That's one question posed in the afternoon mailbox, although it looks like the Japanese playmaker could soon be on his way. Plus, tipping Palace to go down under Warnock...
Plenty of fall out from Manchester United's shambolic 4-0 League Cup defeat, plus thoughts on Van Persie, Arsenal strikers, Benik Afobe, Celtic and Astroturf...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
This could still be a season where all the top six sides can be happy to some extent.
Man City to react to their semi-final defeat and with no CL distractions to win the league.
Chelsea to come second, which is what Jose wanted all along. He wouldn't lie, would he?
Liverpool to qualify for the CL - would be a great achievement for Rodgers' second season.
Arsenal to win the FA Cup and end that bloody trophy hoodoo. Also obviously qualify for the CL.
Manyoo to come fifth, which will give their fans something to do on a Thursday night.
Spurs to come sixth which will get Timmy sacked and a proper manager in to do something good with that expensively assembled squad.
Adonis (Please, please, please don't do a Birmingham 2011) Stevenson, AFC
Can United Fans Laugh At City? No...
As I understand it, taking great pleasure in Man Utd being s*** is just a sign that you support a small club with no ambition or hope of achieving anything.
Does this apply if you take please in Man Citeh losing to Wigan?
...Thanks to Dave, Dublin, for reminding us why we are some of the most hated fans throughout the educated world (read: Football playing and loving parts of the world, other criteria be damned!)
We are also out of the FA Cup, have quite the peak to climb ourselves against Olympiacos, are at least 11 points off fourth, taking Arsenal's tally as fourth since City will cruise past them and their total as they catch their games up.
Perhaps we can laugh, loudly, but privately for now?
Let's first hammer those Greek lads, see Barca thrash City, and then watch as City fail to claim the points on offer which would make them champions, before we laugh at them in general for the world to hear?
I love laughing at the Citeh as much as anything else in football, but not so much if it looks a little silly.
It does right now.
Manc in SA (punishing the mailbox today, can't get enough of the morning edition!)
A Rare City Mail...
I'm a regular reader of the Mailbox yet I only ever feel moved to contribute in the aftermath of a City defeat (after all, who am I to stand in the way of the more important topics of discussion like 'Moyes out!', 'Isn't Giroud brilliant/sh*t?', "'t's Liverpool's year!/No it isn't') so if anything, seeing us crash out of the FA Cup to Championship opposition yesterday at least meant I'd have something to do today (aside from my actual job, that is).
Of course, I'm being facetious, and the latest humbling at the hands of Wigan bloody Athletic yesterday was actually a massive disappointment and one which leaves me with the feeling that we've probably already won all the silverware we're going to win this season (still, better than nothing eh Dave from Dublin?).
A lot of people are laying the blame for yesterday at the feet of Senor Pellegrini, partly for having the temerity to wear a rather fetching hooded top on the touchline (if you ask me Jonno McSchmonno and anyone else who truly believes in sports psychology should be burnt at the stake) but mainly for his team selection. I must admit, when I saw who he'd picked to play in the back four yesterday I did get the feeling we'd be in for a rough ride, but that team should still have had enough quality to win that game and if they had, would anyone have said Manuel got his team selection wrong? Hindsight truly is a wonderful thing.
That said, it is quite worrying how defensively shoddy we've been without Kompany, Zabaleta and (never thought I'd hear myself say this) Kolarov this season which makes their exclusion yesterday all the more baffling, especially when you consider Micah Richards appears to have forgotten how to play football and Martin Demichelis appears to be on a personal crusade to make me and anyone else who's defended him this year look like a right plonker. For all the money that's been spent on players in recent seasons it feels as though the defence has been somewhat neglected with short-term signings like Maicon and Demichelis being preferred to more expensive, long-term acquisitions. Stand by for the recruitment of a shiny new centre-half in the summer whose name will probably be something like Eliaquim Mangala.
It wasn't that long ago City were beating lauded as one of the most exciting teams to ever grace the Premier League and though I did get the sense we were being built up in order to be knocked down in some quarters, perhaps a sense of perspective is the order of the day as reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated, as is often the case in this crazy, fickle game we call Association Football. The much-feted quadruple will in all likelihood have been whittled down to a mere League and League Cup double by the end of the week and I'd be extremely surprised if we've even managed to pull that off come the end of the season. It's far from the worst thing that's ever happened, however, and if we do end up with just the one trophy we can always just say this was a 'transitional season' all along.
