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...
If you have anything to add on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's Start With Long-Rangers...
How are you going to leave this thunderb***ard out? It was only two weeks ago!
...What about Super Swede Anders Limpar v Liverpool in 1992 at Highbury?
And then Ian Wright v Swindon Town in about 1994? From memory, the ball even bounced back out of the goal from the stanchion. Poor Kevin Campbell scored a hat-trick in that game and still got overshadowed by Wrighty.
...No love for Erik Edman in the Top 10 long-range goals?! An absolute belter of a goal while leaving Anfield in a state of bemusement.
...You probably got a lot of these after the top 10 long-range goals article, but it's a travesty that this one wasn't included from the Italian maestro himself - he's got to be 40 yards out, and it is a bullet shooting perfectly into the top corner. Such an underrated beauty of a strike.
Andrew M, AFC (Andrea Pirlo and Dejan Stankovic could probably have their own top 10 list), Australia
...Lovely list of long-range efforts, but I think Jose Luis Chilavert should have maybe snuck in.
It's the way his team mate has put the ball down and is thinking about what to do when suddenly there's this shout from behind and Jose comes charging up to tw*t it from his own half...
Toby (something in brackets) London
Tottenham Trading Places
I've struggled all season to work out why the press took such contrasting stances to AVB and Sherwood at Spurs but I've finally worked it out. I've concluded that in a mimic of the Duke brothers from 1983 comedy Trading Places the press colluded at the start of the season to prove their power and influence is so great that they could undermine a talented and proven manager to point that he would be sacked and install any old moron with no experience but because they shouted his name a lot a reputation could be formed.
This also explains how Glenn Hoddle got so close to getting the job despite being an absolute disaster in his previous role (still bitter Wolves fan) but their strength of influence wasn't strong enough to get him back in but they were able to get behind Sherwood as a similarly ridiculous alternative.
I wonder who gets the pound bet win if he keeps his job for next season? Ashton? Lewis? Obviously Jamie's not in on it - he's just the best friend a man could have.
Tom S (waiting for AVB to be caught planting PCP in Sherwoods office any day now), Wolves
Jose: No Masterstrokes This Season
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, Jose's a brilliant manager, clearly. You don't achieve what he has without talent. But as things stand, at best he has taken the team that finished third to one point higher than the team that finished 7th - so clearly he hasn't made the biggest impact in the league, other than reminding people what a....he can be.
Of note is that Chelsea's performance in the both domestic cups is worse than last year. In the Champions League, you haven't faced anyone half decent like Juve yet and still contrived to lose both legs against Basel.
He has sorted out your defence, by playing a lot deeper and buying a £25m midfielder to shield them. He has got the best out of Hazard, by buying a £30m winger to supplement him and marginalising your former player of the year. He refused to play Luiz in midfield, and when forced in to you claim it as a master-stroke.
If you win the league then you will have earned it because you're a bl**dy good side, but please, if you want to write love letters then could you do us a favour and keep them to your glitter and pasta shell posters at the ground.
I would add that Chelsea's best-ever manager seems to be on course to win the league in Spain, to go with his titles in Italy, France and England, and could well add a third European Cup, all without poking people in the eye or insulting everyone around him.
Mediawatch Wrong(ish) On RVP
I disagree with your criticism of Rodney Marsh. I think he's probably using the wrong word and that's where you are misunderstanding him. Replace 'desperate' with 'petty' and I think it is more accurate.
I think it's pretty clear that the purchase RVP was entirely down do Fergie's pride being dented by City's title win. Probably more still by Tevez's 'RIP Fergie' sign that people with a sense of humour understood. After failing to make his team competitive in Europe (domination by Barca in the CL final, total humiliation in Europa to Bilbao) he decided to concentrate on winning back the domestic league. It's a decision that, for sure, helped win the Premier League - but at the cost of the overall development of the team in terms of competing with Europe's elite. So, for me (Clive), it's more about getting peeved at the 'noisy' neighbours than anything else. It was his way of going out with the only bang he still knew how to do.
