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
Worst Arsenal Team Since...?
This is probably the worst Arsenal team I can ever remember playing for us. I've been a Gooner since 1987 and to be honest even in the dark days of George Graham's final year as manager I can remember at least a few of our players who could be described as world class - most were at the back and one was a striker but world class nonetheless.
Today we still have world-class players only they are world-class numpties but while it was City's fans who sent their ticket allocation back - let's spare a thought for those Gooners who in some cases shelled out more than £120 to watch that inept display.
£120 to see the worst Arsenal team in generations and a referee who sent off one of those players for doing what Ryan Shawcross does every week. Next time Mr Dean referees at Stoke let's see if he applies the rules in the same way - I doubt it.
These days Arsenal are offering you the opportunity to bring up to four of your friends and family to matches that they haven't quite sold out - probably at £120 a pop each - good luck with trying to sell those tickets Mr Kroenke.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Goodbye Champions League
Quick few points from the Arsenal v City game and further proof of Arsenal's demise:
1. Koscielny and Kompany both deserved to go under the laws of the game. Neither needed to do what they did as well as both were being covered by a teammate.
2. I thought the ref was generally poor though (apart from the two red cards) .Equally poor to both sides and what was a free-kick to one side one minute was not penalised several minutes later for the other side. Both sets of players can feel agrieved at many of his calls outside of the sendings off and you can understand the frustration. I thought Giroud was going to cry at one stage!
3. Us Arsenal fans always give Ramsey a hard time but you could argue his 20-minute cameo saw him as possibly Arsenal's best player .
4. Totally agree with the noises coming out of the Arsenal fan groups regarding pricing. To be charged what they are to see what is being served up is ridiculous. All I am asking for is relativit . We are probably the fifth best team in the league so charge the fifth highest for tickets??
I know some fans will think I am being all doom and gloom but I think it's an honest claim to say we are finished as a top four side (this year atleast and would love to be proved wrong). Some big changes are required this summer for us to regain that statu . Yesterday was always going to be hard when down to ten men as early as they were and the second half showed there is a decent spirit in the team deep down, they fought well to maintain it didn't get worse whilst also offering a threat all be it limited .
Go on Arsenal, prove me wrong!!
Lee 'Cheesed off but now finally accepting we are finished as a top four side' Lisno
Thoughts From The Emirates
No doubt there are many angry emails from Gooners. I've finally dethawed myself, so some thoughts:
- Mike Dean was pretty bad today, but that wasn't the reason we lost. For starters, it would really help if our defenders stopped performing as thought they'd been on a 24-hour bender the day before. No complaints about Kos' red card (when you rugby tackle someone through on goal it really speaks for itself). TV5 let Milner sneak through (Milner for Christ sake), and the BFG lost Tevez on goal #2.
- I know the latest football hipster trend is to analyse everything to hell and back tactically, and it's incredibly annoying. But I really don't understand what Arsene is trying to achieve with the current setup. We insist on this 4-3-3 formation but have one person (at best) pressing, and are constantly over-run in the middle. We deliberately concede the flanks when defending thus allowing crosses in; except our defence absolutely sh*ts themselves whenever a ball gets hoofed in. I just don't understand it.
- The booing of Clichy seemed really unnecessary. He never gave anything less than 100% (his mistakes didn't occur because he didn't give a toss, they occurred because he's an error-prone player and has done the same at City). And lest we forget the club was pretty eager to get rid of him too.
- I heard a few isolated shouts of "Spend some f'ing money" at the end. And whilst I understand some of the frustration, I'm really not sure what that would solve (bar some tired legs by the end of January). We have new players, and we continue to make the exact same mistakes we did two years ago.
- At the final whistle, there wasn't a mass outpouring of anger. More just a resignation that we cannot compete with the top. It's nothing to do with money, or resources, or lack of using them. It's all to do with continually shooting ourselves in the foot. We are fast becoming a team who does not expect to win an ever increasing number of specific games. And are less surprised when we lose them. You have a very, very big problem when losing starts to become the norm.
- Yet we are six points off fourth, with a game in hand. But it does seem that will be relying on the annual Sp*rs capitulation to secure the holy grail again. When you keep relying on miracles to bail you out, you'll eventually come up short.
