A pretty good Mailbox start to the week. Keep it up, people; mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jose prioritising his way to the title?
Manchester United are good money to win the league this year.
Not just because our new signings all look quality or we have a manager at the helm with the experience of winning the league multiple times, but because he all but admitted that all the fringe players will be playing in the COC and Europa league matches.
Every top team has European commitments this year barring Chelsea. It’s Conte’s first season and Chelsea has not strengthened in the summer. Champions League place should be the target for the club this year.
Leicester and Tottenham are not used to the Champions League schedule. The former’s lack of depth and the latter’s incessant pressing style is likely to take a toll on the squad fitness and subsequent league form.
For all of his greatness, it’s Guardiola’s first season in England. Let’s see how he does when the fixtures list clogs up.
It seems like Mourinho isn’t going to play his first choice XI in the Europa League. The quality in this squad combined with the fact that the first XI will be fresh and fit should make United favourites for the league.
Unless of course Mourinho has a falling out with our team doctor.
Shehzad Ghias, MUFC
Bigging up Fellaini
Understandably, it was far from the finished product, but there was a lot to enjoy watching Man Utd, and you can only see them progressing with each game from here on.
It would be easy to overlook, given all that was happening, but Fellaini was brilliant; I can’t believe I’ve written that. The instructions were there for everyone to see ‘sit deep, break-up/slow down any attacks through the middle, and give the ball to someone else if it comes near you’. Simple, beautiful stuff, and he executed it perfectly.
I can see it being very difficult for anyone in the squad shifting him from being first choice.
Who’d of thought it, huh? Well, Mourinho obviously.
Come on son!!!
My word the prodigal son is back and my oh my what a performance. This kid has bags of confidence, he has vision, he has pace, he can take out two opposition players with those Cruyff turns, he can burst forward, he plays with a smile on his face and the stamina…Pogback!!!
Come on son, get in there!!!
Salford red in Nairobi (Ibracadabra is Cantona’s second coming)
The curious case of Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney, he’s a curious little sh*te isn’t he? Utterly b*ll*cks for and entire game of football except for an on the nail cross got the first goal.
What do you do with him?! We all accept he’s lost his spark, his mojo, his hair. But at least once a game he will still do something that will get you a chance at goal.
I have watched both league games this season screaming blue murder at him every time he falls over the ball or gets tackled whilst trying to decide where it is going next. Yet there he sits, one goal, one sublime (let’s not forget about Zlatan’s header) assist. I have literally no idea whether to love him or loath him.
Just sending this in on the off chance that no one has ever mentioned it before.
Mark Danger Endicott, MUFC
Klopp cocked up his team selection
The way we beat Arsenal was really good I thought. Because we won the game but the result should’ve left nobody in doubt that we have some glaring weaknesses in the defence.
It was pretty sad to see that we learnt nothing from that 4-3 result. Football is a complicated game but when you concede away against a team like Burnley in the first two minutes then you’re inevitably going to make life very hard for yourself.
Mignolet had earned himself a stay of execution because Karius got injured. He’s conceded five goals from seven shots on target so far. I wish we had sold him in the summer so that he just wasn’t even an option.
Henderson is not a deep-lying midfielder. He simply couldn’t cope with being pressed deep. He’s better further up the field because it means he has options in every direction but he simply couldn’t pick out a pass on Saturday.
Klopp deserves some criticism for his team selection. Moreno, despite his poor defensive work at Arsenal, should’ve started this game. Given we had 80% possession (which is high but dominating possession should’ve been the expectation) Moreno at least is a proficient attacker from wide areas. Milner probably should’ve played centre mid with Can lying deep instead of Henderson. Firmino hasn’t offered a lot so far this season could we not have played Origi from the start since he was our best striker at the tail end of last season.
Liverpool: one step forward followed by one step back. Twas ever thus.
…I have long since debated with my friends that Liverpool are the most infuriating team to follow. The phrase ‘consistently inconsistent’ has never been more apt.