Not that I'm criticising Mediawatch too much...but the column has been pretty negative these past few months. It's sounded almost angry. Don't forget the funny, guys. Funny is why I read it. Well, sort of. Look, I don't really care that much: It's payday, I'm just about to book my ticket to Under The Skin (Anybody ever been the Curzon Renoir? How does it compare to the Soho one?) and I'm mainly thinking about gin and tonic, so, you know, whatever.
Playing For Penalties...
I realise this is going to make me sound like a miserable old git, but, well, I'm a miserable old git.
Am I the only person who's sick of the amount of teams whose sole intention on getting into the box is to get a penalty and preferably an opposition player sent off? There's been a particular rash of it lately with Sundays El Classico and any game Liverpool have been involved in as perfect examples.
The two tried and tested techniques are 1) get body in front of defender and fall over. See Samuel Et'oo vs Spurs or Neymar in El Classico. 2) Nudge ball past keeper/defender and collapse in a heap leaving a trailing leg for effect. See any penalty Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge or Gareth Bale have ever won.
To make matters worse there is the prevailing wisdom from pundits that if someone touches you then it's a foul, no matter how much contact there is. Did I miss a memo? Can you imagine the carnage on a busy street if people collapsed to the ground like they'd been tasered every time someone brushed their arm? If Claudio Cannigia can stay upright with six Cameroonians hacking at his knees then Luis Suarez can stay on his feet after someones wafted some air in his direction.
To make the point here's some stats: The first five years of the Premier League averaged 66 penalties a season. The last five have averaged 94. That's more than a 40% increase. How long before a penalty is voted goal of the season because there were no other choices?
Stand By Your Men...
What is it with some Liverpool fans always needing one of their own players to criticise? First it was Lucas, a Brazilian kid in a new country who was unfairly slated purely on the grounds that he wasn't Xabi Alonso. Then they moved onto Jordan Henderson, lambasted through his first season (and most of his second), now one of the first names on the team sheet. Then earlier this season we had one moron writing a letter 'on behalf of all Liverpool fans' pleading with Brendan Rodgers to never ever pick John Flanagan for the Liverpool team again - I wonder where that cretin is now, probably telling all his mates he said Flanagan was great all along...
Now we have Cannuck laying into Joe Allen this morning, despite him being one of the best players in the team in the last three games, all away, which Liverpool have won by an aggregate score of 12-3! We're second in the league, four points behind the leaders, with a game in hand, in a season which beforehand most of us would've said we'd be happy with 5th! All whilst playing some of the most attacking and entertaining football we've seen since 1988. Do you not think the manager knows what he's doing? Enjoy the bloody season, get behind the team and stop dreaming up reasons to complain.
...I'm only halfway down the page of this morning's mailbox and three Liverpool fans are already complaining: one about Joe Allen the weakest link, one about missing Xabi Alonso, and one about Liverpool being the neutrals' choice.
Your team is playing the most exciting football in the country, and your two strikers have the best goals to minutes ratio in the top five leagues...cheer up!
Graeme (I do miss Xabi though) Glasgow
Actually, Gerrard Is Weak Link
In response to the email from Canuck LFC saying that Liverpool will not win a league with Joe Allen in it, I think you couldn't be more wrong in relation to the player that reveals a chink in the armour.
If anything, if you were to question the defensive frailties of this Liverpool team I'd be looking in the direction of the captain. Gerrard has been an immense player for Liverpool over the years, no doubt. But somehow I can't help feeling that there is a case of red-tinted glasses going on when everyone raves on about the influence he has in this current side. Playing this 'quarterback' role on the tail end of the diamond. It nearly has the sense that this team is being accommodated to have him in the set-up.
Rodgers has bought into the 'history' and 'magic' of this legendary football club, and there is no bigger legend at LFC than Steven Gerrard. A part of me feels that Rodgers would be afraid to even consider dropping him because to disregard someone who embodies the very fabric of the club (And the captain of his club and country in a World Cup year) could leave a very nasty blot on his copy book should the results not go as he might have hoped. Or perhaps it's the fear of denying a legend the opportunity of potentially winning a league or being a part of the starting 11 in his final World Cup. I can't help but feel that the fans' and media's opinion of Gerrard is slightly clouded by nostalgia and folklore heroism. That the team of players around him, the quality and style of football and the ability to score more than they concede may be encouraging people to look the other way when it comes to his deficiencies.
