That's the question that kicks off an afternoon mailbox full of debate over Arsenal and the size of Patrick Vieira's head. Plus, thoughts on colouring and Chelsea strikers...
The mailbox is very much split between Arsenal fans saying 'f*** you, we got through' and the doom merchants. We also have a mails on Chamakh for Chelsea and...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Hi MC, I would like to draw your attention to an incredible night of North American soccer. Last night, Mexico either needed to not lose to Costa Rica or hope that USA don't lose to Panama in order to save their World Cup qualification. Mexico not qualifying for the World Cup would be a national disaster of course. Both these games were played at the same time and if you knew the importance of these games and context of USA-Mexico rivalry, it was a roller coaster ride the likes of which the world hasn't seen in years. I can't possibly do it justice by trying to explain how the games, and along with it Mexico's fate twisted and turned for all 90 mins + stoppage time. But I do encourage everyone to acquire highlights (or better yet, full games) and watch them.
To summarize, USA saved Mexico with two stoppage time goals (one would have been enough) and sent the Mexican commentator into a frenzy. Match that, MOTD/NBC Sports.
Sagar (God bless Americah!), Virginia via Mumbai
England's Secret Weapon
Firstly, I'd like to say that I'm absolutely delighted with England's performances and results over the past two games. However, being an England fan it's also important that I treat this success with a healthy dose of pessimism.
What we have seen in the past week has been described a 'new England,' playing direct (but not long ball) football with high tempo and exciting attacking intent. Yet, how much of this are we really going to see in the World Cup? This whole 'playing with five attackers and running at players' might be alright for October evenings in drizzly London when only one result will do. We might even try and keep it up against a minnow or two in the group stages when we know that we need to beat Iran by two clear goals in order to make the second round. But we all know what comes after that. You know it. I know it.
At some point in the tournament, we will be up against a technically superior side who apply wave after wave of pressure. England gradually withdraw deeper, Roy starts rubbing his face, and Tyldesley/Townsend start using terms like 'digging deep,'' showing grit and determination,' and so forth. You look at the clock and there is 35 minutes to go in the second half.
What I propose at this point would be to bring on England's very secret weapon, Jordan Henderson.
Think about it for a second. Instead of the twin statues of Lampard and Carrick watching players who don't seem to occupy orthodox positions running in behind them; instead of Scott Parker jogging around getting hit in the face with the ball.. we could have Jordan fulfil the role he currently does for Liverpool when they are trying to close games out. i.e. he would bound around after the ball like an enthusiastic golden retriever pressing the opposition high up the pitch. You never know, he might encourage some of his team mates to do the same.
It's quite simple really. Pressing teams higher up the pitch is the only (relatively) comfortable way to close out these types of games or situations which we will inevitably find ourselves in.. and Jordan Henderson is the best at it. So he should definitely be brought as our chief-game-closer-outer. Pirlo won't be able to stroll around in the middle of the pitch like he's choosing wedding venues in a suit, and Henderson will be known as the Nobby Stiles of our generation.
Nick (getting carried away) Cooper. LFC
Conversations Facing A Rational England Fan
Setting the scene:
England have just played pretty well and defeated a side that they probably should beat. One of many(ish) rational England fans has celebrated, but then in all the farrago, he/she realises that they are about to have many conversations of the two following templates:
Template one: The semi-Angry England Hating Fan (surprisingly they are mostly other England fans, but can be of varying nationality).
Rational Fan: "We played pretty well, I am looking forward to the World Cup".
S-A Fan: "I suppose you think that that pile of crap can is suddenly good enough to win the World Cup, typical arrogant England fan".
Rational Fan: "Not really, I mean the draw hasn't even happened yet, and I will be really pleased if we get to the knock out stages".
S-A Fan: "I bet you think that [Insert figure of much vitriol, most likely to be Rooney or Gerrard] is going to lead you to glory".
Rational Fan: "Not particularly, I certainly hope he plays to his potential, although he has done very well in the qualifiers, I certainly hope so".
S-A Fan: "You'll get crushed by [insert any of main footballing super powers, most likely Spain]".
Rational Fan: "Probably, I mean they are a much better football team than us, with higher quality players, who are far superior at controlling possession, which is especially important in high temperature locations, but who knows bigger shocks have occurred".
Semi-Angry fan is far from appeased: Rational Fan leaves conversation, as he/she is rational.
Template two: The semi-Angry England Loving Fan (unsurprisingly they are mostly other England fans, very rarely of another nationality).
Rational Fan: "We played pretty well, I am looking forward to the World Cup".
S-A Fan: "Yeah mate, bought my ticket four years ago, hotel hasn't been built yet, but will still be awesome bantz, after that performance I reckon we can win it".
Rational Fan: "I personally don't think so, I mean the draw hasn't even happened yet, and I will just be really pleased if we get to the knock out stages".
