The debate over the importance of pre-season continues, including a league table from last season for stats fans. Plus travelling to watch your team and Blackpool...
We have some conclusions from Louis van Gaal's perfect start, plus a dismissal of fantasy football, worries about La Liga's greediness and thoughts on Real with Ham-ez...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pretty sure Ray Houghton just said 'Nothing he could do about it as the ball harmlessly rolled over the (goal) line'. So James McCarthy harmlessly scored an own goal.
Cathal ' can't believe it's open mic night' McS
Can I make a request that between now and the WC, mailboxers stop suggesting the starting 11 Roy "should definitely start" in our opening group game.
You just have to look at every. single. major. tournament to know that predicting a starting 11 now, or even a few weeks before the tournament is pointless. What we know will happen is several players will lose form and more than several others will get injured (including the obligatory last minute training ground disaster involving either Rooney or Wilshere). Once England have played 1 or 2 games in the tournament then further injuries, fatigue and suspensions will restrict Roy even further. This is where James Milner comes in.
So before people decide that they know exactly which team Roy should start the tournament with, please just hold fire and wait until at most 10 days before our opening game.
Simon, (formerly Singapore) London
How Bad Does Rooney Have To Be?
Question: Exactly how badly would Rooney need to play to lose his starting spot for England?
Seeing Sturridge shifted out wide to accommodate Wayne's unique brand of running around, getting in everyone else's way, losing the ball and ballooning every shot fifteen yards high and wide makes me sad. It's patently obvious that the third highest paid footballer in existence is not part of England's best XI but if he is even half fit he will start every game in Brazil. There is literally nothing anyone can do, football wise, that could change this.
Jon Gibson LFC
Fit Rooney In, Don't Build Around Him
Teams that were great successes with Rooney in them (United teams) Rooney only fitted into, they were never built around Rooney.
Rooney is a great player but mainly as he can play anywhere and adapt. England should be building around Sturridge as the centre forward in the same way as RVP should be United's main man.
Fergie knew it, hence Rooney being upset towards the end of last year when RVP was the main man. Now Rooney is the main man and it's not affective for England or United
For years the country has been asking why England can't play like Man Utd. And now, we finally are..
Not Henderson's Fault
I'd like to point out first that I did not watch the England game last night. However, while reading through your description of Henderson's performance I'd like to point out the reason he might have been subdued.
Put simply, its due to Wilshire partnering him in midfield. Whenever Henderson plays next to another box to box midfielder, he becomes withdrawn and reserved. The performances that Henderson was praised for this season started when Gerrard was either injured or playing in the new holding midfield role, and it was only then that Henderson started to get the praise as he was not playing to someone who plays in a similar fashion.
Put simply, this might be the next iteration of 'Gerrard and Lampard cannot play in the same team'. This time it might instead become 'Henderson and Wilshire/Gerrard cannot play in the same team'
Irish Observations On England
As an Irishman who watched the England game last night and wanted England to win (I had money on them) it struck me how the midfield offered absolutely no protection to the defence last night. Don't get me wrong, Chris Smalling is absolute muck in there and had a very poor evening against poor-average opposition, but the two centre backs were offered no protection from midfield. There were a few times in the second half where Gerrard simply clattered into his opponent to give away a free around the half-way line when they were running clear of him when he was too slow to catch them and caught too far up the field. The thing about trying to turn Gerrard into England's version of Pirlo or Alonso is that he doesn't have De Rossi or Busquets beside him to do the dirty work, and he will be horribly exposed against decent opposition in Brazil.
