Are pre-season tours really a problem? Liverpool went to Australia last summer and it didn't prevent them from having a good season. Plus, thoughts on LvG and keepers...
We have a long mail about the travails of supporting Spurs, plus Friday thoughts on Marko Marin, marketing, victory v beauty, travelling and vanishing sprays...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Replacing Suarez By Not Replacing Suarez
With all signs point to Suarez being off to Barcelona (which is really great for the footballing world because he will flourish in their system) the question becomes how/with who will Liverpool replace someone like Suarez. Judging by the names being linked it seems that Liverpool will not try for a like-for-like replacement.
Rodgers will instead change his system. Rodgers has demonstrated in his two seasons that his formation and his ideology are not reliant upon each other. There has been concern over the lack of defensive signing. A wholesale change at the back is not the answer. With a change in the system, and given that Rodgers likes industrial players, you will see the defense have more support than last year and the goals-against ratio drop sharply this season.
With the core of Rodgers' team normalized to his 'philosophy' the addition of seven or more players this transfer window will not require the bedding in time that plagued Spurs last season.
The loss of Suarez will be huge for not only for Liverpool but also for everyone who watches the Premier League but he is only a joy to watch when he is playing. This is a massive opportunity for Liverpool to cement their stay in the upper echelon of football while also securing their future.
Brian (anyone else notice how Spanish football is a lot like the WWE with Barcelona now turning heel) LFC
A Wholesale Change At The Back IS The Answer
Just a quick line on Adam Lallana. I think he's a great signing for us. Obviously a little pricey because of the English player premium but I think he's going to slot into the team really well. We've done well to trim the budget over the past few seasons, and we can afford to spent a little more on players like Lallana who will add depth to the squad and buy into Rodgers' mentality and system.
As for who to buy next, I think if we can get Sanchez as part of the Suarez deal, that would be dandy. It might be optimistic, but he'd have the star quality to replace Suarez and has shown with Chile that he can work well in a pacy, hard-working team. I hear rumours of Shaqiri and Markovic and I think they'd both be great signings but let's buy some bloody defenders eh? A left-back, a right-back and a commanding centre-half will probably cost 30-40 million, so I hope after all these attacking midfielders have been bought we still have enough to afford the defensive changes that are definitely required.
Seems silly to talk about it whilst the World Cup is on, but I can't wait for the new season!
Joe, LFC, Washington DC
Welcome To Arsenal's World
Just a quick word to all the Liverpool fans out there.
If you thought Arsenal's infamous £40,000,000.01 offer last season was an insult, or derisory, or disrespectful or just downright inappropriate.
Can I just say that now, following on from the words of praise and support from the Barcelona Sporting Director towards Suarez, and Suarez's now obvious desire to move to Barcelona - that you my friends, haven't seen anything yet!
By the end of this summer you will be begging Arsenal to make another one of their +1p offers!
Jamie (At least when you sell bitey you can surely get Sanchez thrown in to the deal?...That is unless you are still prefer Suarez to Messi, Ronaldo, Sanchez or anyone else in the world?!) AFC
Phil, Paul And A Good Ol' Narrative
Speaking of both Paul Pogba, ITV and BBC putting their own narrative on everything 'cuz its more simples than finkin' proper, innit'...I switched over from watching the France Equador match on RTE during a quiet passage of play in what was a fairly quiet and uneventful match and Phil Neville was doing co-commentary. No idea who the commentator-commentator was but after a nice bit of midfield play by Pogba, the commentator began to give the dourer of the Neville brethren a wee nudge and a probe about how in the name of all that is sweet and holy did United let a player like Pogba leave the club. What with you would suppose would be the Philster's inside knowledge and all, it was an obvious line of co-comm-chat that would take place at some stage during the game.
Neville's response? Something along the lines of 'well, these things always get messy when the agents get involved, don't they? Said with the airs and tone of voice of a man who's souffle had just been farted on.
Yes, Phil. Your beloved, omnipotent, all conquering, velvet-soft, super-happy-bonus-club lost one of the finest prospects in world football in the last 5 years because of some slimy, pocket-greasing agent.
Nothing to do with the fact that the fella wasn't being given a kick of a first-team ball. Johnny Evans started ahead of him in midfield.
