There isn't a great deal of excitement in the Mailbox regarding England's potential new captain, but we have good stuff on Gerrard's development and a one club man team...
Man United fans say a fond farewell to Patrice Evra in the mailbox while there are also thoughts on Steven Gerrard's retirement from England duty. Plus, some rare cricket bantz...
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Really Annoyed With F365
This website has been, without even a question, my most visited website of the last decade. Even including all those ones with boobies on. It's the place where I go for alternative, non-jingoistic, sensible football critique. Yes, sometimes it can be contrary, but in the most part that contrariness is simply the refusal to get swept up in the latest tub-thumping.
BUT for the first time I have found myself annoyed.
1) Ashley Cole. You are talking about ASHLEY COLE here, show a bit of respect (for footballing reasons purely, obviously). Any other top footballing country has a TEAM. Irrespective of how players are playing, or even whether they are playing, you can name the most of the Spanish, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Argentina teams before they kick off. They would never EVER consider dropping their best, most consistent and only world-class player because he's 32 and only played 12 times in a season. It's Ashley Cole. He has never let England down, he is experienced, he is one of the best tacklers in the game and is, quite probably, England's greatest ever full-back. Why are you treating Leighton Baines as first choice? Has he destroyed Ronaldo? Has he played in five international tournaments? Has he won the numerous leagues and cups, and even a Champions League? NO. So STOP IT. Ashley Cole is still first-choice England left back and replacing him with someone who has no international experience and no domestic or European success is something that no other top international team would ever do.
2) What's with the constant belittling of Michael Owen? He was an excellent player, a cunning footballer with fantastic movement and a ridiculous ability to score under pressure. Yes, he lost his pace. Ye,s he was injured a lot. But how many times did we watch him bamboozling defenders with perfectly timed runs to steal in at the near post and glance a header? Or did he score 40 international goals by accident? "Just standing around in the box and oops, scuffed another one in". I certainly don't remember that. STOP IT. You wouldn't do this about Shearer or Lineker, who also both ended up as one dimensional goalscorers, so don't do it about Michael Owen.
If you are (were?) a website to balance the tabloid hyperbole and reactionary nonsense of the booing 'Best League In The World' generation, then stop the systematic disassembling of two of our greatest players. You wouldn't find Germans ripping up Gerd Muller for being one dimensional, or the Spanish media trying to oust Xavi because he's old and some player from Osasuna is playing well.
'Rant over' is one of the most annoying phrases on the internet, but I genuinely feel like I've just ranted and it's now over. So; rant over.
Mark Thorby, Norwich
Scholes Was Not Shunted In 2002
Kireca makes an interesting point on how Paul Scholes was unfairly pushed out onto the left wing for England (the left-hand side of a midfield diamond in reality, but don't let that get in the way of what you want to believe).
He brings up the 2002 World Cup as an example of how Gerrard and Lampard ruined Scholes, and how England should have been built around Scholes for the tournament. The only problem was that Gerrard was injured for the 2002 tournament and Lampard wasn't in the squad. The midfield was built around Scholes (Butt and Hargreaves played to allow him to do what he does best). Scholes had a decent (but not amazing) tournament, sullied by an awful performance in the quarter-final against Brazil, in which he bottled a challenge that led to them equalising and then committed the foul to concede the free-kick from which Brazil scored the winner (though Seaman obviously takes the vast majority of the blame for that). Scholes - the finest British midfielder of his generation in domestic football - might well have gone on to tear up international football had he not been moved to a wider position, but he'd shown little signs of doing so in the many games he'd played in his favoured position.
The 'golden generation' are the most over-hyped group of players I can remember in international football, particularly as an attacking unit. A load of hype, fame and orange-hued girlfriends and nothing but a series of quarter-final defeats to show for it. They should be remembered as little more than failures when wearing the white shirts of England.
...Can I be the first pedant (make that second - Ed) to note that although the mail from Kireca this morning has very valid points about top England players out of position, the mail was two years out. In the WC 2002 Scholes played in the centre with Nicky Butt and both were excellent. Hargreaves and Sinclair were shunted out to the left wing, and Gerrard and Dyer, who would have been in the first team were both injured (although Dyer eventually made the squad). Shame as I was really looking forward to a midfield of Beckham, Scholes, Gerrard and Dyer.