Finally, I'd just like to say a big well done to Wigan who were brilliant on the pitch and in the stands yesterday. Wigan fans have taken a lot of flak over the years for literally not turning up in support of their team but they turned out in numbers yesterday and made it a terrific atmosphere inside the stadium. Huge credit must also go to them for one of the best football chants I've heard in ages i.e. 'We beat Man City with Ben Watson' to the tune of Starship's 'We Built This City'.
Bravo boys, here's hoping you retain the Cup.
Dan (Congratulations to our old mate Uwe as well. Play your cards right and you could be wearing one of those hooded tops one day) MCFC
Have City Failed? Really?
Can we ban all usage of the word 'quadruple' in relation to football please? It's as predictable as clockwork and, along with Dave from Dublin apparently, a particularly tedious aspect of following football (a man who apparently needs an increased dosage of Moyes).
For one thing, it's always discussed far before it could ever be a real possibility. If a big team hasn't crashed out of all four competitions come February-ish, that apparently means it's on. Despite the many matches and variables yet to occur. It's the equivalent of your mates asking you how you'll spend your winnings on an accumulator after an hour's play. Worse, when that team eventually misses out on a trophy, this is then used as a stick to beat them with. 'No chances of the quadruple eh?' There never were! The thing is entirely media generated. You can't slag somebody off for failing to meet a standard that they had no intentions of aiming for, and on top of that, has never happened before! 'Usain Bolt fails to complete 9 second flat 100m race', 'Lionel Messi's season falls flat as he fails to score 100 league goals'.
It's one thing to slate City for a poor performance, another to punish them for not making history. Let's not criticise a team for failing to do imaginary things that were only ever media ruminations to begin with. Let's criticise them when they fall woefully short of the standards that they've actually set themselves, and should by all accounts be meeting. You know, like Manchester United.
Is Fellaini The New Yaya?
Perhaps it's the scorching 7 degree heat getting to my head, but I'm going to say it: Fellaini and Mata are going to be United's equivalent of Yaya Toure and David Silva. Ever since the Afro signed, I've been telling people to 'just wait'. After every week he played, a barrage of texts flooded in, and I'd have to say 'just wait'.
Fellaini was sorely missed in the 2-0 loss at Olympiakos. There was no pivot in the centre of midfield that revolved around him in the win at Palace a few days before, and then the win at West Brom. I could understand the criticisms if Fellaini was an unknown, but this is a player deserving of a shot at the big time (ahem, 7th place...) who grafted in the Premier League for years, outplaying Yaya Toure in Everton/City games and who blitzed the entire United midfield single-handedly when he played against them.
Never forget what he gave to Everton, and remember that he's still just 26. He came to a whole new team, in a different, more defensive position, and then suffered pretty serious injuries. He had a dip in form, but is back and is beginning to find his feet and is doing three times the work that Carrick does in a game, freeing up positions for Mata/Januzai/Kagawa. He can win the ball in the air, tackle, pass and create. He also has a bit of bite, too.
So just wait. We might just already have someone to fill the CM hole SAF neglected for five years.
George Akdu'gwango. (The 'new Toure/Silva' thing will only work if Moyes doesn't do to Mata what SAF did to Shinji, i.e. ruin him.)
Chelsea v Spurs Thoughts
* Where are 16 conclusions on the game? It went missing the day we won at the Etihad too!
(Very rare we would do 16 Conclusions for an evening kick-off - it simply takes too long - Ed))
* I disagree with the Pool fan (and Jamie Redknapp naturally) that we lacked whatever they said we lacked. Jose is a top manager and it's so evident that 2011-13 with a non title-winning squad we struggled for top four and now we're on top seven to nine points (depending who you tag as a rival) ahead (albeit games extra played) with an inferior squad to City and inferior strikeforce to virtually any top team.
* Fluid play and intricate passing won't win games/trophies (Arsenal last eight years). Your King Kenny and BR last season would teach you that and heck BR has understood it and hence more direct lovely football from Pool (this goes to the Pool fan).
* However I agree that we looked deadly in midfield with Luiz in there. IMO our best midfield is Matic and Luiz. Luiz brings his Brazilian flavour on the ball. And thank you very much for the interest in Luiz, Jose may (I hope he doesn't) sell Luiz to Barca, but I'm sure Luiz wont go to Pool. Let's nip it right in the bud.
* During the first half, my thoughts were we needed to remove one of Lamps/Ramires and bring in Oscar to hold the ball better and also Oscar provides the above discussed fluidity. After Lamps got the yellow, it had to be Lamps and Jose didn't disappoint.
