That's one question posed in the afternoon mailbox, although it looks like the Japanese playmaker could soon be on his way. Plus, tipping Palace to go down under Warnock...
Plenty of fall out from Manchester United's shambolic 4-0 League Cup defeat, plus thoughts on Van Persie, Arsenal strikers, Benik Afobe, Celtic and Astroturf...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Townsend Has To Follow A Certain Someone's Example
I see in today's gossip Andros Townsend is being linked with a move away from Spurs after a 2014 to mainly forget thus far. I can see plenty of similarities with his career and another England player.
In a nutshell:
- Player goes from top 4 club on loan for the second half of the following season, and the loan is very successful.
- Player comes back to parent club, where Andre Villas-Boas is manager, and AVB puts his faith in the player, putting him on the right-wing ahead of more experienced players.
- Player has a superb first half of the season, culminating in a maiden England call up at the age of 22.
- Player goes on to impress for England, winning the man-of-the-match award in one of his first two caps.
- AVB gets sacked, player is subsequently marginalised for the rest of the season, and is on the lookout for another club to get more game time.
Who is the other player? Clue: He was the 2nd top scorer in the Premier League this season.
Now the onus is on Mr Townsend himself to show he's not "Dross" at all, and to prove to his doubters, like a certain other Englishman, that he can indeed cut it at the highest level.
La Liga Finale
Can anybody ever remember a more finely-balanced, last day title decider than the one at Camp Nou tomorrow? With Barca, at home, having to win, while Ateltico can afford a draw, I really cannot call it! I'd quite like to see Atletico end the El Clasico domination of the league, but while Barcelona have seemingly been pretty poor in recent weeks, they've been allowed to hang around in the title race, and I can't help but think that late miss against Malaga may come back to haunt Atletico.
Oh and I'm going to it too, which is nice.
Tom - MUFC (Cheshire)
He'll Take That
I think Stanger is half-right on Hazard. He is definitely a player who should give more - his tangible contribution is less than it should be given his talent. But he's only half right in that I think the issue is less about defending, and more about taking more attacking responsibility and delivering more going forward. His goals and assists record simply isn't good enough, and in too many games he goes missing. When he does step up and take responsibility he's a real game-changer - as he was in the most successful middle-period of the season for Chelsea. But if he wants to be at the Messi and Ronaldo level he needs to take that level of effectiveness up a notch or two and then do it consistently all season.
That said, it would have been fair to say all the same things about Suarez last season; or indeed Ronaldo just before his breakthrough season at Utd. If Hazard makes a similar step up (and I think exactly the same could be said of Oscar, and to an extent Willian and Schurrle) then we're in for exciting times at Chelsea.
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, London
The Big Match
Quick heads up on a big match at the weekend, no not Arsenal v Hull, Cambridge United v Gateshead.
I was going to write in during the season when the U's were roaring away at the top of the league going 16 games unbeaten but I know the way teams capitulate when they are praised in the Mailbox so I decided to keep my counsel. I may as well have though as Luton went on one of those daft end of season runs that anyone can rarely keep up with and were quite rightly promoted automatically.
Anyway, it's been 10 years since Cambridge have been in the football league, and at one point looked like they could go down another league after being placed in administration. They also had to contend with my own youth team club Histon for bragging rights for a while, but following the 2-1 aggregate defeat of Halifax in the playoffs they now have a chance to get back to where the team and The Abbey belong in my humble opinion. I still have a picture of me getting given a trophy by the awesome John Beck, he of sodden balls and ridiculously sugary tea for the away side, the original route one manager. I also have no team to follow in League 2 what with Bristol Rovers going down, so if they swap places then a balance will have been restored
As mentioned previously in the mailbox Luke Chadwick plays for them. Come on, what's not to like about that story?
So, graciously I'll offer Gateshead good luck, but whilst most will be paying attention to the game on Saturday, my brownie points have been saved up for Super Sunday and my local publican promised (despite his laughter) to put it on the main screen. Ipswich let me down, again, hopefully the season will end on a high note. Come on you U's!, bouncing in 3,2,1...
