You might notice that we haven't included a single mail about teams in pubs, because most of them were terrible. Instead we have a disgruntled Fulham fan and Scouse maths...
Villa are the latest team to get the pub treatment, while the morning mailbox also includes missives on Tony Pulis leaving Stoke and Chelsea's future under Jose Mourinho...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City v Liverpool: Thoughts From A United Fan
* What an absolutely cracking game, I will get some stick for saying this but Liverpool were marvelous to watch. Tactically, Rodgers got it absolutely right, unlike the United game he started with Suarez and Sturridge, however it was Henderson and Downing that impressed me the most during the first half as they simply did not allow Clichy and Zabaleta to get forward at all.
* City were strangely lethargic during most of the game, unlike United they don't seem to have the will to grind out a win when they are not playing well. This and not quality will be the difference between United and City come May (or March!)
* That said, City's plan to press Liverpool into making a mistake while playing out from the back did work early in the season, I do not know if it was improper implementation this time around or the fact that Liverpool seem so much more comfortable with Rodgers' possession-based approach these days, Gerrard and Lucas seem to link with Suarez and Sturridge effectively, the full-backs link with the wide men and all the players are extremely comfortable on the ball. It pains me to say this, but I agree with Bellamy, Liverpool have arrived. (This will usually be followed by a home defeat to West Brom, but not this year.)
* The best players on the pitch were undoubtedly Sturridge and Milner. Milner seems to be like the player us united fans want Valencia to be, I would like to see Milner's stats on crossing, I don't remember him wasting a cross throughout the game. Plus the shift that he puts in tracking back is to be admired.
* Sturridge was different class, his ball control was magnificent and the power he generated through his strikes was remarkable.
* Aguero's finish - wow just wow. Reina was an absolute tit to lose his head, but Aguero had so much to do, you could see Carragher's reaction as the ball went in - a little jump and utter disbelief.
* Suarez was actually relatively anonymous during the game, which should actually give Liverpool supporters great optimism. Liverpool did not need Suarez to be at his best to get a result at the home of the champions.
* On the other hand, City obviously needed Silva to perform, especially in the absence of Toure. He just didn't turn up yesterday.
* Even as a United fan, it's very easy to admire Gerrard. People compare him to Giggs and Scholes but it surely is easier to be loyal to a club while you are constantly winning trophies? And if you want someone to shoot as the ball drops 35 yards from goal...(you would want Scholes)
* I would like to see Liverpool to have a right go at the Europa Cup this time around, I think that their approach is well suited to European football. Fourth place is nine points away, and while not completely out of reach, the odds are slim, a good cup run is the least that this football team deserves this year.
* At the top, I still think that if City are around six points behind United when they come to old Trafford, they have a chance. United's objective will be to make the Old Trafford contest meaningless in terms of title race significance. Need to keep rooney and van persie fit. Plus Madrid to look forward to. Fun times, fun times.
Aditya, MUFC, Dubai
* Another unreasonably open game, but great to watch.
* Whilst Liverpool were guilty of paying Arsenal too much repect mid-week, thankfully this wasn't the case v Man City. Credit were it is due, Arsenal did a better job of closing down, pressing up the pitch and harrying, but it was good from a Liverpool perspective that we had a good, expansive gameplan and stuck to it today.
* Speaking of the Arsenal game, when they visited Anfield earlier in the season, they were extremely disciplined, sat off and picked Liverpool off on the break. It seemed we tried to do the same at the Emirates, which worked to a certain degree although we eventually succumbed to the pressure that we invited on ourselves.
* It is often said that a defence containing Jamie Carragher, is a defence about 15-20 yards further back than it should be. Against the pace of Arsenal, this seemed valid, although in the Norwich game and again today, I thought he was excellent.
