...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...
Come on people, we need more mails - we're in the hinterland here. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Erm, Can You Sort Out Tottenham's Defence Please?
I'm sure I can't be the only Spurs fan who is finding the focus on attacking football with Pochettino (if we brought back Steven Carr, would he try to drink him?) laudable but slightly missing the larger issues on the pitch last season?
In the early part of the season, we were clearly struggling to score goals with AVB in charge but were defensively tight - until we lost 3-0 to the world beaters of West Ham. The defence got ruthlessly exposed against Liverpool and City and then the ship really began sinking as Ahab Villas Boas team were not defensively tight and still couldn't score enough goals.
Cue AVB's exit and Sherwood's cameo. Under Sherwood, Spurs began scoring goals but remained defensively weak - aside from being absolutely thrashed by City and Liverpool again, we also got a hiding from Chelsea and managed to go two goals down to Southampton by playing a suicidally high defensive line.
Spurs' season was littered with defensive mistakes - Kaboul vs WBA anyone? - and frankly some of our defenders would struggle to make the team in another top-six PL side. Can anyone see Rose, Naughton or Dawson lining up for City or Liverpool? The rest of the back line were inconsistent.
I think that intention to play attacking football is all well and good but if the team can't defend well enough that this road will likely lead to another season of results like this one. Attacking football is all well and good but last season showed that Spurs aren't good enough at it to take on better teams and are too defensively fragile to deal with counter-attacks when we have midfielders forward.
Instead of going on a mission to buy every single midfielder who's on the market and will join Spurs this summer, some signings to strengthen the back line would pay dividends. If we don't get these, I can see another season of us scoring a few goals and getting steamrollered by the top four. Pochettino was beaten twice by Sherwood teams last season and lost a two-goal advantage in one of those games, which doesn't make me think that defending is high on Pochettino's agenda.
I really do hope I'm wrong but if our defence remains as dodgy as it has been this season I can see Levy preparing a shortlist in January (also, what's with the Chelsea-like managerial pressure with none of the resources?).
Spurs Are Back In 2005 Again
So, Pochettino is in at Spurs and he makes for a promising, if stiil unproven, choice. Out of the realistic candidates De Boer is at a similar stage of development albeit with four league titles behind him and a greater profile as a player. He would have been my choice ahead of Pochettino and Benitez who would probably have been the safest pair of hands for the job. A reputation for dull football and possibly a desire to stay at Napoli probably meant this option was never really a runner.
So it is to Pochettino the task of turning this underachieving, midfield-heavy squad into contenders again is given. I don't envy him the task. His first jobs are to convince Lloris to stay, sign a centre-half instead of either the limted Dawson or the perma-crocked Kaboul (think that's his full name now) and a left-back, trim the midfield (we have Sandro, Capoue, Bentaleb, Dembele, Paulinho, Holtby, Sigurdsson and Eriksen all capable of playing centre-mid) and decide whether a triumvirate of Ade/Soldado/Kane is good enough (probably not). After that he just needs to solve the Lamela riddle and we're laughing and he's Argentinian so that's that sorted, innit!
I think the overwhelming Spurs reaction is that it's not a bad appointment if a little underwhelming and there is a real sense that we have missed the boat of establishing ourselves as a regular top-four contender. Failure to sign an established striker when we were in the Champions League and challenging for 2nd/3rd in the Premier League has proved a fatal mistake and we are now behind City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as likely to be overtaken by a resurgent United under Van Gaal.
I think a success for this season for Pochettino would be to settle the squad as above, improve our under-performers, get us back to exciting football at The Lane, be in with a decent shout of top four come April/May next year and have a decent run in any of the cups/Europa League. By that I mean a semi-final at least. I think we are a couple of seasons and maybe a new stadium away from being challengers again. Back to where we were under Jol, really!
