After a disappointing end to his three years at Real Madrid, could Jose Mourinho struggle to bring immediate success if he completes his anticipated return to Chelsea?
The Premier League season has only been over for about 20 hours and already we're well into the summer-type Mailbox. Plus, a shout for the 2014 player of the year...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Real Shame Of It All
Yesterday was a sad day for film-lovers, as the classic 'The Full Monty' has finally become dated. Never mind references to chippendales, Sheffield steel etc - the motif of "the Arsenal offside trap" will now be meaningless to future generations who decide to watch it.
Arsenal Need Less Loyalty To Players
Aside from the frustration of having brought in players who are maybe not quite good enough to replace top players, while seeing other teams make successful purchases, the select (but growing) group of Arsenal fans who want Arsene to step down really need to have a sit down and to smell some coffee.
Arsenal need a couple of players, but that's about it. Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey (despite the abuse he's received this season), the Ox and Cazorla are all tidy players. Giroud and Podolksi are good enough for the league, but probably not good enough for their aspirations (and by comparison to RVP) and have never been prolific, and Mertesacker has always been a Terry-esque liability.
What the side really need is a commanding centre-back (Lescott?) to pair with Vermaelen, a decent attacking focus (Dzeko is probably on the market soon) and an experienced holding midfielder to shout at people and make sure they're defending (and for the younger players like Ramsey to learn from), like Essien (seemingly unwanted at Chelsea).
Really though, ditching the manager is not the answer; apart from anything else, who do you imagine you would get to replace him that would be an upgrade? He just needs some help in the transfer market, from someone not as close to the current squad as he does have a problem with loyalty to players.
Guy S (loyalty is overrated)
Wenger: No Good At Following
Sometimes, when I'm feeling like an argument, I turn to whichever poor unfortunate is nearest me and loudly tell them that the first thing a team should do when they get promoted is sack their manager. The logic, I think, is pretty sound. Irrespective of how harsh it seems, it requires a different man to get the best out of a team who lose most weeks and are forced to play defensive football than it does to maintain the momentum of a team better than most in the division and who expect a victory every week. There are mangers who are very good at getting teams promoted and managers who are very good at keeping teams up. Sack the guy who has done so well to get you promoted, give him an open-top parade and a big pay-off and install Sam Allardyce to keep you in the division.
It won't happen and shouldn't happen and only a heartless b**tard would actually do it but the logic, to me, seems sound. I was thinking about this theory when I read about Wenger's apparent refusal to adapt Arsenal's tactics to counter Bale. If you are the best team in the land, as Arsenal have been a couple of times under Wenger's guidance, then it could be better to go out and play your game. To spend too long thinking about the opposition could inhibit your side and lessen your effectiveness. However, when you are no longer the best side around and are playing a team who are more of an equal than those you were brushing aside in 2004, it seems prudent to make a few tweaks. Perhaps Wenger is the manager who is amazing in your promotion season; the players are confident, the system perfect, let the opposition worry about stopping us. Now though, Arsenal are chasing, they're inconsistent and morale seems to be all over the place. I think Wenger is nigh-on perfect for a team who lead, I have my doubts that he's the man for a team who follow.
Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't
I am actually a bit annoyed by people questioning Wenger's high-line approach. It seems like the only way a manager can escape criticism is by winning, the only tactic is a winning tactic innit? Come on now!! West Ham sat back and stood off Tottenham and Bale ran the show, 'cause he was allowed time on the ball, and scored a thunderbastard. West Ham were criticised heavily for standing off Spuds. Arsenal do the opposite, press high up the pitch, and this tactic worked well for the first 36 minutes and in the second half, for those who saw game. Two lapses of concentration and Spuds get in behind them and score two goals. Arsenal are vilified for doing the opposite of what West Ham got vilified for.
Now, had Bale not scored that thunderbastard, it could have been argued that West Ham's defensive approach was a good one (they hardly allowed Spuds in behind), but he did, and in hindsight we criticise Big Sam. Again, had Arsenal just concentrated at back, and prevented two goals, we would have all praised em for not allowing Bale space and time on ball, because in all fairness, he was fairly quiet. But, they didn't concentrate, and were punished, in hindsight we criticise Wenger.
Hindsight is a perfect science, but it's just lazy and contradictory to criticise to opposite approaches in equal measure. Does it make sense? I am not trying to defend either approach, but it can be argued that both worked to some extent and effect...and were both undone by a moment(s) of brilliance and brain-farts, respectively, but we are so quick to criticise both because they resulted in losses. Some perspective please.
KT Mokhele (Seeing the gap but not minding it), Gooner in Johannesburg
You Can Get Bargain Defenders
A brief thought, as the dissection of Arsenal's Poundland defence continues: Vidic was bought, at 25, for £7m, and Kompany, at 22, for £6m.