* Before the red card, without the Spurs' errors, we were actually beginning to assert our pressing counter-attacking game putting balls through the Spurs' defence after 50 minutes of play (five adjusting minutes perhaps after the half began). We were superior and dominant leading to the goal and the red card merely helped us.
* How easily people forget Spurs could've been a man down if the ref had not played Eto'o offside (close call). Also, people forget Hazard's decision not to go down and take a lame shot (bravo). Twice Lloris could've been off. And let's not forget, Sandro shouldn't have been on the pitch either (but I love the bloke, amazing commitment).
* Spurs had more of the ball and control of the game with no threat (mimicking Jose's post-match comments). People should also remember that playing an aggressive pressing game needs players who are absolutely comfortable on the ball as energy levels'll go down easily in one half and the only way to retain energy and not lose calm is to recycle sterile possession (check Barcelona's heydays). And Spurs were not prepared for that. Given the score was 0-0 at half time with many yellow carded midfielders in their team and our ability to suck the pressure and play amazing second halves the writing was on the wall (whether the red card and errors happened or not). So, lets give a little credit to Jose and Chelsea (if not all the credit) for turning it on!
Aravind, CFC, (having said all this, Spurs were Spurs on Saturday, with their comedy of errors in big games :D), Chennai
...In response to Seyi, LFC on Chelsea-Spurs:
He's spot on that Chelsea, except for Hazard, lack guile, invention, etc. But I don't think that means the league is poor. I think it means you can contend for titles with an outstanding defense and one top-class attacker, and for better or worse, Mourinho has figured that out.
I love David Luiz. All right-thinking people love David Luiz. I think he'd make a great DM alongside Matic. But he's erratic, and unsettles a team. When Terry was briefly injured and Luiz went alongside Cahill, Chelsea were far less secure at the back. In the final half-hour against West Brom they were all over the shop, and it was Luiz who was beaten by Anichebe for the equaliser. I'd love to see him at a club where he can express himself, but he's probably not the right fit for Liverpool now.
At the time, I thought putting Walker in attack was a decent move. But, as Mourinho explained after the game, he was thrilled to see Walker there, because Azpilicueta could handle him one-on-one, and with a more defensive right-back like Naughton, Chelsea's left-sided attacker didn't have to defend that much. Very simple, once you see it - but Mourinho tends to see it before just about everyone else.
Chelsea were uninspiring in the first half, but by about 20 minutes in it was clear Tottenham were very unlikely to score. When Oscar came on to play the number 10 role and improve the attacking options, it was only a matter of time. Spurs made it very easy for them, but a Chelsea win was always the most likely outcome.
I'm not Mourinho's biggest fan, and I think he has his blind spots. I thought he had lost the plot when he ditched Mata. But he knows exactly what he's doing, and the record shows that it works most of the time. It may not be much fun for neutrals, but I bet to Chelsea fans it's a thing of beauty.
PeterG, Pennsylvania, USA
Levy Ruining Spurs? Really?
In response to Andrew, Woodford Green: Levy isn't a perfect chairman, nobody is, but saying that he's 'ruining' Spurs is complete tosh. We've finished in the top six (top five actually) six times in the past eight seasons. We have a decent chance of making it seven in nine this year. It's our most consistent run of top-six finishes since the late 50s/early 60s.
He's made some cock-ups along the way but under his stewardship we've gone from the awful mid-table mediocrity of the Alan Sugar 90s to our best run in the league for over 40 years.
Some of the setbacks and missteps are obviously frustrating, but I think that short of a sugar daddy owner, we'd struggle to find someone who would make us much more successful than we have been with Levy at the helm. Seeing so many clubs spiral down the league after changes of ownership, I'm more than happy to put up with Levy's faults because the positives that he's brought to Spurs far, far outweight the negatives.
Edward, THFC, London
...I think Andrew, Woodford Green needs to give his head a shake.
May I remind him of the days when a major transfer coup for Spurs was to persuade Sean Davis to sign from Fulham. Since those days we have steadily improved the structure and fabric of the club under Levy. The very fact that we are dissappointed if we just miss out on the top four is a testament to how far we have come.
One bright spot about the loss is that it means that we get a proper manager in at the end of the season.
Don't Rip Up Everything At Spurs
All, I can understand the current upset and disgruntlement at our beloved Spurs, from board level down to the players.
I would just like to assess the situation, without damning anyone.
