The afternoon mailbox has plenty more views on the fixture list. Plus, a sublime piece of skill from Emile Heskey, more cool 'ballers and dull football matches...
A Gooner in the Mailbox seems to genuinely think that the world/fixture computer is against his team. Sigh. That, plus more cool footballers & Mike Ashley: Supervillain...
If you have anything to add on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bullying Or A Sign Of Intelligence?
Identifying, targeting and victimising a team's weakest defender isn't being a "flat-track bully", it's the mark of an intelligent footballer.
If one were an attacker, confronted with a back four of Cafu, Cannavaro, Nesta, and Andre Santos, it wouldn't be manly, competitive or brave to focus on Cannavaro at the expense of Santos, it would be bloody stupid. Taking the cricket analogy (which you misuse, in any case), it's no different from how batsmen in the early 2000s played defensively against McGrath and Warne, and targeted the less accurate and consistent Brett Lee as a source of runs. Even if Bale were primarily scoring against minnows (he isn't), or just scoring when Spurs were already winning (he isn't, he's scoring important, winning goals), your point would be null. As it is, it's just regressive.
A win against West Ham gives the same points as a win against United or City, and (as Benitez' Liverpool showed) titles are lost as easily at home to minnows as they are away at fellow Top 4 clubs.
Also, if memory serves, in 2010 Maicon had recently been integral to an Inter Milan team that had won the CL, and the preceding 5 Serie A, and was preferred to Dani Alves as right-back for Brazil. Scarcely the incompetent you suggest he was (notwithstanding that Bale primarily succeeded on the counter-attack, and that neither Javier Zanetti nor Biabiny offered any help).
...I am struggling to understand the mini-rant from Dean, etc, Bedford - it seems that he is holding himself out as one who has reached a higher plane of footballing consciousness, a pure level of football where one can only claim to be "good" if one consistently seeks out the greatest possible challenge and then bests it.
That all sounds well and good, Dean, but could I humbly suggest that a lot of the work that goes on in football involves identifying the weaknesses of your opponents, and then seeking to exploit those weaknesses for your own or your teams advantage? And that the reason gifted footballers are occasionally given a "free role" (as is often the case with Bale), is to enable those players the freedom to identify said weaknesses as the game develops, as they are best disposed to take the most advantage of the situation?
I might refer Dean to the recent Man Utd v Real Madrid clash, where the highly regard punditry of the Neviller pointed out that Ronaldo "will find the weak link in your defence and bully it". Please note, Dean, this is not the same as a "flat track bully" - one who can only beat the simplest and weakest of opponents. This is someone who actively and intentionally reads their opponent, determines what the weakness is (whether that be pace, height, reading the game, concentration, or whatever) and then mercilessly targets that weakness until it pays off. For me, Bale does something similar (albeit not as well as Ronaldo does).
Even at a Sunday League level, I would generally find that the biggest and best attacking player for the opposition was often shunted out to the right wing because "their left back is bobbins" (and yes that was me) - so in summary, Dean, one man's flat track bully is another man's basic and sensible football tactic.
Terry Hall, Switzerland
...I read the post yesterday from Dean, Bedford who accused Bale of wandering across the pitch "looking for someone sh*t to take on". Does Dean not realise that this is actually Bale's role right now? Gary Neville wrote an article the other week praising Cristiano Ronaldo for doing the exact same thing. Great players probe for the weakness in the defense and exploit it. Why-oh-why would you run at the most competent defender, when you know you can out-pace his slower colleague all day long?
...Ah, the old flat-track bully argument beautifully brought out by Dean, etc, Bedford. The major problem with this argument is the idea that it somehow makes a player any less valuable. Given that about 12 clubs in the Premier League would probably be considered part of the 'flat track', that's 24 games in a season. Or put another way Dean, 72 points.
As a Liverpool fan who has become used to seeing us struggle to put away some of those clubs for a number of seasons (before now happily merging this with also being unable to beat the strongest teams as well), I'd be pretty happy with someone who helps deliver 72 points and leaves us free to try and get the 10-15 points from our other 14 games that would win the league.
