It's A Massive Mailbox Of Loveliness...

We have mails on Nigel de Jong, Everton, Arsene Wenger's selection headaches, David Moyes, hybrid accents, racist Mediawatch and rather a lot more...

Last Updated: 02/01/14 at 15:32

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City: Bottle Jobs, A Laughing Stock...

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There are some harsh words for Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini in the Mailbox this morning, as well as some rather nicer ones for Tony Pulis and his magic hat...

Fatigue No Excuse For Giroud Being Cr*p

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We have a long mail on why Giroud isn't very good at all, plus some more thoughts on neutrality. Plus, who do you want out of you club this summer and Liverpool moving buses...

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Missing Nigel De Jong
We've dropped more opints than would be ideal, but City aren't that bad on the road. Despite the early losses and dropped points, you actually have to go back to Sunderland in November for the last time we lost on our travels. We're still shipping goals to Fulham and Swansea (amongst others) but the earlier problems were more about confidence than anything else. Pellegrini plays pretty attacking football and as a result, teams get chances against us. This is especially so away because teams are likely to be more attacking in front of their own fans so they press into more of the gaps that our own attacking leaves. Earlier in the season, the absence of Kompany made everyone else twitchy and the attackers were missing their control and fudging their passes. Now, Vinny's back and we're still conceding just as often but we've started scoring more too so we seem to be getting better results. Simple stuff really.

Now, a lot's been made of the substandard replacements for Kompany and a lot of fingers have been pointed at Demichelis, which I think is a shade unfair. Sure, he has an unwelcome propensity towards a hare-brained tackle, and isn't the quickest but he's a decent enough back up. Lescott is a bit quicker but when handed a start against Everton, produced an immediate brain fart to let Lukaku open the scoring so I'm not surprised Pellegrini doesn't wholly trust him yet. What neither of these players, nor the youthful Nastasic can replace is the calm and leadership that Kompany provides. Yaya's vice captain now but he's a bit of a whinger when things aren't going well and while Zaba can mirror elements of Vinny's leadership, he's marginalised on the flank. In any case, I can't blame our back-up for defenders for not being Kompany because it's an unrealistic expectation of them. What this squad really misses the most is Nigel de Jong.

I have no idea why Nige left and I probably never will. Sold for peanuts despite in my opinion, being one of the finest holding midfield players currently playing the game, I can only assume that there was something off field that caused his departure. His replacement in Javi Garcia offers none of the defensive solidity or calming assurance that de Jong could and instead gives us a bumbling oaf of an error waiting to happen. He's like Dzeko without the shooting ability... wow, that's more damning than I'd expected. Still, at least he's tall. I understand that in the brand of football Pellegrini's trying to effect, de Jong's not the ideal exponent but we can't play the same way all the time. Sometimes, other teams play a bit as well and we don't have a viable alternative to bats**t mental attacking. If you want to ensure that you dominate the midfield and remain secure at the back thereby releasing your full-backs, you need a de Jong or come to think of it, that lad Barry at Everton could do a job for us too. Quick transitions are all well and good and Fernandinho and Yaya are excellent at it but sometimes, a little more discipline would be useful. Players leave for all sorts of reasons and I'm sure in Barry's case, he wanted to play regularly at this stage of his career and with a World Cup coming up, but de Jong? I'll never get why we let him go. I miss you Nigel.
Steve Bradley (Happy new year to one and all. Especially Nigel; you vicious little bugger)

What Now For Everton?

There's a lot of focus on January signings but realistically for Everton we aren't going to be able to bring in the type of player that will allow us to keep the pressure on the teams in an around us in the hunt for the Top Four and our squad is way too thin (Lukaku was knackered yesterday). However, that was never a feasible target a the beginning of the season so I for one am happy to see us playing a good style of football and seeing where it will take us from game to game.

What has enabled us to have such a pleasant season so far is using (and maybe, abusing?) the loan system. In May certainly Lukaku and Gerard will be off, and most probably Gareth Barry, so what can we do to replace?

For Barry, it might be straightforward in that we can get him on a free. Although some City fans wanted him back during their early teething troubles, if they win league or come second in Pellegrini's first season I can't see him getting abck into that team which will undoubtedly be strengthened again - his wages might be an issue, too. Anyways, we do have Darron Gibson coming back from a long-term injury who helps fill that useful, but often unnoticed role of ball recycling in the middle of the park (and breaking up play with fouls).

For Deuloufeu, well I can see Barcelona being reasonably chuffed with how we've helped him develop so hopefully another of their starlets will be packed up in a trackie and sent to Goodison, this will be especially useful as I can't see Pienaar going on forever but a permanent replacement will take time.

