...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 email@example.com
The Magic Hat
Does anyone know where Tony Pulis gets these (magic) hats, and do they work for life management as they do for the football equivalent?
John Ed, LFC, Ireland
An Ode To Tony
An ode to Tony Pulis, entitled: 'Sorry & Thankyou'
Sorry for scoffing your appointment and calling you a "thuggish, one-eyed dinosaur."
Sorry for making fun of your tactics, your cap, and Cameron Jerome.
Sorry for losing my proverbial shit when you loaned out Johnny Williams and José Campaña.
Sorry for saying that I'd rather be quickly relegated playing football under Holloway, than slowly relegated playing rugby under you.
Thankyou for defying every expert and securing our survival, with 4 games to spare.
Thankyou for somehow managing to turn a defence with Scott Dann and Damien Delaney, into the second-best in the division.
Thankyou for restoring Yannick Bolasie to the starting line up.
Thankyou, finally, for showing up John Terry a few weeks ago. If Liverpool win the title, they really should be thanking you (him)
Daniel (I tweeted Matt Stanger and Nick Miller, advising that they switch over from the City - Sunderland game, to Everton - Palace, for the final six minutes. I'm sure they took heed. CPFC, London
Manager Of The Year
Let's end the manager of the season debate quickly. Crystal Palce pre Pulis, 4 points 11 games. Post Pulis, 36 points, 23 games. Players who played last night who already at the club when Pulis arrived - 9. Players who were part of the team who finished 6th in the Championship last season - 5.
Which ever way you look at it, Pulis has done an incredible job with largely the same team that were cut adrift when he arrived, and a core of players who were part of the Championship team, favourites for relegation at the start of last season. Surely this is what management is about, improving players beyond all recognition and any reasonable expectation.
Terrance (still cant beleive we have won 4 on the bounce) Turner
...So another season in the Premier League beckons, at the 5th time of asking we have managed to stay in the division and we are doing it comfortably. This is all very weird. I just hope we don't dilute what we have down at Selhurst, the atmosphere and match going experience is not that of the Premier League and that is why I love it. I love our old fashioned stadium, cobbled together with bits of corrugated iron and patches of wooden seats. It still feels like football so I hope we don't lose that.
Someone needs to check under that baseball cap though, he must be hiding something under there, some sort of cross between Ratatouille, Brain and Crang from the Turtles, controlling Pulis and turning him in to some sort of footballing wizard villain. How long will it be until we see Moyes or Wenger turning out in a cap?
With Liverpool and City still to come to Selhurst, I would put some money on Chelsea for the title.
11th?! How the f*ck did that happen?
Arsene And Tony
I think Arsene Wenger should take some credit for the Crystal Palace wins of late.
Arsenal travel to Chelsea, get spanked, Tony Pulis uses the opposite tactics and CP win.
Arsenal travel to Everton, get spanked, Tony Pulis uses the opposite tactics and CP win.
Clearly Wenger is just showing his mate Tony what not to do. Such a good friend!
Seán, AFC, Dublin
City: Laughing Stock
I've got to say, even though MCFC have had a wealthy owner since 2008, they are still a laughing stock.
One lucky league title, an FA Cup and League Cup is a shocking return for the money spent in 6 seasons.
They should have walked away with the league for the last three seasons with their squad.
Well as they say, you can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig.
In Praise Of Vito
After his howler at the Etihad may have cost his team a chance at survival, let me get a word of praise in for Vito Mannone. Take a look at the WhoScored.com ratings. Scroll down to find the top-rated keeper. That's right, it's Vito Mannone. And it's not a fluke. He has been outstanding all season, making very few errors, making lots and lots of fine saves, keeping Sunderland in several games on his own. He has the best saves-to-minutes ratio in the league, even ahead of David Marshall. In fact, he's one of the great success stories of the season, emerging from third-choice obscurity at Arsenal to be the one real star on his team. It's a huge shame he had to pick that highly visible moment to make one of his very few mistakes. I hope he gets remembered for the rest of his season, not this game.
