We have some Sunday thoughts on Manchester United's latest league point, plus farewells offered to Daniel Agger (fond) and Fernando Torres (less so)...
...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?
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy With Almost For Arsenal
If at the start of the season you offered any Arsenal fan the chance to be in the title race for most of the season, top for a good portion of it and an FA Cup (granted they haven't won it yet, but they're in with a very good shout) they would have bitten your hand off!
I'm sure 99% of them would still have bitten your hand off if you added a condition that in order to achieve this for the season they would have to suffer a few heavy defeats.
The simple thing is this, people are upset because Arsenal didn't win a game that would have dragged them back into a title race that Wenger got them into in the first place. Yes, a few heavy defeats against big teams points out a lesson that Wenger needs to learn, but do not forget the list of teams that have been beaten this year, Liverpool twice, Tottenham three times, Borussia Dortmund, Everton and every Premier League team below them.
People may moan that it's always almost rather than trophies over the past few years, but without Wenger it could quite easily have been nowhere near.
Alun (I'll be gutted if he doesn't sign the new contract) Lloyd
...I'm not having it.
Last week, it was all praise for the new-found steel and grit. Now it's 'the same house of cards'?
Let's get some things straight. Arsenal folded like a cheap suit. They were pathetic. If anything, Marriner helped things by deflecting some attention. They have monumentally screwed up three massive games.
But all of this still leaves Arsenal only seven points behind Chelsea (with tomorrow's game in hand). Not ideal, but not f***ing turd, is it?
Now to the articles. Having Wenger leaves no potential for glory? How can you be so certain, Johnny? What is 'doing alright', anyways?
Arsena are still in the cup, and are favorites. THIS website (Mediawatch) loves to remind people that the probable (albeit with significant doubts) FA Cup win, is a good enough start for a side to embark on a successful spell. Or is that too dim a light all of a sudden?
Wenger is not among the elite? Forgive me while I ignore your opinion in favor of Bayern Munich's, Real Madrid's, Barcelona's and the French Federation's.
Brendan Rodgers is praised and will be praised, even if/when he doesn't win anything. Why? Because he improved Liverpool.
Honestly, does anyone think this Arsenal are as bad/worse than last year's team? Haven't they improved at all (12 points BTW)? Brendan Rodgers spent more than Wenger last summer. Both have improved their teams. There is as much shame to be had in losing 6-0 to a big team as losing 3-1 to a newly promoted one. So please quit with the hyperbole, until and unless it truly goes like septic diarrhea.
If Arsenal finish in the top four with more points than last year AND win the cup, it will be good enough for most teams (bar the two Oil empires) and will certainly be so for an Arsenal side most didn't expect to win anything. If Wenger can make this side successful, with the investment sure to come, he can make them proper scary.
I'm not going to accuse this website of bias, but surely there needs to be some perspective? Judge managers on seasons, rather than games!
Girish ('we' in victory, 'they' in defeat), AFC, Chennai
But Wenger Is Arsenal's Moyes
I don't know what the general consensus among Everton fans about David Moyes is, but the two Everton-supporting friends I have wouldn't hear of any serious criticism during his tenure. "He's done amazingly well to keep us near the Champions League places on our budget," they'd say. "He's building a stronger team every season with the resources available". However, Bobby Martinez is making Moyes' achievements pale in comparison a bit, by challenging for the same spaces with better football. Obviously, there's a case for saying Martinez is only buidling upon Moyes' groundwork, but the fact is that the whole operation did not collapse once the steady hand departed for bigger, better things. Well, bigger things anyway.
The reason I bring this up is that it seems Arsenal are in a similar situation to Everton under Moyes. Wenger's supporters have long claimed that getting the 'fourth place trophy' can be considered a success, and that without Wenger the whole operation would go tits up tomorrow. However, in the wake of another disastrous defensive performace, you have to wonder whether it wouldn't be worth a try.
I like Arsenal, even as a fan of another London club. I like the fact that they're run with financial responsibility, and that they are strongly committed to good football. Much of what the club represents is down to Wenger, but his one major flaw is that he seems incapable of learning from his mistakes. He's never been able (or even willing) to replace George Graham's mean English defence, for instance, and I don't understand why he didn't let Flamini start against a ruthless Chelsea side. I can't help but wonder what would happen if another manager would be given the chance to do that learning for him. What about it, Arsenal fans?
Joe FFC (an email about Moyes that doesn't refer to United! Oh wait...)
