Mails: Making A Case For Kieran Gibbs

We have lots of people suggesting lots of things to Roy Hodgson but we suspect you'll be more interested in relative XIs, World Cup cliches and drawing Alonso...

Last Updated: 06/03/14 at 16:16

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Stop Sodding Shoehorning...
I was very excited to see Europe's current most lethal striker, around whom our World Cup challenge (ahem) would be based, take on the Denmark defenders. But no, instead he's blunted by being played out of position over a not-particularly-in-form striker (also played out of position) playing for a very much out-of-form team. Even more frustrating because, without even changing personnel, he could've played Rooney and Sturridge to their strengths by moving Wilshere wide, a position he's occupied for much of the season for Arsenal. So thanks, Roy, for dampening my growing enthusiasm for Brazil.
Alex G, THFC (Lallana is pretty special though)

...Can we please stop trying to shoehorn in the best (or most 'important') players we have into the wrong formation. Surely but surely the decade long debacle of Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes has taught us this much?

We have to start putting people in suitable roles. Yes, Rooney was abject last night. But then what do we expect when you use that set up. He's not a centre-forward who is going to lead the line, more of an old fashioned inside-forward - someone bombing on from deeper where he can also link up play. Likewise Sturridge is not an winger. How hard to play to their strengths?

We need Carrick (maybe Gerrard if he can learn to sit and STAY sat all game) to sit in front of a centre two of Jones/Jag and Cahill, maybe with Wilshere and Gerrard/Henderson ahead and free to put themselves around the pitch a bit. But against the top teams I'd have to put Cleverley on ahead of the Gerrard. Yes, I can hear the hands slapping against slack jaws, but the simple facts are this...

When both Gerrard and Carrick are under pressure, they both plump for the 'safety' of a long pass. For all the unwarranted criticism, Cleverley (like Wilshere) is much more technical (he showed that vs Real last year) and will keep his composure and the ball in possession, something we always fail to do at tournaments.

We don't have to play wingers if we have Baines and Johnson getting forwards (as they are better doing). We need a mobile front three of Sturridge, Welbeck and Rooney in front of the creativity of Wilshere, Gerrard and Carrick, the strength of Jones and Cahill behind and the width of Johnson and Baines. There are no round pegs and square holes. No accommodation of players for the sake of it. With the likes of Ox, Sterling, Lallana, Townsend and Carroll on the bench for impact.

Shame sense will never prevail.
Guy S (living in hope since 1998)

Defending Cleverley With Stats

Given the so-called England supporters who booed Tom Cleverley's name last night and the petition that's doing the rounds I thought I would do some high-level analysis to show that these people have short memories or they are mindless lonely idiots who would follow the crowd and sign a petition just to feel part of something. Let me qualify this mail by saying I think Tom is a decent player, but there is definitely room for him to improve his game. He does need to be more forward-thinking and do what he does further up the field. He also has had a poor season, but most of the United team has.

However, let's make some comparisons. Aaron Ramsey and Jordan Henderson have had good seasons and are earning plaudits; and rightly so, both have impressed me with how they have improved this year. They are of a similar age to Cleverley, they have all played in the lower leagues and Cleverley (2011/12) and Ramsey (2009/10) have had to deal with long spells out injured. But here's a stat for you, out of the three, Cleverley has the better career ratio of goals and assists per games played (Cleverley's is 0.25, Ramsey's is 0.24 and Henderson's is 0.21). This includes club and international matches. Take this season out of the analysis and Cleverley's rate is far better (Cleverley's is 0.30, Ramsey's is 0.19 and Henderson's is 0.20).

So yes Tom is having a poor season by his standards, but it doesn't make him a poor footballer. With a bit of confidence and a run of games there is no reason why he can't match and surpass what Ramsey or Henderson have done this season. If you are going to sign a petition or make snide comments when Roy calls it bullying then perhaps you should think before you act. Here's hoping Tom uses this to kick on next season so he can do a big one-finger salute to all those clowns who mocked him.
Garey Vance, MUFC supporter

You Need To Wait For Rooney Form

Honestly people saying drop Rooney really don't understand how he plays at all. He maybe overhyped but when he is on form he is actually quite good it's just he has a habit of somewhat going off form. The problem is you never know when the form is going to come back and he also needs to play through it. Ferguson knew you couldn't rest him because he loses fitness too quickly. If you drop him he won't get better and who are you going to replace him with? Defoe? Carroll? We have no strikers besides Sturridge and fairly sure he was already on the pitch.

So yes you could drop him and bring in average strikers who will put in a six out of ten performance as opposed to Rooney's four out of ten but as the Denmark coach said we will need luck at the World Cup and maybe that will be in the form of Rooney putting in a 9 out of ten performance which he is capable of despite people's short sightedness...he was actually good for the majority of the season.

