No N***ative, No Pundits, Just Facts...

That's the wish of one reader but we simply can't agree. We also have mails on PL experience, Stoke, West Brom, Howard Webb and lots more besides. It's a cracker...

Last Updated: 07/08/14 at 15:10

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Blooming Na**ative
Whilst watching coverage of the World Cup, whichever station Tierry Henry graced, I was struck by a coversation the Frenchman had with the presenter.

The presenter commented on an upcoming match saying it would be quite a 'story' should the underdogs beat the more fancied nation, I think it was Spain. Henry came back at him opining that and I'm paraphrasing here, football isn't a story and it was the presenter's journalistic instincts that longed for the less-fancied team to win as to create some kind of fairy tale.

How right he is and what an insightful comment it was not just on that occasion but on the whole football journalistic culture we have been saddled with. Just as the recent NotW snooping scandal made the country stop and question what on earth has happened to our fourth estate, why has it become a complete imposter compared to the role it should be playing, we can now shine the same light on the football arm (or leg) of this industry.

The narrative offered to us last season was of plucky Liverpool, Suarez now completely rehabilitated and tamed, rising again from decades in the doldrums. Brendan Rogers face captured in almost monastic contemplation time and again on our screens, whilst his UNDISPUTABLE football genius heralded in the written word in endless profiles in every football pull-out.

The simple truth is that if there is any such thing as a football narrative then it only reveals itself once the season or competition is complete.

Liverpool didn't win, Brazil were awful. Eleven athletes beat 11 other athletes, I enjoy watching football without any kind of build-up, all fans know the importance of most games they watch. If TV or the press were to properly reflect a football narrative, let's say a game between Man U and Liverpool, then it would require a panel who despised each other and who if left alone would come to blows.

Hope this makes sense, in short TV football coverage should start at 2.55pm and end at five-ish, press coverage should contain facts only.
Steve Loughlan


Why PL Experience Is Important

In response to Jake, CFC and on the issue of why PL experience may matter- granted, the question of whether or not a potential incoming player has PL experience may be somewhat blown out of proportion, but I think whether a potential signing has PL experience or not matters to varying degrees depending on the size of the club in question.

Specifically when you think of the 'bigger' clubs (or more broadly speaking, clubs that don't hesitate to splash millions of pounds to get the best available) because the caliber of player they are interested in signing is so high, whether or not they have PL experience may not be a primary concern, because you'd probably bank on the player to be good enough to deliver regardless of whether or not they've played in the PL before (for example, no PL team would have turned down the opportunity to sign Ozil last year just because he had no PL experience).

However, I think the question of PL experience is more pertinent when we talk about the so-called (with all due respect) 'lesser' clubs in the PL, the best examples of which in almost any given season are the three promoted teams. Now in this case if a promoted team has the opportunity to choose between players X and Y where X has PL experience and Y doesn't, if they are of similar quality it makes sense for the club to opt for player X because you would bank on him having less difficulty adapting to the demands of the PL and living in England. On the other hand player Y may have trouble adapting to living abroad (especially if he is a non-English speaker) or to the physicality and fast pace of the PL- I think we often dismiss how much adjustment can be required by players who don't speak the language fluently or are living away form home for the first time. Time and again personal troubles off the pitch can make an otherwise very good player seem very ordinary on it (see Erik Lamela last season).

Additionally, players with PL experience can be important in promoted teams purely because they have faced the rigors of the league before and hence can use their experience help younger players adjust to the demands of the league, give them advice and so on.

So on balance, is it the only criteria promoted (or any) PL teams should use when signing players? Of course not. Can it be decisive especially when it comes to choosing between players of comparable quality? Yes.
Taro, 18


...Interesting to read Jake CFC's email in this morning's mailbox, attempting to dispel the myth that players need time to adapt to the English game. While he raises a good point, I think he's over-generalising a bit.

Whilst good, adaptable players have found it easy to adjust to the English game, there have been a fair few quality players who haven't. Mateja Kezman, Diego Forlan, and more recently Roberto Soldado have famously struggled to find their feet in the Premier League despite being extremely impressive elsewhere.

Other players have struggled at first, only to come good after a number of months. Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and David de Gea all floundered initially, only to find their feet further down the line. Soldado still might come good.

The problem is, no-one really knows how a player will adapt. They might take to it like a duck to water (Michu, Hangeland) or they might struggle (van Wolfswinkel, Balaban). Sometimes when a player moves to England, all his previous form goes out of the window.

