...is that the draw for the next round is pretty shocking. Blackburn v Stoke, anybody? We also have mails on LVG and ManUnited, who drew plenty under Fergie...
Defending a 0-0 draw with Cambridge on the grounds that other teams lost to lower-league opposition is not befitting of Man United. We're inclined to agree with Mailboxers...
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Focus On The Other Four...
I think it's considered a given that Chelsea and Manchester City are the favourites for the title, and considered sure bets for the top four. Two places remain to be filled, and I think it's fascinating that there are four strong contenders for them with so many changes and unknown factors.
Spurs will surprise many people. Last season was curiously deemed a failure and indeed 'doing a Spurs' has entered the football lexicon. It is worth noting that their points haul was just three less than the previous season's - their record total - and this was while they were managed by an honest-to-god clown. They've invested sensibly over the Summer, although their strikeforce of Soldado, Adebayor and Harry Kane leaves me to raise an eyebrow that they haven't brought anyone else in, although rumours of Loic Remy would fit comfortably. Pochettino is no mug, and Spurs do have a solid core of players that should now have bedded in. They could be dark horses.
Arsenal are very curious. They certainly have the best centre-back pairing in the league in Mertescielny, but back-up is seemingly non-existent which is surely a concern. While their full-backs are all solid, none of them strike me as among the league's finest either. Szczæsny is also far from convincing, and the signing of Ospina made sense until Wenger announced his Pole would retain the number one jersey. Much has been made of the blockbuster signing of Alexis Sanchez but I suspect of far greater importance to the team will be the returning Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey. If they manage to keep their players fit, if, Arsenal may not burn out in February this year.
One final note, although Olivier Giroud is a decent striker and would certainly improve many other teams, as F365 noted last season he should be an option rather than the option, and Wenger's failure to provide back-up or competition is astounding.
I have a feeling that Manchester United will storm out of the blocks. An impressive pre-season, the feelgood factor of Van Gaal, a generous fixture list and the benefit of being an unknown quantity will all play into their hands and the press will be going wild for Louis, declaring him the saviour of United. I do think they might run out of steam at some point though. I suspect the much-vaunted 3-5-2 may not be used in every game, with United returning to type at some point.
Regardless of the formation, there are still gaps in the United team to fill, specifically on the wings. While Ander Herrera might not be the saviour many Manchester United fans hope him to be, I do tip the much-maligned Marouane Fellaini to perform above expectations and regain some of his previous form - if he stays.
The biggest story surrounding Liverpool is the loss of Suarez - how will they replace him? The internet's general response seems to be that they have replaced him with Rickie Lambert, ho ho ho. Not so.
Last season it seemed that Brendan Rodgers' preferred attacking trio consisted of Suarez, Sturridge, and one of Sterling or Coutinho. Now it is simply a matter of Sterling AND Coutinho and the hugely talented pair have improved drastically, but the jury remains out as to whether either could manage a 45+ game season. The signing of Dejan Lovren is a very shrewd and underrated one, adding organisation to a back line that often acted like headless chicken last year. Indeed, a Lovkho pairing could have the potential to challenge even Mertescielny's supremacy. Lastly, Steven Gerrard is absolutely deadly in deadball situations but at what point is that benefit outweighed by the cost of having his aging legs being the ones to screen the back four?
Krakow (Gerry Francis eating muesli from your wife) Pauw
United Have No Chance Of Top Four
There is nothing wrong with optimism except when it's blind.
Last season United fans were blaming anyone and everyone they could. First it was the Woodward for not getting the players in, then it was the players not being good enough, then it was the manager for not being good enough, and lastly and most ludicrously they blamed Mr. Ferguson for leaving them with a squad that wasn't good enough and for giving Moyes the job.
Now with seemingly the same squad not only do United fans think they can make top four, they think they can win the league...do you all see where this doesn't make sense?