The best I can remember England playing of late involved Rooney, Sturridge and Welbeck linking up. Maybe there is something in that, especially given Welbeck and Sturridges understanding from the youth team. Welbeck might not score goals but he holds onto the ball and hassles for it back. There is a reason he played in a lot of big games for Ferguson.

I agree with the mailbox though, Adam Lallana should be in the first eleven for the Cruyff turn alone!
P.S. Obviously despite the praise of Rooney when he is in form he is still a money-grabbing muppet.

No Love For Rooney Here
As a United fan, it may surprise you, but for England's chances, I would rather Walcott/Sterling play in place of Rooney.

Watching United game in game out for years, it's safe to say that Rooney is very much a typical 'stats' player. Great assist and goal combined figures tells half the story - after all, he takes most of the free kicks, corners and penalties (before RVP) for United. His first touch is muck. His 'famed vision' is often limited to cross field passes, while his overall ability on the ball is mediocre at best.

And the real tactical problem with Rooney and his big ego is that often, he demands to be played in his 'preferred' role, but then again, it often seems like he wouldn't know his preferred role himself. Sometimes, he speaks about emulating Scholes, looking to drop to midfield. And sometimes, he sees himself as a No.9 and demands to be played up top. And when played up top, decides to drop deep to No.10 because he can't stand not touching the ball for ten minutes, and eventually, you get a really confused lad on the pitch. And as I type, this does sounds like what RVP was complaining about the other day.

Rooney's a jack of all trade, and if England needs a real striker to partner Sturridge, one who is always looking to score, Walcott will be the one.
Gabriel, MUFC (Hoping Chelsea buys '5 years on contract Rooney' for £30m come summer), Singapore

Barkley Over Rooney Please

I think last night illustrated why England will never succeed with Roy Hodgson as manager. He is the David Moyes of International football.

If you are going to choose a block of players from a club side then at least use them in the way they are playing for their club - if it is the intention to benefit from how they are playing for their club.

Hodgson is waaaaay too negative and defence minded to pick and play the players in a manner that will let them win in an attractive way. We are not Italy, grounded over decades of playing solid defence and counter-attack. Shaw and Lallana showed great understanding and working together and should be picked as a tandem. Baines and Cole are great but the combination of Shaw and Lallana is greater than the sum of its parts and all that. Same with Sturridge and Sterling. Sterling on the right, Sturridge in the centre.

Rooney has no understanding with anyone else. Even Welbeck played better than Rooney. But Rooney should be dropped in favour of Barkley, if we are looking for someone in the hole. The thing about Barkley, when I watch him play, is that he is always looking for a pass to a teammate in a better position and more often than not, makes it. Rooney is usually looking to how he can do something first and only looks for a teammate second, losing the momentum and surprise and sucking the speed out of any attack. No matter how pacey Sterling, Sturridge, Townsend, etc, are, it requires a quick pass into space ahead of the player to continue the momentum - which is Barkley (sometimes Wilshere) but not Rooney.

But Hodgson will play Rooney, not just because he is high profile but because he will track back, run around in midfield and would seem the 'safer' bet. Gerrard may also not be the best in the role, but the team may require some leadership but Hodgson will play him because it is the 'safe' bet. Having said that, our media are partially to blame. Doing anything even remotely adventurous that fails, is clobbered by the same media knocking them for being safe. But in the end, if you are trying to win a competition, you might as well go for it and take the others by surprise.
Paul McDevitt

Not Alright Jack

Am I the only person who thought Wilshere was dreadful last night? Perhaps he was injured, but he looked incredibly static when Gerrard or the centre-backs were looking for a pass. When he first played, he was exciting because he seemed to demand the ball even when he had defenders near him, with the confidence and touch to keep it and use it well under that pressure (very un-English).

Last night he did none of that and in fact I counted at least four occasions where he gave the ball away pretty cheaply, which I've also seen him do a lot for Arsenal this season. There seem to be some calls for Lallana instead of Rooney, but surely Lallana instead of Wilshere in that crucial creative midfielder role would be better? Lallana looked so much more confident and assured than Wilshere - perhaps that comes from being the best midfielder at your club instead of the sixth best.

Gibbs For England

I know everyone is very excited about Luke Shaw, and rightly so, but don't forget about Kieran Gibbs. This is the guy who had Bayern on the back foot for 25 minutes and didn't give Robben a sniff for the 30 minutes he was on the pitch. Until he went off, he was probably the best player on the pitch. Monreal looked awful in comparison when he came on and I'm sure Robben was rubbing his hands in glee.