So whilst Jake CFC is correct when he says that a truly talented player should perform well no matter where in the world he plays, there are numerous examples where this hasn't been the case.
Ryan Frost


...The question raised in the mailbox by Jake CFC was 'Is Premier League experience important?' In life nothing is certain. The same adage can be applied to football transfers. The most important aspect of a transfer is that the player in question performs to the expectation of the club.

There are several factors one must take into consideration when purchasing a player, such as language, culture, footballing ability, football intelligence just to name a few. Nowadays, with the amount of money put into transfers it is crucial for players to hit the ground running. Some adapt better than others. Players such as Coutinho, Cazorla, and Torres are all examples of players who made seemless transitions. Others such as Soldado and Morientes are examples of players who struggled to make the grade.

Something a club can do to help increase the chances that a player will bed in quickly is to eliminate the amount of transitions the player has to go through, for example purchasing a player who has an established foundation in that country i.e. Sturridge.

Diego Forlan is a good example of a player who couldn't make the grade in the PL but excelled in La Liga, a league whose quality is similar the Premier League. Mesut 'F**king' Ozil also failed to set the PL alight in his first season.

While I appreciate your patriotism, your sheltered life in the upper echelon of London living has skewed your perception of the real world. I know this may be hard to believe but not every wants to live in England. Most players who go to play in another country often leave their families behind (another example of a tough transition) because most players move while they are young and don't have 100,000 a week contracts. While the transfer of a player also doesn't mean that the player being transferred is a 'grown man'. Coutinho for example moved to Liverpool at the tender age of 20. Before that he was a Brazilian who played in Italy. Being young he may not have had the resources to move his entire family to whichever country he was playing in. Not to mention the fact the family may not want to leave a place they call home.

In short, eliminating transitions will give a player a greater chance of success at their new club which is why PL experience is a sought after attribute and why the English premium is as high as it is.
Brian (Chelsea fans...they really have no idea do they) LFC


Strength In Depth

Arsenal first team:
Szczesney
Debuchy
Mertesacker
Koscielny
Gibbs
Flamini
Ramsey
Ozil
Sanchez
Giroud
Walcott

Arsenal second team:
Ospina
Bellerin
Chambers
Vermaelen
Monreal
Arteta
Wilshere
Cazorla
Oxlade Chamberlain
Sanogo
Campbell

Soooooo, are we title contenders yet or?
Luca James Sparks


Vermaelen In Midfield?

My friend Wayne Webb reckons TVM should move to a defensive midfield position. Solves a few problems for Wenger:

Keep his captain.
TVM gets regular game time.
No need for an expensive purchase.
Get a fast, tough player into DM.

I like the idea, would it happen though?
Gavin (Gooner, South Africa)


How Does Brendan Know?

In response to Rob, regardless of where LVG has or hasn't managed in the past, how the hell would Brendan Rodgers know he'll find it tougher in the Premier League?

Or does his brief sojourn to Wales now qualify him as also having experience managing internationally?
Brian, Brussels


And It's Always Difficult

Rob goes someway to explaining why Brendan Rodgers was right about LVG finding it difficult in the Premier League but what struck me is that he is implying that he found it easy in other leagues (hence all the success).

I think even if you ask LVG himself then he'd say it was bloody hard work and effort that went into creating any of his title/cup winning teams and nothing is ever easy, whether it's the Premier League or not.

Let's not forget that everything is relative so although there was less overall quality in the Dutch league at the time, this affected LVG's AZ in the same way it affected Ajax, PSV etc.

Basically, being successful is difficult, no matter what league you're in.
Jack Pegg (AFC - we should bloody know)


Not All United Fans Are Divs

There was no real response to Gough, LFC's letter yesterday about the refreshing attitude of City fans in the mailbox so as requested, here's the view of a local supporter. I live in South Manchester and, predominantly, the City fans I know are like the ones who crop up and receive hearty praise in the mailbox for seeming to be fairly level-headed and grounded in reality. In fact the handful that I know best are, for the most part, just happy to be dining at the top table. Meanwhile they are also well aware that they have an expensively-assembled squad that should expect great success, and therefore do not claim any great moral victory for their recent league wins. That is not to say that all Mancunian City fans are like this. Others have become a little more confident in their wind-ups, lauding it up over their United-loving friends, and there are those who will vehemently deny any suggestion of buying the league. But worst of all are those possessing a holier-than-thou attitude because they've been through the bad times and never considered not supporting the club (as if Old Trafford would suddenly be absolutely empty each weekend if United's success dwindled).