Liverpool fans were and are optimistic because if you look at Rodgers' record sans the first six months he has had Liverpool playing in top-four form. Last season our game against Chelsea, Liverpool's bench looked like this: Jones, Toure, Agger, Cissokho, Alberto, Aspas, Sturridge. This year our bench look about: Jones, Sakho, Enrique, Lallana, Lambert, Markovic, Lucas. That's not counting Allen, Borini, Suso, Ibe Flanagan, Agger, Manquillo, Toure, etc... If the way Liverpool have done their business this summer is any indication, they will sign another striker before the window closes.
Another point worth mentioning is Liverpool were in three competitions last season and now they are in four. Given the squad depth we have now another competition will not be a problem.
Brendan Rodgers did something extraordinary last season. Taking a team who finished seventh and bringing them within two points of the title was UNPRECEDENTED. Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Chelsea have all strengthened significantly. Spurs have also seemingly plugged holes. Though United have been link with a host of world-class talent they haven't signed any. United back three of Jones, Smalling and Evans is laughable. And now one of the three signings you made (30 mil-19 year old) is out for the first four weeks of the season. Not to mention United are still in three competitions. I'm sorry but United do not have a chance of getting into the top four.
Optimism is what keeps us fans going, but United is a sinking ship. Rooney hasn't showed 'world-class' form in two years now, Van Persie is on his way out and Mata has failed to justify his expensive transfer.
Speaking of optimism I think Liverpool will win the league this year because even without Suarez, teams still cannot handle the tempo at which we play our game. Just ask Arsenal.
Brian (Poetry in motion tra la la la la) LFC
Liverpool 13/14 > Man United 14/15
Yesterday, Taro wrote in the mailbox 'There seems to be a consensus that United don't have the first eleven that on paper would "strike fear into anybody" this season. Well, one year ago do you even claim to believe that Liverpool's first eleven would have struck fear into anybody?'
So here is Liverpool's 11 that started the first game of last season against Stoke - Mignolet, Johnson, Jose Enrique, Toure, Agger, Gerrard, Aspas, Coutinho, Henderson, Lucas, Sturridge. Here is the predicted United 11 - De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Blackett, Young, James, Herrera, Fletcher, Mata, Welbeck, Rooney.
Now, neither fill you with confidence but having seen what Liverpool managed last year, anything is possible. But, while I think the personnel is about the same, United's team is worse. I say that because of who is playing in certain positions. Young as RWB. While being decent in this position in pre-season, he's really just not a good enough player for anywhere in a top-six team. Reece James as LWB and Blackett as CB. I realise Evans, RVP, Rafael etc are all due to come back, same with the Liverpool team as last year with Suarez, Sterling to come into form etc. Blackett and James have little to no experience and are untested in the league. Fletcher is completely past it as far as I'm concerned and I think most people would agree. I mean just look at that United team. It's quite embarrassing if you consider they are one of, if not the biggest club in England. Leaving that aside, it's a new formation that everyone is still learning as well.
You can see why Spurs fans kicked up fuss when Football365 claimed their team wasn't good enough.
United Have No Defenders? Brilliant!
First of all, as a Utd fan I am looking forward to the season like most other supporters. Simply because it looks like we may be building a new team rather than ruining an ageing team like Moyes did last year. I think we have enough quality going forwards to cause teams problems with football that looks like will be played in an exciting way. Champions League qualification is the target, anything else will be a bonus.
A lot of people are pointing towards a weakness in our defence. I am a bit more sympathetic and would call it an unknown. The first big question mark is fitness with Evans, Smalling and Jones all having had large spells on the sidelines. Are they going to stay fit? Who knows but there doesn't appear to be a lot behind them so this is key. My main point is that following the WC we have been calling for young English players to come through. Now at present Jones and Smalling are not the answer but they do have age on their side. Both have struggled for first-team continuity behind Vidic and Ferdinand but this is not a problem anymore. Most discussions I have heard about players improving seems to be based on them actually playing first-team football. Now if these two do get a regular run and stay fit who is to say we won't see big strides towards them becoming the players that their potential suggests? It maybe through a lack of choice but let's accept a few mistakes along the way and give them the opportunity to become top centre-backs. It may save upwards of 20 million on new recruits.