But yes, Phil. It's the agent what done it.
Kevin Walsh, Luimneach
After James Davies, Darlington posted up that truly delicious strike from Pogba, I cried a little. How did we let such a wonderfully talented player go so easily? Especially in a position that we were screaming for someone like him...
But it made me wonder how many other teams have lost world-class stars for cheap? Other than Barca losing Fabregas I'm struggling to think of another...
In the meantime, more delights from Pogba.
Guy S (arguably Sir Alex's biggest mistake)
...Is it just me, or are other Manchester United fans who watched Paul Pogba play yesterday in a deep depression. Pogba was flying around the pitch controlling the midfield and scoring goals. Sadly, it feels like we let Pogba go and put all our faith in Cleverly...ouch (I may have to go drink more now).
Great post about Mathieu Valbuena, coincidentally I was going to write in about him particularly, and as it is topical at F365 towers, maybe I might get myself published.
I think I figured it out. Just like I figured out that James Rodriguez was going to be brilliant before everyone else thought he was (HA). He is France's version of Roy Keane, albeit a more attack minded Roy Keane. And far less of a c**t.
The first time I saw Valbuena was when he scored a cracker against Liverpool for Marseille some time ago in the Champions League, I thought great goal and all, but who is this schmo? And for a long time I didn't really see the fuss. At Euro 2012 for instance, I would look through their team and analyse them and come to a conclusion about the team based on these individuals and Valbuena would always be the guy in my mind that was the one who brought them down a peg. I don't watch Ligue 1 at all, all I have really been going on was reputation. I was rating players by the fact someone like Yann M'Vila would be linked with Man Utd and Real Madrid and deciding by virtue of that insanity that these were the players to watch out for, the spark that was going to happen. I would see Valbuena even score some goals, and I would just think ignorantly "how does he get into the team"?
I think we have all got a good look at Valbuena at this World Cup. The fact that he hasn't made a big European move is unfairly held against him (definitely been guilty of that myself), and I saw him in the Jamaica friendly and I could see that he was well revered by his team mates, but then again, the whole team had a worldie in that game.
But he has been absolutely awesome hasn't he? Four games in, and just as Ian Watson said in the article, he has a huge spirit that just cannot be taught. I read an article somewhere about him two months ago and his humble beginnings and the unlikelihood of him playing for Marseille much less France and I reassessed my totally ignorant opinion about him, now I think he is the attacking midfield Roy Keane. If he stamps on Sami Khedira's chest in the quarters v Germany, we will know for certain, but he "isn't that type of player" from the looks of things. I was actually thinking that he is going to be a French legend after this tournament, and I haven't thought that even about Neymar should Brazil win the whole thing, probably because I think France winning is more likely but who knows. Anyway, long story short, I've become a big Valbuena fan, and you all should too.
As for France, I think they are now legit contenders. Germany look like they are coasting on reputation, they did well to defeat a determined team but Nigeria were a tough game for the first 70 minutes yesterday and gave France a physical battle which they have come out of unscathed. It will be a total cracker and I don't think I have ever seen the two of them face off live in a knock-out compo in my life so am excited at the potential of repeats of their 80s repeats. Netherlands should be too much for a tired Costa Rica and I think they will play Colombia who will spoil Brazil's party in the semis, and France will likely play Argentina in the other semi.
Dave (This is getting massively exciting), Dublin
Feel It, Hear It...
Yes, John Nicholson makes good points about general tactical changes. Yes, the lesser teams have more about them and are capable of attacking the bigger teams with skill and speed making games more competitive. But for me, the reason this World Cup is so much better is because we can hear the crowds again.
In South Africa 2010 every game was filled from start to finish with the dreaded vuvuzela, there was just a constant buzzing regardless as to what was happening on the pitch. Now, in Brazil, we get to hear the crowd roar as an attacker bears down on goal, we get the oohs and aaahs that accompany near misses and we get the boooos and outrage for a bone-crunching tackle. The crowd's passion and noise is a really important piece of the jigsaw that we got deprived of in SA 2010.
The only slightly disappointing thing is that no teams supporters do that 'oooooooooooooooOOOOOOOh' thing when a keeper runs up to the ball for a kickout which, for reasons unknown, I really enjoy.