...I know I shouldn't rise to the bait but Dean, etc, Bedford's claim that Gareth Bale is a flat track bully who has never done it against a top team was the biggest load of rubbish I have ever read. Here are a few games he's scored in since joining Spurs:
15/09/07 - Free kick vs Arsenal
14/04/10 - Scores decisive goal in victory over Arsenal
17/04/10 - Scores decisive goal in victory over Chelsea
20/10/10 - Scores hat trick vs Inter Milan at the San Siro in the Champions League
15/04/12 - Scores vs Chelsea in FA Cup semi final
29/09/12 - Scores in victory over Man Utd
17/11/12 - Scores in loss to Arsenal
28/11/12 - Scores free kick in win over Liverpool
14/02/13 - Scores two brilliant free kicks vs Lyon
Add to this countless assists in games against big teams and I think you can see he's far from a flat track bully.
Ps. Actually while I'm in the mood....
DJ, MUFC (Yes, I know that's not what the song is called) India - Morgan Schneiderlin yesterday signed a four year contract extension at Southampton. Try and keep up.
Andrew M, AFC (5-4 in Arsenal's favour for this weekend...you heard it here first), Australia - Do your research, Andre Villas-Boas wasn't manager at Porto when Arsenal beat them 5-0.
James (Madrid) - How can Bale be a false number 9 if he has an actual number 9 in Defoe or Adebayor always playing in front of him. The only time you could possibly say he has played as a false number 9 was in the second half against West Brom after Defoe went off injured, and even then it was more Dempsey who was playing as the false number 9.
Ronaldo Or Bale For £55m?
Your twitter account posted an interesting question to United fans - take Bale at 23 for 55 million or Ronaldo back at 28 for the same price? I'll bite and say I'd still prefer Ronaldo.
Bale has been in superb form this season and is doing a similar job for Spurs as Ronaldo did for United when they won their second title. However, he has still a long way to go before direct comparisions can be made. Maturity is as valuable as experience and Ronaldo possesses both. Both are fast and can terrorize defenders by running at them. But if it comes to match winners with a proven track record - I would still opt for Ronaldo. Let's not forget RVP is 29 and look at the impact he has had this year.
I think there is also a fear instilled by a player's reputation. If you are going to be up against Messi, you'll always have that extra degree of fear/respect at the back of your mind and that does affect your game and the way you defend against him. Over the last few games, RVP has been quite tame and yet just his sheer presence in the team has dragged United through. I highly doubt if defenders fear Bale or his reputation as much as they fear Ronaldo.
Of course - for all I know - Fergie's already signed him to continue the legend of the Welsh number 11.
Budhaditya (can we have both please?)
The End Of Barcelona?
I think this Barcelona - Madrid result answers the question of whether Guardiola needed to do anything to achieve success with such quality players. This Barcelona team look utterly rudderless and devoid of ideas without their former manager. They're moving the ball around just half a notch slower, allowing the opposition to organise themselves just that bit quicker. Their body language is horrendous, considering the players at their disposal, and I think this performance confirms the fact that a great team needs a great manager to succeed. How many great teams have had a mediocre manager?
Even bearing in mind Vilanova's absence, it's surprising to see such a lack of leadership, guile and ingenuity on Barcelona's part. Messi looks worn out; Puyol's been given twisted blood by Di Maria; Madrid seem leaner, meaner and hungrier.
Have they lost the drive of years past under Pep? Are we seeing the decline of a previously unassailable Barcelona? Or is this just a temporary blip?
Asher (thunderb*stard of a semi-colon there) Ellerman
...I'm probably not the first to say this, and god knows there'll be enough mails about how claiming Barca's downfall after two bad games is moronic, but - it had to come sometime, and after watching the Copa del Rey Clasico and the Milan game, it's here. Xavi, Iniesta, Dani Alves, Puyol, and even occasionally Messi have starting playing with an unmistakeable air of, what's the point? Why am I doing this clever little flick round the corner, why the one-touch two-touch three-touch shoot, again.
