The Premier League season has only been over for about 20 hours and already we're well into the summer-type Mailbox. Plus, a shout for the 2014 player of the year...
Arsenal fans are largely positive after their top four finish, whilst one wag suggest buying Bale from their rivals. We also have an interesting final mail. Enjoy...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is RVP The Difference?
ManYoo are a massive 18 points ahead of Arsenal, a team supposedly spiralling out of control, but are the teams really that far apart ?
ManYoo have played: 17; won: 14; drawn: 0; lost: 3; goals for: 43; goals against: 24.
Arsenal have played: 17; won: 7; drawn: 6; lost: 4; goals for: 31: goals against: 18.
ManYoo have played poorly on a number of occasions and come out on top whereas Arsenal haven't come out on top when they've played badly. Sign of champions versus a club in decline? Or maybe it's just a certain player in Van Persie who has scored 12 goals with 5 assists.
The debate about Arsenal should hold on to their players etc can raise its ugly head if it likes over this but all I'm saying is that if Van Persie was playing at Arsenal this season, which club would be where? If those draws could have been changed into victories or even a couple of defeats rescued with his finishing who knows? My point is, maybe Arsenal are possibly only a top-class finisher away from getting back in with the big boys?
My brother recently rang me and said he had met Van Persie at the X Factor final...I asked him had he 'nutted' him !
Chris Wrightson, Croydon
Think Of The Children...
Five young players have signed long-term contract extensions at Arsenal.
Has no one thought of the consequences? No Arsenal player 'carelessly' entering the last year of their contract? What will the multitude of football journalists do without this perennial story? It could see people lose their jobs. Arsenal, typically, haven't considered the impact of their actions.
Football gossip Journalists of the world unite and fight this attack on your profession!
Tom (Love seeing Jenks there, a Gooner living the dream...) Cheshire Gooner
Bring Back Xmas Day Football
I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas, with all the festive hoo-hah starting just as summer ends, Slade's song, moronic breakfast DJs acting like six-year-olds and generally Christmas Day being a bit boring. It's the last bit that got me thinking.
Back in the days of black and white there were Christmas Day games with the reverse fixture played on Boxing Day, often throwing up scores of 8-2 etc, especially Boxing Day when players may have overindulged the night before. I also believe that our American chums have Christmas Day NFL game to watch.
Why not bring it back? Not a full round of fixtures, just one attractive-on-paper-TV friendly-looking match that doesn't involve a great deal of travelling for the team and fans. And not something the police would not be happy about such as a Manchester or north London Derby. Something like Villa v a decent London or Manchester team.
There are some cons of course, mainly from the Police I imagine and I'm sure that the Church would kick up a fuss but as we live in an increasingly secular and multi-faith society the religious argument is now irrelevant. It would also mean increased costs for the home club to pay its match-day staff a bit extra for working on a bank holiday but they would surely get a good crowd with money to spend plus the money from Sky for screening a game.
As for the players themselves, I appreciate they have family but most teams who play away from home on Boxing Day take their players to a hotel on Christmas Day evening anyway and it's only two teams anyway so its not like there will be loads of dad-less families eating Christmas dinner all over the UK.
The Pros are simply something to look forward to on a Christmas Day afternoon/early evening after you've stuffed your face with turkey you can go watch a live football match and get away from the in-laws etc and not fall asleep on the sofa watching the traditional Eastenders death followed by Harry Potter!
What's not to like? Come on FA/Premier League/Sky, make this happen.
Simon (Scrooge) Fitzwilliams, Cambridge
Why We Shouldn't Fix The Fixtures
I'd like to add some more pros and cons to Spence, Gooner's plan to fix the fixtures.
Pros: Sky get some big matches around Christmas May time.
Cons: The previous season's Champions League qualifiers get a nice smooth start to the season, safe in the knowledge they won't have to face any rivals until christmas.
Promoted teams get a ridiculous run of games that could easily leave them pointless at the end of September, sapping any confidence caused by the promotion (although they weren't promoted - see Bolton's start last season as a case in point).
If it isn't broke, don't fix it. There's always something to be excited about on the final day.
What To Do About Tugging...
