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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Curse Of The Mailbox
So, everyone is on about Walcott being a bottler when it comes to playing the crunch games and he comes up with a pretty neat finish against Liverpool. Rooney is no good apparently and he pops up with a couple of goals. Keep it up boys. The curse of the mailbox, shall we say?
Question Of The Day
Man Utd have won the title before February. Is this the most boring Premier League campaign of all time?
Sami Magoon (#RafaOut)
Is It All A Bit Dull?
In terms of individual performances I certainly wouldn't call this season boring with the colossal sparring of both Suarez and Van Persie a joy to witness week in, week out. There is also the incredible presence of free-scoring bargain basement revelation Michu to behold.
Even in terms of individual games this season seems to be living up to the hype. We have seen what I would imagine to be a very high percentage of very high scoring games. There's been 4-3 wins, 5-4 wins, a 7-3 win for Arsenal and a couple of 8-0 thrashings for the sadists out there. There's also been plenty of high scoring draws and last-minute point-stealing goals to boot.
An unprecedented level of twittering is occurring as we speak with even exiled Joey Barton, Robbie Savage and a cheating tw*t of a ball boy all sticking their oars in. The usual contentious offside/onside, yellow card/red card decisions have been supplemented with almost unbelievably a senior referee accused of racially abusing a player. Whilst we are on the subject of Chelsea, there's been shock sackings and signings but nowhere more so than at The Bridge. Who will ever forget the unfurling of that enormous 'Rafa Out Fact' banner.
So why is it somehow a little bit boring?
It seems Sir Alex Ferguson has, with his relentless banging on the wall with a broomstick, somehow managed to frighten his noisy neighbours into submissively turning the music down. Even at this early hour it seems Manchester City players, managers and fans seem to be discussing end of season arrangements.
Further down the table we see both Liverpool and Arsenal precariously clinging on to a fading status, akin to a couple of injured rock climbers desperately awaiting rescue as the blood drains from their faces. The only truly interesting clubs in the top seven at the moment seem to be Everton and Spurs.
AVB is proving to be the highly astute young manager Roman suspected and now with the backing of an intelligent board, an already excellent squad is being strengthened. At Everton David Moyes keeps on outperforming the balance sheet and surely must be considered next in line after Sir Alex. The Old Trafford faithful may however be a long time in waiting for the fishes & loaves type miracles of the Moyssiah. As things stand, SAF could suffer a Stroke, Alzheimer's and Parkinsons before failing to be able to pick a starting 11 each week to dismantle all of the current challengers 'title ambitions'.
Having just witnessed another round of games in which five of the six teams 'chasing' Manchester United have dropped points whilst United march on towards an inevitable premier league victory. I'm now wondering if even United fans are becoming a little underwhelmed with life at the top.
We seem to be witnessing the first season of the Premier League era in which, 1 team knows they will win. Two other teams know they will finish in the top four. The only point of excitement seems to be who out of four contenders will pinch the final Champions League group stage qualifying place.
If you ignore all of the above and mark it all down as a mere distraction. If (as we are often reminded) the only thing that really matters is wins the league. The question must be asked have the top three already given up and if so...Is this the most pathetic season in Premier League history?
Carlos 'When life gives you lemons, make gin & tonic' De Tackle, 'Stralya
Is This A Title Worth Winning?
I don't want to agree with Alan Shearer on MOTD, at least partly because I suspect you'll bin my email without reading it, but what's going on with Premier League defending? In fact, where have the ruthless teams gone?
Man Utd are miles ahead but at some point in every game are either behind or look like they'll be turned over. Man City either don't have the intensity of last year or PL managers are figuring them out. Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham are all Jekyll and Hyde teams too.