Lukaku is the toughest to replace. There are options at cut price depending on who gets relegated. I'd be loath to inflict suffering on Sunderland fans after their excellent showing at Goodison on Boxing Day but I really like Steven Fletcher, similarly for Gary Hooper at Norwich. However, they don't have the dynamism of Lukaku and are more like Jelavic, which as we've seen can go from hot to cold. There must be a fair bit of cash still swilling around from the Fellaini deal but can a team like Everton really afford to gamble £20m on a player? Would a £20m player even come to a club like Everton? Open question, which I don't expect much sympathy on from fellow mailboxers but interested nonetheless.
Matt EFC, London, COYB

No Surprises From United

Can I please put some perspective on the current situation at Man Utd for the sake of my (and hopefully other sensible United fans) sanity, I've tried to keep it brief but here are a few Benitez style 'facts' (all in my opinion in other words):

* United were the best of a bad bunch last year and did not perform well all year, there wasn't a single game I remember where the performance was head and shoulders above their opponents, as backed up in the conclusions stat about how many times they went behind during 2012/13 and now in 2013/14. The Fergie factor was undoubtedly behind many of the comebacks, in my opinion, and it's not right to blame Moyes for not yet being as good as the best British manager ever. The other teams have all improved this season over last, whereas United have not, hardly surprising given the new manager and lack of new recruits. There was also the Van Persie factor last year, injury hasn't helped Moyes on that front.

* Moyes has been in the job for six months, I for one am relieved that he hasn't come in, spent a wedge on a load of foreigners and then tried to get them to integrate (see AVB), he's taken time to assess the team. He did identify the midfield as a potential problem, hence the Fabregas saga (see my next point), which all and sundry have been clamouring for Fergie to fix for years now.

* The infamous summer transfer window, for which Moyes has once again been blamed, is the fault of the club and Ed Woodward, Moyes identifies players, it is up to the club to make the moves happen, a new chairman and manager at the same time was not good planning but that isn't down to David Moyes. Fellaini was definitely second choice and has failed to shine, partly due to injury, but I was at the Everton game and Fellaini did a good job in breaking up attacks all game, United still need a creative midfielder to sit alongside Fellaini/Cleverly/Fletcher and I believe Moyes knows that.

* I intend to give Moyes the next two transfer windows, January and the summer, if there is no sign of a plan to build a better side then I will be the first to eat humble pie and accept I was wrong. Look at the alternative model though, Chelsea have had nine managers (I think) in how many seasons? That is all due to impatience on the part of Abramovich and now they have the ego back in charge, if United had that approach then Ferguson would have been sacked in the first few years and where would we be now? Who knows but probably not sat on 20 titles and two Champions League wins.

* Lastly, he seems to have got Welbeck scoring regularly, Fergie can't claim to have done that.

Football has become a fickle business (see AVB) but Rome wasn't built, or rebuilt, in a day. Give the man a chance to build a side, he inherited a lot of average players (Anderson, Young, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverly, Welbeck, Smalling, Evans, Fabio, Evra (these days)), a few aging players (Vidic, Ferdinand, Giggs, Fletcher) and a few good (Rooney, RVP, De Gea) or potentially good (Januzaj) players. If he adds to them and makes progress then hopefully he'll last long enough to build on it and create a new United dynasty.
Paul Milton, Man Utd

Back To Basics Please

Another week, another shambolic defensive showing. While I never expected life without Fergie to be a bed of roses, Moyes certainly has not endeared himself to the United faithful in his short stint as manager so far.

The challenge for this season now is to get that top-four finish, so we can at least utilize the temptation of Champions League football to make some decent signings. The next two transfer windows will be massive for David Moyes. While the squad certainly needs improvement in every aspect, I reckon Moyes needs to start looking at the back first.

The problem with his United side now is that there is no longer a fear factor. Teams now know that this United side are vulnerable and there for the taking. Aside from a weak central midfield, which has been debated to death, Moyes has to do something about the defensive aspect of the team.

United have to become hard to beat again. We have to regain that toughness and solidity before anything else. When we won the League and European Cup in 2008, we played some amazing attacking football but we were solid as a rock at the back as well, with Ferdinand and Vidic marshalling the defence imperiously.

Now, Ferdinand has lost his pace, Vidic has become very injury prone and Smalling just does not cut it. Evans has stepped up, but he cannot carry the defence week in week out. Evra also seems to have lost his vigour which he had regained after the Suarez debacle while Rafael needs a very good deputy as he is injury-prone.

This season is as good as over in terms of a championship challenge. But what Moyes really needs to do now is make us hard to beat and instill some toughness into the team.
Ming Kiat Tan, Singapore

Are We Not Willing To Accept Transition?