It was 2004 when Scholes was moved around a bit, and I think Gerrard also played a bit on the left. The sentiment of Kireca's email is correct though, what a player Scholes was, England never really got the best out of him and didn't seem to be too sad about that fact.
A happy weekend to all, and may Spurs one day win at Stamford Brige.
Kevin G (What ever happened to Stephen Clemence?)
...Please please can we stop this Paul Scholes 'revisionism' for England and keep blaming Lampard and Gerrard for him being moved out of position. Firstly. Lampard and Gerrard weren't even in the 2002 World Cup squad. Scholes played in centre midfield with Butt, Beckham on the right and Sinclair/an other on the left, and I remember us playing pretty poorly, and have memories of Scholes, red faced running after 10 man Brazil when we got knocked out.
By 2004 Scholes had been 'shunted left' as he hadn't played particularly well for England or Man Utd, whereas Lampard and Gerrard were both playing really well for club and country and 2004 was one of England's best tournaments of recent time, and they could've gone further if it wasn't for Rooney getting injured when we were 1-0 up against Portugal (and Vassell coming on over pretty much any other player, but that's a separate story).
So Scholes, yes a good player, but not some miracle world-class superstar that England should've built their team around.
Oh And He Didn't Care
Kireca, that was beautiful letter about poor little Scholes who in 2002 was shunted out on the wing for Lampard and Gerrard.
Hang on. 2002 you say? Is that the same 2002 when Lampard wasn't even in the squad, and Gerrard was out injured ? Is it the same 2002 when Scholes played all but one match in CM (he was shunted out to LM by Hargreaves and Butt for the Argentina match).
I think you mean Euro 2004.
Incidentally, here's Paul's take on his shunting (speaking in 2011): "Playing on the left was never a problem. I played on the left for United I don't know how many times. I probably had my most successful time scoring goals in that position so it was never a problem."
Doesn't seem to me like he 'couldn't take it anymore'?
Neil (I do love a conspiracy theory!) Surrey
And Why Didn't He Thrive Anyway?
There seems to be a notion that because Paul Scholes wasn't a winger then there's no way he could possibly have been expected to peform out on the left for England.
Imagine taking your most gifted player and creator, moving him wide, away from the centre of the action and expecting him to perform to any sort of level or indeed even continue playing international football.
I mean what would have happened to the French in 98 and 2000 if Zidane had been moved out to the wing to allow any two players from Deschamps, Makelele, Vieira, Petit to play in the middle?
And yet, pretty much throughout his international career Zidane lined up on the left for France.
In the 98 final it was Deschamps and Petit in CM for France and in 2000 it was Deschamps and Vieira.
While I'm at it, Pavel Nedved played through the centre for the Czechs, but was shunted to the left to make room for Zidane and Davids at Juventus, so what do I know.
There are probably a lot of reasons why Scholes didn't work out for England.
It just seems to me that if the best playmaker of his generation could adapt to playing on the left for his country and still do the business, maybe Paul Scholes wasn't destroyed purely by being asked to play there.
Doug (AFC) Belfast
Leave Club Allegiance At The Door
Dear Brandon...please stop trying to turn the 'who should play for England' debate into a Man Utd v Liverpool one. It's pointless tribal drivel like that which makes it so hard to have a cogent conversation about football with so many people.
Welbeck can't finish, this is true. Carrick is very much a 'safety first' player, this is also true.
However...your arguments lost all credibility with me when you said Scholes wasn't in the same class as Gerrard or Lampard. It's pish in the extreme to say that, and typical of the knee jerk, myopic 'my team first' mentality that means football in this country is so full of inbred, petty hatred. Of course Scholes was in the same class! Could he run all day like Lampard? No. Was he capable of dragging his team singlehandedly through games like Gerrard has so many times for Liverpool? No - but then, you could make the argument that he didn't have to, because Man Utd during his prime were not the same one/ two-man team that Liverpool so often (but not always) were. What Scholes COULD do, however, was score jaw-dropping goals in the same manner as the aforementioned two, and his range of passing and accuracy was better, to boot. He patently WAS in the same class - at least - so please don't let your anti-Utd bias blind you to just how good he was.
Finally, to say that Gerrard 'more often than not' lands the ball at the feet of a team mate in space is a stupefyingly banal thing to say. I've lost count of the number of times I've been in a pub watching an England game and the whole place has erupted in a chorus of groans as another Hollywood pass goes straight to a grateful defender, bounces out of play or gets headed straight back at us.
