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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Why Chelsea Are Inconsistent
Isn't it obvious as to why Chelsea's form is patchy?
Chelsea will beat my beloved Arsenal on Monday for one reason and one reason only. This Chelsea team is aging and its best years are behind it. Many players are being retained on reputation rather than performance and the truth is many of them can't stand the pace of attacking a team for a full 90 minutes.
Consequently when teams let Chelsea have the ball and defend stoutly like a rope-a-dope Ali the opposition soaks up the punches and then hits them on the counter. Arsenal, on the other hand, will attack Chelsea right from the off on Monday, score in the first ten minutes through Theo Walcott before Chelsea equalise before half-time through the most terrible deflected goal you've ever seen and right at the end after a half in which Arsenal have dominated possession Chelsea snatch victory and Wenger will act like he didn't see it coming.
Well I did Arsene, I did.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Spurs Should Have Bought Big
There seems to be an opinion that Liverpool were 'lucky' Real went after Bale instead of Suarez. I do not agree with this. There was no luck involved. Real focus on Bale was not solely down to football ability. They went after Bale because of the global appeal of having British born player on the team. This sells jerseys a la Beckham, Owen.
If anything Liverpool are fortunate to have a racy-biter, because that is difficult to market. It also apparently 'taints the brand' which is against los blancos business model.
If you look at the accomplishments of Cristiano Ronaldo which led to his 80 million pound transfer to Real: Three Premier league titles, one FA cup, two League Cups, one Champions League winners medal, a shiny plate, and FIFA Club World Cup. If you look at club honors for Bale: 2009 League Cup runners-up medal...Daniel Levy did some bang good business. 85 million pounds is an insane amount of money for Garth Bale, and really any player not named Ronaldo or Messi.
For the record, if Real came in with an 85 million pound bid for Suarez I would drive him to the airport. There are three reasons for this:
1. No one is bigger than the club
2. His surname is not Ronaldo or Messi and
3. That is an insane amount of money.
Now where Tottenham went wrong was instead of spending 85 million on two world-class players they bought a whole new team a month before start of season and expect them to gel (hence their transfer policy let them down). You don't spend 26 million on potential. Andros Townsend has potential...you spend that money on proven talent (albeit difficult without CL, but doable).
Soap box: Selling Caulker was bad idea because he was a homegrown talent and it sends a negative message to the rest of your academy. It also gives the fans a boost to see one of their own out there. For reference see Jon Flanagan.
Brian (Only a Spurs fan would see a fifth-place finish the season after a fourth-place finish as 'making progress') LFC
Spurs: Just Not A Big Club
Why do Spurs fans think that Benitez would leave Napoli or Capello would leave Russia for them? Decent, high-profile high-end jobs for a mid-table Europa League at best team.
And why do people insist on stating players have class when they have shown none? Like Soldado (Loldado). He may have been good in La Liga, but so was Morientes. So was Forlan. Doesn't mean they can do it in the Premier League. This lack of service excuse gets a bit thin when he blasts every chance he does get high and wide.
Accept you're a mid-table team who wasted all of the (quite ludicrous) sum taken from Real for Bale on mediocre talent nobody else wanted. Four seasons of over-achievement does not a big club make.
Clubs: Know Your Place
With the sacking of a number of managers recently, a few of us have discussed the concept of 'knowing your place' as a football club and understanding it accordingly. It may seem slightly patronising but I do believe that it gives a reality check to current position, identifies achievable goals and does not necessarily create unreasonable levels of expectancy. Let me use two examples.
West Brom - a club that is generally associated with being a middle table to lower-half team, scrapping for points each season and without a budget to attract the cream of the crop to Birmingham (separate conversation that one). The club has no major perceived commercial attraction (sorry Brummie fans) nor would not generally be associated as one of the 'romantic' clubs in the EPL. I believe the reasonable objectives here would be, investment in youth and academy, generate a nucleus of up and coming talent to utilise for the team in years to come with potential lucrative sale value in years to come. Investment should be in the form of top -evel coaches to work on this strategy and implement accordingly. Retaining status year on year in the EPL would be the goal along with bench-marking each season and setting 2-3 points more per year as an initial target that can be evaluated at the end of each season. Question - how many of the current team have come through the youth set-up? Check - Southampton.
