He is one of a number of solid shouts for players that look old before their time. We also have the final words on lovely D-Beck and a rejection of end of season playoffs...
That's one opinion, but others give their thanks to the man. We also have ideas for a relegation playoff, happy memories of the season and a defence of Liverpool's campaign...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Messi: Really Not That Good
Over the last week, I've pondered this; and rather than just send in when rankled, I've simmered on it. I still feel the same way. I know it's not a particular popular (or, for that matter, original) line to take, but Messi is overrated.
Even with an incredible team around him, he's done little on the international stage. He's only ever played for one side, that is entirely geared around getting the best out of him. He plays in a league where he only has to face one other top-level team (reminds me of Henrik Larsson). And finally, he's been taking growth hormones since he was a kid...how does that not qualify as performance-enhancing? He certainly wouldn't have been the same player without them.
Don't get me wrong, he's a cracking player, and scores an incredible number of goals but - as per a discussion I've been having in the office - I'd pick Ronaldinho in his prime over Messi in his, every single day of the week. And he's been a success and lit up everywhere he's played, including at international level. The things he can do with a ball make a mockery of our own praise of Rooney, even though he's a special player.
Until Messi does that, how can he ever be compared to Maradona, Pele or the fat Ronaldo?
Guy S, (just one more day of this Messi-fawning to go - roll on the apocalypse)
Fergie Killing People?
In light of the news from Mexico suggesting the frequency of violent crime decreases whenever Hernandez plays for United, does Sir Alex have an ethical imperative to play him at every opportunity? And if he doesn't is Fergie not somehow complicit in these crimes?
This is an outrage.
Love from Conor
Team Of The Season So Far
Following in the theme of reviewing the season so far, I'd like to offer my Team of the Season so far...
GK: Petr Cech - Not been spectacular but hasn't dropped any major clangers that I can think of. Consistent Number One for Chelsea in what has been a bad first half of the season for goalkeepers in general. All the best 'keepers have either been injured (Krul, Szczc......Sczcz....Arsenal's keeper!), rotated (De Gea, Lloris) or a bit rubbish by their own standards (Hart, Reina). Begovic and Jaaskelainen have both been solid but unspectacular also, but they don't have to play behind David Luiz!
RB: Rafael Da Silva - Massively improved defensively (and, most importantly, his concentration) and is genuinely the most exciting attacking full-back in the league. Just pips Zabaleta and Johnson for me.
LB: Leighton Baines - Who else?! A left-back who is solid defensively and an actual attacking threat. As good as they are, Cole and Evra flatter to deceive in an attacking sense as they link well with their wing man and attack at pace, but neither can actually cross a ball and don't score many neither. Baines links well with his wing man and can both cross and score goals on top of that.
CB: Jonny Evans - He and Rafael have really been showing up the more senior half of the United defence this season. Composed, two-footed and now with added aggression, surprising everyone by turning into a true class act.
CB: Jan Vertonghen - I was torn between Vertonghen and his partner in crime, Steven Caulker, as both have been excellent coming into the Tottenham team this year so it really was a flip of a coin between the two. Assou-Ekotto's return should allow these two to form what should be an exciting centre-back pairing and a quality looking back four for Spurs.
CM: Juan Mata - Would be easy to overlook Mata, taking him for granted in favour of Santi Cazorla, as Cazorla is new to the Premier League and has been excellent, but Juan Mata is a class above him and pretty much every other creative player in the Premier League in my opinion and has been brilliant again this season.
CM: Marouane Fellaini - Never seen anyone bring the ball down on their chest more than Fellaini did in the Everton-United game alone. That bit of class rather than heading the ball on turns a hoof into a great pass. He's one of those players who plays the game at his own pace, which are my favourite type of player to watch (Berba, Ibra, that type of player). Also a violent b@st@rd!!
CM: Michu - Had him in my Fantasy Team since day 1 and he won't be going anywhere soon. Goals, goals, goals and at a low, low price!
FW: Luis Suarez - Don't make me say nice things about him!
FW: Robin Van Persie - Don't really need to elaborate, simply the best centre-forward in the Premier League. That horse placenta a few years ago has turned him into a goalscoring monster!
