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...
Mignolet's bad kicking is the reason for Liverpool's success, whilst one man keep notes on F365 mails. Plus England excitement, Arteta and a bad Walsall experience...
If you have anything to add on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
In A Nutshell
Lambert says Lallana is a one-off and he has never played with anyone like him - Alexis Sanchez says the same about Messi.
That just sums up England's quality and World Cup chances.
Bala (I've never played with anyone like Messi as well) MUFC
Rooney: A Pygmy On The World Stage
Dear Allen Sam...'Rooney is massive'. Can't fault you there. Whereas Ronaldo has achieved and maintained exceptional fitness, power and pace, Rooney fluctuates between 'robust' and fat, has lost his pace, and isn't as powerful as he was. He wouldn't look out of place as a scrum-half.
Not buying the criticism of Lampard and Gerrard either. Lampard may well be ageing (it's something of an inevitability really. You can't criticise a player for being subject to the basic forces and laws of the universe), but he's still an exceptional goalscoring midfielder, his passing is under-rated, and his positional sense is pretty good. And I really, really loathe Gerrard (and he isn't, and was never, as good as Scholes), but he isn't selfish. If he backs himself to score from 30 yards, play ridiculous 50 yard passes etc., it's because he has done for years, and because it's a role he's had to play in an underpowered Liverpool team. He may not control a game, and dictate play, like Scholes, Carrick, or Lampard, but he's been Liverpool's 'Roy of the Rovers' for over a decade, in a team without the quality in other positions that his rivals have. It's similar to Rooney at United now: if I looked up, saw Ashley Young or Stewart Downing to my left, and the goal in front, I'd shoot rather than pass. And apropos 'their depth', both Lampard and Gerrard have finished in the top three of the Ballon D'Or. Rooney has at best finished fifth.
And on 'commitment', this seems to be nothing more than code for Mr. Wilshere's "We tackle hard...". Running around a lot, sliding on the floor, sweating, and making manly tackles, are not indicators of how dedicated a player is. They're obvious, easy signals, but ultimately only a partial truth. Were Rooney genuinely 'committed' to United, and his own career, he'd have trained harder, eaten better, drunk less, smoked less, and showed the same obsessive quest for self-improvement and greatness that has seen Ronaldo become one of the best players ever. Against the dedication of one's body and life to self-improvement as a footballer, Rooney's muscular charging about the pitch rather pales in comparison.
Rooney isn't terrible, but he's nowhere near as good as a certain type of mentally challenged fan thinks, and certainly nowhere near as good as he himself thinks. He's an efficient, but far from clinical goalscorer. He occasionally (very occasionally) scores a ridiculous wonder goal. And he's decent creatively: he can spot, and complete, a simple through ball if in space, but Kaka, Riquelme or Iniesta he isn't. He hasn't the technique, intelligence or speed of thought to control a game, and hasn't the mobility to play like Muller, Reus or Ozil, and hasn't the skill to beat a man.
Oh, and if you want to watch 'greatness', go and watch Ronaldo, Messi, Ibra, Iniesta, or Xavi. Rooney had the ability to play at the same level as Ronaldo and Messi, and wasted it. He may be England's best player, but he's a pygmy on the world stage, and it's entirely his own fault.
Rooney is Dirk Kuyt
So, according to Allen Sam Wayne Rooney should be applauded for having a great workrate and ability. That essentially makes Wayne Man United's Dirk Kuyt. But I thought Danny Welbeck was the Dirk Kuyt of Man United. Or is it Michael Carrick that is Man United's Dirk Kuyt? Then again, it could be that sublime sideways passer Tom Cleverley who is the Dirk Kuyt of Man United. Although, Maroune Fellaini is playing a bit like Dirk Kuyt, when he plays, so it might even be him. Antonio Valencia runs a lot and crosses like Dirk Kuyt though, so maybe it is him? Giggs is not like Dirk Kuyt though, but he is probably Dirk Kuyt's fathergrandfatherboth...
