Excellent again, Winty will be pleased. Don’t let her down tomorrow; email email@example.com. But first, read the latest Mailbox guest, Ted, Manchester, on the mess at Blackpool.
Reading the WhoScored piece this morning on Liverpool’s potential move for Mario Gotze and the subsequent questions over where he might fit in.
You can see where those questions come from considering our abundance of CAM’s/False 9’s/Number 10’s. We have a variety of interchangeable attacking midfielders and buying Gotze would only add to those, and regardless of however welcome that might be; it creates a selection headache nevertheless.
However I do not think this would be an issue come the end of the summer and that is because I believe Coutinho has already been lined up by Barcelona. Sure there are those who might laugh at that and cast doubt as to whether he would be good enough for them. They would even have a point, as LFC fans will know only too well that Coutinho has put in some frustrating performances; though admittedly these were mostly confined to the early parts of the season.
But we know how Barca work. Their players are required to be more than just players – they are required to act as agents & negotiators of the club too. Any supporter whom has had a player bought by them knows this. They set the wheels in motion by publicly praising players and conducting flattery campaigns with a will to not only create links between those particular players to the club but to also make it clear to the player that they have been one of the few chosen targets for the grandest club of them all. How can you refuse? LFC fans in particular know this, having seen both Mascherano & Suarez prized away. Even Torres, before he left for Chelsea, came under the fluttering eyelashes of some of the Barca contingent. And I’m sure Arsenal fans would know this only too well with their experience of the Fabregas transfer.
Neymar has played his part in this instance, praising his compatriot publicly and going to to say “I see many Brazilian players with quality today but one that I like and I think could play here is Coutinho. He has the style of Barcelona”. Suarez too, describing Coutinho as the best player in the PL; hinting that he would relish being reunited with him, if not in so many words. Even The Daily Express ran a story in December stating Luis Enrique “had already worked out where he wanted him in his team”. Going back to those who believe he is not good and/or consistent enough for Barca; I would agree with that sentiment as it stands but I truly feel that Barca would be of the belief that with far better players around him – he too will become a far better and more consistent player himself. And I would agree with that too.
This alone would be enough to convince some that he is in the crosshairs of Barca but when you combine that with factors regarding our own previous transfers and future transfers, I think you can start to see the big picture. We signed Firmino at the beginning of the season and finished the transfer window with 3 attacking midfeilders but no wingers. Granted Firmino is certainly more of a centre-forward than Coutinho but just like Coutinho his best position is arguably number 10. And this now leads me back to Gotze. By all accounts he is very, very similar to Firmino in style of play and when combining this aspect with the impression I get that Lallana has been adopted by Klopp; suddenly you realise that too many CAM’s might spoil the Number 10 broth.
Finally, we bought Coutinho for £8 million. Our owners have already shown that they are ‘business people’ and no amount of fan affection for our magician is going to surmount £35-£45 million in cold hard cash (installments) in their eyes. So when you think about it; how better to soften a Countinho shaped blow than to fill it in with a pudgy shaped Gotze gift?
In short – if Gotze arrives this summer, I genuinely believe he will be passing Philippe in John Lennon Airport. I only hope Marco Reus and Mario are sharing a taxi to Melwood.
Jono, Dublin, LFC
Liverpool vs Dortmund is going to be special
I wanted to quickly bring to attention the Dortmund fans’ planned Hillsborough tribute at Anfield later, where they plan to display a black and yellow ’96’ in the away end.
The gesture itself isn’t really so much of a big deal in my eyes, though it is indeed nice in a world where one of the biggest topics here is trying to quantify just how reprehensible/incompetent various football personalities are. It is the wider issue that is important. It’s dangerous to generalise, even in a positive light, but this is yet another example of German compassion and all-round niceness. Quite the contrast from the songs echoing from (a minority of) Liverpool and United supporters in the previous round.
Regardless of the result, the atmosphere promises to be a special one, and while I can’t speak for all Liverpool fans, if Dortmund win, I would offer my sincere congratulations and hope they go on to win the tournament. As an aside, my dad went to the Augsburg match and commented that their fans were ‘brilliant.’