It's ludicrous just how much stick United are getting this season. A group of fans who have gathered together to shout about how we will accept transition and about how we know times might be tough for now but it will come good in the end!

Until we lose...and then the situation is biblically disappointing alllllllll over again.

I can't believe that some people were watching the same game yesterday that I was. Yes we were poor in spells and struggled to find a way to unpick a well-organised Spurs side, but we were far from terrible. An excellent game plan by Tottenham, executed well, saw us lose a game and yes, that's disappointing. But (John Daniels from 'Thoughts on United) - to say its increasingly difficult to defend Moyes in recent months is just ridiculous. Prior to the game yesterday (which could so easily have been a draw had Webb not clearly been on the ale over the festive period) United were six games unbeaten, and the last 10 league games 6W-2D-2L. 'BUT WE'RE MANCHESTER UNITED' you'll inevitably shout, 'THAT ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH' the fans will cry.....

But that's how good we are...

...and how good we have been for a while now. Watching us win the league last year was a shocking reflection of the poor quality of the 'best league in the world'.

Our previous ten-game run averages a point total of 76 over the course of the season. Not mind-blowing. But not awful either. There's improvements to be made, that's so obvious I imagine even Webb could see it. League Cup semi final, safely through the Champions League group unbeaten, but realistically only 6/7 points away from where we should be with the quality we have. It's going badly, but try to remember, it could be a whole lot worse.
Chris, MUFC, Manchester
PS. Wilshere is a bad quegg.

United Needed Anybody But Moyes
Five years ago, United came from two behind against Spurs at home, scoring five in the second half, for a crucial victory in the title race. United started with four of the yesterday's starting 11 (Evra, Vidic, Carrick and Rooney), only one of whom (Carrick) is a better player now than then. Other United starters included Ronaldo, Berbatov, Nani, and Rafael, and they brought Scholes and Tevez off the bench. Compare this team (who reached won one CL, lost CL finals, one semi-final, one quarter-final, and won four league titles out of five), with United's current array of incompetents, and United have replaced Ronaldo, Berbatov, exciting young Nani, Scholes and Tevez, with Valencia, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, emasculated Nani, Chicharito, and Welbeck. The disparity in quality is obvious and painful. Add to this Fergie's failure to develop United's young talents into established players (apart from Welbeck, who's increasingly impressive, and Nani before Fergie crippled him), or to replace ageing stars, and Old Trafford is a sad, bleak place.

As ever, it isn't Moyes' fault that Fergie (by keeping schtum when he might have derailed the Glazers' takeover with the slightest hint he'd resign, by not publically opposing the damage their debt did to the club, by somehow keeping United going after 2009, and by signing poorly and failing to develop United's young talents) gave him a club and squad at its weakest for decade. And I don't dispute that Moyes might, given time, grow into the job. Moyes was hired to maintain the status quo, and bring in the club's young talents (Powell, Januzaj, Lingard, Cole et al.), and eventually the former three will probably be United regulars.

But United needed urgent surgery in the summer. They needed somebody with the intelligence not to disassemble Fergie's coaching staff en masse, but able to tactically overhaul a club reliant on Fergie's motivational skills and lacking a coherent system. They needed numerous new players, to fundamentally raise talent levels at a club falling behind its rivals. And to oversee this, United needed somebody with the authority and credibility to confront Fergie's mistakes. In these circumstances appointing a manager purely at the direction of his predecessor was stupid. Moyes' tenure has accentuated United's existing flaws under Fergie, without any of the momentum or positivity of a genuine revolution (a la Pep in 2008).

Finally, for the first time since the summer of 2007, last summer United seemed to have both the funds and he impetus to sign numerous expensive, exciting players, and enhance the squad. And Moyes blew it. There were numerous creative players available in the summer who Moyes might have bought, who were available for similer or less than Fellaini, and who would have improved the squad.

It's easy, cathartic, and increasingly trendy to blame Moyes for United's situation (and he shouldn't be in the job). But firing him to replace him with another Fergie appointee would solve nothing.
Chris MUFC

Who Would Replace Moyes?

I've heard a few suggestions that Man U fans are not best pleased with David Moyes (ear to the ground, I know), and that his lack of experience means that he is not cut out for the job.

Omitted from all these discussions seems to be the crucial question of who would replace him if Moyes were to go? Regardless of how inexperienced Moyes is, there are no top-quality managers out there that could be tempted to join Man U at this point. In the same vein as the understandable concern that in this form Man U wouldn't be able to attract any quality players, surely in this form they wouldn't be able to attract a quality manager.