Wow Allen, a team full of Dirk Kuyts, the massive ability and work rate in this group must be where the class and greatness comes from. I get it now. Awesome. Fantastic.
Nathan (Wonder where Dirk Kuyt will play in the Man United team), Cape Town
Signing Iniesta Is False Logic
Am I the only United fan that thinks the signing of Iniesta would be completely unnecessary? My reasons are three-fold. Firstly, while I admire the way he glides past players, and does all that fancy-smancy left-foot-right-foot-and-away-he-goes-skill that seems only to be possible by continental players, he is the player he is through the way Barca play. Iniesta minus Barca, or more precisely minus Xavi, seems a distinctively lesser proposition.
Secondly, we all know that defending, regardless of where you play on the pitch, is an essential ingredient to any PL teams success. Iniesta...well...doesn't know what defending means, it's an alien concept to the Barca players. In fact, they don't even know what their own half looks like most of the time. Iniesta would not suit the PL, and is too old and set in his Barca ways to adapt.
Thirdly, the role he plays is already filled at United. Rooney plays more or less the Iniesta type role, which consists of floating around the striker position, dropping off to pick up balls, taking the ball into feet with incredible balance. Although lesser at dribbling and passing, that difference is equalised by Rooney's unselfish defensive ability. And Kagawa is waiting in the wings as a back-up for that in-the-hole role anyway, which he looked quality in when playing away at Real Soss the other week. Bottom line, Iniesta would find himself out on the left. Yeah he sometimes plays off there at Barca, but out on the left in a United team, means stay out of the left, whereas in the Barca team it means do whatever Messi doesn't.
It's simple. Iniesta is amazing, but there are plenty more, younger players out there that will cost half the price and will have time to adapt to PL and United football.
Ross (hoping for a top-four finish)
Holding Midfielders Are Killing Football
I was watching videos on youtube this morning of great World Cup goals and something struck me about the players on display; since the introduction of the anchor man in midfield football hasn't been the same.
Gone are the days of players like Baresi, Cannavaro, Desailly, Nesta, Matthaus, Campbell, Beckenbauer, Moore and Koeman in defence. These were players who dominated their opponents, strikers feared coming up against them and they could be relied on them to organise defences, start attacks and save their teams time and again.
Teams now have at least one, if not two holding midfielders, to shore up their midfields and 'protect' their centre-backs - managers are afraid to trust their defenders to defend without a babysitter dropping back from midfield. This is leading to more negative and cautious football being played by teams afraid of losing rather than focussing on winning. In turn we aren't seeing box-to-box midfielders, players like Vieira, Keane or Gerrard in his pomp any more.
Can you imagine of Roy Keane, Gerrard or Patrick Vieira were coming through at 18 or 19 now, they would be told to sit in front of the defence and that's it, this mentality is stifling potentially world-class midfielders (look at the difference in Aaron Ramsey from holding last season to being given freedom to roam this year) and blocking the development of centre-backs as they are being led by the hand by negative midfielders like Lucas Leiva and John Obi-Mikel, who manage to make a career out of being too limited to be a proper midfielder and not good enough to be a centre-half, so they have the job of chasing round more talented midielders.
Where are the top-class defenders coming through an more, under 25 I can only think of Varane at Madrid and Nastasic at City who have been given the chance at big teams? The anchor man role is stifling potentially creative or dynamic box-to-box midfielders and stunting the development of centre-backs.
Claude Makelele and the 4-2-3-1 are killing football.
Conor, Formerly Dublin now London
I don't buy into this 'footballers need passion for the club' nonsense. Ben gives the example of City's lacklustre performance against 'a scrapping Sunderland side' but the implication of this is that Sunderland's win was inspired by Wes Brown, Ki, Giaccherini et al's all encompassing boyhood love of everything red, white and north-eastern.
