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...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Bayern And Bravery
Several people in the morning mailbox are totally deluded. Bayern absolutely battered Arsenal, let's make no bones about it (what does that actually mean by the way?). I am tired of English teams having players sent off in the knockout stages (Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea and City have all seen red in the last couple of years) and then being praised to the high heavens for their "brave" backs-to-the-wall performance. Was I the only one who thought it looked like Arsenal were playing with seven men last night? They couldn't string three passes together from the tenth minute onwards, it was embarrassing. As for those making the comments suggesting Bayern were average, what planet do you live on? They were simply toying with Arsenal.... When has an English team ever dominated another so-called top team to that extent away from home?
I watched the game with around 100 foreigners (mostly Germans) and nobody could believe how poor Arsenal were, brilliant first five minutes aside. Apparently Bayern have not been playing that well recently, and were expecting a tougher game, which of course it may have been had Özil scored the penalty. In what way can defending for your lives and hoofing the ball clear at every opportunity be construed as a "superb" performance? It seems to me that each time an English team gets thoroughly outclassed they have the convenient excuse of playing with ten men. At least Man U had the decency to get destroyed by Barcelona with 11 men in those one-sided finals. I am sick to death of us Brits failing bravely. Take a look at the Winter Olympics medal table for further proof of this - the Netherlands, with no snow, ice or mountains have managed to win 22 medals to GB's three.
It appears that English clubs are starting to follow the trend of the national team, in terms of believing that the only was to be successful in Europe is to put ten men behind the ball and hope for the best. This has been the Chelsea tactic for years, and no matter how ugly their performances it has finally won them that elusive Champions League crown. However, Bayern look totally unbeatable over two legs and I dread to think what would happen to Chelsea if they met them this season. The poundings they received during the Champions League final and Super Cup would surely translate into goals this time. I don't want England and English clubs to be brave, I want them to win. Most of the time you don't lose bravely, you are just a loser.
Hopefully Arsenal can prove me wrong and put in a truly "brave" performance by winning the second leg 3-0 in Munich. I won't hold my breath.
Jamie Bedwell (Neil Grayson was brave!), Cheltenhamshire
...Over the past few years, I've seen the F365 mailbox inundated by Gooners writing in about how "proud" they've been of the team. This has followed:
- A 2-0 lesson in which their team saw less than 30% of the ball
- An away "win" in Munchen ( that saw them knocked out)
- A 3-0 home win against AC Milan (that would be great, if you'd not been destroyed 4-0 the week before!)
- A 3-1 away defeat in Barca, where the team made history by becoming the first ever in the CL to not resister a single shot in 90 minutes of play.
Almost sounds like a plucky underdog enjoying their day out to the big boys (and not one with £120m cash in the bank).
Stewie Griffin (the most expensive player on the pitch was Arsenal's. We "cannot compete" mind!)
Great mail from Rob, gutted but proud, AFC. But please, let me retort, can we agree that both members of the best CB partnership in the Premiership contributed to Arsenal LOSING the match. Brilliant stuff from Koscielny , "we're 1-0 down to the current European Champions, we're down to ten men, I think it'll be a good idea for me to go on ridiculous charge up the pitch (by the way, he only got to the half way line, so him being so determined to score was optimistic), knacker myself so much that I become disorientated and fail to recover my position, let's see what happens."
"It was just a lot of passing!", not as if Arsenal have ever been accused of trying to walk the ball into the net, even by their own supporters. I'll take a 2-0 win away from home every week, even if I have to pass the ball a lot to achieve it. (90% possession in the second half)
"Toothless and average", when the opposition have 9 men in and around their own penalty area, a lot of probing, ball retention and recovery is required, or you can just keep throwing crosses in with no result (©DMoyes).
And finally "taking 1-0 to the Allianz would've been perfect", thank God they didn't try and mess this up by scoring, thereby failing to lull Bayern into the same false sense of security as last year when a 3-1 win only just proved to be enough.