* Trying to look at it impartially, you would be dissapointed if another team scored against you with one of your players down 'injured'. The incident came about with Dzeko trying to shield the ball and Dagger probably going through him to win the ball, so you would have to say foul. However, with the referee playing on, Liverpool dallied on the ball giving Dzeko every chance to get to his feet (which he did, as soon as the ball went in).
* If this had happened against my team, I would be equally disappointed that my player rolled around like a wet lettuce rather than getting back and helping to defend.
* I have to say I am chuffed to bit with the signing of Daniel Sturridge. His close control at times is rubbish but he seems to retain the ball more often than not, and has shown good awareness, pace and strength so far in his Liverpool career.
* Jose Enrique is an asset this Liverpool team can't do without at the moment. Not only does he allow the uber-consistent Johnson to play at right-back, his work rate and re-invogorated attacking play definately worry opposing defences. Hasn't been beaten at the defensive end much recently either.
* On to Henderson and Downing. After poor first seasons (in the case of Hendo, mostly due to being played out of position), and basically being written off by the manager at the start of the season, they really seem to have knuckled down and have each put in good consecutive performances. The price tags didn't help them, although I feel Henderson in particular has a biright future, with a bit of confidence behind him, I hope to see him take his play up another notch.
* Before Norwich, I couldn't remember the last time Gerrard hit a ball with bad intentions. With another Thunder B*astard of a goal today, and the fact that he has been covering more distance during games, than any other Liverpool player this season, I am glad to say I was wrong to think he doesn't have the power in his legs any more.
* Man City miss Yaya Toure like a hole in the head. I don't think Javi Garcia is capable of the driving runs that epitomise Toure's play, goals and assists which won City an awful lot of points last season.
* Two away games against top six teams, two points gained or lost for Liverpool? On paper, I might have taken two score draws prior to the fixtures. Afterwards however, I can only rue our inability to hold a lead. It is a young team with much to learn and I don't think the faith/confidence is misplaced at the moment.
Summing Up The Weekend In 15 Points
This was one of those weekends where not broadcasting every Premier League game, despite the Sky deal being evenly distributed, would have pleased the BBC immensely. The lunch-time kick-off was a pretty drab 0-0, and the evening kick-off on ESPN was almost more notable for a light failure than the football on display.
It's a curious thing that Americans and Europeans can watch all the 15:00 kick offs they want, while in the UK if we want to watch our team mid-afternoon we have to watch rather questionable quality streams or find a pub with a dubious satellite connection.
That being said, a very interesting weekend at the top and bottom of the league.
- QPR/Norwich: Both teams needed a win, especially with the way results went later in the day. Despite hurling money at survival, could a quick drop to the Championship and the parachute payments that would bring actually make financial sense to QPR?
- The relegation quagmire: Nine points separate 19th from 10th. With 12 games to go, this could get very messy.
- Newcastle's approach of building their team around the French under-21 side from a few years ago will probably pay off. If they do they will be able to move some of them on in the summer for a lot more than they paid initially. They have found a ton of value, and a ton of quality in Ligue Un.
- Pepe Reina and Petr Cech made two ridiculous errors on the weekend. If David de Gea had made those errors the press would jump on him like a sumo wrestler. Even though neither Reina or Cech are having their best seasons in England, they are both highly experienced keepers. Anyone who thinks United will shell out another £15m for a keeper needs their head looking at.
- If there was a player that I would want my team to smash transfer records for it's Gareth Bale. His time at Tottenham must be drawing to a close, and I think it'll be a real shame if he moves on abroad. Do Welshmen travel better than the English?
- Only five points separates third from fifth. It's going to be squeaky bum time for Chelsea fans. What will Roman do if they finish outside the top four for a second year running? Without the boon of Champions League football it's going to be a tough and expensive rebuilding process.
- This Arsenal side lack the flair of the Invincibles, or the steel of previous sides, but they can grind out results. Jack Wilshere is the most important player for club and country at the moment, and neither could do with a recurrence of his injury woes.
