Liverpool fans are seemingly resigned to slipping back into mediocrity, which in September isn't exactly ideal. Plus better Arsenal, Allardyce praise and an excited Saint...
That's the message from a Man United fan in the mailbox. Plus, thoughts on Paul Lambert's new contract, the Alan Pardew dilemma at Newcastle and lots more...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mignolet The Reason For Liverpool's Success
Liverpool's rise this season is down to one player - Simon Mignolet. Or to be precise Simon Mignolet's inadequacies.
Brendan Rodgers has quite rightly been praised for creating a new tactic and formation to blow teams away and move away from the possession-focused football of last season to one of high-speed attacking football which focuses more on the actual business of scoring goals. However I believe the trigger for this was not a realisation that possession is less important than goals but actually the change in goalkeeper.
Pepe Reina is a superb footballer - and by that I mean a goalkeeper who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet. He was perfectly suited to that style of play for last season. This season he has been replaced by Simon Mignolet and, at the start of the season, Mignolet failed to recreate the comfort felt by all when he had the ball at his feet. His pass completion was terrible, he looked nervous with balls played back to him and was prone to errors being caused by this. Brendan (to his credit) noticed this and decided that the possession based play could not continue without a keeper who could perform this role - as actually the keeper being comfortable with the ball at his feet is one of the most important cogs in the possession based machine. Therefore he changed to suit Mignolet's strengths - quick distribution out of hand to start the attacks and to pile pressure on the top end.
With there being no need to sit deep and pass back to a keeper who could not deal with it, Brendan decided to press high up the pitch and focus on getting the other teams to press them into the kind of mistakes that his defence and keeper were making at the beginning of the season. This has in turn changed Liverpool into one of the most ferocious, attacking and exciting teams to watch as they focus on the attack and keeping the ball away from their keeper.
So, there it is (I think) - the real reason Liverpool are the swashbuckling, attacking delight of the second half of the season. Simon Mignolet's inability to pass the ball around.
Mark, ITFC, Cambridge (Playoffs? We are in dreamland!)
Incredible Commitment To Humble Pie
I make a lot of notes in my phone. Anything and everything that I feel is something I want to remember, but am likely to forget, gets jotted down. Of course this means that every year or two I have to have a clear out of a load of old information which has become useless or irrelevant to me. While doing this, I discovered a note I had forgotten about: a list of LFC-related F365 mailbox quotes which I thought would come back to haunt their authors, written between March 2012 and January 2013 (at which point I regrettably seem to have stopped making such notes).
On 03/09/12 Daniel Benvenuto, a man so ridiculously negative and pessimistic that he really should not call himself a Liverpool supporter, called us a 'mid-table club with mid-table owners and a very mid-table manager'. I very much wish I had saved more of Daniel's quotes, such has been his ongoing refusal to believe that the club has been heading in the right direction (as recently as last month, I seem to recall). I hope Daniel now accepts how wrong he has been.
On 29/10/12 Chris, Hampshire, said Raheem Sterling would end up at a mid-table club and 'will not be good enough to compete with the best in the world'. Care to revise this prediction Chris?
On 04/01/13 Mark Hillman said, regarding the arrival of Daniel Sturridge, 'basically it is the chance to be a big fish in what is, let's be honest, a small footballing pond - or even backwater if things such as quality of play, class of player, potential and, you know, that whole 'trophy' thang are all taken into into [sic]'. Of course I don't want to jump the gun, as we have not won anything yet this season, but the trophy 'thang' was still a strange comment to make a mere 10 months after our last one. I'm sure Mark will agree that, even if we finish third this season, he was wrong to call us a 'backwater' with regard to trophies, and especially about the class of our players and our potential.
Finally, and most magnificently, on 14/03/12 Gary Vance, MUFC, stated 'if Jordan Henderson turns into an above average player I'll get a tattoo of 'YNWA' on my trousersnake'. Might I recommend Royal Ink, on Breck Road, Anfield?
That was fun. I wish I had made more notes over the last couple of years. There must be many mailbox contributors out there who are equally deserving of a slice of humble pie.
Kieran Garrard, Liverpool
Pulis Great, But Not MOTY
Tony Pulis is a fine manager. He really is. He gets castigated for getting his teams to play overly physical, one dimensional football. But the truth is, he's a very astute man. He appreciates tactics and knows that he can't get the limited set of players he has/had at Palace and Stoke to play "gorgeous" football and so tries to set them up to get the best out of them. Great management.
Is he manager of the year? No.
Not while Rodgers and Martinez are in the running.
I appreciate I could be considered biased saying Rodgers should get that honour. But going from 7th to title contenders is unprecedented in England since the inception of the Premier League (feel dirty not recognising what came before but the money did really change the dynamics of what was possible). Similar has been done on the continent, Juve and Dortmund spring immediately to mind, but what Rodgers has done has to recognised.
Martinez has got a solid team who flirted with the idea of maybe, perhaps, possibly breaking into the top 4 playing like genuine contenders. And the football they play is wonderful, have you seen them? Jesus, they're almost as good as us. Plus he's a proper gent.
It sounds patronising but it's easier to make significant progress in the bottom half of the table. Conversely, it's ridiculously difficult going from 7th to 4th, let alone 1st.
While it's right to praise any progress, comparatively what Pulis has done isn't as impressive as what Rodgers and Martinez have done. That is why he would finish a strong 3rd next to them.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
Arteta Ain't Much Cop
In response to Aaron, Singaporean Gooner, I believe your self-stated "irrational love" for Arteta may be heavily clouding your judgement.
