The debate over the importance of pre-season continues, including a league table from last season for stats fans. Plus travelling to watch your team and Blackpool...
We have some conclusions from Louis van Gaal's perfect start, plus a dismissal of fantasy football, worries about La Liga's greediness and thoughts on Real with Ham-ez...
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Disappointing Teams (From Today's Poll)
Well let me see, first of there is Russia, I didn't watch any of their games, i couldn't put myself through it, and so I was proved right. I have also heard Capello has only won one of his last 8 world cup games. Uninspiring at best. Isnt he paid a fortune? Disappointment level 2 out of 5.
Then there is Portugal, I thought these boys were meant to be good, look at the team, C Ron, Pepe, Coentrao, Meireles, Nani, all won the Champions League,
Moutinho won the Europa league, and im not sure about the rest. But still, look excellent on paper. But if you struggle to beat N. Ireland then there has to be issues. And as for Pepe, what an idiot. I hope the Portuguese press are getting on at him the way the English press did with Beckham. So again, a disappointment? Not sure, I dont think so. Disappointment level 1 / 5.
Next is Spain, thank all that is good and great that they got spanked. For do I hate tap tap tap, tap tap tap. Then they don't even play De Gea in the final game, wheres the forward thinking there? I remember watching the Confederations cup final, they were dreadful. Brazil shone like a light, but Neymar dived and feigned injury throughout the tournament. Great to see him change his ways, and so quickly. Anyway back to Spain, as much as I don't like them, too many poor performers to name them, so yes they really disappointed me. Disappointment level 3 / 5.
England, I cant decide if its the hype or what or just Roy Hodgson, but yes they disappointed me greatly, mainly the uninspiring midfield, I think if it had been stronger then the defence and Rooney/Sturridge would have looked alot better. And why did the Ox not play? and what was the point of bringing Rickie Lambert ahead of Andy Carroll? purely as a case of if Sturridge and Rooney get injured then maybe we can bring him on. Pointless. Surely better to mix things up a bit when things aren't going well. Sure by the end of the Costa Rica game, who was on but Rooney and Gerrard to try and force the win. OMG IT DIDNT WORK the first 2 games, its not going to work now. Disappointment of Hodgson - 5 out of 5. Disappointment of the players - 2 out of 5, gives average - 3.5.
Finally, Italy. They are not even in the tournament, yet somehow I feel they can win it! They were a major disappointment, I had been so looking forward to watching Pirlo, Buffon, Balotelli, and co. And even watch a bit of this guy Immobile. But nope, utter pants, and it makes my blood boil as I had been looking forward to watching them for many weeks now. oh well. So disappointment level of 5 out of 5.
Time to vote, Italy it is.
That First Claim Is BOLD
John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott. What do these guys have in common? Well, firstly, all of them would obviously have been an improvement on the players starting in their positions for England this summer. Secondly, they were all born in and around London. This got me thinking, how well represented is the capital in the current England squad? The only London born player who can consider himself really first choice for England is Glen Johnson. The next closest thing is Raheem Sterling, born in Jamaica but raised in North West London.
Even in the squad as a whole, you're looking at Frank Lampard, (probably played his last game for England vs Costa Rica), Jack Wilshere, (somehow behind Jordan Henderson in the pecking order), and Chris Smalling, (probably last choice in central defence and at right back).
Think about the best England players of recent times. Even ignoring the guys I mentioned earlier, you're looking at Tony Adams, Ian Wright, Sol Campbell, Paul Ince, Teddy Sheringham, David Beckham.. They were all born either in or nearby the capital. Go further back in time and you'll find World Cup winners like Jimmy Greaves, George Cohen, and Bobby Moore! It's often said that West Ham won the World Cup in 1966, not England.
For me, the conclusion is obvious. Look at Chile, for example. They are one of the teams performing furthest above expectations at this World Cup. Their star players, Eduardo Vargas, Claudio Bravo, Arturo Vidal, Gary Medel, were all born in or near the capital, Santigao. The same goes for the winners of our group, Costa Rica. Keylor Navas, Christian Bolaños, Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell all hail from the Costa Rican capital, San Jose.
A pattern is emerging.
Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against the north of England, or any part of England, all I'm doing is pointing out a trend and saying that, if we want to shake off the tag of perennial underachievers, maybe we should start looking towards our capital for the core of our national team in future. I mean, it seems obvious, no?
Tom, London, obviously.
A Sad Saint
Let me start by saying that I'm a Southampton fan who is very proud of what my team achieved last season. Our joint highest position ever in the Premier league, a record points total, nationwide recognition for an exciting brand of football and continental if not global recognition of the team's ability to develop talented, grounded young players who get genuine opportunities to play first team football in possibly the most competitive league in the world. Of the five most expensive teenagers ever sold in the UK, Southampton account for four of them, assuming that Luke Shaw passes his medical and agrees personal terms at United.
Now, while these are undoubtedly reasons to be proud of one's team, and given that it was only a few years ago that I found myself in tears following our relegation to league 1, part of me thinks that I should feel nothing but joy given our current standing in the Premier League and the financial security the club has compared to the dark days of Rupert Lowe. But seeing as at times last season Europe looked like a not-unrealistic target, the sale of two of our best players (and keeping hold of Schneiderlin, Lovren and Lallana is looking increasingly unlikely too), the loss of a very good manager and the recruitment of a man who, while a legend as a player, has a very average record as a manager, has left me feeling very down. At the start of the summer part of me believed that we could keep Pochettino and all our star players and make a real push to break into the elite mini-league at the top of the PL; it's the hope that kills you.