- Final point, just for fun, after each City game type 'Zabaleta Underrated' into Twitter Search.
Sandeep (Yes he is the best RB in the league so stop calling him underrated), London
Red Card And A Penalty? Not Fair
I know it will never change but after watching Koscielny get sent off yesterday for a blatant foul on Dzeko I feel that a triple punishment for the foul is much too harsh. If that happens in the centre circle then a free-kick is given and likely a yellow card but never a straight red but inside the area it's a penalty (which is clearly should be) but then team must then play at a disadvantage for the remainder of the match and lose the player to suspension.
I would have though that a penalty and yellow card should be sufficient.
Cliff Mallinder, AFC
What About The Potters?
If Koscielny's foul was a red card and a penalty, how come Stoke don't finish every game with eight men having conceded five penalties?
Mike D, Liverpool fan (the less said about yesterday the better) in London
Mike Dean's Record v Arsenal
May I use your letters page to apologise to Pete please? Pete stands next to me at Ashburton Grove, and has done since Arsenal moved there from Highbury. Before today's match, Pete turned to me and said "We'll win fig all today, Mike Dean's the referee."
Being a scientist by training, I told him to stop being so paranoid and superstitious and I would set him right by showing him the research to show his paranoia to be misplaced.
Well, sorry Pete, you were right and I was wrong. In the 25 Premier League matches in which Mike Dean has refereed Arsenal since July 2006 (the date that Arsenal moved into its shiny new ground), Arsenal's record has been: Played 25, Won 4, Drawn 10, Lost 11, Points 23. Goals for 27, goals against 30. And of those 27 goals for, 9 were scored in (rare for Mike Dean), victories against Blackburn Rovers (4:0) and Spurs (5:2).
Somebody told me that Mr Dean would be at the next Arsenal match too (away at Chelsea). I recommend your readers to make some easy money and bet against an Arsenal victory.
And once again, sorry Pete. You were right and I was wrong.
Gordon Stokey, Ely
What Is Wrong With Arsenal?
I was at the Arsenal vs Man City game yesterday and after all the referee baiting (they didn't show replays of Kos doing the Heimlich maneuver on Dzeko in the stadium - it turns out the ref got it spot on), the game was coming to an end and me and my mates were trying to work out what was wrong with the performance etc, when there was a chant from the away end that summed it all up: "You're sh#t, and you charge too much!". I looked at my mate and we both nodded.
I think it was coming from the away end...
Ben (Disappointed that the lino didn't approach the Arsenal players and say "go and see them, they pay more than £62 to watch this sh#t every week") AFC, Kingston
For The Love Of Edin
I, for one, will be extremely disappointed if City decides to let our Bosnian golden boy go this January in favour for an expensive, hyped striker. First, we don't need firepower, we need consistent performers elsewhere who are not prone to lapses in performance and concentration that lead us to lose or draw games we should control. Second, why should he go? His performance at the Emirates today supported the fact that he plays extremely solid when needed and the times he doesn't come up so clutch, City seems to find inspiration and performance elsewhere. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I can't recall a loss where the result was heavily blamed on him.
Thom (Keep your Matador and Tigre), Far from Manchester, Ohio
Respec' For Welbeck
In reference to 16 conclusions, Welbeck, I agree, is a curious player. What isn't up for debate is how outstanding his hair is, but it seems that fans are split over his overall contribution. I felt that now is a good time to share my opinion as to why Welbeck is miles better than Messi.
First of all, his work rate is outrageous. He doesn't stop running and makes intelligent runs that leave space and occupy the opposition's defence. I know that work rate should be a given for all professional athletes (cough cough Berbatov) but still.
What, in my opinion, makes Welbeck a better player than Hernandez is his link-up play. Little Pea's goal ratio papers over the cracks of his sometimes appalling first touch and lack of awareness of what's going on around him. Welbeck finds space in cramped areas and produces nice touches to create opportunities. He has a good understanding with Cleverley and his style of play suits having Kagawa in the spaces behind.
Being slightly gangly and awkward-looking masks how much pace he actually has.