* Klopp does so many things well, yet for the second week in a row, he got his midfield selection wrong. Emre Can is Liverpool’s best midfielder. Henderson looks lost in that holding role. His passing is sporadic at best and he constantly was being out muscled. It’s not his position. I honestly feel sad saying it as I was a big defender of his, but he is not good enough.
* After two matches I’ve not been convinced by Wijnaldum. I know he got the assist against Arsenal but for me, he was worse than Henderson today. Early doors yet, but he needs to up his performances quickly.
* It is the away days to Burnley and Watford last season that showcase the weak mentality of so many Liverpool players. A team that presses and counter attacks leave the team at risk. Watford bullied Liverpool last year and highlighted the same issue. Is it a lack of leadership?
* Please buy a left-back Jurgen. Please. Milner slowed the pace down repeatedly and none of his crosses beat the first man. All too familiar to his corners.
* Lallana was the best out of the front men and I thought he was a little unlucky to be subbed. Firmino was non-existent today. Coutinho was trying to create space for shooting but had an off day.
* Sturridge. Didn’t look up for the fight whatsoever. In his defence, he had to drop deep to receive the ball but could do little with it.
* Klavan had a solid game last week. Today he reminded me of Skrtel from last season. Indecisive, panicky and ponderous on the ball. I’m inclined to blame Clyne for the first goal but his pass didn’t help.
* Credit where it’s due to Burnley. 80% possession means nothing if you don’t create chances.They set up to hit Liverpool on the break and did so through good pressing and excellent discipline at the back. As an Irishman, I just wonder why Ward can’t look that assured playing for his country.
* Burnley fans seem to be angry about Danny Ings and the transfer to Liverpool. Coutinho is “just a sh*t Danny Ings” apparently. I got a good chuckle out of that…the only one I got today.
Miguel Sanchez, LFC (Matip/new left back to start next week please)
…Guess we will be expecting the normal Liverpool results which we are used to for the past 20 years. Do great in one game and then play absolute rubbish in the next. Not a single shot on goal and all shots taken outside the penalty box shows the quality of players.
Klopp has run out of ideas and it shows very glaringly. Nothing exciting to watch. No ideas. Simply boring. As long as players of Firminho and Henderson quality continue to don Liverpool colours, Liverpool will continue to be just another mid-table team.
Dear Liverpool fans…
You faced a very disjointed Arsenal team and, while clinical, were only good for 20-odd minutes. I got roasted for saying that you won’t get away with that every week but your defending is diabolical and we all know that’s where the game starts.
Anyway, good luck for the title! We’re crap…but at least we know that! xx
Some Arsenal thoughts
– Laurent Koscielny is something else. Absolutely world-class performance from the guy and didn’t put a foot wrong all game, and he wasn’t even 100%! Rob Holding was very good as well, especially for someone who was playing in a terrible Bolton team last year. However, he doesn’t seem completely confident during games and seems the type who get easily bullied by the likes of Rondon, Lukaku and of course Ibrahimovic. He’s good but clearly not good enough to consistently start for a team challenging for the top four, at least not yet.
– Xhaka and Coquelin were both very good and were in complete control of the midfield for the time they were paired together. Xhaka started off dodgy but grew into the game quickly and his passing was brilliant, it may not make the headlines but the way he kept us ticking over was top notch and his tackling also seemed very good. When he came off we instantly lost control of the game and it became wide open. Coquelin’s defensive work was good and it was probably the right choice to play him today but i think Ramsey or Wilshere would be far better options when we play teams who sit back i.e. Watford next week.