S-A Fan: "What you hate England or something? [Insert Working Class Hero, most likely to be Rooney or Gerrard] is going to lead us to glory".
Rational Fan: "No I hope England will win, just think it is improbable, I certainly hope he plays to his potential and he has done very well in the qualifiers, so good luck to him".
S-A Fan: "We're good enough to beat [insert any of main footballing super powers, most likely Spain]".
Rational Fan: "Its unlikely, I mean they are a much better football team than us, with higher quality players, who are far superior at controlling possession, which is especially important in high temperature locations, but who knows bigger shocks have occurred".
Semi-Angry fan is far from appeased: Rational Fan leaves conversation, as he/she is rational.
Joe Hough (Almost as annoying as when someone points out that its getting darker in the evening....I know it is).
Fun With Spreadsheets
I found an exceptional way to waste time this morning. By building a spreadsheet that replicates the World Cup draw. Using the current FIFA rankings to determine the top seeds (new ones out tomorrow though), and using some estimates as to who the remaining qualifiers might be, I ran the darn thing a few times to look at England's possible opponents, and it came out as follows:
Test 1 - Argentina, France, Ghana
Test 2 - Uruguay, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cameroon
Test 3 - Italy, Cameroon, Australia
Test 4 - Belgium, Chile, Ivory Coast
Test 5 - Brazil, Russia, Iran
Test 6 - Germany, Chile, Iran
Conclusion: It's going to be rather tough.
At present, the toughest draw England could get might be Brazil, Netherlands and USA, with the easiest being Uruguay, Honduras and Burkina Faso (assuming they qualify).
After the shambles of the 2010 European qualifying playoffs where FIFA shifted the goal posts last minute to make things as easy as possible for the "bigger" countries (France & Portugal) to qualify, my predictions for the playoffs are as follows.
France vs. Ukraine (Ukraine are probably the weakest of seeded teams)
Portugal vs. Iceland (Obvious)
FIFA won't really care who goes through from Croatia, Romania, Greece & Sweden so that can be a free for all.
I already feel sorry for Ukraine as I'm sure there will be some horrible way the France will conjure to qualify a head of them!!
You saw it here first!!
Hans (I'm not bitter about Ireland getting screwed in the 2010 playoffs!)
All Because Of Mr Roy
I'm nearly 40 and have spent most of my life hoping that England will fail at everything they do, be it qualifying for major events or getting through those major events. It's a sad trait I have picked up as an Irishman and I feel the need to finally let it go. I actually, genuinely hope that they do well in the Word Cup...my reasons are simple: Roy Hodgson.
England still have idiots in the media, arseholes on the pitch, and morons in the commentary box. But in their manager they finally have a likeable, hardworking football man. And I hope for his sake you do well in Rio.
**I'm off to get a little bit sick in my mouth now after that!!!
Applying Sunday League To International Footballers
Just to add to the is Welbeck good or not debate. Someone said if he could just work on his finishing he'd by dynamite because of his work-rate and constant running. I actually think it's because of his running and work-rate that means his finishing is poor.
When I played Sunday League I was a striker. Basically my best feature was being able to hit the ball very hard in a very accurate way. My stamina and speed was pretty poor but if I got a chance I buried it. That was me. My first manager realised this and told me not to get involved in tracking back, stay on the shoulder and score goals and I did.
Then a new manager came in and expected all of the players to get involved and work hard and I had to track back and run around a lot. This meant that when the ball came to me in the box, my legs were leaden and it meant I didn't hit the ball particularly well and thus my finishing went bad as did my first time control. As a result I was dropped and I've not really played Sunday League since.
Anyway maybe Welbeck runs so hard that when he has a chance his legs are too heavy to kick the ball properly. When he first came into the United team he didn't run around like a headless chicken and he actually buried some really good finishes. However now he is constantly running and his legs look all over the place.
In conclusion I guess the choice is does Welbeck want to be a hard working winger with no technical ability or a clinical striker that doesn't get involved much.
Bradley (Either way I still don't want to see him in a United shirt) Kirrage
Not sure if you are going to do 16 conclusions, but I will offer you one. Corners. We had 17 of them last night and by the time we got into the second half I was fearing each and every time we got one. We never looked like we were going to score from them, and more concerning was that it seemed that every one that was cleared first line, which to me seemed like every one, led to Poland breaking and to me that was when we looked at our most vulnerable and my hoop quivered just a little bit.
Whether or not the quote is attributable to one of the greatest scientific minds in history, or a brochure from a mental health institution, doing the same thing over and over is insanity (much in the same way as me shouting at the Stevie G in the local telling them to play it short and expecting him to hear me) and if we are expecting to win this then we have to address every area on the pitch and mix it up if things are not working and repetitively last night the corners we took just weren't effective enough, and as a set piece this is something that should be addressed.
