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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Do United Really Think They'll Walk Back In?
Man United have had the best possible start under LVG: back-to-back wins in their pre-season friendlies and an undoubtable resurrgence of confidence amongst the players and supporters. I've read lots of comments on forums and blogs and spoken to Utd-supporting friends and to a man it seems that they are all pretty confident of getting back into the top four with the possibility of challenging for the title. I was reading some comments on a forum the other day and Utd supporters were predicting that they should be top of the league by mid-October because their first eight fixtures were so "easy" to win. I haven't seen any supporters of any other clubs be so cocky and presumptious about the coming season.
My question is, are Utd supporters all really that cocky and dare I say it, arrogant, about believing they will simply walk back in the top four? Do they write off any challenges for the top four by Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool? Is it a given that City, Chelsea and Arsenal will get in the top four? LVG is a brilliant manager with bags of experience but will he just walk in and boss the rest of the league with his tactical genius?
Last season was one of the best the Premier League has ever seen because it was so unpredictable and wide open. Here's hoping this season is the same.
Dave H. Toxteth
Interesting article by Matt Stanger today on Vermaelen's proposed move to United
I think we can all agree that at the moment Vermaelen is no player to build an entire defense around and may not be a world-beater, but I think that argument misses the point slightly. First off, there seems to be a general consensus that Van Gaal needs to buy defenders and the fact is that there seems to be a paucity of truly world-class defenders currently available in the market that he has a realistic shot at getting - the only one I can think off right now is Mehdi Benatia. Given the options available, Vermaelen is not a bad bet.
Secondly, while he may not be world class, I also think it would be wrong to think Vermaelen won't improve United's defense - he's certainly no worse than Chris Smalling and is arguably less error-prone than Jones. It's also easy to forget that while at 28 he's no spring chicken, as a center back he still potentially has a good 5-6 years ahead of him and he did have a few strong seasons at Arsenal before he eventually lost his place on the team due to a combination of injuries and poor form- there's no doubt that he can be a strong top 4 team defender in the sense that he has the potential to be one.
Furthermore being Arsenal's third-choice CB may not look great on his resume, but it's easy to forget that, in spite of all the abuse hurled at them, Arsenal's defense has been quite strong for long periods last season with Mertesacker and Koscielny (the latter even making the team of the season) both being almost universally applauded. I suppose once he lost his place their strong form would have made regaining it double-y difficult, especially as any manager would hesitate to break up an on-form center-half partnership.
On that note I think a lot of his recent mistakes and poor form can be attributed to an absence of any semblance of a string of starts - as you said he only started seven games all season. Granted, I'm no expert when it comes to players' psychology but I would imagine that center-backs in particular thrive on continuity that allows them to develop chemistry with their counterparts in defense. As he's been denied a chance at this this season, I think it'd be harsh on Vermaelen to flatly dismiss him as not being good enough.
Lastly, Vermaelen offers flexibility in that he can double up a back-up left-back, helping to provide cover for Shaw should Van Gaal opt to play four at the back at any point. Add to that his leadership abilities, and Vermalen could well be a very handy player for United this season. They could do a lot worse.
Arsenal Smell Differently Now
After reading the article re Wenger 'We are less vulnerable now', it got me thinking that for the first time, in a long time, I agree with old Arsene.
Arsenal smell different this year. Despite the fact they were on the receiving end of some serious back door action away to Chelsea, City and Liverpool last year the squad just seems to have a different feel to it, an air of confidence or, dare I say it, invincibility.
Honestly, I think this stems from Wenger himself. He no longer seems the suspicious, defensive, cantankerous old head teacher a lot perceive him to be. Of course, he tells us every year that he believes his squad is capable of wining trophies and challenging for the title, but this year he seems to really believe it. Previous years, it appeared he would fend off questions of his team's credentials in a really defensive manner, almost making excuses for failure before a ball had been kicked. This year, he looks hungry, excited almost, to see what his team can really do.
I think a lot of people, arguably rightly so, who questioned whether the old man was still up to the task will have a different opinion come the end of the season. The FA Cup win last year, merely a prelude to bigger and better things come May 2015.
I like old Arsene. He's done a hell of a bloody lot for the English game and is a fantastic advocate of English football. He is the wise old owl of the Premier League and I'm glad he's still here.
Of course, all this could be boll*cks and come January we could see same old Arsenal, a party reveller who peaks too soon, before having to be put to bed early after taking a leak in grandmas handbag.
Krys (Sorry it's not four paragraphs) LFC
They Still Need Players...
As an excited Gunner I've just been reading the details of Wenger's press conference today. He was questioned about the (non) purchase of Khedira and at one point stated 'we have a big squad' and that he only envisages bring in two more players tops.
Now...it may have been noticed by more than a few of you out there that Wenger regularly over-plays our players into fitness problems (Wilshere et al) and our title chances went up in smoke big time due to a run of injuries New Year onwards (et al, et al, et,al). Notwithstanding that the Boss went on to say we've sold no-one, which whilst being technically true for historic PR purposes is, in reality, misleading cobblers. Fact: we've seen eight players out of the door this summer and brought in just four. 'Big squad', eh Arsene?
So I've just done a quick bit of research by looking at the websites of each of last season's Top Four teams to tot up the number of 1st Team players each of them have (if their websites are to be believed). To wit:
- Liverpool 42
- Man Utd 35
- Man City 30
- Arsenal 28
Sorry Boss but you need to stop talking a*se and 'squad-up'.