Something that often crosses my mind came up again after reading your article on wrestling in the box - why don't refs just give an indirect free-kick in cases where a penalty seems too harsh a punishment? Not only will it serve to stop the Ryan Shawcross's (couldn't happen to a nicer bloke btw) of this world from judo-throwing their way to clean sheets, but it would also add some potentially exciting big-game flashpoints.
The downside of this would be the possibility of getting caught in some sort of 'indirect free-kick loop' where players get penalised for shirt tugging after the indirect free-kick is taken, leading to another, and so on.
Dave, wondering if Villa topping the W+L section this week was a first, Prague via Dublin
More Scouse Maths
As always, Scouse maths comes to the rescue as to why every transfer to or from Liverpool was just super actually, thank you very much. Some of the calculations are as fantastical as they are baffling, but always amuse me, (graduate don't you know). I don't want to come across as too much of a geek, but I'd like to assign every player associated with a move to or from Liverpool with the value of I. 'I' being an imaginary number in maths, (the square root of minus 1 if you are interested), because the red side of Liverpool manipulate the reported numbers like fuzzy felt.
The discussions between Brendan Rogers and Fenway Group over potential transfer targets would be fantastic.
Fenway Group: Brendan, we have decided to declare our interest in Tom Ince, we have put in a bid of an imaginary number of pounds.
Brendan: Is it an irrational amount?
Fenway Group: No Brendan, it's completely integer.
Brendan: What about wages?
Fenway Group: Well he won't go hungry, we're going to offer him Pi.
Brendan: Magnificent. Mmmmmm, Pi.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
I sent this the other week but since the topic has reared its ugly sturridge head again - Liverpool FC - ffs.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, under any circumstance DO NOT SIGN Sturridge. He is not the world-beater he thinks he is, neither is he that good, on top of that he wants 80k for doing jack at Chelsea and any previous club he has played for.
Spend the friggin money wisely for once. You can have Oscar Cardozo on a free - see his goal stats below:
2003-2004 3 Febrero 34 apps (20 goals)
2005-2006 Nacional Asunción 34 (20)
2006-2007 Newell's Old Boys 33 (21)
2007- Benfica 143 (95)
Not some two-bit English player who thinks too much of himself.
Ash, LFC (To LFC - I am available to work as your technical director or chief scout free Of charge since you lot are doing a p***-poor job of it)
Actually, It's A 'Yes' To Sturridge
Well done Martin (Warrington) for pointing out that Ince chose to leave Liverpool. Being at Liverpool for the last 18 months and playing far less than he has at Blackpool may have slowed his development anyway. Now we get to spend less than market value for an excellent young winger and he gets to come home. Everyone's a winner. Barcalona don't seem to get criticised for buying back Fabregas and Pique after they'd chosen to leave so why should Liverpool? Weird.
Also Sturridge ticks the boxes for me. We wanted someone who can play in a wide position alongside Suarez whilst also being able to fill in for him through the middle. We wanted a goalscorer, which he proved in 2011 for Bolton and AVB's Chelsea that he can be in either position. 2012 hasn't been kind to him but he's young and as Brendan has pointed out, progression and development is never linear. I think he'll prove a shrewd acquisition.
Assuming these two do come in in place of Downing and Cole then we've got an excellent young squad. Only five outfield players over the age of 26. Particularly our attacking options look to have great potential. I expect Ince, Sterling, Suso, Morgan, Yesil, Ibe and Sinclair will all develop into top-class players, and even if only two or three end up making it, with Sturridge, Suarez and Borini we'll still be well stocked in that department for a few years.
Finally, excellent news on the Hillsborough front today - a crucial step on the road to justice.
Kieran Garrard, Liverpool
Liverpool Fans Don't Make Liverpool Average
Albert Troost, Cape Town, South Africa, I know that it's fashionable to slate us Liverpool fans but this line takes the biscuit:
'Which brings me to Liverpool fans: they still have a pretty decent team, but if it wasn't for their ridiculous fans, they probably would be in a much better state.'
So, let me clarify, Liverpool would be in a better state (I'm assuming results wise) if it wasn't for their 'ridiculous fans'...doing what? Interfering with shooting practice at Melwood? Shining laser beams in the players' eyes on match day?