At the end of the day, surely giving young English players is a positive thing?
Dave (rose-tinted glasses) MUFC
Oh my God United fans, would you just give it a rest? Please, next time someone calls you 'overconfident' or 'arrogant' just don't bite or, if you really have to, actually bite them instead of sending in dreary mails based on nothing more than conjecture before a ball has even been kicked in anger.
If anyone should be confident that this season will be a huge improvement on the last it's Chelsea. We've made the best signings, have a deadly new striker and even reinforced the meanest defence from last year. We've easily got enough cash left to chuck another £40m on an unnecessary player and Mourinho always always wins the league in his second year...
See. It's easy to write hypotheticals on why your team will be sooo much better this year but it's also dull as f*ck.
City Have Done Good Business Too
One thing about pre-season that I really find confusing is the fact that so many people take it upon themselves to make broad sweeping generalisations about other teams dealings in the transfer market. Austin Maguire is guilty of just that bemoaning City's 'uninspiring signings'.
He was probably one of those wags saying that Silva would be too 'lightweight' or that City got the short end of the stick last season when we signed Fernandinho (overpriced) and Negredo (too old) when compared to Spurs acquisition of Paulinho and Soldado. How did that turn out?
I guess the point I am trying to make is don't make sweeping statements until you've actually seen the players play a few games. Reserve your judgment until a ball has been kicked in anger, otherwise you may come across looking quite sheepish.
Another criticism is that commenters of Austin's ilk also offer no alternatives. So come on Austin, if you feel these signings are so uninspiring who should City have signed instead? How many inspiring signings can you fit into a 49mil spending cap and team restrictions which will probably see one foreign player (looking likely to be the injured Negredo) to be dropped from the Champions League squad?
As a City fan I think we have done excellent business. We have strengthened our key weaknesses (CB, CM and RB) with Mangala, Fernando, Lampard and Sagna. Bear in mind Zabaleta had to play almost every game as Richards was constantly injured last year, and we've managed to sign arguably one of the league's top 10 right-backs as a backup for a free!
Fernando provides a more mobile defensive screen then Rodwell (always injured) and Garcia (too slow) could provide. And those last two players, if Garcia's move to Zenit is confirmed, have been offloaded for around 25mil! Lampard and Fernando in, Garcia and Rodwell out for a net inflow of 13mil. Success in my eyes, but obviously not in Austin's.
Mangala provides potential and according to the papers had a long list of suitors. He is a bit of a gamble at the prices quoted, however it's the price we have to play when United have been inflating transfer fees for decades. He could come good, he might not. I don't think he will be much worse than what Lescott could have offered.
I haven't even mentioned Caballero or Zuculini - file the later in one for the future.
We're also finding some good loan deals (unlike Guidetti's spell at Stoke last year) for our youngsters - as well as trying to shift some of the fringe players. All in all I couldn't be happier with our progress. I'm certainly looking forward to the next season and how it will unfold, and definitely not writing off what we've managed to achieve transfer wise as pithily as Austin has done.
Martin Todoroski, MCFC
Don't Re-Write Cesc History
There is always room for different views. But I have to ask Graham Simmons whose verdict on Fabregas is that he didn't turn up in big games when he was a gooner three genuine questions. Does he understand the concept that a single player should not be judged on whether he won silverware at a club? Think Shearer for Newcastle etc. Secondly can he think of a single central midfielder in the history of the Premiership who has had as much influence as Cesc at his age? Thirdly is he absolutely 100% sure he hasn't had a knock on the head and basically forgotten how wonderfully consistent Cesc was in those years he played for us? I also specifically remember great performances in games like Chelsea in the CC final, Utd away, Milan away, Barca at home, Juve at home. Big games. I know he plays for a rival who let's face it we really dislike but honestly mate give him the credit he is due for how he performed when he was with us. He was head and shoulders above his teammates. Or did I imagine all that?
Captain, My Captain
Football365 and its readers in general seem to think the whole captain's thing is a bit overrated and sometimes it's hard not to agree; especially when it comes to national team captains who have such little time with their team mates that any impact made would be negligible at best.