Another thing I noticed was when some of the younger, more technical players like Wilshere, Sturridge, Sterling and Lallana were trying to get some quick passing moves together when they give the ball to Gerrard or Rooney they would usually stop on the ball look round and attempt a long cross field ball, as wonderful as this looks it hugely slows the game down and they had to start probing again. Perhaps it is time that Roy left the remnants of the Golden Generation behind and let the exciting young talents who have been lighting up the Premier League this year play with freedom instead of having to ensure a team based around Gerrards ability to 'ping' a ball fifty yards? As a neutral I know I'd much rather see players like Lallana, Wilshere, Shaw, Sturridge, Sterling, Chamberlain et al playing their natural game which they do for their clubs instead of having to play in a manner Roy Hodgson can't change as he's based his team around a 34 year old (at time of world cup) midfielder who's best days are behind him in Gerrard or play Rooney in a position he's not happy with.
Cole/Shaw/Baines > Walker
Why the long debate about an excess of left backs (a leftery?)? Drop Kyle Walker and take Johnson, Shaw, Baines AND Cole. A decent left footed full back out of position at right back is far, far preferable to Walker.
The Lallana Turn
Not to get too carried away with Adam Lallana but his Cruyff turn 10 seconds after his introduction was surely the finest since the original in 1974. With the lack of attacking flair on these shores one would think that was enough to 'book his seat on that plane'.
Luke Shaw can't be 18. Nor can Junuzaj for the opposite reason.
Scott (Oba Martins>Samuel Eto'o>Joseph Minala>Luke Shaw?), London
Who Doesn't Have A Clue?
Living in Singapore, getting up in the middle of the night to watch an England friendly didn't really float my boat I have to say.
So, I was reliant on match reports and pundits etc to form a view of how they played. I listened to 20 minutes this morning of Danny Millls, Alan Green, Chris Waddle and co say how dreadful England were, how there was zero tempo or shape to their game and the only bright spot being Adam Lallana who by all accounts looked classy. That aside they basically said England were dismal.
They then cut across to a tunnel interview with Roy Hodgson who said that England were excellent in the second half especially, showed great energy and should have won by plenty more goals and that everyone on the pitch furthered their cause to be on the plane to Brazil. His job made easier by not one difficult question from his interviewer I might add.
So amongst them all, who doesn't have a clue and could it be all of them?
Shoddy Team Photo Line-Up
As I write this, it remains 0-0 shortly before half time, in a familiarly frustrating England performance. I just saw the England pre-match team photo on your good website's home page, and the line up is frankly shoddy. A 7 at the back, to 4 at the front split is poor, and from there the alignment of the two rows is outrageous. England will probably still win, but this has set a poor tone for the evening, and any victory will leave a sour taste because of this sloppiness.
Obligatory England Band E-Mail
If you took a picture of me watching England on telly you would think a paralysed man had shat his y-fronts on a leather sofa, such is the expression on my face when I have to endure the laborious din that is The England Band, Seriously, that sh*te must be effecting the players concentration.
Is there anything we can do to get rid of them. Greg? Trevor?
I'm not kidding.
Rodgers For Uruguay
Well, that was a disappointing match. Very few decent chances to speak of, a supposedly strong team struggling to break down the defensive underdog opposition and a Liverpool striker in scintillating form pushed inexplicably onto the wing rather than played through the centre. Clearly what is needed here is a manager who knows how to get the best out of the talent available.
That's right I'm going to say it - Brendan Rodgers should be manager of Uruguay. Tabarez out!
Terry Hall, Switzerland
A few thoughts on the Ireland game last night:
- While the result ended up being a disappointment there were some very positive signs. The team were trying to play passing football rather than the long ball technique adopted by the previous regime. For the most part they did this well but the tempo will have to be increased dramatically.
- Long took his goal well but he will be angry with himself over those two misses. If we hope to progress to Euro 2016, we'll have to take those types of opportunities.
- Hoolahan was fantastic and showed exactly why people were calling for him to be in the side.
- McGeady was very lethargic and just didn't seem to want to be there. He ambled around for most of the game and didn't try to impose himself on the match. He should have been replaced sooner.
- Coleman is a fantastic player. He is sure to be an Ireland captain one day. Maybe a little to eager to get up the pitch at times and may be caught out but the stability he provides 95% of the time can excuse any short comings.
