We thought we would have to resort to another mailbox about maths but we've had some grand opinions about Man United, Newcastle, Tottenham and more. Oh and maths...
We have one Chelsea fan who recognises the job done by Rafa Benitez while there's maths from Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester. And Shawcross to Arsenal? Nah...
If you have anything to add on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
So the FA is likely to charge SAF with disrepute after having a go at a linesman missing a blantant penalty. Well maybe SAF and MU should take the linesman and the FA to court for loss of income? After all, two points last year would have been critical and might well be this year and we are talking millions of pounds. Maybe a linesman getting sued for getting it wrong might wake the FA up to retrospective decisions on games. Suarez getting a six-match ban for dividing, United been given the win, after all F1 race results are changed after the judges inspect the cars and race footage so why not the Premier League, F1 is an international event and none of the fans seems to object to the results being corrected the next day after it turns out that team A used an illegal car or driver B pushed someone off the track so why can't football have a revue panel that says, yes that ball crossed the line so it is a goal, or yes that player fouled him so it was a penalty of that player wasn't offside so the goal now stands?
The other thing is that referees and linesmen might be a little bit more careful in their decisions if it could end up in court and have to justify their decisions. At the moment they seem to think they are above the game and somehow we should accept their second-rate performances that always go to the home crowd.
Michael (getting bored of hearing how difficult it is to be a referee) Piggott
United Conclusions Ahoy
* Dembele is a dream. Surely worth £15m of United's money (I'd take Milan Badelj from Hamburg too, perfect long-term replacement for Carrick).
* It definitely, definitely was a penalty.
* United would still have missed it.
* No higher compliment for Spurs progression under Villa-Boas than that Fergie played as defensively and reactively as he has in years.
* Fascinating how Fergie made such obvious special provision for Bale. Even Aguero and Suarez rarely get that sort of treatment.
* I suspect that certain components of United's system (Jones deployed on the right of a double pivot, and Welbeck as a deeper right winger, to neutralise Bale), will be seen again against Madrid.
* Although Fergie did thereby neutralise Bale, he did so at the expense of a more coherent and aggressive midfield. Jones, whatever his qualities, hasn't the technique, passing or movement of Cleverley, and it showed in United's anaemic counter-attacking. If this system is to work, Carrick needs a capable, ball-playing midfielder alongside him.
* I'd rather, therefore, that Jones were played at RB, and Rafael played on the wing.
* Apropos the wings, United cannot hope for Kagawa to flourish if the wingers in a 4-2-3-1 are so regressed. Parker and Dembele could either mark, or press Kagawa without concern, as there were no wide players for them to worry about.
* How gratifying to see Welbeck so well. He has the ability to be an exceptional player, all he lacks (understandably, given how little he's played up front) is the confidence.
* Cleverley, too, had a good game in a very unfamiliar position.
* Worrying, however, that United needed to play Cleverley and Welbeck on the wings. Even allowing for injuries, and Valencia's abysmal form, United desperately need another winger/wide attacker (in addition to Zaha). I'd be happy with James Rodriguez.
* Highly worrying that United are now so bereft of midfield players, or tactical nous, that Fergie feels unable to play pro-actively or aggressive against Spurs.
* I blame replacing Carlos Quieroz with Mike Phelan for this tactical decline, in very large part.
* Although he'll no doubt get slated, De Gea kept United in the match (again). We're seeing the development of a special goalkeeper.
* On an unrelated note, Chelsea should stop coveting Falcao's glorious locks, and look at Jackson Martinez instead. Similarly excellent scoring record at Porto, would cost significantly less.
...* Let me start by putting this one out of the way: Rooney should have had a clear penalty when he came on and that should have been the game right there. It was right in the ref's line of sight and he was hardly a few good yards away from the scene of incident. How he did not give it is baffling.
* That said, Rooney was not very effective, least said, when he came on. I've said this before that he is a strange kind of player who seems to loose attributes like touch, composure, etc., which are quite permanent, with form. A fully fit and match-sharp Rooney would have made more of the openings United got towards the end of the game.
* You have to give credit to Sir Alex for pinning Jones and the excellent Rafael to the wings to deal with Bale. The Welshman was subdued for all of the game and apart from the snapshot from the early corner hardly had a look in. The only side-effect was Jones' lack of quality which told as he found himself in a lot of room in the final third towards the end of the game.
