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One for the long-time readers…
Pogflop? Oh God. It’s Dimiflop Berbaflop all over again. Make it stop.
Any non-United fans supporting United?
I cannot remember the last time that an English club in a European final will have so little home-country support – I don’t know of a non-Utd fan who isn’t supporting Ajax. I suspect even some Utd fans are secretly hoping it all goes wrong and Jose finally has to eat a tiny, miniscule slice of humble pie. Doubt he actually will of course – there’s always “long season” / “injuries” / karma to blame.
Man United missing momentum
As a follow-up to my previous email about Man U and their godawful record this season from an entertainment point of view, I wanted to stick the knife in and pick up on a point made by F365 recently (sorry can’t remember who).
That of momentum (forward motion, not the weird cult thing that’s trying to staging a coup within the Labour party) and its effect on the teams in the Europa final.
Man U’s current form is patchy to say the least. Since beating Burnley 2-0 on 23rd April, they have not won a league game. The run includes two 0-0s and two defeats by close rivals. They’ve only scored two goals in those five games.
Ajax on the other hand have won six of their last seven games, scoring 23 goals in that run, and never letting the opposition score more than one. Their only loss a narrow 1-0 by PSV.
Adding some disclaimers here to fend off the frothy-mouthed:
* Yes the Dutch league isn’t the all-powerful juggernaut full of mighty behemoths bristling full of the finest footballing specimens humanity has to offer that the Prem is (ahem)
* Yes their Europa league results have been less impressive, with a beating in one leg of the quarters and the semis.
* Yes Mourinho has been resting his players for just this one game so that they are are fresh and raring to go.
BUT, Man U are the richest club in the world with billions of pounds of talent at their disposal and a second string that costs more than most entire football clubs (stadium and all).
So surely this current malaise could be affecting them and could lead to a confident Ajax team rampaging through Fellaini and crew. I’m not saying it’s certain (disclaimer), just that some of Man U’s rested stars might find themselves a little less sure of themselves, a little rusty due to lack of recent minutes and the team as a whole might be disjointed due to a lack of recent playing time together.
I for one cannot wait for next Wednesday’s game. I think it could be a cracker, and I hope it ends with a smiling Bergkamp.
Alay (ah Bergkamp, how I miss you..), N15 Gooner
The biggest risk?
I mean you’ve got to give to him, he has some balls, does Mou. After what happened at Chelsea last season where he was disgraced, he manages to get one of the biggest jobs in football and carries on in the same fashion.
How dare he moan of fatigue to the squad, I mean how DARE he.
It all comes down to this Ajax game now, he’s put all of his eggs in to one big precarious basket. He HAS to win. If he doesn’t then next season will be very difficult.
Even if he does win, I think that the United supporters are split, and I think that the ones who are on side at the moment will quickly turn if he is playing similar stuff next season and coming out with the same old sh*t.
Stefan (Boro fan looking forward to the champo) Hodgson
Stop talking about us!
Believe it or not, as a Manchester United fan, I am bored to death of the amount that everyone talks about my club. I appreciate that most teams seasons have basically finished and they don’t have much more exciting to talk about, but why is it that every one feels the need to have their say on how well United have/haven’t played in their last game?
What is more annoying is numerous friends of mine and people such as Alay (Arsenal suck, Wenger will stay forever, and our battle will soon be for ninth, I know.), N15 Gooner feel the need to say things such as “Wake up and smell the vomit Mancs”. I don’t recall too many United fans saying that we have had an amazing season, or that Jose has done a wonderful squad with the players he’s got available to him. No one is shouting from the rooftops, beating their chest. So why do we need to be constantly told that we need to “wake up” and “you feel sorry for us”. No one has forced you to watch any of the games. No one has actually asked for your opinion on how you think United have preformed this season. No one really cares. But you still keep talking about us?
My perspective is that we have had a poor, but not disastrous season. It’s been turgid and utterly boring lately. But there has been moments when it has been better. Certainly much better than under Moyes and LVG, regardless of how many twitter accounts tell us otherwise. There’s no doubt next season has to be better and I think Jose will know that. Hopefully it is, and then I imagine all the other teams fans will be a bit quieter.
Ross, Utd fan
Southampton. Bloody hell.
So looking at your teams that have had their players all snatched, Southampton in particular is incredible.
A 3-4-3 line-up of players lost in last few years:
Don’t want to be hyperbolic, but with a couple of exceptions (Boruc and Pelle) that’s a ‘punching for Champions League’ team. Throw in Pochettino as manager to get the gas under everyone and you’re off to the races.
So some questions.
1) Did Southampton really need to sell? I realise that some of these players only came in as a result of others on the list departing, but do they really not have the money to keep the gang for a crazy push?
2) With the Premiership going bonkers with money in last couple of years (likely negating a lot of any necessary selling), do Southampton fans have a dose of the ‘What Ifs’?
