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...
Moyes is lacking 'charismatic authority', Kieran Gibbs is defended, Chelsea's problems are examined and a dreadful chant attacked. It's a glorious mailbox...
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Liverpool Have Won The Window
I'm not one of the raving Liverpool fans who sees conspiracy around every corner or genius in every move, but I have been most impressed with their conduct regarding the Suarez 'saga' (if such it can be called). They called his bluff about Real, told Arsenal in no uncertain terms to f**k off, then made him train with the kids until he apologised. At the time of this writing, it's uncertain whether or not he has but, regardless, I am beginning to think that Liverpool have actually had the best transfer window of all the clubs. Not because of the players they brought in, or even because they kept Suarez, but simply because (unlike Arsenal or Spurs), they have made it clear that their best players will not be poached.
Arsenal had proved that they were a soft touch, so when Fergie moved for RvP, he knew that he stood a reasonable chance of success. Ditto Perez for Bale (Levy proved with Modric and Berbatov that he would always sell if he got the right price). Rodgers and John Henry have just made a serious statement of intent, that they will put the team first and if they don't want to sell for their own reasons, then they simply won't. Imagine the scenario this time next year if, say, Coutinho has an absolutely storming season, scoring 15 goals from midfield and providing 20 assists. Will the likes of Real of City be as quick to come calling, when they know that Liverpool are no soft touch and simply will not sell if they don't want to? As I said, most impressed.
New Season Thoughts
*It's nice to see the Big Weekend article back, especially as it signals an exciting season ahead. How about a mention for some Championship teams/players next week?
*I agree that David Moyes is bricking his trousers about his first game but I think people are missing the point about this. Surely he's just taken a few lessons from Ferguson - the master of distraction. I doubt Moyes is silly enough to believe in any conspiracy against his team. His complaints about transfer activity and the fixture list act as a smokescreen so that the headlines in the papers focus on that and thus take the heat off the players with the game approaching. I recall Ferguson doing this very well a few years ago after a sh*thouse 2-2 home draw with a shaky Sunderland team. Having been asked what he made of the game Ferguson's first utterance was 'well the referee - he's just not fit enough'. Sure, Moyes may be scared but this is more skilful than most would have you believe.
*Aside from the relegation candidates I agree with Sarah Winterburn's predictions on all other fronts. It's sensible enough to have both Arsenal in fourth even in the face of the annual 'Spurs for fourth' brigade. The eternal nearly men will remain that for yet another year, despite Soldado reaching 20 Premier League goals.
*I read an article on the train this morning which alarmed me in no small measure. A piece by Bill Borrows in Sport magazine entitled 'It's like this...' Aside from bizarrely claiming that Chelsea weren't going to be a force this year just because Mourinho has 'a nice smile', he also claimed that the top four would not include Man United. In case anyone missed it, Bill Borrows is the name. That's Bill Borrows.
*Both Nicolas Anelka and Loic Remy WILL be winners this season. I'd go as far as suggesting their respective teams will depend on them a la Yakubu/Blackburn - 2011/12, Van Persie/United - 2012/13.
*I think Stoke will push for European places this year as opposed to being involved in a relegation battle. The reputation of Mark Hughes has plummeted in recent years, although that tends to happen when you manage QPR. He was scrutinised for overspending at Loftus Road and rightly so in my opinion. He rarely, however, receives the credit for buying the spine of the team which later won the league - players including Kompany, Zabaleta, Barry and Tevez. He also plucked Samba and Nelsen from relative obscurity for a combined total of £400,000 on his way to finishing in the top half of the table in three out of four seasons at Blackburn. Sure, he gets a bit ars*y about handshakes and the like, but I won't be surprised to see Stoke battling for a Europa place in May.
*Blackburn will win tonight and Rhodes will break his duck from the penalty spot.
Chris Henderson, BRFC
The Man Couldn't Head A Ball
John Daniels in this morning's mailbox claims "Moyes clearly likes to spend a huge amount of time and effort tracking a player before signing him. He wants to be as close to sure as possible that the player will be a success at his club."