– Wenger compared Alexis to Suarez and Aguero this week, an insult to both men. Alexis doesn’t work as hard as either, cannot finish even half as good as either can, has a far worse footballing brain than either of them, isn’t as strong as either of them, the list just goes on and on. He is nowhere and will never be anywhere near the level these two as a striker. I would genuinely rather play Akpom at striker than Alexis, he may not even be a quarter of the player Alexis is but at least he knows how to play up front. The amount of times someone like Monreal would pick the ball up stick his head up and see Alexis, not up front where he was meant to be, but instead wandering about on the wing was embarrassing. And it wouldn’t be an Alexis performance without him ruining a few counter-attacks would it? Today was further proof he cannot cut it as a striker, but no doubt Wenger will still consider him as our back-up in that position and won’t even consider buying someone to compete with Giroud.
– Bellerin needs to get some lessons on how to cross a football, I think he’s made about eight successful crosses in the two years he’s been in the first team. As well as this he really needs to learn when to not commit to a tackle, the way he tried to tackle Musa only to be completely spun by him was reminiscent of when Neymar embarrassed him in February with his skills. The guy seems incapable of defending against skillful players, stick him against a workhorse like Albrighton and he’s fine but he looks lost against your Coutinhos and the like.
– Mesut Ozil is world class, not much else than needs to be said. At 50 or 60 percent he still changed the game and made us look miles better in the attack. Wenger has said after the game he still isn’t fit and so obviously you wouldn’t expect him to start against Watford. But he’s got to give Ozil 30 or 40 minutes, our attack looks lost without him.
– Obviously we need two more signings at least, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we did play pretty well today and were unlucky not to come away with three points. A draw away at the champions is hardly a disaster.
Matt, Arsenal fan
I know he plays sexy.
But really 32 million for Xhaka.
The five-yard pass master.
Or Michael Xarrick. As he should be known.
* Can Pep do it on a windy day at Stoke? Yes, but we had some lucky moments for aid. Losing the ball in dangerous positions and being caught high up the pitch still seems to be our Achilles’ heel. Stoke were wasteful early on and….
* … should have had a penalty. I can understand why Stoke fans would be frustrated with Dean missing Kolorov’s trip. Stonewall.
* Enter stage right, Jasper Car…sorry Referee Mike Dean. Those who paid to see everyone’s favourite referee perform were not disappointed. He was left with no choice but to roll his eyes and make an example of those who have not been reading the latest copy of Whistleblower’s weekly. As funny as it is that it had to be Dean, It’s about time someone finally stepped out and put a stop to wrestling matches in the box. Shame no one else has followed suit leaving Dean to bask in the attention. Interestingly, despite claims that there would be a half dozen penalties given if the rule was enforced (and we know Dean would do it too!), the players did indeed respond.
* Iheanacho continues to look very promising and his composure and quickness of thought will hopefully earn him plenty of minutes this season. I am itching to finally see one of our graduates break through the glass ceiling and into the first team full-time. I think the only reason he isn’t starting matches regularly is that he is up against the best striker in the PL. Hopefully both he and Pep will have the patience to make it work.
* It’s clear that things haven’t quite clicked yet for the team. Passing not slick enough and decision making still a problem but the result are being eked out regardless. That’s down to the much better work rate I would say. The players look hungry to impress, to chase down the ball and to fit in with the ethos.
* Am I missing something? Why did the Stoke fans believe Sterling personally needed booing? I am really starting to feel sorry for him. Why is he such an attractive target? He’s barely past his teenage years, seems like a really nice bloke and yet has been jumped on like the poor wounded wildebeest that falls behind the herd.
Pep callous on Hart
I’m not the biggest fan of the shampoo salesman but his treatment by Pep has left me a bit shocked really. I’m quite surprised more hasn’t been made of it. It seems pretty callous to be honest. Obviously Jose has similarly shafted Schweinsteiger but then he’s not given the last six years of a good career to us.
Are the City fans so happy to accept it with no murmurs of discontent? I’m truly curious at the lack of support for him. After all, he was an important part of a winning team, the best you’ve ever had.
Anyway apparently even £29m players can shoot off target while even players who move for world record sums can miscontrol the ball. Who knew eh…? That Pogba certainly looks pretty special though. Not just receiving and turning with the ball but driving forwards with it, making space and taking people on. I don’t think world class is undeserved a title.