- McClean looked lively and did well driving at the opposition. He showed glimpses of the form that got him into the squad in the first place.
- Overall a decent night. Obviously losing wasn't ideal and there were a few tepid performances but we can take some positives from the game. I'm not suggesting the team is brilliant, merely that I could see signs of progression. Hopefully we'll see further signs of this progression in the friendlies before the world cup so we can be in a decent position ahead of the qualifiers in September.
Summer of 1989, the Toon had just been relegated, after several years of selling our best players [Waddle, Beardsley, Gazza] and the fans were demanding that money be spent to get the club back into the top flight.
£650,000 went on Mickey Quinn, who nobody had heard of, and nobody was happy about. Upon his arrival to sign his contract, supporters were displaying a banner that asked 'Who the Flip is Mickey Quinn?' [or something like that.]
He scored 4 on his debut, a 5-2 win over Leeds, and had 10 goals before he had played 10 games.
Contrast that with Jon Dahl Tomasson, who scored a boat-load in his debut pre-season. After about 10 minutes of his first Prem game, an outrageous Tino flick left him clean through on goal. He missed. He eventually bagged one in November, when a goal-bound shot went in off his bum. Not wanting to follow a cliche, he did not then go on a goal-scoring run. Wonder what happened to him?
Alex Stokoe, Newcastle upon Tyne
...If you're talking about spectacular debuts, then you need look no further than Jonathan Woodgate at Real Madrid. Quite simply, astounding.
...Reading with interest the great starts for players and can't believe the extremely popular El Hadji Diouf hasn't been mentioned. Signed for around 10 million after an excellent World Cup, he scored two in a brilliant home debut performance against Southampton, only being denied a probable hat-trick as he was substituted before the late penalty was awarded.
Seven months passed before we saw any further goals and shortly after he did his best to strengthen Liverpool - Celtic relations by trying to wash some dirt of some Celtic fan's head, El Hadji Diouf style. He then went the remainder of the season without scoring and the entire next season as well, surely the first number 9 in Liverpool's history to achieve such a stat. Rafa took one look at him before banishing him to Bolton and thankfully that was the end of his Liverpool career. Little known fact: this is the number one reason why Rafa is so loved in Liverpool, polling just ahead of that night in Istanbul. Surely only Andy Carroll and Stuart Downing can rival him to a claim for our worst signing, but after one home game we thought we had a superstar.
Dave, Olten, Switzerland.
While, we're at it, please can we also ban the words "Look, ... " and "So ..." as a prefix to opinions or sentences. That would be most welcome, thank you.
Richard, NCFC, London
...Following on from Silvio Dante's excellent comment in the last mailbox, I would also like to add a phrase to the banned list: 'Your (insert player name)'s'. e.g. "You want to see your Rooney's, your Suarez's, your Aguero's playing in the Premier League."
This is one of the laziest and grammatically incorrect uses of language possible. Individuals are exactly that, individual. Every time I hear a pundit or fan on the tellybox or wireless lazily shoehorning players in to some sort of 'type' I have to reign myself in from violently throwing a heavy item at the said technological appliance.
It's perfectly acceptable to say 'Your defensive midfielders, attacking winners or even false 9's' (Hat tip to Brendan) as these are a categorical reference to a type of player, however this does not apply to specific players.
Stop it. Stop it now.
For the sake of the children
Dan (mainly eating cinnamon danish today) Geneen
...If Silvio Dante gets to ban something from the mailbox I may as well have a go...
For me, the much bigger issue is the ridiculously regular, and often incorrect, use of the word whilst to make an opinion sound learned. Some mailboxers seem to start every sentence with it!
David (scared to dream after 22 years of heartbreak), LFC
What A Gloriously Pointless Thing
Love the site.
Not sure if this is something you'd be interested in, but I've drawn every player from the 1994 Premier League Merlin sticker book.
I upload my drawings here:
Thanks For Sharing
I appear to have bought "Hook" on bluray.
I shouldn't drink.
Stu (Bangerang), Chiswick