...what happened to the fourth Champions League place the last time an English team won the thing. Plus, who would want to pay £60 to watch the current England team?
A Sunderland fan in the mailbox is surprised by Jack Colback's call up to the England squad. Plus, thoughts on Welbeck and Liverpool's Champions League draw...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Liverpool's Advantage Remains
Assad Mugenyi, Kampala: Liverpool's advantage remains intact. City's title challenge hinged quite heavily on Aguero, who has now reinjured his hamstring. We don't know how long he'll be out, but given that this is the third time he's done it this season and won't want to miss the World Cup, I'd venture a bet that he won't be rushing back. City's remaining fixtures are tougher than Liverpool's anyway.
Arsenal have the distraction of the FA Cup remaining, but are also on the wane in terms of form and performances, with more difficult fixtures than Liverpool remaining.
Chelsea are still the overwhelming favorites and I would bet my bottom dollar on them winning the league. But they still have the Champions League as a distraction (semi-finals would be immediately before and after their match at Anfield in April).
Oliver (People will still say 'Liverpool can't challenge' even if Gerrard is lifting the cup on an open-top bus, it seems) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
...Just a little response I thought I'd give to Assad's email in the morning mailbox. Liverpool's so-called 'advantage' is technically still there. We sit second in the table ahead of Arsenal on goal difference and CIty on points (albeit having played two games more). If you agree with the majority of fans and pundits, you'd rather have the points on the board than the games in hand. Meanwhile the only team we still have to catch is still in Europe and likely to remain there for at least another round.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying we actually have an advantage, just that the one thats been fabricated by every other manager isn't quite gone yet.
Last Off The Training Ground
I've always wondered how Manchester United training sessions ever ended over the last couple of decades. Depending on who you asked, David Beckham, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Phil Neville were always 'last off the training ground', which, if it were true would necessitate a complete overhaul of what we understand about time and its apparently linear progression. These training sessions can never really have 'ended', at least not in the conventional sense of the word.
Maybe this is the problem with the current iteration of Utd? Perhaps David Moyes needs to worry less about improving results in the short-term through conventional man-management and tactical nous, and more about finding whatever tear in the space-time continuum Alex Ferguson apparently exploited at Carrington for so many years.
Or maybe they could do more laps or something.
Champions League: Really Dull Now
Boring, boring, yawn fest. Well, that was a complete waste of time wasn't it? I'm referring to both Arsenal and Man City getting dumped out of Europe. It's not the fact they were beaten, but the manner in which they were.
I've completely gone off the Champions League, and no longer love the opening intro music - it really has got that bad! It panders to the cheaters and liers of the footballing world. Couldn't agree more with Jonno McSchmonno on this. Just so sick of every single campaign being the same. Foreign teams, and yes, it is the foreign teams, sucking in a challenge with the intention of getting the player, who may also be foreign (for the British team) sent off.
It's no longer enjoyable. There's no more magic to it, and it's just plain boring to watch now. Last night I found myself trawling through Youtube, and checking my emails as it was playing on the other screen. Bog off now. Not interested.
Kireca (The Champions League is dead - long live the World Cup)
Shush With The Whinging, People
I appreciate the hypocritical nature of this post, by complaining about people complaining, but the unpredictable nature of the Premiership over the past season, coupled with English clubs' relative poor performance in the Champions League since the 05-11 golden period have led most mailboxes after big games to be a terrible list of rails against cheating (read better) teams.
TG, Arsenal's fourth point in his critique of Nick Miller's article about Wenger was 'The tie was decided by the 2-0 which was decided by Robben's dive'. Dive? Really? Really?? Robben goes to ground too easily/indulges in gamemanship/dives/whatever, but you must admit it was a foul and a straight red, surely?
Listening to people complain about how for all their wonderful footballing talent they hate Bayern and Barcelona because they're filled with cheats and divers, do you know who you sound like? Fans of clubs outside the Top six or seven complaining about Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U etc. They're just better teams. It's not nice losing (and there's the old quote about "show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser") but it happens, it's sport. Sometimes the opposition is better, we don't need to hear excuses, it's really tiresome. Losing to Arsenal on Saturday, really ruined my day, but I still got drunk and was able to have a laugh about it. We played well, but Arsenal were just better - that's sport.