I'm not surprised that a nine-line email 'took a while' for you to complete.
Demba Ba Is Clearly Most Crucial
Just read the piece on the five most crucial strikers for their team from the guys at whoscored.com and it strikes me that despite it being 'no surprise that Suarez was out in front', he wouldn't be if they had done some actual analysis of the stats. Instead they have decided that the key stat is % of team's shots and just made a list based on that. Why? How does that make a player crucial? If they aren't scoring those shots then it isn't much use (F365 like to make a point of this with a note of who has taken the most shots without scoring in their own statistical analysis - I think it was Stewart Downing every week for about eight months).
I guess my point is that taking 96 shots and scoring 10 isn't really that impressive. Having not seen a lot of Liverpool this year I can't comment too much - maybe there aren't any other options in the opposition's half so he has to try and do it all himself. But maybe it would be better if he didn't just shoot on sight based on his poor return.
Conversely, I would put the argument across that the stats show that Demba Ba is the most crucial striker and by some distance. Liverpool as a team have had 80 more shots than Newcastle (per the list) and Ba is only 1% behind in whoscored's key stat. Essentially it's pretty tight in terms of % of team's shots. However, Liverpool are clearly more of an attacking force, even without Suarez (and perhaps in spite of him). Ba has one more goal, so again pretty even, however, Ba's return is 11 out of 70 so a lot more consistent in terms of chance conversion.
Anyway, surely what makes a striker crucial is not % of shots but % of goals? In this respect Ba is far in front with 58% to 44%. So Ba is scoring more goals from less shots, in a less prolific team. This combination makes him absolutely vital to Newcastle at the moment. Whilst I can't disagree that Suarez is also crucial for Pool, and is rightly second on my terms, he isn't as important as Ba. In fact, I think Liverpool scored their most goals in a game this year without him.
Alex, you can prove anything with statistics, Ayr
A Manager Born In The 90s
Surely there's only one candidate for the manager of 'Born in the 90's XI', and that man is Vugar Huseynadze, the current manager of FC Baku who was appointed in November aged just 21 years old based solely on his impressive footy manager CV.
His results so far of won 2, drawn 3, lost 1 represents maybe not the best return ever, but it's still better than Mark Hughes.
Terry Hall, Switzerland
Players left out of Andrew, AFC's team born in the 90s: Eden Hazard, Oscar; Arsenal bias? Never.
Jamie, CFC (Aware of the irony)
Just to be clear, overrated means rated above their true level. I don't think Messi is the bestest player in the world ever TM, just because he scores a remarkable number of goals (like Suarez did for Ajax, Jardel at Porto, etc) for one of the best club sides ever put together.
Darren Bent would score 30 a season playing for Barca. He might fall over a lot less in the area too.
Guy S (United to end the world at the top of the table)
Messi Has Time On His Side
Leo Messi is 25 and has achieved an incredible amount in the early part of his career. Mousey Brown brings up the World Cup argument, which does has some merit, pointing out that he does not have that 'moment' that Maradona, Zidane, Ronaldo and Banks had. But here is the thing; Zidane's moments (winning in 1998 and headbutting in 2006) came when he was 26 and 34 respectively. Maradona's Hand of God happened when he was 26 (failed a drug test at 34). Ronaldo's redemption came when he was 26 and Banks was 33 when he pulled of that save in 1970. Messi was 23 at his last World Cup.
Now I am not saying that there is any particular science behind this, just that Messi still has plenty of time to have his World Cup moment and dispel that argument once and for all. He is getting better and reaching his prime. He seems a modest chap who lives for football so the classic South American trait of burning out/going mental before he is 30 seems unlikely. Realistically he could play in the next three World Cups, plenty of time to cement his legacy. So maybe we should wait until then to decide on his place in the pantheon of the greats.
Kev (even if the World ends in two days, this argument will still live on)
The Stage Is Set
To all the doubters of Poor Leo, I too am bored of seeing him score over and over but I do accept that he is the best ever and probably the best there ever will be and he will go down in history he is just waiting for the right moment to win a World Cup...