That might have been seven and five years ago, but it demonstrates that there is real, genuine value available for defenders if you look around. You don't need to pay Rio or Sergio Ramos level fees to get players of their quality (there's still no excuse for Squillaci).
Is AVB Any Good? Or Is It Just Bale?
Firstly, I am no AVB basher. I, like you, thought the level of criticism he got in the first few months at Spurs was unnecessary and childish while he blatantly was not given ample time at Chelsea to make a positive impact. However, does he deserve the 'anti-backlash' he has enjoyed in the last few weeks, especially in this morning's John Nicholson column?
Yes, Tottenham have been playing well and winning but I would say that Bale has had more to do with their recent run of good form than his manager. The stat that was thrown out by the commentators yesterday during the match that Bale has been responsible for 9 of the past 12 Spurs goals points towards Bale running the show. Indeed Bale's last-minute spectacular winner, that could not have been scored by many other PL players, shows how important Bale is to the team and perhaps a reliance on him. Is AVB simply fortunate that Bale has really turned into the star that started to rise in Milan those season ago?
A Few Subject Suggestions
I hope that this morning's mailbox has given everyone who wants to, the opportunity to yet again discuss the continued meltdown of Arsenal (ahead of only 95% of league clubs instead of 96% - the tragedy!), the various merits of one G. Bale and the fact that Rafa is a very, very bad man, but can we please move the conversation on now? It is getting more than a little tiresome to have to read the same old discussions, covering the same old ground. Can I suggest some of the following to try to replace these "done to death" subjects:
* The lack of the annual Wigan 'Great Escape', but will they hang on?
* Southampton not actually doing any better after Adkins.
* Will a modern-day player reach 1,000 appearances in the English game again?
* Can QPR do it and survive?
* Should Villa stick with Lambert?
* Might we finally be seeing the cracks in Barcelona to encourage Messi to move clubs?
* How much would it cost to buy Messi??
* Even if Jose and Ronaldo go to Paris next year, will it make Ligue 1 any good?
Feel free to suggest any of your own, but please, please, please can we stop talking about Arsenal.
Andy (LFC) Danson
Chelsea Are Having A Very Good Season, Actually
Rewind to August 18th 2012. It's the first day of the season, and you are a Chelsea fan. Last May saw your club's greatest triumph and since then you have added Oscar and Hazard to join Mata as you try to revolutionise the way you play. You have a manager who is universally loved and everyone looks forward to the new season and trying to reclaim the Premier League title. All is rosy at the Bridge.
Fast forward to March 27th 2013. After a somewhat uneventful victory over Middlesbrough in the cup, your manager, Rafa Benitez - yeah, they got rid of Robbie - has a CRAZY BATS**T MENTAL #RANT on radio in which he basically confirms that he will be leaving when his contract runs out, asks the fans to support the team and suggests that maybe it wasn't the best idea ever to give him the title of 'Interim' manager. Cue Fleet Street soiling themselves and the doom-mongers crying out how Benitez will be hung, drawn and quartered and Avram Grant will remove his face/mask thing to reveal that he is in fact Roman Abramovich himself, who then takes the reins and plays JT and Lamps up front cos they wanna score the goals. Regardless of the details, everyone can agree on one thing - Chelsea are in crisis.
But wait a minute - what's that? They finished sixth, 25 points behind City and United, last season? And this season they are fourth, four points behind City and 19 behind (a record-breaking) United? And they're also in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and last 16 of the Europa League, and are favourites to win it? And all this despite another hasty change of manager from Roman, a coach who is almost universally despised among the support and the fact that it is a transitional season (I hate that phrase), in which they are aiming to completely revolutionise the style of football they play?
Basically, what I'm trying to say - and oh, I'm a Chelsea fan, by the way - is that this season is not going badly for Chelsea. It's not even just adequate/okay/tolerable. Chelsea are having a GOOD season. Is it realistic to win the Premier League, making up a 25-point gap, a year after finishing sixth? Is it realistic to retain the Champions League - which no other team has done - while simultaneously changing the entire way you play the game - and when you were in all honesty lucky as f**k to win it in the first place? However, is it realistic to qualify for the Champions League and pick up a cup or two? Yes, not too great an ask. Well Chelsea are well on course to do that. All while the Mata-Oscar-Hazard axis plays some sexy football.
Stoke Have A Dilemma
'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is the saying, though 'standing still is moving backwards' is another used frequently when observing the Premier league especially.
