As Gerrard and Henderson both struggle with injuries, was it a mistake for Liverpool to sell Jonjo Shelvey? Plus, thoughts on Arsenal, Everton, United and Chelsea's strikers...
They're a team full of loan players and ageing has-beens...can Roberto Martinez do better than David Moyes in the long term? Plus, more on Man United and...
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Why All The Hardballing?
As much as I hate to jump into the crowded and by now, completely fetid, stinky waters of the big summer transfer 'sagas', a point has consistently crept across my mind whilst watching on from the sidelines these past few weeks as a Villa fan. Is it just me, or is there an increased determination of clubs completely and resolutely unwilling to even consider selling their players?
I know it's ridiculous to imply that a club ever wants to sell its prize assets, but I'm finding it hard to remember a time when there was such an extent of steadfast hard-balling going on. At this point, it's entirely feasible that nothing will happen in regards to the main PL transfer stories. All the while we keep hearing the same noises
Spurs WILL NOT allow Bale to leave
Liverpool WILL NOT allow Suarez to leave
United WILL NOT allow Rooney to leave
To a lesser extent Lambert WILL (would) NOT allow Benteke to leave
The reason I say to a lesser extent in regards to Villa is because I find it easier to understand Villa's urgency in holding on to Benteke. He almost single headedly assured our premier league survival, we haven't had a goalscorer like him in nearly 2 decades, and crucially, how the hell do you replace a player of that quality when you're Aston Villa? A player of his calibre, (if in anyway proven to the PL anyway), doesn't sign for clubs like Villa. Yes clubs like us occasionally pick up a rare gem (Michu's another example), but the fact is if Benteke had played last season with any team in the bottom half of the table would he be signing for Villa now? Hell no. We have to pick up 'unknowns' and hope for the best. We needed to hold onto Benteke because 20-goals a season for Villa is ridiculously hard to replace on a budget.
The big boys don't have that problem, and that's my point; even without CL football, through sheer prestige, Liverpool can still attract plenty of high quality replacements for £40m, as United can with £30m for Rooney, Spurs can sign about 3 world-class players with whatever absurd amount they're getting offered for Bale. It's almost as though these clubs are vehemently holding on to these players out of sheer bloody-minded principle (which is a bizarre concept to get your head around in football in 2013), some would argue to the detriment to the club as a whole.
Rooney and Suarez (not so much Bale, granted) are petulant, whiney, disruptive influences, who clearly don't want to play for their respective clubs - so why the stoney-faced posturing about doing everything to make them stay? Brendan, David, Daniel ,you have the luxury of being able to attract big name players, so sack those three off and bring in world-class players who actually want to play for you. We won't think any less of you for it. Well, some might...
Mike (still can't believe he's staying) AVFC
Pre-Season Is Useless
These pre-season tours seem great commercially for clubs but I worry they do nothing to help the team.
Liverpool have scored 11 goals in three games and conceded none. Do we have the best defence in the league? No. Do we have the best attack in the league? We did score a lot of goals but probably not is the answer. So essentially this pre-season has taught us nothing. We needed to know whether Toure is quick enough to handle the faster premier league strikers, whether Lucas has recovered fully and whether Aspas is likely to be the next Torres or Voronin, though in both cases missing the wonderful 1980s European porn star hair.
I'm just concerned that while this tour will have sold lots of shirts it might not help our fortunes on the pitch. After a similarly waste of time pre-season last year we showed up and got bent over by West Brom. It was a very disappointing return to reality.
Song For United
We all know that Fabregas is good, but let's be honest, even if we bid 40 million pounds, he's still not coming to Man Utd. Besides even if he did come, where would he play? Our midfield obviously has one (if not two) huge hole in it, but when Fabregas played for Arsenal, he played as a number 10, while at Barcelona he plays as a forward. With Rooney, Kagawa and even Januzaj/Lingard able to play the number 10 role, bringing in Fabregas would make a difficult situation (fitting RVP, Rooney and Kagawa in the team) even worse while still not solving the gaping hole in the middle of the park.
Instead why don't we bring Alex Song in? He's 25, Premier League proven, has a great partnership with RVP and I'm sure would be dirt cheap given his indifferent season at Barca. With Carrick sitting, we could even give Song the box-to-box role that he truly desired at Arsenal, and so create a good balance in midfield.
Hell, we should bring in Fellaini as well and just the hair on the two of them would scare off most teams. Thoughts?
JTan (Can't wait to see United in the flesh), MUFC, Hong Kong
We'll Let You Know When Moyes Replies
Dear Mr Moyes,
Please explain the following:
*Why have you been very publicly pursuing a player, namely Fabregas, whom you must have known would never be sold by Barcelona when you could have snatched an equally as talented, yet cheaper player in Thiago?
