Missing Rio And His Excellent Shouting...

The inquest into Saturday continues with United apparently needing leaders, another forward, a new formation and a curb for LVG's ego. There is other stuff too...

Last Updated: 18/08/14 at 14:55

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Opening Weekend Conclusions
1. Obviously you can never read too much into a title race after one game, but it's fair to say some of the big players started slowly. Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City all showed fleeting glimpses of their quality but also plenty of post summer rustiness. It's a shame none of the smaller teams managed to take advantage as this is probably the best time to play them.

2. Stating the obvious here but Liverpool are going to miss Suarez badly as the season wears on. Sturridge and Sterling are both excellent but last season you always wondered where Suarez would make his run, when he would get the ball and what he would do with it. It's still early days but I just feel Liverpool will be much more predictable without him, and teams will realise they can take more risks against them.

3. Speaking of Suarez leaving, where have all the world-class players gone? In my opinion, these are the only ones left in the PL: Courtois, Lloris, Ivanovic, Zabaleta, Kompany, Fabregas, Toure, Hazard, Ozil, Mata, Silva, Aguero, Sanchez, Rooney and Van Persie. Real Madrid and Barcelona probably have more than that between them.

4. Most exciting new arrival? Undoubtedly the vanishing spray. Huge cheer every time it came out. Special mention to John Moss for giving Cazorla a quick spray - and credit to Cazorla for not going down injured.

5. Fans of teams with new managers expecting an immediate upturn in fortune will have been left disappointed. LVG wasn't helped by an injury crisis but everything about United looked remarkably similar to Moyes' United. Likewise Pochettino's Spurs didn't seem much different to AVB's Spurs.

6. Southampton and Swansea both look surprisingly solid considering they have both sold half their team over the summer. If anything, once they get a new CB, Swansea actually seem stronger than last season. If Southampton can keep hold of Wanyama and Schneiderlin then they too should be a shoo-in for a top 10 finish.

7. Plenty of penalties, sendings off and controversies already which is always fun. Kyle Naughton's handball seemed particularly ridiculous - surely Lloris would have made the save if Naughton's hands hadn't been up, thus making it far from denying a certain goal? Even if Lloris wasn't in position, the fact that Naughton was several yards from goal would still have made it a questionable decision?

8. Lots of Premier League teams have unofficial 'feeder' clubs - Liverpool have Southampton, Man City have Arsenal, Norwich had Leeds for a few years. Aston Villa seem to be plundering most of their talent from 2006 - there was a pang of nostalgia when I saw their team sheet contain the likes of Hutton, Senderos, N'Zogbia and Richardson, with the likes of Joe Cole, Darren Bent and Shay Given waiting in the wings. I was delighted they won - gives everyone the message that your career is not truly over until you have been released by Villa.

9. Leicester are my dark horses for the season. They have some good centre-backs and if Ulloa can get 10-15 goals they could reach mid-table.

10. Brendan Rodgers' tie - a slim, wool knit number with a squared off end. Just makes me despise him that little bit more.
GM, Spurs


Thoughts From Stewie

1. LVG LOL.

2. How good is Aguero?

3. Sanogo. Never thought I'd live to see a 'professional' striker so sh*te, he makes Chamakh look like Van Basten.

4. In fact, he's so abysmal I almost wanted Giroud to come on. Anyone backing Arsenal for the title with one of the worst striking duos in the division, is..err...oh an Arsenal fan.

5. Liverpool. To be fair, Lambert made the difference a la Suarez after coming on. You def won't miss Suarez.

6. That prediction I made about Arsenal's set-piece defending...hogwash wasn't it!

7. Respect to Lambert. Made Senderos look a competent defender for 90 minutes. Amazing.

8. Lukaku. Never tire of saying this, but Jose knows exactly what he's doing if he releases a player. See Mata.

9. Aaron Ramsey will be at Barca within two years. Fact.

10. Spurs look solid. Allardyce looks doomed. Mid-table obscurity will be close between Hull and ManYoo.
Stewie Griffin (Chelski will stroll this one)


Why Are Spurs Further Away?

Interesting to read that the 'gap to fourth looks wider than it has been for several years' following our three closest rivals losing (Man Utd), drawing (Everton) and labouring to a home victory against unfancied opposition (Liverpool). As has been said previously, it's nice to not have the fear of immense disappointment if we don't finish fourth, but surely it's closer than it has ever been.