If Moyes were to be fired today, is there realistically anybody who could come in that would be on paper an improvement? (Cue the hordes of mails saying 'Anybody', but I'd be interested in names)
Dan, Stoke

Not So Clever

Happy New Year F365,

I am greatly enjoying Man Utd's form this season. I had not thought that my dislike towards Fergie would be passed on to his successor, but it really has - and seeing a slightly confused Moyes on the touchline, followed by a quick TV cut away to an uncomfortable Sir Alex in the stands...well, it's a pleasure to see.

A quick thought on the game: did anyone else sit up ever so slightly and think "I forgot he was playing" whenever Tom Cleverly touched the ball? What an incredibly underwhelming footballer.

Here's hoping for more fun at Old Trafford in 2014.
Jonno McSchmonno

One Conclusion

Javier Hernandez is a walking full stop. All he can do is finish
Niall O'Gorman

Cautiously Optimistic About Spurs

Well good news keeps coming for Spurs. Although as a friend said, Sherwood does seem like a good manager for when things are going well, but you wouldn't be sure he would be able to turn around a slump or come up with new ideas if he gets found out. Still, no reason to be pessimistic for the sake of it.

It has to be said, as 16 Conclusions pointed out, that Soldado still isn't hitting the target or scoring from open play, and that has to be marked down as a concern. However I've thought that he has looked much better in the last month. Even against Liverpool he was getting chances crossed in to him from both wings, which he seems to prefer, and taking up better positions. Sherwood's appointment have lad to him getting the ball in better positions, and the chances he's received have been the kind of thing he seems to like. He now looks to me like he just needs those first couple of goals for his confidence, and more will follow. I'm cautiously optimistic that he's settling in to the team's set-up, and that the team is starting to get the best out of him.

The reaction to Ade's injury is an interesting problem. He's been in great form, but he's known for spells of fantastic form and effort before dropping off, which seemed to be a big reason in him being dropped (how quickly pundits have forgotten how few goals he scored last year). His best work seemed to be dropping deeper and into the channels, so it will be interesting to see whether Eriksen or Holtby are given a free role close to the striker to drift around and do similar work. It seems to be much more their style than Defoe's. Paulinho also played a similar role close to Soldado under AVB, particularly against Man United, and that system seemed to be developing effectively. Two strikers up top isn't the only way to play attacking football, and it remains to see how Sherwood reacts to a possible lay-off for Adebayor.

Some of Sherwood's substitutions were terrifying. Harry Kane on for Soldado may have been understandable given Ade's injury and a need for fresh legs to hold the ball up, but it's hard to remember him getting a touch. Capoue, who was admirably holding the base of midfield, going off for the talented but young Bentaleb was a very scary moment, and following that substitution Spurs were put under much more pressure and dropped much deeper. Of course it's great to see young players (imported from other clubs largely, but still) coming through and getting games in the first team, but when you're defending a lead at Old Trafford really isn't the time to give a young player a run-out.

To have eight first-team players out as well as losing Adebayor in the second half and still managing to win at Old Trafford shows the depth of the squad that has been built up (including, conversely, young players stepping in to the first team). Once those players settle that little bit more, the long-term benefits of the summer spending could be very important to us. Liverpool and Everton's mixed fortunes over the tough Christmas period showed the problems of not being able to rotate as the matches pile up, and that will become more interesting as the season progresses.

Overall, a happy Spurs fan, but not calling everything perfect under Sherwood. Still a very strong start from him, and making the next few months very interesting.
Will Donovan, THFC, North London
(Patrice Evra must seen Aaron Lennon in his nightmares, he's never seemed to be able to pin him down. Really good to have Lennon back and on form)

...- So that's 10 points from four games from Tim Sherwood's merry men (has that already been done?). Whilst the latter stages of Harry Redknapp's tenure at Spurs proved that some managers have a far too simplistic view of football, there are also those that over-complicate it. The average positions of our players showed far from an archaic 4-4-2, but they are showing a natural freedom that seemed to be curbed under AVB at times. Let's hope that Sherwood has it in him to strike the balance that will stop us being as ridiculously open as we have been in the first three games. We were a lot tighter at Trafford, so maybe Sherwood will prove everyone (myself included) wrong.

- On Sherwood: capable though he is seeming to be, I still expect Levy to be looking for a high-class candidate in the summer. Taking over mid-season and making changes that re-renergise a team is one thing, setting a team up for a whole season is quite another and he has a LOT of work to do to show he's ready for that. That said, I disagree with W&L that Bentaleb's introduction handed the initiative back, as it was clearly the goal they scored and the total change in atmosphere in the ground.

- Adebayor. People say that he only plays for contracts, but I think it's something a little different. Perhaps naively, I simply think it's a case of him needing to be happy, and probably being first choice. He thrives on being a manager's go-to guy, and for the last four games has had a big smile on his face. It shows in his game, and what a player he can be when he chooses. Whilst it's far from ideal, unprofessional even, to only play well in such circumstances, at the moment I can't argue with the results.