*Why have you employed a second rate back room staff resembling the cast of Gilligan's Island?
*Why do you feel it necessary to announce to the world players you are attempting to sign, when you are on record as saying you don't talk about players contracted to other clubs?
*Have you learned nothing from the Fergie years of stealth and subtlety ?
Don't answer the last question. United to finish fourth.
Thank you and goodnight.
Hayesy, Kangaloon, Australia
Who Else Will Become Available?
Barcelona obviously don't seem eager to sell Fabregas at the moment but it seems United must be getting information he is interested, just not enough for him to try and force anything yet. When we get close to Jim White's transfer window "Slamming Shut" most of the top teams in Europe will have played 2, maybe 3 competitive games and if Fabregas doesn't feature enough in those first couple of games it might force him to be a bit more proactive about leaving. With a new manager on the scene it adds even more to the uncertainty of whether he will be starting games or second string.
This will apply to a lot of the big teams with large numbers of very good players in the dark about whether their new manager rates them as much as they rate themselves. Think about Modric at Madrid, they have signed a few young Spanish players and nobody knows yet who Ancelotti will prefer out of him, Ozil or Isco, maybe he will play him deeper. Perhaps Xabi Alonso could be interested in a move should he not look like starting under Ancelotti. Players like Dzeko, Nasri, Torres, Nani and Hernandez in the Premier League are all more likely to be involved in a transfer after the league has started than now.
Across the top European clubs with new managers at the helm, which players do the mailbox think could emerge as targets late on?
Simon (Levy to sign Dzeko at 22:59 on September 2nd) TUFC, London
An old favourite of fans everywhere, but talk of Ferguson and Wenger's worst ever signings made be rack the deep recesses of my repressed Liverpool nightmares to come up with a LFC Awful-11. This lot would obviously be "managed" by Roy Evans, with Graeme Souness as a mental assistant manager and Gerard Houllier as director of football. Benitez forgiven for some truly terrible signings due to Istanbul.
*Goalkeeper: Charles Itandje. Kirkland was a contender, given his cost and high expectations, but had to be Itandje really. Google him and you'll know why.
*Right-back: Josemi. Lots of competition for this spot, but others excused for hardly ever playing (Degen), some possible vestiges of well-hidden talent (Jan Kromkamp) or playing out of position (Rigobert Song).
*Centre-backs: Torben Piechnik and Djimi Traore. Piechnik was possibly Souness' worst Liverpool signing, which is saying a lot. I have an irrational, bizarre soft spot for Djimi Traore, but he was comically bad at best, teeth-grindingly horrendous at worst.
*Left-back: Paul Konchesky. We have had some truly shocking leftbacks, but no one (not even Julian Dicks, Gregory Vignal or Andrea Dossena) has a chance of ousting Konchesky from this Awful-11. He's the captain, in fact.
*Right midfield: Antonio Nunez. Make-weight in the Owen sale. Real Madrid must have really got a laugh out of that one.
Centre midfield: Salif Diao and Bruno Cheyrou. The former was a carthorse without the work ethic (or skill), the latter was once billed as the "new Zidane". He wasn't.
*Left-midfield: Another difficult choice, but would plump for Bernard Diomede. People who cannot believe that Djimi Traore has won the Champions League should remember that Diomede is a World Cup winner. Honorable mentions to Albert Riera, Mark Gonzalez, Harry Kewell and, obviously, Stuart Downing.
*Strikers: Erik Meijer was a contender, but it has to be Sean Dundee and El-Hadj Diouf. Dundee was a trier. But I would be as well, and my two left feet would probably have done a better job. And people who moan that Suarez is a loathsome character clearly don't remember that Diouf once played for us.
Robin, armchair fan.
Why is Jermain Defoe the only striker I've ever seen who, according to co-commentators, "loves to score goals"? It seems to be the only term used to describe him. Is it just a chore for other strikers? Do they force themselves to score with a general sense of despondency?
Fan Mail For Simon, CFC
This is one of the best mails I've read for a long time.
That is all.
Alex, Bermuda. CTID (First Chelsea fan I've agreed with for a few years)
Okay, Let's Do This Again
A retort to Alex, LFC,
I'm intrigued as to what point he's actually trying to make.
He talks about Liverpool winning a trophy over a year ago as if it wasn't very long ago, yet when comparing FA Cup wins, Champions League final appearances and even League Cup final appearances, he's making out like a year is a very long time. Arsenal is definitely a step up from Liverpool. Every player wants to win the league regardless of cup competitions and, at Arsenal, Suarez would have a better chance of doing that.