Firstly, we sold, quite possibly, the best player we have ever seen at The Lane, and that is saying something. Gareth Bale is gone, and is never coming back. He dragged our team through so many matches last season and added a huge fear factor. We miss him so dearly and are still trying to find a way to play which doesn't involve Gareth Bale.
Secondly, almost everything we did in the transfer market in the summer was a massive mistake. We needed to keep those home-grown players such as Livermore and Caulker. They added so much to the club and could have become fixtures for club and country. Huddlestone has gone to justify exactly what he can offer at Hull. Boy do I miss him. There was no need to replace Caulker with Chiriches, or Hudd with Paulinho. All we needed to do was evaulate and recruit two top-class players to replace Mr Bale's goals. A striker, and a midfielder. We had Townsend coming back from a good loan period away, so negated our need for another winger. We also should have keep Assou-Ekotto. Yes, he always looked like he was about to give the ball away, but still oozes class. Dempsey scored some important goals for us and was a shame he left.
Thirdly, AVB. I could see why Levy saw this as an attractive option, and seeing Harry now struggling with what effectively, could be classed as a Premier League team in The Championship reinforces my view that Harry did indeed take us as far as he could. For all his efforts we really did hit the heights that we could ever expect to hit. AVB would be more interested in developing our younger players and we would finally be a bit harder to beat. Unfortunately, we always looked like a team with one idea - give it to Bale. AVB never looked like he had a clear idea of how he wanted us to play and in selling and loaning Caulker and Livermore, really disappointed me as he clearly had no plans to develop our young players.
What we actually need to do now is leave Tim Sherwood to do what he needs to do. We don't need to do a clean slate approach, we need to find some consistency. We have to accept that the days of Modric, Van der Vaart and Bale are gone. We are no longer a team with this quality.
I also agree we need a young, hungry team but this won't work pulling players like Coulibaly straight into the first team. They have barely proved themselves at youth level. I would like us to keep what we have but get Caulker back (I hear we have a clause in his contract for this) along with Livermore from loan. I think with time Lamela will come good so it's not all doom a gloom.
What we need is a playing philosophy, or a philosophy of nurturing young talent (Swansea/Southampton) so that we, as fans, have something to identify with.
Chins up; COYS.
Chris, (I prefer Lennon on the left) THFC
Fanmail For Oliver
I see Oliver Clarke this morning had some ideas about Tottenham's future. Though desperate, I think his best one is the new line-up of 15 players in a 5-6-3 formation.
Oh, and that he says sell Vertonghen, Dembele, Paulinho and maybe Lloris to fund a move for a defender they sold a year ago that is currently at the heart of the defence with the second-highest number of goals conceded in the premier league, and a new goalkeeper.
Hopefully Sherwood is a reader.
...Buy back Caulker? Tim "My Players Are C***s" Sherwood the right man?
Oliver has obviously been smoking the crack that Andrew's given up.
Dom, La-La Land
...Dear Oliver Clark,
Just f*** right off.
Ena Parkinson's assertion that her 'bassett would be more interesting than Owen' made me smile. Even his floppy ears would bring more to the table than our horse-fancying friend's punditry. Technically you could also replace 'bassett' with just about any other thing but a bassett is a good start. At least give him one game to see how he gets on...please?
Just wanted to thank Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton for a brilliantly amusing article on Manuel Pellegrini, especially the line on Demichelis. It was annoying to see the ungrateful arses in the comments section complaining about their free content.
Protect Your Penis
As non-football story of the day is now reaching Cannibal Holocaust levels of penile mutilation, one has to wonder if there is realistically enough penises to sustain such a constant stream of new dismemberment features? I had once thought a man being separated from his best friend to be a rare occurrence, after the last few months I have grown a new appreciation for having a normal-shaped and attached genitalia, with a girlfriend who seems to be keen to keep it that way.
...Big fan of the website, first time I've got in touch, and it's more out of curiosity than anything else. Couldn't help but notice that there's a plethora of penis/sex related stories in your column of late, in fact I'd go so far as to call it a growing obsession. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good knob gag (snigger) as much as the next person, but in the last week your non-football related story subjects have been:
Today - penis
Friday - penis
Thursday - sex toy violence
Wednesday - masturbation
Tuesday - masturbation (with food)
Last monday - penis
So either your research team consists of 13-year -ld boys with the Google safe search filter well and truly switched off, or someone simply has an unhealthy fascination with genital-related stories. Or possibly both.
Just wondering if you're aware of this trend?