We have a long mail on where Jack Wilshere fits in for England and Arsenal. Plus, thoughts on Liverpool's poor form, Dave Whelan, and the historical county of Lancashire...
Somebody has done their research and concluded that the top teams in the Premier League concede more goals than ever before. It's interesting; it's the mails...
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How Bad Is The Commentary?
Is anyone else getting increasingly annoyed at the standard of commentary at this year's World Cup?
Personally I've been grateful for the matches that have co-incided with the Lords Test as I've been able to watch the football while tuning into Test Match Special.
Yesterday the Beeb's commentator told viewers Park Chu Young remains an Arsenal player when he was released a couple of weeks back - in this world of the interweb that wouldn't be that difficult to find out. It wasn't as if the match was crawling with Premiership players.
Over on ITV you had Clive 'Man Utd' Tydelsley who managed to make Felaini's goal all about United. I appreciate you support United Clive but the rest don't give a crap. Why can't Townsend tell him to shut the hell up?
Then we have the lazy stereotype of teams. Clive seemed to take it personally that Germany had somehow spoiled the spectacle of Ronaldo sweeping all before him when it was Portugal's player who p***ed away the chances of victory. Germany were the better team and it annoys me how their relentless machine-like play of yesteryear dogs them to this day when any fool can see they actually play brilliant football so how about giving them some credit?
Which brings us to Brazil - is it me or are they not that good? This is a country whose teams have been in the shadow of the 1970 team ever since despite winning two world cups but we're promised that no doubt they'll play samba football. They're really not that interesting and I for one would rather watch the Dutch or indeed the Deutsch.
Then there's Phil Neville who makes Alan Shearer sound interesting which I thought would be an impossible task. The other day he was also charged with telling viewers about where players were going wrong in the match he was 'analysing' which just smacked of the worst hypocrisy ever as he is one of the worst players ever to put on pair of boots and 'represent' his country at an international tournament.
My hero Patrick Vieira has been a major disappointment in that he employs the Alan Shearer trick of saying what he sees - in fact I think it's only Henry that emerges with any credit and possibly Seedorf.
...In response to Gary, London regarding baffling commentary, there is one phrase that really, really, really annoys me and it was brought out numerous times during the Belgium v Algeria match last night.
I knew it was going to start when Fellaini came on, and sure enough, Townsend didn't (or did) disappoint...
"He needs to be in and around the penalty spot."
YOU CAN'T BE IN THE PENALTY SPOT ANDY! Fellaini is a six foot something man, not a borrower!
...Have you noticed the BBC experts' new default comment for any team not winning in any match (no matter what the actual reason) - "They just need to move the ball quicker."
You'll notice it now...and get quickly p'd off.
...On the subject of baffling commentary, I was preparing some fajitas (cos Mexico) at the beginning of the Brazil game and had my back to the TV, but I swear I heard Lawro say 'I'll take two sugars in mine'.
Was some hot beverage shown on screen or did someone just come round to take a brew order?
World Cup Fantasy Football
No doubt you'll get loads of replies to Matt (Loving the World Cup despite Adrian Chiles' best efforts), Woking choosing World Cup players that currently or formerly played for one club.
Here's Liverpool (current club and country in brackets): 4-3-3
Pepe Reina (Liverpool, Spain)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool, England)
Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool, France)
Gabriel Paletta (Parma, Italy)
Kolo Toure (Liverpool, Ivory Coast)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool, England)
Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid, Spain)
Javier Mascherano (Barcelona, Argentina)
Luis Suarez (Liverpool, Uruguay)
Fernando Torres (Chelsea, Spain)
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool, England)
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool, Belgium)
Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina, Italy)
Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce, Netherlands)
Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce, Portugal)
Carl Medjani (Valenciennes, Algeria)
Sebastian Coates (Liverpool, Uruguay)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool, England)
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool, England)
Manager: Do I have to pick a manger? OK then I suppose it has to be Hodgson.
Dave Lillis, Ireland (The fact that Didier Zokora is the second-best (ex-)Spurs centre half at the World Cup says a lot about Spurs centre halves)
...Yep Matt I can pick a better team than your Spurs mob, no problem.
But then you are probably used to getting beaten by Chelsea...
Admittedly struggling for a reserve keeper, I reckon we'll cope.
...In response to Matt, Woking's World Cup fantasy club XI...
Here is my Arsenal line-up.
Robin van Persie
Cesc Fabregas (Sob...)
Subs: Park, Senderos, Djourou, AoC, Cazorla, Eduardo, Joel Campbell
Aside from the (admittedly major) issue of having no goalkeepers, this is a pretty tidy side, and quite deep too.
...Not based on fantasy football but a team of Man Utd/ex-Man Utd World Cup players...