Incidentally, my own team were "superb" on Sunday but ended up losing 2-1 and are now out of the FA Cup, thanks mainly to some awful refereeing, I know how much better I would feel if we'd been played off the park but won 2-1!
Bayern Ruthlessly Effective
How can Gearóid say he likes watching good, tactical football and be disappointed with Pep's Bayern last night?
They were up against a 10 man Arsenal who barely touched the ball and had the sense to pile on the pressure down the right as Ozil was just not going to bother tracking any runner. Rafinha and Lahm constantly presenting the overlap for Robben to cut in or play a nice ball to them and get a cross in.
That certainly seems like a good, tactical display to me. Playing and scoring against 10 men, especially a 10 that include 2 men who have a VERY good defensive record together (a 5-1 mauling aside), requires a great deal of tactical nous and patience. You can't say Pep's Bayern didn't show this.
It's not always exciting but, by jingo, it is effective.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It
Regarding the debate about red cards and penalties, which probably surfaces once or twice a season only (because it is a huge issue...!), why fix something that is working fine? Yes, it is very frustrating to concede the double whammy of a red card and a penalty following a last-ditch foul. But if you didn't send the player off, then defenders will be chopping down players willy-nilly because, very often, I think taking a penalty under pressure is harder than being in full flight and one-on-one with the keeper. Conceding a penalty is like giving your team a second chance to stop the goal. The penalty itself is not a penalty for the foul, it's just restoring a goal-scoring chance to the attacking team. The red card is the punishment and is hence justified, in my book.
It is, on some level, just like any foul. You lose possession because of a foul. You gain it back through a free-kick and if it's serious enough, the opposing player also gets a yellow card or a red card. The principle is the same, and, although penalties and automatic red cards are way more of a reward, a last-ditch foul is much worse than an ordinary foul.
I used to think that players should know better than launching into tackles than can result in a sending off and a penalty. They all know the law. It's clear-cut. But they still do it. And if you remove the award of a red card, then they will do it more and more often.
Jay (Never stop during the run-up when taking a penalty!), MUFC
Given that the issue has dominated much of the post-game reaction to Champion's League ties for two days in succession, I thought that today's Winners and Losers was surprisingly quick to dismiss the debate around whether a red card and a penalty is too harsh a punishment.
Whilst I agree that Philip Cornwall's article on the issue was well reasoned, it failed to consider whether an alternative to the status quo might be possible: a solution that might offer a "third way" between the cynicism of the modern game and the harshness of the current rule.
One such potential solution - proffered by John Giles last night - suggested a simple rule change whereby the referee would wait to see if the penalty was scored prior to brandishing a card. A goal would mean a yellow was shown to the offender, while a miss would see the ref brandish a red.
I think this solution is excellent and whilst the discussion may ultimately be pointless given the bureaucracy within football's governing bodies, I'm curious as to how fellow mailboxers feel about it. Applying the rule to this week's games, Szczesny would still have walked, but Demichelis would have stayed on (at least until he did something else stupid). Thoughts?
Mark M (Football Fan)
...Here's my take on the last man penalty/red card conundrum. Offer the fouled team a choice: a penalty kick OR the man gets sent off. Not both.
It would give a tactical spin on things depending on the score and the time.
Scenario A) Barcelona chose to have Demichelis sent off in the 50th minute at 0-0 knowing the probability of scoring against 10 men is pretty high.
Scenario B) At the Nou Camp, City have come back to 2-0 and Aguero is taken out by Pique, clear on goal, in the 88th minute. City allow Pique to stay on, and chose the penalty kick.
And therein lies the excitement; in Scenario A Barca still have to chase a goal to gain a scoreline advantage, and in Scenario B YOU STILL HAVE TO SCORE THE SODDING PENALTY!
Having been raging at Flamini's taunting of Alaba straight after the penalty miss (which I can't believe doesn't seem to have been picked up by any commentator or reporter), and his bawling out of a teammate being played completely out of position and clearly shot of confidence, nothing was funnier than him then being at fault for both the goals.
