...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
Torres will score the winner in the showdown at Anfield and cost Liverpool the league title.
As a Liverpool fan I don't know how much more I can take of United/Chelsea fans complaining the amount of penalties we've been given this season. The referees might not always make the right decision in the box but fact is we spend so much time attacking the other teams penalty area so we're bound to win more of these decisions. You never hear of a team getting too many free kicks over the course of the season...
Manjo (if I had to suffer through Mourinho or Moyes running my team I'd probably be just as bitter) LFC
There has been great discussion recently about Liverpool's supposed luck with the referees and penalties. Some would have us think that either Liverpool have been very lucky, or there is a grand conspiracy designed to being the title back Anfield. I'm not sure either is true. Lets play Rafa and look at some facts.
First, what I'm calling "Penalty difference (PD)".
Liverpool: Awarded 12, conceded 4. PD = 8
Manchester City: Awarded ,7 conceded 1. PD = 6
Chelsea: Awarded 7, conceded 0. PD = 7
Not a huge amount between them.
Now, lets look historically at the highest number of penalties in the league. Where there was a tie, I've gone with the highest PD.
2012/13: Chelsea, 11 (penalty difference of 10)
2011/12: Manchester United, 11 (PD of 8)
2010/11: Manchester City, 9 (PD of 5)
2009/10: Chelsea, 12 (PD of 7)
2008/09: Manchester City, 7 (PD of 3)
2007/08: Tottenham, 7 (PD of 6)
2006/07: Arsenal, 10 (PD of 8)
2005/06: Crystal Palace (!), 12 (PD of 7)
So have Liverpool had an abnormal number of penalties? It's high, but not what you'd call statistically significant. Is their PD high? Yes, but again, it's not abnormal compared with what has gone before.
Why so many penalties? It's very simple, they play very attacking, very quick football. They force teams into making mistakes because they're terrified of what is coming at them. Teams that attack and score lots of goals will win penalties. From my memory (which may be rose tinted) I can't remember any outrageous penalty decisions given to Liverpool. They've mainly been stonewallers or "I've seen them given." If I'm wrong about that though, feel free to correct me.
Mike, On a train (Hence the free time for this statistical nonsense), LFC.
If ever there was proof that decisions/luck even themselves out over a season, surely the Liverpool v Man City games this year prove it. Back in December Liverpool were angered by a dodgy offside call and a possible penalty as the lost 2-1 to City.
Yesterday, City could easily have had two penalties (Sakhos challenge and Skrtel handball) and Suarez should probably have been sent off for that pathetic dive. But these decisions went their way and they won 3-2. It could therefore be argued that the decisions/results balanced themselves out over the two games.
This is not to detract from Liverpool's performance. They played like they have all year, fearless attacking with pace. A great team to watch and while they might not be my first choice to win the Premiership, if they do, it will be thoroughly deserved and I will be extremely pleased for Steven Gerrard above all.
Seán, AFC, Dublin
'Nick LFC Berlin's' e mail with regard to Suarez 'evading the challenge' perfectly sums up perfectly why I have fallen out of love with the game.
Football unfortunately has become a game which revolves around the importance of exaggerating contact and adopting the 'dark arts' in order to gain an advantage. I can't watch games without becoming increasingly frustrated at endless acts of cheating. These tactics have been utilised by the players for some years now. What is apparent though, is a shift in the way British pundits refer these instances in their analysis, after Gary Neville broke this taboo issue a couple of years ago.
For example Niall Quinn's criticising Dzeko for not going to ground sooner than he did in the penalty appeal with Sakho. Pundits are increasingly highlighting these issues in this manor to prove that their viewpoints are not outdated and are in tune with modern football. The nature of this analysis, in turn, revolving around 'contact' and having the 'right to go down' influences the fans viewpoints about these issues. Unfortunately we have created an irreversible shift in which the culture of cheating in football is not only accepted, but encouraged.
In my opinion Sakho's challenge was awful, but he barely touched Dzeko and didn't affect his balance, so it wasn't a penalty. Likewise Suarez's ridiculous dive should have received a yellow card. But maybe I'm a footballing dinosaur who doesn't understand the nuances of the modern game.
