How scared are Man United of this Liverpool?

Date published: Friday 30th December 2016 3:00

Happy New Year everybody. Thank you for every mail you sent in 2016. We love you…well, some of you.

 

Hoping Giggs gets a chance and cocks it up
Personally I would love to see Giggs get the Swansea job – and fail. He seems to get better and better with media and PFMs alike, the more jobs he fails to get.

I just don’t see him as managerial material at all.

At least Gary and Phil have been willing to risk their reputation and have a go, including working abroad. And whether you agree with them or not are willing to share their views on TV.

Giggs? He’s pretty anonymous. Even in the Salford documentary it’s clear that Giggs (and Scholes) have very little to offer. No wonder he failed the interview. They probably see through him straight away.

But Swansea seem to have lost the plot. Firing managers when they should have hung in with them like Monk and even Guidolin. Giggs would be the perfect finale.
Paul McDevitt

 

Sustained by salty Mancunian tears
Ah, you can just tell when Liverpool are doing well can’t you? They say the league table never lies, but I find the F365 mailbox is a far better barometer for judging how well teams are doing, especially when Liverpool are outperforming Man United. Reading some of them recently I could’ve sworn there were watermarks on my laptop screen from the Mancunian tears that were clearly shed at the time of writing.

First up we had a guy emailing in last week with a detailed points-per-game breakdown of Klopp’s first games at Liverpool vs Mourinho’s first games at United. Apparently, this was to show how similar they were. Just make sure you gloss over the part about Klopp being new to the league, not having a pre-season with the players, and not spending anything in his first season compared to the near £150m Mourinho spent in the summer (plus the deal to pay Ibrahimovic £1m a month in wages).

This idea that Klopp and Mourinho are actually really similar seems to be a current theme amongst United fans. Another was at pains to point out that that if we take a proper look at them at this moment in time, the only real difference is that Klopp ‘smiles more’. I almost agreed but those pesky things like their attitude to transfers, playing style, ability to motivate players, trust in youth players, graciousness in defeat, and league position kept getting in the way.

Then we had the usual ‘Liverpool fans get too giddy’ when their team is doing well. Imagine that! Fans being happy when the team they support wins games. This was in the same week that the Manchester Evening News genuinely ran an article about how United fans sang really loudly away at Crystal Palace. Apparently, the volume of their fans showed they ‘didnt need a megaphone’ as they won the game and took a grip on that coveted sixth place. ‘We won the singing’ you could say.

Now, I thought the line ‘Lallana, Mane, Coutinho, and Firminho all look good at Liverpool, but take them out and they will struggle badly’ was pretty funny, until I read that ‘Lallana doesn’t start at either Chelsea, United, City and Arsenal, but he looks a hell of a player at Liverpool’. At this point, the tears were mine, but of wholehearted laughter rather than bitterness and anger. But then again, maybe it’s a fair point that needs further discussion. I mean, would there really be space for the likes of Lallana or Mane when you already have Jesse Lingahahahahaha. I’m sorry, I just can’t finish that sentence.

As with all stages of grieving, a lot of people are now entering the denial phase. This Liverpool side aren’t actually any good. The players are average. It seems like rather than agree with the neutrals that Liverpools four-pronged attack is excellent, their midfield solid, and their defence improving, it’s easier to believe that the whole thing is down to some sort of mythical magic spell that Jurgen Klopp has cast over the club.

I saw one guy declaring that the reason Liverpool are currently second is because of ‘trust’. I’m assuming when he says trust he means it as in ‘we trust each other to rip apart nearly every team in the league and play exhilarating football’, rather than ‘Portugese manager of Premier League club uses overseas trust fund to avoid paying tax’ (allegedly).

Finally, a special shout-out to Richard, Manchester, who is having such difficulty accepting Liverpool’s and United’s current league positions that he suggested it’s a media conspiracy and followed it up with a Hillsborough jibe. Bravo mate, you’re a credit to your fellow supporters. I’ll be really disappointed if I dont get a reply telling me I’m too sensitive, offended by everything and ashamed of nothing, and how I’m always the victim and it’s never my fault.

Happy Mou Year lol
Smith

 

Well done Mike Dean
I’ve just seen the highlights of Southampton v Spurs and I gather there is controversy around the penalty/red card decision. Why?

As a former centre forward, one of my biggest frustrations in the game is the foul while shooting. So what if he got a shot off, the defender took him out in the act which clearly denied a goalscoring opportunity. Only in football would this even be a debate.

You probably don’t get many mails congratulating Mike Dean, but you’ve got one now.
Jamie, LCFC

 

Red Bull gives you ideas…
Having read Daniel Storey’s 2017 predictions, I couldn’t help but look through the league tables to see what teams would best suit having Red Bull before their name.