Rarely can such a limited and irritating player have been so highly rated just because they run around fouling people, moaning at referees and waving their arms at teammates in the mistaken belief they are some sort of Roy Keane/Steven Gerard type motivating force.
His performance reminded me of the Merseyside derby years ago when Benitez took Gerrard off to great astonishment from everyone watching and replaced him with Lucas. His explanation afterwards was that Gerrard was playing with his heart not his head, and Lucas would be calmer and therefore more use to the team. Net result...Liverpool won the game with Lucas to the fore (at a time when he was most definitely not flavour of the month).
If Flamini spent less time waving his arms at teammates telling them what position to be in and more time worrying about his own performance, then maybe he wouldn't have inexplicably decided to sprint 10 yards back into his area away from Kroos for the first goal. Or perhaps he might have remembered to track Muller's simple run for the second, rather than being too busy waving at players to close down the cross.
As for Bayern, obviously a very good team, but all this nonsense about no weak links rather ignores the patchy performance of their full-backs and the fact that their striker is bang average.
Give Ozil A Chance
One thing that constantly annoys me about fellow Arsenal supporters is that they're a bunch of nervous fatalists. And that translates into how we treat our players.
Take the case of Ozil. He is new to a league where most players take at least 6 months to settle. Not only that, he has suffered most because of the injury to Walcott - the pace in a team that Ozil utilises lethally has vanished. And on top of that, he has been overused - he has played 4 consecutive matches in 12 days, after not getting the winter break he is used to, in a new league that is anyway physically demanding.
And despite all talk of poor form he makes more key passes per game (3.0) than any other player in the league. He has 8 assists in the league, which is second highest.
United fans have waited 1.5 years for Kagawa to shine and some still preach patience. Liverpool have been the pinnacle of patience with Suarez and it has paid off only this year. Hazard had taken his sweet time and still lags behind Ozil in terms of assists or key passes.
I am not saying Ozil is performing to his ability. Neither am I saying that he is not making mistakes. And yes, his languid style is annoying. But he's not doing to badly despite the extenuating circumstances that I mentioned above.
So Arsenal fans, where is the love? Do we want to criticise and incessantly pressurise one of the top players in the world to the point that his game suffers and he wants to leave? Should we not step back and allow him the time he needs to prosper? Can we allow ourselves a chance to see one of the best players in the world creating his magic for us, and loving his life at Arsenal as he does it? Or do we harass him away? The choice is ours.
It Could Be A Lot Worse, Gooners
It makes me laugh when I see Gooners complaining about their manager. Really? Even after you've seen what could happen to you, you'd still want him out?
There's a critical thing you're not really considering. The stadium. Yes, it's mentioned in passing, the debt to pay for it etc. But you forget why it was built (to generate more income). The point is that if the coffers are now beginning to be opened again (the purchase of Ozil should suggest they are), you should be very excited. While you had no money, you remained competitive, always in the CL, always up there, and you've come out still ahead of Tottenham. Yes you've sold players, and yes you've not won anything in nearly a decade.
But, things seem to be changing for you. You bought a highly rated player for big money. You've been leading the league with a thin but talented squad. I'm not saying Arsene knows, but I suggest you consider whether you do either. He certainly knows more than you...and look what you could end up with.
Guy S (the grass is not greener)
A number of things have struck me in that school pic of ozil and neuer:
1. Thats a girl at the back isn't it? surely?
2. The kid on the far left back row has his shorts pulled up really high
3. The one in just the trackie top next to him looks like he's just come out of a bush on hampstead heath
4. Those trousers on back centre are brilliant. Are they pyjama bottoms?
5. Germans always look 10 years out of date don't they? This photo was probably mid 90s, but could easily be straight out of the 80s.
Andy Smith (Scunthorpe)
So if Man U spend £50m on Kroos and supposedly 200k a week to come and try and break into the champions league, whilst spending 300k a week (eeeeeek) to retain Rooney does this mean now the club now accept and wholeheartedly support the Man City/Chelsea model of overspending to achieve?
You know, the exact model they've been pissing and crying about for the last ten years?