PeterG, Pennsylvania, USA
City: Bottle Jobs?
I'm not sure if this question has been posed before in the mailbox, but are Man City just a team of bottlers, a team of chokers if you will?
Working my way back from memory, my evidence to to back this up would be the game at Anfield last week after pulling it back to 2-2, the FA Cup semi final against Wigan, the Cup Final against Wigan last season and lets not forget they nearly blew the league title if it weren't for AGUEERRROOOOO. Yes, I know they didn't blow it that day but they were at home to QPR and against 10 men for a large part.
I wouldn't include any champions league games in this as they were beaten by stronger sides recently.
Jimmy (Stop trying to nick Arsenal's title as top bottlers) Spain
Before I start on City, the mail on Giroud was hilarious and spot on (Brett (I can't deny that his goal yesterday was unreal though), AFC), and I thought the F365 post-match analysis of both City and Palace was excellent.
City have been a great outfit this season, and really slick when firing on all cylinders, but I can't help but think Pellegrini has been to blame for the really costly defeats (including by continuing to use Garcia, Dzeko - who are, on the whole, donkeys). The defeats earlier in the season we understandable, but we failed to rise to the occasion at Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona.....and er Wigan (again), and Sunderland, (again). Pellegrini made bad decisions at crucial times, often on matchday. He gets the big picture right (generally) but plenty of smaller mistakes by neglecting the defensive unit, making poor substitutions and little tactical imagination. I like him on the whole and I want him to get another couple of years to build something, because there have been glimpses of brilliance.
Without Yaya and Silva (by far our 2 best players this season), one thing City lack is imagination. To be overly reliant on Yaya and Silva seems odd given the depth in the squad. You look at the likes of Januzaj, Sterling and Sturridge being blooded through successfully at our neighbours and wonder why we don't even attempt to do the same through our youth system. I think we needed the big spend to break into the top 4 - football is a competition after all and our presence has shaken up the league. But with news today that we pay our first team more than any other athletes on earth, surely we can attempt to bring down the wage bill and introduce some unpredictability to our play at the same time.
I was kidding myself when I thought we could recover and go on to win it after the sad defeat at Liverpool, but now it looks like it will be close, but not enough. I'm hoping that the Aguerooo moment is not a once in a lifetime reward for putting up with 'typical' city year after year.
I'd take Liverpool as Champions over Chelsea at this stage. Jose is a grim individual and if Liverpool can do 14 wins in a row then it's hard to argue they wouldn't deserve it.
James (Moyes In!)
Arteta: Unsung Hero
The Giroud thing has been done to death over the past few days so I won't go into that. What I will touch upon though is someone who's somewhat of an unsung hero - Arteta.
I will admit that I have a somewhat irrational love for the DM position. Not the sort that puts in reducers a la De Jong or Tiote, but the sort that transits play from defence out to the flanks or the more advanced midfielders.
That is precisely what Arteta does and this importance of this job shouldn't be understated by any means. Our first choice centre backs of Koscielny and Mertesacker are not the most incisive of passers (Vermaelen is actually much better at this aspect), so Arteta provides them that outlet from the back. He almost always running to give teammates an available option - this works as well when our fullbacks receive the ball while tightly marked.
Is Arteta the second coming of Vieira? Obviously not, but I deeply appreciate the fluidity that he injects into our play when we have possession. Yes, Flamini provides bite and crunch to that area of the park, but our buildup tends to slow down and involve more long balls when he's preferred to Arteta.
I thought Arteta put in another excellent performance against West Ham, this just 3 days after playing 120 minutes and scoring a crucial penalty in the semifinal against Wigan. Though he can be rather exposed when up against the really big guns, he still deserves a lot of credit for the consistently high levels of performance he puts in week in week out. He more than deserves his place in our starting lineup and he certainly deserves more than the 5-8 games as Brett, AFC suggests.
