A Mailbox that offers best wishes to a departing hero, defends Olivier Giroud, tells us to steady on over Calum Chambers and makes some amusing predictions...
If there's one loser in all the machinations at Man United, it's poor TC23. We have mercifully few mails on United, but lots on Arsenal and in particular Olivier Giroud...
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Best Window For Years?
I think Sanchez has had an effect on Liverpool.
Liverpool's reported targets to replace Suarez are somewhat underwhelming, and Di Maria or Reus would be far more exciting for us fans to get on board with. But then we have a pathetic record of getting the quality players to sign for us recently. Maybe the board have thought that, after failing to persuade Sanchez, more time wasted chasing 'greats' and ultimately getting no-one won't sit too well with the fans - or Brendan.
I make it Willian, Diego Costa and Mkhitaryan last summer, Salah in January, and now Sanchez that we've not been able to get over the line. How do you prove to a world star that our qualifying for the Champions League isn't just another Spurs-esque flash in the pan, when you consider the spending power of City/Chelsea, the behemoth of United, and Arsenal's consistency?
To that end, maybe all we can do is keep buying the 'best of the rest?' It's worked out okay so far? Whether it's Bony, Shaqiri or Griezmann, whoever we get will almost certainly score less than Suarez, but then we weren't exactly winning games 1-0? Once we're over the line with Lovren, we'll have someone better than Toure or Skrtel to rely on at the back so maybe won't need to score three to ensure a win.
The one change we've made to the starting 11 so far is Lallana for Coutinho and that'll bring more goals to midfield. A 10-15 goal striker to play alongside him, Sturridge and Sterling may well do the job. And you add to that options from the bench. Last year all we could turn to was Victor Moses, Aspas, Joe Allen and Lucas. Stop laughing. Now we can turn to Rickie Lambert, Markovic, Coutinho, Emre Can, Jordan Ibe, Allen and maybe Fabio Borini. Conservatively, that's an extra 15-20 league goals from the subs.
Still optimistic. At a minimum there'll be eight European games next season as I doubt we'll finish bottom of the group, and perhaps more than the five domestic cup games we had. We've now got the squad to cope. Marginal gains in the starting 11 and a world of options from the bench? This has been our best window for years and there's still six weeks to go. Hoping for more, though now no longer pining for the impossible 'worldie' raising a scarf in a new team photo.
...Who needs opposing fans when you have the likes of Matt the pessimistic Liverpool fan in your ranks. May I remind you Liverpool went from a seventh place finish to a second place finish in the span of one season. An UNPRECEDENTED feat. Liverpool Football Club is a club steeped in history, tradition and most important winning.
Liverpool's recent hard times were not the immediate result of selling Xabi Alonso. Ignorant and corrupt ownership was sinking the club. Almost into administration as a matter of fact.
The difference between now and the five years Liverpool had been out of Europe's finest club competition is evident. FSG and Brendan Rodgers started a lengthy rebuilding process along with a long-term vision two years ago and we are now seeing the fruits of those labors. So excuse me if I have no intention of lowering my expectations.
Thus far this summer Liverpool have bought two Premier League proven players (one which happens to be the highly sought-after plan B), a potential superstar, and a like-forl-ike replacement for role in which Gerrard plays. With the window only being 16 days old I feel they have done well for themselves. There is no need to panic over transfers that haven't even gone through yet, not to mention one who is struggling to stay fit after a major injury.
Consequently, I would implore you to perhaps support a team more suited to your needs. Tempered expectations, which is going to need a lengthy rebuilding process, a long-term vision and a slice of luck to challenge any of the other clubs for honours in the long run. May I suggest Spurs.
Brian (Jordan Ibe looks like he could be a real player in time) LFC
Not Everyone Is Convinced
After a few absent years from the Champions League and selling Suarez for a huge stinking amount of money (Rogers new it was coming before the WC), where are all the signings with CL experience!!!!!!!?
Kroos (WC winner and established CL Player) sold for £20M what a price! we get Lallana for £25m.
What is the point of adding depth by buying inexperienced European players.
Lazar is a world-class player!! WTF is Lazar. £75m we buy a golf GTI (maybe just a blinged up Golf Match) and not Ferrari.