Tottenham - for over a decade since the EPL began, consistently top end of the middle-table clubs, generally top half. Shrewd new owners arrive that invest in training facilities, academy along with commercial ventures to gain extra revenue. Team moves to be regular a challenger for European football regularly over 4-5 seasons. With a stadium that is only the tenth largest in the Premier League, gates are considerably lower than others yet the club has managed to perform year-on-year better than peers such as Newcastle, Everton, Aston Villa and Liverpool who all have reasonably larger stadia. Shrewd business has been conducted to such an extent that the previous manager, AVB, had pretty much a net spend of 5m odd. So money was not necessarily lost or thrown away stupidly (enter argument here). The trading side of the business (players) has pretty much broken even. I believe the reasonable objectives for Tottenham, would be to invest in the stadium (quicker than what currently is the case), 20,000 more fans in seats each week would generate upwards of over 1m more per game on average, higher when you include corporate seats. This would give the additional revenue required to more strategically attack the 'Big 4' clubs. Without that revenue base, I think it is idealistic to think you can not only join the party but crash it on a regular basis. Hence, accept that you are outside the Top Four but by breaking in you are overachieving.
Money makes the world go around and especially the Premier League. The only perceived 'smaller club' in a major league that I can remember qualifying for the Champions league and punching above their weight in recent times was the Yellow Submarine, Villareal, who subsequently were relegated a la Leeds a few years later. Whilst Everton, Newcastle and Southampton are having excellent seasons (according to the media yet all within four points of Tottenham who are allegedly having a poor one), it is a marathon rather than a sprint and only when the final ball is kicked in May can we offer a true reflection of the manager and team's performance. I anticipate that these clubs are one or two injuries away from a major slide back, where the points difference to the top four becomes quite large.
Many small to medium size companies in general business strive to drive employment, increase productivity and eventually sell out to one of the bigger fish that exists within their industry. It is the unfortunate nature of business, the big get bigger and the smaller get gobbled up. Why are we so naive to think that football is not the same? Or rather not us, why are the Chairmen of football clubs not on the same wavelength and treat their managers and goals accordingly?
Why AVB Simply Had To Go
Reading a lot of dross on Spurs the last few days. So lets be clear of a few things.
1. AVB was very clear and open in his desire to work with a Sporting Director (just type 'AVB wants Sporting Directo'r into Google for a whole host of quotes). He pushed for someone to be appointed to the role in the Summer. So I have absolutely no sympathy if the Baldini situation created issues.
2. AVB has been sacked because even in victory, we were useless. Depressing to watch, devoid of inspiration and creativity - big defeats hastened the inevitable sure, but half a season in which we haven't played well in the league for a full game once had sowed the seeds.
3. It's not Levy's fault. The deluded few who think we should have kept Bale, Modric, Berbatov etc. When they start turning up in other club boardrooms, live on TV, on deadline day, you're better to cut your losses and move on. Levy has sanctioned the funding of a squad which has every single option and type of player capable of challenging for the top four at the minimum.
4. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. A lot of people piping up that we should never have got rid of the Redknapp. Perhaps not - I personally would have stuck with him. However, there was a massive swathe of opinion at WHL towards the end of his reign that thought differently. Questions over Redknapp's ability to build a team for the future, his handling of the England situation, and nous to take us to the next level were all legitimate issues that led to him getting pushed out the door.
The bottom line is that AVB had good enough players at his disposal. However, he had created a team and a system that were disjointed, uninspiring and vulnerable - and most importantly showed no signs of improving. He had to go unfortunately.
Things Spurs Fans Are Sick Of Hearing
1. Our summer signings were flops.
Many people seem to think Paulinho has been the only good signing, but as a Spurs fan I would say Chiriches was the best signing. He's been immense and we've only lost once with him in the side. Eriksen has looked excellent when used but his playing time has been halved since Holtby has been possibly our best player in recent weeks. Lamela clearly hasn't been given enough playing time, but when on the pitch he's still shown potential, and has managed three assists (more than Townsend). Capoue and Chadli have been decent enough, and they were only bought as squad players anyway. The only one I'd consider to be approaching flop status so far is Soldado, but more on him later...