Everton fans who remember £5m man Per Kroldrup must be scratching their heads.
Dave Horgan, AVFC
Why Was Moyes On ITV?
Did anyone else think it was a little odd that the current manager of Manchester United appeared as pundit on ITV's coverage of the England Scotland game? It's one thing having the manager of Wigan doing a spot of punditry in the summer but I always thought the role was beneath the managers of the top clubs.
The closest analogy I can think of is politicians appearing on Have I Got News You. It's all very well for the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Fabricant or Lembit Opik to appear on the show. So long as Hislop does not savage them too much appearing may even raise their profile and enhance their careers. But if David Cameron or Tony Blair ever went on it they would just look silly. Seeing them on Have I Got News For You would be as incongruous as seeing Ferguson sat between Southgate and Keane answering banal questions banally.
I have not strong view as to whether this presents Moyes in a good or bad light but its certainly something different from his predecessor.
Oscar (dreading a reply when someone points to a large body of Ferguson's TV work I never knew existed) THFC, Geneva
Wahey! Nice Words For F365
Some fans have been mailing in recently criticising F365 for their "attacking" of David Moyes, and I wanted to give my two penneth. Firstly, F365 is a Football Journalism website with a bit of a twist, in that it likes to take the Michael a little bit. Things get said by players/managers/other sports websites and quotes in isolation look quite funny - see "He ran around a bit" etc.
F365 wouldn't be doing their jobs correctly if they DIDN'T take the p*ss a little bit. What would set them apart from the bland boring greyness which is BBC/SSN etc? It's this inherent p*ss taking that makes them that little bit unique, and it makes people like me come back for more.
Moyes isn't the only one who is regularly picked on by the editors at F365 towers. Tomato Face, The Happy One, Harry Houdini, and David Brent are amongst those taken to pieces for their individual quirks and that's why we all love it. Now there's a new addition, being "The Half Decent Manager Who Looks Extremely Out of His Depth".
Brilliant! Football is full of characters and funny stories, embrace the fun poking and p*ss taking as part and parcel of football "bantz", lest we all become part of another generic sports website.
Paul M (But he DOES look out of his depth) LFC
...This is not a complaint, nor is it a compliment. I just feel I have to share my excitement. I feel like a big child on Christmas Eve, a fat kid in a cake shop, a priest in a... Well, you get the point.
Football is back, but more importantly, the brilliant features of F365 are back. I got a feeling of such joy today, after opening your page maybe 5-10 times a day over the summer, to open your page and be greeted by 'Big Weekend' and 'Cheeky Punt'. It really brought it home; I've another 37 of these babies to look forward to.
I suppose with hindsight, this was a complimentary e-mail. Well done.
Kevin Kelly, Co. Armagh, Honorary Geordie.
Predicting A Villa Win
Howdy chaps, Wenger has a bloody nerve, or possibly an old man's obduracy, saying the Arsenal won't compromise on quality of signings considering the rubbish he's brought in over the past few years. Considering he also wants to pinch decent players like Higuain, Jovetic and Gustavo on the cheap is laughable. I'm predicting a Villa win tomorrow, it's what he deserves for his indulgent coasting.
Still, having a paper thin squad and the usual injuries means we get to welcome back all these 'high quality' players like new signings, eh Arsene?
And to all the Wenger knows brigade, George Graham won almost the same as Wenger in half the time with about 1/20th of the budget.
Since we're doing predictions:
PL winners: Man City. Their squad is just far stronger and more balanced than any other side in the PL. They have a better set of players, more balance in key areas and have removed the 10 point discount of Roberto Mancini's incompetence.
2nd: Chelsea. I'm sure Chelsea will sign a striker before the end of the transfer window (probably Eto'o) - and Lukaku, Eto'o, Torres and Ba looks a decent roster to me given only 1 will play. But the team looks unbalanced, lacking a proper defensive midfielder and with serious question marks over the central defence. IF Mourinho can develop the phalanx of attacking players, get someone (Essien?) playing as a consistent defensive shield, develop Luiz into a world-class central defender and get Terry back to form, Chelsea can win the league. But that looks like at least one too many ifs to me for this season.