* Lennon was brilliant. Kept coming in and going wide, and skinned Evra alive. That said, Evra was rather exposed with no solid cover in front of him and Carrick had to keep coming over to help out. Evra's okay, Lennon's brilliant.
* Moussa Dembele is a beast. His ball control and composure are a notch above most in the EPL and he seems to make space at will. He was surely man of the match for me, rolling off Cleverley, Kagawa, etc. time and again.
* Cleverley and Kagawa are United's most important players. They are the ones who retain the ball and make things happen and it was evident, as soon as Sir Alex pulled them off, Spurs had an alarming share of possession towards the dying stages of the game (which eventually told). Cleverley's cross for Van Persie's header was pure orgasm!
* A round of applause for De Gea, who was sensational. Yes, he could have held on to that ball instead of punching it, but the Neviller's a bit too harsh to blame him. He made some great saves in such horrible conditions. Esp. the one from Defoe's snapshot at the near post, which was a lot smarter than it seemed at first!
* United have to make more of the openings they got towards the end of the game. Welbeck is a notch away in several areas from becoming a frightening striker. His last pass, touch and retention of the ball faded with stamina towards the end of the game.
* Madrid were 5-0 up at half-time against Valencia. They play a high line and operate on the wings, a lot like Spurs. That Champions League tie should be, least said, fun.
Akshat Pande, MUFC, Mumbai
Thoughts Of A Chelsea Fan
* We didn't have to go through the second half like that - the game should have been over by 40 minutes.
* There is a reason Rafa Benitez could not win the league in 2008-09 with pool (home form); He is right when he says teams sit back at the bridge, pretty much the same at his time at Anfield, but he forgets that his game is centered on counter-attack which means he needs a different game plan when teams want to do the same.
* To add to that, some of his substitutions are baffling (Bertrand for Oscar when we were on the back foot); Why does he have to wait till 80 mins to bring BA on when he could have done it immediately after the Arsenal onslaught is something I will never know.
* Ramires and Mata were immense; Torres was yet again dismal and I hope he is shipped off somewhere this summer.
* Jack Wilshere has a big heart; Arsenal need more players like him who have that will to drive the team.
* Coming to Arsenal, I don't think they are a big team to be feared anymore (no offense Arsenal fans) unless the inevitable happens.
* As usual AW was bragging about the ref for the loss (Diaby could have been sent off with a penalty under a minute you know) than address his team's frailities.
* All in all a good result for CFC and with the Spurs game being the only other big home game, there may be greener times ahead
Aravind, (Gary Neville, did you know Bayern had 16 managers in 20 years, Madrid had 10 in ten years before Jose came and Inter had 3 managers last season? I like you as an analyst but at times your hatred for Chelsea undermines the analyst inside you), CFC, Chennai
Some Arsenal Points
* Ramires bought that penalty. Szczesny was stationary, he knocks the ball past, does a Pires, dangles a leg, goes over, penalty.
* Torres is like the human Arsenal Football Club. Once great, now just embarrassing.
* Chelsea should have been out of sight by the end of the first half. I haven't seen such a poor first-half display by Arsenal since their last game, and the one before that etc etc.
* Anyone Arsenal do sign (if they sign anyone) will be a panic signing and will be joining a sinking ship.
* I can't remember when we had such a p*ss-poor bench. Bringing on a player who you have ostracised, hasn't played for the best part of a year and a half won't win you a game.
* Paying £100k a week for a player next season whilst not being in the Champions League...HA! I am glad Wenger and the board have to stomach that sh*t!
* Nothing will change for another year as Wenger continues his descent into blinkered madness.
* God I hate feeling like I am no different from Stewie Griffin. But there is literally no light at the end of the tunnel.
John Matrix, AFC
It Was A Dive!
As usual, it looked like a penalty in real time, so no shame for the referee, but Alan Hansen and Pat Nevin opined on MOTD that Ramires probably fell over.
He had his left side towards goal, yet his RIGHT foot hit the thigh of the keeper, because he dragged it across, looking for the penalty
Ramires: Man Of The Match?
What an indictment on football today when the Sky 'experts' named Ramires as Man of the Match. He should have been booked at least once for persistent fouling, including the obvious stamp prior to the first goal, the deliberate arm across Wilshere's neck, and, of course, the blatant dive for the penalty. Poor refereeing, again, and clueless commentators are doing nothing to improve the image of the once beautiful game.