2014 World Cup in Brazil the arch rivals of Argentina and arguably the favourites and home nation of Pele.
Now imagine this...Messi the tournament's top scorer and Argentina's captain lifting the world cup after beating Brazil in the final in Brazil and being handed the trophy by Pele.
This would be the most unbelievable way for any country to win in your arch rivals' back garden but to beat the favourites and the nation who says you are not better than their hero??
Mark, Dublin (surely be better than maradonna, Fat Ronaldo, Zidane or dear I say it Pele's achievements)
World Cup Is Not > Champions League
The World Cup has rarity value over the Champions League, true. Being once every four years instead of every year it's easier to remember them (all five of them that I can, I only have dim recollections of the 1990 World Cup at which time I was eight. And being held in different countries it's easier to differentiate between them.
Does that really make them more worthy a proving ground than the Champions League? As for the 'memorable moments' argument, I won't comment on the Banks save as it's before my time, but we're given two moments of illegal play, a player comeback (I doubt Maradona ever argues that his achievements were in the same tournament that a really good player once made a comeback) and a controversial decision from the one time this country has ever won a World Cup. Not suprising it's remembered by all the England fans really is it?
Of course the Champions League never provides memorable moments. I bet the United fans can barely remember that they won it in 99, and Liverpool fans must assume they lost once they'd conceded three goals in the first half in their final. Chelsea fans meanwhile certainly don't hold a grudge against Barcelona for anything as meaningless as a CL match not going their way, and Arsenal fans don't really care that they were beating that year's incarnation of Possibly The Best Football Team Ever Assembled TM until Van Persie got a second yellow for taking a shot after the whistle had blown. As a Spurs fan I don't recall whether Bale did particularly well against a right-back who'd been rated arguably the best in the world a couple of years previously on our first venture into the CL. I'm probably the only one who remembers Zidane's volley to beat Leverkusen in the final, and there's no way I could remember Ravenelli sliding the ball in from an impossibly tight angle against Ajax since that was over 15 CL seasons ago.
These last two are just some of my memories from CLs past. I'm sure the F365 readership can add more of their own.
Indie, North London
Let's Have A Party!
Probabaly a bit late, but when I see Ronaldinho mentioned I always think of the following exchange about him on RTE...
Eamonn Dunphy: "He had two great seasons, Bill, he was World Footballer of the Year and he won the Champions' League for Barcelona. And then he went to the party."
John Giles: "He's still at the party, Bill."
Bill: "It must have been one of Eamon's parties!"
The Final Piece Of The Mid-Season Review
And so to the bottom five clubs in the Premier League.
Sunderland - After experiencing a revival towards the end of last season, Sunderland looked to push on this year. It hasn't exactly gone to plan, though, with the majority of the team proving to be desperately scared of the back of the net. It's tight between positions 13 and 18, and if Sunderland want to avoid getting sucked into a relegation fight they need to get a win or two and rely on those around them struggling. Not good.
Player of the Season - Steven Fletcher. Shelled out a lot of money for some goals and they got them. I don't think, though, that they quite expected them to be more or less the only goals they were going to score this year.
Moment of the Season - Beating Reading 3-0. It's a sad indictment of your season when beating the now-bottom club is the highlight of the year.
Southampton - Despite some major spending in the summer, Southampton always looked like they were going to struggle. With a young goalkeeper and an ever-rotating defence, the early parts of the season vindicated those initial fears. Having finally gotten out of the relegation zone, albeit on goal difference, it is going to be a long season on the south coast.
Player of the Season: Morgan Schneiderlin - The young Frenchman has been an ever present this season and hasn't looked too overawed.
Moment of the Season: Q.P.R. away. When you are going to be mired in a relegation fight all season, and Southampton will be, getting wins against the teams around you is vital, and so far the Saints have managed that.
Wigan - Here we go again. Every year it's the same story. No one ever really knows which side of Wigan will turn up. The stout giant killers or the limp and weedy relegation fodder. It's happened more or less every year since they've been in the Premier League. With the quality of the teams around them, this could be one season too far. Surprising fact; Mauro Boselli is their third highest league scorer. He is, in fact, still alive.