Aaron, Singaporean Gooner
As really it's a kind of Friday how about an immature Friday question? I was watching the El Clasico last night and after Bale's goal my girlfriend asked - Is Bale faster than Sterling?
I would presume not but if we were in the playground I would love to see which of the two running styles would get to the fence first.
Bale or Sterling?
Jimmy (Little legs or long?) Ludgvan
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 were 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
Dealing With Diving
One of football's main challenges is the constant focus on the man rolling around in agony after somebody tried to get an eyelash off his cheek (the meme of the netballer with the head wound playing on next to a footballer on the ground comes to mind).
The problem is players overreact to fouls to ensure action is taken, and so there's an incentive to be as elaborate as possible in response to an incident (though I'm yet to see interpretative dance as a response, to be fair).
I'm therefore wondering whether a solution would be to amend the laws of the game so that an action by a player that would otherwise be a foul is play-on if the reaction of the fouled player is disproportionate to the infringement.
Yes, it's very subjective, but referees are required to evaluate and apply various other laws, so it will be about proper training etc for officials.
You can keep the booking for simulation, but what this approach does is add a middle ground where an official can refuse a free kick while also not needing to book for simulation, and hence not "ruining the spectacle" etc - he can simply wave play on and when confronted by an angry player politely respond with - "So, you seem healthy enough to jump up and down on that broken ankle now?".
It may also lead to positive peer pressure from team mates - you wouldn't want to be responsible for sacrificing a stonewall penalty/direct free-kick because you thought you needed an extra rotation in your dismount.
Dave, LFC, Sydney
Don't Lose Your Heads At The Boleyn
Graham Simmons asks Hammers to be more patient and stick with Big Fat Sam because he will guarantee Premiership football until the new stadium arrives. To me that's everything that's wrong with English football and has been for a number of years.
Forgive me for being a Neanderthal but what I would like to see is players that aren't scared of the ball, a team that attack and defend as a unit and having a general game plan when in possession of the football. Too much? As a last resort the keeper can be used to then 'UP THE O's' it down the pitch to the opposition centre back.
It's the complete lack of team work and idea's, and this with his first choice line up. This wasn't the 4-6-0 formation used to thrash the spuds when injury ravaged us early in the season, this is the team he has been hoping to use since last August!
Although being a Goon I can see why you would want teams like West Ham to not get any better after seeing Arsenal's results against the top 6 this year.
Steve (The 'West Ham way' is an urban myth) Coatsworth
Bale Goal: Overrated
After watching the Copa del Rey final last night, I think there needs to be a rethink over the word 'Wondergoal'.
Bale, a former sprinter, running past Bartra, not a former sprinter, and taking three hefty touches in the box while Pinto, not sure if he's a former sprinter, stayed on his line and then let Bale poke it past him at the near post when there was no way he was going to try a far post shot isn't a wondergoal, in my opinion.
Also, why is Ronaldo wearing a suit and a hat? You're a father, for god's sake.
Alex (not even slightly a Barca fan) Meehan
The 92 Club
In reply to Chris's email about neutrality and ranking the 92 I thought I'd give it a go as an esteemed member of the 92 Club myself. It's just my personal preference having encountered the fans/stadium/atmosphere at each club (but the list is also 100% scientifically accurate).
1. Bolton (my team, obviously wouldn't be up here otherwise)
11. West Brom
13. Bristol City
15. AFC Wimbledon
16. Leyton Orient
21. West Ham
27. Dag & Red
28. Sheff Utd
29. Sheff Wed
30. Notts County
40. Crystal Palace
44. Aston Villa
45. Nottingham Forest
57. Man Utd
67. Port Vale
68. Bristol Rovers
69. Man City
78. MK Dons
Hey look, Liverpool sneaked into the top 90! Well done lads, I knew you can do it.
Tom (92 Pies) Dickinson