What I can't defend is his horrid finishing. Obviously that needs some attention but I think that when he is playing through the middle (forget using him out wide) the team plays their best football. It reminds me of Saha in 2006/2007 who, when partnered with Rooney up top, enabled the team to play what I still consider to be the best football I have seen in my experience of watching United. This also coincided with Ronaldo starting to become a monster but Saha played his part until the inevitable injury came.
Anyway, in conclusion Welbeck might fluff chances, but he benefits the functioning of the team so I am always happy when I see his name on the team sheet, as long as it is not on the flank which has been a disaster on every single occasion. It's also good to have a genuine United fan playing for the team.
As an aside, how lucky is Nani to come back to fitness with Young being sh*tty and now injured and Valencia being even sh*ttier.
Jack (Nani is more than capable of raising the sh*ttyness bar though), São Paulo
Kagawa Excellent Too
Okay, not many people noticed this but in my slightly intoxicated state does anyone else wonder why Kagawa didn't get use praise for his performance today? His control was a class above everyone else I'm the pitch and for the 71 minutes he played I thought he was superb out of position, along with welbeck. He even found time to do a Jet Li like knock-out on Reina!
Paddy (I won 50 quid on that match) Ireland
Three Thoughts On Man United v Liverpool
I thoroughly enjoyed the Man U vs Liverpool game today and after your appeal after eight mails on Friday, I thought I'd share them with you,
1. Gary Neville gave Welbeck man of the match
I was very surprised about this. Welbeck was okay but lacked much in the way of end product - I don't think I even saw him have a shot on target, though he worked hard. Evra was much better for most of the game and was a decent threat down the left, and I would've given it to him, or maybe Cleverley who had a decent game (the first time I've seen him play well for United).
2. Liverpool were really poor
For all but the last 15 mins, Liverpool were awful and had nothing in attack with Suarez either anonymous for long periods in the first half or having a touch like one of us playing Sunday league after cosmos. he really looked very average and not nearly in the same league/division as Messi or Ronaldo as one Liverpool director said in an interview (though he did say Messi and Ronaldo are better). I wouldn't have Suarez in my current World 23 squad. As my forwards I'd probably pick: Messi, Falcao, Ibrahimoc, Van Persie and have Aguero, Mario Gomez, Rooney and maybe even Drogba ahead of him.
3. The last 15 mins Man U looked poor at the back, Sturridge wasteful
De Gea was at least part at fault for the Sturridge goal - he should never have pushed it back out into the six-yard box, but it wasn't until the 75th odd minute when Liverpool started pressuring the Man U back line and actually created a couple of half challenges. However, most of them fell to Sturridge who basically did what he has done during his entire time at Chelsea in doing the hard bit well followed by him making totally the wrong decision. Two or three times he drifted wide on the left, cut inside against the RB and then blasted a shot into the side netting when pulling it back would have been far and away the better option.
I also heard some quotes from Liverpool fans saying that the ref cost them the game. Irrespective of one or two minor decision, I thought the ref was okay and, more to the point, the fact that Liverpool were outplayed for the majority of the match had more to do with them losing.
It wasn't a great advertisement to football per se, but it was a typical Man U performance for this season - play well for the majority of the game and rely on quality to see you through - the first goal had some great build up and the second was an excellent cross.
Liverpool were not unlucky, they were outplayed.
And From A Liverpool Perspective...
Initially before the game when I saw the team selection I knew Liverpool were in for a tough game. It was very disappointing to see Downing starting for us, and even more disappointing to see Man Utd fielding such a mobile midfield. I had hoped to see Giggs and Scholes on the team sheet but SAF got his team selection spot on. I knew at that point we were likely to have difficulty controlling the middle of the pitch and the first half certainly played out that way.
It's receiving little attention but Evra had the ball in acres of space and was clearly not sure what to do with the thing. Downing was the closest player to him and for every step forward Evra took, Downing took a step back, to ensure Evra maintained 10 metres of breathing space. Eventually a ball over the top to Welbeck won a free-kick, which led to a goal. Blame for the second goal in my mind, was entirely down to a lack of pressing from Downing. Why oh why can't we just sell him, as a wonderful piece on F365 some time ago stated; form is temporary, lack of class is permanent.