GK: David de Gea
RB: Chris Smalling
LB: Patrice Evra
CB: Gerard Pique
CB: Phil Jones
RM: Cristiano Ronaldo
LM: Juan Mata
CM: Shinji Kagawa
CM: Paul Pogba
ST: Robin van Persie
ST: Wayne Rooney
Subs: Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Diego Forlan, Antonio Valencia, Nani, Ron-Robert Zieler, Adnan Januzaj, Marouane Fellaini
...slightly weak defensively (and Valencia is the only "defender" on the bench) but the thought of Ronaldo, van Persie, Pogba and Pique in one team makes you wonder what could have been...
Mike Coxon, HA2 via Northwich
...Re Matt, Woking: I have also done a World Cup Fantasy Football for my team, Cardiff City:
Defence: Gary Medel
Midfield: Kim Bo Kyung
Attack: Eddie Johnson
I think we're a bit short on numbers to be honest.
There's Only Three Types Of Football Left
Great topic raised by Daniel Storey and Michael from Dublin about the saturation of football information taking away from the magic of first discovery. Brazilian world cup winner Leonardo once claimed that the 1982 Selecao was the last truly Brazilian team, with the majority of the squad learning and plying their trade in Brazil.
Are there really any national/regional styles of football left anymore? I find myself holding on dearly to the idea of Tiki Taka because, despite the snoozefest, it represents a distinctly Spanish way of football, played by Spaniards raised in the Spanish game. The Italians still have some semblance of Catenaccio, but compare that to the Italy-Holland match in Euro 2000 and it's more like a child-proofed hallway rather than a bolted door. The English are too self-obsessed and split along club lines to have a discernable style (similar to Spain pre-Del Bosque). The Dutch buried Totaalvoetbal and then shat on its grave in the 2010 final.
Even the smaller nations who may have a squad that plays locally are usually coached by an experienced European/Interntaional manager, bringing with him the homogenized 'Best Practices' of modern football. I'm hoping some of the older heads of the Mailbox prove me wrong but from a nostalgic view it seems we're moving towards having about three total strategies (or 'philosophies', yeesh) of playing football globally.
Possession, Counter-Attack and High Press. Rinse and repeat, kinda sad really.
Stan (Brazil: Neymar,Oscar and 9 worker Bees) Millworth, Portland Timbers
This Brazil Side Can't Win, Can It?
Functional, hard-working and plenty of know-how with creative responsibilities falling to a couple of players. A typical Brazil team. The last remnants of 'Samba' football went with the 86 side.
The scary thing is on home soil they have enough about them to grind it out.
If a midfield that contains Ramires and Paulinho does win thIs trophy it will be a low point.
The World Cup's equivalent of Todd Hamilton winning The Open at Royal Troon in 2004. Unthinkable.
..."Jo or Fred?" or, to put it more politely, "With which hammer should I hit you in the balls Sir?".
Kev (no Eddie Davids in the Dutch team?), Dublin
Algeria: The Real Hipsters' Choice
I hope today's game will serve as evidence for my unpublished case (mail dated 10 June) that Algeria are actually the hipster's team of choice. So yes, I'm happily sipping my microbrew.
AB MUFC, the rainforest (Rio's too mainstream), Brazil
Wilmots Got It Wrong
I do agree that Fellaini did wonders coming on as a sub but much of the blame needs to fall on Marc Wilmots. That first half was terrible for Belgium. Four CBs spread along that back four made them static and slow. Vertoghen and Alderweireld gave nothing wide. I know that is probably their most talented back four but surely there is someone on that team that is a natural wide player. (Also that was a horrendous penalty to concede, the Algerian player would no way have gotten that ball.)
Witsel, Dembele and De Bruyne circled around their lone forward and, in my opinion, was far too defensive. Lukaku looked lost and Hazard, in between getting fouled, looked their brightest player but was swarmed. Chadli should not have started. Chadli should never start.
The first half felt exactly like an AVB Spurs match. A lot of possession, no width, bad shots from distance, lack of incision, a penalty kick scored the only goal, and a costly mistake by a Spurs defender.
Once Mertens came on for Chadli, they looked much, much better. They had speed up front and forwards that ran into space. Even more so when Origi came on. The pacey forwards created some space. And they got the result they needed.
But Wilmots needs to understand his opponent better. They knew they would dominate possession and have to break a defense down but it seems he chose a very defensive conservative0line up. They could throw away the first half against Algeria and win but I doubt they will have that luxury next match. But they are playing Russia so, who knows with them.
Also seems to be a lot of goals from crosses, is this ball being touted as a great crossing ball.
Why Can't We Talk About Rooney?
Sorry to drag out the Rooney debate, but I was just hoping to make a quick point. I don't understand why we're being told that we aren't allowed to criticise him? Fair enough that the England team need to keep things positive for the players, but the current line from the coaching set-up seems to suggest that he's playing really well, and that everybody saying that he isn't just wants him to fail. Do they really believe that? Wouldn't it be far more logical to at least acknowledge that Rooney has made mistakes and that the conversation around him is fair? It just comes across as denial and protection of a player that's increasingly looking like Little Lord Fauntleroy.