In fact, the difference he makes, I’ll go bold and say he’ll drive us to at least one Champions League title in the next three years. I haven’t been as excited by the reality not just potential for years.
Guy S (silence is the new praise)
Jose will outlast Pep
Great piece on perhaps the best rivalry after Ferguson – Keegan or Ferguson – Wenger. But Mourinho will outlast Pep. Guardiola looks like he is on a mission to prove himself in the Premier League. Win a couple of Champions League and the league thrice and it’s done. And we all know he is the best manager in football when money is no issue. He will achieve his ambition. May be he will go back to Barca to settle.
But Mourinho wishes to emulate Sir Alex. He knows this club wants the next Ferguson and even if you come second three years in a row, the club will still back him. Previous experiences also show that, if he is near and around Pep all the time, he will win the league at least once. He is betting Guardiola would leave once he proves that he has won it all in England. By the time Guardiola leaves, this United side would be so strong and Mourinho so well established within United’s academy, system, marketing and owners his own legacy would start to take shape.
I wont’ be surprised if United go on to a phenomenal success period from 2020 winning league after league and maybe one or two Champions League as well.
For United supporters, we need to wait Pep out. Mourinho is our guy, he only wants what we always offer to our managers as our biggest asset. Legacy. And we are lucky to have found a capable guy desiring it so early.
Sagar Deo, Mumbai
Peter G’s weekend thoughts
* If Middlesbrough are on television, watch them. They combine midfield defensive weakness with a varied and enterprising attack, so their games should be fun all season. Saturday’s revelation was Adam Forshaw, calm in possession and passing, the key man in the excellent second goal against Sunderland.
* Speaking of Sunderland, it’s great to see a coach willing to play the youth. On Sunday, Duncan Watmore was outstanding, Adnan Januzaj dangerous, and Lynden Gooch fearless. But can they survive a relegation struggle with so many young players in key roles? At the back, if Lamine Koné can be convinced to stay and play, he and Papy Djilobodji should be a strong defensive partnership. But with Yann M’Vila gone, they desperately need both Jan Kirchhoff and Lee Cattermole.
* Liverpool against Burnley was a r-erun of England against Iceland, with the attacking team seemingly void of any tactical experience. Surely there’s someone out there who knows how to coach a side to play against a tight 4-4-2?
* Craig Pawson wins this week’s Silver Whistle for yellow-carding Harry Arter for his handball against West Ham. About time. When they start calling handballs in the box like Mike Dean calls grappling, you’ll know they’re really serious.
* Bravo to Ronald Koeman for figuring out 38 minutes late that three at the back was a waste of time against West Brom. But he got there in the end, and it looks like a very good time to be an Everton fan. (Lookalikes: Gerard Deulofeu and Eric Idle.)
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Ed depressed by Palace
* Crystal Palace are f###ed. If either they or Alan Pardew are not singled out for flagellation by Winners and Losers I will be very surprised. Well done to Tottenham for their win. Their superior quality won the day.
* Jonathan Wilson, in his report for the Guardian, points out that Palace were well-organised and determined, which stifled Tottenham’s play; however, the other side to Hotspur’s game contributed to stifling the Eagles – they committed 19 fouls, many of which were enough to break up play but not significant enough to warrant a card (both sides had three yellow cards).
* Ordinarily, a team like Palace would not expect to win away at Spurs, and while the goal had been coming, there was a bit of rotten luck about the circumstances. Damien Delaney had dealt with Vincent Janssen very well, only to get injured making a brave block. James Tomkins came on for him and from the ensuing corner, he was out of position and unable to challenge Victor Wanyama. Alan Pardew called it ‘Sod’s law’, but that’s only why we conceded; we lost because we had just two shots on target, and barely tested Michel Vorm.