Ahead of last night's game F365 asked which Arsenal would turn up against Liverpool, or was it which Liverpool would turn up against Arsenal - it doesn't matter because both Arsenals were always going to turn up against both Liverpools. Both Chelseas turn up (the midfield that creates and scores and the rest of the team who can't put the ball in at the front or keep it out at the back). They can't help it. No-one seems to be good enough to force their own consistency. What happened to the Invincible Arsenal? What happened to Jose's Chelsea who seemed to score one goal each and every half of a game and never concede? What happened to the United defence that set whatever record it was for consecutive clean sheets? Obviously I know what happened to those teams, but where is this year's awesome, ruthless team? United might become champions at a canter and as a Utd fan I'd enjoy that, but even if they do, will their performances allow them to FEEL like champions?
Will any PL-winning team in 2012-3 FEEL like champions? Will it feel like a league worth winning?
Rich (sorry for the CAPS) Blayney
Conclusions From A Liverpool Fan
- If Brendan Rodgers was a cartoon animal, he'd be a toad. Picture him on the sideline as he is, except green, and try to imagine his 'okay' as more guttural and as froggy 'ribbit' (also, if you put him in 18th Century attire, he kinda looks like Ben Franklin, keep that in mind as he ages).
- Arsene Wenger's nose is the exact triangle shape you otherwise only see in cartoons. If he were yellow and feathery he could be Big Bird from Sesame Street's doppleganger.
- I pity Graham Simons (and Earlsfieldblue) for failing to understand such a wonderful piece of the human experience that is uncovered when you love from afar and form unreasonable, lifelong bonds with something (or someone) at a distance.
- Bacary Sagna is shocking. I used to think he was quite good, but that's over. Who are his friends that they let him get away with that hair? Did he lose a bet?
- I think Arsenal would be above Spurs with an in-form Alex Song.
- If you are not in form, you do not make Brendan Rodgers' first XI, even if he brought you in. I like that about him.
- At the same time, his jacket puts me off, it looks like the type of high front slit you associate with an actress looking for eyeballs at a movie premiere.
- As much as I love Jamie Carragher, appreciate all he's done in a Liverpool shirt and look forward to what I think will be an excellent coaching career, he belongs nowhere near a Premier League first XI, especially in a match like this.
- I've put in multiple letters to this space defending Jordan Henderson, preaching patience and strenuously making the comparison to Lucas's early form. It was more wishful thinking than any kind of prescience so there's no "I told you so" coming, I'm just happy to see him get a bit of luck. I don't remember the opponent early last season, it could have been Arsenal, in fact, but he had a wonderfully incisive chip miss his first Liverpool goal in the league by the smallest of margins, hitting the underside of the bar. I hope he continues on his current path because he's got all the tools.
- I love the emotion he plays with. He fluffed an earlier chance and got angry. To be the elite England international we need him to be for the better part of the next decade, he needs to hold himself to account and you can tell he works his socks off. Liverpool needs more attitude, even if it makes us more unpopular, nobody likes us anyway, so f*** it. Maybe this is an American thing, but I prefer my club to have a bit of the anti-hero in them. My favorite fictional characters are the likes of Tyler Durden, Walter White, Tony Soprano, Yossarian, George Costanza and many more from a long list of film and literature's great anti-heroes, no white hats need apply. If you like my club, that means we're not winning enough.
- Not just because I'm a Liverpool fan, Sturridge and Suarez look really great together. It's been a few years since we had a reason to be excited by a partnership at the club. Sturridge looks to have a real instinctive feel for the game. Awareness in space is something that no one has yet figured out how to teach.
- Technology will get us there, I'd imagine that a virtual reality-type simulations which find ways to blend the virtual and physical worlds will make leaps training athletes (and soldiers, watch out, humanity) over the next couple decades. Players could dial up scenarios and practice every detailed aspect of their sport. Crazy.
- Had to watch the match after work due to the time difference, so I already knew the result, unfortunately. The difference between starting a match fresh versus knowing that your side lost a two-goal lead is stark. Rather than cheering our luck at Luis Suarez' goal after five minutes, I was bemoaning the need for luck while leaving better chances begging.