Gerrard now sits in front of a Liverpool defence not renowned for their shut-outs. The primary role in this position should be to protect your back four and link up play effectively. No need for a player that may be able to play the hail Mary pass that comes off once in every four or five attempts. There are plenty of players on the pitch with pace and skill to turn defences inside out. Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling, Henderson and if needs be Johnson and Flanagan. What's needed in Gerrard's current position is mobility. Mobility is no longer a word that is linked with Stevie G. He cannot offer that protection across the back four. Whereas the younger Joe Allen or Lucas Leiva would. They can scurry and press and terrorise.
If anything I think Allen is being played out of position to accommodate Gerrard. Fair enough you could argue that Henderson may have offered better protection down the right-hand side, but this is someone who was born with an extra set of lungs and carries an oxygen tank on his back, his pace and work ethic is unmatched in the Premiership. If anything Flanagan was caught a little further infield once or twice leaving space out wide. This may be reflective of the lack of confidence that the young full back may have in his captain to help protect the central defensive pairing.
I believe Liverpool's best team is Allen or Lucas sitting in Gerrard's position, Henderson and Sterling on the flanks and Coutinho in the advanced role. Be it a diamond, 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1 or the Christmas tree formation. Gerrard would be a great squad player, and I would start him against the weaker sides. But Man City, and especially Chelsea would over-run him. Not only that, but they would probably target him as a weak link. Southampton, United and Cardiff don't possess the same midfield power of these sides and don't come even close to the bullying, scoring machines of the present Chelsea and Man City midfields. And the you score 1, we score 2 tactics that have masked some of Gerrard's frailties to date will not cut it against these teams.
Liverpool's most defining period this season was without doubt in December and Christmas. The games against Tottenham, Chelsea and City inspired confidence. They destroyed Tottenham and took Man City and Chelsea on toe to toe. Even though they conceded four goals away from home to these teams it was an awesome team effort, and one of these goals came from an unfortunate Mignolet mistake. These are games that Gerrard were injured for. Was his influence missed then? .. no. Not only that but Sturridge was also injured. Now we play these teams at home with a fit and in-form sturridge. However if Gerrard is playing I would be less confident of achieving results and I believe we would more than likely be beaten. Compare these to results against Stoke away and Villa at home in January when Gerrard had his first Premiership starts after returning from injury. Three goals and two goals conceded respectively. Neither side recognised for their goalscoring exploits at the time and the second game resulting in two valuable points lost. Even with what I consider to be Liverpool's best side.
I would still expect Chelsea to make a march on the title and City to slip in behind them. However Liverpool's best opportunity to attempt to win the league would be to consider dropping Gerrard for these games. Not playing a mobile defensive midfielder in that role will only result in an embarrassing annihilation like we saw at the Emirates. And it wouldn't be an injustice to the player. If anything it would give him a better opportunity of winning that league medal that he craves and deserves, in a season that could be (should be) the last in which he has been a regular starter.
Eoghan (Gerrard will always be a legend and a hero) LFC
In the previous Liverpool vs Arsenal match, Liverpool pressed Arsenal hard, went 4-0 up in 20 minutes and thrashed them 5-1. In the recent Chelsea vs Arsenal match, Chelsea pressed Arsenal hard, went 3-0 up in 17 minutes and thrashed them 6-0. For the coming Liverpool vs Chelsea match, I can imagine Liverpool and Chelsea intensely pressing each other to death. This will be the mother of all pressing game. Possibly even have Cech pressing Mignolet and Rodgers pressing Mourinho. What a game this will be. A pressing extravaganza. I can't wait.
Pre-Wenger Era Is Irrelevant
There are a lot of good arguments as to why Arsene Wenger should stay, but the fact Arsenal were largely average before he came is not one of them. Arsenal and football have changed so much in the intervening period between the George Graham/Bruce Rioch era and now that it's a pointless comparison.