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
As it is Friday I thought I would submit a flight of fancy for the MC's and mailboxes consideration. I was listening to talkSPORT last night and they were talking about Greg Dyke's plan for a B league and how it is great for the six or so clubs already at the top of the league but a bit of a kick in the gooch for the other 86 teams. They also mention how much money Southampton received for finshing mid table and how it was more than Man United received last season for winning the thing.
So...how about flipping it on its head. Whichever team is promoted through the playoffs receives the most prize money, whoever finishes second in the Championship receives the next most and so on until the Champions receive a nominal (in terms of the EPL) amount. This would keep teams competitive every year and stop massive splurging by the top six just to remain the status quo and could give smaller clubs a real boost. Do they retain most of the money and hope to survive relegation? Or go for all out to qualify for Europe? This would make a mockery of the Championship and none of the top six would go for it but it would make for some interesting seasons.
This will not work, it is merely a Friday Flight of Fancy. Please do not flame me.
Mannix (Boro fan)
Peter G - how were Sunderland the most fouled team in the division? I suspect the answer is that Adam Johnson is very, very kickable.
Nathan (AFC, Melbourne) suggests that the 3rd placed team in the Championship should go directly into the playoff final because finishing 3rd should be rewarded more than finishing 6th. He uses the points spread of 13 between Derby and Brighton as part of his evidence that Derby would deserve this kind of bye.
It's a shame that he's only looked at the Championship in making this suggestion. In League One this season, 1 point separated 3rd to 5th, with only goal difference between 3rd and 4th. Why should goal difference dictate that Leyton Orient get a bye to the playoff final, whilst Rotherham need to win 2 more games to get there?
Oh, and Rotherham finished a massive 19 points ahead of Sheffield Utd, the 7th placed team who would be included in Nathan's proposed format. Surely that's even more unfair than the Championship's current 13 point spread?!It's a similar story in League Two: 5 points covering the current playoff places of 4th to 7th, but 10 between 5th and 8th in the proposed format.
A quick look at last season's tables saw the playoff positions covered by 9 points in the Championship, 5 points in League One, and 7 points in League Two. The 13 point spread in this year's Championship is the anomaly, and shouldn't be a reason to tinker with the system unnecessarily.
Rob, AFC, London and cursing his friends for having the temerity to get married tomorrow of all days.
World Cup Woe
So everyone's getting in the world cup mood now, and rightly so. Brazil, Samba, thongs....oh yeah, count me in. However, could I just drop in a warning here that no-one seems to have noticed. With thirty two teams participating across eight groups, that makes 48 mostly dead-rubber games we'll have to endure in the first two weeks. Take a moment, as I did, to read through that fixture list and mark off the games you'll actually sit down and watch. Opening match - Sure, England's three games - of course, maybe check out Brazil's other two games, and...er...Germany v Portugal seems tasty on paper but are they going to go at each other hell for leather that early in the tournament when they both know they'll qualify easily? Ditto Spain v Holland? I seem to remember Brazil playing Portugal in the groups four years ago and that didn't exactly turn out to be a classic.
What's supposed to be the greatest show on earth has, for about half of its duration, turned into the equivalent of the Champions League group stages. For any given match, no one apart from the fans of the two teams involved will be watching. We'll just be drumming our fingers waiting for the unpleasantness to be over with so that we can get down to the real action. I'm hopeful that half empty stadiums for the likes of Honduras v Switzerland or South Korea v Algeria might persuade FIFA to reconsider this bloated behemoth they've created. But of course that would require a rational person with integrity and not the useless human blancmange we've got.
More Rooney Debate
Some interesting emails being thrown around in the mailbox on one Mr Wayne Rooney.
