...Well done Bradford you deserved it.
That Arsenal side was woeful. You can't even really call them a team. How Gervinho is a professional football player is beyond me. I'd love to earn 60k a week to lose the ball every time I'm in possession.
Ramsey was also terrible but he's not a winger. Why was he playing on the wing? Maybe Stewie Griffin was right all along. It's time for Wenger to go and someone else to get a team together.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
Not Thierry Though
Ronnie Shumba AFC (maybe I just want a new coach), Johannesburg, please do not misplace your respect and admiration for Thierry as a player as having an ability to manage an elite club. Yes, Thierry is a club great and he would definitely be given time from both the fans and the board but when has he ever shown any sort of nous as a manager? It takes a very smart and intelligent man to be a great manager and there are many factors that need to be considered.
Many ex-players have gone on to manage their clubs, but these individuals have been leaders and legends of their respective club, and whilst Thierry is indeed a legend I did not think he was an incredible captain.
Yes, he was a big personality and had a mentality for the big games but never in his history at Arsenal or any other football club did I see any sort of managerial qualities.
Whilst I know using Wenger as an example as a great manager may irk certain people, I still believe he is a great and will overcome this spell to reaffirm his status within the club; and one of Wenger's greatest traits is the belief and support he shows to his players. Wenger has stood by all his players, even the ones who have left him prematurely for money or other reasons. I don't believe Thierry has this particular quality. I remember numerous occasions when Henry would frown or shrug or lambast one of his colleagues for not picking the right pass or not simply giving the ball to him sooner. This may be an example of a lack of patience, something that is essential for all modern-day managers.
Secondly, the man has no experience. Do you think United would give the manager's position to an ex-player just because he was great. Ferguson goes through a bad spell, retires, Guardiola and Mourinho are unavailable so United decide to opt for Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs to take the reins because they are 'constantly around the players' and already know and have a 'relationship with the current squad'.
I don't think so.
If Wenger does decide to step down, I would imagine a club like Arsenal and a man like Wenger would already have someone lined up. Wenger has turned down some of the biggest jobs in Europe because he has a strong affinity with Arsenal. He would never leave them without offering some advice or opinion on who he thinks would best serve the Arsenal philosophy.
We must also take into consideration that we offer a very exciting position for any aspiring manager. We have the foundation of an excellent team with exciting young prospects such as Wilshere, Chamberlain, Szczesny, Gibbs alongside established internationals Carzola, Podolski, Vermaelen, Sagna. We have a healthy budget that I'm sure would become available for a new manager to dip into in order to stamp their mark upon the team. And lastly we are an established, elite football club widely respected around the world.
We do not need to panic and do a Newcastle and elevate a former player with no managerial experience into a position that could well damage his status within the club. Let's be smart, take our time, weather the storm and see what happens.
JR, (Wenger may have lost some of his spark but he is by no means a dud), Arsenal, Saigon, Vietnam
Why Defeat Was Wenger's Fault
I think this loss rests mostly on Wenger's shoulders, here's why:
The players have to shoulder a good chunk of the blame but I think his first mistake was picking so many first-team players. They have looked shattered for the last few games and this was the perfect opportunity to rest them. The big internationals were always going to hard to motivate for a League Cup tie at Bradford and Wenger left himself no way out or excuse if we lost. The younger players would have had no problem being motivated to try and break into the first team. A team of our youngsters should be beating Bradford. Also, he has always used the League Cup to blood new players, why change now? I think Wenger messed this tie up from the off to be honest!
That said, I would have put my house on Tommy scoring that peno at 3-2.
Shane, confused Irish Gunner in Melbourne
Why Defeat Wasn't Wenger's Fault
I know many of my Gooner brethren are going to be railing against Arsene because of the Bradford loss, and I sympathise with their frustration, but something strikes me in all this that I'd like to share. The coach's job is to prepare his team to beat the other team, and we just take it for granted that this means that our team should win if the coach did their job correctly, but I think the true test of whether a coach has done his job correctly is to look at the chances the team has generated because that is what the coach can coach - finishing is down to the players themselves. Surely that is the place wherein they should take some responsibility. To that end, how many shots were missed by the Arsenal players against Bradford? Too many. I don't think anyone would argue with me on that point.
How is that Wenger's fault? He's picked a strong side, put the team in the position to score, and they've had countless opportunities to do just that. It's the players who've scuffed their shots wide; it's the players who've hit the crossbar, it's the players who've shifted feet when they should have struck; I do not see how this is Wenger's fault.
So where does one place the blame? I would suggest we apportion the blame in two places: first, the board and their inability to pony up the dough for players with the required mental toughness (and those players are easy to spot, aren't they? They're the players we discuss as world class); second, we need to blame the want-aways who took their skills with them and ran to other clubs for trophies or club love affairs. Surely if we still had Nasri, Fabregas, van Persie and their bottle, we'd be in a serious hunt for trophies this year (assuming we had still made the additions we've made since they left, which I recognize is a fantasy because of those jackasses who take position one in my schedule of blame). But their flight tells the players around them, quite explicitly, that they aren't good enough, and then those lesser players come to believe it.