2. Baldini isn't so great after all.
Some were saying Baldini was the signing of the summer after he reshaped our squad in the window, and now a lot of people are back-tracking on that - but why? Bale was always going to leave for Madrid, we couldn't do much about that. So we then had to bring in good players who were willing to play for a team not in the Champions League remember - we couldn't have just gone out and bought one Ozil, because these sorts of players don't want to play on Thursday nights. I never thought we'd attract players of Lamela and Eriksen's calibre, but Baldini pulled it off. He did a great job putting a competitive squad together without the lure of Champions League football or megabucks wages - we just need a manager who can get these guys playing their best.
3. Soldado is has been starved of service.
This ship has sailed now I think. He has missed several chances I'd expect a 28 million pound striker to score. Often he's found hanging around on the wing instead of getting in the box. I just don't think the 'starved of service' argument stacks up anymore. There would be more truth in saying that he isn't the striker we should have bought in the first place. A complete striker would be able to fashion his own chances every now and then if he truly were 'starved of service'.
4. Defoe needs to play.
Defoe has played, and not all that well (in the league anyway). He's no better than Soldado, they're near identical players really - Defoe is a bit quicker and Soldado can head it better, that's all.
5. Ex-players and managers chucking their two pence in.
Ardiles thinks Hoddle should get the job! (He shouldn't.) George Graham thinks Capello is past it! (He's not.) Alan Sugar hates AVB! Who f**king cares!? Crawl back into your caves, you insufferable has-beens.
And speaking of Soldado, why on earth was his goal disallowed on Sunday?? I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere what with the subsequent thrashing and AVB losing his job and all that, but is there some sort of rule that says you can't shoulder-barge the keeper? Mignolet didn't have it in his hands, he didn't even have control of it, yet Soldado puts a shoulder on him, he throws himself on the deck and a foul is given! I thought it was ridiculous to disallow that.
Olly Cole, THFC (did that disallowed goal cost AVB his job? maybe....)
Same Mistakes At Chelsea And Spurs
There seems to be a striking similarity in the problems being experienced at both Chelsea and Spurs this season. As I see it:
1.Both teams are playing a right-back at left-back, ahead of their first-choice left-back from last year (Naughton and Azpilicueta over Assou-Ekotto and Cole).
2. Both have a senior centre-back with little to no pace (Dawson and Terry).
3. Both are playing on a regular basis with one striker (and sometimes none at all in Chelsea's case), despite having three options available.
4. Both teams arguably over-strengthened their midfield (Chelsea: Schurrle, van Ginkel, Willian, Atsu and Cuevas. Spurs: Paulinho, Chadli, Capoue, Eriksen & Lamela) while...
5. Neglecting to sign a real goal threat (Eto'o is at the wrong end of his career and Soldado doesn't seem to be working - that's not to say he won't eventually, of course).
6. Neither manager seems to have found their best 11.
7. Both have let players who would arguably improve their current first team, or at least strengthen their squad, leave on loan (Lukaku and Assou-Ekotto).
8. Both have a wealth of options in midfield (Chelsea - 10, Spurs - 11), but can't find a formation to accommodate them all.
9. Both have marginalised players who, again, could strengthen their first 11/matchday squad (Mata and Adebayor).
Spurs have been slightly unlucky with injuries this year - Vertonghen, Kaboul and Chiriches are all currently injured.
Simon (sh*t analogy) CFC's analogy wasn't far off, but it was incomplete; you say you can't win a war because you brought too many guns...but it doesn't matter how many guns you've got if they are in the wrong hands or the soldiers are being given the wrong orders.
Both managers have to take a good portion of the blame, as do the players, because the mistakes are there to see. I suppose the reason it looks more encouraging for Chelsea is that, despite the above, they can go top if they beat Arsenal at the weekend. But I still think getting rid of AVB was a mistake - the season is not even close to over yet and he may have been able to turn it around.
Not to throw stones, that is, being from the glass house which is United this season - we've made plenty of mistakes ourselves!