Admittedly we were disjointed at times on Saturday; we are still very much a work in progress and there is obviously a lot more to come from us - Lamela and Eriksen in particular, but to dig deep and take three points in that kind of game shows a squad mentality that was painfully lacking last season. We also saw excellent performances under pressure from Capoue, Bentaleb and Dier (what a debut), with Kane and Townsend both injecting energy and worrying West Ham when they came on; none of them are players that were expected to make an impact this season, so we perhaps have more depth than is widely appreciated.

Citeh, Chelsea and Arsenal will doubtless take the top three positions, but I fail to see how Liverpool, Everton and Man Utd are further away than ever when none of them convinced at all this weekend.
Alex G, THFC


Shine Bright Like A Diamond...

With all the attention paid to LVG's use of 3-5-2 over the weekend, it got me thinking whether this formation would suit my beloved Spurs based on first XI personnel etc and came to the conclusion it probably did not. After a little more thought I did conclude that a midfield diamond formation would be better suited and wondered why this wasn't more common in the prem (Liverpool and formally Chelsea making excellent us of it recently).

It really does seem that this would suit Spurs well. Glut of holding/ball playing and box-to-box midfielders (check), versatile number 10 options (check) Big centre forward partnered with creative foil (check), pacy full-backs who like to get forward and overlap (check). However this formation does seem a little out of fashion compared to 4-3-2-1 and now 3-5-2 though I can't really work out why beyond the conservatism associated with playing two defensive midfielders.

Be interested to know other mailboxers thoughts on why this is. It is simply out of fashion or is there some tactical flaw in it that I'm missing?
Jake COYS


More From Coutinho Please

The first game of the season has come and gone and although it was not a convincing performance by Liverpool in an age where results are king it was job done.

There were many positives to take from the game. Liverpool seem to still have the ability to score goals in a free-flowing attacking system without Luis Suarez, Lovren looking every bit worth his 20 million pound transfer, Mignolet looking like the keeper we signed from Sunderland, and Manquillo may be the first loan to work out in the Rodgers era. Even Rickie Lambert looked more of a fit compared to a dreadful pre-season.

There were also plenty of negatives. Glen Johnson's dip in form continues (though he was on the left), a refusal of pretty much every player including Gerrard and Lovren to step up and be a vocal leader when the Reds were under significant pressure in the second half of the game, and an apparent gulf between the midfield and defense.

I think you would be hard pressed to find a Liverpool supporter not scratching his/her head after seeing Lucas in the starting XI on Sunday. With that said it was an intelligent move by Rodgers to bed in the new players like Can slowly, but unfortunately the experiment was a failure.

While much of the ire has been aimed at Lucas, another Brazilian must take some of the blame for Liverpool breaking down later half of play. With the loss of Suarez much of the creative and goalscoring responsibility fall to Raheem sterling and Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho's form in pre-season was scintillating. Many, including myself felt that this was the year of consistency for the young Brazilian. Sunday however demonstrated that he could still have an off game.

In this post-Suarez era Liverpool need Coutinho to be one of the most consistent players, however his inability to hold onto the ball and link play to the forwards had Liverpool constantly on the back foot. Liverpool was under constant pressure in the second half and it showed when Skrtel was doubled over sucking wind in 75th minute. Soton was ripe for the picking on Sunday and Coutinho's slow start is a bit worrying. If Liverpool are going to repeat last season achievements they need Philippe to be more constant this year than ever.

I want to end this em-ail giving great credit to Ronald Koeman for having his team organized and up for the match after a turbulent summer.
Brian (First the Woodward blaming, then the manager blaming, how long until we see the plane United fans?) LFC


United's Second XI: Rotten

There was a line on the Transfer Blog this morning about squad depth, I can't remember it verbatim but it was along the lines of; to figure out how strong your squad is, pick the first 11 then remove them and see what's left.

Well, here is United's first choice 11, assuming we're playing 3-5-2 and that everyone is fit:

De Gea, Evans, Smalling, Jones, Rafael, Shaw, Carrick, Herrera, Mata, Rooney and van Persie.

First off, that starting 11 isn't exactly amazing. With an unlimited budget (and the appeal to sign decent players), you'd probably make at least three changes; 1 CB, 1 WB and 1 CM. Regardless of that, we're left with a really sub-par squad.