TheJez01 (thought I'd do the bracket-y thing in the narrative)
Why Tottenham > Man United
I'm following up on a light-hearted duel between one Daniel Storey and a number of Spurs fans on the Transfer Blog yesterday. The debate was sparked by Dan's damning preview of Spurs season. He is of course well entitled to my opinion and I respect that and at the end of the season he may well be proven right, but I was thinking it would be great if I had an outlet to express my own counter-argument in a little more detail than a quick-fire transfer blog - Ahh the Mailbox!
Now firstly, many people agree with Dan's assessment; many Spurs fans included. The squad is far from perfect, that much is fair to say. But yet I really feel that the gap in quality that so many people see between Spurs squad and the perceived 'Bigger' teams is alot smaller than it is given credit for. The likes of City and Chelsea have squads stacked with unrealistic amounts of multi-million pound talent. Their place in the top three is assured along with the rising Arsenal, but after that it's a battle. Liverpool have lost their star and have replaced him with gambles, Everton still building slowly and United.. dangerously thinking they are back dining at the top table already...Spurs will never have a better chance!
If you had looked at Liverpool's team last year, who would you honestly have said was a great player? Suarez yes, Gerrard, and a handful would have said Sturridge. Yet they were gelled together by a manager (not dissimilar to Pochettino) who gave them confidence and suddenly Sturridge, Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho, Flanagan have all surpassed expectations. Atletico Madrid worked wonders with a team of similar so called 'Talent' , Dortmund two or three years earlier.
Spurs have massive potential. Last season, after dealing with the loss of their Superstar Bale, bedding in seven new players, and in the midst of a managerial carnival Spurs came sixth. Three pts fewer than their record total. And yet people mock Spurs awful year? And warn Liverpool away from 'Doing a Spurs?' Madness.
My last point on the matter as I don't wish to go on too long. The comparison that bugs me is United vs Spurs. United are thought (by Storey and by others) to be due to have a procession back to the top of the table and everyone should bow as they pass in all their greatness.. I just don't see it? I see a very, very average squad of players with maybe three top-level stars (RVP, Rooney, DeGea) and a quality gaffer albeit one who has done very little of note since the turn of the century. The defence has lost its three most experienced members and is currently astonishingly bad. The midfield woes have been 'saved' by Spain's...10th...11th choice midfielder? And the squad has I would say a grand total of about...three senior full backs, in a system that relies heavily on them?
Well, maybe I'll be made eat my words but I'm glad I got this off my chest.
Roll on the season!!
The Spurs Optimism Continues
I have to take umbrage with Daniel Storey's harsh appraisal of Tottenham's transfer window. His criticism of Spurs' dallying seems pretty unfair seeing as Spurs have swiftly addressed the two gaping problems in the side with sensible, astute acquisitions. Danny Rose, a man so mediocre his favourite film is Police Academy 4, has been replaced by very promising left-back Ben Davies in exchange for one of our 32 attacking midfielders, and, most importantly, the tw*t in the gilet has been replaced by an actual real manager with an actual philosophy who has done fantastically at Southampton.
Storey's advice for Daniel Levy is crystal clear. Spurs should be signing lots of or not very many foreign, British players with Premier League experience from abroad where prices are more sensible. They should avoid splashing out on lots of players like they did last year but should also avoid making only a couple of shrewd, sensible signings like they're doing this year. They should have four senior strikers to fit a one-striker system and should consider signing Javier Hernandez (hahahaha) in spite of his £15m+ price tag, high wages, desire for first-team football and lack of first-team ability. Apparently clubs better than Spurs would be interested in Moussa Dembele; I'd bite Fulham's arm off for our money back.
Storey believes that Adebayor, Soldado and Kane are not enough for a top-four push even though Arsenal have one striker with a Premier League goal to his name, Chelsea's second and third choices are 36 and Fernando Torres, and Liverpool are an injury away from Rickie Lambert. Lukaku and Bony were suggested but Spurs, who are saving for a stadium to aid long-term improvement, cannot afford to spend £25m+ on strikers who are not serious upgrades on Adebayor, who is better than you think he is, and a hopefully-improved Soldado who was scoring for fun in Spain before playing in AVB's awful 'system'. That's assuming Chelsea would even sell to us.
The main problem, and this is certainly not exclusive to Mr Storey, is the conception that anything less than fourth is a failure for Spurs. Modern football is horribly, horribly broken. We all put our fingers in our ears, sing 'la la la' to the tune of the Champions League theme and pretend football is fine but we know it isn't. You cannot succeed at the top without serious, regular financial investment. The top of the league is a closed club in the long run and that is a truly terrifying prospect. United may have slipped badly last year but they can still sell the right just to make their kit for a sum of money containing more zeroes than Spurs signed players last year.
Spurs take in substantially less revenue than five clubs in the league and therefore do not expect regular fourth-place finishes. Spurs and Arsenal are the only two top seven teams to have finished above or within their financial expectations for five straight years but are the two of said top seven most derided for underachievement. Spurs fans don't expect top four this season. We want last year's signings to actually be played in an attractive system where there is a clear and obvious philosophy. Cups should be taken seriously (which is why signings of Vorm and Dier are great) and any progress in them is a bonus.
We'll surprise ya.
Will, THFC - hugely excited for the new season
Credit For Webb
Long time no post. I've missed you Mailbox.
You are usually spot on but I think it was unnecessarily churlish of you not to give Howard more than faint praise.
Howard has been a very good referee and a fine servant of the game.
It is a tough job where ostracism and criticism always outweighs any praise (or remuneration) that is received.
The reality is bar the odd sour (you know who but I won't mention the club name) fan, many fans would breathe a sigh of relief when they knew Howard Webb was to be charge.
One of the few Englishmen to truly make it to the top.
Howard (only Englishman to appear in a world cup final in my lifetime) you did us proud.
PS. My lifetime includes everything I can scarcely remember since football began with the inauguration of the Premier League.