* You have to wonder about Connor Wickham. Palace have just broken their transfer record (by doubling the previous mark) to sign someone to play in his position, who wasn’t cleared to play against Spurs, giving Wickham a stay of execution and the perfect chance to convince his manager he’d made an expensive mistake.
Using the incredibly unscientific method of looking at the minute by minute updates of the Crystal Palace FC official Twitter feed, we can see this:
The feed mentions every player involved in a noteworthy passage of play. Wickham was mentioned just three times – once for his tame shot late on, once for a foul he gave away, and once when he was fouled. In the interests of balance, Andros Townsend had the most positive mentions (8), one ahead of Janssen.
As I say, this is unscientific, and doesn’t mention the work done off the ball to create space for teammates, but does seem to suggest that Wickham was not directly involved in most of the game.
* Palace’s next two fixtures are Blackpool in the Football League Cup (tomorrow) and Bournemouth at home on Saturday. This is the key week for defining the Eagles’ season. If they put in two good performances and win both games, then there will be a desperately-needed confidence boost; fail to win either game, and Alan Pardew’s position at the club goes beyond untenable.
All of this makes his new contract on the eve of the FA Cup Final look even more incredible. My latest theory is that the club were worried he’d do what Tony Pulis did – start angling for more money and then drop the club in it when he got it and left. This is clearly much, much worse than paying him more money to stay around and carry on the rancid form we ended last season in. Pardew has been afforded far more patience than just about any other manager (it’s close between him and Arsene Wenger), for which the club deserve credit, but patience is wearing ever thinner.
* Request for information: have many clubs been relegated in the season where they broke their transfer record? Off the top of my head, I can think of Middlesbrough with Afonso Alves. Also, what’s the biggest difference between two records for a club that’s gone down? (Alves was c. £4.5m more than previous record signing, Massimo Maccarone, Benteke is c. £14m more than Townsend)
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
£60m for a centre-half? Make a midfielder do it…
I’ve been wondering why we tend to undervalue versatility in a footballer. James Milner, the human Swiss army knife seems to be a figure of derision simply because he can play more than one position. While it may be true that he’s not world-class in any one position, he’s pretty good all round, and probably wouldn’t be any better as a midfielder if he only played there. Wasn’t the underlying principle of Rinus Michel’s concept of total football, as practised by the great Dutch team of the seventies, that every player should be capable of playing every position? Except maybe goalkeeper (and Pep might not agree with that exception).
What allows a player to do this is football intelligence, which is something a manager ought to look for as a pre-requisite when he buys or promotes. Why couldn’t any good player play any position? Obviously if you have a talent like Messi you’re not going to ask him to play wing back (unless you’re Louis Van Gaal), but if Tony Valencia and Ashley Young can play full back well enough to keep a recognised full back like Darmian out of the team – how hard can it be? I haven’t been watching that closely, but it seems to me that Daley Blind has been doing a pretty good job as central defender. He’s not that big or quick, but neither was Bobby Moore or Franz Beckenbauer.
I’ve been looking on while, according to the rumour mill anyway, Chelsea are getting so desperate to buy a central defender they’re contemplating spending 60m quid on Koulibaly. Say it ain’t so! I’m sure he’s an excellent player, but 60million? While Chelsea doesn’t have any great options at central defence (apart from the players out on loan – Christensen good enough for Monchengladbach to want to buy him) we have midfielders to burn. Why couldn’t Matic or Mikel take it on? We could spare one of them now we have Kante and I’m sure they would be as good at the ball-playing bit as John Stones. And the rest is footballing intelligence. And what about Loftus Cheek? It doesn’t look like he’s going to get a regular first-team berth any time soon as a midfielder – why not put your hand up for defensive duties? If he turned out to be any good he’d have a guaranteed start. Even England might be interested.
I suspect I’ve already answered my own questions: footballing intelligence. 60 million it is then…
Referee cocked up the Costa situation
Has Jonathan Moss just set a worrying precedent that could damage English football for the foreseeable future?