- With 13 games to go, Mancini is convinced that United's one eye on the Champions League will cause them to drop points in the league. One of two things will happen: a) They'll get knocked out by Madrid and be able to play their strongest team in every remaining league game or b) They'll knock out Madrid and the winning mentality that permeates through the squad will be at a season high. It's dangerous to begin to rely on your opponents results as important as your own.
- How must Liverpool wish they'd signed Sturridge in the summer instead of Borini? As this website points out, this could well be last chance saloon for Sturridge, and he seems to be taking that position seriously.
- Man City supporters singing "one greedy b*****d" is so deliciously full of irony I may just need a second helping.
- It seems Mauricio Pochettino may love a soundbyte, but two points from three games isn't really going to get things done, especially with Reading and Newcastle getting maximum points. His high-energy, high-pressing style will certainly make Southampton look a better side, but without results it's all a big of a tease.
- While I do agree that spitting at another player is a clear and obvious dismissal, I do think that Popov was a bit unlucky. Yes there were obviously handbags that lead to the incident, but it didn't seem that he was spitting AT Kyle Walker, merely a bit of his spit hit him. Players spend so much time spitting some of it's bound to make contact with someone.
- One thing I've often wondered is whether or not, when a player is on the ground, and someone from the opposing team goes to check on them, do they ask "hey man, you faking it?" All footballers feign injury to kill time, add on time, break up the pace of the game, etc. Fair play to Liverpool for sticking two fingers up to Edin Dzeko for his 'gamesmanship'. It's usually quite obvious when a player gets hurt, and it doesn't happen as much as highlight footage would suggest.
- No one will miss Rafa Benitez. If he can take Fernando Torres with him when he goes, I can't imagine Chelsea fans will be too concerned.
- Everton season in a nutshell: Happy face, confused face, sad face.
Well Done, Referee
I'll leave the analysis of the City-Liverpool game to others but just want to say well done to the ref for letting play continue when Dzeko was pretending to be injured and trying to get the game stopped. As a United fan I hate Liverpool more than City, but in this instance I was delighted that City got punished. The faking injury thing really grinds my gears. City fans would have been better off booing Dzeko. Had he just got up and tryed to win the ball back there's every chance he'd have disrupted Liverpool enough to have prevented the goal.
My guess would be that over 90% of the time players go down and stay down causing the game to be stopped, thats there's nothing really wrong with them, certainly not enough to warrant stopping the entire match, and often when the play has moved well away from them. It's usually pretty obvious when someone has a head injury or if their leg is falling off, otherwise it should be play on. Dzeko and City got what they deserved.
...The ref in the Liverpool vs Man City game was superb. He ignored quite a few niggly little fouls from both teams and let the game flow. The highlight, however, was his decision not to stop play in the build-up to the Sturridge goal. Marvellous!
I attended a League 1 game on Saturday where Crewe were subjected to a member of the Scunthorpe United team collapsing on the floor every five minutes to bring the trainer on and break up any momentum we had. Needless to say that the players all managed to sprint around within a few seconds of these serious injuries. As soon as we went ahead then all such play-acting ceased. Funny, eh?
I'm all for a bit of sportsmanship but the idea that the opposition can time-waste or use these 'un-written rules' to their advantage is just pathetic.
I'm not saying that Edin wasn't a bit sore after the tackle but come on, Dzeko and grow a pair!
So my 'top man of the weekend' award goes to the 'Pool vs City ref!
Andrew, Crewe fan!
Time To Sell Reina
I think it's time for us LFC fans to admit we are now a mid-table team (hopefully temporarily). In terms of history and global recognition, we are still up there but in terms of on the pitch, as your favourite mobster would say, forgedda aboud it. I'm not writing this to sulk or blame the manager. There are only so many teams that can occupy the top (four if you like). It's just not our time at the moment and I don't begrudge Spurs and even Everton (does that make me a fan created with the same components as a bucket?) getting in those spots. Neither am I going to moan about needing money because we had it and spent it poorly. I've come to the point now where two-goal leads dropped are met with a shrug and not beating any top 10 team is normal. Not because I don't care, but because it's the reality we are in. There may be a few knee-jerkers writing in so I want to give a balance.