Yes, Wenger was the one who raised expectations but simply stating that we should be content with what we had because we used to be rubbish is such a soft argument. Man City used to be milling about in the lower leagues but I'm sure that would be of little consolation to Sheikh Mansour if his billions didn't eventually lead to a sustained period of domination. Imagine if a CEO helps build a company up from a mediocre one to a massive multinational but then proceeds to run that company inadequately, the 'well we used to be quite small so we should be grateful' argument won't cut it.
For me (inadvertent Andy Towsendism), finishing fourth every year isn't necessarily the problem, so long as it's contextualised. If the squad was poor and fourth was the absolute maximum they could achieve then fair enough Wenger is doing a good job. This was certainly the case in seasons like 2006-07 and 2009-10 where fourth and third were the absolute highest the team could have been expected to achieve. However, I think in other seasons that there's definitely been potential for more and that's what frustrates Arsenal fans. I think if we finished fourth every year but we know there was really and truly nothing more the players and Wenger could have done to improve that, that's a good season but in reality we all know this is rarely the case.
Wenger will probably end up staying which isn't exactly a terrible thing but I really don't think even the most fervent Wenger supporter could argue that he's currently making the optimal decisions in terms of managing the club. I think we just have to hope that next season is one of the ones where he does manage to get the best out of his team, otherwise it'll be another season with a good start and a bad finish punctuated with embarrassing defeats here and there, which IS a disappointment, even if we used to finish mid-table in the early 90s.
Brett (we've never had it so good, but it can definitely be better) AFC
...I'm sorry but football did NOT begin with the Premier League and it's quite frankly a b*llocks comparison to liken the Wenger Premership years to the period that preceded it when Arsene has managed the club for all but four of the years the league has existed.
It's quite frankly hogwash to claim Arsenal have never had it so good - try five league titles and two FA cups in a period when the League Cup and European competition didn't even exist.
I am of course talking about the 1930s and Herbert Chapman.
Graham Simons, Gooner (please know your history before writing in), Norf London
But Post-Roman Is Relevant
Quick additional point on Dave from Dublin's exciting list of numbers!....I'm a Liverpool fan but fully agree with his views on Wenger and Arsenal's remarkable consistency AND just thought it was worth noting that where the list goes from regular 1st/2nds etc to a steady stream of 3rd/4th finishes is roughly inline with when the Premier League was first skewed by oligarchs entering stage right with bucket-loads of cash! So with this context the consistent 3rd/4th place finish is almost to be expected (and lauded) in a post Abramovich and Citeh Premier League.
FIFA's FFP malarkey is long overdue (especially if you ask Arsene!).
Mark LFC (daring to dream, yet still nervous about 4th!!)
Why Fourth Is Not Enough
Dave, Dublin wrote an interesting email this morning. However, the reason that Arsenal supporters (in my opinion obviously) are not happy with being third and fourth all the time over the last decade is simply that the team have been very good, the best of the chasing pack, behind the Manchesters and Chelsea, and have seemed to have almost effortlessly achieved this position year after year with a team of average players mixed in with some very good ones.
Where the problem lies is that it doesn't appear that Wenger and the club's hierarchy are doing everything that they can to push on. It's been well documented that every man, woman and their dog (and cat and assorted goldfish, and a couple of very old budgies) can see that the team with just two or three more acquisitions could be coming second and maybe sometimes even first (2008, 2011 and this season spring to mind).
You can't possibly tell me that Wenger could not have bought a better striker than Bendtner or Sanogo over the last two transfer windows or a DM or some defensive cover as three CMs is not enough. The fact that Wenger is often tactically out thought is also self-evident. Dave mentions periods that teams like Bayern under-achieved but that is a rarity. The fact that Arsenal appear to under-achieve is the norm.
Essentially you can't be afraid of change when the football landscape is changing around you. A new manager might fail to win anything but how would that be any different than the last decade? I like Wenger personally so it's not about the man's character but I'm ready for a change.