I'll separate the youth from the reserves for the non-United fans, as there are plenty of unfamiliar names.

Reserves: Lindegaard/Amos (GK), Blackett, M Keane, James (DF), Januzaj, Lingard, Cleverley, Fletcher, Anderson, Fellaini (MF), Nani, Young, Powell, Valencia, Kagawa (AMF/WGR), Hernandez, Welbeck, Zaha, Wilson (FW)

Youth: Johnstone (GK), Thorpe, Varela, Vermijl (DF), Petrucci, Lawrence (MF), W Keane (FW)

Now, without being cynical, you'd struggle to get a team together, out of those reserves, who could give a decent Championship side a game - never mind beat them! There are few players in the first team who would start regularly for any other top-eight side, never mind the subs.

No matter how good van Gaal a coach may turn out to be, unless we make some quality signings (not potential or 'decent', players at or near their prime), a top-four finish is going to be an incredibly difficult task. There is no manager in the world who would look at that squad, with the expectation of getting a top-four finish, and be genuinely happy with it.

I'm all for giving youth a chance but it needs to be as a supplement to an in-form, settled team, which is based on quality and experience. On Saturday we had little option but to play Lingard and Blackett because there was no one else to take their place. For (supposedly) one of the biggest clubs in the world, that is an embarrassment. Every team suffers from injuries so that is not an acceptable excuse - a squad needs to be strong enough to cope without key players; United's, clearly, is a long way from being that.
Ted, Manchester


Man United Need Leaders

I was too depressed yesterday to write but having being at Old Trafford on Saturday to watch the season start with a whimper I thought I would throw my twopence into the ring as to what may already have been our biggest transfer error this summer - the loss of one Rio Ferdinand.

I widely expect to be torn apart in the mailbox for this but it is his leadership and organisation far more than his skill that I think we will miss this year. Having being attending OT since 1997, whenever a team looked to get on top at the ground or took the lead you could look around and see Keane, Giggs, Cantona, Neville and more recently Vidic, Evra or Van Der Sar rally the troops. They would look around and believe they had enough quality around them to come back.

On Saturday, after the second goal went in, the only person looking to rally was Rooney, and even then it was a mere clap of the hands. Rio used to scream at people and at least reorganise the back line, whereas you felt on Saturday that the back four were playing for themselves. Nobody in the team was there to grab the game by the scruff of the neck or at least put in a big challenge to try and get the crowd going. I can't even imagine many of the injured list (Shaw, Valencia, RvP, Evans) would have been able to raise the crowd again or rally their teammates.

Despite this morning's rumours of Rojo and Di Maria, I would far prefer United to be linked to someone who would shout and perhaps galvanise the squad a bit. Not be afraid to give the hairdryer treatment to one of their teammates if needed. We saw Mascherano give the Argentina teamtalk at the WC - someone similar would be most welcome!
Jack Marsden


And A New Forward...

I don't want to bore people with more talk of Man United's woes and how much they need defenders any longer so instead I'll put my own take on the situation.

Basically more than anything they need a new forward. Yes, new defenders are needed but the problem that stands will still be there as in getting overloaded by strikers and the late running midfield players. They do also need at least one energetic midfielder that can help track these runs but also force the runners back, as it stands we don't have anyone like that.

But for me watching the game on Saturday we desperately need a player to float in between the striker and Mata to change the game. Someone quick, direct, great at retaining the ball and someone who can make clever runs to drag the defence around. Rooney just isn't that player. What's been Rooney's role when he's had his best seasons? Centre-forward. When does Rooney look like shite? Playing off the striker. For me it's a case of either Rooney or Van Persie can play as the centre-forward not both together. Mata is a clever technician but he's not quick. He needs a fast player in front of him pulling defenders around so he can see the pass to the centre-forward.

Hernandez is good but not good enough to be the main striker for United. Rooney or Van Persie is but all the time Rooney is the link man between Mata and the striker there will always be problems.
Bradley Kirrage


Don't Blame The Fans

While most of the criticism levelled at Man Utd in the mailboxes this weekend I've noticed two people now say that the crowd at Old Trafford are partly to blame.

