Can All The Willy-Waving Stop Soon?

Man United are the best. No, Liverpool are the best. No, Man United are, we have LVG. No Liverpool are, we have BR! Thankfully the football starts very soon...

Last Updated: 14/08/14 at 16:29

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Stop! Please. Just Stop!
Man United are the best. No, Liverpool are the best. No, Man United are, we have LVG. No Liverpool are, we have BR!...Et Cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Can we all just agree that no mailbox entry, drunken argument, or fisticuff will help earn your team more points at the end of the season.

As a Liverpool fan, I'm genuinely excited to see how the team will perform without Suarez. We've signed lots of young exciting talent and I can't wait to see each of them this season.

However...

I'm also delighted United got a World-class manager in LVG and I am intrigued to see how United take on his new philosophy. How entertaining will it be to listen to LVG every weekend?

How good will Arsenal be with Sanchez?! And Walcott back? And Ozil firing on all cylinders. Scary.

Can City improve on last season? What a team they have. I enjoy watching no one more than Silva. And Yaya the absolute beast of a freight train.

I loved Martinez and Everton last year. Remember them absolutely destroying Arsenal at Emirates last year? They looked superb. Surely they can only get better.

Hopefully Spurs stick with Potts who looks to be a good manager. They might surprise you and be right up there come May.

And Chelsea? Meh, I don't like you.
Mylie


Liverpool Have Made 'Top' Signings

I just had a read of this morning's mailbox and in particular the ones smugly chuckling at Brendan Rodgers and his claims of Liverpool signing "top players"; this is with the knowledge of all players signed by those doing the berating with unnecessary pomp. I just wanted to quickly summarise that, with possible exception of Lambert, who has been signed for reasons quite clear to those who watched Liverpool struggle last season against certain tactics, I believe these signings are top players.

Lovren proved to be one of the finer defenders last season, Lallana also showing he is a talented player throughout, then there is Can who has looked like a solid investment at just 20 and experience in Champs League and the league the world wants to emulate, Moreno is a very good player and Manquillo is Spain's next right-back in my opinion, Markovic another player who looks very skilled and talented on the ball. Then there is Origi and Stewart, who won't make appearances for LFC this season and are quite clearly long-term investments.

So I ask the question that have those beating Rodgers with the zany stick for labelling these players as 'top' been getting muddled up with the word "famous"? Because I certainly think that seems to be the case. I think Lovren will be outstanding and that Can will also perform above and beyond expectations too.
Craig Saphier


Homegrown Rule Is Counter-Productive

With both chelsea and Man City struggling with the number of homegrown players they have, it seems to me that the homegrown rule is actually stunting the development of top English players rather than helping it. The likes of Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair were clearly bought at City due to their homegrown status, yet both players have been barely given a chance and their careers have gone backwards. Similarly at Chelsea there is the situation with Victor Moses (admittedly he isn't technically English anymore) where he is being kept, despite Mourinho pretty much saying he doesn't rate him, just because he is homegrown. It also seems unlikely that Micah Richards would still be at City if it wasn't for his homegrown status and he desperately needs a move away to re-ignite his once promising career. James Milner is another who could do with a move but there was talk City were willing to pay him £200,000 a week, as his English status and squad utility were so useful to them.

It seems now the big clubs are buying promising English players mainly to fulfil their squad requirements and then they barely play them. I don't really see how this rule helps anyone either. The best English players will get played regardless if they are good enough, and it would be better for both the players and England if promising young players were given the chance to develop at teams which will actually play them week in week out!

The rule also means young foreign players are being brought in at 18 or under so that they will be classed as homegrown (like Lukaku and Rafael) which means that young English players will even struggle to get game time at under 18 and reserve team level due to the influx of talented youngsters from around the world.
Simon Leonard


Let The English Players Strengthen The Championship
I appreciate this is a bit different to 'no, we'll finish third' banter going on, but I just wanted to raise a question about the Championship:

1) It is the seventh richest football league in the world, beaten only by the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and (erm...) Russia. In fact it has a similar but slightly higher revenue than the Turkish and Dutch leagues.

2) It also has the fourth highest total attendance of any football league in the world, beaten only by the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, which means more people go to watch the likes of Sheffield Wednesday on a regular basis than attend Serie A.

So, forget the relative lack of English players in the Premier League, surely the Championship should be able to produce the basis of an English team that can compete internationally?