If you want to compare this 'success', why not compare the last time the both played in the Champions League. Arsenal are about to play in their 16th consecutive Champions League campaign, a feat bettered only by Man Utd (amongst English teams). In 2002-03 the 2nd Group Stage changed to the Round of 16 Arsenal have never failed to get passed the 1st group stage. Liverpool however have played in the UEFA Cup/Europa League 7 times (twice dropping from the Champions League, failing to get passed the group stages), Champions League only 6 times (including, as mentioned, dropping to UEFA/Europa twice) times and on 3 occasions haven't qualified for Europe at all. And, lest we forget, Liverpool would have failed to qualify for the 2005/06 campaign if they didn't win the competition (a great achievement (and match) in itself, but irrelevant to the point I'm making). So yes, Liverpool may have a bit more silverware recently, but Arsenal are a better team and have a better looking future for sustained success.
Another point I'll add to this is the copious amounts of money Liverpool have thrown away on players and gradually declined (e.g. Stuart Downing, Andy Carroll, Glen Johnson, etc), whilst Arsenal spend very little and at the very least maintain their standard.
Finally, the League Cup isn't much to boast about, but to cite appearances in the final is no more than clutching at straws. Arsenal have bigger ambitions than the League Cup. Believe me, as a Spurs fan it has been very hard to defend Arsenal, but their record speaks for itself. They maintain their top 4 status through experience and quality and have done for over 15yrs. Liverpool's success is yoyo-ing. The League Cup is the only success we Spurs fans can hold over Arsenal in recent years and believe me, I don't go boasting about it (although by your logic our 2008 win and 2009 Final appearance must make us the better team).
Bit longer winded that I had intended, but hopefully Alex will see the errors of his ways.
Korky 'feet on the ground' Blues.
...Alex, LFC used the word "finalled" in his mail on Friday and I glazed over for the rest of his mail. Please can this be the end of made up words or before we know it we'll be following the Yanks and using the word "winningest" next too! Thanks
Dave - OUFC - Calgary (it's a slippery slope)
Suarez To Swansea
First time mailer, long time reader so I know I shouldn't bite but I'm getting bored of all the mails from Liverpool and Arsenal fans about Luis Suarez. At this point I should mention I am fully aware of the irony as this is in fact a mail about Suarez from an Arsenal fan (where did everybody go?), but I'm going to plough ahead anyway. In response to Alex (RVP was at Arsenal 8 seasons and won as many medals as he did in a single season at United - 1), LFC's mail I thought I would offer up some suitable destinations for Suarez should he eventually leave Liverpool. Based on his foolproof system that if a team has won a trophy, or reached the final of a competition, more recently than another team then they must be better; I can finally bring to a close another tedious summer transfer saga:
*Both Portsmouth (2008) and Wigan (2013) have won the FA Cup more recently than Liverpool
*Bradford City last reached the final of the League Cup (2013) more recently than Liverpool
*Swansea last won the League Cup (2013) more recently than Liverpool
*Blackburn Rovers last won the Premier League (1995) more recently than Liverpool
So, the shortlist is Portsmouth, Wigan, Bradford, Swansea and Blackburn. Personally I think it's a toss up between Swansea and Wigan as, unlike Liverpool, they can both offer him European football next season. Ultimately I think it will come down to Swansea still being in the Premier League so it looks like Suarez if off to Wales! You read it here first.
Seriously though, if you're a Liverpool fan annoyed by Arsenal's bid for Suarez then get over it. It's the transfer season. A time of year when teams try to improve on the previous season by buying better players if they have the money. It happened to us when Man City struck oil. At the time we had a considerably better record than them in a lot of competitions but that didn't stop them cherry picking from our squad, nor did it stop the players wanting to join them. I know the general consensus from Arsenal fans is that the players that did leave were all money grabbing twunts but the fact of the matter is they probably saw an opportunity to surround themselves with a better group of players to give themselves a better chance of ultimately winning something. If this is how Suarez feels then his time as a Liverpool player is effectively up no matter what.
If you're an Arsenal fan gripped in some existential crisis about what signing Suarez might do to our club then, again, get over it. Luis Suarez is quite a good football player, in case you hadn't noticed. He would improve the team unquestionably. As it has been mentioned in the mailbox previously, some of our past heroes haven't always been shining examples of professionalism on or off the field so stop with the "Arsenal Way" talk. Also, if you're considering walking away from the club over one player then get a grip. Signing a footballer with a questionable moral compass is not going to cause the universe to implode.
All that is going to happen is as follows. Luis Suarez will either stay at Liverpool or leave for another club. The season will start eventually (please God!) At the end of the season various clubs will have won various trophies. Who knows, maybe Liverpool and Arsenal might both win something (pretty unlikely I'll admit) and we'll all probably be here next year talking up our chances for the season ahead and essentially just playing an enormous game of "My Dad's bigger than your Dad". Until then can we all agree to stop talking about Luis Suarez and just go and have a beer in the sunshine or something?
Ryan (praying England qualify for the World Cup so there's a distraction next summer) AFC