3) Is this model really the best way to move forward, or have Southampton made a rod for their back as the club that accepts a place as a stepping stone? I get everyone lauding the academy side of things, but the fire sale mentality surely can’t sustain success.
Tom, (although the fact that they’re quoting £60m for Van Dijk shows maybe they are changing, but is it too late?) West Hampstead
Kyle Walker: Not a dumb specimen
Niall, Denver please send me some of what you’re smoking because it must be good! You doubt Pep’s ability to spot a player for his system is greater than yours, or whether the manager actually knows best at all?
Kyle Walker (surprisingly no relation to Walker-Peters) is more than a ‘dumb physical player’. Pochettino does more than send 10 physical specimens and Eriksen out every week. He has a tactical game plan, which fullbacks are crucial to. Walkers ,and Rose, provide the width and pressing from the wings. When in attack, Walker has to know when to tuck in or push out wide, creating space for Eriksen and Alli in the middle or on the overlap. He has to read the game and know when to provide cover for Dier pushing forward or when to support that push. He’s not just aimlessly running around.
Maybe Pep feels that he can coach Walker into the perfect fullback for his system, because he sees exactly that in him, despite your protestations. Remember Philip Lahm, fullback turned defensive midfielder? Did you see that one coming? Walker may not be the best right-back in the world, but he’s far from the worst. Pep signed Dani Alves for Barce and look what happened to him, maybe he knows how to spot a good player for his system, especially a right-back!
Neither is Dele Alli
You’ll probably get loads of these but has Niall, Denver actually watched Spurs this season? Watch the runs off the ball, the chips over a whole back four to an on rushing team mate, the clever back heels and the telepathy he plays with and tell me Dele Alli is not a smart player. To suggest Eriksen is our only smart player is totally foolish; Son, Kane, Dembele, Alli, Winks, those boys have smarts.
Jerome Cross, THFC, Bristol
Proper teams? Really?
I’ve read the Football365 mailbox for a while but never felt compelled to write in until I read Scott from Perth’s views on the state of the Premier League.
Did I really just see someone pine for the days of Gareth Batty and Luis Boa Morte?? We live in an age where incomprehensible amounts of TV money has levelled the playing field to such a degree that teams can go from fighting relegation one year to winning league the next (ok, Leicester might be a bit of a one off). Consider the teams that have been relegated this year. Sunderland fielded the second best English striker and a future England number one in goal. Middlesbrough have a number 9 with 20 plus caps for Spain and a Champions League winner amongst their midst.
Mid table teams no longer have an odd ball genius like Di Canio or Ginola to lift a squad of nobodies, they are chock full of internationals. Such is the scramble to hoover up talent from around the world that the best player in the Bundesliga last year finds himself playing left wing back for a team in 6th place. Newly promoted Newcastle will spend more money this summer than the vast majority of teams in La Liga or Serie A.
Everyone can remember their favourite players from the ‘good old days’ but they forget the dirge that populated the premier league for a long time. You simply won’t find a Titus Bramble or Eric Djemba-Djemba playing Premier League football anymore. You may not want to watch a Monday night game between Burnley and Stoke but that is down their choice of playing style, not the quality of the players involved.
…Apart from his frankly offensive email denigrating the promoted clubs, Brighton get 30,000 fans a week in a state of the art stadium, he actually undermined his own argument by including Fulham in his list Of yesteryear big boys.
Villa, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday yes are once huge clubs who provided great Premier League memories but are now where they are on merit. He talks about dross well Villa were dross for five years.
What is his opinion on Wolves (European pioneers and leading club in the 50s) or Sheffield United or Derby County (best club for much of the 70s). How about European cup winners (Europa League in modern money) Ipswich Town or twice European Champions (Champions League) winners Notts Forest. How about football league founding members Notts County.
The reason the super managers like Pep and Klopp struggle is summed up by Scott’s offensive email. They fail to understand the history of clubs and the importance of the clubs (even the ‘small ones’) to their fans. If you support Bournemouth that’s who you support and you don’t care about Manchester United or Real Madrid. And that is exactly why there are no ‘nothing’ clubs.
Ben the Baggie (told you all along Rondon is rubbish and a big scaredy cat)
Who are we?
Have to admire the patronising tone of Scott, Perth. Who are we? We are a team that have been rightfully promoted to the Premier League. We are a team that has made the playoff spots three times in six seasons and actually should have been promoted last season in place of Burnley had we not conceded a last minute equaliser to them, less than ten games before the end of the season. We are a team with a well-advertised past, but we have some of the best training facilities in English football, a beautiful, modern stadium and most importantly, grateful fans.
Our promotion parade on Sunday saw a packed Brighton coming out to show our love and support for a team that is embedded deep in the local community. We are looking forward to welcoming the biggest sides in the England next season and hopefully seasons to come.
You might not be looking forward to it, but you certainly don’t speak for all of us.