By not booking Diego Costa for his hugely embarrassing dive, it has created a needless grey area over refereeing consistency which really shouldn’t be there. It could allow players to lament about the justice following their punishment for diving, with the observation; well Costa wasn’t booked so why was I and his was so much worse than mine? The answer to that question should be simple and consistent, that everyone should be booked and that Moss’ decision not to book Costa can only have been because he either believes diving isn’t worthy of a booking (but kicking a ball away is), or he didn’t think it was a dive (impossible), or he was just too craven to do what he should have. His failure to act could very well inspire players who often need no encouragement to go down anyway, feeling that they could just get away with it and that it’s a worthwhile risk.
Whatever the reason for his cowardice in not (second) booking Costa and therefore sending him off, it unnecessarily gave Chelsea an unfair advantage. While I am aware that no game will ever follow the same course once an important event has changed that, Costa was directly responsible for injuring Capoue and scoring a goal. His absence would have changed the way Chelsea played, as Batshuayi would have played differently had he been a single striker and may not have been in the positions would have resulted in a goal.
I would hope the F.A. will investigate Moss’ decision, as the repercussions on the integrity of the game are vast, the possibility that players could become even more theatrical in their responses to challenges is almost unbearable.
Andrew Hailstone, Bangkok, Thailand
Do referees need help?
So early in the season and some key games have seen dodgy referee decisions already. The Bellerin foul on Musa, Diego Costa’s dive, Sterling’s penalty call against Shawcross, Snodgrass iron-cast penalty denial etc. I think the Premier League could do with either additional referees as done in European Cups or ntroduce technology.
Osama (Hull doing a Leceister?) Nigeria
Nailed it on Gray
Great thought-provoking article by Dan Storey on Andre Gray. The words he uttered were not just ignorant and stupid (Grey – not Storey) – they were very very scary. Really serious s**t. I hate it when serious s**t pokes it’s nose into football as football is my escapism. However it is also important not to ignore it. Particularly a website such as Football365 which is not mainstream and based on providing rational opinions. It’s why we readers come here!
In my view Football365 haven’t always done this well. The campaigns against Ched Evans and season-long vendetta against Vardy were divisive to say the least. With regard to Ched Evans – I remember you devoted a whole article lambasting Steve Bruce for saying it was a complex case – which surely you must now acknowledge to be correct. Although I suspect criticism received led to f365 not saying anything regarding Adam Johnson’s case. I dunno – maybe you had nothing to say – but I suspect not.
With Grey, despite the extreme severity of the remarks – I think you have nailed it. Second chances are essential to our civilisation. As is the principle of innocent until proven guilty. His crime is not yet something we should forget. But with the information we have in front of us (four years ago, apology) – we should cautiously forgive. It is to be hoped the more intense scrutiny upon him will show him keen to make amends and that his apology is sincere.
So, Daniel Storey thinks we should make Andre Gray a poster boy for change. Well I’m all for the ability for anyone to change their opinion on a subject, however I have to admit I’m a little sceptical.
Mr Gray would like us to believe that since he posted this particular tweet in 2012 his opinion on the gay community has changed. That may well be so. However I seem to have missed the tweet to that effect. I’ve never seen the public statement from Mr Gray supporting the LGBT community. I’ve missed any kind of statement from Mr Gray in which he has retracted his previously publically stated opinions about homosexuals or in which he regrets or explains that his opinion has changed. The beauty of social media is that it’s so easy to express an opinion. Mr Gray found it easy to say that gay people should ‘die and burn’, but it seems he found it a little less easy to tell everyone he’d changed his mind.
Now, the Andre Gray today may be not be the same guy who tweeted his opinions back in 2012. Let’s hope that’s the case. Unfortunately my opinion will remain that this is a contemptible human being who is saying what he thinks he has to say now based on the fact that he is in the public eye and has sponsors to contend with.
Andre, you deserve everything that you get and the LGBT community can survive without your hollow support. Daniel, you’re wrong and shame on you for trying to justify this pr*k.