Morgan 'ooooooooooh' Emmett
...Apparently more goals have been scored at this stage of the WC in Brazil than the entire turgid affair down in SA. I'd like to offer a theory aas to why.
Rather than being driven nuts by the incessant cacophony of the vuvuzela, players can concentrate fully and focus on playing, aided by rather vocal local support helping spur them on to greater heights.
Plus it's as hot as balls, so there's plenty of space, and mistakes abound due to fatigue.
The perfect combination for goals galore.
Just a thought.
Don't Patronise Me With Totty
I found myself nodding in agreement with Will CFC in relation to the morons who go from glum to bouncing when they see their own face on a tv screen.
In addition to this, I've found myself getting annoyed every time the camera shows a hottie in the crowd. I can't imagine that the viewing figures are that desperate that blokes need a flash of totty to keep them interested. It's the World bloody Cup, stop patronizing me.
Special shout-out goes to the drunk blokes around the hottie who immediately dive in front of her as she's mid-preen. You're my Man of the Match.
Anyone else find themselves annoyed by some of the footage choices?
John (at least theres no vuvuzelas this time), Dublin
In the States, we somehow got our hands on Roberto Martinez as a studio analyst for the World Cup. He is absolutely fantastic in the role - to the point I want Ballack, van Nistelrooy, and the others to just shut up and let him talk. Are you guys still living through the hell of Jamie Redknapp as a 'pundit'?
I am so sorry.
Mark (TV needs Roberto more than Everton does) Champion
1, I don't think you've really had enough on this, so I thought I'd weigh in with my two cents. While I agree the Suarez's punishment must be a breach of his human rights (how can you ban someone from staying in a hotel and training? Does it extend to informal training? Banning his choice of accommodation?? Might as well say he's now only allowed to use FIFA-approved contractors if he gets a loft extension, and he's only allowed to eat pineapples now), how can he say on the one hand, it was an accident in which Chiellini suffered a bite, and on the other hand, that it will never happen again? If it was an accident, surely he had no say in the matter? This might rile Health & Safety regulators, but I don't think you can really say an 'accident' will never happen again. I suppose they'd say you need to put stringent safety measures in place. Maybe that's what he means. Maybe next time he'll keep his mouth closed at all times so even if that situation happened again it'd be more of a kiss than a bite. Would that be better?
2. Great showing from Algeria last night, although no doubt helped by the fact that they were camouflaged into the pitch. Presumably the Germans thought they were passing into space, only to be gobsmacked when an Algerian appeared to pop out of the grass and grab the ball.
3. Onto domestic matters. It never ceases to amaze me how many Arsenal players leave "for the money". Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie, Gael Clichy, and now Bacary Sagna. What I would be interested to know is how many Arsenal players have left for trophies? Have any, ever? Is it even possible? It's just that those players have won (and will win) quite a lot of trophies at their new pastures. It's also that they could earn similar money in Qatar. But nope, it's definitely for the money. Undoubtedly for the money. Do Arsenal fans never consider that maybe they're being remarkably childish and arrogant? Everyone who leaves Arsenal leaves 'for the money'! Of course they're going to earn more money at a bigger club, but is there no chance at all that's incidental, given they all earned quite a bit at Arsenal anyway, whereas they earned precisely no (one for Bacary) trophies there? It's a bit like saying Dolly Parton moved to Nashville 'for the money'. Well yeah, she earned a bit more money launching her career there and all, but maybe she just wanted to launch her career? Sometimes you've got to leave to realise your dreams. If saying they're only doing it for the money makes you feel better, fair enough, but you have to accept that you're a whining, unreasonable baby in the process.
Shaun (three good points I think. Lunch break well spent) Livingston
Thanks for a brilliant Top Ten again today; who'd have thought Maradona would've played at Bramall Lane!?
The one on M Laudrup did remind me though of a YouTube video I watched a few months back (lazy Saturday) called something like '90 minutes of Michael Laudrup passing'. It's basically a compilation of passes, assists and possession football from when he was playing. It's fascinating to see, even when he was in Real Madrid, Ajax and Barcelona sides, how far ahead he was of everyone else. The amount of times he fools everyone including teammates is brilliant. But what's better is the picture-perfect passes to feet, into paths of runs, taking defenders out of the game...brilliant.