Football takes a regular kicking for the negative aspects of its support and the spirit in which the game is played at times. It’s important to recognise and celebrate the positive side. It’s also about time those who harbor any doubt on the matter realise that the English and the Germans should be best bloody mates! They’re lovely, and England- Germany really does have the potential to be one of the best friendly rivalries in football, even if we lose to them every time it matters.
Andy (remember when you used to want all English teams to win in Europe?), London
Some Palace vs Everton thoughts, because why not?
Palace controlled large parts of the game, even before the sending off. I was expecting more from Everton to be honest, considering their league position maybe I shouldn’t have but I thought they would offer a lot more attacking threat. The only real danger came from Barkley when he found himself in space entering the Palace half. Otherwise it seemed they were very reliant on Coleman getting forward but he didn’t once get the better of Papa Soare. When in his own half Barkley was caught on the ball too many times and I think perhaps a different coach could help him learn when to play and when to move the ball quickly. Jedinak turned the ball over far too close to the Everton goal on several occasions.
Martinez is obviously under a bit of pressure up there at the moment so would be good to hear from Everton fans as to anything he has actually improved, there didn’t seem to be much cohesion going forward which contradicts his reputation.
Martinez had obviously set them up to be compact and deny space to Cabaye or Puncheon, forcing us to play wide with Bolasie and Zaha, both of which looked a bit tired and leggy, Bolasie in particular and both consistently found themselves doubled up on. Lukaku was isolated and didn’t often get much joy against Dann and Delaney, both happy to play their game and impose themselves physically.
Better strikers would have punished the Everton defenders though as Adebayor and Wickham found space within 7/8 yards of the Everton goal but just couldn’t take their chances. Wickham seems to be a split second away from converting many more chances, whether that missing split second is mentally or physically, he gets himself in good positions but his reactions are just slightly off the pace. Hopefully with a consistent run of games he will make that up and prove himself to be the striker a few managers have obviously thought he could be.
I enjoyed the 0-0 though and am happy with a point closer to safety. It could have easily been 3 had the whole team been on Puncheon’s level, he had an excellent game and is a real joy to watch. He works very hard defensively and won the ball on several occasions before getting himself down the pitch and creating space with a drop of the shoulder or brilliantly weighted ball. Sitting in the Holmesdale in amongst the fanatics was good fun, a conductor stands at the bottom facing the crowd throughout the whole game and constantly keeps the noise levels up and I always prefer to watch football standing up. I did use to prefer it when the away fans were in that corner too though as we used to be able to have a bit of back and forth when the games were not up to scratch. Them being down towards the family stand these days means you can’t really hear anything from them.
Fully expect us to lose to Arsenal this weekend as we focus on the Semi Final with Watford but with either Norwich or Sunderland or both dropping points this weekend I think we are pretty much safe now, maybe 2 or 3 more points needed to make sure.
Lingard and opinions
Interesting line from MC in today’s mailbox….
‘(MC – I don’t praise Lingard that much because I don’t think he’s very good, nor that he’ll make it at United. Sorry, but I’ve been wrong a thousand times before.)’
I think you’ve some how missed the point of journalism and match reports there. Some of us are more interested in the game than you trying to shape events to fit your narrative.
Praise when good, criticise when sh!t, surely that’s fair isn’t it?
(MC – I just didn’t think Lingard was especially great last night, and at 23 is three years older than other ‘young players’ I mentioned. As for using opinions, the match reports will be factual but the F365 Says pieces will obviously tend to include the opinions of the writers).
‘Unfortunately’? The bloody cheek
Unfortunately I find myself having to stick up for F365 here. Jesse Lingard is a decent Premier League player. No more. The reason he finds himself in United’s line up at the moment is because we are rubbish. LVG also loves him as much as LVG loves anyone who blindly follows his instructions. He would be a good winger to have on the bench but in no reality is he a starting number 10 for Manchester United. Lingard is also a poor finisher. A better player would have come away with a couple of goals last night where Lingard faltered.
Contrast Rashford’s (five years younger) finish with Lingard’s efforts from better positions. Martial contributed more centrally in the second half than Lingard ever has. Yet LVG loves playing Lingard in the number 10. (But then LVG loves doing weird stuff period). Then let’s also talk about Lingard’s brainless tackle on Payet in the dying minutes of the game. Surely at 23 you are mature enough to know not to foul the best free taker in the league (on current form) in exactly the place he keeps scoring from?!
