A Good Old-Fashioned Friday Mailbox

There's some arsiness, some moaning about statistics, some random support of Bosnia and an intriguing game of XI Different Teams, XI Different Countries...

Last Updated: 08/11/13 at 15:45

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Wenger to Retire On A High?
With the rumour currently going around that Arsene Wenger is stalling on a new contract, does anyone else think he's hoping to do a Fergie and retire on a winning note? With Arsenal currently on a tear and looking like the only team capable of playing consistently well, it wouldn't be the biggest surprise if he were to quit after winning the Premiership this season, thus going out on a high rather than carry a 'Nine years and counting' sign on his shoulders.

The similarities are also pretty striking. United ran away with the league last season as no one else could string three results in a row. Arsenal are currently leading the pack thanks to United, City and Chelsea all having new managers plus Spurs needing a season to bed in their 427 signings.

Also, last season Fergie signed van Persie for loads of cash, despite the restrictions imposed by the Glazers on age and r-esale value, as he knew it would almost surely guarantee him the title in his final season. This season, Wenger has broken the habit of a lifetime and splashed the cash on Ozil, and so far it seems to be having the desired effect. Don't be surprised to see him splash out again in the January window as unlike Fergie's United last season, this Arsenal team don't have the experience of winning so might need a bit more reinforcement.

If Wenger does indeed manage to guide Arsenal to the title, my money is on him retiring from management and turning up in a Director of Football role at somewhere like PSG or Monaco. If he doesn't, then expect him to sign on for another couple more years to try and get the 'trophy-less monkey' off his back.
Sanjit (Off to the betting shop!) Randhawa, Kuala Lumpur

The Gooners Hit Back

I am sick to death of people like Aidan MUFC using Arsenal's results from the corresponding fixtures last season as a guide to how well we are performing this season, or in many cases, how we are actually no better than last season (seriously?!).

This is such a rudimental and foolish way to compare a team's strengths to the previous seasons; and now for you Aidan and all you negative nellies out there I am going to demonstrate how useless this technique is.

As an example let's compare the year ManUre lost the league to City (11/12) to the following season where they won the league at a canter (12/13)

Here is just a snapshot of those results

West Brom away W 11/12 - 12/13 D
Tottenham home W 11/12 - 12/13 L
Chelsea home W 11/12 - 12/13 L
Arsenal away W 11/12 - 12/13 D
Norwich away W 11/12 - 12/13 L
Everton away W 11/12 - 12/13 L
Swnasea away W 11/12 - 12/13 D

So there we have it Aidan, although you won the league last season so comfortably, you must have in fact been a better team the year you lost the title to Citeh due to the results in the corresponding fixtures the year before, even though in between those years you added a certain Dutchman to your ranks. (Of course that is not the case and you were clearly stronger in 12/13).

Fact is using a snapshot of fixtures is not enough in this instance, so I wish people would stop doing it with Arsenal. This actually goes well with Paul (a VERY confident Gooner in general, but who can't help but feel we'll be soundly beaten on Sunday) Halt's analysis on the use of statistics and people not looking at the 'intangibles' enough. The simple fact is Arsenal are clearly a stronger team than last year by virtue of the fact that Ramsey is on fire, Ozil has been added to the team and Giroud looks a much more complete player. These are things that are obvious to anyone who has watched Arsenal this year, therefore please no more comparisons to the same fixtures last year where we picked up more points, as an argument for how we have not improved and how this is a flash in the pan, it's getting very tedious!
Jamie (can we please stop these 'dream teams' in the mailbox? It's not particuarly interesting and everyone more or less picks the same teams!) AFC

...Aidan has helpfully pointed something out that absolutely no-one has mentioned before. Well, except for those times people have already written into the mailbox about it. Still, thanks Aidan, but your mail means absolutely f*** all.

The point is that in previous seasons we have dropped points in those kind of games in the first few weeks of the season, and this time we haven't. The whole taking Arsenal seriously thing is due to the fact we have finished the last few seasons strongly but have been off the pace due to a bad start. This season, with hardly any change in the squad in the summer for once, we have finally started well and won't have to spend the second half of the season playing catch-up.

