Somebody mentions Paul Scholes and everybody writes in with those quotes from Zidane etc. Dull dull dull. We've ignored them. There's plenty more to enjoy here...
It does seem logical that the best thing to do with the best players is to play them from the start, when they have the most time to make an impact, rather than the last 15 minutes...
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Time For Rodgers To Drop Gerrard
"I'll honestly and openly admit I'm not 21 anymore and I haven't got those energy levels where I can go forward every single time."
...excellent. Licence if ever it was needed for BR to grow some cajones and start exercising his right to choose the team sheet on his own.
Gerrard is clearly still capable of wonder but I have a feeling he thinks he can do this more than he actually can. Given his deep lying role - in a position that generally precludes the need for frills - surely he's the wrong sort of player to function effectively for 90 minutes, no? Is there a correlation between our complete inability to be able to play after the half time cup of tea (picture sweaty players, legs folded, pinky in the air, reflecting on the beauty of the game...I digress), and the fact that our 'engine' is a little...worn out?
I would love to see a transitioning of Hendo with Lucas in the middle, with Stevie coming on for a late cameo with the freedom of the city. Are we allowed to question his role without people thinking we have said something nasty about their mum?
Given the recent hullaballoo surrounding the scribblings of an old doddery fool, I wonder what Sir Alex would do in this situation? He was pretty successful I hear...
Barry Lewis, Cape Town
Is Evans United's Best Defender?
Quite often in recent weeks (when he was out of the team) Jonny Evans has been referred to as United's most consistent defender on your site. This is quite clearly true, but more importantly it seems that he's now also the most reliable. Aaron Sik touched upon this in the morning mailbox, but Evans' performances last season justify regular selection this season in my opinion.
There was nothing spectacular about him and the job he did last night. But with Evans at the back I do not get the trepidation when opposing teams attack with purpose that I have felt the rest of the season so far. He doesn't seem to commit too many fouls in dangerous areas, he's solid in the air and doesn't get beaten by his man. The same cannot be said for Vidic and Ferdinand.
Meanwhile he seems to be capable of concentrating for a whole game (take note Chris Smalling), and rarely has to go to ground to halt an attacker in a goalscoring position (I like Jones a lot, and he is a brilliant tackler, but as often spoken about on these pages, if you are forced into having to make last-ditch blocks you have already done something wrong).
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm a big fan of Evans, and I'd hate to see him only playing a bit-part, or worse still, leaving the club. Along with Rooney and De Gea (and possibly Rafael, and hopefully Kagawa), I think he'll have one of the most important parts to play in the medium-term future of the club.
Please David, at least use him so that we don't force Rio to have to play any more than four games a month.
Chris, SAF Stand
United & Kagawa: Never Going To Work
In much the same way as a bad couple; where individually they're great but they just don't suit each other, I feel that Man Utd and Kagawa just aren't going to work out.
Watching the (again fairly tedious - cheers Moyes!) match last night I was thinking how much better Shinji would look playing for Arsenal (for example), where I'm sure they would have a better idea of how to use him and he'd be in a better match, playing style wise.
So who do you think on your team would thrive in another's arms?
Stu (and no "this donkey would like great with our biggest rivals" examples please) Oxford.
It's nice to see an article about the Championship up on the site and I eagerly await more of the same. I'm aware that, like Moneyball, this site is a numbers game and discussing the Premier League clocks up the website hits more than an article about a ginger, gravelly-voiced Burnley manager punching above his (admittedly sizeable) weight.
I would, however, contest the notion that the Championship is 'illogical' and hard to predict. It's a phrase uttered in pubs all over the country every weekend, akin to 'Wilshere is the only hope for the future of England' or, depending on your political persuasion and choice of boozer, 'Nigel Farage/Nick Clegg is/was quite the charismatic leader'. The same type of chap who makes a prediction based on Team X being 'due a win' - that's another b**tard way of saying 'in poor form'!
Taking a brief glance at the league tables for the past 5 years, only 1 team out of the 10 winners and runners-up hadn't been in the Prem before and that was the wealthy favourites Cardiff from last season. 13 teams in the Championship have almost identical average attendances, budgets (ahem, agency fees aside) and Premier League experienced players. Such is this similarity, it's not rare to see a team languishing around the relegation spots beat a team in the play-off positions. This is logical. This happens in every league and it explains why oh so many fools lose out on their 12-fold accumulators almost every week of their miserable lives.
While Yeovil Town are the obvious outlier to the trend of established Championship teams, they have proven how predictable this league actually is. Having picked up a hard fought victory away at Millwall on the opening game of the season (which incorrectly looked like a freak result at the time), they have picked up just three points since. Above them you have Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday who both survived relegation by their skin of their balls last season.
While Burnley sit at the top of the table right now, they will not come in the top two (you can quote me on that) and I doubt whether they will even get to the play-off final. The probability of Burnley finishing in the top 6 is similar to that of at least ten other teams. The Championship is an enjoyable league to watch with a number of proud teams rich in history. I hate to spoil the party but when the dust settles in May, there are no real surprises.