- One of my favourite moments was Harry Kane's totally legitimate time wasting by realising he'd only be called offside if he touched the ball. Great awareness of a situation from a young lad, and worked his socks off when he came on.

- Soldado may not be scoring, but his work rate, vision and awareness are making him and Ade a potentially lethal partnership. Another chance he should have stuck away but, whilst he's very out of form in front of goal, his all round contribution is the reason Spurs fans have been so patient with him. That ball for Lennon was beautiful, and once (if) he actually remembers how to shoot, our attack will get a great deal more dangerous.

- Moyes has the look of a man who's been in a coma for ages, woken up, and been told he's Man United manager. I'd love to know what Fergie's thoughts on the matter are.

- A final point on Man United. Interesting how, in need of two goals, Moyes decides to put his best available striker (who always seems to score against us) in midfield.

Happy new year F365ers.
Alex G, THFC (two points off 4th? I'll take that as a crisis)

But It's About To Go Very Wrong

I, as I'm sure most Spurs fans are, am still revelling in the 1-2 triumph over United yesterday at Old Trafford. There is also more than a tinge of schadenfreude to be had at United fans crowing over the decisions that didn't go their way yesterday. However, I can't help but feel we're going to come down to earth with an almighty bump come Saturday evening.

It has been clear that so far under Tim Sherwood, Tottenham have shown a lot more attacking verve and their dynamism in the counter-attack has been reminiscent of periods from the Redknapp era. Watching Lennon and Adebayor in full flight yesterday really did bring a sense of joy which had been missing from AVB's turgid football that was often on display in 2013. There was though an overwhelming sense that we were playing against a team with a particularly weak midfield which gave us the licence to play that brand of open football. After all, Sherwood noted in his post-match interview that we looked to exploit a United team he felt were 'there for the taking'.

Come Saturday - away at Arsenal in the FA Cup - I fear that Tottenham could be well and truly undone. Sherwood has so far opted for only one defensive midfielder in his set-ups and against Arsenal we may be overrun. Playing Eriksen on the left of midfield meant he was often seen in central areas, leaving Rose exposed at times. Against a quality outfit I don't think Tottenham have shown the defensive discipline to track back and disrupt the flow which will be required at the weekend. With no Sandro to back up Capoue, Bentaleb would be required to step in and I feel that however promising he has shown himself to be thus far the Arsenal game has come too soon for him. Spurs' ability to control the midifeld for periods of the game will be vital to ensure Arsenal aren't given the platform to mount sustained pressure.

Having said that I do believe this media-hyped 4-4-2 is not all that it seems. In Spurs' last two games it has been much more of a 4-1-4-1, with Adebayor dropping deep to add an extra man at the top of the midfield (this can be seen on's average player positions). The worrying aspect is that it may take a lot more than that to hold the fort against an in form Arsenal. I can only hope we do not receive an embarrassing drubbing like the one we took from Liverpool.
Toby (THFC), London

Tactics Talk

To the Mailboxer who suggested Spurs came to 'slow the game down' and 'nick something' on the counter-attack.

How exactly does a slow counter-attack work? And can you really 'nick something' when you score twice and spurn two golden chances to put the game to bed?

Furthermore, is this a less exciting strategy than charging in the direction of the byline in the hope that one of the big lads will win a header from a cross or corner?

You've had your fair share of lucky wins against Spurs at Old Trafford, don't be narky about it now.
Rob Davies, THFC (No greater justice than Ashley Young not winning a stonewall penalty)

Thoughts On United v Spurs

1. Lloris is going to cost us games very soon. Young should have had a penalty (and Lloris could have been sent off), and he now seems to come out for the ball at every opportunity, unruffled, apparently, by the prospect of completely missing it. His shot-stopping is still excellent, but I'd imagine Heurelho Gomes is still quite good at that too. The strange thing is that Hugo's unreliability (emphasis on liability) has only really started coming into force after his concussion against Everton. Is there a link? What a lasting legacy for AVB to leave us with.

2. Jury still out on Tim Sherwood. Great win at United, but other teams have done that too, and bringing on Bentaleb and Harry Kane for experienced stalwarts was just strange, and kind of smacked of his desperation to prove that The Kids Are Alright. I'm sure they're fine, but Soldado and Capoue were both having great games. We really haven't got a good enough points total to justify taking 'anti-AVB' risks.

3. However, we were playing pass and move football which I just haven't seen under AVB. I'm sure it's at least in part the product of a the new manager bounce, but we've got some really decent attacking players, and it's a pleasure to see them playing with freedom and verve.