Look at the games Aidan highlights, and six of those games won were actually from February onward last season. If you look at the reverse legs of those games played earlier in the season, we actually fared a lot worse.

Fulham in November - Draw
Sunderland in August - Draw
Stoke in August - Draw
Swansea in December - Lost
Norwich in October - Lost
Reading in December - Won

That's why the feeling this season is more positive than last. The team has proven they can put a decent run together when the pressure is on at the end of the season. Now we've actually got a decent start under our belts, it feels like we've made a step forward to addressing the problems from the last few seasons. Add to that the fact that we've had those results all in a row, which means far more than individually selected results.

We might end up having a slump at the end of the season and this good start will actually change nothing, but if we manage to put another good run together at the end of the season like we have before then we're definitely in with a good shout.
Ross AFC London

...I'd like to congratulate Aidan MUFC for using one of the most pointless arguments of all time. In what way is comparing Arsenal's results in the corresponding fixtures LAST season in any way relevant to the results of this CURRENT season? If we're going to do that, then it's worth bearing in mind that Chelsea are three points worse off, from the same fixtures, and United are seven worse off.

Still means nothing, mind.
Si (Nervous about Sunday.)

...As opposed to highlighting our easy start, Aidan MUFC has merely reinforced Ramsey's argument: Arsenal have picked up more points than any other team since January 2013.

The majority of the matches which Aidan uses as a comparison occurred in the second half of last season (6 out of 8 of the games to be precise). Surely this merely highlights that Arsenal have been consistently picking up points for nearly a year now and that present form is not a mere flash in the pan.

Having said that, he does have a point: Arsenal still haven't beaten anyone currently above them in the table...
Matt, London

...I did love the 'Ramsay FC' jibe, particularly coming from a supporter of the team formerly known as Gareth Bale. It's always our own faults we see first in others, isn't it HbY? Of course, the fact Ramsay and Giroud have scored more league goals this year than your team would concern.
Mark D, AFC

...If we are calling Arsenal Ramsey F.C., should we start calling Spurs Penalty F.C.?
Monk, Gooner in Vizag, India

Bloody Statistics

Couldn't agree more with Paul Halt's email this morning about statistics in football I have a further and more fundamental problem with them, which is nothing to do with whether they're correct or not - it's that they're so darned clinical.

Consider for a moment the following exchange:

Football fan 1: "I felt we edged that."
Football fan 2: "Actually, I think you'll find they had 52% possession to our 48%."

Football fan 1 was wrong! Ha! Mr Fun Vacuum has proved it with stats. I bet he gets invited to loads of parties. And yet that's what the game seems to be becoming. It used to just be the Mailbox, but it's creeping into this site's content more and more - particularly now that you seem to be contractually obliged to mention a certain website questioning the identity of the players who got the goals. And to a point that's absolutely fine; you might argue that it shows a greater level of appreciation of the game than the sort of inane punditry the BBC, for example, is criticised for. But there comes a point where it starts to sap the enjoyment out of the game - and it's there to be enjoyed, right?

I judge a winger on whether they get me off my seat, or start worrying about our full-back's lack of pace - depending who he's playing for - not by logging on to the internet and studying OPTA statistics for their crossing ability. Some people favour one player over another not because their numbers are better, but because they just do. I prefer Andy Booth to Raul, but I'm pretty sure the stats don't support that. F365, do you know a website where I might find that information?

Bloody Numbers

Statistics in football may have been blasted earlier on in the mailbox, but what's worse than stats is numbers.

There are some numbers which have been regurgitated so many times in football analysis/commentary recently that we really don't need to be reminded of time and time again. Some particularly annoying ones are:

How much Arsenal bid for Luis Suarez.
How much Michu cost.
How much Berahino earns in wages.
How long it has been since a player (Danny Graham for example) last scored.
How much any of Liverpool's ill-fated signings under Dalglish cost.
How long it has been since a team last won a trophy (Arsenal).
How many goals/assists a player has accrued recently (particularly from Messi and Ronaldo fanboys).
How many countries Januzaj is eligible to play for.
How many goals any outfield player at Stoke has scored.