Further to the above, the majority of the United fans I know are largely the same as most level-headed City fans - with perhaps justifiably higher expectations after two decades of success. It's only the hyperbolic sociopaths who get the airtime on 606 and published on F365. We all know this kind of fan; the guy who was slating Darren Fletcher season after season in his early career but now hero worships the man. I'll happily concede that there are far more of these supporters wearing red than blue - I suppose that comes with the nature of fanhood to the kind of casual fan that United have in abundance, but City do not (yet).

All I'm really trying to say is that not all Blues are salt of the earth, and while it may not be obvious most of the time, a lot of Reds are actually pretty sound.
Chris, SAF Stand (hoping this doesn't come across as an attack or defence of either club or set of fans)


Farewell Howard

It is an ingrained fact of football that referees are w**kers so rightly Howard Webb won't be getting a testimonial or a celebration show of his career on Sky Sports 1 but he definitely deserves a generous doffing of caps in his direction. The rarest of Englishmen in football these days, world class and performed well at the highest level. He acknowledged himself on BBC Breakfast this morning that he made his mistakes but that is an admission that most people will make when they pack in their trade, overall in his time he was the best of the bunch that wear black as well as a many other colours. The United thing was always levelled at him but it's not surprising in the slightest to see the stats this morning that City scored more points per game in matches he officiated and that United got near as make no difference more points than the other big teams but why let facts get in the way of the attempted hilarity of social media pictures.

Last season wasn't to be a great one for him so maybe he feels it is the right time to go but at 43 it seemed as if he still had a few years in him, the group of English referees definitely looks less dependable without him.
Parmjeet Dayal (United fan praises Webb, the irony)


What's Wrong With Miller's Webb Piece? Clue: Everything

In his post about Webb's retirement, Nick extends this to create an opportunity for the usual referee bashing - (we are all petty vindictive types in search of power over others apparently). Yet, he also wonders why referees today don't command the same respect as those in the past.

Well firstly, I simply don't agree that refs were respected in the past and knowing who the refs are and their personality isn't a new thing either. Roger Milford's bouffant hair, David Elleray's school masterly style, Paul Alcock's running style. Footballers and the media in general have seen referees as their 'bad guy' for decades and it will always be this way. It's much easier to trudge home on a Saturday blaming the 'hopeless referee' than accept that your striker is useless or the manager hasn't a clue.

But Miller goes on to belittle Webb and referees in general, whilst bleating about this lack of respect?! All referees start as level 7/9 refs and have to work their way up...none jumps in at the premiership. I can assure you that there is no glamour and no ordering people around in the local park on a Sunday. It's mostly phlegm, abuse and worrying about your car in the carpark. You certainly don't do it for the money (£20 for adult games) and it would take years of this to reach the Premiership. Most of us do it because someone has to and rather than stand there bitching on the sidelines, we decide to give it a go ourselves.

Referees should not be 'unseen' - the visibility of the ref and their performance is a function of the behavior of the players. If players conduct themselves well, without fighting, arguing, cheating etc. then a ref will be anonymous...if players behave like irritable toddlers, then the ref needs to become more visible. It is not the refs who have changed, it is the puerile professionals in the Premiership.
Youth Referee, Name Witheld


An Optimistic Stokie Writes...

In response to Louis THFC's mail yesterday on Bojan, I'd like to echo some of his thoughts. As a Stoke fan, I haven't been this excited about a striker since...um...Tuncay? Anyway, point is for £3m we have signed a 23-year-old striker looking to rebuild his career. He scored again last night, taking his total to three in three in pre-season and by all accounts his all-round play is exceptional.

Alongside Bojan, we've made other shrewd moves in the transfer market and I can't remember ever being this optimistic before any season as a Stokie.
Tim, Sheffield


And An Optimistic Baggie Writes...

Oh, Danny. Boy, have you got that one wrong. You seem to be under the impression that the Winner & Losers article is both comprehensive and factually accurate. Yes, West Brom are in trouble this season. As are you. As are the other dozen or so teams that finished below Man United last season. Any one of those teams could suffer a freak run of injuries. Any one of their players could do something stupid on a football pitch, in a nightclub or driving home after a game that could throw the whole club in to a downward spiral and ruin their season. But if you, and Matt Stanger for that fact, are going to criticise a club and condemn them to relegation before a ball has been kicked based on their transfer dealings, at least make sure you've got your facts straight first.