4. Gosh, Mediawatch are a bitter lot, aren't they. Both Moyes and Sherwood's comments were purposely non-committal because it's managerial suicide to make predictions. Leave them alone, you morons.
Shaun (I couldn't quite believe my eyes when Harry Kane just booted the ball away! What a little sh*t!) Livingston

A Parallel Universe...

Adnan Januzaj: very exciting; looks 'top, top'; definitely one to watch. None of that is in dispute.

But, as an Arsenal fan, I can't be the only one enjoying the parallel universe we currently inhabit: 11 points ahead of United, having signed one of the world's best players in the summer, while they seek escapism, preoccupying themselves with the form of an 18-year-old kid.

It might not last, and it's fair to say Januzaj looks more likely to replicate the career of a player like Fabregas than an Arturo Lupoli or Fran Merida. But it's nice while it lasts.
Dane, North Bank

Wenger Has Some Lovely Headaches

Ahsan asks in the Mailbox if Wilshere is a better bet than Ozil in the number 10 spot.

For me the joy of this season is that we can have a genuine debate about who should start in what spot based on actual competition for places. For example, we can ask ourselves who is a better holding midfielder - Arteta or Flamini? We can even argue whether we want to play both. If we stick with a box-to-box midfielder do we play Ramsey or Wilshere? If Wilshere can't win that spot do we push him forward to number 10 to compete with Ozil who is already competing with Cazorla? If Cazorla can't claim the number 10 spot then does he trump Podolski's goals with his creativity and claim the left-hand side? Has anyone noticed how much more on the front-foot we are when we slot Rosicky in at number 10? If he plays there does Ozil go wide right? If he does where does Walcott go?

I love that we have options and competition. Players can see that if they have a dip in form someone will take their place and if there are injuries we can still put out a decent side. We are no longer saying it'll all be fine when so-and-so is fit again. It's a very different situation from the start of last season when we had a definite first eleven and then a set of back-up players, many of whom were far from convincing. There wasn't really much debate about whether Gervinho would take the right-sided spot from Walcott. No-one really thought Podolski would need to see off a challenge from Arshavin on the left. As willing as he was Coquelin wasn't being tipped to shift Arteta. Santos certainly wasn't keeping Gibbs on his toes. Even the Ramsey of last season had no real chance of shifting Wilshere.

The challenge for Wenger now is how to learn to rotate what is more of a first 18 in order to keep players fresh and fit. In the last few years Fergie became a master of rotation. It reached the point where I struggled to name the Man U best eleven as he constantly chopped and changed without losing momentum. At the moment some of Arsene's job is being done for him by the injury list but he does need to learn to bring players in and out of the side whilst winning games and keeping everyone motivated and fit. If he can do that then it is less a question of whether Wilshere is a better option at number 10 than Ozil and more about whose turn is it this week.
Pete, Gooner

...I always find it really funny that when someone gets injured, isn't right on the nose for a few games, and another player does well in his absence (usually an English player) some brainiac always asks the question 'Is Wilshere but than Ozil?', it happens all the time, with every team, I'm sure when Steve Gerrard got injured at some point years ago someone asked 'Is Albert Riera better than Steven Gerrard?' because Riera played a couple of good games and Gerrard wasn't playing so he wasn't at that time in your face. This always happens, non stop, all the time.

Of course Wilshere is not better than Ozil. That is not to say he is bad, he is actually very, very good, which is the same thing I said when people started saying 'Is Milner actually better than Wilshere?' whenever that obviously happened. But Ozil, look at him. He is a twinkletoes type. Not in a fairy way, but in a 'how does he do that?' kind of way. Unreal pass. Then another unreal pass. Then another one. And another. I reckon there are probably still some people pretty sore since they realized 'oh no, it looks like Ozil's better than Gareth Barry' and have been eager to see him knocked down a peg or two, preferably by someone English. Can't we just accept that they are both good, why does one have to be better than the other? But if we are doing that, Mesut Ozil is the better one. Not because he has a better reputation, not because he has a better overall rankng of Fifa, just because HE IS.

Speaking of Ozil, now that he's injured, people are saying 'has Ozil really been as good as we think he has?'