So want to see Messi facing up each week against a new set of opponents, and I'm hoping that this is the start of that becoming reality.
Congrats Barca, greatest team of all time, ending 2013.
Who Do You Want To Go Down?
It is getting that time of year when I seriously start thinking about which three teams I would like to see relegated from the PL regardless of their current position in the table. Being more than two thirds though the season I start to think of who I would rather not see playing against my beloved Spurs next season. The first team that comes to mind is Stoke City coached by the annoying Tony Pulis. Their kick anything that moves tactics followed by TP's constant gripping about opposition players and the referee are too much for me to endure any longer. The PL would be a better place without them.
My second choice might be somewhat of a surprise in that it is West Ham. The Hammers for a lot of years were many fans second team. They played open attractive free flowing football, have a history of great players that always had fans wondering "what if" the likes of Lampard, Carrick, Defoe etc. had stayed at the club. Now enter Big Sam. Gone are the days of free flowing football. Gone are the days when the skill of the players could be evident for all to see. West Ham have now become the "Bolton south" and all they do is whack it up field in the hope that some six foot something goon can get on the end of it. Sorry Sam you might be able to keep your team in the PL but you are winning no friends least of all me.
My third choice is not easy because I really don't have any gripe against any of the other teams. It should be Wigan playing on that rugby field in front of lots of empty seats but I do have a soft spot for Martinez for what he has done there and the way they try to play the game. Beyond the way teams play I think about the way teams are run. Villa, Liverpool, Newcastle have not been the best run teams lately but clearly the PL would be worse off without these three. So with that said my third choice for relegation is QPR. What a joke they are. Paying a bunch of over the hill 30 something's huge salaries to end up bottom of the league. They deserve what they are getting and will get which is championship football.
So there you have it. My wish list for relegation irrespective of their league position today. Do other readers have similar thoughts?
Bryan, THFC USA.
No. No. No. DJ, MUFC (Yes, I know that's not what the song is called) India No.
Morgan Schneiderlin is not what we need. Not even close. We need an established, world class, ball winning, box to box midfielder.
Morgan Schneiderlin may be having a 'decent' season for Southampton but is he no way enough quality for United. We are winning the league by 12 points and should go on to win it comfortably enough.
In Europe however we don't look up to the standard of Bayern, Barca or even Madrid, despite the good away result. Morgan Schneiderlin would not improve our chances against any of these teams, or any team for that matter. We need a player capable of big match winning performances from midfield.
Like you said, "I haven't seen a great deal of him" Maybe you should watch more football before spouting your nonsense.
However, may I recommend applying for a job on the ITV Football panel.
PeterMUFC (Too wound up to put anything decent in these stupid brackets)
...DJ, MUFC. Your timing with that post could not be better, for on the 25th February Morgan Schneiderlin signed a new 4 year contract with Southampton keeping him at the club (within reason) until June 2017. Trust me when I say the guy will cost you A LOT of money as we are under no illusions as to how important a player he is for us.
Plus, I wouldn't recommend you try to take on our pitbull of a Chief Exec, he'll give David Gill's successor a rude awakening on how to negotiate a transfer.
Simon (Schneiderlin, Schneiderlin, does whatever a Schneiderlin does) Goddard, SFC
Missing The Old Jonathan Pearce
Once upon a time, Jonathan Pearce was a great radio commentator. Working for Capital Gold, he was like an overexcited puppy on speed but, instead of grating, it was superb commentary.
Without doubt, his best moment came while commentating on the Eric Cantona kung fu kick. 'Oh my goodness me! He's jumped in the crowd and scissor kung-fu kicked a fan!' Written down, it doens't look so good but I implore someone to find the original commentary of it. It was later remixed by someone called Phil B, apparently, but that cannot do justice to the original rantings.
In the days before MP3 players, we had these things called tapes and we could record what was being played on the radio at the time. I wore out my copy of that commentary, which was set to the background of the Capital Gold football theme tune - itself a classic.
Which all makes his prosaic appearances on MOTD all the stranger.
Jaimie Kaffash, Arsenal, London