Obviously the fact that he went off is his main weak point. But if you look at the number of times he has played this season, he is definitely improving in that area.

So you have a player who plays for a top team, plays regularly at Champions League level, has experience playing against the best players in the world, is great defensively, has the pace to make up for any mistakes he does make, is comfortable on the ball and is a real threat going forward. Personally I'd put him ahead of Baines because although Baines has the obvious advantage in the crossing and free-kick department, Gibbs has the advantage everywhere else and there have been occasions where Baines has looked very dodgy on his defending when up against top players.

As for Luke Shaw, he is definitely one for the future, but a lot will depend on how he develops and who he signs for in the summer. One good performance against an average team doesn't make him ready for the World Cup. Look at Andros Townsend.

So for me, it's Gibbs for England!
Adonis (yes I'm biased but I'm also right) Stevenson, AFC

...I don't understand the mainstream media's ignorance of Kieran Gibbs as an England international. All we hear is should it be Luke Shaw or should it be Ashley Cole to go and support Leighton Baines in Brazil - and this does seem to be the general concensus among England fans. As an Arsenal fan I should be glad that Gibbsy's set for a rest over the summer - but as an England fan I really believe we'll be missing out.

The general England fan concensus is that Gibbs is fourth choice at best, so I'm going to need some pretty good proof and pretty good argument to even get any of you to read this mail to bottom without skipping it. But I have it. I've got loads of it.

First, according to both WhoScored and Squawka, Kieran is the second highest rated of the four. I'll go with the WhoScored stats as they're the ones that get mentioned most on F365.

Baines 7.25
Gibbs 7.08
Shaw 7.03
Cole 6.89

Also if you look at the above stats, it doesn't take a football genius to work out that the reason Baines has such high stats is because of his offensive contribution. If you just look at the defense scores (I had to jump to Squawka here as I couldn't see how WhoScored seperates the scores):

Gibbs 310
Baines 220
Shaw 218
Cole 140

Gibbs wins more aeriel duels, makes less mistakes and more tackles than the other three.

"But Gibbs is always injured," says my Leeds United supporting friend. I'll admit this does seem to be the case. Again let's have a look at this season's Premier League appearances (sub appearances in brackets):

Shaw 25
Gibbs 19 (4)
Baines 21
Cole 12 (1)

So it looks as though Luke Shaw is ahead in appearances there, but we also weren't including Champions League - which, it could easily be argued, holds a closer resemblance tactics-wise to international football.

Gibbs 6
Cole 3

So this puts Gibbs on the same amount of appearances as the leader in the appearances pack, Luke Shaw, but six of these are Champions League appearances. I also point out that Southampton don't have the luxury of a Spanish international as back-up for Luke Shaw.

I would also wager that Gibbs has easily more pace than the other three. Marcotti was on the radio this morning saying that Italy and other teams don't fear England as they have no pace. Gibbs provides pace going forward, and recovery pace going backwards. You don't have to be an Everton fan or an England fan to know that Baines has a tendency to get caught out up the field. Marcotti also said teams see England's centre-backs as a weakness. Maybe having a left-back with a 310 score who plays regularly in the Champions League and has blistering pace is a better option than Leighton and his 220 defence score.

So in summary, Gibbs should go to Brazil. And if you look at the above, he should probably start too.
Andy Swain. Gooner, obviously.

Angry At Luke Shaw

Unlike it appears the majority of the country, I quite enjoyed that game. We didn't play 4-4-2, there was plenty of fluidity, and we looked comfortable is possession. Sure, Wilshere and Rooney were awful and the centre-backs still don't inspire confidence, but it was okay. Uruguay could only draw with Austria, a far weaker team than Denmark. Also, quite hilariously an Argentina team with Messi, Aguero, Di Maria and Higuain in it's starting line up could only stumble to a 0-0 draw with Romania. So calm it guys, we're doing fine.

But it was a really disheartening moment for me personally when Luke Shaw came on. I am older than the Saints left-back and have achieved nothing with my life. It also pretty much confirmed I'm never going to make it as a footballer if Luke is already in the England team. When Januzaj started ripping it up for us I could cling onto the fact that he was slightly older, but now it's been confirmed, I will never make it as a pro. Life sucks.

Also he can grow a full beard. F**k Luke Shaw.
Adam Kravetz, 18, MUFC (For the first time in my lifetime, England are a far superior team to Man Utd)

Another Who Thinks It Was Okay

Well, I don't understand what all the fuss is about; to my eyes, a (mostly) young and inexperienced England team - who haven't played together as an XI before - did okay last night. Their lack of cohesiveness seemed mostly down to a lack of familiarity, which they can work on when they get together properly in the Summer. The Back Four is a concern (but we can't just magic up Sol Campbell/Rio Ferdinand from 2002, so why stress about it?) but our younger players look hungry, keen, skilful and un-phased by wearing an England shirt - even if they aren't on Spain or Germany's level. There's at least a bit more promise than there has been for a while.