- Yes, I'd have taken an away draw before the match, but I genuinely think we can be better than this Arsenal squad, with no disrespect intended (especially considering, right now, we're not).
- Ladies, form an orderly queue as I'll probably be back on the market pretty soon after the latest was pretty unhappy watching me moan my way through the last half of my recording of Liverpool-Arsenal. I already knew we'd blown a lead and I couldn't talk myself off the ledge at any point before, after or during. She came over with a bottle of wine, a little bit of make-up on and comfortable pajamas that still looked good, all the hints...But, alas, I'm probably the first person in the entire history of humanity to react to someone kissing my ear by calling Disco Stewart Downing a 'f***ing donkey'.
Ian, LFC - (.)(.)(.) <~~ that'd be weird...but I'm open-minded - Hartford, CT USA
Conclusions From An Arsenal Fan
Long-time reader first-time mailer...not sure if I will get in with it being TRANSFER DEADLINE SUPER DOOPER DAY and all that.
I finally took the (£160!!!) plunge and took the girlfriend to the football last night to show her what the fuss is all about, I think I chose a pretty good game on reflection. A few thoughts (from an Arsenal fan);
* Jack Wilshire - what an absolute player, he has everything but what most impresses me is the way he moves with the ball at his feet always pushing the team forward and picking a pass. He provides the drive from midfield.
* Andre Santos - Although you can see he is eager to win the ball back and help out the fundamental problem being that he just doesn't know the role of a defender, his positional play is awful. At times I watched him drop a few yards when the rest of the defence stepped up. At other times he stepped up when they dropped deep! He doesn't know when to commit to the tackle or jockey the player and therefore frequently dives in and ends up out of position. Lets hope Gibbs isn't too badly injured!
* The Arsenal defence - individually they are all good players, but as a unit there is no cohesion, this is principally down to a lack of communication between them and it was quite evident watching the game.
* Theo Walcott - He may have been frustrating at times in the past but you cannot argue with his record this season. He scares defences with his pace and movement and he has repeatedly shown what a finisher he is and has always been. I recall one of his goals for Southampton where he had beaten the keeper on the wing and lofted the ball into the empty net (much like Henderson had the chance to do last night). I think he will eventually be moved into the middle.
* Olivier Giroud - I really like the guy, he may be different to what we are used to at the Emirates but stick with him and I think he will score 20 goals a season for us for the next few years as we begin to learn and play to his strengths more. Plus he has the good knack of clearing most of our corners defensively!
* Liverpool - Although the results have been a bit hit and miss for them this season they have kept plugging away and are in with a real shout of the European places. I think they are building a strong spine to the team and with a few extra additions in the next 12-18 months in the right areas I think they will push on to greater things.
* Luis Suarez - detestable human, great player. Last night there were a few occasions where he had been tackled and felt he had been fouled and you could see him chase after the player with intent to 'nail him'. He has great movement and vision though and we are lucky to have him in the Premier League.
* Jamie Carragher - great player and knows how to play clever, rarely commits himself to leave him out of position and slowed the game down when he could to allow Liverpool to take a breather and reorganise, how Arsenal could do with someone who understands the game and communicates with his players like him.
* Lastly, as my girlfriend rather pithily put it last night the Arsenal fans 'just need to learn to sing a bit' she couldn't be more right, I think the ticket prices have forced out most of the 'core' support and the supporters at the game come from a wider variety of backgrounds and ass a result don't get into the singing as much.
Looking ahead to today's transfer window I would like to see us bring in a defensive midfielder to give the defence more support (Wanyama) and perhaps another left-back to cover Gibbs' injury but I can't see us getting anyone!
Brooks, AFC - (off to the Camp Nou next month with the missus - with a bit of luck I might get her hooked on this football thing too!)
What Arsenal Need....
Matt Stanger's piece on Arsenal's pursuit of a fur coat whilst blissfully unaware of their knickerless-ness hit the nail on the head. Arsene's blinkers in the transfer market, specifically the January window, is becoming increasingly hard to stomach.
