...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.
Two Great Shouts
Thoroughly enjoyed reading the F365 awards. Was a lovely way to look back over the season and reminisce over the good, bad and downright hilarious.
Only thing I feel it was missing was some sort of In honour of Zlatan 'I went left and he went to buy a hotdog' made-the-defender-look-like-a-fool best piece of trickery award. Always a favourite of mine in this world of tiki-taka passy passy possession...something.
My vote would be Seamus Coleman on Santi Cazorla (http://giant.gfycat.com/CoarsePassionateBlackbird.gif). Cazorla's reaction says it all really.
Runner up: Negredo on Michael Dawson (http://s3.amazonaws.com/br-cdn/temp_images/2013/11/24/Negredo2.gif)
Any other mailboxers have awards to add? Or alternatives to the ones awarded?
Will (come out of retirement Jay Jay) Wymant
Big Fan Of This
Thought I'd choose a hopefully-quiet Thursday morning to put forward an idea I've had to shake up some of the dross in the bottom half of the Premiership.
The bottom three go down as at present. The top three of the Championship are then promoted at their expense. However, a Minimum Points tally is then introduced for Premier League sides. Let's call it 40 points. If you fail to hit that marker, you will then have to play your equivalent in the Championship.
If this were in place for this season, we would then have had Play Off matches consisting of:
West Brom vs. Derby
Hull vs. QPR
Villa vs. Wigan
Sunderland vs. Brighton.
For those matches, you could have either two-legged ties or a one-off at Wembley - if you really wanted to, you could even turn them into your '39th' game and have them f**k off to Chicago or Lagos - with the winner staying up or being promoted accordingly.
Advantages, as far as I see it, are that you make the Championship fairer (the best 3 teams are promoted) without losing the drama of the play-offs; the dross/mediocrity of those we-just-want-to-finish-15th-and-pick-up-the-TV-money merchants (hello, Randy, hello Mike) might have to actually try a bit harder to compete; the two leagues potentially have a lot more changes each season, making them less stale and potentially spreading out the riches of the top league a little further down the ladder; the two leagues become more closely aligned as, for example, fans of Forest begin desperately hoping West Ham start to lose; and there are far fewer meaningless end-of-season games. This makes the bottom half much more exciting - 'we might be in 12th, but we still need two wins from our last five' - but also at the top: that home game for the leaders against Newcastle at the beginning of May might not - in theory - be quite so easy.
Interested to see any thoughts/objections to this.
Matt Hennessey, Arsenal
I attended a post-season friendly In Dublin yesterday evening, Shamrock Rovers v Liverpool. At the start of the game, a plane flew over with the banner "GIGGS 13 GERRARD 0 - UNITED 20".
Most fans there were totally bemused by the effort put in to troll us and a team of fringe/U-21 players. Is there any chance that we can put the whole plane banners thing to bed? I'm sure there's plenty of charities associated with United that'd be glad to get a few quid from the aviation fund instead.
Please end it. I'm starting to get scared of leaving the house, in case I get merked by more airborne banter on the way to the shops.
Surprising World Cup Stars
Inspired by the Shola Ameobi letter yesterday, I have found a fair few others who are going to Brazil, that amaze me (some may be in a 30 man squad. but I am counting them!)
Patrick Van Aanholt (PSV & Holland), Sebastian Coates (Liverpol & Uruguay), Roger Espinoza (Wigan & Honduras), Leroy Fer (Norwich & Holland), Max Gradel (St Etienne& Ivory Coast), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland & USA), Jo (Atl Minerio & Brazil), Shola Ameobi (Toon & Nigeria), Franco Di Santo (Bremen & Argentina), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea & Nigeria), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke & Nigeria), Nabil Bentelab (Spurs & Algeria)
Neil (Poor Gareth and Zlatan...) Surrey
Imagine Judging Scholes On Stats Alone
I have always been quite irked with the way football legends are born through marketing and repetition, and Wilshere's comments about Scholes being the best English midfielder of all time made me look at some stats.
Firstly, I think Scholes was a very very good player, and my objection is only to the 'bestest superbest of all time' tag. If I were to choose the best English midfielder, choosing Gerrard would be very easy.
For most of his time, Scholes was a deep lying midfielder who tried to set the tempo for his team. Now the immediate thought that comes to mind is - that means perhaps fewer goals, fewer key passes but a high number of passes at a high accuracy. Compared to that, Gerrard/Fabregas can be expected to have much fewer passes, lower accuracy, but more key passes, goals and assists. We already know Gerrad trumps Scholes on goals and assists, so lets compare their passing.