Chris Henderson, BRFC
Russia Should Host The World Cup
Like most observers, I was disappointed to learn of the appalling, yet predictable, treatment of Yaya Toure in Moscow last night. I was also a little bored of the usual chorus of complaints and people reaching for their pitchforks on the net and in this morning's Mailbox. How can Russia have the World Cup? Take more money off them! Let's pick up our ball and take it home with us, etc etc. There appears to be a general consensus that the measures in place are doing little to eradicate the cultural problem of racism in Russia. So what would these extra measures suggested by well-meaning, but misguided, folks achieve? Nothing.
The vast majority of Mailboxers are domiciled in the UK, or have been at some point. We're the lucky ones. Our attitudes have been shifted and enlightened down the years. We have a proper democracy (sort of), freedom of expression and access to healthcare. We haven't been under the rule of dictators and communism, we haven't recently fought any bloody battles internally. We're a largely trusted member of the international community and plenty of people want to come and live here.
Yet it wasn't that long ago that monkey chants and the throwing of bananas at black footballers was commonplace on these shores. We're very quick to forget our own recent, shameful history in this respect. How did we overcome, largely (there will always, alas, be a few), racism and achieve a more tolerant society? Exposure.
Exposure is the key and sport is a key component of this. Think the West Indies cricket team and all it did for race relations. It showed a generation that black people could compete just as well as white people. The rise of black participation in top level football in England showed the outright stupidity of depicting black people as inferior as well.
So, back to Russia. Communism is a very recent reality and Russian society is still in a state of flux. The wave of black professionals who are plying their trade in Russia are the key to a shifting in attitudes there. Players like Eto'o, Witsel and Samba have added to the Russian league. They are also showing, like black professionals in England in the 60s/70s/80s, that black people are not inferior. That black people can compete just as well as Russian footballers.
I would conclude, therefore, that if we are serious about wishing to see a change in attitude in Russia, that we wish to see a hasty end to incidents like last night, that taking the World Cup to Russia is a crucial step. It will expose racist attitudes to the success of footballers of all different colours and religions. For change to take place in Russia, there must be education and exposure, just like there was in England. A few extra roubles, a closed stadium and a World Cup hosted somewhere else will not achieve this.
Miles Reucroft (FIFA is doing the right thing - unusually)
Why Does PL Experience Matter?
Monday was bad, it was one of the worst experiences I've had at Selhurst and that is saying something. For me it looked like some of the players were hiding and didn't want to be out there fighting for Palace and ultimately their manager. It is perhaps for the best that Holloway has decided to take the step of standing down, I commend him for accepting his mistakes and giving the club half a chance to rectify them. He had lost the dressing room and that made his position extremely difficult and exhausting. He can be proud of his performance in the play offs but not a great deal else to note, although that for me is enough.
Now we move on. I'd like us to choose a manager for the long term, quite honestly I don't see the Premier League as the be all and end all, financially it stabilises the club further for the future but it has already led to reduced opportunities for our young players. I'm not adverse to Tony Pulis, I think he is a decent enough manager to get the best out of what he has and certain players would thrive under his leadership. My problem would be if he stunted the development of our academy players or carried on 'effective football' past it's necessity. The board have stated they want Premier League experience so I guess that narrows our options considerably but I would much rather give a younger manager a chance with an absolute no pressure season like this. Someone like Chris Powell, Eddie Howe or Karl Robinson, why the hell not? We've had the likes of George Burley and Neil Warnock but Dougie Freedman formed last season's team and aided the development of Wilf Zaha so why not gamble.
Joe Bingham, it's called denial my friend.
It's easier for the plastics and glory hunters to dismiss results against teams like saints, west brom and swansea because they genuinely have a tacit understanding that we are the rising forces.
With ethos' (ethi?) entrenched in sustainability and gradual progression they are beginning to realise that so called big clubs really are in a precarious position.
Man U fans know that the Glazers couldnt give a f**k about success if they can continue to sell a brand to generate revenue. When the success stops, they realise that when the owners are unable to recoup revenue through these ventures they will simply asset strip the club regardless of the outcome as long as they see a return or simply break even.
Chelsea fans know that when Roman gets bored they will probably cease to exist.
City fans (who i really like to be honest) know that the current model of spending is unsustainable, that it will actually be at a detriment to even qualifying for the top competitions. The new holistic approach should have been the start point for the Sheiks.
The only club in a decent position to go forward with is Arsenal, who in my experience although prickly at any suggestion of weakness tend to acknowledge decent teams.
Its fear that stops us being acknowledged, fear of what it means that "small" teams are happy to gradually improve, to accept the lessons of failure and use these lessons to progress. A fear of the non-debt laden, self-sustaining models that we have in place. Fear that we don't have to shank £20m a player for every position to tread water. Fear of academies, fear of long term strategies, fear of competing financially and most of all a fear of doing "it" the right way.
Frankly I f**king love it.
Martin "looking forward to a big four of Saints, West Brom, Swansea and Le Arse" Ansell
Despite United hailing them a success I have to say I hate the idea of singing sections.
Being a Gooner our stadium doesn't really have any reputation for singing.
Quite often you're given a dirty look by your fellow fans if you sing. This only makes me sing louder.
The concept of a singing section implies that all other areas of the ground are not and you're perfectly entitled to sit there enjoying your prawn sandwich in silence.
The problem is whether this sets us on a slippery slope towards stewards ousting fans who sing in non-singing sections.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London