Put another way, the Eredivisie is made up of predominantly Dutch players, with its best going abroad to play in Europe's big four. The Championship is a slightly richer, nearly twice as well attended version of the Eredivisie, with the top English players playing in arguable Europe's best. So how come the Dutch, with a population of 16.9m can produce the likes of their national team but England, with a population of 53m, can't?

Surely the FA should stop trying to impose a home-grown requirement that sees the likes of Moses sat on a bench rather than develop at another team so that Chelsea can meet a quota, and see the Premier League as simply what it has become: the world's finishing school. Instead, focus on the quality of coaching etc in the Championship, raise the profile by putting highlights on terrestial TV at a reasonable hour, and take advantage of the unique position the league has being in the same sodding country. You'd also have young English players on much more reasonable sums of money, and re-engage with fans who decide to support their local team rather than one hundreds of miles away.

Does anyone else not find it weird the Championship gets very little respect? Or perhaps I'm just being stupid and as far as everyone is concerned since football ends at relegation.
David P, Manchester


Mertescielny The Best? Really?

Having been ferociously flicking through the Premier League previews I keep stumbling across the following phrases (dependant on official or fan preview)

Leagues Best Centre-Backs Mertesacker and Koscielny
With Mertescielny the league's best centre-back pairing

And others very simliar to this.However, I cant help wonder if it was these two that played when Liverpool, City and Chelsea tore them a new one because letting in 18 goals in three games doesn't really seem to be 'the best in the league...'

So please how does this qualify as being the best in the league if when coming up against the best they perform less than adequetely
Smuggler McSmugglerson


United Fielding League Cup Defence

So with a potential back five of Reece James, Tyler Blackett, Phil Jones, Johnny Evans and er, Ashley Young, United are entering the first league game of the season with a defence that should really only be used for a League Cup tie three days before a big game against the likes of City or Chelsea. They might do a job but even the likes of Jerome, Altidore or Torres would be confident of knocking in a goal against that.
Kev (Yes, that is the company Torres keeps these days), Dublin


Herrera The Saviour? Really?

I had a conversation with my friend yesterday about Man Utd and their chances in the league this year. As one of their fans (not supporters) he seems to think that they'll walk back in the top four 'cos of LVG and Ander Herrera. I didn't argue though 'cos it's his opinion and he's allowed to be deluded.

It was an interesting revelation though, that he'd never actually seen Herrera play, other than the highlights of two pre-season friendlies for Man Utd. I'm wondering how many Utd fans have actually seen anything of him yet expect him to be the new 'Paul Scholes'. I'll bet it's a lot. I'll bet a lot have thrown him straight into their fantasy football teams.

His stats on whoscored.com suggest he's an OK player, but they don't scream £30million (or whatever) they paid for him. Also, he's 25 and never played at a really top-end team; no offence to Bilbao and Zaragoza. Yet he's somehow expected to be the messiah for the biggest team in England.

Considering this awesome amount of pressure on him, I can't be the only one thinking that there's a stronger possibility this is Marouane Fellaini version 2.0.
Nick P. Burnley FC


More Blind Optimism Destroyed

Brian (Poetry in motion tra la la la la) LFC, how I enjoyed your e-mail this morning, especially with the theme of nothing being wrong with optimism except for when it's blind and then proceeding to make a number of wild comments, with what can only be termed as blind ignorance.

Firstly you say Liverpool's climb from seventh up to second and within two points to the title is unprecendented. Well I suppose that exact scenario might be, however I'm sure there are a number of people who are going to be equally quick in telling you that there is a team who has done something far greater than that. I am of course talking about Nottingham Forest who were promoted to the top division in 1977 and preceded to win the league the following season. Something I am sure you agree is a much more impressive feat than finishing second in the league.

Secondly you state that Liverpool will win the league because even without Suarez teams can't handle the Liverpoool tempo...just ask Arsenal. This one also tickled me good. Brian, you do realise you faced Arsenal three times last season, and that they beat you on two of those three occasions. It's almost like you blindly chose to ignore those two games.
Jamie AFC (Liverpool will be lucky to finish sixth this year, but hey, I guess their fans can say a drop of second to sixth is UNPRECEDENTED next year at least)


This Guy Couldn't Help But Bite

In this morning's mailbox, Brian (Poetry in motion tra la la la la) LFC, had the following to say (and he's not the only one):

'United back three of Jones, Smalling and Evans is laughable.' (All three have been praised highly in previous years but just lost their way in the last, so let's see. Jones in particular.)
'Rooney hasn't showed 'world-class' form in two years now' (Pretty handy record for a non-world-class player.)
'Van Persie is on his way out' (This man widely expected to be in the running for the golden boot?)
'Mata has failed to justify his expensive transfer' (Clearly, you've not been watching recently...)