The play-offs: A debate
Two years ago in the mailbox, I responded to a mail about the playoffs in which their unfairness was bemoaned, because in League One third-placed Preston North End had to play sixth-placed Chesterfield, a team who finished a full 20 points behind them. Preston shouldn’t have had any problems beating a team they were considerably better than, and in fact didn’t; flip that round, and if Chesterfield can beat a significantly superior team, then they deserve to advance.
Both the original correspondent and I advocated a form of “winner stays on” play-offs, as currently being suggested by both Daniel Taylor of the Guardian and F365. There’s still no guarantee of the top seed going through, as keeping the playoff final at Wembley means that perversely they don’t get the home advantage of either the fourth- or fifth-placed teams, but things are stacked in their favour by requiring them to win only one further game.
Even if the format stays the same, things could be a lot worse: I’m sure I heard Guardian Football Weekly mention recently, while talking about Venezia, the playoffs from the regional fourth tier to Lega Pro (Serie C) being a 27-team battle royale from which one team was promoted (happy to be corrected on this); Football Manager 2016 taught me the hard way that in Spain the playoff final, if not decided over two legs, is awarded to the team who finished higher in the league table, surely second only to a coin toss in the harshest way to miss out on promotion.
Other sports, where playoffs are more important, have convoluted rules: take baseball, for example. Three division winners and two wildcards from each league go into the playoffs, based on their overall record in the 162-game regular season. The two wildcard teams play one game to determine who will be the official wildcard entry, in a best of five series. A couple of years ago two teams tied for the second wildcard spot, so they played a tie-break, or to put it another way, they had a one-game playoff to decide who would go into another one-game playoff, to decide who would go into the actual playoffs. So teams battling for 162 games to make the playoffs then see it shot to pieces after just one more game – at least a two-legged playoff gives football teams a chance to make up for an off-day in the first leg.
Ultimately, the current football playoff format serves a purposes, because like the rest of football and indeed all of sport, it is inherently unfair. While the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion last season, and Sheffield Wednesday last night, may find the setup harsh, like most things in life, there is always someone worse off. The difference this time is that it isn’t Sunderland.
Just have more promotion/relegation
Interesting article on the play-offs today. I tend to agree that chucking the third-placed team into a one-off mini tournament is a bit unfair, but the solution is simpler than Daniel suggests. Research that I’ve just made up, shows us that in most of the leagues, the top two promotion places are usually a three-way battle until the final weeks of the season when one team, often under resourced and smaller of squad, falls away exhausted and unfulfilled, like a Bichon Frise trying to mount a Great Dane. The obvious answer is to bring the top divisions in line with league One and Two. Each season four teams are relegated from League One and 4 are promoted from league Two. Three teams automatically go up, with the fourth decided via the play-offs from teams placed 4 to 7.
Ignoring our own club loyalties for a moment, this works well for a number of reasons. Firstly, I think we can all agree that any of the bottom six could go missing from the Premier League this season without the league being any poorer for it. Plus we get four fresh new teams (well, three plus Newcastle) to admire/hate the following season, rather than trying to find something interesting to say about Swansea.
Secondly, the relegation battle is more likely to go down to the wire. The race for the top four is essentially meaningless unless you are club CFO, since success/failure has much less meaning than that of getting kicked out the top flight (unless your team is going to win the Champions League. Which it isn’t.).
Thirdly, in The Championship this season, my new rule means that Nottingham Forest would’ve been relegated alongside Blackburn. And having a former Premier League winner and a former European Cup winner playing away at Rochdale in the league is never not funny.
Finally, it keeps the race for play-off spots very interesting until the final day. This season, the last play off spot was available to seven teams going into the last day. Attendances for the lowly League Two teams in contention were up on the day, and a fun time was had by all.
Four up, four down in every league – what’s not to like?
Jeremy (still missed out on the play offs by a point) Aves
And for Champions League?
Given your excellent article on the play-offs and how they keep the competition alive at the end of the season, would this be the ideal solution for leagues with three Champions’ League places? Give the first two to the top two finishers and have a play-off for the third?
I know some of the teams that would be involved are the ones that most vociferously complain about fixture congestion but a further two extra games at the end of a season for those with an outside chance to qualify would be high stakes and exciting.
And if the Premier League ever lost the fourth CL place, it would allow Arsenal to back up those “top four trophy” claims. It’s like a cup final, Jeff.
Chris (RIP Chris Cornell), Stretford
Ode to Dirk
Congrats to Dirk Kuyt on his retirement – what a wonderful person. An absolute credit to humanity. To fire his beloved Feyenoord to a long-awaited title with a hat trick sums him up. The ultimate big game player. A guy not blessed with natural talent but unbelievable mental strength and will to succeed.
A cult hero at Liverpool and undoubtedly an even bigger hero in Rotterdam. He’s the anti-jock who overcomes the odds and gets the girl in the end.