Pete Chapman (I would start watching a proper man's game like rugby - but it's completely sh1t)
Wolves On The Up
Can I just say after 3 years of heartache it was a wonderful afternoon in Crewe on Saturday as we clinched promotion.
We've got a common sense manager and a team full of youth, talent, hunger and some cracking beards. Well done to all involved for restoring the faith and giving us all something to enjoy.
This is our love and it knows no division.
Reputations Should Only Get You So Far
In response to David M on his staunch defence of Arsene Wenger, I will quote Eddie Murphy, Raw..... "What have you done for me lately?"
This whole English obsession with reputations, careers and status really grinds my gears because when people don't perform, it gives apologists an excuse. "He was brilliant once, therefore he will be brilliant again", utter, utter sh*te.
This is the same reason why Ashley Cole was picked for England for years. Rather than wake up to the fact that he can't kick the skin off a rice pudding, people always used his reputation to "prove" how good he was, "he's a great defender" they would always say as he makes his 50th last ditch tackle followed by a "cross" that hits the first man. It's the same reason Fat Frank was picked for England for years... reputation, "he scored loads in the premiership, ergo he WILL produce for England".
So I think reputations count for nothing you need to continually earn it, also see Rooney, W.
Therefore, using reputation to defend Wenger is pure fallacy. Typical British nostalgia. In what other club, or indeed walk of life would a manager who has performed so poorly over the years (ie not won anything) still be in control of his own destiny? Where would a performance review be so readily ignored? Do the owners at Arsenal not know anything about football? or are they just so committed to making money (like spurs) that it is to the detriment of success?
Whenever do you see Spurs or Arsenal players "Not for sale"? Never, this is a reason why neither of those clubs will ever make a positive impression in the top four again. Unless they change owners of course.
Sorry spurs fans, didn't mean to drag you into that, but the point stands. Do you want to make money? or do you want to make success?
Fat Man Scouse, EFC
United Fans In A Pit Of Despair
I can't be the only person who has thought long and hard about the irony of Sir Alex Ferguson retiring and then 12 months later Liverpool potentially win the Premier League title and beginning their ascent back onto the perch that the great man once knocked them off.
This season has been a total disaster in every conceivable way, Liverpool and United have traded fortunes in the most drastic of fashions, our title winning squad has been brutally exposed to the extent that it must be overhauled, our hopes of playing in the champions league have gone and we have a manager in charge whose lack of credentials are becoming increasingly exposed. Ferguson's retirement has allowed the rest of the league some breathing space and has changed the entire dynamic of the club. I now worry that not only are we set to see its arch rivals win their first domestic title in god knows how long but also that United seem set for a period of mediocrity, managed by a man who sets low standards and garners very little faith in his players.
I imagine Liverpool fans will bathe in their successes which have come at the cost of our failures in such a dramatic and ironic twist of fate. Enjoy its guys and relish it, I know I did.
...26 years ago, one man came into my club with a clear objective and drive - "to knock Liverpool off their f**king perch".
Today, our man in charge -
"We need to make sure we are hard to beat"
"Liverpool come here as favourites"
"we aspire to be at the same level and standard of Man City"
and my personal favourite -
"I actually think if Sir Alex had been here this year it would difficult for him too"
United are going backwards with a fool at the helm, and to top it all off Liverpool are gonna win the b*stard league.
On Newcastle's Woes
Ah well, another sackless performance from our flip-flop sporting heroes. But can I actually blame them? Newcastle players were tasked/incentivised with finishing in the top 10, which it looks like they have done. Pardew was tasked with getting a top ten finish, which he looks to have done. At the beginning of the season, most Geordies (well from the ones I spoke to, who aren't the lunatic fringe) would have been happy with a top 10 finish.
So why are is everyone so unhappy? We are unlikely to usurp the top 7 teams (Manchester x 2, Liverpool x 2, North London x 2 and Chelsea). So that leaves us the chance to finish 8th-17th. Southampton have played some really nice stuff this season (but get no where near the grief we do for being where they are because they have a couple of Englishmen) and have most recently thrashed us out of our Bermuda shorts. So that leaves us in 9th. Does that not seem a fair refection of where we should be?