I would say he's been better. Look at where Arsenal where, heading towards another season of whinging, the positive vibe was 'at least we didn't lose anyone this year' dampened by 'but that must mean we don't have anyone truly world class to sell...' and starting with a disastrous 3-1 home defeat to Villa. A couple of wins happen, and they are exactly where they could hope no more to be. Enter Ozil, Arsenal become a club with a great vibe around the place, they have the confidence that they are moving up, maybe this year might be their year? And that was before he even played a game, he has been magnificent since, I think after about three games he had double that in assists when everyone had played about seven or eight games, and something I personally thought he lacked he has actually contributed decently to, goals scored. He has been getting knackered though, he has been starting every game, he is more than capable of it, but at Real although he did there was a lot more rotation going around, the team wasn't on his shoulders as much. Now Arsenal aren't exactly on his shoulders, but he is the key player. But he has very rarely been ineffectual. He will be back, he will be better, in all things considered he has taken to the Premier League extremely well. People just see what they want to see sometimes, instead of what is right there, and when they don't see a player, they think that player might not be as good as the player they currently see. He is better, and who cares anyway?
Dave (Podolski looks like a 90's movie assassin), Dublin

What Ozil Brings...

I think Arsenal missed Ozil massively against Cardiff and that it took so long to break them down because he was missing. People have been saying that he hasn't been playing well because he isn't assisting every single game but I have seen three things that he brings every game that are invaluable:

1. Positional play - he is always in an intelligent position. This makes it so much harder for a defence to park the bus as if they stay in two banks of four or whatever then he will be in between them. In pulling defences around he creates space for others.

2. Recycling the ball - he ups the tempo of the play making Arsenal's passing game a great deal better.

3. Intelligent movement - whenever he makes a run it makes a midfielder or defender uncertain, putting doubts in their minds could lead to a mistake later and again creates space.

On another note on MOTD last night Fowler the berk said 'Lennon gets there before Rooney because he wants it more'... Nothing to do with the fact he is fast enough to give Jeremy Clarkson wet trousers?
Finn Mannerings

One Of Many On Harry Kane

I'm sure I won't be the only one to point out to Sean Peter-Budge that Howard Webb could not book Harry Kane for time-wasting because when he kicked the ball the game had not stopped.

Kane was standing in an offside position but was inactive. He knew that if he touched the ball he would become active and so rather than let De Gea collect it and start another attack, he would hoof it away causing a stoppage and wasting a bit more time.

It was actually very clever play. You'll have to find another excuse for Man Utd losing yet again. Sorry.
Gareth Jones, Wrexham

Saying No To Webb In Rio

Can we start some sort of petition to show our lack of support for Howard Webb to represent our country at the 2014 World Cup? He embarrassed us in 2010 with his failure to properly deal with Holland's tactics and he's not shown any signs of improvement since then. His two most recent games have both involved dead wrong game changing decisions and there is no excuse for doing so. I'd love to hear his explanation of the Suarez incident as he couldn't have had a better view of it if he were Suarez himself, but he just smirks to himself and the rest of us have tog accept that.

Well I'm sorry but I don't want that idiot to continue to embarrass himself in our country's name this year. given that it's likely he'll be in the competition longer than the England team I say NO to Howard Webb in Rio!

Fanmail For Diamuid

If Diamuid Connolly is going to criticise English football for roughhouse tactics, he should not mention Spain as being a place where no-one gets kicked up in the air.

He mentions David Silva in his email. The same David Silva who was sent on loan from Valencia to Eibar because he needed to toughen up against hard-tackling guys and they thought a spell having lumps kicked out of him would do it.

Have you seen the sort of tackles that the likes of Messi and Munain regularly receive? Have you ever watched Pepe defending for Real Madrid? Do you think Miguel Angel Nadal was called 'The Beast of Barcelona' because he was overly hairy?

For what it's worth, I think there is some validity to your point, to a certain extent. But don't use Spain as an example of a nation where there are no Neanderthals playing - there are some truly horrific challenges every week in La Liga!
Aidan, EFC, Strand (hand in pockets time, Kenwright)

...I often read disagreeable statements in your mailbox and don't normally respond, however I feel inclined today: Possibly baucause there's no-one on in the office; or possibly because Diarmuid decided to use the awful phrase 'Newsflash guys'...

Diarmuid is right to ask why we don't produce enough skillful players to rival the likes of Spain, Germany et al, but to state it's because of the typical English hardman because his new starlet has started diving is ridiculous.

Diarmuid, have you actually seen a game of football outside of these shores? The Brazilian league is one of the most dirty leagues imaginable, Felipe Melo is one of the most dirty players imaginable. The Brazilian national team has always employed two enforcers in the XI to break up play for their attacking players to take advantage of (currently a mix of Paulinho, Luis Gustavo, Ramires and Lucas Leiva none of whom I'd class as angels).The Dutch in recent memory have had Nigel de Jong and van Bommel (who was fittingly sent off in his last professional game), Argentina have Mascherano and Sergio Ramos has 18 red cards in his Real Madrid career. All countries have midfield hardmen.