FW: Demba Ba - A return to form after a difficult second half to last season. I for one thought that he might have been a flash in the pan but have been proven wrong by his form so far this season. Will Papiss Cisse have a similar turn of fortune come the New Year??
Bench: Begovic, Zabaleta, Caulker, Dembele, Cazorla, Defoe, Benteke
Kev The Clarke, MUFC (....which explains why Rafael pips it for me), Skem
Mid-Season Review Continued
After sneaking my mail in at the last minute, figured I owed to good folks at F365 the continuation of the mid-season review. Otherwise I should have called it Mid Season Review for the Top 5. Much less punchy, I think you'll agree.
Everton - So, this is what Everton are like when the get a half-decent start to the season. The question now will be whether or not they can maintain or even build on this start, or will this simply be a reverse of seasons past. Losing Fellaini for only three games must seem like an early Christmas present, and holding on to him through January will be key.
Player of the Season: Marouane Fellaini - Frobutt notwithstanding, the big Belgian has been excellent this campaign. Strong and scoring goals it was only a matter of time before David Moyes did his thing where he plays midfielders as strikers.
Moment of the Season: Opening-day win against Manchester United. Set the tone for the first part of their season.
West Brom - I think everyone agrees that they have been the surprise package of the season so far. In a bit of a rut at the moment, and need a win desperately. Baggies fans will be pleased that they've turned the Hawthorns into a fortress.
Player of the Season: Claudio Yacob - The midfielder has been instrumental in keeping things ticking over West Brom, and it's no coincidence their last two results have been without him.
Moment of the Season: Beating Chelsea and heaping pressure on their former manager.
Norwich - Despite most people thinking that Chris Hughton's quite a decent manager, Norwich were probably predicted by many to struggle. There have been more ups than downs, though, so far, and a -6 goal difference hints that if they could shore up the defence a bit they may have turned some of those early draws into wins.
Player of the Season: Anthony Pilkington - Has been incredibly consistent this year, and of the (admittedly few) Norwich games I've seen looks a genuine threat on the wing and from set-pieces.
Moment of the Season: Getting the scalp of Manchester United. A strong and gritty performance was rewarded with three thoroughly deserved points.
Stoke - Stoke continue to be the (fro)but(t) of most people's jokes regarding, ahem, physical play. The owners of the stingiest defence in the league, nearly a quarter of their results have been 0-0 draws, and only posses a +2 goal difference.
Player of the Season: Ryan Shawcross - Has been a real leader this season and deserved his England call-up, even if Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are probably ahead of him.
Moment of the Season: Drawing against Manchester City. Having not scored more than two goals in the league all season, it's a bit tricky to pick a 'moment', but their defensive performance against the champions was epic.
Swansea City - Much like last year, there's a lot to admire about Swansea. With their cavalier style, Swansea have only been involved in one 0-0 all season. Bizarrely, they have conceded less goals on the road than at home, meaning that the Liberty is likely to be an exciting place to watch a football match.
Player of the Season: Michu. £2m you say? 13 goals you say? Beautiful Spanish hair you say?
Moment of the Season: Arsenal away. As comprehensive an away victory as you will see all season. A shame they followed it up with a 3-4 loss to Norwich at home.
11-15 to follow...
How About Play-Offs...But Not?
First of all, I think we would all agree that the climax of a Premier League season is at its best when we go into the final day of the season not knowing who will be crowned champions and who will drop down to the Championship. For example, the thrilling end to last season and the final-day relegation battles, such as West Ham's Tevez inspired escape and Wigan beating Sheffield United, staying up and sending the down in the process, a couple of years ago.
However, as exciting as the final day of last season was, it could have been extremely ordinary. Had Man City knocked a few early goals in, the league title would have practically been wrapped up and it would have been a mere procession to the title for the remainder of the match. A recent case of this was Chelsea's 8-0 drubbing of Wigan on the final day, having needed a win to be crowned the champions. There is the possibility of an end-of-season play-off system, which I personally would not be opposed to, but it happening is highly unlikely, due to the excess games it would create.
