That's the difference between him and someone like Cristiano Ronaldo - his body just isn't right. We have mails on him, Sparky, Brendan Rodgers and the Europa Lge...
Nice one UEFA, but not far enough. We have some ideas to make the Europa League better as well as more views on Wayne Rooney, Vermaelen in midfield and...
If you have anything to say on any subject, you know what to do: Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Moment You Realise You're A Ponce
Milan-Barca last night - amazing. Brilliant game, stupendous performance from Milan in the second half, and Robinho and Balotelli's celebration dancing was something else.
With my other half watching the Brits in the other room, I appreciate I've finally turned into the dressing gown-wearing, beaujolais-drinking, Football Italia-obsessed ponce lampooned so effectively on Standing Room Only many moons ago. But give me some slack, I've been watching f***ing Villa all season.
Note to Barcelona: if you turn up looking like a party pack of Zoom ice lollies, don't be surprised if you get licked.
Barca: Flat-Track Bullies?
Are Barca becoming the team that is ruthlessly efficient against weaker teams (18 such teams in La Liga, a pity for the Spanish league followers) while they struggle against competitive opponents?
2008-09: The first competition they met on the field was a resilient Chelsea side with character and physical power; They needed THO to help them guide to the finals where they thrashed a Man United team which was 'tactically' set up poorly.
2009-10: The first competitor they met was an Internazionale designed to play counter-attacking football; Result - Inter 3-2 Barcelona
2010-11: The only sort of competition they met were Real and they had to resort to all sorts of dramatics to win the first leg; maybe this time they did beat a rival (No, Arsenal and United were not competitors to them that season)
2011-12: The first competitor they played were Chelsea and despite what ACH's (Alltime Chelsea Haters) claim about Chelsea's luck and Barca's holiness, I strongly believe Barca simply did not have a clue how to beat Chelsea and at times I wonder if Chelsea had gone carefully more forward they may have nicked a goal or two more over both legs.
2012-13: To begin with, I didn't expect AC Milan to be a competitor for Barca and quite frankly I didn't bother to watch the game either. But reading match reports, it looks like Milan played with a plan and are now rewarded with a 2-0 advantage.
My point: They managed to beat a competitor only once in four years. Are Barca only good against teams that are (a) technically poor and already give up before the game begins, (b) technically good but tactically poor, (c) technically good and think they can outplay Barca in their own game? This season, Barca drew against Real (a competitor) at home and are now lagging behind in Europe. Thoughts welcome.
Aravind (No, Atletico is not a competitor either thought they may have whacked my Chelsea side earlier in the season), CFC, Chennai
AC Milan Are Not Rochdale
Why is there so much shock at Barca getting beat by Milan? Yes, Barcelona are the best side currently playing football and have been for the last few years but it's like they got beat by Rochdale (no disrespect to Rochdale, just picked them randomly) going by the press reaction and the commentators at the end of the game.
This is AC Milan, who have won the competition (European Cup/Champions League) seven times and are four times runners-up. Compare that to Barcelona who are four times winners and three times runners-up.
Gavin (I sent in a 'Rooney isn't world-class' reply and why but it didn't get published) Higgins
PS. Glad to see them beat. Ronaldo is better than Messi anyway.
Barca: Not All That
Many people seem to assume that Barca are one of the best sides ever to ply their trade in Europe...but am I alone in thinking that they just don't look *that* good? I only watch them in the CL normally and often think they look profligate. Yesterday was a case in point - three shots at goal and a header in the entire second half, three of which were from set-pieces. This isn't to take away from a well-organised and efficient Milan, but Barca just looked toothless, as they have against Celtic this season, Chelsea last and on a fair few other occasions. In the past they've had more than their fair share of luck and without it they don't look half as destructive as they're made out to be. For all the plaudits to Xavi and Iniesta, that team minus Messi doesn't look nearly as frightening.
I'm not arguing that they're muppets - clearly they aren't. The side of a generation? Yes. The best team in Europe now? Quite possibly. But up there with the Bayern of the 70s, the great Ajax team, Liverpool in the 80s, the Real that won five on the trot? I never saw those sides, but did they struggle the way that this Barca team seem to, squeaking past opponents, and actually delivering three European Cups in seven seasons assuming they don't pull it round against Milan. Best of their generation sounds right, but best-ever seems out of place.
Oli, Millos, Bogota, Colombia
Why Did I Want Them To Lose?