Red Bull Rochdale sounds good to me for some reason.

Red Bull Dagenham & Redbridge a bit of a mouthful.

Red Bull Redhill if they do fancy starting in the bowels of non-league football.
Chris (depressingly agree with the Wenger prediction also) AFC

 

Big Weekend’s Little Brother
Burnley-Sunderland. I just love these games. With relegation a constant fear, there’s so much more at stake than in top-of-the-table billionaire clashes. Burnley are likely to stay with their nearly invincible home 4-4-2, their only questions being whether Dean Marney is fit and whether to play Ashley Barnes or Sam Vokes. Sunderland are about to be disastrously depleted by the Africa Cup of Nations, losing Lamine Koné, Papy Djilobodji, and Didier Ndong, the last two just finding form. So they have to go all out for three points here. David Moyes tried a 4-3-3 with some success at Old Trafford, so I’m guessing we’ll see a front line of Fabio Borini, Jermain Defoe, and Victor Anichebe. In goal, Jordan Pickford will be out for a while, and you never know which Vito Mannone you’ll see. He’s had some very bad patches, but also sustained periods of excellence.

Stat: Burnley have been caught offside 53 times, top in the league.

Leicester City-West Ham. No one seems to know how to right the ship at Leicester, although ownership is ready to invest in January. Hopefully Danny Drinkwater will have returned to full fitness, and the Foxes get a couple of defenders back from suspension. With Vardy unavailable, Leo Ulloa is making a decent bid to get back in the line-up ahead of Islam Slimani, who’s leaving for Africa soon anyway. West Ham might be just the right opponent. They’ve won three in a row against weak opposition, and were frankly poor in two of those matches. They’re also still trying to figure out how Andy Carroll fits their pass-oriented attack, and success against Swansea really shouldn’t count. But at least they’ve remembered to get him those far-post crosses. Cheikhou Kouyaté had his moments back in midfield last week in place of Pedro Obiang, but against Leicester’s two strikers Slaven Bilic figures to return him to a back three.

Stat: West Ham are next-to-last in tackles, at 15.1/game, but lead the league in interceptions, at 18.7/game.

Watford-Tottenham. Watford’s most confident performer right now is Harry the Hornet, who dives with the best and gets into a frightening number of camera shots. But the squad as a whole is drifting, with an unimaginative attack and a defence whose only clean sheets have been against Middlesbrough, Swansea (very luckily), and Hull. Stefano Okaka might be ready to start again up front, which could make a real difference. Watford commit more fouls than any team in the league – in fact, the gap between them and second place is the largest gap among adjacent teams – and since aggressive defense is usually the best against Tottenham, it might get ugly. With half of Spurs’ back four suspended, you might back Okaka to get a chance or two, but if the visitors are still feeling lively after their exertions at St. Mary’s, the best the Hornets can hope for is a fortunate draw and a few more headlines for Harry.

Stat: Watford have the league’s worst differential in big chance conversion, having scored only six but conceded sixteen.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA

 

(Peter G’s second statistics piece is now on site. Read it; he’s one of your own – Ed)

 

Random thoughts on Peter G and more…
* On Peter G. I’ve been too busy lately so I’ve only had time to read the articles and mails. There haven’t been time to compose a coherent mail to say I salute you, Mr Peter G. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article on statistics. It was really excellently written and I can’t wait for the next one.

* On Chelsea and Liverpool (title favorites at the moment). I will resort to the old cliche – attack win games, defence win championships. Liverpool seem to base their game plan on “we will score more than you”. But when push comes to shove, I will back Chelsea to win six games 1-0 than Liverpool to win six games 3-2.

* On Southampton vs Tottenham. Forget the side of the fence you sit on Mike Dean’s decision, if Nathan Redmond can’t back himself in a foot race with Dele Alli, then he deserves a red card.

* On Southampton vs Tottenham, again. Shout out to Spurs fans for having a young team of angels. Did you notice that moment when Jay Rodriguez put his face in Vertonghen’s palm so that he can claim to be scratched? Oh wait…

* On Garth Crooks. If (highly improbable but if..) all the 10 matches in Premier League were to end goalless, will Crooks’ team of the week be made up entirely of defenders?
Franklin, (Did I meet the deadline to be published?), CFC, Lagos

 

Why English football is anti-American…
In response to Oliver ‘English Football is Anti-American’, I agree with him and believe I might have an explanation as to why. By way of full disclosure I was a West Ham season ticket holder for 15 years but also spent several years in the US growing up and am now living on the US side of the Atlantic and love watching US sports.