I enjoy the articles about Tim Sherwood in Falling Down, and the conclusion pieces some of the more objective fans do in the mailbox, but save the tin foil hats for the comments section, people!
Speaking of enjoyable articles, where have the dispatches from League Two gone, or the Name Withheld ref stuff - bring them back I say.
Anyway, hypocritical rant over; can we just be a bit more lighthearted and accepting about things, please?
Matt, EFC, London
The Demichelis Rule
A question I've seen more often than I care to count recently is something along the lines of 'how have City spent so much money, and still manage to have Demichelis/Lescott/Kolarov in the team?'. And it's got me thinking about financial fair play rules, and how we could make them simpler and more entertaining for everyone involved. Instead of all this nonsense about year-on-year losses, percentages of turnover, net transfer spend and all that jazz, let's simplify the whole thing - spend as much as you want, but if you spend too much then your team has to contain a comedy passenger at all times
We could call it the Demichelis role. No matter how much money you spend, your team can only ever contain ten world-class footballers and one utter liability. If the man signed specifically for the Demichelis role is injured or otherwise unavailable, then Joe Hart has to start making 'uncharacteristic errors' again for a few matches, or perhaps you have to sign Stefan Savic on an emergency loan
Of course, the likes of Chelsea would always be trying to bypass this rule by playing 'non-scoring strikers' - technically a passenger, but rendered irrelevant by the sheer volume of gifted attacking midfielders at their disposal
It needs work, but I think it's got potential. If it reduces the number of net spend-related arguments by even 10% it'll be worthwhile.
Steve (maybe increase it to two comedy passengersin European competition to keep things interesting), Nottingham
Kopany: Going Nowhere
Though it's impossible to predict the likelihood or unlikelihood of anything in football with absolute certainty, I am prepared to stick my neck on the line and say the prophecy from this morning's Mailbox that Vincent Kompany will be leaving City for Barcelona (or anyone, for that matter) is not going to be fulfilled any time soon.
Kompany joined City (for arguably the best £6m anyone's ever spent) shortly before Sheikh Mansour's takeover and has been a major influence on the club's revolution over the past few years. Players and managers have come and gone in that time but Kompany has been an ever-present fixture in the team and has shown nothing but absolute commitment to the cause. He was the obvious choice to take over the club captaincy from Carlos Tevez in 2011 and has established himself as an exceptional leader of men and someone everyone involved with the club looks to for inspiration in good times and bad. He's married to a local girl, has a young child in school here and is by all accounts very settled in the area. He also has a terrific relationship with the supporters and is already regarded as a City legend (though admittedly, it doesn't take much to have that accolade bestowed upon you).
Vinny is, in my opinion, the best player in his position in world football at the moment and though I'm sure he's coveted by all the top sides in Europe I just don't see him leaving City in the forseeable future. The 'project' (for want of a less irritating term) is in many ways as much his as it is Sheikh Mansour's and he doesn't seem like the sort to abandon a job before he's satisfied it's finished. He's also tied down to a long, lucrative contract and happens to play for a club in a rather unique bargaining position in that they don't need to sell anyone if they don't want to.
Last night was as good a personal performance from the Big Bad Belgian as you're likely to see from a player in the Champions League and it's a terrible shame he had to end up on the losing side. If signing a capable partner for him in the summer wasn't already a priority then it most definitely is now and a lot of problems will be solved if the right player is acquired. Someone else in this morning's Mailbox queried how a club with as much spending power as City has ended up having to pick the likes of Demichelis and Lescott and though it is a legitimate question, I always get the sense that others would be quick to criticise had the club blown a wad of cash on trying to address this issue already so it's impossible to win really. Regardless, if signing an expensive new centre back in the summer sees us returning to the defensive solidity of seasons past next year then so be it.
Dan ('Here's to you Vincent Kompany, City loves you know than you will know') MCFC
Ozil And Xenophobia
There was an interesting comparison made this morning between the media and fans' reaction to both Ozil's and Aguero's injury-laden first-half performances and subsequent substitutions.