As I woke up this morning to read that AC Milan had beaten Barcelona 2-0, I was filled with a wholly inexplicable joy. I'm not Spanish, I don't even follow the goings-on of La Liga except to read the table every once in a while to make sure the world is spinning (if Barca are still miles away from the second-placed team, then all is right with the world and I know I'm in the boring lap of reality), and I don't have a particularly strong affiliation for Real Madrid (except maybe a bias towards Ronaldo, seeing as how he grew up at Man Utd).
I'll also acknowledge that Barca play probably the best football, their stylish first touches and delicate through balls are a delight to watch. They probably deserve all the respect they get purely for their footballing abilities (minus the diving, the hounding of referees and the occasional lack of sportsmanship). So why do I so very badly want them to lose?
It got me thinking. Man Utd were (are?) considered the runaway best team in England once, and they won (almost) everything that was offered to them, and they did this consistently year after year, thus giving birth to a bunch of ABUs (Anyone But United). Barca have been similary dominant for the last few years (in fact, probably far more successful). Where are the ABBs (Anyone But Barcelona)?
I mean, it's not there's nothing to hate about them. Barca and Real have monopolised TV revenue in Spain. The Cesc Fabregas saga (apologies for the cliched word) made the world and its mother sick, and Barca have, on occasion, shown a stunning lack of sportsmanship (turning on the sprinklers at home to prevent some team from celebrating their triumph...I forget which one). But more than anything else, they almost always win everything. Isn't anyone else sick of watching Barcelona win?
Gurdit (aiming to become a mailbox regular)
I'm sorry but I feel like I have to write in and stick up for poor Andy Townsend who seems to have taken a bit of a mauling from people who think it's clever to count how many times he says a certain catchphrase over the course of 90 minutes. I've always liked Townsend's style of commentary because what he lacks in eloquence and subtlety and he makes up for by talking with passion and purpose. Ok he might show a bit of bias towards the (British) home side and might not know that Kroos has been playing well in his domestic league this year but so what? Correct me if I'm wrong but that was the first time Kroos has done anything of note in a big Champions League game.
Townsend must be doing something right to be consistently thrown the microphone for these big games and naturally, like all people that subject themselves to mass audiences, will not be to everyone's taste. But when the ire is coming from twerps who probably haven't even played a 90 minute game of football, let alone commentated on one, then I think Townsend will be absolutely fine with that. Plus, he often refers to us as the 'the Arsenal' which makes him okay in my book.
After all the mails about Clive and Andy and a harking back to Tyldesley's 'sunshiiine' moment, maybe we should just be thankful that when the camera lingered on a fan both of them didn't recognise Pete Tong.
George (Piers on Football Focus soon, now that is a new low) Murray, Edinburgh
The Answer Is 'Probably'
For all the talk of how bad ITV's coverage is, surely none of the pundits/commentators are as bad as Jamie Redknapp. Yesterday in the post-match analysis of Milan-Barca, Jeff Stelling suggested that one of the reason's for Milan's success was the young legs they had on the field that they hadn't had in the past, to which Redknapp responded 'yes, especially Montolivo and Ambrosini'. Montolivo is 28, and Ambrosini is 35. Does this mean he'll be nominating Frank Lampard for Young Player of the Year award?
Did Arsenal Sign The Wrong One?
Given the rotten week they've had and Arsenal's general malaise, it got me thinking about who might have made a difference. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and all that, but how Arsene must wish he'd signed Marouane Fellaini rather than his then teammate Mikel Arteta. An aerial presence in midfield and penalty box, goals from midfield at crucial times, and perhaps most crucially that bit of nastiness make him someone who could single-handedly check so many boxes for the current Arsenal team. Whereas Arteta? But then that's the foible of Arsene. He won't do what he so obviously should, and right now he's paying for it.
Robu BRFC (still I ain't complaining - Rovers for Wembley!) Tokyo
Missing The Old Arsenal
Luca Sparks, if most teams cut out their mistakes, they would be 'right up there' too. Take of the rose-tinted Arsene Wenger-loving coated glasses and see Arsenal for what it is, a former giant stuttering and in need of a change of strategy.
I, for one, am not an Arsenal fan, in fact, there was a time when watching Arsenal lose gave me a great satisfaction, but not anymore. I miss the cracking United-Arsenal derbies of old. Watching these games now just makes United look like an unimpressed teacher trying to smack the sense into the unlearning child as nothing else seems to have worked.
Arsenal needs some real fire in that dressing room and whether it requires you to have a change of manager, change of tactics (which would mean a change of manager) and the restructuring of what is a squad thin of any genuine quality when comparing them with the current top four sides in their respective leagues across Europe, they need to get it done. Masochism is not a good trait to have and I genuinely hope for an absolutely cracking game of football when we visit the Emirates
Why Can't Players Lead Themselves?