To me it makes more sense to acknowledge the concerns, and suggest that they still believe Rooney can turn things around - I wouldn't agree entirely, but I'd at least understand the thought process more than what they're currently saying and feel a bit more confident in the set-up, even if Rooney were to start. I'd love him to prove us all wrong. As it is it feels like they have a massive blind spot they've thrown a sheet over and told everybody not to look at. If Rooney can't play on the left, why didn't he mention that before the match? Why is it suddenly coming to light on the pitch that Rooney is unable to track a right-back? Danny Welbeck, also a striker, can do it just fine. We have too many decent options in the squad now to pretend the debate is just a personal bias.
Mark, DCFC (Also I was probably wrong about Brazil doing well, that was a pretty poor show...)
You'd Have Rooney At Full-Back Too
Let me just add one further point to Tim, London's excellent missive on Media vs Rooney. (I stress that it is predominantly media not public. The only public I've heard saying anything against Rooney so far are those who just guzzle down the redtop/Mail/Shearer-expert-punditry excrement and regurgitate it without thought.)
Rooney is the only player in the squad who is still better than the person who is dedicated to that role.
To make a point, if we had another Rooney or world-class striker feared around the world to play up front, who WOULDN'T rather see Wayne pencilled in for, say, either full-back position?
That's his curse. To be better than nearly everyone in each team he's in at their own role.
As for why he was out on the left, because that was tactically the best move: to keep him out of the tight spaces in the centre, and to put the untamed wildcard of Sterling in there to scare the bejesus out of them. And it worked for the most part.
Like when Ginola had his career ended by losing the ball in an attacking position (when he tried to score I believe), and saw the rest of his team end up conceding the goal that saw them fail to qualify, you can't go blaming forwards for the defence behind them being cack. We've complained at seeing Rooney getting too deep and defending rather than attacking, so you can't have it both ways.
Guy S (I only read them when I want to get riled myself)
Which Englishman Has Had A Good World Cup?
This mail is not about Wayne Rooney, but all the talk of 'he never plays well at World Cups' has got me wondering a couple of things.
Firstly, who is the last English player to have a really good World Cup (Nicky Butt 2002 springs to mind)?
Secondly, any suggestions for English players that have played really well at least two World Cups (Lineker '86, '90)?
The Fear And Luis Suarez
I must confess that I'm suffering from 'The Fear' regarding Luis Suarez participation on Thursday. 'The Fear' is that overwhelming certainty that you get when you are lying in bed, drunk as at least 15 unpopular uncles on Christmas Day, that you WILL be sick. You deny it to yourself internally, hell you may even vocalise it to yourself in a mumbley moan, but you WILL be sick. It's inevitable.
Now then, Luis Suarez. He's half-fit; he's playing for a team that looked distinctly spent against Costa Rica; England looked brilliant at times against Italy (with the stats backing that up)... But I have that queasy feeling that he WILL put England out (or as near as dammit) on Thursday. There's just something about the whole shebang that reminds me of Cristiano Ronaldo in '06. Now I'm well aware that England going out then was more to do with Rooney trampling Portuguese testicles like wine grapes, and England's absolute refusal to ever be even vaguely good at penalty kicks. However, it's just that in my mind I can see the gallows being erected in Fleet Street for this year's scapegoat, the effigy being stuffed into a pale blue shirt and covered with lighter fuel. And it's going to have something to do with the rabbit-toothed predator.
Luis Suarez, with his capacity for awesome football and dastardly deeds, his current standing as the best player in our league, the timing of his recovery... It's just set up for him to be the pantomime villain isn't it? It's 'The Fear' alright. I only hope that the England players don't have 'The Fear' too, especially as I really don't want my Facebook feed to be filled with those anti-footballing windbags gloating just yet. Their whinging and tiresome rugby vs football comparison pictures are bad enough already with less than a week gone, let's keep them quiet for another week or two please.
Jae, Tunbridge Wells
They're No Moyes...
"Swansea, as the opening game, for a second year in a row? I find it hard to believe that's the way the balls came out of the bag," said Louis Van Gaal...never. (Can't wait for some Blind puns next year in the PL).
...I wonder if we will see a paranoid rant from Manuel Pellegrini a la Davie Moyes about the fixture computer being biased against the Champions? Those first five fixtures for City are just as difficult as United's opening games of last season. The difference - a confidence and readiness to do the job!
Mark (Bring it on!) Stretford Blue
How We Feel Too
The World Cup has been keeping us gloriously entertained.
No-one has really missed the Premier League.
But they had to make it all about themselves with the announcement of the fixtures.