We sold the one genuine world class player we owned in January (for a £15 million profit) and at times have been missing the entire spine of Krul, Colocini, Cabaye and Remy. Also add to the equation the recent injuries to Debuchy and Sissoko (2 French internationals) and is it any surprise we are in dog s**t form? And don't get me started on Ben Arfa. If he starts he is paggered by 60minutes and has been marked out of the game, if he comes on he runs a bit and does nowt but frustrate his team mates and the fans. Admittedly, he does look good on Match Of The Day so what do I know...
I am no Ashley apologist, I think the clubs disregard for any ideas about glory or success in favour of profit are against the idea of sport, but he owns the club and does what he thinks is best for business (Like HHH in the WWE without the entertainment) and not for one minute do I accept the absolute ass-kickings that have been handed out to us, especially by Sunderland. But what are we to do?
And to the fella who was asking on Friday, we have seahorses on our crest as we have close links to the river and sea. It's a heraldic thing.
Paul (we also have a little castle with a lion holding a flag), Newcastle
Like 10,000 Spoons
Is it not somewhat ironic that with the undermining and devaluing of the domestic cup competitions, as we reach the business end of the Premier League season we are now being told by teams at both ends of the table that they have "4 cup finals" left this season?
Richard, Norwich fan (have you seen our run-in etc etc), London
Right To Celebrate
Sorry to talk Arsenal the day after two stormers and an ominously drab win made for such a great day of football, but I can't help myself.
First off, and I'll try to keep this brief before you dismiss me as a card-carrying member of the tin-foil hat society, just because Arsenal fans are increasingly paranoid, doesn't mean some people aren't out to get us. The performance on Saturday rightly inspired criticism - Nick Miller's article was pretty spot on - but the ridicule from certain corners of the players' response to getting to the final after the extreme tension of a penalty shoot-out was preposterous trolling. One blogger who was leading the charge of contempt questioned whether we'd have been as touchy had we lost, apparently unaware that he got so much grief because he chose to specifically mock us in victory. The perplexed, wounded tale of woe is every bit as much the troll's M.O. as the ridiculous hatchet job.
Anyway, like I said, there's plenty to criticise the performance for now that my heart rate has dropped and the elation of a Cup Final appearance has diminished somewhat. Liverpool's rise is in damning contrast to our predicament. You can't ignore our injuries but what's missing in our game was highlighted by Liverpool's high-energy start, their attacking inventiveness, and a determination to make set pieces count (though on the flip side, a referee could blow for a penalty any time their opponent sends a corner into the box on the safe assumption that Mrtn Skrtl is committing an offence). Suarez and Sturridge weren't that effective, but that Liverpool can call on them while we have an unbelievably inexperienced work in progress as our backup plan is also ludicrous.
It's clear that a change is needed at the club, and most of us have given up hope that it can happen under Wenger. For all the fear that his going might lead to a Moyes-esque transition, just look at the effect a young, switched on manager like Rodgers and Martinez can have on a good squad. With our squad and finances, there's plenty of reason to be optimistic. That's not to say Wenger is no longer a good manager, but things get stale, and a new challenge could reinvigorate him. Odds of 25/1 for him to be the next permanent manager of Barcelona look awfully long to me. Winning the Cup wouldn't be the perfect send off, but it would be pretty close.
Long-time reader, first time writing in. It has recently dawned on me that much of the praise attributed to Raheem Sterling is based on his positional flexibility and his ability to combine effectively with Liverpool's other attackers in a number of different positions. At various points this season he has played at number 10 (most recently), left side of attack, right side of attack and even as a wing back.
I see this as a contradiction of the opinion surrounding Utd's two incumbent centre halves, Smalling and Jones. Jones in particular seems to have been shunted around various positions in Utd's defence, and has even played a role in midfield if i recall correctly. Having not shined (that I recall) in any of the additional roles which he has been tasked to play in, Moyes seems reluctant to play him at centre half though he is seen to be the long term heir to Vidic.
The point I am trying to make I suppose is that is it OK to experiment with an offensive player across a number of positions, but no so with a defensive player? Is versatility not as desired in defensive players as it is in offensive minded players?
Paul, LFC, Ireland.