One Man United fan isn't happy with the rate the team is progressing under Louis van Gaal, while the mailbox also wishes Liverpool fans a Merry Mid-Table Christmas...
The afternoon mailbox kicks the morning mailbox's arse after claims that Rafa Benitez has fluked his success. Plus, big talk about Liverpool's progress and lots more...
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Young British Players?
I was recently flicking through The Guardians team-by-team PL previews and whilst reading the comments under the article about Burnley (which inevitably said we'd finish bottom) I noticed, amongst a surprising amount of goodwill, a common theme among opinions of our transfer dealings this summer.
For those who aren't aware, we've signed:
Lukas Jutkiewicz and
I'm confident I've missed one but I'm typing on my phone and can't be arsed checking. Anyway, the general consensus seems to be that we've lacked ambition and signed a bunch of Championship players who are just going to take us straight back down.
I can see the logic of this point, but obviously I'm trying to find the silver lining. Firstly, we've bought predominantly English (or British if you'd prefer) which everyone is always crying out for teams to do; 'give a chance to a young British player rather than a cheap foreign import' is often the cry after Promoted Team A splurge on 6 new signings from Europe. Secondly, we've given some Championship players the chance to show they can make it in the PL, which is another stick often used to beat teams with.
Burnley can't really afford to be getting in hoards of players on big contracts unless they manage 2 or 3 consecutive seasons in the PL, they were practically teetering trying to maintain a modest Championship budget. I think, given the circumstances, they've looked at what they needed in the squad and tried to find it as best they could in a less saturated and bloated market (forget about Ross McCormack), giving some young English players a chance and not succumbing ro the temptation to ruin themselves in the race for the PL pot of gold.
Is PL Experience Important?
"The player needs to settle and get used to the English football" or "this player has Premier League experience", two sentences I've heard one time too many from all sorts of pundits and writers, including on this site.
Since when has this "Premier League experience" made a poor player any better? How many more goals has Kenwyne Jones for example scored with all his experience? Or how awful was Santi Cazorla's first season at Arsenal while getting used to the English game and way of life as a small, technical player, somewhat unsuitable to the men's game that's played here? But no, Cazorla's season was great, as have been many other newcomers', and many "Premier League veterans" still fail to deliver no matter how many years they've been getting used to something.
What irks me are these extra adjectives; "English" and "English Premier League", which don't quite explain anything. Whenever a player moves from a city to another, there'll be a "culture shock", but moving to England is a lot easier than moving to the other countries in Europe for anyone I imagine. (Or maybe not weather-wise). And these are grown-men making a lot of money. They're able to bring their families with them since they do make so much money, unlike those poorer immigrants in other professions, who can't afford to bring their families... And these footballers only pretty much see the insides of their mansions and the training ground, plus a few trendy restaurants and what-nots. Oh the horror.
A good player will be a good player and a bad player a bad player, no matter how used they are to the English game. Switching leagues and teams only makes it harder for some, because perhaps the league they came from made them seem better than they are amongst the best of the best and because the team they were with didn't practise quite as much as they do at the top clubs. And then there's of course just the chemistry side of things inside a squad. There's no need for any fancier adjectives to describe it, which make the Premier League sound like something other than just the best of the best.
How Transfers Work
In reply to Andrew, NUFC, Gateshead about tapping up.
From someone who worked in professional football for over 15 years, transfers are completely different nowadays. It used to be a case that you would contact the club of the player you were interested in. Usually done by the manager who would ring the other manager and have an off-the-record chat about buying one of their players.
Nowadays, it's all done through agents. If my club is looking to sign a player we'd employ an agent who would contact the agent of the player to see if they'd be open to a move. The player's agent would then inform our agent what it would take to get him. (e.g. Arsenal's bid of 40,000,000 + 1 last summer. It wasn't just a lucky guess that Arsenal thought the extra 1 would sway Liverpool to sell) The club are usually the last to know that a bid is coming. But it also works the other way like Fabregas to United last summer. Clubs don't make bids for players now without getting the go ahead from the player's agent. In some cases, the agents are just pushing for a better contract for their client (which means more money for them).
If the clubs really wanted to, everything could be kept quiet and behind closed doors so there's a reason why people in football think that agents have ruined the game. Club's agent contacts player's agent informally, player's agent leaks to press that a big money move will happen. He's in a win win here. If player moves, agent gets cut of transfer fee. If player stays, agent gets cut of player's new improved contract. And that is how transfers work in football now.
Keith, Ireland (long time reader, first time contributor)
Brendan Was Right
Brendan Rodgers is correct in his assessment that LVG will find the Premier League tougher than anything else he has experienced.