Lambert okay off the bench for 20mins. But as a back-up for Sturridge if he gets injured, we may as well look at booking a place in the Championship next season.
We had a better than expected season with the help of Chewy. We needed a direct replacement for 31 goals plus assist and to strengthen the squad for the European campaign.
By Christmas, Liverpool will be propping up the CL group table and languishing bottom half of the PL table.
I want to be proved wrong, I very much doubt it.
Talk about English premium, Real Madrid are about to sign Toni Kroos for the same price Liverpool paid for Adam Lallana...
Wenger Is Quite The Seducer
To answer Matt's question, I think Ozil himself addressed the reason he and now Alexis (and maybe Khedira) have signed for Arsenal: Arsene Wenger.
Apparently, last year he called Ozil up and talked to him in German, and impressed him with his view on how football should be played, and etc.
Compare that to David Moyes calling you and speaking in what might generously be called English, and it's easy to see why he signed for a team that hasn't won the league in a decade rather than the current champions.
As to Alexis, Arsene also got to talk to him in Brazil (and according to very well-phrased reports, 'seduced him') and convinced him because of what he's planning with Arsenal. Some players just want success, but some prefer to be part of a project or long-term plan, and I'm guessing Alexis (and maybe Khedira) saw the signing of Ozil, the FA Cup victory, listened to Arsene's ambitions and decided they wanted in.
Not to mention that Arsene has a reputation for improving players of even top (top) quality.
...Matt, the pessimistic Liverpooler asked a very interesting question about how players as good as Ozil, Sanchez and Khedira (hopefully - it's not a done deal yet as I write this) have chosen to go to Arsenal and how the richer clubs allowed them to do so without trying to hijack the deals.
The answer I think, is that all three were already at massively rich clubs but, despite being properly great players in anyone's book, were not fully fledged 'galacticos'. Khedira is a defensive midfielder which almost by definition rules him out of being a galactico. Sanchez and Ozil play in potential 'galactico' forward positions, but both are quiet reserved types who seem not to relish basking in the spotlight like your true galactico does. As such it seems like all three have been treated as second-class citizens and ultimately sacrificed by their respective richer clubs in their chase for glamourous galactico signings.
What happens next is that nice Mr. Wenger comes along, turns on the charm, and says "come to Arsenal, we play sexy football and we'll treat you like the serious player you are, and you'll still be playing at the top end of a major domestic league and strutting your stuff at the sharp end of the Champions League".
So basically these guys have already done their time a super rich parasite club who only really care about the true galacticos in their team and they aren't really interested in joining a different parasite club and getting more of the same. Therefore whilst still wishing to play at the top level, they also seek to be appreciated at their true worth by a club who won't thoughtlessly kick them into touch when the next big sexy thing struts into the limelight.
That said it also helps that we too can put a little more money on the table now than we have been able to previously.
Perhaps an encouraging thing for Matt is that I think Liverpool have the potential to offer the same thing to these great players that Arsenal do, but perhaps Brendan hasn't quite got the kudos yet on the international stage that Arsene does. Something that the 'Wenger out' kn0bhe4ds should put in their pipe and smoke for a while
Rob, Bristol Gooner (Hoping Khedira's wage demands don't scupper the deal and undermine what I hope is a valid point)
Diaby Back, Back, Back
Please will my fellow Gooners refrain from getting quite so excited about the potential signing of Sami Khedira. I've just been on the Arsenal website and seen that Abou Diaby is back in training. There my friends is practically a new signing.
Ander Herrera Is...24
I feel duped, confused, angry. I've been deceived beyond my wildest dreams...
I have only just found out that Ander Herrera is 24 years old. Twenty fucking four? I thought he was 21 at the most, a player for the future, one that we could ease into the team. Jesus, the pressure is on him right away then.
...oh my goodness...he's 25 in August...well and truly duped.
England Left Behind...
I'd just like to doff my cap to N O'Reilly for the most accurate summation of the state of football in this country that I've ever read. It hit the nail on the head repeatedly and gives a perfect illustration of where the game is in this country, and why we lag so far behind. I genuinely believe America have a better chance of winning a World Cup before England ever do again, as they recognise what is required while we still plod around in the dark ages believing that the 'Greatest League in the World' somehow entitles us to anything. The appalling and baffling choice of pundits (for the most part) reinforce this outdated vie, week in, week out.