You want to have a reasoned, sensible and enlightening debate at who should play for England? Bring it on. But please - leave your club allegiance at the door.
Theo >>>> Lennon
The reason people prefer Walcott to Lennon is because he is a lot better at football. You know, putting that round thing in that netty thing. Or helping other people on his team to do it.
As for who should be picked between Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, it's simple. Neither. They are both awful.
You're right about Evans though, so that's something. One out of the three ain't bad.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
Arsenal Cursed? Shush
You can tell things are starting to go right in the season when Arsenal fans are bleating left, right and centre about everything going wrong for their team.
The latest (and I'm sure I'm one of many to point this out) was Arsenal fan Ted suggesting that Arsenal are 'cursed' because no other side in the top half has suffered as badly with injuries as the Gunners. Admittedly, ye've had a rotten run of it, but if you took half a second to look around and realise that at the same time as missing Aguero, City also had Fernandinho and Nastasic out, meaning that Demichellis had to start. Similarly, they've also lost Nasri for a long time earlier in the season.
I'm loathe to ever defend Spurs, but when my beloved Liverpool put five past them (I could watch that all day), they were without their entire starting backline, while Liverpool themselves this season have been without Johnson, Sakho, Agger, Enrique and Lucas (our entire defensive backbone) for a long period that is only now coming to an end. Injuries to Walcott and Ramsey mean Arsenal get to start Oxlade Chamberlain, Podolski or Rosicky, as opposed to praying Jon Flanagan remembered he's a footballer (turns out he has) or that Aly Cissokho has gotten his shirt back from the gazelle that mugged him on his way out of Valencia (he hasn't).
And that's before pointing out that Suarez missed the first five through a stupid suspension, Sturridge was out for a few weeks, Gerrard, Coutinho, etc., etc...
I could keep going.
Pull your head out of your arse, lad. Every team gets injuries. Sure, the manager shopping in the balsa-wood section of IKEA for his new signings doesn't help your case, but it's far from a curse that has caused your season to dip from the early optimism.
Kevin, LFC (Also, Arsenal fans do realise they are 3rd, right?), Cork
...Ted 'Arsenal are jinxed' asks if another club in the top half of the league have (and presumably have had across the season) as many injuries to key players as Arsenal. Well yes Ted, there is another - Spurs.
If you look at the useful but oft times depressing league table of injuries on Physio Room you'll see both Spurs and Norwich currently 'ahead' of Arsenal with 8 vs 7 injured players. For much of the season it's been the same with Spurs at or near the top, admittedly closely followed by Arsenal most of the time, and occasionally swapping positions. And when you look at the players out for Spurs, they are definitely key players out, and have been across the season.
Currently three of the probable first-choice back four are out (Kaboul, Rose, Walker) and the first two have hardly featured this season (and this after we loaned last season's first-choice left-back, Beny, to QPR). Oh and Chiriches who has played 20 games this season at centre-back, so definitely not an occasional sub, is also out. Fryers is the only non-probable starter in the eight out at the moment.
Moving into midfield, our record signing (Lamela) has played nine league games so far, at the start of the season this was easing him into the side but he's been on the injured list for an age now. Capoue has been on the edge of the starting 11, Eriksen has had a few other short injuries and is definitely a key player. Lennon and Sandro have also probably played less than they would have through injury and again both are fairly certain starters and have been key in at least a few matches each.
That leaves the goalie and attack as the only areas without these kinds of injuries across the season. But instead we've had a non-scoring ex-record signing (Soldado has actually played fairly well and has more goals than most think but still), the terror of Europa league defences who also couldn't find the net in the Premier League (and Defoe has now been sold), and Adebayor who didn't play for the first half of the season due to understandable personal issues compounded by a broken working relationship with AVB.
Admittedly a fair few of the current injuries may be 'international week' injuries that magically clear up before the next game, but Spurs have certainly been as unlucky with injuries to key players over the season as a whole as Arsenal. This makes it fairly amazing that we're even contemplating the possibility of finishing in the top four; in this season of change in terms of managers and squads it would have been great to get a proper run at the opposition.
The injuries aren't the whole of the problem, but on top of losing last season's star player, trying to integrate loads of new players (as, yes, Arsene pointed out, it's not that easy), and the mid-season manager change, they certainly haven't helped. The definition of key could be argued but this season in the absence of Bale most of the team have been on more of a level with each other, players have stood out in individual games but no-one really across the season.