Cliff Mallinder, AFC
Best Bet(s) Ever?
In 2004, I walked into my mate's house and they were putting £20 in each and picking a name out of the hat for the Euros. I went 12th out of 16 and got Greece. My girlfriend at the time was Greek-Cypriot and was delighted I had them as she was sure they would win it even though they had never before won a competitive match in any competition. As we all made our way to the pub to watch the opening game (Portugal V Greece) I walked past the bookies and for some reason decided to put my first ever football bet on. I put another £20 on Greece to win the thing (which got me a lot of loving that night, irrelevant I know but thought I would share anyway) at 160-1. Greece won that game 2-1 and the rest is history etc. but I ended up with £3,220 from that bet, not bad for a first go.
My second bet came two years later, I had put at tenner on Dean Ashton to score first and West Ham to beat Liverpool 4-3 in the FA Cup final. It was Ashton who got the first goal and it was 3-3 when Marlon Harewood had a chance to make it 4-3 in the last minute of the 90 from a corner but skied it. I would have made another few thousand from that one too.
My third bet was for Holland to win the 2008 Euros. When they thrashed France 4-1, I remember my best mate staring at me like I was some kind of prediction freak. Holland went out the next round tho.
Since 2008 I put on bets nearly every weekend but have still not won anything over £100 in the last six years. Maybe I had all my luck at the beginning and should have quit while I was ahead?
Stuart (Scotland to win the 2016 Euros) Mackenzie, Dublin
...It's 2009. Gillingham have Southend at home in the FA Cup. We're bouncing around mid-table - they only have four players out of seven on their bench. While we lost at their place the previous week, I'm confident that we can turn them over. Our attacking midfielder Curtis Weston is in a rich vein of form (the likes of which we'll never see from him again) so I stick a quid on a scorecast - Weston to score first and a 3-0 home win at 120/1 for a laugh.
Game starts and within a quarter of an hour we get a penalty. Up steps the deadly Simeon Jackson to open the scoring - he misses from the spot for the only time in his Gillingham career. Ten minutes later we score, and it's Weston with a belter from the edge of the box. As I check my bet to make sure I'd placed it correctly, we get a second, and we go in at half-time with my bet firmly on.
Fifteen minutes into the second half and Mark Bentley scores from the six-yard box in front of a baying Rainham End against his old club. 3-0, game over, but the crowd want more. Every time the Gills surge forward looking for a fourth my heart's in my mouth. The longest half-hour of my life finally ends and I bounce down Balmoral Road, the happiest anyone has ever been while inside Medway's parish boundaries.
Best football bet ever? I spent half an hour hoping that the strikers were as inept as they could be down in the doldrums in League One. Never again.
James Tong, GFC, Brighton
...Impressive from Ash, but it's got nothing on my best bet:
Fabio Quagliarella to score first and Juve to beat Chelsea 3-0 in the CL at 66/1 last season.
Best 20p I've ever spent. I feasted on Daim bars the next day, let me tell you.
Parmesh (I am a massive chihuahua) Singh
...It's 2009 and both Arsenal and Liverpool prior to playing eachother have both been involved in high-scoring games.
I have a look at the odds and 4-4 is 500-1. I have a bit of money in my account an make a few small bets. One of them being 50p on the 500-1.
Safe to say I wish I had put a bit more on that!
Chris (Is Naughton actually a professional footballer, and who mentioned his name in the same breath as the WC Squad?!? Rose is also dreadful...) THFC
...One Single, £10 Each Way, Milan Baros top scorer Euro 2004, 66/1
Told my missus I'd won £50...as is the betting man's prerogative.
Thom, (I told all and sundry to bet it too) Newport
...Football365's very own Degsy claimed an almighty assist when he picked four players to score or to score first one weekend a few seasons ago.
I did them all to score first and a £5.50 yankee became £2536.00, this was when Tevez was at West Ham, I think McCarthy might have been another, still have a copy of the slip. I have been backing his tips on and off since then so the bookies have been slowly winning it back from me, but for that one big win the man is still a genius in my book.