One of the guys was from India so I'm guessing he wasn't at Old Trafford on Saturday but as a long-time season ticket holder let me tell you that a lot of the ground is unfortunately quiet but as usual the Stretford End made a hell of a lot of noise and did nothing but try and get behind the team.

I think the only time I truly heard them get annoyed was at one point in the second half when three players all left a ball for each other as nobody wanted the responsibility of dealing with it and to be fair that was pretty disgraceful and exactly why the more reasoned amongst us fans were worried coming into the season without signing a quality mature centre-back to at least attempt to marshal the defence.

So stop blaming the crowd Utd have a poor squad as it stands now and that is where the blame is, now the responsibility for why the squad is this poor is a far more lengthy debate that I'll leave for people better informed than me.
Leon (MUFC Manchester)


Will The Felching Stop?

I watched an Irish film on Saturday night. It's called Calvary and is about an Irish priest who is told he will be killed in a week's time.

Any way at one point in the dialogue two Irish priests discuss 'felching'. I'm ashamed to say neither my wife nor I knew what it was so I pulled out the phone for a quick Google.

The wife looked at me and asked "Well what is it?" and I replied, "It's what Sky Sports and the UK press have been doing to Louis van Gaal all summer."

I wonder if it will stop now. I also wonder if the similar love-in for Mourinho will ever wear off.
Dessie, LFC


...While I'm sure you are bored of mails about Manchester United, and their poor result on Saturday, I wanted to add my opinion to them.

Let's make no excuses now, LVG has had more than long enough to see that the players at his disposal are incapable of competing at the highest level. I saw the line-up on Saturday lunchtime and for a Manchester United team, it was laughable. The front three aside (including RVP when fit), the team is average at best. It was clear for everyone to see, but apparently not for, as some fans have stated, the best manager in the Premier League. A good manager he is, but clearly he has not yet settled. He has wasted far too much time in pre-season that could have been spent strengthening what is quite obviously a poor squad.

I am not a Manchester United fan, and as such, found the result on Saturday hilarious. Made even more so by blinkered Manchester United fans on this site (not all it has to be said), praising the new manager as the saviour of the club. For me though, he has started badly, and this is not because of Saturday's result. I like many others, could see this coming.
Dylan Clarke, Enfield Gooner


Van Gaal's Ego Is Biggest Problem

Firstly, despite being a bit rubbish on Saturday - well done Arsenal on securing the three points.

No-one covered themselves in glory other than that boy Chambers who with every game is starting to make me think we've actually done Southampton on that transfer fee.

Also I couldn't help thinking United could have done with signing him. The problems at Old Trafford seem to centre around not having enough versatile players. The Dutch way is to have two-footed players who can saunter seamlessly into an array of different positions. What United have is players who don't seem to be good enough in the positions they're asked to play in which brings me on to the wing-backs.

The general consensus is United need to sign new wing-backs but I can't help thinking these guys just don't exist anymore. In the 90s they did - with the likes of Jarni of Croatia while Bruce Rioch managed to turn Dicko and Winterburn into wing-backs for a season or two but these days, in a world in which people play four at the back the world over - where are these players LVG will be looking for?

If United can't find them, they face a season where people are being played out of position. It's all very well having a pop at Young but it's not his fault when he comes up short - it's the manager's. The boy isn't a wing-back and shouldn't be asked to play as one.

The biggest problem United have is LVG's ego is so big he thought he could solve all the problems with a new formation and putting poor excuses for pegs into round holes. At least Moyes knew the squad wasn't good enough. What's worse is with the defensive departures, the squad's worse not better.

There'll be calls for United to fund their recruitment drive by selling the deadwood but football clubs aren't stupid. There's no football Steptoe and Son rag and bone men who travel the country in search of the crap no-one else wants.

I can't feel sorry for all those London United fans who frequent the capital's pubs but this has got to hurt if you're a local Salford lad or lady - it's these guys I feel sorry for.

I just assumed United would win given their summer form but it seems this season things could get even worse. Woodward will have his work cut out to get anyone to sign and two terrible transfer windows could mean LVG quits in a Pulis-style hissy fit come January.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Oh Winners And Losers...

Mondays are just that little bit more tolerable now...although that's cancelled out by Liverpool's run of Sunday games (I'll be in the pub).
Rob (braced for another Liverpool wild ride through 14/15), London

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