In my opinion, Rooney is the one big concern; he was total gash last night. But I don't want to be like a typical ABU and scream 'he's useless and should be dropped'; I just hope that Roy grows some balls and will sub or drop him if he continues in this vein of form. I think Sturridge has earned the right to lead the line and shouldn't be forced to fit in around Rooney anymore.

We ain't gonna win the World Cup...but that hasn't been the case for years now. Instead Roy needs to concentrate on getting his first XI identified and gelling together. If he can, there's no reason why they can't hold it together and JUST play well enough to get out of the group stages and reach the QFs. Then, we need England to have one of those days (4-1 vs The Netherlands/5-1 vs Germany/5-1 vs Croatia) when everything clicks together. My dearly departed Dad said, two or three weeks before that Croatia game, that he felt this England were due a really superb performance. I believe this current team might be due one too. We've seen the likes of Townsend, Lalana and The Ox give really good individual performances recently; we now need two or three of them to do so at the same time and we could surprise one of the big teams.

One last thing; I just love the way Hodgson handled what the media are suggesting was a put down by Morten Olsen (MO: "Good luck in the World Cup - you will need it"; RH: "Every team will need good luck"); I love the way he turns jibes and insults into complements; he's a class act.
Bob Stoker

This Is What Happened To Jon Dahl

Did Alex Stokoe seriously just ask what happened to Jon Dahl Tomasson? The same Jon Dahl Tomasson who went to Feyenoord and won the title, the cup and the UEFA cup? The same Jon Dahl who then went to a little, unknown Italian team called AC Milan where he won the title, the cup and the Champions League? The same Jon Dahl who then went to Stuttgart and won the title? Yes, I admit, he then played for Villareal for some time without winning anything, but still a pretty impressive club career, no?

Oh, and he is also the current record goalscorer (shared) for Denmark with 52 in 112 games.

Is that the Jon Dahl Tomasson you were asking about? Well, now you know. And here's some bonus info: he is currently managing Roda in the Eresdivisie (they're dead last).

Here to help,
Kim Johannesen, Copenhagen (and I seriously disliked Jon Dahl)

Drawing Alonso

Sean, I found your badly drawn footballer pictures amusing. Until I got to Xabi Alonso. How dare you sir. How VERY dare you. You destroyer of idols. You desecrater of beauty. Although your Willie Boland is excellent.
Lee (LFC)

It's All Relative

11-a-side of related players (brothers or father/son only, must be on opposite teams).

Here's my attempt. Can anyone do better?

Peter Schmeichel (C)
Rafael da Silva/Kolo Toure/Jack Charlton/Ronald De Boer
Phil Neville/Alex Song
Michael Laudrup
Eden Hazard/Eidur GuĂ°johnsen/Tom Ince


Kasper Schmeichel
Gary Neville/Rigobert Song/Frank De Boer/Fabio da Silva
Yaya Toure (C)/ Paul Ince
Bobby Charlton
Thorgan Hazard/Arnur GuĂ°johnsen/Brian Laudrup
Shaun Russell, AFC, London

World Cup Cliches Ahoy

Slow day in work today so here are some inevitable World Cup cliches to look forward to over the next few months.

Any team that are essentially dogs**t will be referred to as 'an unknown quantity'.
Alan Shearer will declare that 'we don't know an awful lot' about Karim Benzema.
Any country south of the equator will be described as having 'Latin flair'.
Literally any goal conceded by an African team will be put down to 'naive defending'.
The words 'Drogba' and 'swansong' will go hand in hand.
Various players will 'cement their place', 'book their plane ticket' or 'force their way into their manager's thoughts'.
Teams that win their first game will have 'laid down a marker'.
Pele will name Honduras as his 'number one tip' to win the tournament.
The minute England are knocked out Sky News will interview Geoff Hurst.
Tabloids will all lead with the question 'would England have won with Harry in charge'?
Poor facilities/fans chanting outside the hotel are blamed for a particularly tired performance.
Whenever Brazil string more than two passes together they are declared to be 'playing to the samba beat'.
English WAGS are reported to be on 'red alert' after suggestions that the team's hotel is located in the 'seediest' part of the rainforest.
Stephen & James, Dublin

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ven if United were to sign CR7 & Messi to play upfront, the fact remains Fletcher and Cleverly are playing in midfield. That's where the problem is. Fletcher is too slow with an awful pass, while Cleverly is simply rubbish

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hese days, these days, you can't say something racist without somebody saying that you're a racist.

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