'New Players' Excuse Is Weak
Firstly let me just make it evidently clear that I do believe football teams need time to gel, however I can't help but feel that this 'he had to integrate seven new players' excuse people are defending AVB with is somewhat overplayed. Yes, he did lose his best player in the summer and yes, lots of new players were brought in but surely it was his job as head coach to make them work together? Lots of people have said he needed time to get the team working but between August and December he had given Daniel Levy virtually no indication that the team was improving or becoming more cohesive so it's hardly a surprise that he was given the boot. I think one thing we football fans are guilty of is only thinking on a game-by-game basis, so while this Spurs team haven't played a shedload of PL games together, we forget that they have been training together pretty much every day since August. Despite their very passable impersonation, these are not 11 strangers who have coincidentally met up for a game of football and so AVB must surely shoulder some of the blame for not getting the best out of the team.
The 'seven new players' statement also needs further analysis. Of that seven (Paulinho, Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli, Soldado, Chiriches and Capoue), how many of them have been first-team regulars? Chiriches and Capoue would have probably played more if not for injury, but Paulinho and Soldado (Townsend I suppose could be included as well) are the only ones who seem to get picked on a weekly basis in the league. Of course, 'AVB had to integrate 2 new signings into his side' doesn't sound as radical but in reality this Spurs side has more or less the same look as it did last season minus the outrageous talent of Bale.
When you have players who have played as infrequently as Lamela have, citing their failure to integrate as the reason for the team's failure is ridiculous. Imagine if an Arsenal fan had blamed on troubles on Nacho Monreal's inability to integrate into the squad? If Lamela was playing consistently and struggling like Soldado, then fair enough, but he's hardly even got a look in. The Spurs side that got drubbed 6-0 by Man City had three new players in it (Paulinho, Lamela and Soldado) whereas Man City had four (Navas, Fernadinho, Demichelis and Negredo). I do think AVB was somewhat unlucky and that he will bounce back, but the new players excuse is a pretty weak one. If you're halfway through the season and your team's still shown no signs of gelling, something's got to give and in this case it was poor AVB.
Brett AFC, Croydon (why am I even this concerned about Spurs?!?!)
Critisise Ozil? Really?
It is madness to criticize Ozil at the moment. Are people forgetting that (along with Flamini) he has transformed a collection of talented, but malfunctioning parts, into a lean, mean football machine?
Yes Arsenal still need strengthening in places when they come up against the very best. And yes Ozil may appear unspectacular at times. But with him Arsenal are genuine title, possibly even European contenders.
A quietly effective, well-oiled cog is far preferable to a an explosive Walcott - that bursts onto the scene spectacularly with a brace as the rest of the machine coughs, splutters and shuts down around him.
Ozil will be noticed much more if Arsenal are unfortunate enough to lose him. With a prolonged injury to Ozil Arsenal will slip and slide out of contention and people will wonder where the slick, smooth, almost unplayable possession football of the early season went. Do people forget how easily Arsenal took Liverpool to pieces in November?
To The Born Full-Back...
Thanks to Greg Bishop for his response to my question about born full-backs. He may have Rob Jones as a hero (getting a nod of approval from my Liverpool-supporting mate) but by switching from full-back to centre-half, he should probably be known as 'Maldini' to his mates. I wasn't trying to be sarcastic about full-backs, it's just a curious position. A good full-back is clearly an asset to his team, although from my experience of playing football it's also a place to stick rubbish players so they're out of the way. I played a lot of full-back in PE lessons or inter-form football, and not because I was any good at it.
Players like Maldini, or Gary Neville, turned full-back play into something of an art form, but I stand by the observation that full-backs only really get credit from a lot of pundits for their secondary role (i.e. attacking) rather than the things Greg and those like him did well - i.e. their defending through positioning.
Ed Quoth the Raven, CPFC the Glaziers, Notts
...So what Greg Bishop was basically telling us in this morning's mailbox is that he was exactly the same as Gary Neville growing up. Did you also have a younger brother you used to pick on, Greg?
Lewis, Busby Way
...Is Greg (Rob Jones was my hero growing up) Bishop, LFC a pseudonym for a Premier League defender? He seems to have displayed an unnatural relish for, understanding of, and ability in the defensive arts from an early age. Can we expect a weekly column in a national newspaper, a la The Secret Footballer, any time soon?
By my reckoning, we're looking for a full back who switched to centre back who, given his idol, is a Liverpool fan. So...Jamie Carragher?
Will (the most naturally gifted substitute of my generation) O'Doherty
...I'm a natural born fullback...I'm short and quick but without an ounce of skill.
Paul (so bad I converted to rugby) Lennon, Wirral