Can we just assume that this is now common knowledge and move on? I'm sure that there are many more current examples that peeve others.
Elias (still enjoy reading that Man Utd paid 4m extra for Fellaini though) Johannesburg

Supporting Bosnia

Having read Rusty (If Cu*tis Davis plays for England at the World Cup I'll eat my own toes) Gray's letter this morning, I agree that hopefully Iceland will make it through to the World Cup. Theirs is a great story. However, I'm going to be cheering for what I believe is an even better story next summer. Twenty-odd years ago, Bosnia Herzegovina was tearing itself apart from the inside. It still has an internal border separating the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. Yet they have qualified for next year's World Cup, and by all accounts this achievement is helping to ease some of the pain. It also shows the joy of sport that we all love.


So as an Irishman who visited Bosnia this summer and loved it and its people, and with no team of my own to follow, I'm firmly in the BiH camp next summer!!
F O'Driscoll

Snoop's Partnership

On the off-chance that it's a quiet Friday afternoon the strike combo of Giroud and Ozil is Gizil. I think Snoop Dogg would approve. Gizil my Nizil...or whatever he says that's trendy these days.
Cliff Mallinder, AFC

Gerat Partnerships We Missed

Reading the Van Pooney article earlier, I couldn't help be reminded of the great partnerships we never got to see.

Imagine if Danny Shittu had played with Nat Lofthouse, how much fun could we have had with that?

Chelski and Citeh missed a trick by not signing Rui Costa and Quinton Fortune to make another fearsome strike-force of 'Costa-Fortune'.
Philip 'Rosks' Roscoe

It's Getting Silly Now

Little late on this but I used to find Man U's tri-forward Roonaldez quite impressive.

Less impressive but strangely unsettling? My mate's insistence on Dimitank Berbatard, a Berbatov/Lampard hybrid, presumably grown in a lab. Possibly in orbit.
Stu, Chiswick

XI Different Teams, XI Different Countries

Nice try Adam Halliday, Villa fan, Herts but, you're boys would get a shellacking over a two-legged match against my boys (assuming we aren't counting 'old football' - Premiership only and not using any players Adam picked)

Cech (Czech Rep.) Chelsea
Zabaleta (Arg.) City
Mazeratti (Italy) Everton
Berg (Norway) Blackburn
Stam (Holland) Man Utd
Ljungberg (Sweden) West Ham
Dembele (Belgium) Fulham
Alonso (Spain) Liverpool
Kanchelskis (Russia) Southampton!
Cantona (France) Leeds
Klinsmann (Germany) Spurs
Neil (Guinness or Pride? I have all the tough decisions to make!) Surrey

...I thought I'd try go for a completely different eleven, including subs (and we're under the assumption that all these players are playing as they did at their peak with the club in question)

Jääskeläinen (Fin) Bolton

Zabaleta (Arg) Man City
Radebe (S.A) Leeds
Stam (Ned) Man Utd
Verthongen (Bel) Spurs

Hamann (Ger) Newcastle
Xabi Alonso (Esp) Liverpool
Essien (Gha) Chelsea

Yorke (T&T) Villa
Henry (Fra) Arsenal
Di Canio (Ita) West Ham

Begovic (Bos) Stoke
Samba (DRC) Blackburn
Hangeland (Norway) Fulham
Kranjcar (Croatia) Portsmouth
Valencia (Ecu) Wigan
Cahill (Aus) Everton
Yakubu (Nig) Middlesbrough

Obviously it doesn't have the Ronaldo factor, but I think the defense is better, there is the Henry factor...and would you look at that midfield trio?!
Imran Laher

...I thought Adam's challenge would be easy. Turns out it wasn't so easy, particularly with full-backs, (go Figueroa). Still, this team would do pretty well playing in their rather dashing pomp

Van der Saar (Fulham, Holland)
Petrescu (SheffWed, Romania)
Mellberg (Villa, Sweden)
Kompany (MC, Belgium)
Figueroa (Wigan, Honduras)
Ronaldo (MU, Portugal)
Vieira (Arsenal, France)
Alonso (Liverpool, Spain)
Modric (Spurs, Croatia)
Kewell (Leeds, Australia)
Drogba (Chelsea, Ivory Coast)
JJM, Waterford

...In response to Adam Halliday, Villa fan , Herts. Here is my team with no repeats from his team. I have gone 3-5-2 and only have one current Premiership player.