I hear the response, that it must be Wenger's job to make them believe, and I agree that he has a hand in this, but he is fighting an increasingly difficult battle on this front, and it's a battle I'd be surprised to see another manager handle half so well, especially when his glass men are always as broken physically as they are mentally. He can't hold the aforementioned closers who will add bottle in the team because the board is cheap (see the pending loss of Walcott), and I don't see anyone with bottle coming in any time soon (although I thought Podolski was going to be that guy. Silly me).
Suffice to say, I want Wenger to stay, but I want the board to take some responsibility, and I want to see some players who have what it takes emotionally (and we shouldn't have to keep bringing Henry back for this to happen, but at least if he comes back someone with backbone will be kitting up). And I want some of the fans to call on the players to take responsibility. How long can they fail to finish, how long can we let them cough up the ball, how long can we blame their mistakes on Arsene? Until the Frenchman goes to Madrid and becomes a winner again, I imagine.
Brad, Canadian Gooner
Arsenal Are Shot
Anyone who follows boxing knows that there comes a time when your favourite fighter becomes old and shot. When the legs go and the combinations become slower and they start to take punches that years ago they would have bobbed and weaved away from.
You remember the glory days when they were world champion and used to destroy anyone who challenged them. Because of this you keep believing that it's still there and that a few flashy shots here and there mean they can still mix it with the best
Then finally there comes a beating. A depressing moment where a hungry but limited lower-level fighter outboxes and outhustles them and makes them look old. You watch as your hero sits on his stool with nothing to offer, going through the motions of taking shots that he knows are coming but can do nothing to stop.
Standing in the away end at Bradford last night watching Arsenal slump out of another competition triggered memories of watching Mike Tyson sat on his stool against Kevin McBride, a man he would have once destroyed. Knowing there is no way back to the levels of yesteryear but not wanting to admit this while those who dislike them rejoice in a slide into mediocrity. His wife and kids know he's finished,his fans do, and finally he realises and can do nothing. It's too late.
This is 2012 Arsenal.
Congratulations to Bradford though, they played us to perfection!
...First of all big congrats to Bradford City FC. They played very very well and thoroughly deserved to go through to the semis.
But Arsenal, oh my fickle, fragile, flawed Arsenal, what on earth was that? How a team with the fifth-highest wage bill in the Premier League can have only one passable striker is laughable. Gervinho's decision-making and finishing should prevent Wenger from picking him, and Chamakh is walking, talking proof that Wenger and Arsenal's penny pinching can backfire spectacularly. Arsenal waited a full year in order to get Chamakh on a free instead of forking out £7million. This resulted in the Gelled One getting a much higher salary than he deserved. One decent half a season in four years later and he's done nothing and is happy to turn up and collect his bloated salary till his deal runs out while no-one will take him off our hands because no-one is stupid enough to pay him what we've been paying him for the past four years!
And you have to ask yourself what exactly it is that Wenger does. It's well know his style of management is to, well, not manage. He likes his players to go out and express themselves freely on the pitch. This lack of management and leadership perhaps explains some of the baffling statistics Arsenal are responsible for. Like the stat by this fine site about the staggering number of goals conceded due to individual errors. It can also be the reason why nights like tonight are so possible. Wenger seems to have grown a serious disdain for tactics.
Whenever asked about how he will approach a game his answer is always the same - "er, well, we will go out and try to play our game" - this game of ours is to hog the ball, pass it around a lot and maybe if we're lucky score a goal or two. The problem with this is that for it to work, many many things need to be going our way. For a start Confidence needs to be high, passes need to be quick and accurate, technique needs to be flawless and if the oppo is defending well, players need imagination, audacity and all need to be on the same wavelength.
This is a lot to ask and it's even more to ask if you are lowering the quality of the players every season. Arsenal's obsession with doing it on the cheap means Wenger cannot 'build a team' capable of success. You simply cannot build a team if your prize players, the ones you build your team around, leave in the middle of your team building project. We went to 4-3-3 to accommodate Cesc, to give him more attacking freedom and less defensive responsibility. That was fine but then Cesc left. He left because he looked at our team and then he looked at Man U, Chelsea & City and thought "I'm never going to win anything here, whats the point in staying and torturing myself with failure year on year". Okay so Cesc is gone, do we tweak the formation to get the best out of the players we have? No, we instead ask a young Welshman to be as good as Cesc. That didn't go so well last year did it? Luckily Rosicky can do a better impersonation of Cesc and we managed to scrape third - oh yeah but not without the genius and goals from our Dutch captain who emerged as the best striker in the Premier League. What did we do with him? We sold him to the team who came second in the league on goal difference and finished 19 points ahead of us. Talk about bridging the gap!