And this wasn't the last time Downing frustrated and made me want to throw the lamp at the TV just so I wouldn't have to see his stupid footballing brain in action anymore. He rarely actually tried to run forward and drive into space. A couple of times he opted instead to slide the ball less than three metres to Stevie G or Allen and shy away from responsibility. A few attacks were developing down the left side through Wisdom and Downing wasn't even on screen! It's disappointing to think that last season, while he was utterly turd 99% of the time, he at least tried a lot harder to earn his wages in the big games. Obviously he was still turd in the big games then, but I appreciate a trier.
Jordan Henderson should feel pretty hard done by to have not started this game. Lucas and Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool the solid back two in the midfield trio and while I'm sure Joe Allen will produce the goods in the final third with time, based on the last few games Henderson is much more willing to do things like have a shot (on target) and is quite handy in possession. I also think after all the stick he's suffered in the last couple seasons he can probably handle the crowd and the pressure of a game like this rather well. There were a few moments (like the suicidal back pass) which suggested that Allen wasn't handling the situation particularly well.
I remember Benitez struggling with this concept when he was trying to protect Steven Gerrard and Torres a few seasons ago, but I tend to think if you start with your strongest possible line-up, irrespective of fitness levels, get into a winning position, and then take those players off, you will tend to end up in a better position than if you play with your weaker players and hope to contain the game for long enough to bring on a game-changing substitute. Subs are always risky given they can't always easily adapt to the pace or flow of the game anyway.
A final note on both Evra and Rafael; while Rafael didn't react as quickly as Sturridge when we scored, I thought they were both outstanding. Made Sterling, Downing and Borini look pretty bereft of ideas but I thought it was mostly because they were just so well marshalled. And since I'm talking about right and left backs for Man Utd...Gary Neville. I just love him. What a brilliant pundit. I have grudging respect for everything he achieved as a footballer but I have unashamed and total admiration for how he goes about his job.
Thank F*** Howard Webb Didn't Do Anything Mental
I know it's a Monday which is surely the hardest time to get published, but let's give this a go anyway. I'm hoping to give you a break from the monotony of reading through in-depth, sometimes excellent, tactical analysis from fans of the clubs involved. The ones who can offer formation advice or question substitutions, you know the type, the knowledgeable ones.
Anyway, this is my only musing on the weekend's games; thank God Howard Webb didn't do something utterly stupid. I mean it, really thank you so much Howard. There are few things I hate more in football than those God awful, apparently hilarious, photo shopped Howard Webb/Man Utd pictures that circulate the moment he does anything that benefits Utd (regardless of whether it was justified). Before the game I saw someone Tweet 'New statue unveiled at Old Trafford' and I knew what it would be before opening it, I f**king knew it, but I couldn't help myself and my curiosity got the better of me. Yes, another brilliant Howard Webb gag. Seriously, who does these things? Is it the same people who do those gelastic 'John Terry claiming a victory somewhere where he did nothing' mock-ups? Please stop. Please.
I know the answer is probably just to remove myself from Twitter/Facebook, there are probably some readers who have never had to endure this kind of shite from some f**k-splash thinking he's reinvented comedy, but there is enough good stuff on there to stay with it (Matthew Stanger's drawings, for one).
I have nothing much to say about Arsenal - City other than to give you this beautiful piece of analysis during the game from an irate Arsenal fan who I was sat next to. He spent ten minutes on the phone to his dad lambasting Mike Dean, shouting down the phone calling him the biggest cheat in football, before asking if it was a sending-off as he hadn't actually seen it. He then suggested that no player should be allowed to be sent off in the first 10 minutes regardless of the offence, as it ruins a team's chances. Just think about that for a second. No sending's off allowed in the first ten minutes. Run and hide, Lionel.
Mike, London (formerly Bournemouth)
He Favoured Liverpool, Apparently
Surely after yesteray's game the myth that Howard Webb favours Utd can now be put to bed forever. Although a clever challenge by Wisdom, his 'shoulder charge' on Kagawa at the end of the first half was a foul therefore was a penalty and would have had to been a red card for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity but Mr Webb didnt give it despite being four yards away. He also bottled it when it cam to giving Johnson a second yellow for his attempted rugby challenge on Valencia. Big decisions that Webb could have taken but chose not to, luckily in the end, neither affected the outcome of the game.