Yes, that's right, I said win it. You can stick your 'let's not go overboard and expect too much' crap up your *rse. Why the hell go through the torture of qualifying to make up the numbers, and why the hell can't we expect a group of talented players to play above themselves for a couple of weeks and beat admittedly better players in one off games? And if it all falls apart and they return in abject humiliation and disappointment? I'm an Ipswich fan, I'm conditioned to that.
Get working on those corners Mr Roy, and congratulations, you looked how I felt.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
More On Welbeck
Now, for various reasons I didn't see either of the two games just gone, so I'm in no position to comment on what Welbeck did in them. I'm generally a fan, but I can see why he might not be the most popular player. But a thought has occurred to me, which could make him vital for the World Cup - which gives him a use beyond what we've seen him play for England so far.
In two games against Real Madrid last season, Welbeck played just off the striker, in a defensive role. He was there to support quick counter attacks when we had the ball, but his key role was to take playmaker Xabi Alonso out of the game. He was quite effective in this, and the result was much closer than it could have been, with United nearly beating a Madrid side who are much stronger on paper.
Welbeck does seem like he could be a big game player unlike other ones we've had in the past. Gerrard and Lampard or Rooney often take big games by the scruff of the neck by doing everything, and being too much for other teams to handle, usually with one moment of brilliance sealing a reputation. Welbeck's role in big games is to be very controlled, disciplined and stop the other side from creating moments of brilliance to stop their chances. With most other big sides utilising deep lying playmakers, or at least building from deep in midfield, this could be a very important role in the summer. Especially if we still don't play three in midfield.
It may not be glamorous. It will not satisfy people who say "but the point of a striker is to score goals" with varying degrees of reasonableness. It may be frustrating to watch him toiling on the left (although I'd still rather have him in the workhorse role than James Milner). But this is a modern player who has proven that his correct deployment can shut down other teams. He could be a vital option for England doing better than we really should do in Brazil.
Will Donovan, THFC, North London
Best Players Not To Appear At The World Cup
Question for you (or possibly next top ten idea)
Who are the best players to never feature in at the world cup?
Before the smart arses chip in with comments like Robin Friday or Eric Cantona, I would like to add that this came about because
The snotty new kid in the office said, when discussing man of the moment Aaron Ramsey, 'unlucky he is he will never get to play at a world cup!'
Alex (probably wont be in England's final 22 for the World Cup) Sheedy
I read some mails about how Baines > Cole and Andros > Theo this morning and I want to vom. Right into a big pile of snow... Make a little vomcano
Seriously - 2 games does not make a player. Theo was Arsenal's top scorer last year and one of the highest scorers in the Fantasy Premier League. Andros was largely rubbish for QPR and scored with his 73 (!!) shot of the season this year!
Baines has a great delivery of the ball both crossing and from set pieces, however, there is a reason why he plays for Everton and Ashley Cole has won f**king everything. At the top level - Baines just doesn't cut it. His defending isn't up to scratch and his pace makes him a liability.
ArsenalAdam (defending Cole is like riding your granny)
It feels wrong to write this, it really does. I love a bit of Harry Rednapp bashing, I really do.
But, for all the pre-emptive strikes on Rednapp claiming credit for Townsend, and the '8 time loan' argument...has it occurred to anyone that those loans may have actually done him some good?
My understanding (and I'm not a Spurs fan) is that Spurs binned their reserve side for a few seasons and loaned all the players out who weren't in the first team squad, because they believed it would aid the players development better than playing reserve matches, so the treatment of Townsend was not exceptional at all.
Anyhoo...there is much to mock, and much to be angered about whenever Harry opens his self-serving mouth, not sure this is one of them though.
Jeremy (Trains To Brazil on repeat this morning) Aves
Scorpion Kick Mythbusting
Once again a reference made in the mailbox to Rene Higuita's scorpion kick. Yes it was great, but something has always wound me up about it. I was at the game, and distinctly remember the offside flag going up just as the shot was made. Higuita spotted it, and then did the Scorpion kick, so although pretty special, it was no doubt his party piece, and he knew it was a no risk time to do it as the goal wouldn't have stood. On the video you can just make out his head turning to the left (where I was sitting) and where the linesman raised his flag.
So, good, but not quite Carling.
Fellow mailboxers - are there any other moments of folklore that are just a bit, well, not quite as they seem ?
John B (raining on parades since 65) Isle of Man
There was something about the atmosphere at Wembley last night that added hugely to the enjoyment of the game, but until I read Rory Smith in the Times today, I couldn't put my finger on what it was. No, not the 20,000 Polish fans, it was the absence of that blasted band and having to listen to their dirges throughout the game.
Dare we hope this absence is permanent? Please, F.A?