Player of the Season: Jean Beausejour - After impressing at the World Cup, the flying wing-back must be wondering what he did wrong in a previous life to end up first at Birmingham then at Wigan.
Moment of the Season: Beating Spurs - Tottenham, thus far, is the biggest scalp of the season for Wigan.
Q.P.R. - Did the improbable by staying up last year. Did the logical in sacking Mark Hughes, a manager whose opinion of his own talent is in substantial surplus to his actual talent. Bringing in fackin' 'Arry could prove a masterstroke, though they thought that at Southampton a few years back.
Player of the Season: Adel Taraabt - Disco Adel represents everything about the current Q.P.R side. No doubting his talents, but you don't ever get the feeling he'll bother any of the big sides.
Moment of the Season: That first win. It's amazing to think that Q.P.R are now unbeaten in four.
Reading - All the memories of that wonderful swashbuckling Reading side that first graced the Premier League in 2007. The Rs have been just awful since returning to the top flight, despite a rather impressive display against Manchester United. There are no areas of the team that do not need strengthening in January, and not having done so in the summer will probably come back to haunt them in May.
Player of the Season: Adam LeFondre - Not been overawed by the top flight. The striker's goals have at least kept Reading competitive in some of their matches.
Moment of the Season: Nearly getting one over Manchester United. Perhaps it was complacency on Manchester United's part, but Reading fully deserved to take the lead(s) when they did. Showed that they do have some quality in the team, but will need a bit more if they are to do a West Brom.
So there we are. With more or less half the season gone there really are few tangible conclusions to be made. It is beginning to look like the Manchester clubs are pulling away from the pack (a bit too easily if you ask me, with neither being truly outstanding). With only 14 points separating third from 18th there is a lot of congestion in the table, and the fight for European places will be intense.
As others have pointed out, despite some remarkable highlights, this has in general been a bit of an odd league season so far, with few truly stand-out performances. History tells us, though, that the first half of the season is simply a slow burn for the fireworks that are to come after January.
To all at F365 and its readers, have a great Christmas and New Year.
Supporting Real Minnows...
I know I may be a day or so late but in response to Shidaan (JHB) MUFC, supporting a minnow does seem, based on the views of my friends who support top, top sides, to give you more of a perspective when things don't go your way.
I follow AFC Telford, we are currently battling away as a part-time club in the mostly full time Blue Square Prem, under the stewardship of ex-England winger Andy Sinton (assuming caps awarded by Graham Taylor are recognised?). In 2004, we went bust. No last-minute saves, no 18-month-long administrations, no points deduction. We went out of business. This is a feeling that can only be truly appreciated by a supporter who has been through it.
We reformed in the Unibond Division 1 with the holy grail being the thought of getting back to the level we were at the time of our demise. This was achieved at the end of the season before last at a packed New Bucks Head (6000) in a play-off final against Guiseley. We led 1-0 but trailed 2-1 with 11 mins to go. We eventually won 3-2 thanks to an injury-time goal. We are now on a dreadful run of form that may see us relegated but that day will live long in the mind of anyone there that day. That match was also the final game I attended with my Dad (both season ticket holders since we reformed) as he passed away shortly afterwards.
Would I be happier as a big fish in a small pond, as we were when we first reformed? Not for a second. We are swimming against the tide every game we play, and I wouldn't swap it for the world.
Dave (Up the Bucks), Kidderminster
Why Don't Clubs Sue Journos?
This may be a silly question. I might be missing something obvious. But why don't clubs take the papers to court every time they print something that is false? Every day in the excellent Mediawatch there is a story where a paper grossly exaggerates or completely fabricates a story in order to create something worth reading. Why doesn't a club just hire a legal team to look at the most defamatory or damaging or just plain annoying stories that concern the club and force the paper in question into a printed apology? There would be loads every week! Are they afraid they would just get slaughtered by the press and want to keep on their good side? Literally every day there's stories like today's on Henning Berg where I'm left thinking "Why don't they do something about it?" Is there a reason the clubs just let it slide? Or am I the only one bothered that they seem to get completely away with inventing stories? Does my tits in.
Ryan (well he was annoying me anyway) Coillte