Because this debate hasn't yet rolled on for long enough, and no-one is getting bored of it, I thought I'd add my tuppence in. In fairness, this is not Arsenal specific, but I'm a Gooner and it's topical. It's about leadership.
In football, we expect a top-down style, with the manager ruling in an autocratic fashion, with a single lieutenant on the pitch - the hallowed captaincy. Dissent is not tolerated, especially by the fourth estate looking for any angle to sell chip wrappers. However, I feel this is a ridiculous system, and one that has been dispeansed with in many other sports. Frequently, I've read messages here deriding rugby, cricket, American football, and so on; however, I feel they can teach us so much about effective leadership. In all these sports, team generally have a head coach (the manager). They have a team around them (backroom staff) which obviously varies in size depending on individual (as in football) and on sport. So far, so similar.
However, the role of the coach is not only to set up the team to compete effectively, but to empower the players to do so themselves. In rugby, there is a team captain, but there is also a captain in the pack of forwards, and often a senior back too. The scrum half or fly half also are usually pretty vocal. This means that there is a 'leadership committee' in the dressing room and on the pitch. Similarly for cricket, the captain will often have their trusted advisers amongst the senior players. And have you seen how many captains are at the coin toss in the NFL? Apropos to that, there are occasional meetings between elite level coaches in a variety of sports - Lancaster, Brailsford etc - to share ideas. I bet the number of elite level managers who attend is somewhere between -1 and 1.
I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that whilst I'm not at all defending some of the absolutely farcical decisions made by Wenger, it's just as ridiculous to use every single opportunity to berate him. He has a squad of 24 professionals, enough of whom have seen it all, and done it all. When the going gets tough, even if they all hate Wenger, Steve Bould and Gazidis, it's not important. For 90 minutes, these guys should be able to motivate themselves, and if they can't, then the 'leadership committee' which should comprise of people like Mertesacker, Arteta, Rosicky, Podolski, Cazorla and (incredibly for his age) Wilshere. Other clubs do this naturally - Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand, Vidic, Carrick and some Dutch bloke at Man Utd; Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Abidal at Barca; I could go on for most successful teams.
I'm not naive enough to think that there is no discussion at all between Wenger and anyone else, and I'm sure the players talk amongst themselves. However, leadership is not about having a bit of elastic around your bicep, it's about getting people to do stuff. Right now, we're not doing anything, and it's as much a failure of the players to organise themselves as it is Wenger to organise them.
Rich (Vermaelen and Rooney were deliberate omissions from the list above), London, AFC
A Rare Mail On Watford
I've been a Watford fan my whole life and most of that time has been pretty uneventful. I'm too young to remember the glory days of the early 80s so, with the exception of the odd foray into the Premier League, we've spent the vast majority of my life quietly going about our business in the second tier of English football, not really being noticed by anyone.
Recently, however, we've started getting noticed and we've started getting criticised. I'm getting bored of it and I feel the need to vent. The thing that gets to me is that no one really seems sure of why they're criticising us. It's obviously got something to do with our new owners and the multitude of loan signings we've brought in from their other clubs, Udinese and Granada, but no one seems able to articulate exactly what it is about the situation that they don't like.
Maybe it's the sense that we're buying success. The thing is, though, the Pozzos never planned to come in, spend loads of money and get instant success. Neither did the fans expect that to happen. Their plan was always to run the club in the same way as their other clubs; sensibly, sustainably and with a view to the long term. This season's success has been built on good team spirit and good management, something that no one would begrudge us in any other season.
So maybe people think we're losing our identity. I don't see how, though. We still play in the same kit, with the same badge on our shirts, in the same stadium and in front of the same fans. The club is still just as active in the community. But this argument extends to the youth system and chances for British and Irish players, doesn't it? Except that players coming through our youth system, such as Sean Murray and Tommie Hoban, are still getting their chances in the first team. And the list of British and Irish players in our first team squad is quite long: Bond, Hall, Doyley, Hodson, Hoban, Chalobah, Eustace, Yeates, Hogg, Forsyth, Jenkins, Murray and Deeney.
In recent years, we have had to rely on youth players and inexperienced managers just to stay in the league. We have sold our best youth products, such as Ashley Young and Marvin Sordell, to avoid going out of business. We gave Brendan Rodgers his first managerial job and when he left we gave Malky Mackay his first managerial job, and when he left we gave Sean Dyche his first managerial job. The Pozzos have simply given us the stability we need to be competitive.
What most of this criticism boils down to is jealousy. If anyone claims anything different, they don't fully understand the situation at the club.