What Made Him Great Is Gone...
Decent piece by John Nicholson, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have become far too comfortable with mediocrity.
The simple fact is that Arsenal have not won anything for nearly nine years, nor have they seriously threatened to do so (a couple of title challenges fizzled out by March/April and a Carling Cup Final defeat to a relegated team managed by Alex McLeish ('08 Champions League is the exception here)). That is not good enough. There have been mitigating factors of course, but in any book its regression.
Wenger was undoubtedly a great manager, and still is clearly a good manager. But his competitive advantage is now gone. He brought a new brand of passing, attacking football to the PL, but now this has been matched and eclipsed by a number of teams, and also the lesser teams are much better prepared to defend against it these days. When very few in England did, he had a vast knowledge of European and World football and used this to his advantage to make some great signings (Vieira, Henry etc), but now the prevalence of European football and the vast scouting networks have nullified his edge. He changed diets, training, pre-season regimes and introduced numerous new metrics for player analysis, but again these have all been matched. He had an economics degree when we respected economists.
In short, what made him great is gone. He remains a good manager clearly capable of competing near the top of the game, but sadly no longer great. A good is not good enough when you strive (or at least should strive) to be great.
El Bandito Tinto (Brackets inside Brackets - that's tekkers) Dublin
...Johnny Nic is spot on.
When Wenger first went to Arsenal he was the future of football. He took a team built on lager and crisps and taught them that eating pasta, passing to each other and scoring more than one goal a game was the way forward. And it worked. Brilliantly.
But time moves on and Wenger hasn't. He's stuck in his ways and more than that, has made a virtue of his failures. Every year his team suffer from injuries, but he won't recruit to strengthen the squad because he wants the overpaid youngsters to step up. He doesn't want to spend money to compete, despite being sat on cash reserves of £120m. Buying success is just wrong, even when you have the money.
Arsenal get pulled apart by teams whose managers adjust their tactics to do this, but Wenger sticks to his principles, and thinks that pragmatism is a dirty word. If you can't win the league playing the prettiest football then it doesn't count for anything, so his team play one way and one way only.
Basically he's modelled Arsenal on Spurs from the 1980's. If they win their FA Cup semi-final then Chas & Dave should be waiting by their phone for a call.
Thoughts From A Chelsea Fan
* Can I say that in my 10+ years of following English football, this was the best Chelsea game I've enjoyed as a CFC fan?
* You're 5-0 and a man down with 10 men on the pitch. You decide to play a ridiculous high line against a team which is arguably the best counter-attacking unit in the division. You can only be called Arsenal F.C.
* What was AW thinking with his line-up - No natural CDM (I don't think Arteta is one such). Flamini on the bench. Playing a 4-1-4-1 away to a title-challenging rival? Seeing their team sheet I knew it was going to be a fun day.
* How important is Samuel Eto'o to Chelsea? After six months of adjusting, he looks a lethal striker with killer instincts and movement (if not for pace). Goals against Pool, United, Spurs and now Arsenal - all important ones; add his understanding with Hazard and Oscar. What a buy! Now, can we give him a one-year extension please? (won't mind if BA and or Torres are sold).
* I earlier wrote that Matic-Luiz is our best midfield pairing given the personnel at disposal. If there was one thing Foy did to help us, it was sending Ramires off (Rami, I don't hate you) as it meant we could play Luiz along with Matic.
* Speaking about Foy, if only, (IF ONLY) the offside calls were not given incorrectly last weekend, our title odds might've been much better
* Coming to the discussion of offsides, what were Arsenal thinking again? Let alone ten men, even with 11 at the bridge playing a high line? That too after the tonkings they got at Anfield and Etihad earlier? Villa were lucky I tell you last week in the first half. But Arsenal were not. To play a high line, you need a whole lot of midfielders in defensive mode and attacking mode pressing and harrying opponents and making calm passes to quote Jose. AVB burnt his fingers trying that at Chelsea (most notably in our 3-5 loss against the same Arsenal). You don't try something like that if you don't have the personnel. Oh God, will Arsene ever learn?
* Mohammad Salah looks a superb prospect. After Juan left, we were short of players who could take a long ball like a feather in their left leg. Salah on two occasions did exactly that. My God the moment he accustoms to the league, defences are going to find it very difficult to deal with him.
* All my wishes were true, except a goal for poor Torres who worked his legs stretching Arsenal. Now if only Arsenal and United beat City, City beat Pool and we win at Anfield (I know I'm dreaming)!