Winners and Losers touched on the subject with their dissection of Stoke and more pointedly Tony Pulis. It's difficult to judge what level of success they should hope for, expect or consider a minimum requirement. European qualification almost certainly represents their glass ceiling (and that's Europa League we're talking about), through the league or Cup success, though given the competition of more established teams with bigger fanbases and bigger budgets, it's difficult to argue that Stoke should expect to surpass the likes of Liverpool, Everton and one of Spurs, Arsenal or Chelsea,
So mid-table mediocrity should be the expectation level - hardly exciting, but envious to those embroiled in a relegation dog-fight, and despite enduring a poor run of form, Stoke still lie nine points clear of the drop zone, slap bang in the middle of the table. Some might suggest that that fact represents the lack of quality in the Premiership in a less than stellar year, but come the end of the season the table rarely lies.
So the minimum expectation of simply avoiding relegation looks to be achieved, and perhaps in doing so, boredom enters. Looking objectively you'd say that Tony Pulis is doing a fine job and to dismiss him would be a display of ungratefulness to him getting them promoted and establishing them as a top flight club. However, ironically, by securing the expected mid-table finish so early, Pulis is possibly under more scrutiny than he would be if they were closer to the drop zone.
To Stoke fans, there can't be much to look forward to - no real chance of Europe, no real fear of relegation, so attention turns more to performance, which most football fans would agree is not what Stoke are renowned for. There are many who say there's no right and wrong way to play football (Johnny Nic for instance) and Stoke's way of playing is perfectly acceptable, however it could be argued that they hamstring their own potential by doing so.
When they signed Tuncay, a rather classy act, it was seen as a sign that Stoke were happy that they were an established Premiership side and they were now ready to overhaul their team into one that would play with a bit more style. Of course, this didn't happen and the Turk was sidelined and eventually shipped out. Stoke seemed to have cornered themselves - by excelling by playing the way they did/do, any hope of changing would demand a massive overhaul, rather than a slow transition. Of course, the Premiership is a fierce arena and such instant changes are difficult to instigate successfully, with Aston Villa perhaps the most apt comparison as they look strong contenders for the drop.
I guess in conclusion what I'm saying is, as boring and mundane some may find Tony Pulis' Stoke, it'd take some stones to get rid of him and expect an improvement, but doing so may be a necessity if the club wants any chance to increase those expectation levels in a few years time.
Nick Hamblin, Bristol
Oh The Sweet, Sweet Irony
Can I just take up a couple of lines on your illustrious website to share the over whelming joy I feel from watching Tony Pulis complain about Andy Carroll being too physical in the build up to the West Ham goal?
Irony so sweet it could induce diabetes!!
Matt, no bracket, all racket. LFC
Kinsella: Not A Twunt After All
I wouldn't necessarily say Mark Kinsella was an idol of mine, but he did put in some solid performances for Ireland over his career and when we bumped into him outside Lansdowne after a match (where he'd put in one of those solid performances) he was busy signing autographs for some people around him.
Myself and my Dad went up to say hello and watched one particular kid bombard him with a request to sign his match programme - only for Mark to ignore the kids plea's while signing everyone's elses....somewhat taken about we suggested Mark would sign it only for him to reply "it's my son, he won't stop asking me cause he sees everyone else doing it"...
I'm glad we clarified it with Mark - otherwise I'd be nominating him for Barry's (MUFC, Crumpsalll) 'Ouch' award...!
Keith (LFC, Dublin)
Seeing Geoff Horsfield's Balls
After reading some of the stories about meeting footballers I taught I'd share my experience of meeting Geoff Horsfield. Myself and two friends were on our weekly pub crawl which takes in most of Temple Bar. We were in one of the usual pubs listening to the band. A group of tourists were beside us. My mate turns to me and says that's Geoff Horsfield and I didn't believe him. One of the guys hears us and turns around and confirms Geoff's identity and introduces us. My mate told Geoff that I didn't believe who he was so just to prove it, he unzips his jeans and takes out his nuts to show us where he had one cut out! Geoff Horsfield is a top lad, spent the next two hours drinking with him and his mates. Good session that one!
Sye, (Paddy's Day is soon, get yourself to Temple Bar) Dublin
Sucking Zlatan's Balls
Loved Barry Crumpsall's story about Sir Bobby Charlton being a knob. As an autograph collector and dealer, many is the time I have had or witnessed footballers or celebs telling autograph hunters to ''f*** off'', and Sir Bobby is one of the grouchiest out there. Although just to make Barry feel better, he did sign for me at the recent QPR v Man Utd game....and it was Paddy Crerand telling people to do one.
But in terms of pure unexpectedness, I love my mate's story of when he was trying to get an autograph from Ibrahimovic at the airport as the team flew out from a CL game in the UK. In response to his cry of "Ibra, can you sign my shirt please", he was rewarded with a 1,000-yard stare and the immortal line "you can suck my balls". Pure, unadulterated class.