Also thought Welbeck was immense yesterday, his movement and pace caused Liverpool all kinds of problems. He was part of the build-up for the first goal, he was fouled for the free-kick that led to the second goal. He attacks and defends with a combination of physical presence and pace that few forwards have. I found it quite harsh of F365 in 16 conclusions to highlight 'his lack of control' when he fell over at the goal-line near the end. Was it his lack of control or was it fatigue from sprinting 80 yards, playing a one two, sprinting again with a much fresher Sturridge chasing after him, all towards the end of the game. He is better at coming deep and collecting the ball than Hernandez but admittedly he can't buy a goal at the minute but nonetheless a well-deserved MOM award.
...I'm going to need you to use your imagination here for a bit. Imagine a United vs. Liverpool game at Old Trafford. Imagine that Howard 'MUFC for life' Webb is the referee in charge of that game (all this is not too difficult so far, I hope. Just tune into yesterday's match highlights if you need any help). Now imagine a situation where De Gea is down in his area with what looks like a bad injury, but Webb lets United carry on with their counter attack. He lets the game go on as United pass it around the Liverpool penalty area looking for an opening. Then United lose the ball and it falls to a Liverpool player in a great position to launch a counter attack of their own. Just then, Webb blows the whistle and stops play for De Gea to get treatment.
Now, I want you to imagine what the Mailbox would have looked like the following day, how at least one of Nick Miller's 16 conclusions would have been different, in what way Howard Webb's picture would have been morphed and posted on twitter and, worst of all, I want you to imagine what Jamie Redknapp would have done to himself.
Kabir (Just sayin') MUFC
Sunderland The Big Movers?
By my reckoning, if you exclude the top three, in the race for fourth place the team that gained the most momentum as you go down the league was Sunderland with three points. I'm not too sure whether that would put 'the race for fourth place' in the winners or losers section, but it looks like culminating like one of those wacky races at the moment.
Good or bad, it's nothing but intriguing (even if it's causing havoc with my weekly accas)
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
How Can Villa Possibly Survive?
I write this as a disheartened Aston Villa season ticket holder who is frantically clutching at straws, hoping that any light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.
I have been watching Villa from the Holte End for many years and while the disappointments of this season are not imbued with the suicidal thoughts of last season (as we now have a manager who considers defeat a bad thing, rather than a case of a plucky underdog succumbing to the inevitable against a giant such as Southampton/Wigan/Bradford as last season's manager may have suggested) it really is becoming difficult to contemplate anything for next year other than Championship football.
There are certain things about which we can be positive. Albeit unproductively we attacked a lot against Southampton and (but for a penalty given for a foul straight out of Mr Halsey's imagination, or Benteke suddenly forgetting how to hit a cow's backside with a banjo) on another day should have grabbed a point. Vlaar is coming back from injury and will hopefully add a bit of steel and experience to our amazingly porous defence. Players are trying to play watchable football and with a bit more confidence might turn that into effective football.
But for any vague positives, we are again in a position whereby unless Randy Lerner spends some money he will find his investment losing value in the Championship and missing out on the bumper new Premier League TV deal.
There is no simple solution to the problems at Villa just as there is no simple way of apportioning blame. Mistakes have been made in allowing previous managers to overspend on wages for reserves, just as mistakes have been made in trying to enforce austerity at the club too quickly, just as mistakes have been made in managerial appointments and even our current manager, someone I firmly believe is still the right man for the job, has perhaps been making a few naïve team selection and tactical errors of late.
It will take years to turn this around, but to do so I strongly believe that we have to stay up and that to do so, (a) Lerner needs to make some money available and (b) Lambert has to spend it wisely, at the very least on a midfielder who can protect the back four and is sufficiently experienced that he can help the younger players lift their heads up. He still has the backing of the vast majority of the crowd (we are miserable swines, but it is the natural state of being for a Brummie) but he needs to start getting things right.