A complete overhaul of the FA, top to bottom, is required, and a new approach to coaching that emphasises technique over strength and speed. Clearly it can be done, but it requires a 10-20 year plan and the commitment to see it through. And while we are at it, f***ing lose Wrighty, Savage, Shearer, et al. Once and for all.
'Golden generation' my arse.
I felt I had to write in about all these horror stories regarding ancient coaching standards in England years ago and comparing to Europe.
I grew up in East London, in the 60's and early 70's. As it turns out I played 11-a-side games with the school team but also for a couple of local teams who played at Hackney Marshes. But I also played 5-a-side football from about 7 to 13, which was based in a disused factory of some sort with a bunch of 5-a-side set ups, no kicking over waist height, could do one twos with the wall, etc and we could play at least three or four games in an evening. And then from about 13 on, there were evening, floodlit 7-a-side competitions on tarmac pitches - usually playgrounds specifically set up for that and about 2/3 to a full-size field. So a real mix.
Granted the coaching wasn't as expansive as it would be today - especially the conditioning - but different skills and tactics were required playing all three games and the experience playing 5-a-side and 7-a-side was valuable. The close control and short passing from 5-a-side and the tactical positioning, fast counter-attacking and ability to fulfill a couple of roles well from 7-a-side.
I had the opportunity to play in games and some competitions that included teams from 'abroad' and we always did pretty well against them.
Clearly today there are huge advances in fitness training techniques, better more interesting coaching and tactical understanding from all sources that a player can take advantage. But it wasn't always so negative or so bad. But was likely luck that these were available nearby and that on a couple of the teams I had a coach who thought more broadly and so this may not be consistent the way we want it to be.
I would say, though, that no matter an individual's skill, all the teams that were better set up and more tactically astute always won out in the long haul.
Dear Data Lovers...
Niall, Denver wrote on a subject close to my heart - the use of statistical analysis to predict player performance and development. He's right to suggest it's a rapidly developing area and one in which the geeks triumph over the 'leg squeezer geezers' every time. However, I would caution it's not quite the panacea he might hope it to be.
In his (frankly brilliant) book, 'the signal and the noise', Nate Silver expands at some length on his work on PECOTA - a data model he developed to predict the development of Major League Baseball players with a good deal of success. Without going into painstaking detail here (I urge you to read the book) he draws two primary conclusions:
1: predicting the development of players with any accuracy is really, really effing difficult. There are thousands of variables to consider (everything from natural ability, training regimes and diet to the player's mental stability and even home life). You can start to plot a 'range' for a player (eg: he'll probably be between x and y good) but even that is prone to outliers and exceptions.
2: statistical forecasting alone is not enough. PECOTA was enhanced by a lot of rich, qualitative data that came from spending time with the players, visiting their parents, watching them in practice etc. Silvers broad point (the point of the book, actually) is the flying by the numbers is not enough, it's a mix of numbers and good judgement which make for good predictions.
It's also worth bearing in mind that baseball is far easier to predict than football, as in football it's much harder to evaluate raw talent (it's a complete team game, where players are rarely matched one on one for any given time and average players can be carried by good teams). So any statistical model would have so many other factors to consider, which would make good judgement even more important. To reinforce this point - Silver's fivethirtyeight blog ran a huge statistical prediction model before the World Cup and predicted Brazil to be clear favourites. But no model could account for Neymar's injury or Silva's absence (perhaps Luiz losing his head was a little more predictable).
Anyway, to conclude. Great point, big data is here and more clubs should use it to make predictions. But don't forget it still won't be totally accurate and is best applied with plenty of good judgement.
Have a lovely day folks!
Simon #SummerOfData McEvoy
Where Penalty Discussions Inevitably End
Scrap penalties and go with this..
After the 90 mins end, we go to extra time as usual, but there's a twist. We bring back the Golden Goal feature, but this time there's no time limit. Instead, every five mins, each team loses a player until the only players remaining are both teams' 'keepers. Team 'A' will choose which player is taken off Team 'B' and vice versa. The only rule is you can't choose to take off the opposition 'keeper.
It's an idea which would take away the pressure of penalties, and besides, who wouldn't love to see two 'keepers battling it out 1v1 to win the World Cup for their respective country?