Alan Irvine has not seen Ideye Brown play first hand. Do you know why? Because since Alan Irvine was appointed as Head Coach Ideye Brown has played exactly zero games. Brown was scouted heavily, watched live numerous times by the club, has been watched on DVD by Irvine and has been signed based on hours of analysis by the recruiting team, previously headed by Dan Ashworth, Richard Garlick and now Terry Burton, who incidentally was our own close season Technical Director signing. Unmentioned in the article were the seven other summer recruits, each one of which is comfortably an improvement on the player they replace, and while we are still a little light going forward, as pointed out numerous times in the comments of that article, there are still ten days until the season starts and still three weeks until the transfer window closes, plenty of time to fill the gaps and patch the holes the club are well aware of.

Hopefully this time around we won't have as many on the field/off the field incidents as last season. We may well see a managerial change at some point, but the chairman has learnt his lesson about appointing a coach who fits the club rather than one who will try and revolutionise the playing structure with neither the time or resources to do so. We have a much more robust structure in place around that head coach, whomever it may be come May, so there will never be the same turmoil around appointing a new manager. This coming season won't be easy, for any team, but we are much better prepared to compete this time around than last year.
Dan, West Brom


Some Predictions

When the kick-off for the season fast approaching, I thought that some predictions for the upcoming season would be in order (not trying to steal you lovely writers' jobs, I'm just excited). In no particular order here are my nominations for

Champions
Chelsea - Strengthened well and looked to have covered their gaping striker deficiency in Costa. He might be the one to break their recent striker hoodoo, the rest of their squad looks as strong as any in Europe. I expect a lengthy run in the Champions league as well

Top Four
Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal - in that order. Probably extremely optimistic with the runners-up spot for Man Utd but their season will go from strength to strength as their rivals start to tire from midweek excursions, just like Liverpool did last season. City have a complete squad like Chelsea but they always have the tendency to get complacent and Arsenal will likely put up a strong fight as well leading to a very small points gap between first and fourth.

Europa League
Liverpool, Everton - again in order. Smalls squads for both Merseyside teams who have to cope with European football as well. Liverpool have tried to fill out their squad yet have lost their best player and Everton have done very well to acquire Lukaku but got Thursday nights to contend with. Should either get knocked out early from Europe I assume they would be battling for the Champions League spots then.

Relegation
Burnley, Leicester, WBA - underwhelming squads and lacklustre signings is not a good formula for survival. A sentence that could be repeated for all three teams.

Top Scorer
Robin Van Persie - having just turned 31, RVP is most likely on his last legs as a striker at his peak. I expect Van Gaal to get the best out of him and with a supporting cast of Rooney and Mata he will get plenty of chances to finish off.

Player of the Year
Fabregas - Going out on a slight limb here, this fella was exquisite in his last season at Arsenal and the Lampard-shape hole is the perfect role for him to regain that form. I suspect he knows this too hence risking the gunner fan's ire to sign for a London rival.

Young Player of the year
Sterling - at 19 this kid plays like he's a veteran of 19 seasons. England's next great hope if you ask me and his pre-season form has left no one in doubt that he will only improve further.

Best signing
Alexis Sanchez (Didn't want repeat nominees with Fab) - I have more fear of the Chilean than I did when Ozil signed for Arsenal. He seems the full package, speed allied with strength and skill, oh how I wished that Van Gaal would have signed him instead. Sexy football will be a regular occurrence at the Emirates.

Manager of the Year
Mourinho/Van Gaal - one to share perhaps? Mourinho's Chelsea will steamroller oppositions into submission while Van Gaal will outwit most. Only problem is neither of their egos are small enough to share anything.

Best Value Signing
Cabella/De Jong - How Newcastle consistently pick up international players for the price of dirt is really beyond me. The latest being the duo of Siem and Remy, both already international players in their own right (for Holland and France no less) and outstanding prospects for a while now. It wouldn't surprise me to see them poached away by a Champions League team in a year or two.

Doing a Southampton of the year
Newcastle - For the two reasons mentioned above, as well as Janmaat they have found the best value their money can buy. If Papis Cisse or Ferrerya start firing in the goals they could even be challenging Liverpool or Everton for that sixth spot. If not it's a top-ten finish at worst in my books.

Whew that was longer than expected but I enjoy writing it, hopefully you enjoyed reading.
Aaron Sik

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