I hope we see you back here at Christmas, so we can revisit this. You may not have room for turkey.

You are right about one thing though; four competitions won't be too much of an impediment for you because by Christmas you'll probably only be competing for one.

We went from 1st to 7th mostly because of one man (Moyes).
You went from 7th to 2nd mostly because of one man (Suarez).

Both are gone. Let's see how this story ends, shall we...
Guy S (yes, I bit)


Or This Harry

Brian (Poetry in motion tra la la la la) LFC, Liverpool were not 'in three competitions' last seasomn, you were in one. You played your reserves in the domestic cup competitions, and you crashed out of both early. To that end, Liverpool had nothing but the league to worry about from January onwards.

It's also a little curious that you derided our back three for being 'laughable' when that word would be the one I would personally use to describe Liverpool's back four last season. That you have the temerity to name Borini, Agger and Toure on a bench you portray as strong only serves to undermine your point further; one is a striker who cannot score, and the other two are defenders that cannot defend...

Talk of blind optimism may be on the money to a certain degree, but you are equally as guilty when it comes to assessing United. You dismiss Rooney, RvP and Mata without any detailed justification at all. Nothing. Apparently RvP is 'on his way out', but you have presented nothing to back this claim up, while Mata 'has failed to justify his transfer' despite assisting and scoring nine goals in the 15 games he played for us last season, in a side who's confidence was shot to pieces. Just think a little bit, eh? It's not hard. Don't just take what you believe to be true and splurge it all over your keyboard. It's not becoming of a Liverpool fan. I thought Brendan said you lot were the most educated in the league?
Harry the Manc


Zing

Funny, you don't get many young children called 'Brian' these days.

Maybe it's making a comeback.
Marky B. MUFC


Why Write Off Everton?

I read Krakow's interesting take on the other contenders for the top four spots and didn't disagree with much of it, however I did note, with just a tiny bit of annoyance, that he didn't include Everton in there, who last term performed better than both Man United and Spurs.

From the outset I will declare my obvious bias, but as an Everton fan I've noted that many seem to be writing off their chances of improving on, or even equalling last seasons league performance, however I personally am quite optimistic (a very unusual feeling for someone who has supported Everton since the early 90's...Roberto's boundless enthusiasm and the way he says the word 'technically' have strange effect on me).

Reasons given for Everton's potential failure to replicate last season have been noted as the increased number of games due to Europa as well as a common claim that despite signing Barry and Lukaku they haven't actually strengthened their small squad very much, only signing Besic and Atsu (who I suppose people will claim is a replacement for Delofeu).

Now this is something I personally disagree with. First of all they have added Besic, a player that whilst used as a defensive mid in the World Cup has also spent a considerable amount of time playing at the back. We all know that Bobby brown shoes is a fan of a back three so I see Besic as a very useful and versatile addition to the squad who can play in more than one position. Also the Blues have Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone back, who both missed pretty much the entirety of last season through injury, as well as Oviedo, who got banjaxed in early 2014 and missed the run in, where a player of his versatility and energy would have been extremely useful.

Gibson showed in Moyes' final season just what an good player he is in the deep lying midfield role and I think he can slot in easily into one of the two central mid positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Martinez seems to like. Kone, whilst not likely to set fire to tears, did score 10+ goals for a team that got relegated prior to joining Everton so if he is fit I think he can be a pretty useful back-up to big Rom (with also Naismith and Mirallas able to play in that positin too). Oviedo returning also provides cover on either flank in defense and attack and can also do a job in centre mid if required.

I suppose what I'm trying to get at is that at the start of this season Everton have an additional four players in the first-team squad that will be competing for a starting place, then they did last season (Gibbo, Oviedo, Kone and Besic) and they have replaced or re-signed three players that were instrumental last season (Barry, Lukaku and Deleofeou/Atsu). They have decent cover in almost every position, or at least more cover in every position then I ever remember before, and Martinez has also spoken of his desire to blood some further youngsters this season, with McAleny and Garbutt looking most likely, and I think Martinez is too shrewd to throw a kid in if he isn't sure about them.