Worst Betting Error?
In last year's FA Cup my football team did a sweep stake and lucky me, I pulled Man City out of the bag and everybody accepted that I'd won there and then.
Cue the cup final...
We'd just finished our own match when we went to the club house to watch the game and I had a masterstroke:
If Man City won, I got £250 from the sweepstake. Therefore, if I bet £250 on Wigan to win at my local bookmakers with odds at 10/1 I'd either be quids in or I'd have lost nothing. A no-brainer, I think you'll agree.
BETTER STILL!!! The odds went up to 12/1 not long before kick-off and my very, very clever little bet would net me £3000.
However, FA Cup spirit (and a few beers) got the better of my judgement. I decided that it would be more exciting to watch the game when I actually had something riding on it. Alas, I didn't put the bet on, and Ben Watson left me stood aghast, mouth open.
The worst part was I'd told everybody my amazing idea beforehand so people starting congratulating me before I told them my terrible mistake.
£3000...still annoys me to this day.
Joe WBA (I honestly wish I was making this story up)
When Dreams Meet Bets
Just to combine two mails in the mailbox, firstly Sid (it'd be greater than Fowler coming home) LFC recalling Xabi Alonso scoring against Newcastle and Ash (Azpilicueta: Amazing. Underrated. Bargain.) London and his best bet ever. There was a chap who at the start of the 2006 season had a dream that Xabi would score from inside his half that season and so went to the bookies to get a price. The bookies said that they didn't do odds for that sort of thing, but would calculate odds for him if he put on a sufficient stake to make it worth their while, say £200, he said yes and they gave him odds of 125/1.
As mentioned in the Top 10 Xabi duly went and scored from within his own half first at Luton (can't get a clip, but the look on Gerrard's face is a picture I recall) and this chap went and picked up his £25,000 winning. It was widely said by other bookies that the odds given to this fella were absolutely shocking in relation to what he was suggesting would happen, but never-the-less he backed his dream and picked up his winning. Sounds like a better dream than G Peace. Lay off the cheese mate.
Lucky sod, nothing like that ever happens to me.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
Wenger And redknapp: Brief Encounter
G Peace's mail this morning about the dream in which Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp were in a relationship was a little bit bizarre. However, I then imagined an updated version of the film Brief Encounter, although it is hard to know which way round the characters would be. If anyone knows the iconic scene (or can look up the picture on Wikipedia), Redknapp would be Celia Johnson's character, leaning out of the window to talk to Wenger (in Trevor Howard's role). Alternatively, Redknapp could be Howard's character, stating that, "Arsene is a top top man, a triffic husband, but he's not my husband". Have I overthought this?
Ed Quoth the Raven (knew that Film Studies AS-Level would be useful one day), CPFC the Glaziers, Notts
JazGooner And Beckham: True Romance
The email this morning about the vivid dream of Arsene and Harry reminded me of one of my dreams. I dreamt over the course of several nights that I was best mates (and I mean best mates) with one David Beckham (during his ManYoo phase). It was odd because he thought I was so funny but I barely said anything. We'd just kind of hang out every day and occasionally get approached by fans, most of whom ignored me but I didn't mind as David was my mate and these were his moments. It turned out he was into the same music as me and we both liked Coen Brothers films. He really seemed awesome in the dream and when I woke up it was a bit like one of those massive anti climaxes you get when you've dreamt about winning the lottery.
Anyway, this (definitely not gay) dream I had many years ago reared its head once more in recent weeks. Now older and with my own kids it turns out my son (who is nearly four) is school friends with one of his children. Which one it is doesn't really matter as I'm not sure I could tell you. Anyway, this time we were at parents evenings and David was standing and chatting to me about how rubbish these sort of events were and how we'd rather be at the pub while Mrs JazGooner chatted nonsense to Mrs Beckham etc. It ended with me offering him my number (and asking if he was on Facebook) but before I could get his number I awoke from the dream. Bizarrely to find my son standing next to me telling me he'd wet the bed.
Perhaps someone could tell me what that dream meant? Or maybe it would be safe to avoid an explanation.