Anyway, this wasn't an 'OMG Spurs have had waaaay worse injuries than Arsenal so shut it' whine, just pointing out that if you look a little closer at other teams (and others might want to do this for their own top-half teams) Arsenals injury record isn't unique.
Ian, THFC, Helsinki
Just Blame Wenger
Arsenal aren't jinxed. We suffer from trying to compete with the money bags clubs who can change their personnel far more than we can.
Wenger would love to be able to rest his first-choice centre-backs but can't because the other options are his captain, who hasn't played since the 1970s and the Gunnersaurus who is a dinosaur.
Up front, Giroud is overplayed because his potential replacements is Bendtner, who despite being our longest-serving player, is off in the summer and the other - Sanogo - is crap.
And the novelty of signing a top-drawer player like Ozil has clearly gone to Wenger's head and is akin to the year I got a Donkey Kong for Christmas and promptly played it until the batteries ran out.
If you want to blame anyone - blame Wenger. The money was there to improve the squad but he chose to relieve our knackered players by signing an injured player on loan rather than recruiting a top-drawer striker and winger.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
...Arsenal aren't jinxed. We see this year after year because Arsene Wenger ignores injury proneness when buying players. We have players like Gibbs, Walcott, Rosicky, Diaby and Wilshere who are made of glass. The question isn't "if" they get injured but when and for how many months. It's even got so bad that we've started buying or loaning players who come in already injured.
Wenger gets the horn when he sees a good technical player available on the market and completely ignores the fact that they might miss six months out of every season. There's no point having the next Messi in your squad if he only makes an appearance once every year and a half, runs up the pitch and then goes back on the treatment table. If you believe the rumours, he had the choice of Bale or Walcott and of course choose the one that has the physique of an eleven year old.
The other thing about technical players in the Premiership is that they're going to get kicked for 90 minutes. It happened to Wilshere when he first started playing well and it's completely changed his performance and his attitude What some might take for petulance is actually the culmination of three years of being kicked every time he gets the ball. He's looking for the foul now because he's been so used to it coming. Referees need to be stricter with cynical fouls meant to disrupt good players. There's no point complaining that England are a bit duff when you spend the majority of the year kicking the technique out of your most promising players.
SC Arsenal, Belfast
More World Cup Cliches
Excellent work yesterday from Stephen and James, Dublin on World Cup cliches. I'd like to provide a few more -
'Crashing out' - What England do when deservedly beaten by a better side. Any other team will simply be 'eliminated' or 'knocked out'.
'This team likes to play football' - This team is good at passing the ball. They need to be careful however, of playing too much football.
'They'll just go out there and enjoy themselves' - said patronisingly of any low-ranked team in the World Cup playing Brazil or Spain.
'Effect of the conditions' - Used to explain any team that does better or worse than expected. Reasons may include high temperatures, low temperatures, high altitude, long travel time or particularly fervent national fans. See also 'rainy Wednesday at Oldham' phenomenon.
'First game syndrome' - said whenever a team's opening match in a group is a turgid, boring affair.
'Unpredictable' will be used to describe any young foreign player that a commentator knows nothing about.
Germany will be described as being 'there or thereabouts'.
The new tournament ball will 'Cause the keepers a lot of problems with dip and swerve'.
'Team X have really given Team Y something to think about' - Team X are playing quite well, despite me saying beforehand they were rubbish.
All grounds and fans will have a 'carnival atmosphere'.
'That's a clever booking. He's knows what he's doing' - Only applicable to English defenders. A foul committed by a player safe in the knowledge that he won't get sent off.
'Cynical. We don't like to see that' - The same as above, but committed by a foreigner.
'Not like the Brazil of old' - i.e. Willing to actually defend rather than relying on the tactic of 'just score lots of goals and hope they don't too'.
'As you can see, Eastern European Team X are in blue, African Team Y are in red' - because I will be in dangerous Ron Atkinson territory if I simply say all the African players are black and all the Eastern Europeans are white.
You Want Protection
Having seen the categories at the end of Mediawatch expand and change a little bit over the years, can I make a suggestion for a small reorganisation of this area? After 'Headline Of The Day' and 'Worst Headline Of The Day' instead of 'Non-Football Story Of The Day' could we then have 'Penis Mutilation Story Of The Day' followed by 'Non-Football, Non-Penis Mutilation Story Of The Day' as this is much clearer for the average reader?
Excellent quiz today.