Going through WhoScored Stats (now I'm not giving stats for all years, but these are broadly averaged over the player's good years, keeping deviation in mind, so they will provide a fair sense of where the player stands):
Scholes - 60-70 passes per game, 90-92% accuracy, 1 key pass
Xavi - 100-110 passes per game, 92-94% accuracy, 2 key passes
Arteta - 80-100 passes per game, 90-92% accuracy, 0.8-1 key passes
Gerrard - 60-65 passes per game, 85% accuracy, 2.5 key passes
Fabregas (in England) - 60-70 passes per game, 85% accuracy, 3 key passes
Now my questions are these:
*If your are making 60-70 passes when you're a deep lying midfielder, are you really world class?
*If you're not a deep lying midfielder, isn't 1 key pass per game too little for a world class player?
*Now looking at this, what is the difference between Arteta and Scholes?
*Xavi makes 50% more passes, at a higher accuracy and makes double the key passes as Scholes. Why is Scholes even mentioned in the same breath as Xavi?
*Gerrard makes almost the same number of total passes, but with a 2.5 times the key passes. Isn't he more valuable?
*Fabregas, similarly, makes 3 times the key passes, from a similar number of total passes.
While I know there will be a queue of Man United fans wanting to say this is ridiculous, let me say that I will be happy to be proved wrong with a sensible argument.
However, please no talk of trophies won. One player does not win trophies alone, and if he is the kind that does, it shows in his stats.
We Just About Remember This
22 June 2006, WC Group Match, Stadion Dortmund. Japan 1, Brazil 4 (Ronaldo 45+1, 81)
F365 front page: "Fat Ron Devours Poor Japan"
Aussie Red In Singapore (Big Ron in 2002 Japorea WC...perfection, redemption, THAT HAIRCUT, take every shot early, bang, gooooaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllll)
I'd like to respond to some of the patronising s**te peddled in yesterday afternoon's mailbox. I could predict with total certainty three elements that would be included in a mail that gives the mailbox its description; "Spurs having ideas above their station" and Dave certainly didn't let me down.
1) some mention of an opinion given by some Spurs fan(s?) the writer knows, that is very probably held by a minority of fans, used as a point with which to ridicule the entirety of the fanbase. I've yet to see one Spurs fan turn their nose up at Benitez.
2) the 'widely held because it makes a good story but isn't really true' notion that Spurs have sacked their last 2 1/2 managers because Levy has petulantly demanded top 4 finishes. Harry was sacked for a 10 point capitulation to Arsenal because he stopped giving a sh*t when he thought he had the England job. AVB, by all accounts, had a near mental breakdown and as much resigned as was sacked. Plus I think we'd scored about 2 open plays goals before December. If you think Tim Sherwood is the man to guide Spurs forward you need your head examined.
3) a banterous remark about recent lack of trophies, as if to suggest that teams that haven't won trophies recently will never do so again and shouldn't even bother trying.
Why not get ideas above our station? Why settle for mediocrity and dream small? F*ck that. Tottenham no-mark Bill Nicholson made a comment about that but I can't remember what it was because Spurs haven't challenged for the league in a few years. And don't expect me to swallow the schtick that long term improvement and the ability to hold onto players will come if we "accept our place as the best of the rest". Reckon Modric and Bale wanted to go to Madrid for managerial stability and low expectations?
Ash, LFC , whom are these people that widely regard Ronaldo as "the most complete striker in the last 30 years". I'm thinking they're all under 30 years of age, as anyone older knows that that claim can only be describing one man and he's called "Marco van Basten" (6 league titles, 5 domestic cups, 2 European cups (when 2nd, 3rd and 4th didn't get you into it), 1 cup winners cup and a European championships) and he played his last game at 29. Injuries robbed us of seeing the 2 greatest number 9's of the last 30 years playing full careers.
Mark Whyte Donegal (sad face with a tear)
I probably should have sent this in on Friday to stand a greater chance of getting it published but here goes anyway. Whenever an England World Cup squad is announced my colleagues and I usually end up discussing the distinctly average players who have achieved a ridiculous number of caps i.e. Neville, P and Heskey E. Naturally, this then leads on to discussions about those giftedbetter than average players who, for whatever reason, didn't get the caps they deserved. I have finally taken this discussion to its logicalillogical conclusion and come up with an England team that totals less caps than the aforementioned lucky bar stewards.