This is not to deny that many players develop a strong bond with their clubs and its fans. I do not dispute that Zabaleta and Mancini were/are 'proper Man City men' - but I do dispute that this is anything intrinsically related to City and had they signed for anyone else their dedication to the cause would have been less.
This is also not to claim that personal mentality is never a factor. You clearly do need players who will give everything to win - a committed team will beat an indifferent team every time, all else being equal - but to require that this mentality is specifically inspired by the particular shirt they are wearing is foolish. Ben cites Rooney as a player who 'loves football' and I would give Suarez as another example, but goings on over the summer definitively prove that neither player is doing what they do for the love of their respective red shirts. They do it for personal glory and for the simple love of winning football matches.
This is my point. Footballers need passion for the game. The club is transient, secondary. If they do love the club, then so much the better, but it is not particularly important in the scheme of things.
Jon Gibson LFC (Talk of 'Stevie Ireland in his pomp' makes me think of him driving that big pink car. I'm now calling it The PompMobile)
...Occasionally you read a letter in the mailbox where it seems rather suspicious that the author supports the team he claims - and if Ben, MCFC is not a United fan after the drivel he wrote this morning, then he might just be one of the breed of City fans (mostly in the media such as Colin Shindler or Simon Hattenstone) who seem to hate their own club and pine for a City that never existed. If he is a City fan, he is spectacularly ill-informed.
His claim that City's players are mercenaries is tiresome in the extreme, the sort of thing I'd expect to read from an Arsenal fan on Twitter and shows a complete lack of knowledge about how City are set up now. The club knocked £30m a year off the annual wage bill in the summer, signing players on lower wages with incentivised bonuses, unlike the lucrative deals the likes of Kolo Toure, Emmanual Adebayor and Carlos Tevez enjoyed. Whatever the troubles are with City away from home, the players being mercenaries is not the cause.
Ben can't even seem to remember Garry Cook's name and bizarrely thinks Mancini was sacked before the cup final (he was sacked two days after, though there were rumours before). If only City could still call on Mancini's management skills that Ben talks about that helped instill passion into the City players and helped the team to a similar result as last season at Sunderland, a glorious...erm 1-0 defeat. Okay, the year before, when it was...ah, a 1-0 defeat. Or the passion he installed into the players to lose 3-1 at Southampton, 3-1 at Spurs, 2-0 at Everton, or draw dismally 0-0 at West Ham. Patchy away form is not new to this season. As for the claim that City are unsustainably run, it is just too pathetic a claim to even discuss. Let's hope the oil doesn't run out or that big new academy is going to rust away in no time.
Nick Miller covered the reasons well. Personally I think it is down to individual mistakes as much as anything, and the age-old mysterious disparity between home and away form, added to a new manager with new methods, who needs to learn what the English league is all about. Pellegrini's chances of success at City may rest on the patience levels of the owners and fans alike. If Ben is the benchmark, then he is f***ed.
The World Cup Should Be In Winter
So the World Cup looks like it's definitely moving to winter. This is terrible, earth-shattering, sacrilege right? Or is it? Why should it be in summer? Because it always has been? Football is a global sport, with almost every country having national teams and domestic leagues. Why should it be that only countries with summer seasons have to mess up their domestic league every four years? Shouldn't every country have the opportunity to host the greatest tournament on earth?
Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that Qatar won the bidding fair and square. I just think it would be a bit unfair on countries that cannot possibly host a summer tournament, if we were to rule out ever moving it to winter. It will surely mess up a season (although maybe not that much, it really is an unknown) for European leagues, but so what. It'll be something different. By all means argue that Qatar should never have won that bid and we should all be very annoyed that they did, but don't make the mistake of thinking that the World Cup should never be held in winter just because "that's the way I like it".
Sexed Up By Sweden v Portugal
Thanks for mentioning Friday's semi-inducing clash between Sweden and Portugal in your 'ones to watch' column. I am tense with anticipation. I know when this sensual, carnal game of football porn starts on Friday, I will be consumed with an unpredecented level of homoeroticism; a man crush that fights itself within me. 'Come on Zlatan - the World Cup won't be the same without you!' will shout the leather clad cherub on my right shoulder. ' Yes C-RON! You deserve to be there' will scream the gimp-masked little angel on my left.