Basically, I don't think (or that should probably be hope) that the additional workload will have such an effect as mentioned as I feel the squad now has decent enough cover in most positions (a mid-to-late 20's centre half wouldn't go amiss as Stones is still young and Distin is about 68, and Alcaraz is poo). Obviously I throw in the obligatory injury caveats and the very likely chance that I am completely and hopelessly wrong about everything, however I think it's a bit unfair to remove Everton completely from the running at this stage.

Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest..
Tim, EFC


...I'm sure you'll make an 'angry scouser shock horror' title for this mail, but hey ho...

'Everton lost their chance for fourth in the run-in but the sight of Liverpool dropping the trophy when they had it in their grasp made for a decent finish to Roberto Martinez's first campaign at Goodison.'

Liverpool and Gerrard's slip was amusing, and has provided no end of fun this summer, but why would you even try suggesting their collapse meant our finish was decent?

They were two completely independent events. When fourth is on with a few games left, to not finish there is painful. No amount of demise to a rival will make up our failure of success. To suggest such is an insulting cheap shot from a news outlet I expect better from.

And whilst we're here, why do you think the chances of breaking in to the 'top six' again are pretty remote? Also, top SIX!!?? This is a Sky trick to make sure that Liverpool/Utd/London based Spurs get included in the tier of top teams they like to talk about. (See BT Sports Top Four feature last season, which didn't include Everton who were fourth placed at the time, but a Man Utd in disarray was included.) Sixth means nothing seeing as it's not even a Europa league spot at the start of the season.

- We will have the same demands of Europa League that Tottenham Hotspur will have.

- We have Barkley, Lukaku, Stones, McCarthy who are all young and improving (you know...generally means getting better than before). Potentially add Besic to that list, who looks very handy.

Compare our squad to Tottenham's...They may have more bodies, but most of them are players you would say where established professionals, and very few youngsters full of potential.

- What about the best full0backs in the league, of which Coleman is about to hit his 'peak' years?

- Utd are still lacking any decent defenders who can actually defend to a 'top six' level, and still haven't addressed the gaping hole in central midfield.

- Chelsea (H), Arsenal (H&A), Liverpool (H), Utd (H&A), Spurs (H&A)...We either played them off the park or were the better team by some way in these fixtures last season, even if some of those results didn't translate in to the points. Hardly like we are miles behind them is it?

- We had the third best defence in the league last season.

Yep, we look so unlikely to break 'top six' again.
Graeme Lomas


...Well having just read the preview on Everton, it looks like other than the names, the last ten years of Everton predictions have been cut and pasted by the lovely 365 staff. 'Realistically, the chances of Everton breaking the top six again are pretty remote...(but not impossible)...' Loving that last little disclaimer here.

Translation: Everton have the ability, confidence, belief and manager to break into the top six again but it really doesn't make for good print so we're going to go with the usual suspects. Oh, and they're broke comparatively speaking.

C'mon now. Give us a little more credit than that. A few reasons why?

1) Finished fifth last season (hey would you look at that !!!)
2) Players have had a full year of playing under Roberto (didn't start well last year with three draws if you recall)
3) Kept Lukaku and Barry and have added Besic and Atsu on loan. Depth is not something that is synonymous with Everton Football Club.
4) Got result last season against top teams which had been lacking in years past (...yes they've strengthened. So have we.)

I could come up with more but I'd be afraid of being accused of grasping at straws. The reality is this. If we play like we can, avoid the injury bug (something not exclusive to Everton of course) and take points where you'd expect us to take points, there's no reason why we can't finish in the top four or at the very least fifth...

...or 17th if you're David James.
TX Bill (gonna say I'm a Gooner from Norf London so I get published) EFC


A Rare Leicester Mail

It has become something of a ritual for me to read Mediawatch at lunchtime, and to chuckle heartily at the hypocrisy and idiocy of the punditocracy.

But I can't help but feel that in today's edition, F365 has, in attempting to have a laugh at Mark Lawrenson's expense, jumped right into the same sort of banal thinking it lampoons on that page.

Mediawatch scoffed at Lawro's assertion that Leicester's retention of their squad from last season represented a significant positive step for the club, sarcastically commenting 'Which of course is famously the route to Premier League survival.'