I'd love Arsenal to sign David Villa, as I'm sure fans of any club would. He's a proven, top-class centre-forward adept at playing in Arsene's formation of choice, and I'm sure would score plenty of goals for us; but as last night's game against Liverpool made evident, the pressing matter in Arsenal's squad is the massive defensive-midfielder shaped hole.
When van Persie and Alex Song were sold in the summer, I (along with most other Arsenal fans, I'm sure) was infinitely more troubled by the sale of our top goalscorer, and not overly troubled with the departure of our swashbuckling, sort-of defensive midfielder. But then again, I thought he'd be replaced. Instead Arsene decided, even with no obvious replacement within the squad, to make do as the summer transfer window closed. We started the season with two successive 0-0 draws, and I thought my worst fears about RvP were confirmed, but at least we had sharpened up at the back. Bould's influence was widely heralded as the solution we had craved to help stop the defensive rot.
But since then we have, for whatever reason, reverted to type. Goals galore has become the norm, as have goals conceded that leave me wincing and shaking my head. The sort of mistakes that this Arsenal team had become infamous for we're reading their ugly head yet again.
I think much of this problem is down to a lack of a defensive midfield player. A simple recap of the goals we've conceded this season shows a large portion of them have come from being hit on the counter. I'm a big fan of both Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta, but neither naturally sit back when Arsenal are attacking, and neither have the pace required to recover their position when the opposition nick the ball. This leads to the back four being hopelessly exposed to pace and numbers when the opposition are counter-attacking.
If, instead of Ramsey or Arteta, a natural defensive minded midfielder were to be sitting in front of the back four, I think this obvious weakness would be significantly strengthened, allowing Wilshere and Cazorla ahead of him to take care of creating chances. Not a marauding DM like Song, one who actually likes defending. I'm not saying it would solve all our problems, because it really wouldn't, but I feel it's the biggest weakness Arsene could address today. Realistically, two is the maximum signings anyone could hope for, and one will likely be a left back.
So in hope, rather than expectation, I ask Wenger to address an issue that will see our nether regions protected, rather than sacrificing animals unnecessarily in the name of fashion.
Ryan (Arteta is my homeboy) Cameron, Ballymena
A Connection With Wojciech Szczesny
- The Emirates operates a policy, much like other clubs, whereby 'contentious' decisions are not shown on the big screen. They should extend this for the latest kamikaze defensive blunder that ought to have Benny Hill music dubbed to it on replays. I have never seen such apocalyptic rage from everyone in the ground as we were forced to witness a third replay for a failed pirouette clearance that lands straight to the opposing player. Who then scores.
- Is there ANY club in the Champions League that would concede a goal like that first one? ANY??
- That Suarez pass. Wow.
- I have long felt a connection between myself and Szczesny. And last night proved why. He's young, arrogant, capable of flashes of brilliance, but consistently prone to the biggest balls-ups and ultimately nowhere good as he thinks he is (just ask my bosses for confirmation). This Cryuff-turn rubbish has to stop, he was lucky not to get caught out on a corner again. He's only marginally better than what we had before, which is the equivalent of course of saying 'drinking...is better than eating... (you can fill in the blanks). Not good enough.
- It beggars belief that a club that prides itself on such high standards of fitness and speed allows players like Santos and Arshavin to get to the state they are. Do they not monitor these things??
- There is a tiny part of me that hopes we don't sign anyone today. Mainly so that I can watch grown men on Twitter lose their minds.
- Ultimately the game ended as it should. Two clubs with delusions of grandeur, who can't defend, with a couple of excellent players dotted around the pitch, led by managers with crazy soundbites, and absolutely bats*** mental fans.
All square sounds about right.