I'd say he is really that good a player. I do fear, though, that he's a tad complacent and has been for a number of years. If you think about it, he hit the scene fairly suddenly with Everton. Flew straight into the Utd team and even at 20 years old was seen as a world-beater. I have no doubt in my mind that Rooney probably didn't see himself as needing to improve after this and so he's just sat at a fairly consistent level ever since. I don't think there's anyone you could blame, if this was the case, other than Wayne himself. It's more likely a reflection of someone fairly content with their current position...and who could blame him? Not that I'm condoning his mindset - I'm just thinking it's probably an inevitable result for a young lad thrown into his position.
Either way - I'd still start Sturridge up front against Italy instead.
Phil Pearce, London
...In reply to Paul White's email (Hi Paul), enquiring about what do non Englangers think about Wayne Rooney. As an Irishman, I think you should count your blessings you have him.
38 international goals in 89 games. Only 10 of these goals coming in friendlies. He is a first class striker. Without him, you would be left with Sturridge and a combo of Lambert, Carroll, Defoe with possibly Rodriguez. After that, you are down to Gary Hooper et al.
I often read about people complaining that he never does it in the big tournaments, but its worth remembering, your chances of being there would be greatly diminished. 23 of these goals have been in qualifiers.
A lot has been said about judging players on their stats this week, but watch Rooney play. He is Englands talisman and to my mind, best player. He is only 28, enjoy him while you can. Because when he is gone, you will miss him.I have not even mentioned his club record, which is excellent also.
You may not like his attitude, or the way he has gone about his business, but he remains your best hope. Finally, he qualifies for the Irish team also so it all could have been so different.
...I nodded along this morning in agreement about Rooney; it mirrors what I've said all season. Silvio Dante has often seemed a little OTT and bitter with his Rooney criticism but this year he is finally spot on.
I spoke to a Liverpool supporting friend recently and said I'd happily see the back of Rooney and wish him the good luck elsewhere. He said I was an idiot and United would be nowhere without him this year. I said 7th is pretty much nowhere anyway isn't it?
The problem with Rooney is that he wants to play as a 10 but Mata and Kagawa are better in that position. His best seasons have come upfront or on the left. He's a striker but he lacks positional discipline of RVP.
Too much has been made of him running around and being fitter than before. This is the bare minimum expectation and smacks of the Chris Rock "I look after my kids" sketch. The willingness to bow to his every demand has made him complacent and robbed us of seeing him truly reach the very top of the game. He gets a man of the match award for everyone of those cross field balls he does and nobody asks why he is that deep in the first place (and it's not because of a weak midfield).
Ultimately I think him leaving would be best for everybody: he gets a new challenge that may make him a better player, United lose a player who is in many ways a hinderance.
...Wayne Rooney is the fourth highest scorer in premier league history, scoring at a rate of about a goal every other game. Next season he will definitely move up to third, and quite possibly to second. Loathe as I am to attribute too much weight to the 'assist' stat, he's also fourth on that list in the Premier League. He is the third highest scorer in Manchester United history and the fifth highest scorer for the English national team. And at 28, he's got the chance to top both lists by the end of his career. Whatever way you look at it, that's pretty damn impressive. Someone asked how we'd view him if he wasn't English - well I think it's a scoring record that parallels quite nicely with someone like Raul, another player who burst onto the scene as a teenager and scored consistently, year after year, for the rest of his career.
That's not to say that he's fulfilled his potential, or that he's the same player he used to be in his early days at Everton and United. I actually think that what really changed things was the injury he picked up before the world cup in 06, the metatarsal break, and then the subsequent fall-out at that year's tournament. He turned into a bit of a different player then - still a very good one, but with a game based more on vision and finishing as opposed to the burst of pace and power that beat players for fun in those early years. He's also quite clearly something of a slacker when it comes to looking after himself and preparing correctly off the field. Plus he's seems like a bit of a d*ck.
But the fact remains that when Rooney plays, he's more likely than not to either score or create a goal. And he's been that way for ten years straight in top flight, European and international football. Perhaps we were spoiled by what might have been, but he's clearly still a very effective player.