Aravind, CFC (Never seen Jose so happy on the touchline!), Chennai
Man United Musings
Who would have thunk it?
- Rooney and RvP don't play together for the first time eight games.
- Kagawa gets a start for the first time in nine games.
- Mata actually starts in his favoured position for the first time since he arrived.
- Rooney starts in what is his best position. Maybe he doesn't realise it but everyone else does
- Two technically gifted players actually start together in a match for the first time (Kagawa and Mata) and look like they've played all their lives together.
- United don't play two up front.
And what do you know?
Fluid, Incisive attacking football where players actually passed to each other in a relatively comfortable 2-0 win.
Moyes, you're a genius. Pity it only took you three-quarters of the season to realise that Rooney and RvP are the equivalent of Lampard and Gerrard for England. But it was forced on you. It was blindingly obvious to pretty much every armchair football fan in the country. Just please get rid of Ashley Young.
But hey. It was only West Ham.
Brian (I fully expect to see a baffling line-up come Tuesday) Tansey
Is RVP Holding Back United?
Two caveats, it was only West Ham (albeit away) and it was only one game, but watching Mata, Rooney and Kagawa combine left me wondering, is RVP's Utd career mirroring that of the previous great Dutch goalscorer to play at Old Trafford? Of course I'm talking about Ruud, the name that guarantees goals.
RVN's exploits are well known and RVP's contribution while for a shorter period are no less talismanic. However RVN's trajectory seemed to reach a crossroad when he was holding back the Rooney and Ronaldo dream team from flourishing. As the story goes, he was cruelly ditched in a decision that was ultimately proven right when the double was hoisted in Moscow.
Moving on to RVP situation, there is no doubt he is the more accomplished footballer while retaining that same killer instinct. However this entire season has seen him look frustrated, disinterested and unmotivated. He has been isolated in attack and has been left scrapping for aerial balls into the box, patently ignoring his greatest strengths. He is also 31 and moved to Utd to win trophies, I feel for him that he is once again playing for a team in transition.
I will bear no grudge towards RVP should he decide to prospect for silverware outside of England at the end of the season. This would leave Utd with a young, vibrant, pacy and energetic front line of Januzaj, Mata, Kagawa, Rooney and Welbeck. Bags of potential with enough experience to guide them through rough patches. It could potentially pay off again but does Moyes have the balls to ditch his star like Sir did? Or will he prove some tactical genius and coaches them into a fluid attacking machine?
Aaron (somehow I doubt both scenarios)
P.S. I'm not calling for RVP to leave, just that he might be blocking some of the other talents from building on obvious understanding. RVP could very well adjust if he motivates himself again.
Don't Be Fooled...United Still Rubbish
- One wonder goal, and one lucky finish from an asinine clearance, do not a convincing victory make. United were still rigid, flat, and lacked any significant control, invention or fluidity in midfield. The City match is not going to pretty.
- I'd forgotten quite how little attacking threat or quality Ashley Young offers. He and Moyes couldn't be better suited.
- Fellaini's performances in midfield are of such limitation, and such dearth of quality, that he makes you long for the days of John O'Shea and Darron Gibson. He plainly hasn't the intelligence or technique to play in midfield for United, and strangely offers less than Cleverley. His passing makes me want to weep. No doubt he can do certain things (principally run around a lot up front, win long balls, and annoy centre-backs) well enough to excel at a club like Everton, but the comparison with Nemanja Matic (cost £5m less) should shame whoever agreed to that transfer at United. Fellaini is a very, very expensive mistake.
- Do Kagawa, Mata, Hernandez, Welbeck, Carrick and Nani all go to group counselling, and shiver watching videos of how they used to play before meeting Moyes and his antediluvian methods?
- Given Moyes' obvious unsuitability for the job, what merit is there in keeping him in the post now? Far better to dismiss the useless mediocrity, and either give the job to an interim coach until the summer, or appoint a permanent successor and give them the remainder of the season to assess the squad and plan.
- Too depressed to write anymore.
What Moyes Needs To Do...
The Fellaini issue is not going away. United fans don't like him, don't get him, and are completely bemused about spending £27m on him. This is impacting on the relationship with David Moyes - as it was his decision to buy him. So Moyes needs to change things..and here is the solution. A management decision, a big idea, a game changer...
Tell him, no, wait, order him, to get his effing hair cut!!