Having said that though, I'm going to have a right old moan about Pepe Reina. He is finished as a Liverpool player. The affection I had for Reina depleted hugely after his involvement in that disgraceful racist advert he shot in Spain. Not saying he is a racist but he should have known better. But that is not the main reason I feel this way. Since I learned he admitted wanting to move to Arsenal and feeling like he was used as a bargaining chip by the old regime, I knew his heart was no longer in playing for us. A friend told me he thought WBA should have just let Odemwingie go if he did not want to play for them as his head would not be in the right place. I countered his thoughts by saying the club have the right to force a player to honour a contract. I stick to my point of view but to be honest, these guys are only human at the end of the day.
No matter the reason for wanting a move, once that move doesn't happen, most players seem not to give their all to their current club. It's worse in Reina's case because he didn't get closure. The people who stopped his move to Arsenal were soon gone and obviously the new owners had nothing to do with it so owe him no apology or explanation. He is still a top-class keeper and would probably do a good job for a club he actually wants to play for.
It's time for Rodgers to bite the bullet, sell Pepe and bring in another keeper who actually wants to represent the club 100%. He has cost us too many goals over the last few seasons. For a team in transition, the last thing that is needed is one of the older heads not being on his game and setting an example.
I really do have faith in Rodgers and believe once he has the right players in place, we will be back up there. But please mate, stop looking up at the screen to check yourself then give it the old claps and 'common lads!' for the cameras. We already know you really care.
Ssino (I really don't wanna ask for money but...£15m for a better option than Downing would be nice)
Thanks for the years of service, we've loved you, but I'm afraid your best seasons are behind you, your mistakes are getting more and more frequent, and it's time we parted ways.
Liverpool Football Club (via Mike D in London)
Stop Picking On DDG
Some very questionable goalkeeping performances this weekend by high-profile goalkeepers. Petr Cech at fault for Newcastle's equalising goal, Joe Hart beaten by two very long-range efforts (and almost by a very short-range effort from Zabaleta) and a shocking error of judgement by Pepe Reina to gift Man City a point. This coupled with a faultless display by David De Gea at Fulham to edge Man United closer to the title. Still I'm guessing there will be no mention of goalkeepers this weekend and the media will just wait until the next time De Gea makes a tiny mistake before they can fill the back pages. It may not be fair, balanced analysis but at least it sells papers!
Jamie Mc, Manchester
Impressed With United
I had to juggle between Fulham vs Man United and South Africa vs Mali (AFCON) this weekend and the results brought a mixed bag of emotions with United winning & Bafana Bafana losing on penalties.
The United result was a big one not only because we kept a clean sheet but also how this was one of our tricky away games that we have to keep winning. We had to do some desperation defending with balls being cleared off the line (Rafael, RVP), the post and De Gea also contributed to that clean sheet. The Rooney goal reminded me of the one Ronaldo scored at the same ground in a title-winning charge and that win was also significant in us winning the title (hopefully this one will too).
Zaphetha (Zaps) MUFC S.A
Not Missing Benitez
All the excuse making by and on behalf of Benitez reminds me of why I wanted LFC to move on from his reign, and why I don't regret his 'mutual departure. That and seeing full-backs played in attack, and the constant, predictable wait for the 78th minute substitution.
As far as I'm concerned, LFC should regret taking so long and the subsequent hires, but not the initial decision to part ways with Benitez.
On another note, Rooney, Sturridge and Walcott looks a pretty exciting potential England front three, on paper.
Jay (if only England did exciting) Wright, LFC
Is Pulis Holding Back Stoke?