Ten Things About Ten Things About Pochettino
Dear Michael, the Chelmsford goner. Congratulations on writing a list with 10 points. Here are my responses:
1) Tell me about it, why wasn't Levy going after the likes of Ranieri, Moyes, Avram Grant etc. Managing a decent-sized team with expectation is just one attribute of many you look for in a new manager. If Pochettino was 65 and had never managed a big club, you start to wonder why...but he's not, he's 42. He's a young manager and unless you are very lucky/good and walk into a top job as your first one (e.g. Guardiola), you have to start somewhere. Ferguson, Wenger, Rodgers, Mourinho, Martinez, Pelligrini and just about every manager ever all cut their teeth at smaller clubs before finally landing big(ger) jobs.
2) Quick, quick, someone tell the Southampton board to stop their search for a new manager and save a bit of money by not appointing a new one...the once in a lifetime crop of youngsters can clearly run the team on their own!
Anyway, please see 'Ferguson, Alex: Class of '92' to start to understand why your comment makes about as much sense as Spurs spending £26m on Soldado. Having good young players is one thing, bringing them into the first team, improving them and being successful is another. The extent to which Lallana, Rodriguez, Shaw, Chambers all improved this year alone suggests that nurturing and developing young players is a forte of The Poch.
3) What were Spurs thinking?!
4) Yes, what were Spurs thinking when we appointed a manager who might have been fighting relegation had his five best players left??? Not quite following the logic here. Don't appoint a manager on the basis that if his five best players left they wouldn't have been as good?
5) He can speak English.
6) Luckily he won't be making any signings. Step forward Franco Baldini, our very own money waster (and a far better one then Pochetinno may I add).
7) Maybe yes, maybe no. I get the impression Levy may finally have realised sacking managers every 18 months isn't the way forward. Having said that, if we are seventh after 18 months, cut adrift from the top four/six and showing no signs of improvement, maybe he'll deserve to be sacked. Or we could be sixth and a few points off the top four. Need some context here...
8) I think his strategy speaks for itself - turn a mid-table PL football club (see Spurs, 2001) into a team challenging (sometimes successfully) for the top four. He's sacked a few managers, He's made some mistakes, he's sacked a few more managers, but the club Levy took over was a million miles behind the one we have today.
9) Hefty how? The support staff probably get paid in a year what Wayne Rooney earns in a week.
10) All the above is hilarious because it makes me remember why I hate Arsenal fans. Why don't you get back to your inner dilemma of whether or not you want Wenger to be sacked this week...
Another Ten Things About Ten Things ABout Pochettino
I would like to rebunk Michael (Chelmsford Gooner)'s points one by one, if I may:
1) Neither had Wenger before Arsenal. Why does a lack of top-level experience inevitably predicate future top-level failure for some people?
2) So the crop that contained Messers Walcott, Bale, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Dyer (N.) etc. existed in a parallel universe? And remind me how that particular Southampton team did. Because by your theory good youth set-up = cast-iron success (mid you, they did win League 1, which is success of a sort..)
3) An unusual point to make in an attempted character assassination.
4) If my auntie etc. Pochettino stayed at Espanyol for three seasons whilst the board progressively sold everything bar the kitchen sink from under him so why would he abandon ship at the first bit of book-balancing from Miss Liebherr?
5) Don't confuse 'can't' with 'won't'. It's quite possibly football's worst kept secret that Pochettino doesn't do interviews in English as a response to the way his foreign peers' aproximations of the English language have been summarily misconstrued by our tabloid press.
6) Granted Osvaldo didn't light the Premier League up, however his failure can be attributed to the fact that he is a complete headcase rather than lacking in talent. You also neglect to mention his other two significant signings: Wanyama, who was a solid addition to their squad, and Lovren, who was a very shrewd signing indeed.
7) Again, if my auntie etc.. Admittedly you don't need to be a clairvoyant to predict Levy getting an itchy trigger finger if Pochettino underwhelms. But essentially, nobody knows how he'll do, even if they're descended from Nostradamus himself.
8) I believe Levy's strategy is very clear - world domination. Or, more specifically, Champions League qualification. Whether or not this is realistic will become clear once Pochettino gets to work with the 100million plus-worth of talent lying mostly unused in a Training Centre in Enfield.
9) Anyone is better than the Sherwood coaching cabal (sorry Sir Les, but you do have a baffling phobia of defensive midfielders)
10) Well, after doing the Wenger Hokey-Cokey all season I imagine you are like most Arsenal fans and confused by your recent achievement of silverware, so I will allow you to laugh at your inestimable clairvoyance.