3rd: Man Utd. I expect Moyes to finally sign a proper midfielder or 2 before the transfer window closes (I'd guess Modric and Fellaini), and the mentality of the side will remain as long as Vidic, Ferdinand, Giggs and Van Persie are around. I'm just reckon they're not quite at the level of Man City and Chelsea, and I expect Moyes' defensiveness in close games to cost 5-6 points over a season.
4th: A tough battle, but Spurs. It's clear Bale's gone - Spurs are spending the money now to replace him and he's mysteriously ruled out until September. But I think they're replacing him wisely - Willian + one from Roma + one other player and the squad and first XI are stronger than last year. Arsenal will sign a big player before the end of the transfer window, but even if it's Luiz Suarez it'll be the wrong player and defensive weakness will again cost them.
- Harry Redknapp will 'resign' from QPR after a dreadful start to the season quoting a lack of financial backing from the chairman. Astonishingly this will be swallowed whole by every newspaper journalist, and rightly mocked by F365. Under superior management (perhaps Tony Pulis) QPR will win promotion. Adrian Durham will somehow claim that both this and Spurs success is due to Harry
- Brendan Rogers will become the first manager ever to use a powerpoint presentation in his press conferences
- Steve Bruce's Hull will be worse than Derby. After being fired, he will bemoan the conspiracy against British managers that meant he never got a fair shot at the Man Utd, Chelsea or Liverpool jobs
- Michael Owen will be the worst pundit in the history of sport. Jamie Carragher will run him close.
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, London
More On Post-Match Interviews
Alex G, THFC is spot on about the poor state of post-match interviews in this country. I too would like to hear footballers talking with more intelligence but it's never going to happen when footballers receive media training in the art of the interview that teaches them to say as little as possible. They are constantly looking for the easy way out, the opportunity to go on auto-pilot and fall back on tried and tested phrases like 'We're concentrating one game at a time' and 'The lads have been working really hard in training', platitudes which say nothing and surely cannot satisfy anybody.
So it is the interviewer's job to shape the interview and tease an interesting answer out of them. And too often they phrase questions in such a closed way as to effectively steer the footballer in what to say. Listen out for it: interviewers say things like 'Did the long flight home from Moscow on Thursday and the lack of training time since then affect your performance today?' - and what footballer is not then going to immediately say 'Yes' to that, and use it as a defence? It's the easy option. It's rare that an interviewer asks a question to which the answer is 'No' rather than immediate agreement.
The interviewer is basically putting words into their mouth which is really poor interviewing technique. I'd like to hear more open questions like 'Why do you think the team didn't perform so well today?' or 'How has the new manager changed things in training to get the team playing this well?' which don't direct the footballer to a particular answer, but force them to come up with an opinion. I just don't think TV interviewers trust footballers to answer an open question with any flair or creativity, so they take the easy option and ask them a leading one instead. But the result is that post-match interviews invariably say nothing, and we deserve better. Asking fewer leading questions and more open ones would be a good start.
Mourning The Next Gen Series
It was on this day, the 16th day of August in the year twenty thirteen the sport of professional football became so inexcusably greedy it consumed itself in cloud of hellfire and brimstone. What, may you ask, caused this tragic event?
In a time when figures that resemble government budgets are touted for transfer fees for pretty unremarkable footballers, yes Mr Bale j'accuse, one of the few positive initiatives for younger footballers was scrapped due to a lack of funding. The NextGen series was designed to give younger footballers European footballing experience and yet it will not continue due to a lack of funds. A situation that beggars belief!
Has football become so short sighted in its view that it can't see the benefits in exposing younger players to good quality opposition. Do clubs expect players to magically develop out of nowhere?
Well football you gluttonous, avaricious swine I, for one, will not listen to your mewling when you complain of the poor skills of the modern player. You will have only reaped what you had sown.