My idea is that the Premier League release the fixture list for half the season, with each team playing each other once before Christmas. This would be decided as it is currently is, with the home and away being drawn at random. This would leave a half season table completed by Christmas, just in time for a Christmas break (I'm continental like that). What I then propose is that the Premier League create the fixture list for the second half of the season, by making teams play each other in a certain order. For example, 1st would play 20th, 2 vs 19, 3 vs 18 etc. The top ten would play all teams in the bottom half and vice versa, before playing a run of fixtures against the teams who finished in the top half in the first half of the season in the final nine games.
This is, in essence, a play-off system, just without the extra games. It would also in all likelihood lead to matches between teams vying for the title or vying to stay in the division on the last day of the season. The idea of a Man City vs Man United final day would be a mouth watering prospect. I also think it would allow the teams representing the EPL in Europe more of an opportunity to compete in the knock-out stages. I understand that the middle of the season would probably suffer, but then you could also say that there would be an added pressure on the big teams and the bottom-half teams playing with nothing to lose. And for any loss of drama after Christmas, it would be made up for in the final games of the season.
I am interested to see what the mailbox thinks of this idea regarding fixtures.
Ben (26 minutes) NUFC
Is It Better To Support A Minnow?
In response to Shidaan (JHB) MUFC's question about supporting minnows I can exclusively reveal that supporting a sh*t team is really sh*t!
As for whether supporters of minnows 'feel it' more I think it depends entirely on the supporter. For example; I have two Manchester United supporting friends. One of them is from that part of Manchester and when they lost the derby towards the tail end of last year he was utterly distraught and incapable of conversation the rest of that night. Defeat for his team obviously hurts him more than it does for mine (you get used to it after a while).
However I knew my other friend when United won the Champions League and his reaction was pretty much 'about bloody time - we should have won it loads more already'. Winning the biggest trophy in club football clearly didn't mean half aa much to him as winning the League 2 play-off final had meant to me. This might be because he is a 'plastic fan' who doesn't come from Manchester. But he does dedicate a lot of time and money supporting the club through merchadise and occasional trips to Old Trafford.
Maybe this says more about my friends than about fans of successful clubs as a whole. But looking at the recent turmoil of Arsenal and Liverpool fans I think it's fair to say that if you support one of the 'bigger' clubs (without wanting to reopen that debate again) that the lows hurt more than they do for the clubs with lesser expectations. Whereas the achievements mean more to the clubs who aren't expecting them.
Mike, League 2, BRFC
...Shidaan (JHB) MUFC brings up a great question in the morning mailbox. For me, I sincerely believe that supporting a small or lower-league team makes the glory of winning greater than a Manchester United fan can possibly experience. The highs are higher purely because the lows are lower. What does a Man U, Liverpool or whinging Arsenal fan know about the pain and humiliation of relegation? Ooh diddums, we only finished fifth this year, let's all go and top ourselves.
The novelty of Premier League football has long since worn off for Wigan fans, but those relatively few fans in attendance make rare victories over the big boys even sweeter. Six years ago Swansea fans had to endure visits to League Two outposts like Barnet and Hereford - they must be in dreamland now. It's only when times are bad that you know how good you've had it, just like when you become ill you wish you hadn't taken your good health for granted. I bet fans of Coventry and Portsmouth would bite your arm off for Premier League mid-table obscurity. It must be very difficult for their fans to get too excited about victories over Bury or Stevenage.
Don't get me wrong, those nights in Barcelona and Istanbul would live long in the memory of any fans, big club or otherwise, but expecting your team to go out and thrash everyone week in, week out takes most of the fun out of football.
Jamie Bedwell (Bring on the Everton!), Cheltenhamshire
...In response to Shidaan (JHB) MUFC's mail about victories potentially tasting sweeter for the 'smaller' teams, I certainly think that they do. I've been saying this for as long as I can remember to my top-four-team supporting friends. When you expect to win most games, surely the joy of winning is reduced to a feeling of mere contentment. As a life-long Villa fan, I know that I certainly celebrate our wins with far more delight as they come in hope rather than expectation.