Well that was cr*p from an Arsenal point of view wasn't it? The funny thing was that most Arsenal fans could have told you that a result like that was likely even before the game. Oddly enough, without having worked even half a day in football I can predict how most games, with the odd exception, will go once I see the team sheet before a ball has been kicked and it has been this way for at least three seasons now and the funny thing is I'm an optimist but Wenger has slowly leeched the optimism from my body to be replaced by indifference and occasionally extreme annoyance. That half a day in football comment will always rankle because having watched football avidly for over 30 years how could I know nothing? Even a labrador would have some fresh ideas.
Chelsea did not even have to play that well. The fact that their two goals stemmed from a foul and a very clever dive, which I can see how the referee was fooled, are not important. What is important is the factor that the defending was not good enough to begin with which allowed the opportunities to arise for Chelsea.
Arsenal are haemorrhaging points at an alarming rate and the only attacking option on the bench yesterday was the rotund Arshavin, who the manager obviously doesn't trust as he never gets a game anymore. Anyway, without going into a 20 paragraph rant I will conclude with Wenger out!
And yes, there are several good managers that could manage Arsenal for £7m per year.
Cliff Mallinder, AFC
We Aren't Doing THAT Badly
Nick Miller painted a dismal picture of our current situation, and I've seen many Gooners seemingly devoid of hope on our chances to finish in the top four after yesterday's defeat to Chelsea.
But am I the only one to think we aren't doing THAT badly? Yes we started slowly yet again, but we wouldn't have been behind so quickly if the referee hadn't missed Ramires' foul on Coquelin. A pivotal moment in the game that really set the tone for the rest of the game.
Our stirring display in the second half showed exactly what we are capable of, and the main problem seems to be our inability to play like this for the entire 90 minutes. The same thing happened in our 2-2 draw at Swansea in the FA Cup, where we only got going after the half-time break. Perhaps Wenger could consider giving his half-time pep talk before the game starts!
We lack concentration and discipline rather than ability, so it's certainly not the end of the world. We're just seven points off fourth spot with a game in hand - by far not the biggest gap we've ever had to bridge, especially when we still have a game against the Spurs later this season. Keep the faith, fellow Gooners!
Aaron, Singaporean Gooner
Spurs Fan Still Scared Of Arsenal
I was sad on a number of levels to read Nick Miller's article arguing that Arsenal were drowning but the main reason it made me sad was because I don't think it is true.
If Arsenal win their game in hand against the Hammers on Wednesday they will only be four points behind us and a maximum of three behind Everton. Now I think in AVB we have a much better manager than we did last season but if anything our squad is weaker, especially in midfield. We have lost Modric, VdV, and the criminally underused but class rhyming pair of Pienaar and Kranjcar and replaced them with Dembele, Dempsey and Sigurdsson. Dembele is great but overall we have lost a lot of our creativity and our back-up on the flanks. Yes they have lost RVP but if a 13-point lead was not enough last season I don't see why Gooners should be worried by a seven, potentially four, point gap with 15 games to go.
As far as the last two games go I don't think you can read much into the City defeat. One costly mistake and they are a goal and man down - I actually thought they did well in the end. We were in a similar situation this season except we were a goal up and a man down against opposition much less gifted than Man City - we got spanked 5-2. Yes the Gooners were awful in the first half against Chelsea but they do this all the time. Every season since they last won a trophy (how many years now?) they have had games when they have been humiliated awfully and everyone lambasts them and predicts their demise but every season they find some form at the end, go on a good run and still finish above us.
I think Chelsea should be good for third as they are a cut above the other contenders but its going to be very tight between us, Arsenal and Everton for fourth. Arsenal have lost some early ground and are not looking great but they are, sadly, definitely not drowning... yet.
Oscar (into the 8th year now) THFC, Geneva
Big-Ups To Hendo
In amidst the likely influx of hysterical Arsenal fans, still unhappy Chelsea fans, angry United fans and satisfied Spurs fans, I'd like to recognise a player who has spent the last 18 months being laughed at. Step forward the much-maligned Jordan Henderson. Ever since Liverpool paid big money for him, he has received something of a hammering. He clearly struggled to make the step up and I felt was poorly managed last season, being over played when it seemed clear that he needed sometime to get away from the pressure.