A Manchester United friend of mine tried to console me by pointing out that in a few weeks we would probably have at least £60 million pounds to spend on new players and all of our Premier League money could go straight into the club, further stabilising it for the long term, but the strength of the team over the last few seasons was its unity. The players constantly talked about team spirit and togetherness and we have seen that keeping a happy team together is far more important than spending big money on big players (Osvaldo). Moreover, having money available is only any good when a manager knows how to spend it.
All the rumours surrounding our new signings have been based around players based in the Dutch league (predictably) but we've seen over the years that imports from Holland are hit and miss to say the least. If I had my way I'd have us try and buy up as many promising young British players as possible (Gayle, Ince, Caulker and so on) and try and ensure that the England manager gets himself a season ticket at St Mary's again next season.
I feel so mixed up right now that I don't even really know what point I'm trying to make. I guess my question for the mailbox is this; would you rather your team do things in a creditable, respectable manner as Saints do only to see your players leave for bigger clubs, or would you rather they achieve success, regardless of the means?
Lee, SFC, ambivalent in Southampton
Value Can Only Be Judged In Hindsight
The reality about transfer fees is that they matter only at two points in time - when the player is being signed, and when the player becomes a failure. Does anyone really care, now, how much Ashley Cole was signed for or ,say, what agent fees the Yaya Toure or Hazard transfers included. The point is that 33 million for a teenage left-back is perhaps attrociously high, even after deducting English premium and yet that will only be spoken of in the future only if Luke Shaw is a failure like Andy Carroll.
Three examples to illustrate this:
1) Rio Ferdinand cost an incredibly high fee when he was signed and yet after all these years, no one thinks of it that way.
2) Jordan Henderson was signed for 15M-ish and then when he failed early on, people clamoured to say it was very high and all that and when he stopped failing, no one seemed to bother anymore.
3) Gareth Bale - Same as Henderson
Value of a transfer, it seems, is not success measured proportional to the transfer fee. All is matters is whether he succeeds or fails.
Bala (Next season is our season) MUFC
Ranking The Last 16 On 'Likeness'
16. Uruguay - Well yeah. Forlan's a top bloke, but the rest I wouldn't miss.
15. Greece - I've got no beef with Greece, they're just a bit boring. I'd rather have Ivory Coast. I've got an inexplicable soft spot for Gervinho
14. Nigeria - I'll spare them the platitudes of being called 'plucky' and admit I've not seen them play...
13. Switzerland - Another team I don't mind so much, I'm just not attached to them. Bit boring. That player refusing to go down in the last minute was very likeable, though, so they've got potential.
12. France - A good team, just not particularly likeable. There's nobody there that I'm really pushing for. Play some good stuff though.
11. Algeria - A likeable win over South Korea (that I again missed, grr...) but they're all a bit anonymous to me. Still, a decently likeable side that are on the up.
10. Belgium - Similar to France really. They've been a bit frustrating to watch, a team that can seem a bit less than the sum of their parts. They've got the potential to light things up though.
9. Brazil - Too much mediocrity letting them down, and Ramires. I'm on the fence with this one - I want to like them more than I do. I like Neymar, which is quite new for me, and a few others. Solid mid table likeability.
8. Germany - Thomas Muller's behaviour knocked them down a bit, but Germany are still a likeable and entertaining side for me.
7. Argentina - Argentina are a brilliantly entertaining side at full stride, and have some very likeable players in their midst (Messi, Aguero and Zabaleta in particular), but they suffer at other more consistently likeable squads. No Tevez helps.
6. USA - Have played with spirit and lack of fear (something England could learn from..), have their tactics down pat, the USA have been a great surprise and one of the more likeable squads in the cup.
5. Costa Rica- Have shown brilliant tenacity coming out of a group they were universally written out of (even moreso than the USA), I'd love to see them go further.
4. Netherlands - Getting to the big boys now. Netherlands have been lights out fun to watch, and I'd love to see them finally lift a World Cup. Robben is one of the best players on the planet and a joy to watch.
3. Colombia - I've unfortunately only seen one Colombia match, vs. Japan, but it sold them to me. Positive, entertaining, fast and furious. The goals were fabulous, and they've not allowed the loss of Falcao to temper their performance. Great stuff.
2. Mexico - I've loved watching Mexico. They remained positive and persistent against Cameroon and Croatia, made Brazil work, and have shown wonderful enthusiasm after scoring some great goals. Their manager is a brilliant nutcase and wins the Most Likeable Manager award easily.
1. Chile - Easy really. They're everything I like about football. Players that shine in a team, playing above the sum of their parts. Positive, clever, technically excellent, fun to watch, play to their strengths. Unafraid to take on teams of a higher stature, and haven't yet resorted to 'the dark arts' too much (keep an eye on Medel though...) Come on Chile!
Son, You've Let Me Down
Since you're listing World Cup let-downs can I give a dishonourable mention to Son Heung-Min please?
Did nothing of note in a hardworking but fairly vanilla Korean side and I was really looking forward to getting a glimpse of the player we've heard so much about. Boo.
The gossip column's headline "Arsenal revisit Bender".
Every time Arsenal and Bender are in the same sentence, my first reaction is "why are they trying to keep Bendtner" and then realise my mistake.
Can't imagine the horror actual Arsenal fans feel.
Ismail (Bending Rodriguez) Laher
Misleading headline of the day: 'How close did Ronaldo come to winning WC?' - Mediawatch, F365.
It was, as ever, a cracking read, but I was left disappointed at the lack of toilet-related japery.
Non-Football Mail Of The Day
Says Andy B, RFC. "If you go for a bite it's below the belt". I wholeheartedly agree.
We see enough of that in Non-Football Story Of The Day anyway.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool