Arsenal: Two Players Short Of Title Fight

Arsene Wenger's been spending...but not spending enough, according to one fan. We also have mails on Man United (of course), Barca's thriftiness and Kyle Walker...

Last Updated: 13/08/14 at 10:02

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Van Gaal's Half-Term Report Card...

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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...

Hang On, Rafa's Success Is No Fluke...

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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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Ashamed To Be A United Fan
I was watching United scrape through against Valencia tonight. Played okay, nothing great and won. I'll take it a win is a win. Don't read too much into friendlies but wins breed confidence and all that. Then with 10 or 15 minutes to go United made some changes. On comes Fellaini. A figure of fun to fans outside the club and to be honest I can see why. He has been poor.

First thing Fellaini does is win a firm challenge and play a simple pass. He did this for the remainder of the game. I think he may have made every pass he attempted. Made every challenge and did well. So well in fact that I would say this was his best performance in a United shirt. Especially as Valencia had taken control of the game up to the point. Fellaini coming on changed the game in United's favor and he even popped up with a winner. But I am furious.

I am furious because of our fans. It was so bad I am ashamed to be a United fan through association I never thought I would say that. Each and every time he was on the ball a section, thankfully the minority but still far too noticeable, sarcastically cheered his every touch. That's a disgrace that a man wearing the shirt is put down in such fashion. And why? Because he was overpriced. That's not his fault. Because he is not a world-beater. Again not his fault. He tries his best and last season his best did not look like it was even related to being good. However he was in a poor set-up and a poor team last year. He is not a player that can do it alone. Yet our fans abuse him in this demeaning fashion.

I have seen us United fans put down as glory hunters. As spoiled by success. Other fans have said that we think we have a divine right to success. I always argued that was not the case. Tonight those fans have embarrassed themselves and the club. They have given other teams fans a brilliant excuse to put us down and worse still it will be impossible to argue otherwise we look like a petulant child thanks to them. Well done Fellaini, you played well and popped up with the winner. That shut them up. If you do move on I hope you have a great career. We proved tonight that we don't deserve you even if you reach a level higher than we though possible.
Ricky (hangs my head in shame) Murphy

...watching man utd fans ashamed to be a Man United fan right now, I just wanna hide somewhere.
Sithembiso, South Africa

Do United Have Players For 3-5-2?

In yesterday's mailbox United fans were beginning to question United's transfers dealings, or at least, their targets. The latest reports claim United are set to sign Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon. Having missed out on Thomas Vermaelen, signing Rojo does make some sense. Playing with three at the back requires the two wide defenders to, at times, play in the full-back areas and often against the opposition's wingers. This means having players who can play at both centre-back and full-back and, in the case of the left-sided centre-back, is left-footed. This, along with his leadership skills, was why United were interested In Vermaelen as he filled the criteria to play the left-side position. If United did manage to sign Benatia of Hummels I would expect them to play in the middle of the three. So, with Rojo being able to play centre-half and at left-back I can see the logic in United signing the Argentine.

Another question posed was why were United tracking Cuadrado? The system United has been playing in their friendly games has been 3-4-3. The two wide players, when United have possession, play as wingers. United's biggest threat at the moment is through the middle with Mata, Rooney and Van Persie. Teams will defend deep and narrow against United leaving the space in the wide areas. A tactic Fulham used in the infamous game of 80-odd crosses last season. With this in mind, it's important, for the system to work, to have wide players who can influence the game in the final third. This is why players like Di Maria and Cuadrado, who has played wing-back for Columbia, are being linked with United.

Looking forward to the season, I must confess, I'm a little worried about the current why the system is playing. My concern is with the centre of midfield (surprise). Ander Herrera has come in and for those who have not seen a lot of him he reminds me of a young Xabi Alonso (great if he could become as good). He's a good passer and doesn't mind a tackle but, like Alonso, he lacks pace and is not the most mobile. This has caused him to be caught in possession a fair few times and give away a number of fouls. Darren Fletcher has been Herrera's midfield partner and the pair's lack of pace makes Carrick and Cleverley look positively sprightly. With only having two in midfield it's vital the defence push-up and condense the space. Against Valencia the defence dropped too deep and left an ocean of space in front of them which afforded the Spanish side plenty of easy possession which they often wasted. I doubt the likes of Ozil, Fabregas, Coutinho and Silva would be so generous.

Due to the issues in midfield I would not be too surprised if Van Gaal changed back to 4-3-3 before the season's end (another reason to sign Cuadrado/Di Maria). Another option would be to drop Mata and play an anchorman behind a conventional two in midfield. This is something I would expect to happen in tough away games anyway. The final solution would be sign a world-class midfielder like, hmmmm, Vidal, possibly. However, I'm starting to fear United's reported interest in the Chilean, and for that matter, Di Maria, Hummels and Benatia, is an attempt by the club to look ambitious. United seem to be in a continued state of 'preparing' when it comes to making a bid. I hope Ed Woodward realises that, having boasted for the second summer running about 'breaking records', if no top-class players are brought in, then if/once the 'Van Gaal effect' wears off it'll be little Ed, not Van Gaal, who the fans will turn on (or Fellaini!).
D Cromwell

Rooney As Captain? Now That's Embarrassing

I just discovered that Rooney's the new captain of United.

I'm not sure what disappoints me most - the decision, or the fact that so many United fans are blindly declaring it to be a 'brilliant' and 'well deserved!'

This is a man who on two separate occasions has demanded to leave - once because he felt Man U didn't have enough top-class players and once because he realised that actual top-class players would keep him out of the team.

On both occasions, he was prepared to leave United for a close rival (City/Chelsea), effectively throwing the time and money invested in him back in the faces of those who helped him get to where he is. United's response to this on both counts was to 'reward' him with more money.

And now he's club captain.

I love football, but it irritates me that someone can be so arrogant and behave like an absolute mercenary and yet be rewarded for it.

Ah well, at least we still have Fletch. Now that is well-deserved.
Alex, Leeds

Why The United Optimism?

So, usually I'd ignore the pre-season predictions of fans and so-called 'expert pundits' but at this point I'm becoming incredibly bored of reading how United will easily finish top four, how they'll challenge for the title and how Van Gaal is the only ingredient United needed to get back to the top of the table.

My question is this: on what is this presumption based? Is it based on the two entirely underwhelming signings the club have so far made for near enough £60 million? Is it based on the fact that the club's new manager has won things with already highly successful teams? Of course, he obviously won the Eredivisie with unfancied AZ but then Steve McClaren also won it with FC Twente the very next season, so it's not like that particular league was going through some sort of transition. Is it?

Make no mistake, he's a great manager and probably the best available when the club were looking for Moyes' replacement. United have a solid squad; they have two forwards who can be top class (only Van Persie has ever been world class) on their day and a great young 'keeper but even with the additions of Shaw and Herrera that is not a first team that'll strike fear into anybody, least of all the sides that finished in the top four last season. I'd even go as far as suggesting Spurs have a stronger squad, particularly as Van Gaal has yet to replace the vast experience of Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra at the back.

So, the conclusion can only be that this is all based on Van Gaal having had a pretty good World Cup with Holland, and a solid pre-season. Hardly something to base such lofty predictions on, eh? I mean, if we're going to go that far then why are we all laughing at Arsenal for getting excited about beating City in the Charity Shield?

The fact is, United will be a stronger prospect and less of a walkover this season but unless there are some serious additions to that squad in the next two-three weeks, they'll face a much greater struggle than Liverpool did to challenge for the title without European football last season.

As for United fans: reign it in a bit, eh. Do you really want to replace us Liverpool fan as the annual laughing stock for being overly optimistic with barely any basis?
Dave T, (Liverpool, LFC)

It Could Have Been A Challenge, Arsene

Mr Wenger certainly enjoys taking that road less trampled, especially if it pays dividends. However, it hasn't borne fruit in the last decade or so, apart from an FA Cup a few months ago, and it might be that he didn't quite choose the path less travelled rather than being shoved down it by a board averse to spending money whilst paying off a shiny new stadium.

Now we seem to be emerging from the other end of a very dark and lonely tunnel and suddenly we are presented with lavish Ozil and Sanchez-shaped rewards for our constant and unwavering support during the hardships of the last ten years. But it seems Wenger, even with newfound riches, still likes a stroll on that other trail. He bought a shimmering new addition in attack, one we direly needed, but it seems that he will once again rely on two ageing and not-quite-good-enough defensive midfielders and a central defence that is one suspension or injury away from disaster. Perhaps Monsieur likes living on the edge?

He could have acquired himself a title-winning side this summer if he opted for an established and experienced CB (if we don't get one in for Verm the WengerOuts will be out in full force), a 'world class' holding midfielder, and perhaps another striker.

Instead we'll roll the dice with our current defence (looks like we'll start Monreal and Chambers centrally against Palace!!) and a likely misfiring Giroud and hope for the best.

There is of course loads of time left to buy all these necessary items and I could end up eating my words, but I'm not holding my breath.
Richard Brown, (Get Nastasic in!) Cape Town

Defending Kyle

Walker gets a fair amount of negative comment from this website and its readers. It's rare for Walker to be mentioned on these pages without the phrase 'brain-fart' appearing shortly thereafter.

Now I will admit to directing some strongly worded criticisms in his direction at the Lane in the past. But I can honestly say that in respect of Kyle Walker, it really is a case of you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

When Walker burst into the Spurs first team we were all in awe at his speed, strength and athleticism. Especially for one so young. He was quite rightly named YPOTY in 2011/12 and we sang his name loud and proud. Walker was a frightening presence on the right in Harry Redknapp's exciting team. Walker clearly had a big ego for a young man but he had the pace and power to back it up.

The problems began with a failure by the Spurs management to take into account his young age. Walker played a huge number of games that season (2011/12 - 45 games played) and then even more the next (2012/13 - 48 games played). Our previous RB, Vedran Corluka, was relegated to a permanent spot on the subs bench. This despite him holding that position when we qualified for the Champions League. Corluka understandably got p***ed off with the complete lack of rotation and left at the first opportunity.

Since then, Walker has had no challenge whatsoever to his position at RB. There have been some memorable mistakes along the way. One in particular that sticks in the mind is a wild cross-field pass (or maybe a back pass...Only Kyle would know), when we were 2-1 up at Anfield. Walker's pass allowed Liverpool to equalise and they went on to win (due to some more comic Spurs defending).

A total lack of competition for his place (Sorry Naughts but we all know it's true) plus too many games played at a young age have lead to a significant deterioration in Walker's defending. He relies on his pace to get himself out of trouble when he should be using his brain not to get into trouble in the first place.

Last season, Kyle Walker was out of form and injured for large parts and how we missed him. His offensive contribution was so evidently absent. Naughton offers nothing going forward. I didn't realise how much we needed Walker on the right wing until he got injured. The frustration resulting from his defensive errors is far outweighed by the joy of seeing him in full flight in the opposition half.

So people may scoff at Barcelona eyeing him up. You can throw your hands up in despair at the thought of him possibly being England's first-choice RB. But to me he is right up there with Lloris, Vertonghen and Eriksen as one of the first names on the team sheet for the big matches. He is one of our most exciting players and I wouldn't sell him even for silly money. Let's just hope Barcelona keep their grubby mitts off and that Pochettino gets in another RB. Someone who can give Walker a bit of competition for his place and also give him a rest now and again.
Japstarr THFC, London

Lauding 'Arry

I'm no Harry Redknapp fan in the slightest (I think he smells of cabbage) but in bringing in Hoddle (even if he personally didn't bring him in, he still has more than enough swing to have said no and it not happen but he didn't) it shows something rather remarkable about Harry Rednapp.

It shows that he can identify that someone else could bring something to the team that could make it better...something that perhaps he doesn't excel at and he's put his ego aside and accepted he couldn't bring it and 'got the man in'.

That is some seriously good management...

...Or of course he could just be writing a new book entitled The 'Ex-England managers that were my bitch' years.

Fair play either way really...
Graham Taylor's turnip

Thifty Barca? Erm...

Neymar, Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Figo, Alexis Sanchez, Dani Alves, Overmars, Henry, de Boer, Kluivert, Stoichkov, Romario, Deco and that Chgrynski bloke.

In case you're wondering, this shortlist is courtesy of a 27-year-old who nearly spat his ginger beer all over the District Line when he read that Barcelona spunking cash on established pros is 'currently going against everything that made them stand out'.
Simon (calm down mate, they've basically had a great big fat class of '92) CFC

...Leaving aside the Sturridge or Suarez to Barca argument as it's obviously idiotic, I had to take United Fan, India up on his mail about the signing of Suarez going against everything Barcelona have always stood for and how they don't spend huge sums of money. Is this the same Barcelona who broke the world transfer record to sign Johan Cruyff, arguably their most important ever player, from Ajax? Or is if the same Barcelona who broke the world transfer record to sign Maradona from Boca? Even Ronaldinho, who you state you're a big fan of, was brought in for a whopping great fee in the recent past.

Okay, maybe you meant recently Barcelona haven't spent any money. But surely that would ignore the fact that in the last 10 years they spent fees north of £20m (when it was still considered a lot) on Eto'o, Henry, Alves, Ibrahimovic, Villa, Sanchez, Fabregas, Neymar... heck even the world beater Chygrynskiy! Not to mention large fees spent on the likes of Mascherano, Alba, Deco et al.

Put simply it's comical to paint Barcelona as this thrifty club who bring all their players through the youth system. Yes they have had a great track record for bringing through many of the current squad, but through history, especially since the demise of Serie A in recent years, there is only one club who can compete with Barca for spending.
Martin (Warrington)

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really enjoyed this. Thanks F365 for another year of work avoidance - happy Christmas.

megabrow (cufc)
Our Person Of The Year: Alan Pardew


m no Sam Fan and this article sums him up beautifully. I always like to imagine that when he watches anything on TV and hears clapping, he stands up and aknowledges the applause, thinking its for him!

Football Managers On TV: Sam Allardyce


ah, Fergie is just having another pop at Rooney. He just wants to put him down whenever he gets a chance. Rooney is by far the best English player. Carrick is not far behind, mind. However, by elevating Carrick like that, Sir is having a dig at Wayne. Fergie is well-known for mind games like that. Good to see he's still feisty.

Van Gaal will thrive - Ferguson

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Mail Box

Van Gaal's Half-Term Report Card...

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...

Hang On, Rafa's Success Is No Fluke...

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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