Something I take issue with is those, which sometimes includes Mediawatch, who immediately refer to any criticism of a foreign player as xenophobia. The reason Ozil is criticised is not due to the fact that he is German. It's because he cost over £40m and has disappeared in the vast majority of big games Arsenal have played this season. It's no more than the type of reaction that Carroll, Henderson, Torres, Berbatov, Hargreaves, Veron, Shevchenko received - it's a response to the massive fees paid by the clubs and the resultant performances.
To contradict the xenophobia argument, Aguero, Kompany, Silva and Toure are players who can do no wrong in the eyes of fans, pundits and the media. Even as a United fan, I, obviously, think these players are ambassadors for the Premier League and world-class talents. They're not placed in the town stocks when they have a bad game in a key tie because we realise it's an aberration, and that they have proven their talents time and again.
When your only defence of a £40m-plus signing who has disappeared in many an important game is that the critic must be xenophobic, then you're already losing the battle.
Stephen (Feel dirty for praising Man City players), Cardiff
Just Wait On Ozil Judgement
I remember when a certain blond Dutchman signed for Arsenal back in 1995 for a huge fee at the time of £7.5m. He 'struggled' a little in his first season finishing with 16 goals and 8 assists in league and cup. This according to Wikipedia 'prompted ridicule by the national press'. So big-name player signed for big money, perceived slow first season, press rips him apart...starting to sound familiar?
Fast forward 20 years and he is a club legend with a shiny new statue of him erected outside the Emirates.
History will judge Ozil, not stupid reactionary media and short-sighted fans.
Hans (Irish Gooner in Cape Town)
Why Can't Podolski Be 'Quite Good'?
In the midst of all this talk about Podolski being a failure I'd just like to point out that he has seven goals in 15 games this season and 16 in 42 last season. Bearing in mind he is usually substituted on/off in every match he plays I'd say that for £10 million he's fairly decent signing (he also has 46 goals for Germany). So let's not rip him apart because he committed the crime of not being Dennis Bergkamp.
Conor M (please don't look up his exact goal-to-game/minute/second ratio)
After watching Timmy Sherwood go through his little meltdown over the weekend I'd pay a penny for Daniel Levy's thoughts right about now.
I want it known that I think Sherwood has done well during his time at Spurs. He has introduced academy youth into the first team, nabbed points at very difficult places, and has managed to accomplish one of the most difficult feats in world football: inspire Emmanuel Adebayor.
For all the good Sherwood has accomplished during his short time at Spurs Saturday showed why he wasn't ready for the step up to management and why he is foolish not to step back down.
The number 1 rule in football management is 'You can not publicly criticise players'. At least not until you have earned their respect. Unfortunately for Timmy you cannot earn respect by being a 'real football man'. One earns respect by winning.
Two main points in the wake of Sherwood's rant have doomed him as well as Spurs.
First and foremost the job of manager is exactly that of a babysitter. Your job is to stroke egos, set bed times, and manipulating them to make them feel like they are in control when actually you hold all the cards.
The second is that apparently after he publicly called out his players he then held a two-hour rant session in which the players got 'everything out'. I cannot begin to explain how dangerous this was to the morale of the Spurs squad. This method may have been effective to those players already committed to Spurs, such as Sandro and Harry Kane, but I can guarantee it has done sever damage to those players Spurs need to take them forward such as Vertonghen and Lloris.
Without European football it will be very difficult for Spurs to keep their star players. The task will be even more difficult if Sherwood continues to lower morale and more importantly the appeal of Tottenham Hotspur football club.
Brian (F*ck Manure United) LFC
A REAL FOOTBALL MAN? YES!
My God, I just read Henry () THFC's email on Tim Sherwood and his 'That's a real football fan' speech made me feel like I felt when I was watching Independence Day and Bill Pullman was giving that speech, the most awesome fantastic saluting and cheering, and I was doing it. At that moment I was a real American. That e-mail, at the time he went through that paragraph, about being a real football man, holy sh!t, I was whatever I was supposed to be, a Spurs fan or a Tim Sherwood fan, but I basically went "YES!!!!!!!" and felt really proud for a moment, I don't know why, I don't even like Tim Sherwood or Spurs! Henry, you've confused the hell out of me, but thank you for setting me free I guess, that weird inner American I seem to have in me. Who loves Spurs.