Truly underrated in the UK. We'd have been all over him if Revista had existed back then.
Aidan, EFC, Strand (Paul Brunger's in Holland?!)
Average Imports Need To Stop
Let me start of by saying I'm an Arsenal supporter and I live to see Arsenal lift a trophy, there were times I thought the drought would never end, but that's beside the point of this email.
I'm writing as a big fan of the EPL, I couldn't care less what who Tottenham bring into their squad, what I'm concerned about is the influx of foreign players that won't improve the league and continue to hinder the progress of young players.
Why bring in Cambiaso when they had Livermore, at his age, the is nothing Cambiaso can do that Rodwell, Livermore or Henderson can't do, so why block their progress by bringing in players that are past their prime?
Paul Scholes was right, the best foreign players end up at Champions League teams, QPR have a wage bill of up to £177 million, but nothing at all to show for it but preparation for relegation battle in the EPL this season. That's thanks to chunks and chunks of cheap and mediocre foreign exports. If QPR are so rich, why can't they ball out on English talent, Will Hughes, Ince, Rodwell and Sinclair? To name a few.
And lastly, just to spite Tottenham, they don't know how to spend £100m. Mario Gomez, Xhaqiri, Griezmanm, Marin, Valbuena and Lovren could all have been brought in last season.
The flux of mediocre imports needs to stop.
Average Exports Need To Start
I've seen a few people laughing about Tom Ince's move to Hull picking them over Inter Milan. But I for one find it an absolutely disgusting lack of ambition, No offence to Hull but no one should be picking Hull over Inter. It all contributes as factors into why the England football team is sh*t.
It's players like Ince (Scott Sinclair and Rodwell are other examples) who should be looking to go abroad, we moan about all these average foreign players crowding our leagues, but guess what, that means there should be space for average English players to go abroad and pick up a few new tricks.
Gerrard, Rooney, Terry, Ferdinand et al, the so-called golden generation for all their faults were good enough for the top teams, no one doubted it they earned their places in those teams. But wouldn't it have been nice to have one or two players in the England squad to show them a little Spanish flair, or had picked up a bit of German determination.
How many decent English players have had the stones to move abroad? I can't count many, Beckham and Owen had Real Mardid calling who no one turns down, Hargreaves doesn't really count. After that you have Barton and Joe Cole for a season each both in and around 30 at the time. The only other example I can think of is Kazim-Richards (who played for Turkey in the end I think).
The simple fact of the matter is young talented English players break into the league, show some talent and earn their move and then are to scared to try something new and that's why you see them rotting on the bench in the top sides or moving to mid table/lower table teams. Where is the ambition?
Also another point on Ince - I'm not sure I'd want to sign him, nothing against the lad but if you sign him you also sign his dad who may have been a great player in his day but strikes me as an utter...
Rob (sorry Hull fans) W
The Reverse Fan View Goal
In response to James (Damn you Germany, you cost me £230 not winning in 90 mins last night!) Davies' mail about fan view goals, I can't offer any belters of my own. Quite the opposite in fact.
I was lucky enough to be a guest of Real Madrid to watch the home leg of their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in 2011.
I was sat in the third row, right at pitch level just to the left of one of the goals. The Madrid ultras directly to my right provided one of the best atmospheres at a game I have ever experienced.
The game was 0-0 at half time with Barca attacking 'my' goal. In the second half, both of the goals were scored at the other end, including the second, a goal generally considered an all time classic by Messi. The thing is, from my vantage point, it looked routine, slow and not at all special. It wasn't until we saw it replayed (well over 100 times, easy) in bars afterwards that we realised how special it was. We were gobsmacked. It was a sensational goal made to look ordinary by the angle we saw it at.
Thus followed an epic evening on the sauce to 'celebrate the wonder goal' followed by me hot-footing it to the airport for the first flight to London and then a train to Leeds. Me and the missus were moving out the day after the game but I wasn't going to let a trifling matter like that stop me seeing El Clasico in a Champions League semi.
Paul (Well aware this email is a not that subtlely hidden humble brag) Benson, Leeds
Come In Ashley...
Ashley Cole has officially been released.
I would take him at Spurs without a second's hesitation.