Leicester got 102 points last year. To put this in perspective, only two other teams have been promoted to the Premier League with more than 95 points in the last 10 years - Newcastle in 2010 (102) and Reading in 2006 (106). Both of those sides stayed up very comfortably, Newcastle in 12th and Reading in 8th, in their first seasons back in the Premier League.

Did they spend big on recruiting established Premier League players and big names? Of course they didn't (Hatem Ben Arfa, who was injured almost immediately, being the glaring exception (and Alan Shearer had never heard of him anyway!)) - they had a strong team bond and good quality players - regardless of what you think of the Championship, getting over 100 points is a heck of an acheivement and demonstrates the quality of player that Leicester currently have in their squad. What will keep Leicester (and Burnley who amassed a very impressive 93 points themselves) in the Premier League is the spirit and quality of the existing squads.

It makes me chuckle to see QPR lauded as having done 'great business' (not necessarily by F365) and being considered by the majority of pundits to have got the best chance of the promoted sides of staying up. Why? Oh, it's because they signed two relegated players in Caulker and Mutch and a defender whose creaking body would be lucky to see 20 games this season. Oh, and old 'Arry is such a reliable custodian of that team too.

Never mind the fact that their squad is being built from a base position of having been significantly worse than not only Leicester, but Burnley as well. Those two sides absolutely romped through the division whilst QPR ground out 0-0 after 1-0 after 0-0 before being completely outplayed by a really good Derby side in the Play-Off Final despite the embarrassment of riches at 'Arry's disposal.

I could go on about the lack of quality below the top seven in the top flight but I really wouldn't be surprised if both Burnley and Leicester stayed up without making any particularly 'big-name' signings.

'Premier League players' can be made as well as bought.
Tom, London (we'll be bottom after five games though - Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal, Stoke, United - ouch)


Neutral Predictions

As a neutral to the Premier League (sobs), I thought I'd throw in my own prediction list for the season. A bait-free, chip-on-shoulder-less look at where I think the top 7 will end up - based purely on conjecture and guesswork, of course, as the best predictions are. In descending order...

7. Spurs - A very good squad, but too many 'ifs' in there for me to confidently place them any higher (manager, forward line, most of last year's signings). If most of those 'ifs' are answered with 'yes', they'll be higher, potentially in the top four.

6. Everton - A great squad, but not as deep as those above them, particularly at the back. A monster season from Lukaku, strong support from a quality, well-balanced midfield, and tightness at the back could see them rise, or if the others struggle (very possible). I think they'll end up here or seventh, though.

5. Manchester United - VERY difficult to pick between them and the next two. Again, too many 'ifs for me (they have four good strikers all with question marks above them), and a back four that as of writing looks poor. Van Gaal will do well, and they could rise to third with an upturn in fortunes in the middle and up front, but no further. I know, never write off United and all that...

4. Liverpool: They'll miss Suarez, but have the potential to cover the loss with Sturridge, Coutinho and goals elsewhere. A decent back line and plenty of options puts them fourth for me, at least at this stage. No 'superstar' is not necessarily a bad thing.

3. Arsenal: Solid at the back (full-backs are a bit of an if). A midfield with pace, creativity, bite, and goals in them. They could do with another decent striker, but for now I think the quality of Ramsey, Ozil, and Sanchez, along with the balance in the squad, put them at third. Arsene might insist they drop to fourth just for consistencies sake, though.

2. Manchester City: Tough to pick between the top two - both are stacked. City lose out for me only because Chelsea are a tad bit better, their forward line are injury prone, and their defense a little bit more suspect. Could easily be them, though, particulary if their strikers come to prominence. Good God they've got a scary strike force.

1. Chelsea: Solid back line. Stacked midfield. Plenty of options to support the forwards. Despite the lack of striking options, I think Chelsea will pull this one off akin to Mourinho's 2004 effort, using defensive solidity, overwhelming counter attacks, an immense amount of talent and discipline in the squad, and the ability to not chuck away silly points to pull it off. They might not even need a striker to do any more than drag defenders around and play others in. It's a risk but I'm going for it: Chelsea for the league.
Mark, DCFC


Not A Long Long Mail

As a proud Irishman, and a loyal follower of the national team I just wanted to say the following about Shane Long's £12mil transfer from Hull.

Southampton, you've been merked!
DC, Dublin

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