If you have daily access to ESPN and the other 24-hour sports news outlets in the US, and you are not from the US, one thing strikes you immediately as strange and rather annoying. The US TV and press do not give a monkeys about any international team or competition other than their own. Even their domestic leagues they self-describe the winners as being ‘World Champions’, which of course is ludicrous. Around World Cup time, if the US are doing well you will see them in the headlines, but if they fail, as they very often do, you’d be hard pressed to find evidence that a tournament was even still going on, such is the lack of interest and coverage of anyone other than the US. It is, in my view, a form of propaganda. If the US are not doing well, we don’t want our people to know about it and it is somehow an inferior competition which doesn’t deserve attention anyway.

With sports that the US dominates (which is very many given their fantastic and enviable resources) they tend to rather take over. Take over the commercialisation, the TV rights, the endless adverts, the press, what is shown and not shown and the location of events. Any great lover of football knows this and, notwithstanding the fact that money has of course already become more of an influence over OUR football everywhere, doesn’t want the Americans taking over football in the way they have many other sports.

I’ve been to a couple of MLS games and found them entertaining, albeit lacking in quality (Bradley Wright-Philips is still a God in MLS, I am not even joking), and I have massive respect for the relatively small number of MLS super fans who are trying to make their games more like the European or South American spectacles (massive props to the couple of hundred Chicago Fire massive who sang continuously for 90 minutes, brilliant). However, outside of the US I think there is a fear that the US exerting more influence over football would be ‘a bad thing’, whatever that ‘thing’ is. It’s a feeling that “You can keep your ridiculous ‘World Championships’ of baseball, basketball and NFL”, but please for God’s sake don’t touch our football because we are scared you will ruin it.”
Mike J, Cayman Islands

 

…As much as the US is revered in this country anti-American sentiment also exists. It can be quite subtle but more often than not it’s pretty darn obvious. The country casts a huge shadow over the globe and sometimes it seems to be socially acceptable to disparage its citizens, possibly more than any other nation. I tend to roll my eyes, yawn or ignore it but it’s definitely there as political correctness doesn’t always apply if you’re from the USA.

My father is American. I was born in England but spent several years in the US during childhood and adolescence. I returned to the UK with full accent but now I sound like a local. There’s still the occasional Americanism but nothing I couldn’t have picked up from TV or movies and people are more likely to assume I am of West Indian or African descent. I take pride in my heritage but it can come with a price. If I mention my American roots it’s sometimes followed by some sweeping generalisations, occasionally quite offensive ones disguised as banter. Even if I don’t mention it I often hear all sorts of comments about bloody Yanks. The sort of things you wouldn’t say if one was stood right in front of you. In fact in my lifetime I have had more negative things said knowingly to me about Americans than those referencing the colour of my skin. One of the most common themes is lack of intelligence which is ironic as I found the standard of education worse once I returned here.

I think part of the problem is the perceived insular attitude Americans have to the rest of the planet. For example proclaiming world champion status in sports predominantly played within their borders fits the brash, ignorant and arrogant stereotypes. The fact that association football is not the national sport or MLS is a mediocre standard doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge fan base with a good understanding of the game with access to international leagues. Football is actually played by more people in America than in England by some distance. The mailbox’s own Peter G demonstrates better knowledge of the game than the typical bloke in the pub by some distance. Obviously not everyone is like that but there should be no reason why Americans can’t understand and master the game’s finer points. There are plenty of people born and raised in this country that know more about the NFL and NBA than your average Joe.

Bob Bradley is an educated, erudite and well travelled man, the polar opposite of a stereotypical chest-thumping US jock. Would he have fared better if he was blue-collar rather than Ivy League? I’m not sure many in the game can see past the accent. 30+ years of experience wasn’t enough to overcome the sound of his voice. There were legitimate reasons to question his suitability for the Swansea job but his nationality was never one. The Football365 mailbox is a rare place on the internet where its contributors are opinionated yet generally open-minded and reasonable. In the real world there is plenty of casual xenophobia, snobbery and sneering towards the good ole’ USA.
CP, Cambridge

 

The Yanks need a Weah or a Wenger
In response to Oliver’s mail regarding Anti-American sentiment I’d just like to reassure him that it’s not through xenophobia, but it’s more of a snigger up your sleeve type of childish ignorance. We don’t believe an American can succeed in football because there hasn’t been an American standard bearer yet. An American player or manager that can change the minds of a whole generation of football supporters through their sheer will and brilliance.

Thirty years ago – because of things like this

– we in Europe thought Africans couldn’t play football and didn’t understand the game. Then a certain George Weah came along and made us all look silly (and go ‘wow!’ a lot).

Twenty years ago we in England thought them foreigns couldn’t manage in the Premier League and that French bloke from Japan was going to make a right mess of it. Then a certain Mr Wenger won the double.