Mark Schwarzer. Australia, Fulham

Jaap Stam. Holland, Manchester United
Olaf Mellberg. Sweden, Aston Villa
Paul McGrath. Ireland, Derby County

Patrick Vieira. France., Arsenal
Patrick Berger. Czech Rep, Liverpool
Georgi Kinkladze. Georgia, Man City
JJ Okocha. Nigeria, Bolton
Nolberto Solano, Peru Newcastle

Gianfranco Zola. Italy, Chelsea
Jurgen Klinsmann. Germany, Spurs
Chris, Newcastle

...Nice little puzzle, this was much harder to do than I thought it would be. Tried to make it fairly balanced, think this team would do pretty well!

Gk: Schmeichel - Villa and Denmark

LB: Ziege - Tottenham and Germany
CB - Kompany - City and Belgium
CB - Coloccini - Newcastle and Argentina
RB - Lauren - Portsmouth and Cameroon

Holding midfielders:
Roy Keane - Forest and Ireland
Alonso - Liverpool and Spain

Juninho - Middlesborough and Brazil

Ronaldo - Manu and Portugal
Robben - Chelsea and Netherlands

Up front
Henry - Arsenal and France
Simon Leonard

...More difficult than I'd suspected this one but I do love a Friday game. I defy anyone to pick a better team than this:

Edwin Van Der Sar (NED) Fulham
Lauren (CAM) Portsmouth
Lucas Radebe (RSA) Leeds United
Olog Mellberg (SWE) Aston Villa
Christian Zeige (GER) Middlesbrough
Andrei Kanchelskis (RUS) Everton
Xabi Alonso (SPA) Liverpool
Luka Modric (CRO) Spurs
C.Ronaldo (POR) Man United
Thierry Henry (FRA) Arsenal
Didier Drogba (IVO) Chelsea

Great game by the way, kudos to Adam Halliday, Villa fan, Herts.
Sean (Fridays at work always full of footy trivia and F365) London

Doing Mediawatch's Job

While reading Mediawatch today, it occured to me that I had not seen Lawro mentioned in the last few weeks. So I decided to have a read of his Friday piece and give a Mediawatch style run down of things. I expected maybe one nugget to come from it but the findings were quite startling:

On Villa v Cardiff

'Aston Villa are not great at home' but 'Cardiff are on a high after beating Swansea'. So he goes for Villa to win obviously.

'Villa need to start winning at home against teams in the bottom half of the table or they are going to be dragged down there themselves.' Villa are currently in 14th place, a whole three points above relegation. Believe me, they're already down there mate.

On Southampton

'They keep picking points up, which is not a bad habit to have' - TOP TOP STUFF! Truly insightful. Give that man a raise!

On Norwich

He predicts that Norwich will beat West Ham based soley on the fact that he wants them to win, with nothing in his piece explaining why they may win. Followed up beautifully with this line on Hughton - 'He needs more than one good result though.' The phrase 'No Sh*t' spring to mind.

And finally, his detailed reason on why Arsenal can win the title...."The reason for that is that they are going to win the majority of their remaining league games." WORTH. EVERY. PENNY.

Well that's enough of that, I think I need to go have a lie down. Happy weekend all!
John Whelan, LUFC

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

Please Stop Telling Us What To Think


ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

Wenger hails important win


s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

De Gea's Europa League target

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That's Why We Didn't Want Jose At United

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Kieran's Not The Only One Keeping Notes

Another chap in the mailbox has been keeping notes on comments made by optimistic Man United fans. Plus, Garey Vance is offering a double-or-quits on his new tattoo...

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