I should say I did apply a few restrictions on myself. They should be genuinely giftedclub heroes. They aren't players who are still playing, and thus could earn more caps. They haven't had their career cut short by injury. Anyway, here's my take. I have gone for the traditional 4-4-2.
GK Nigel Spink (Aston Villa) 1 cap
As a Hammer i wanted to include Phil Parkes but his one FA Cup hardly matches up to European Cup, European Super Cup, League Cup winners medals. Part of a brilliant Villa squad and I have no idea why he wasn't given more chances. Perhaps some Villans could enlighten me.
LB Alan Kennedy (Newcastle Liverpool) 2 caps
This one I find totally baffling. He played for Liverpool, when they won everything. 5 League, 2 European Cup, 4 League Cup, 3 Charity Shields and a Texaco Cup (with the Mags) and yet two England caps!
RB Rob Jones (Liverpool) 8 caps
I know that ultimately injury finished him off but he managed 185 games for Liverpool and won an FA Cup and a League Cup before that.
CB Kevin Beattie (Ipswich Town) 9 caps
A beast of a player who could also score a few too. 1 FA Cup, 1 UEFA Cup
CB David Unsworth (Everton West Ham) 1 cap
A great player with a fierce shot and a lot of goals for a defender. 1 FA Cup.
LW Laurie Cunningham (WBA Real Madrid) 6 caps
A truly brilliant player, even has a documentary dedicated to his career. One of the rare breed of English players that went abroad and, even rarer, succeeded. I remember him tearing Manchester United a new one. 1 Liga, 2 Copa del Rey, 1 FA Cup
MF Matt Le Tissier (Southampton) 8 caps
Yes I know it's not an original choice but he was one of the best of his generation, and a few others, but England managers couldn't afford "luxury" players. Full Members Cup.
MF Alan Hudson (Chelsea Stoke City) 2 caps
A truly gifted player that probably partied a bit hard for the stuffy brigade at the FA. European Cup Winners Cup and should have had an FA Cup too but was injured for the final.
RW Stan Bowles (QPR) 5 caps
I loved watching him play on The Big Match. Another mercurial talent who enjoyed a few too many. Played 5 times for England under 3 managers, says it all really.
F Tony Cottee (West Ham Everton) 7 caps
A natural goal scorer that wasn't given a proper chance. Scored the same number of goals as Heskey in 55 less appearances. Rous Cup winner, League Cup (with Leicester) and a load of runners up medals.
F Rodney Marsh (Fulham QPR Manchester City) 9 caps
see Bowles and Hudson. 2 League Cups, 1 Charity Shield
Total 58 caps, one less than Philly Billy and 4 less than Emile.
So can anybody come up with a better list? I actually find the above list pretty depressing when you consider how bobbins England were in the 70's/80's when the majority of the above were available. Oh and for Man United fans I would have put Steve Bruce in but it would have blown my artificial limit ;)
Jonathan Wells (aka Gringo Hairpiece)
Why Don't English Clubs Take EL Seriously?
Thinking about it last night for the life of me I couldn't really work out why in England we disrespect the Europa League so much. Yes it is the poor cousin of the Champions League but it's a European trophy for feck sake!
Our media love to spin the best league in the world tag for the Premier League and degrade the Spanish League as a Spanish SPL but the best of their rest have won the Europa League 6 times out of the last 10. Our sole victory was Chelsea last season almost reluctantly using their squad strength because Rafa refused to disrespect it. If Boro and Fulham got as far as they did with resources that even their most ardent of fans would admit were limited then imagine what the better sized English squads could do. I am not saying the English teams would somehow start walking it all of a sudden but we'd certainly have more teams with a European trophy in the cabinet.
A side aiming and missing Champions League football should inherently have a squad suitable to compete in Europe, Thursday Sunday fixtures should not have an adverse effect on professionals.
...After watching last night's Europa League final (and a fair few of the matches along the way), i can safely say that any English team who think that its beneath them are idiots (especially given that the winner grabs a coveted Champions League spot next season). Sevilla's 9 month journey from the qualifying rounds to winning the thing is one of the stories of the season.
Obviously the constant change to Sunday fixtures domestically is a down side, but the competition provides some mouth-watering away days (the Portuguese, Spanish and Italian teams particularly) and a chance to see some really exciting players (Jackson Martinez, Gaitan, Rakitic, Mangala, Pogba, Mertens to name a few).
It's a competition that definitely places demands on squads over the course of the season, but after a poor start its really come into its own and it's a shame its often seen as an inconvenience