So Oliver, find your Wenger or your Weah and the respect will surely follow, we just need educating. A bit like how we castigate ‘The World Series’ in baseball because it’s only played in the US and Canada and don’t realise that it’s actually called that because it was originally sponsored by ‘The World’ newspaper.
The Gurning Badger – On a hill near Wales (Mkhitaryan was ‘dropped’ so he could gain weight in the gym).

 

Stop reading too much into everything…
Why are people attempting to draw lessons from Bradley’s sacking and what it means for American managers? Surely it means that awful American managers won’t get hired in future? Because, make no mistake, he was awful.

This is easily the worst squad Swansea have had since promotion and one that would struggle to make the top half of the Championship, (for which Huw Jenkins should take a lot of blame, but that’s another email) but they were competitive under Guidolin – and even then there were some awful performances vs Southampton and Leicester. Under Bradley we were getting hammered by mid-table clubs.

Also, I’ve seen comments about how this is a victory for PFMs and the media, but I really don’t follow this – how much attention do you think owners pay to Paul Merson and Robbie Savage? There’s a reason why Giggs is still unemployed.

In short, can we stop trying to read too much into an inept manager being sacked by a struggling team?
Paul
…Can we stop acting like Bob Bradley was a good coach or even anything near it when he got the Swansea appointment? People are so quick to call someone xenophobic or try to make people look racist instead of looking at the situation. Bob Bradley is just a horrible manager. Ryan Giggs (or anyone else just about) should’ve gotten the job over him.
Reasoning is simple: when has Bob Bradley ever actually improved a team significantly? When he was the USA manager they got a couple of good results but that’s it. He didn’t develop any players, didn’t spot any gems, never really adjusted tactics in game to pull off a win. England is the best league in the world in my opinion, someone who can’t make it into the French first division as a coach doesn’t deserve a chance there. Bob Bradley has never really improved his teams or his players. All he does is say let’s have a go attack with numbers and then try to get back and defend with numbers leaving him short at different times in attack or defense and ruining the balance of the team bc it’s so easy to bypass the middle when everyone is playing so back and forth. He’s exactly opposite of what you want in a relegation battle.

He 100% got the job because he was an American manager not because he was a good manager. As someone from USA I have to say I was instantly pissed about his appointment. He didn’t deserve it and he basically ruined any Americans chance of ever being a manager in England unless they are super over qualified. Just like Moyes shouldn’t have gotten the Manchester job just because he was a decent manager in the EPL and British, Bob Bradley didn’t deserve the Swansea job when his best accomplishment was winning in the MLS (horrible league) and being American.

America has no great football managers right now and that’s fine. All that happens when someone like Bradley is appointed is that people in England now have a case to point at for how worthless Americans are to hire in ‘soccer’ and make it harder for each one after to succeed I don’t blame him for taking it as I would’ve taken the job too but the owners were stupid to give him it. At least Giggs knows the teams in the league, knows the players, players respect him, he has proven he can be successful in some capacity in the Premier League and that’s more than Bradley could say.
Kyle MUFC (still love Fellaini, one mistake doesn’t take away that FA Cup that he and Lingard basically won by themselves)

 

That goal
If Derek, LFC, Dublin can’t see the joy in that Mhkitaryan goal, he should probably just pack it in and stop watching football altogether. He was marginally offside, we all get it, but it was a thing of such beauty and outrageous skill, something you’re never likely to see again and one that even the best players in the world would find it difficult to recreate in 20 attempts.

The goal didn’t even make a difference to the result of the game, so there really is nothing to complain about.

In summary, I loved the goal, even though it was offside. And you’re not pissing on my chips, but I suspect you like the taste of piss on yours as it will give you reason to moan, which after all is the important thing in life.
AS Camden (Happy New Year to all at F365 Towers, you really are the best football site around by miles)

 

The goals that should have stood…
Further to recent letters about goals which shouldn’t have been allowed (Mkhitaryan v Sunderland) can I make a call out for the best goals which should have been allowed?

To start it off I propose Luis Suarez’ effort at the tail end of the 2013-14 season. Playing Newcastle at Anfield needing a win and a Man City capitulation to win the league, Liverpool were awarded a free on the right touchline twenty five yards from the end line. Suarez took it quickly with the outside of his right foot and curled a sumptuous ball over the Magpies’ goalie.

Unfortunately, the ref wasn’t looking and ruled it out. Bummer, but a magnificent effort.

Cheers, and Happy New Year to all F365 writers and readers,
Rory Johnston GUFC, Galway

 

Font of all knowledge
When did you change the font on the webpage for ‘Football365’? Was it months ago and I didn’t notice or am I eagle eyed and get given a spotters badge?

You should definitely give out badges.
Pete, DRFC in Suffolk

(Make your own badge; it changed about three months ago – Ed)

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