Basically Arsenal are not a winning team anymore. We are a selling club who care only about qualifying for the Champions Lge. Our manager has lost the drive to win - he is rewarded handsomely for not winning anything, as his larger than Fergie salary proves. Our Chief Executive is more politician than football man and is also generously rewarded for a season that was a failure in every way but financially. Our players try but lack the leadership and direction from the manager and have tasted defeat under Wenger and have realised it doesn't taste too bitter at all! And the ones who still don't like the taste, the ones who are better than the rest? They bugger off for more money, less responsibility and more success.
It's only a matter of time before the fans do the same.
Being in Australia, watching midweek football means you need to wake up extra early in the morning. So this morning I dragged myself out of bed, admittedly after hitting the snooze button a couple of times, to watch Arsenal.
Switched on the TV.
First thing I see is Ramsey running down the right wing, falling over unchallenged after crossing the ball into his left leg and out for a goal kick.
Switched off the TV. Went back to sleep.
I didn't even look at the score. I didn't have to. That scene told me everything.
Hatim (Congrats Bradford) Abdulhussein, Melbourne Gooner
Arsenal are depending on a 30-year-old uncapped Spanish midfielder who accepted a lower salary to play Champions League football, to lead them to glory.
Pretty much sums it up for me.
Michiel (Kudos to Bradford though) Jongsma, The Netherlands
Mail From A Bradford Fan
While the mailbox this morning will be full of red-faced Arsenal fans bemoaning their team, I think in the Christmas spirit we shouldn't take anything away from how brilliant my Bradford City were. I don't even think the result does justice to how fantastic they were last night.
Here comes bullet points:
* Arsenal missed some gilt-edged chances, and we had some luck, but City were leading for 50+ minutes and should have scored again. Arsenal equalised in the 87th minute from a set-piece.
* Arsenal had a near-as-dammit first team out (minus Arteta). We had both our first-choice centre-backs out injured, and were missing arguably our best player (Kyal Reid).
* The Man of the Match was a 35-year-old who's only time spent outside the bottom two divisions was a brief stay in the Championship with Barnsley. He held it together against Wilshere and Ramsey.
* Because of the cups, Bradford City have played the most games out of any English side this season (the only way they can get us out of cups is to kick us out). We held out for 120 minutes against a fitter, stronger and faster side.
* Arsenal (13 successive Champions League seasons) v City (5 seasons in the middle of the bottom division).
* As some card on Twitter pointed out, Chamakh earns more each year than our squad put together. Take two Arsenal subs (any two!) and their weekly wage adds up to more than we've spent on transfers in the last ten years.
Last year some boffin made a co-efficiency to work out how well teams had done comparatively, since the turn of the century. He found that City (and Grimsby Town; hi Grimsby fans!) had been the worst performing. Since 2000, we have been on a constant downward trajectory.
So thank you Parky, Gary Jones and all the boys for restoring the pride of the City of Bradford and Bradford City. You will not find a prouder set of supporters this season. Bring on Leeds in the semis!
Pete (forgot to Sky+ the game last night, doh!) Scott, Pride of West Yorkshire
Best In The Solar System?
The travelling Arsenal faithful sang a rendition of 'By far the greatest team the world has ever seen' at 1-1. Does this mean that Bradford are by far the greatest team the Solar System has ever seen then?
Cliff Mallinder, AFC
Five years ago, Bradford City goalkeeper Matt Duke was being treated for cancer.
Since then, he's played in the Premier League with Hull City and last night helped Bradford City knock out Arsenal.
Truly an inspirational player.
Poachers Need Partners
I enjoyed Daniel Storey's article on the demise of the poacher. However, I feel he missed one important reason why poachers are no longer used. A poacher needs to play up front with someone else; either a player dropping into the hole or a big man. He used the examples of Lineker and Rush, but it is impossible to think of Lineker and Rush without also bringing to mind Beardsley and Dalglish. Most managers nowadays, especially at the highest levels, feel that they cannot win without controlling the middle of the park and that means playing three in centre midfield and sacrificing a striker. He could have also written an article about the decline of the second striker. In the 1990s in England we had Sheringham, Cantona, Zola, Bergkamp and Le Tissier all playing whereas now I cannot think of a single player who plays in the same way. So whilst football has moved on, I do still pine for the days of every top team having a bona fide strike partnership.
Who was your favourite striker partnership ever? I still feel all warm inside when I think about Sheringham and Klinnsman.
Pleased To Michu
As handsome as Juan Mata no doubt is, he is clearly only the second-best-looking Spaniard in the league. Michu has wowed us all with his goalscoring feats this season, but he's also a fine-looking chap. If you don't believe me, wait for his next brace against Arsenal who whoever his post-match interview. He has wonderful dark brown eyes, of such profundity you long to dive in and swim around in them for eternity.
Awesome hair, too.
I Don't fancy Mata
Juan Mata looks like my brother, so I may be the only person who doesn't fancy him. Oh, and every woman in town judging by my brother's relative success!
Ian, currently getting his coat, and a taxi, Stavanger