It's like being married to an average-looking woman who cooks you liver and onions every night for dinner. If you came home one evening to find Eva Longoria dishing up lobster thermidor could you imagine your joy...what's rare is wonderful
Neil (AVFC) Dublin
...In response to Shidaan (JHB) MUFC, it's a resounding NO it's not sweeter supporting a team at the bottom end!
As a QPR fan, I always read this Mailbox with its frequent handwringing from fans of the big clubs (and Liverpool *boom tish*) while shaking my head wryly at their latest 'crisis'.
While I and all other QPR fans were delighted with Saturday's win and Harry's mini-revival, breaking Swindon's record and not winning for 16 games plus over a year with no away wins under the incredibly incompetent Hughes was utter misery!
After going to a match on Saturday I usually love watching the MOTD highlights, Sunday Supplement and reading the Sunday papers views on the game I attended. But this season has been such utter misery that I have generally avoided all of that. I'd settle for routine wins, Champions League every season, £25m superstar strikers and frequent trophies if I was you.
Saturday's given me a tiny glimmer of hope that we may pull of an incredible escape, but actually it's the hope that kills you!
Adam B, London, QPR (heading up sh*ttu creek)
Well Done Mediawatch
Just a quick mail to say kudos for their tearing to bits of the quite ridiculous Oliver Holt.
As you have correctly pointed out, ignoring the idiotically reactionary fans, the problem with Holt and many others is that they won't even consider the notion of possibly sacking Wenger. I don't think it's quite worthy of saying he has to be sacked but I find it pathetic that some apparent journalists are so caught up in this Wenger nostalgia that they can't even let themselves consider the fact that it could be time for a change. Nothing annoys me more than the 'well, who could do better (with such a tight budget)?' Nonsense argument that people like Holt put across. Utter nonsense really, you only have to look at David Moyes to suggest that he might even do better right now
Wenger is still a good manager but there's no question that there is an element of staleness at Arsenal. Glad to see F365 calling out lazy journalists like Holt who deem their opinion so much more important and informed than us mere mortals
Good work F365, bravo.
...Very pleased with Mediawatch pointing out some of Neil Warnock's faults during the season Sheffield Utd were relegated.
Can I please to add to the list? They lost at home to Wigan on the last day who had not won an away league game all season. The winning goal was scored by David Unsworth who was signed on a free transfer in January. A brucie bonus for anyone who can geuss who released him in Jan?
Yep it was that moaning t**t who was manager of Sheffield Utd. Of course, it was all Carlos Tevez and Rafa's fault...
Behind Enemy Lines
The experience that myself and my twin brother experienced on our trip behind enemy lines is one that to this very day haunts the both of us. The location of course as you might expect (it is behind enemy lines isn't it?) was White Hart Lane for the Carling Cup semi-final second leg on a dark January night of 2008. We were offered tickets by our best friend who was a Spurs fan to sit with him and his Dad in the Spurs end. Now having been to quite a few north London Derbies at Highbury we were both well aware of the tension involved in the fixture especially as they hadn't beaten us since 99. What could go wrong we thought. It's Tottenham we are playing. We turned out to be badly mistaken.
Now being the hard men that we both thought we decided to get the tube train from Seven Sisters station to the Lane bearing the red of Arsenal. I certainly wasn't prepared to be intimidated. What was the worse that could happen? After a bit of harmless banter on the train, we were looking forward to being frowned upon as the enemy, the minority or the hardcore so we thought. What happened after was disaster after disaster.
Things got extremely tense outside the ground as tension grew coming up to kick-off. A few harsh insults were beginning to come our way meaning our confidence was starting to wane a bit. Suddenly a man grabbed me and my brother and told us he was a West Ham fan and what the hell were we thinking displaying our true colours. Seeing sense we covered up and took our place in the Tottenham crowd. Now our Tottenham-supporting friend and his Dad then committed the probably stupid mistake of telling the steward that myself and my brother were Arsenal fans. Of course this was after the steward saying how much he hated Arsenal in every way. And I mean he really meant it. It was quite scary really.