Before I start in earnest I would say that I genuinely like Arteta, I think he's decent, he does an OK job, and everyone loves a handsome tryer. However, being effectively a sub-par Carrick is not good enough for a team with any designs on the title. Creating space for the defence to give you the ball and then passing it sideways, or transiting play as you put it, along with putting a few tackles in, is the absolute bare minimum a DM should aspire to - in fact any half decent footballer should be able to do that.
These days Arteta is neither astute enough going forward, nor strong enough defensively to justify his continued regular first team place. You state yourself that he can be "rather exposed" when coming up against the big guns; what better reason is there for his replacement and the argument that he really should only be starting 5-8 games a season?
Arteta has served us very well over the past few seasons, and I'm grateful for that, but look at Matic or Fernandinho, he's absolutely nowhere near them. Arsenal require a genuine quality specialist DM, rather than a someone who was forced to play there because he's getting on/not as good as the other attacking midfielders - and until they get that, they'll struggle to win that elusive title.
Michael, AFC (Crawley)
Excited About England
Is anyone else looking at the form of some future England players and getting a teeny weeny bit excited? Stones and Barkley for Everton look like great prospects. Then there's Lallanna, Shaw, Rodriguez, and Chambers for Southampton.
If Jones and Smalling can cement a spot as first choice centre backs at Man Utd next season and realise their potential that would be brilliant.
There's some obvious shouts at Liverpool too; Sterling, Sturridge, Flanagan, Henderson. Walcott is still only 25 (!). Ince and Zaha might realise their potential and do some exciting stuff with the ball too? Kane might come good at Spurs too?
It's England, so I'll never expect to win much, but considering all the doom and gloom regarding foreign players ruining our national game it's not looking terrible is it? I know most of these are 'hopefuls' but at least there's hope.
Nick P, Burnley FC.
I might be wrong, but watching the 'el clasico' last night, and watching Barca play, as always, with makeshift central defenders, I realised that the last time they signed a central defender was nearly five years ago, when they splunked £25m on Dmytro Chygrynskiy.
What Happened At Walsall?
Did everyone else read Tom (92 Pies) Dickinsons mail and wonder what God awful thing must have happened to him at Walsall?
Chris ITFC, (The neutrals favourite to make and win the playoffs) Liverpool
People were asking in this morning's mailbox what kind of "magic" was under Tony Pulis's cap?
The opposition's team sheet, apparently.
David Aina, Croydon
Likes And Dislikes
I started to write an email in which I was going to rank all 92 league clubs in order (like Tom Dickinson this morning) but with a small descriptor of why they are where they are in my list. However I quickly realised I have no real thoughts or feelings on quite a few teams, so instead I did a 'Top 10 likes' and a 'Top 10 dislikes'. So here goes it:
Top 10 'likes'
1, Newcastle United (My club, my love, my passion since 1989....or indeed it used to be. My current apathy towards everything my club stands for is slightly un-nerving. I'm not even angry anymore, still it is 'my club' and always will be)
2, Carlisle United (Always been my favourite 'local' lower division side, try to get to Brunton Park or twice a season)
3, Blackpool (Cracking away day/weekend. Proper old club with a great history. Oyston Out!)
4, Tranmere Rovers (I have liked them ever since I saw Newcastle draw 6.6 there in the early 90's, shame they have lived in the shadows of local giants for so long)
5, Sheffield Wednesday (I have a good mate who is an owl, again a proper club with a great old stadium)
6, Nottingham Forest (Always liked them as a club (other than Ian Woan that is) I loved Brian Clough)
7, Everton (A club of the people, much like my club used to be. They do things the 'right way')
8, York (Local-ish support, glad to see Nigel Worthington has a decent side there this season)
9, Crewe Alexandra (I love everything this great club does and stands for, youth development is the lifeblood of football. Dario is/was the man)
10, Manchester City (my great-uncle played for them in the 60's, so City (pre the Sheikhs) were always favourites of my family. A club that was a lot like Newcastle in my opinion, our fans seemed to share an affinity once upon a time)
Top 10 'dislikes'
83, MK Dons (Not a real club. Pete Winkelman scares me A LOT)
84, Blackburn Rovers (8th April 1996. Graham Fenton. Enough said)
85, Leeds United (Ridsdale. O'Leary. Bowyer...a once great club brought to its knees due to chronic mismanagement. Good riddance too)
86, Aston Villa (A club that I had no real feelings for until the day we got relegated there 2009. The Villa fans were truly twatfull that day and I will never forget it. I hope they get relegated)
87, Manchester United (Jealousy mainly, stopped us from being champions. Dominated English football nearly my whole life)
88, Chelsea (Worst fans in football, oil money, John Terry - I hate just about everything they stand for)
89, Stoke City (.......what can I say? My hatred of this club is all most irrational. But I really HATE this club)
90, Hull City (Roughest place I've ever been, grim town and a grimmer football club. Should stick to egg chasing)
91, Middlesbrough (Horrible club, horrible fans, horrible place, just horrible)
92, Sunderland (For obvious reasons, I could into a 5 or 6 paragraph rant but I won't)
Why hate Spurs?
Quite surprised to see a Bolton fan stick Tottenham in 89th place in his list of the 92 league clubs.
God knows what Spurs have done to upset Bolton, but i'd have thought that the bond between the two clubs created by the Fabrice Muamba incident might have meant something.
Spurs fans chanted his name and have welcomed him back warmly to White Hart Lane since then. Basic humanity you might say, but still an emotional moment between the two clubs.
So i think it's a shame that Tom (92 pies) Dickinson obviously thinks we're a bunch of bastards.
For my part i don't dislike Bolton at all. I see it more like Rick in Casablanca, when asked 'Do you hate me Rick.'
'If i ever gave you any thought, i probably would.'
Rob Davies, THFC (Respect for all the 92 except the Woolwich and Chelsea)