Alex, THFC Manchester (Sorry Southampton)
This Bloke Only Gets To Seven And Then Gives Up
Well, Michael (Chelmsford Gooner), allow me to first point out what we're not thinking.
1) That it matters that he hasn't 'managed a decent sized team with expectation'. Neither did Rodgers or Martinez, to name but two, and they seem to have worked out pretty well.
2) That the only reason he did well was a 'once in a lifetime crop of youngsters'. The same youngsters that, to a man, give him immense credit for aiding their development over the last 18 months, and who didn't seem to do particularly well under Adkins.
3) Probably agree with this one, not just attractive but sensible and intelligent. Also very highly regarded in Spain.
4) That this is at all relevant.
5) That (given that he speaks fluent English) he can't speak English. He's not bringing his translator with him, by the way.
6) That he can do worse than spending nearly £60m on Lamela/Soldado.
7) That...actually, can't really argue with this one.
What we are thinking is that he's a forward-thinking, tactically astute manager who will develop both our team structure and play, and develop and improve individual players. That he understands the league and the mentality of PL players, and is an astute man manager. It may not be the loudest or brashest of appointments, but that is precisely what we need. What is best for us is to quietly get on with things this summer, as sensibly and pragmatically as possible. Pochettino ticks every single box we need him to, which makes it a wholly sensible appointment.
Alex G, THFC
Diego Simeone: Has Impossible Hair
With the obvious boost in media coverage of Diego Simeone, after his triumphal season with Atletico, I was amazed to notice during the Champions League final he has an impossible hair style. That slick of greasy yet stylish hair seems on the face of it pretty normal. That is until Diego turns around and you realise it is exactly the same! Slick backwards toward the front. This is in fact impossible, how can you comb both the fringe back and the top forward? If he had a matching face on the back of his head you wouldn't be able to to tell which way round he was. It simply defies hairbrushing science; one wonders if it maybe holds the key to his startling success.
Credit To The FA
Is now a good time to get some real credit to our dear FA? (GASP!)
Their decision two years ago to hand the job to safe-hands Hodgson was brave in the face of pretty overwhelming media and public support for Harry. I think everyone believed that when he skipped out of the courthouse with a cheeky smile and an air of invincibility he was likely skipping all the way over the FA headquarters to sign a big juicy contract.
Instead, the FA uncharacteristically took the sensible option rather than the one doused in gamble and intrigue that they typically favour. Hodgson saw that England sauntered through a World Cup group of pretty standard difficulty with a batch of players in transition and considered unworthy of their golden generation predecessors, his controlled demeanour clearly impacting on the players in convincing low-key wins over Montenegro and Poland to see out the campaign.
Along with this Hodgson has shown a noble commitment to bringing through England's young stars in what will be his only shot at a world cup, while the management of fan expectation is another feather in his cap. Ashley Cole's cheerful well wishes in response to his omission says everything about what Roy brings to the table. I can't remember an England camp so unite before a major tournament.
Of course this could be read as more of an ode to Hodgson then the FA, but given the stick they rightly get for their handling of, well, virtually everything, I think they deserve great credit for a decision that was a slap in the face to the rabid and potentially destructive press.
Liking The Look Of France
With the World Cup just around the corner International friendlies have become as exciting as league play for me. On tap yesterday was France vs Norway.
What a job Didier Deschamps has done with the national team. After what could only be described as an embarrassing display of egos in 2010 Les Bleus looked like a well-organised machine playing as one. The omission of Samir Nasri was no doubt a risk, but it also sent out a no-nonsense message that will be heeded by youth and veterans like. The likes of Ribery and Evra should consider themselves lucky to be on the plane.
With the wealth of talent at Deschamps disposal the one player who France will look to bring home glory is Paul Pogba. In the first half Pogba was at the center of everything going well for France. It is shocking that Manchester United let him slip from under their red noses. Maybe Ferguson should have spent less time looking a Jordan Henderson gait and more time on youth team. It would have been interesting to see if United would have struggled as much as they did this season if they had him in the middle of the park.