LVG maybe 'a man who won the Dutch league with AZ Alkmaar' but the overall quality of the Dutch league is not great which is why it's easier (though not easy, of course) for teams outside of the usual top 3 in that country to have success. Remember that in that same season Alkmaar won the title, FC Twente, under the much-maligned (on your website, in particular) Steve McClaren, came 2nd and then won the title themselves a season later.
German league is quite competitive, by comparison, though Bayern will still expect to be in the top 1 or 2 every season.
LVG may well become a success in the Premier League but I don't think it's particularly ballsy of Brendan Rodgers to say he'll find it much more competitive than where he's been previously. In my opinion, it's a fairly accurate appraisal...
I was surprised to see nothing on Howard Webb retiring in yesterday afternoon's mailbox.
In our world of Sky super slow-mo replays, referees seem to get more stick than ever. Every ref, and in fact everyone, makes mistakes. Even Pierluigi Collina made a few- just ask an Everton fan. So can we celebrate someone who actually got it right more often than not? Webb remains the only British referee to win the FIFA/IFFHS world's best referee award, and for me he's been the best ref in the Premier League for the last 10 years.
What stood out about Webb for me was the calmness with which he officiated games- balanced with a respect from/to the players that meant he rarely took nonsense from them. There seems to have been a trend towards more stoppages in games during his career, yet he was always keen to keep games flowing, making football about the footballers as much as possible. It's great to see him moving to an advisory role at Professional Game Match Officials Limited (the professional refereeing organisation), where he can pass on his wealth of experience to other refs in the game.
One In Two
A lot have people have mentioned how Diego Costa is a bit of a gamble (insofar as he's only really had one stellar season) but I just had a quick look on Wikipedia and over the last three seasons he has scored 10 in 16, 20 in 44 and 36 in 52 games making him a 1 in 2 striker over the last three years.
Now is that Scouse maths or just selective sampling?
Could Still Happen
In response to Gough, LFC, Dublin. My Dad is City fan. He once bet me £1,000 that Sven would bring them into the Champs League and when they signed Robinho he would win the Ballon D'or.
Rob (Still waiting for the money) LFC
In answer to Doug (Hi Harry), Glasgow's request for more football funnies, my favourite also comes from Scotland. The (almost certainly apocryphal) story goes that former Partick Thistle manager John Lambie, when asked by the physio what he wanted to do with a striker who had received a blow to the head and didn't know who he was, replied "tell him he's Pele and send him back out there".
Rather pertinent given the current discussion of head injuries too ...
A bit of a late reaction to the Winners and Losers article but I can't see how anyone can disagree. The teams atop the list are those you'd expect, the ones who did their business quick and clean and are now able to spend more time assimilating these additions into the squad before the real games begin. Now on the other side of the coin, I truly fear for those bottom three teams. My brother is someone who I would describe as a casual supporter of Villa, and he (as anyone should be for the teams they support) is cautiously optimistic about the season. I don't think I can tell him how bad it really looks at this juncture. WBA, Sunderland, and Villa are at the bottom for a reason, and at this point you have to say it's because the business end at each of these teams is simply inferior. We rate players, we should start rating the backroom.
14 million pounds is a whole lot of money for a striker who has never reached double digit goals in any league he's played in, and while Fabio Borini is still just 23, at a relegation-threatened club like Sunderland, 14 million surely has to go toward demonstrated value. Yet they seem ready to follow up their most recent midfield gamble with this one, adding more questions than answers to that 45 million pound front line. Villa are relentlessly trying to convert their identity into that of a mid-table MLS team, and don't get me started on West Brom and the mystery striker saga of Brown Ideye. They just can't get it right. This is a business, and if you don't proceed in a business-like manner, you will be hamstrung from the jump. Want proof? How swiftly has Newcastle accomplished its preseason goals without Joe Kinnear and his antics?
Still not convinced? Here's an example from the team I support. The best addition Crystal Palace made last year wasn't that of a player. To go one further I'd argue that it wasn't even Tony Pulis. Ironically, Palace's best signing was the man who did the signings, Iain Moody, who was brought in to be Palace's Sporting Director last December after Vincent Tan decided his recruiting job could be performed better by a 23-year-old Kazakh boy who was at the time painting the walls of the stadium on an internship visa and had no prior experience in the field. That went well.
Pulis had a vision, relayed it to the catalyst in Moody, and with no nonsense involved went out and snapped up exactly what we needed to survive. That's why Palace, along with January signings Scott Dann, Joe Ledley, Wayne Hennessey, and Jason Puncheon on a permanent basis, is preparing for an unprecedented second consecutive season in the top flight, while the only flight Cardiff are preparing for is Gary Medel's as he seeks refuge in Milan. Sunderland, WBA, and Villa fans should be worried about something similar.
Danny, CPFC, Pennsylvania