One could argue that Cristiano Ronaldo's ascent to the top of the footballing world was him beefing up to deal with the physicality of the modern game, similarly it's been noted that my team's Ross Barkley has improved so much this season as he's beefed up his upper body. Conversely, football is such a wonderful game that Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas have been able to progress in this league without needing to hit the gym too much.

Why English football doesn't produce enough skilful players is a myriad of reasons. The top two in my opinion are we play on too large pitches too young; I was nine when I was playing on full-size pitches - how does that help? And that our talented players follow the money and stagnate in the reserves; look at Jack Rodwell - he wasn't even first team at Everton and he moved to City, I hope the same doesn't happy to Ross. Our league is full of talented skilful young English players adding Townsend, Morrison, Llalana [sic], Sterling, Chamberlain to the aforementioned players - as well as Michael Johnson, Ashley Young, Micah Richards, Franny Jeffers, SWP, Josh McEachran et al who had the talent but who stagnated or seem to have (in McEachran's case certainly).

You're right that we need to produce more technically gifted players with our human and financial resources available, but don't cry it's because your little wunderkind is getting a bit of a kicking as to why it's not happening.
Happy New Year, COYB, Matt EFC, London

...I am going to assume that Diarmuid's mail this morning was written in a blind rage or a drunken stupor, or that he has a very limited understanding of football outside of Old Trafford, a plastic fan if you will. To say that English football 'is based around the tough-tackling, no-nonsense, less-talented, 'have it' style player' is frankly ludicrous. Tell me Diarmuid, which club in England is based around 'have it' style players? Your point is made in reference to the English national side so I can't help but wonder which players you are alluding to, looking at the players the English national side is based around I can't quite pick out any of these hard men who make you so angry, Wilshere? Gerrard? Lampard? Rooney? Carrick? Cleverley? Perhaps the young players coming through to the side are also being schooled in this no-nonsense style...Ross Barkley perhaps? Or maybe Lallana, Luke Shaw or Raheem Sterling?

Your precious Adnan signed a five-year deal with United earlier this season, thus meaning he isn't really crying out for a move to La Liga, where every player is technically superior to their English counterparts and tackling, of course, is strictly frowned upon, just ask Sergio Ramos (he plays for Real Madrid and has 115 caps for Spain in case you didn't know) who has picked up 17 red cards in the last eight seasons for Real Madrid, presumably these were not picked up for tackling players with more talent than him.

Maybe send a memo to the other 19 Premier League clubs telling them that Januzaj is more talented than all their players, and if their players have any significant advantages over him, such as strength, pace or height these are not to be used as poor Adnan needs protecting from these brutes and should be allowed to dribble, pass and shoot to his heart's content - for no top foreign talent is attracted to England and its 'have-it' culture, as shown by the obvious lack of foreign players in the league. I assume your next mail will make reference to how horrible English players like Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck are forcing Januzaj to dive so much? Or maybe that's those bloody foreigners?
Conor, London

As Brave As A...

In response to Stephen, THFC in this morning's mailbox - much as I applaud any reasoned critique of Michael Owen's terrible contributions to football punditry, at least he managed to find a recognisable suitable metaphor for the quality attributed to Emmanuel Adebayor.

I remember watching a match back in what must have been the 90s where ex Everton, Rangers and England full-back, and fledgling pundit Gary Stevens attempted to describe a similar effort but at some stage when racking his brains for a suitable comparison, got stuck for an interminable length of time, "he's as brave as brave as a...brave as a..." Civilizations rose and fell before he was interrupted by an embarrassed host. It is one of the most cringeworthy moments in broadcasting history, and I've witnessed an episode of 'I Love My Country'.

You may question my priorities but not a day goes by that I don't think about that clip. I can't find it ANYWHERE on Youtube. It's killing me (not literally, obviously). If anyone knows of its existence, or if anyone can help correct me on the identity of the culprit so I can once again see this moment, I will forever be in their debt.
Ed, Weymouth

Favourite Accents?

After hearing Olé's Norweigen/Manc accent. It got me thinking about Jan Molby's Danish/Scouse and Didi Hamman's German/Scouse.

Which other players from foreign countries have developed a local twang mixed with their native tongue.
Will F

Dear Mediawatch...You're Racist

Please just stay out of the superfluous social commentary.

By all means comment on football stories in the media but when it comes to anything related to race, you really are the Hugh Grant of social commentators.

I understand that you don't want alienate any 'foreign readers' which seem to make up most of the mailbox these days, but you just appear pathetic and childish in a way to comment on racism but not look racist.

To me, F365 IS racist, because it keeps highlighting and commenting at length on racial issues without making any point.

Just please grow up, stick to what you're good at and stop spending so much time commenting on racial issues.
Fat Man Scouse, EFC London

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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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