As long as they stay clear of injuries, Les Bleus look to have the right combination of youth and experience to go far in this tournament.
Brian (Ghana will get out of their group! Come on Black Stars) LFC
Can You Handle It?
With the time of the year it is and the speculation of who is in negotiations with who there is one transfer rumour that I hope doesn't come true. Nothing to do with a player being overpriced, overrated or not needed, the rumour I am most concerned with is Emre Can to Liverpool.
As a Liverpool fan I should be excited about the prospect of securing one of German football's most highly rated youngsters but there is one thing that is bothering me. The puns. Imagine what the papers are going to come up with. Upon signing and mentioning any sort of ambition towards winning something, 'we CAN do it'. Liverpool lose a game, 'no they CANt'. As it's all the rage lately, if Liverpool forget to throw a bash for his birthday, 'no CAN do'. Or as my mate brilliantly suggested, he scores two and Suarez gets one in a 3-0 game - 'Anything LOU can do EMRE CAN do better'.
Doing the Can Can, Dublin
A Surreal, Humbling E-Mail
I don't think it's news to anyone that there are a number of words misused by footballers or in those in the football industry - 'surreal' and 'literally' spring to mind (winning a trophy would be surreal if, for example, a man skipped onto the pitch at full time with a fish stapled to a monkey sat on his head - you simply mean it is unlike anything you have experienced before).
As a pedant I need to share a new gripe - 'humbling'.
Usage: Usually after receiving a huge ovation from the crowd: "It was really humbling to get that reception."
What this literally translates as: "I feel less important and/or proud due to this event."
I'm pretty sure having thousands of people singing my praises on an almost semi-religious level wouldn't be humbling in the slightest. Neither would be receiving an award from fellow professional sportsmen, most of which are the polar opposite of humble. In fact, it would be the opposite - I would walk off with the buzz that such disproportionate adulation would give you. I wouldn't be crawling back sheepishly, feeling less important/proud by the experience.
I can't see this change catching on, but good to get this important issue out into the open.
Famous Football Mates
In response to Rob's mail this morning. I was in the same county youth set-up as a current England international and continued to play on a weekend with a lot of lads he had known his whole life.
He broke through in the professional ranks very early and he remained grounded for a long, long time.
It seemed as though overnight, the matchday tickets that had previously been reserved for his mates started getting given to a large number of skanks from the city in which he played.
Every summer he used to go away with all of his childhood mates but as he became more integrated with his teammates and aforementioned skanks, they saw him less and less.
The final straw came when he promised them use of his foreign property and upon arrival they found it occupied (once again by his harem) leaving them with nowhere to go.
They do not speak to him anymore.
Living the dream or behavior of a c**t?
Jim, Bali (Ronaldo is that good he can do whatever he wants)
...In response to Rob's email from this morning regarding footballing mates I can't say that I have had any, but I know of one famous Liverpool player from the 90's (naming no names) who apparently changed after hitting the big time.
Some of the stories of this guy's douchebaggery are legendary in these parts, such as the time when a fan tried to shake his hand on a night out in town and he pulled his hand away in disgust, like that melted bloke from Robocop was trying to lunge at him. Or the time when a guy went over to him to ask for an autograph for his son and said player told him to 'f**k off'. Or the time after Liverpool had lost at home to Coventry in April 97, basically throwing the league title away in the process; the story with this one goes that a bunch of Liverpool fans went to a trendy bar in Liverpool to drown their sorrows after the game. The player walks in that night and goes over to the bar, one of the Liverpool fans is stood at the bar next to the player and turns round and says 'bloody hell *****, what happened there lad? Can't believe we lost that match!' to which the player replied 'I don't give a f**k, I'm on 20 grand a week'.
I could go on, but I haven't got all day! Anyway, the point is I know a bloke who grew up in the same street as this player, and said that when he was young he was very polite, very friendly and generally an all-round good egg, but as soon as he joined Liverpool he became a bellend and a half.
I'm sure there are worse stories than this out there, but I would like to think that if it was me I would remain grounded and show some respect to the fans.