He looks like a numpty therefore he plays like a numpty. He stands out so far that you can see him dandering around even if he is nowhere near the ball (which is a lot of the time). When he is meandering forward into the box his hair is the tallest thing in there. Heading the ball is impeded by the mop. The wind means he has to face a specific direction to keep it off his eyes...and not necessarily the right one.
When he gets his hair cut, he will be less visible, more streamlined (and therefore quicker - if that is possible), tougher looking, and less of a prat...he might even look tough, and strike a little fear into opponents (OK, maybe that is a stretch)
I have been in management for many years, and I genuinely believe that change needs to happen if he is ever going to be accepted, and the shearing of the mop of hair is a quick first step...
You SHOULD Want Liverpool To Win
My goodness has this season been loads of fun. Bags of goals, entertaining football, and Manchester United wallowing mid-table what more could you ask for?
As I read the Glen Johnson article I found myself agreeing with him, but I would not have used the word 'will'. Neutrals should want Liverpool to win the league. What Liverpool has done over the past 18 months is nothing short of extraordinary.
Liverpool promoted a British manager to take the reins of one of England's most successful clubs instead of looking abroad. They also took another unprecedented step and did not allow an unhappy player to leave. In a time when players have an absurd amount of power (Rooney) Liverpool dealt with the Suarez situation in the summer like any responsible adult deals with a child having a tantrum.
Liverpool is also in the title race on a modest budget compared to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City. This fact should be a bright spot for those teams on the outside looking in. It demonstrates that a healthy injection of money combined with a long-term strategy can equal the success of the heavy hitters in the league.
Liverpool success this season is good for football. A team written off before the season began led by a pack of kids and aging football icon in search of his first title. A story that could have a Hollywood ending not even the producers of Being: Liverpool could have written.
This season has been an hell of ride and even the most staunch United supporter would have to admit that the football Liverpool are currently playing is fantastic to watch.
So will the neutrals want Liverpool to win the league, I don't know, but they should.
With that being said...WE'RE GONNA WIN THE LEAGUE!
Brian (spectacular goal from Rooney at the weekend, still would leave him off the plane) LFC
Come On United!
Monday again, ah well.
It's Monday morning and I am sat in work reflecting on my team's (Liverpool) chance of winning the title. Can we win the league conceding so many goals? Can we beat City and Chelsea at Anfield? Do I want United to win tomorrow for the first time in my life?
The answer to all three is, of course, yes. The football we are playing at the moment, is simply poetry in motion (tra la la la...).
I don't think there is any team in the league that can restrict us from scoring at least a couple of goals a game for the rest of the season. The only issue will be to stop Chelsea and City scoring as many at Anfield, which so far this season has been a bit of a fortress!
My main point of this whole mail was to show my support, for the first time in my 25 years for Manchester United. If United can beat City then the title is our hands and should we not win it, I can have no reason to complain.
I know I will not speak for all Liverpool supporters when I say that I will be supporting United tomorrow night, but if United can pull something out of the hat tomorrow, then Liverpool supporters can start to believe their dreams.
COME ON UNITED!
Jamie (on route to dream land)
Scorecasts That Leave Bitter taste
Alex Stokoe - I too know the feeling of a successful yet bitter tasting scorecast.
11/3/2007 - Chelsea v Spurs FA Cup. £1 on Berbatov to score 1st, 3-3 final score at 500-1.
Jumped around like I was being attacked by an angry wasp when Kalou made it 3-3. Like I was being assaulted with a cattle prod when Cech touched a last-minute Spurs shot onto the bar. In your face William Hill.
But can a £500 windfall really make up for the guilt of cheering a Chelsea goal? Almost - the night of crack and hookers it funded certainly help ameliorate the shame*
Mikey P, Cardiff (*I actually paid the gas, electricity and council tax bills and saved the rest. F*ck you sensible financial conscience)
Heads Hung In Shame
I love your website. I love your Mediawatch column in particualr. But you've shot yourselves in the foot with your Gossip Column's headline 'Sherwood wants a mane' with subsequent lion references.
As you regularly point out in aforementioned Mediawatch column when a newspaper fails to adhere to basic rules of pronunciation, in this instance, Mané with an accent, is no longer anything like the mane of a lion. It would be pronounced 'Man-ay', so maybe 'Sherwood looking to cash in on Mané' would have worked better. I did French at uni and everything. Happy to help.
Best Headline Ever
The 'Best Non-Football Headline of the Day' in Mediawatch today could have been the best thing I've ever read.
Luke, Red in Sussex