There you go, I've said it.
Before I get any criticism, just think of Danny Rose last season.
Where I grew up in Chelmsford, we also played Wembley. We also played a game called 'Brazilian Football', which ironically involved us kicking lumps out of each other's shins. Anyone else play this?
...Regarding the football games that Mark O'Doherty is referring to, they are actually two different games.
Headers and volleys is basically everyone against the keeper, setting each other up to score (via a header or a volley only) and trying to make the keeper lose all his lives until he is out of the game (and then on to the next keeper and so on).
Wembley on the other hand is every man for himself to a single goal, where you have to score in order to progress to the next round. When there is only one player left in each round, they are out. You keep playing rounds until the last two meet in the final, where the winner wins his 'Wembley' cup final. The first person out from round one is the keeper for the next game. Variations on this include two-man or even three-man Wembley.
Killer is played on a pool table.
Glad to have been of assistance.
Kieron, Liverpool, Red
...Down Surrey way head(ers) and Volleys, and Wembley were two distinct forms of mass participation kickabouts in the park or after school.
Headers and Volleys involved a mass of kids with one poor sod in nets, hammering the ball into the goal, after being set up by a 'header' or a 'volleyed' pass, as mentioned earlier this week, you could set yourself up, but had to be after three continuous keep-ups. This game was usually the warm-up for the main event of Wembley.
Wembley involved said mass of kids in all-out football warfare playing against each other. When you scored a goal you were through to the next round (hence the term Wembley), this knockout phase could take forever depending on how many were playing. The early rounds generally involved a lot of goal-hanging and letting everyone else do the work, a good tactic generally. One kid out each round and the poor lad who was out first round went in goal next game. Continue until two players left in the final, usually best of three goals.
Winning goals were generally celebrated with a Marco Tardelli-style celebration, and why not? After eight rounds of a knock-out competition it was usually well deserved.
Chris Nixon (CFC) Surrey
...Mark O'Doherty - I grew up in Ireland too (Limerick, to be precise) and headers and volleys was known as 'West Ham'. Absolutely no idea why.
...In response to Mark O'Doherty, in a lot of townships here in South Africa, we called it 'Skyball'...as in the ball stay airborne and not touch the ground.
KT Mokhele, Gooner on Johannesburg
...Heads and Volleys. Game of skill, to avoid being the Donkey.
Shooting over or wide, more than three touches and having the goalie catch a shot results in getting a letter, D first then O till you spell out Donkey. Your out once you spell Donkey. There is only ever one Donkey and then the games starts again.
No setting yourself up. Ever. No matter where you are geographically speaking.
Wembley was a knock-out competition, often called World Cup by those not destined to be hipster. Goal-hangers often rewarded with a rebound. The goalie could often be bribed with an Iron Bru or Refreshers bar. Most kids wanted to play this as there was a winner.
England would win more World Cups if more kids wanted to play heads and volleys.
ATB Ash (Excited Spurs and Heads and Volleys fan)
...We used to, and still do, call it 'sevensies'. This was because you got seven lives. You lost a life by conceding a goal when you were in net. The punishment for losing (had to be a team goal to sink someone) was to receive 'bummies' from everyone playing - ball placed two yards from their rear and smashed with full force towards their posterior, no looking or it's retaken! Not to brag (but I will) I've just got back from Rio, seeing both Chile and Columbia play. Whilst Martinez/Rodriguez et al looked good against a weakened Uruguay side, they certainly do not have the mustard to bother a Brazil team just getting into full flow. Let's not forget Brazil did not have the benefit of qualifying in order play competitive football, the tourno they did play they won, beating that same Spanish side that drew with Chile, 3-0. Columbia's fairy-tale only has a few more days to live, long may it last in the memory.
John Barker (anyone else notice Brentford have just signed a La Liga regular! Up the Bees)
Badminton: Not That Clean
To Rowan 'maybe I'll follow badminton now' Hansberry; maybe look for another option...
A Calm But Angry Mail
After reading Mediawatch I empathise with the man with the 'calm but angry' look. I can never find anywhere to sit in my bank, it's a good job he was trying to provide stools for everyone.
JazGooner (Paul Pogba looks like Grace Jones. Now you will never look at him in the same way)