I can't wait. Why? Because this is proper football. How I remember football when I was growing up. It's Baggio v Romario. It's Maradona v Klinsmann. It's Scifo v Hagi. It's pure unadulterated stardom.
And that's what we want to see. Superstars playing in games that matter. Why? Because when they come head to head in games like this, stuff happens. Memorable stuff, stuff that you talk about for years. Stuff that builds your memories, reinforces your love of the game.
Compare and contrast to England v Denmark, Or Poland. Or any s**t like that. 11 average players v 11 average players. The ball will be passed sideways a lot, no tmuch will happen and the general public will have forgotten the game by the time they wake in the morning.. If especially the viewing public are especially lucky, the ball might bobble at some point or there could even be a questionable throw-in. Hardly worth a text.
Of course, Sweden v Portugal could also be like this. But we just don't know. But we have Zlatan and Ronaldo....Both are unbelievably talented and arrogant. Both believe that they have absolutely every right to play in the World Cup. The World Cup is in Brazil, home of the greatest World Cup ever - it's beautiful, it's sexy. it's perfect.
Zlatan could score a 100mph bullet from yards. He could just beat up beat up the entire Portugal squad, just because he was sure who it was that nicked his Lynx. CRon could spontaneously start kissing himself at any point in the game, score a hat-trick, or BY GOD! wink at someone. The drama, the theatre.
Honestly, I couldn't give two hoots about the other players on the pitch. I wouldn't complain if the game was just Ronaldo and Zlatan, seeing who could score the craziest goal or be the biggest knob. That's what I want to watch. I don't care if John Ikea breaks up the play or Dave Superbock is positionally aware. Friday is about football sex and I want to see Ronaldo and Zlatan on the job.
And it's on a Friday. I'm not going to eat. I'm walking in, grabbing a bottle, and watching the whole dang thing, build-up, adverts and all.
Is it too late to get Nicklas Bendtner as special guest referee?
The Most Hipsterish Of Football Films
I just wanted to add one to the list of recommended football films - Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. It has no dialogue and involves multiple cameras following Zidane around the pitch during a Real match against (if I remember correctly) Villareal. Mogwai wrote and performed the score for it. It is somewhere between dull/hypnotic/fascinating.
NorthernSoul (Football Hipster Movie?) NUFC
And Then There's...
Can't let this topic pass without highlighting to your readership the fantastic movie 'Once In A Lifetime', a documentary film about the ridiculous but true story of the New York Cosmos in the 70's. Hard to believe now, but they were playing to sold out crowds in baseball/American football stadia and boasted the likes of Pele in the team. Particular highlight for me was when Rodney Marsh recalls the story of how Pele launched two-footed at him following some remarks Rodney had made in the press, but the ref refusing to send Pele off as he was the reason the crowd had turned up! Soundtrack is awesome too...
Tony (Interested to learn that outside of UK 'Green Street' is called 'Green Street Hooligans'!)
...The talk of footie films prompted me to watch my most favourite 'One Night In Turin'. Still reducing me to tears after 23 years!
Anonymous 32-year-old man. AFC
...Further to the others that have already been put forward, Bostocks Cup is a mockumentary made before mockumentaries and is a work of genius. The daddy of them all though is of course 'Do I Not Like That', quite possibly the most quotable piece of TV ever made.
Dave (can we not knock it?), Telford
Read A Book
Al, Arsenal/Sydney FC must be one of those men who just want to watch the world burn. Of the films I've seen on his list of football films to watch, all were terrible. Not wanting to judge without myself seeing all of them I decided to enlist the help of imdb and worked out that the average rating for his list is a lowly 6.0 (and that includes a completely unjustified 7.4 for Green Street).
I personally can't recommend any films but The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro is a fantastic football book.