Anyway as you all know the game started and I was in the awkward situation of sitting next to my best friend celebrate every Tottenham goal while trying to console me and my brother at the same time. When Bendtner scored an own goal the the group of men behind realised that we weren't celebrating. They started to question us on this and we tried to ignore him as best we could. When Adebayor scored a consolation my brother kinda of made a wince which was enough to uncover our true identity. What happened next we both will never forget. What seemed like a couple of thousand people starting chanting at us and a few plastic bottles and other objects were thrown in our direction. I know you might think that is quite extreme but it really was a poisonous atmosphere. It was so bad that we had to abandon the stadium before the end being laughed at and heckled at on the way out as the aforementioned steward gleefully ushered us out. This was all in time to hear see the Spurs fans draping flags out of windows as if they had won the title singing 'We beat the sc*m 5-1'. And the first time they had beaten us in nine years which ensured a more than awkward trip home to Ireland with 'Spurrrrs on on their way to Wembleyy, Gazza gunna do it again' literally imprinted on my mind the whole way home. In fairness to our rivals it was probably the first time they had sang it in 15 years.
As retribution for this act we vowed to go to the next NLD where we would surely win and have our redemptive moment. Which happened to be the 4-4 draw if you're wondering. Safe to say I have avoided going to a north London Derby since.
Peter (for each game I was at, they even made a DvD) Gooner
...It was 1999 in the San Siro for Inter vs Man Utd. We'd been given free tickets including flights and hotels from the UK to Italy (corporate junket thing).
Myself, several colleagues and the girlfriend at the time (we also worked together) all went out. The group with us were all Man U fans bar myself and her (I'm an Arsenal supporter). Anyway, we get to the Stadium and everyone else's seats seemed separate to ours. We said our goodbyes til after the game/half time and we went to find our seats. Emerging from the stairs into the stadium I quickly realised we were in with the home supporters behind one of the goals. I could immediately see the away support was behind the goal at the other end of the stadium. Although we were obviously not wearing any Man U paraphernalia, I couldn't look any less Italian (Irish, pasty skin, terrible fashion sense).
We shuffled across to our seats while being jeered by the Inter supporters and with me politely pointing to myself saying 'Arsenal Fan' (this seemed like a good idea at the time). When we got to our seats they were covered in peoples feet. It seems standing on your chair rather than sitting down politely is the done thing in these parts. So we stood there, on the ground, with our heads at everyones groin level...which was disconcerting. We lasted about 10 minutes of playful pushing, being screamed at in the face etc before the girlfriend started crying. I was too busy being terrified at the time to initially notice but when I did, I suggested we leave. As we left the crowd gently let us know we'd be sadly missed although as I don't speak Italian I can't be 100% sure about this!
Funniest moment of the night however occurred late on in the game. After we'd left our seats we made our way around to the away supporters and were let in without issue. Someone (Scholes I think) scored a late equaliser for Man U. From the tier above us, it began to rain coins and half-full water bottles. Next thing, the person's head in front of me burst open in a sea of red. I nearly fainted. I thought someone had thrown a glass bottle or heavy object and it had struck him. The guy who had been hit turned around, smiled and picked up the weapon from the ground. It was a mini-pizza! Who the hell brings a mini pizza to a game and keeps it for nearly 45/90 minutes waiting for the opportunity to launch it???
TL/DR - Went to game, got scared, moved, guy hit on head with pizza.
Just wanted to say I'm really honoured, I suppose, to be a focus of F365 Mailbox readers' attention - I think there have been at least ten occasions when someone has recognized my name due to my Mailbox involvement. I'm no Conor Byrne, of course, but I should really figure out a way to capitalize on all this, before it's too late.
I think it's worth pointing out to Mailbox readers that not everyone who works in Geneva is a banker. I, for example, investigate and answer complaint letters for a worldwide tour operator. It sounds awful, but its actually really interesting and often entertaining.
Oliver (really grateful that I don't look like Roger Brown in Headhunters.) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
So What Does He Look Like?
If Jimmy Skew had followed up his Facebook snooping with a little googling he would know that our man Oliver Dziggel returned home to Geneva after studying in the States. You may need to rethink everything you thought you knew about jawlines.
I think if anything he looks a bit like Olly Murs (no offense). Olly must be gutted he has such a unique name which made him easy to pinpoint.
Mark, (100% successful with Google searches for strangers) Ireland