Sandeep (Can't we go through one freaking game without a protest of some sort???), London
Possession Key For United
In spite of a very poor pitch what I was perplexed with was the fact that a team like Southampton could play so high up the pitch for long periods of plays against players of the calibre of a team like Man Utd. There was simply no outlet at times which to me was utterly baffling. Is it a lack of skill to be able to play one's way out of tight areas or is it poor positional play. Whatever be the reason, this inability to break out with pace and hold on to the ball and invite tackles and not lose posession might prove to be their stumbling block in Europe again unless something changes overnight.
Same Old, Same Old Chelsea
Since our back-to-back title-winning seasons with Jose, there has been the same issue with Chelsea. When we go forward we very rarely look like we are going to score, this is excluding on the counter-attack (and even then when the ball gets played through to Torres, he usually messes that one up). I have wondered if this is actually the case for many years though.
Is it just because I am too nervous to see that we are creating clear-cut chances and the pessimist within is simply blinding these from me? I have come to the conclusion that we just don't play the kind of football that rips people apart and therefore makes these kind of goals happen. Whilst watching Swansea in the 0-0 draw in the second leg of the League Cup final, my heart bled to see Chelsea put together the kind of pass and move play exhibited by the Swans that day. Sure it came to nothing eventually but at least you could see the ideas.
Last night we scored from a corner a fantastic little lob from Torres for Mata to expertly slot home. Typical Chelsea. A couple of moments, after controlling the game but not really creating any other clear-cut chances (that being said Oscar maybe could have scored one or two last night as well). My point is more that in the past this would have been enough. Our determination as well as our fantastic defense-minded style would have seen us through, but this season we can't seem to see out a match. I want Rafa to do well, I really do, as at the moment he is our manager and love him or hate him, he is the man who has to make things happen for us. His constant lack of imagination in his substitutions is remarkable.
Is he simply unable to make any swap that isn't like for like? We are 2-0 up AGAIN this season, knowing that we have regularly let that slide away. WAIT its now 2-1! Rafa what should we do?! I know put on Demba Ba to shore it up...JT is on the bench, stick him on as an extra defender for the last five minutes to see out the win maybe?! The first time I ever walked out of a stadium was when we went 2-0 down against Swansea at home, last night I walked away from the screen too. This is really reminding me of pre-Abramovic Chelsea, where we constantly threw away points in the last few minutes.
Lori Peri, CFC, London
Reading v Chelsea Thoughts
I don't get to go to many games so was pleased to have a chance to go to see Reading/Chelsea last night.
A few thoughts:
- Chelsea's first goal was fantastic. Mata was their best player on the night.
- Fernando Torres was awful. A complete waste of space. As a Reading fan it was a relief when he go the ball as you knew it would (probably) come to nothing.
- Why Benitez waited until almost the end of the game to bring Ba on is a mystery.
- For the majority of the game both Reading and Chelsea were desperately poor.
- I always thought we had a chance with Ross Turnbull in their goal.
- That said given Chelsea's shaky form, and brittle confidence, that Turnbull factor, and that they were playing Bertrand on the wing, I was disappointed that we didn't give it more of a go right from the start. I thought Chelsea were there for the taking.
- Give Reading's recent history of comebacks, what on earth were people leaving with 10mins to go?
- Adam Le Fondre. Enough with the England talk please (though this is probably just a local radio construction).
We're in with a chance of staying up now. With Villa and West Ham in freefall it looks like a tight race to avoid the drop this season. A win against Sunderland on Saturday would be very nice.
Thomas (URZZZZZZ) Blick
What About Me, Harry?
I am concerned; I bagged a double hat-trick at five-a-side last night, and despite watching Sky Sports News for the last 14 hours, I am yet to see Harry Redknapp discussing the possibility of signing me out of a car window. Come on, Harry, I'm a striker the wrong side of 30, you just don't have enough of those!
Lewis, Busby Way (it's not a double hat-trick, it's a triple brace)
Football According To MOTD
Balotelli = good player
Ryan Nelsen = great player
Bluey, CFC, London