David (Feeling enlightened), Dublin
Why Ribery Is Overrated
Chris, plastic Arsenal fan from Serbia: bit harsh to call my opinion on Ribery (that he's not as good as people say) a 'brainfart of epic proportions'. We've had this discussion in the mailbox before, a lot of contributors could not remember seeing Ribery playing particularly well. In fact, the friend who I was watching the game with (a football scout, no less) doesn't read f365 but said the exact same thing at the start of the match-and Ribery failed to change our preconceptions.
Now I'm not a Bayern or France fan, so the most I see of Ribery is during Champions League games, but from that I barely remember him doing much of anything great. He spent most of the last Champions League final horizontally, for instance. Even if he plays really well in Germany (which, let's be honest, has as much of a gap in quality between the top three and the rest as Spain does), that still makes him very inconsistent and a big game bottler, therefore undeserving of the acclaim reserved for Messi and Ronaldo, or even Suarez, Zlatan, Neymar or Rooney. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest Robben is better.
...Can I just take a moment to look again at Chris, plastic Arsenal fan from Serbia's assertions that 'to call Ribery vastly overrated is more a brainfart based on ignorance than an actual opinion', and that after Messi, Ronaldo and Zlatan, 'Ribery is quite simply the best of the rest'.
The first names that popped into my head as challenging Ribery for that spot were Bale and Suarez - I'm sure there are many more names that other readers might have thought of, these two are just my opinion/ignorant brainfart (delete as necessary).
However my other opinion is that possibly the only person demonstrating a brainfarting level of ignorance would be someone who lets their club loyalty blind them to the possibility of a good player existing at a rival club..?
Terry Hall, Switzerland
Missing The Amateur Game
Having just read A Professional Game Run By Amateurs, it got me thinking about how much the game has changed. Some of it good, most of it bad (in my most humble of opinions). Then, all of a sudden, I remembered when I used to go to Boundary Park with my Granddad to watch his beloved Oldham during the Frizzell (or Frizzelle as he liked it pronounced) years in the 70's. The days you just turned up on match day, paid your money, pushed the turnstile and stood where you liked. I remember fondly how, at half time, all fans were able to walk round to the other side of the ground, en masse, and stand behind the goal your team was attacking. And I don't mean a trickle of folks ambling around either. Rattles, I miss rattles too.
I miss the amateur game, too many people are into football now. We need a war.
Andy Race (Dorks call them parenthesis, Dudes call them brackets)
Right-Back Penalty-Takers Ahoy...
Ray Stewart from West Ham. He was third top scorer from right back for West Ham in their highest0ever league position in 1986. From Wikipedia:
'Renowned for his ability as a penalty taker he scored 81 out of 86 with only one miss on his home ground. His penalty taking technique involved him striking the ball with force with his right foot, with Stewart ending-up with both feet off of the ground. From his five misses he scored twice from the rebound.'
...You'll probably get loads of these but Lee Dixon used to take Arsenal's penalties.
Unfortunately he was a bit rubbish at them so Graham relieved him of this duty.
He retained his ability to score a cracking own goal, mind.
Graham Simons, Gooner, (we still love you Lee), Norf London
...Lauren took a fair few successful penalties for Arsenal back in the day. Used to stare straight at the goalie before rolling it down the middle.
The guy who sits opposite me in work (huge Liverpool fan) says Phil Neal. Over 80+ successful penalties, so says he.
Dale May, Swindon Gooner
As Hans Jorg-Butt was mentioned this morning by Graeme (Having said all that, Phil Neville never missed one for us. Four in total I think.). I thought the mailbox needs to see one of his finest moments . F'in brilliant!
Westy (Sandro for captain) THFC
Not The Only One...
Did anyone else read the non-football story of the day with the creeping feeling that the biryani was going to contain severed cock?
Chris (displaced THFC fan in SE4) Cummings