However, whilst I found myself nodding in agreement with Graham Simons' assertion that Per Mertersacker probably should have got the gig for Arsenal, it did make me ask why has Arsene made these peculiar choices?
The only plausible thing I can think of is that at a club level, the captain can have so much more of an influence over players around him, on and off the pitch, during competitive games, friendlies, and training. Maybe Wenger believes that these players offer more behind closed doors than they do on the pitch, and maybe this is more important for some players. Maybe Arteta is the best choice for more than pure footballing reasons? I also believe that being given the arm band instils a sense of pride in some people and they consequently play better or help others play better. Sometimes even both.
A captain doesn't need to be able to drag a team out of a hole on his own to be considered a great captain. Plenty of great players do that without an armband, and plenty of great captains were hardly superstars. At club level at least, I believe there is more to it than what we see each match day.
This in no way explains Rooney. Mind boggling.
Matt Wright, Gunner in Aus
Loving Brendan Rodgers
Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Rickie Lambert, Javier Manquillo, Lazar Markovic, Divock Origi and Kevin Stewart...bless his cotton socks! Brendan Rogers, you really can't hate him, you can snigger but you can't hate him. He hasn't got that tacky wild person of Ian Holloway, the petulance of Redknapp, he isn't an attention-grabbing git like Mourinho, he's not bitter like Wenger, nor is he no-nonsense like Van Gaal, he's in a league of his own. He really is drinking the Liverpool cool aid and you'd certainly love him if he was your manager, but my God does he weave a good fantasy. He's created a new niche persona of a Premier League manager, he may be totally off the wall but you get the feeling that he truly believes what he says. The world needs people that dedicated to positvity to help us avoid some of the harsher realities.
There is an awkward but admirable honesty about the guy, Raheem Sterling "is turning into a beautiful young man", "We play with 11 men, other teams play with 10 men and a goalkeeper", "I've always said that you can live without water for many days, but you can't live for a second without hope" and from yesterday on his summer transfers, the "ability to attract top players is great", Liverpool have been involved in one top player transfer this summer and that was in saying goodbye to Suarez.
You sense that he actually believes the media click-whoring when they mention Falcao and Cavani as Liverpool targets, he reads this and then believes it and it feeds his enthusiasm. I for one am all for him, it's this blind puppy doggy positivity that made Liverpool the most exciting team to watch last season, and it all feeds into the fans. They all admit it's a whole heap of bullsh*t but they can see that it's having an effect and in a tongue in cheek way they happily encourage it because it's getting the results and because it's fun. He's a breath of fresh air in the Premier League and long may it last, because that league can chew you up and spit you out!
...This summer has provided much hilarity. Since the World Cup anyway. Mostly thanks to Liverpool, both from fans blindly assuring themselves that last year wasn't just a fluke and that they are really better than United (even though they lost their one world-class star - top six on his day - and we lost our millstone and kryptonite).
But Brendan Rodgers is the gift that keeps on giving, and his latest comments are top-drawer stuff.
I fancy that Suarez's incredible form last year made Rodgers look very much better than he is, and that this year we'll see the real Brendan back in full effect. You can't say you're attracting the top talent when the best player you've signed is an overpriced if reasonably talented English winger from Southampton.
Still, it all adds to what is going to be a blinder of a season!
How is it only Thursday?
Guy S (waiting for Brendan's false number 3)
This Is What Happens When You Laugh At Rodgers
Your snidey summary of the top story today sets you alongside those you mock in Mediawatch on a daily basis. Oh so clever of you to list Liverpool's new signings, smugly grinning as you type, indirectly mocking Rodgers' assertion that Liverpool are capable of attracting top talent, inviting incredulity. You may be right - these aren't world-class players - but your editorial style is becoming tiring. No wonder managers and players roll out platitudes if every single utterance gets denounced/mocked/put in speech marks to denote how wonderfully inaccurate a statement it was. Here's a couple for you. I do so love the 'reporting' that F365 publishes every day on its 'football website'. World-class journalists no doubt in every seat...