Ah, the aftermath of Arsenal v Stoke. Always a joy with the p***y comments from either side and I'm sure that the mailbox ed's inbox will be filled wit 'nyahh nyahh' stuff from both camps this morning.
But, something else got me this weekend regarding Pulis' post-match comments, and this is something I'm genuinely interested in people's opinions of. Afterwards Tony (can I call you Tony? No? Ok) claimed that, and this is approximate, "there are massive differences in resources between the two clubs".
Now, a quick look at the rather dull 'net spend' statistics show that Stoke have outspent Arsenal in terms of transfer fees by £80m since 2006/07. I fully appreciate that this is only part of the picture - Arsenal's wage bill is massively bigger than Stoke's, and the club's turnover far greater. But it did get me thinking. Is Pulis holding Stoke back?
The comments suggest he still sees Stoke as a small club. Which, I have to say, I don't. They are an established Premier League side, with a good core fan base and decent infrastructure They are well run and solvent. Why the small time attitude?
Compare this to the stance of Swansea. I would suggest the two clubs are of a similar size but Swansea seem to fear no one. They go out, play their football and look to win. An obvious reward being the COC final at the end of this month and I would expect their first major silverware. Laudrup is not lacking confidence and seems to embody the spirit at the club. They know they aren't as big as some others but they want to try to get there.
I get the feeling with Pulis that he doesn't think he can move Stoke on, hence the above comments and hence the continued *ahem* pragmatic playing style. His insistence after the game on Saturday that they had deserved something sounds like a lower division manager post a battling FA Cup tie, not a game between sixth and tenth in the same division.
So, is Pulis holding Stoke back? Or are Stoke achieving as much as they possibly can? I won't say 'what do other mailbox readers think?' 'cos I hate that. But, what do other mailbox readers think?
Tom (personally I can't stand him, which is probably a reason for most Stoke fans to back him) Cheshire Gooner
...We need to talk about Tony Pulis.
He moans to the cameras that he doesn't 'know what offside is anymore' when the goal was quite clearly onside because 1) the only player offside was Theo Walcott who was nowhere near the incident and 2) it deflected off a Stoke player.
He moans about the Arsenal players surrounding the linesman 'when the right decision has been made' when the right decision quite obviously wasn't made, and ignores the fact his players surrounded Chris Foy immediately after he rightly awarded the goal.
He states that his side deserved something out of the game when they offered absolutely nothing beyond a couple of early long balls to Crouch and Walters to see if Monreal was dodgy in the air.
And above all, he whinges and whines in order to cover up just how ugly and cynical his team is. So focused on barging, elbowing, kicking and crunching their way through 90 minutes were they that, after 15 minutes, they didn't even care about making their long balls any good. You may think these are the rantings of an offended, Arsenal supporting, wannabe auteur, but they're not. I appreciate the attraction and effectiveness of physical football. Having supported Arsenal for 25-odd years I have seen us win two league titles that way, while the beauty of Wenger's best sides was underpinned by a willingness to get physical when necessary. But in both instances - and with other 'direct' teams - the physicality was a means to achieving something. With Pulis, where's the ambition?
The man should be reviled, yet his way goes largely uncriticised. Stoke fans might leap to his defence - though surely they can't be blind to dross like Saturday's performance - but ultimately they should think about what the media's validation of Pulis says about their opinion of Stoke. Basically, it patronisation: we'll forgive Stoke their brutal negativity because, well, what else could a club like that possibly hope for? Without it, they'd be nothing.
Stoke are an original founder of the Football League and this is their fifth year in the top flight. Yes they might be surrounded by 'bigger' clubs but there's plenty to be proud of and smaller, less storied clubs have shown you can survive and thrive another way. By putting the Pulis way behind them now, they can look back on it as a means of establishing themselves in the top flight. But what good does sticking with it do them?
The Big Question
As amazing as Beyonce's half-time performance last night was (and I'm sure everyone would agree it was...), the real question is, could she do it on a cold wet Wednesday night in Stoke?