However a change has started to happen. In the summer, it was widely reported he was available to anyone willing to take a punt, yet refused to move even when it seemed clear he had no future at the club. Over the past couple of months he has really started to up his game, culminating in a superb performance and goal against Norwich. Now, it may seem disingenuous to start praising a previously hammered player after one good showing, but anyone watching Liverpool over recent weeks will have no surprise at his MOTM performance. A move to attacking mid seems to really be getting the best out of him.
He has shown an excellent drive and stamina, which frees up space for Gerrard, and his runs into the box seem a key proponent to Liverpool's free-scoring run. He is an extra body which creates space for others, has an impressive range of passing and has a fairly good shot on him. He clearly has struggled to date in a Liverpool shirt, and his seemingly cathartic celebration after scoring suggests he knows this better than anyone. He has earned a place in the first team now (I was really disappointed to see him dropped for the Utd game) and this is fully on merit. He is starting to repay the extortionate fee paid for him 18 months ago and I am genuinely excited to see where he goes from here.
Some Scattered Thoughts
- Gareth Bale was a bit selfish and didn't help his team's cause much at any point. I remember a Spurs-supporting chum telling me what a nice chap he was a few seasons ago when he first emerged, apparently using his time off to go visit his mum in Wales. I think the nice chap element is falling away and he's a bit of a show boating, self-concerned footballer. His decisions to shoot from improbable areas and not even put the ball on target (Of his 7 shots, 6 were outside the area, 1 of 7 on target, but 4 were blocked in fairness) seemed to frustrate everyone around him at times. There's one point where Defoe seemed too exasperated to even shout at him.
- I was quite impressed with De Gea in goal. I am sure he's going to get a bit of abuse from some corners of the mailbox for conceding that goal so late on but really he was fairly exceptional for me and some of his reaction saves were the sort that you can't teach a keeper; they either possess the ability or don't.
- The Chelsea-Arsenal game wasn't particularly surprising. Arsenal got to leave having fought hard once it was too late to rescue much from the game and they have their mandatory grievance (the foul on Coquelin in the build-up to the first goal) to use on Monday at work when people tease them because their team is rubbish.
- It beggars belief that if a couple of results go the right way then Liverpool could end up fifth at the end of January. In no way does this reflect that Liverpool have 'turned the corner' and I hope people don't start to do silly things like mention the possibility of Champions League footy for us again since the likelihood is that we roll over and let Arsenal then Man City tickle our willies while they slip a few goals past us. It is more reflective on just how bad everyone that is not a Manchester Club or Chelsea have performed this season. Much like last year, I suspect the fourth Champions League place will land at the door of the least bad team from a long list of candidates, rather than going to the 4th best/most consistent team of the season.
- Newcastle were dodgy as anything. I can't help but wonder how they will handle a pretty crucial February when the Europa League starts up again. The group stage seems to have damaged them badly enough it really wouldn't shock me if they had a relegation fight on their hands a month from now.
- If Wigan go down this season, will the chairman fire Martinez? And if that happens, how much of a c*ck will he feel for not jumping at Villa/Liverpool when he had the chance?
- Last season Swansea finished 11th, a position they're just five points away from at the moment. Has Michael Laudrup really had such a dramatic effect on the team or is the benefit of having the easiest start in the Premier League now wearing off?
Pardew = Moyes. Hopefully
I think like all Newcastle fans I was expecting our season to have improved by now. If anything it's getting worse and that second half against Reading was just awful. The team is playing like a bunch of strangers who are totally devoid of ideas, confidence and desire and I'm not surprised that calls are now being made for Pardew to go. He proved last season he has what it takes to get these players playing - now he needs to do it again. Quickly.
I don't think he should be sacked however. The one thing I'm clinging to is that Pardew will eventually 'do a Moyes' (I made that expression up by the way) and bring some stability to the club over the long term. When you look at Moyes' record at Everton in his first two and a half seasons at Everton, it is very similar to Pardew at Newcastle; in his first season he took over mid-way and the club finished mid table - same as Pardew; the next season they outdid everyone's expectations to finish in the top seven - same as Pardew; the season after they flirted with relegation before eventually finishing 17th - same as Pardew? I sincerely hope so...
Since then, Everton have only finished lower than eighth on one occasion and have become a model for what can be achieved through managerial stability and reasonable investment in the squad. Let's just hope in 10 years' time we can look back at this season as a blip in an otherwise reasonably successful decade in charge.
Mind you, if we kick off next season in the Championship I'm not sure I'll be of the same view...
Marc Spitty, Exiled Mag, Perth, WA