Needless to say I find Lingard a very frustrating player. He’s a decent passer, generally has a good head on him but he’s prone to rash decision making, poor crossing (one league assist) and finishing. There is a chance he will get better but if I had to put money on him or Depay progressing into a top player it’d be the Dutchman. But hey, Lingard runs around a lot and that goes a long way in England.
On another note didn’t anyone hear Keown describe Antonio as a solid right back and then about 20 minutes later question the same players defensive capabilities? Make your bloody mind up Martin!
Ash (Rashford’s feet though) Metcalfe
And the last word on Lingard
For the United supporters falling over themselves to defend Lingard on the basis of his ‘youth’.
He’s the same age as Lucas Moura, Coutinho, Isco and Pogba, and fractionally younger than Kevin De Bruyne, Firmino, Neymar, James, Koke, Oscar and Christian Eriksen.
Those are his peers, and the level of players that Utd need to have. He is never going to be good enough.
Why defenders don’t get the nod
In response to Matt (Chairman of the Alderweireld Appreciation Society, and The Defender’s Union) Melbourne who mailed in trying to defend Toby Alderweireld and make his case for POTY, it seems many people are thinking that “the art of defending is dead”.
The reason defenders don’t typically make such nominations is that defending is not an individual art, all 11 players have to defend together. If Alderweireld made 20 interceptions, and 10 tackles every match and defended for the whole team then perhaps he would get a nomination. As it stands, this defensive burden is shared by the entire team. One individual cannot receive all the plaudits for a team effort.
This is less true for attacking, however. Almost all goals scored involve some sort of individual skill or vision, it’s no coincidence that the same players keep popping up with goals and assists, these players consistently produce for the team, usually with individual brilliance. Hence, these players are always more likely to get such nominations instead of any individual defender.
I shall wait for the inevitable backlash and being labelled as someone who “doesn’t appreciate defending”.
Junaid (Alderweireld is quite good though) LFC
Van Gaal doesn’t deserve credit for the kids
I was delighted to see Rashford score last night and Fosu-Mensah once more play with such composure, but then your article ruined it for me a little. Louis Van Gaal getting credit for something? Not on my watch!
If every youth player (bar one, who we’ll get to) making debuts in the first team this season was forced on you by injury, you don’t deserve credit for your youth policy.
If you constantly point to said injuries as the motivating factor behind your bad season – though these injuries are in fact the very reason the young players are getting a chance – you don’t deserve credit for your youth policy.
If you say that one member of your team – won’t say who, but he’s a bit fat – is guaranteed his place no matter what, you don’t deserve credit for your youth policy.
If your two most talented prospects are so disillusioned with life at Man United that they are having a score-from-corners competition in the reserves, you don’t deserve credit for your youth policy (bad attitude, you say? Pogba had one of those as well).
You do deserve credit, however, for Jesse Lingard. Thank God for Jesse. He’s the exception to all this, the youngster who was brought in at the expense of fit senior players. Not much talent there, but hey – at least he does exactly what he’s told and never tries to play by instinct.
Stephen O’S, MUFC
‘I’ve fallen out of love with the Champions League’
I have fallen out of love with the Champions League. I refuse to pay any more for TV than I already do, so don’t have BT Sport.
Family commitments at weekends mean I rarely watch live weekend games and my TV football fix has for a while been fulfilled by mid week evening games which, of course, have been limited to the occasional dodgy internet stream to watch the Champions League this season. As a Chelsea fan this may be understandable given our awful season in all competitions but even when we were still involved in the CL it just hasn’t had the same buzz it used to.
Friends I know that support other teams have rarely discussed what happening in the Champions League this season. City fans I’m sure will be loving their first progression to the semi finals but it feels like the CL has fallen off the radar this season and the Premier League and Europa League have been far more interesting.
I’d be interested to know the thoughts of anyone else? Is the BT Sport deal the straw that broke the camel’s back?
Matt (Keep playing the kids Guus, at least they care!) Barlow
More detailed Atletico love
I’m glad Atletico got some love in this morning’s mailbox. I feel more respect should be given to a side who continue to punch well above their weight in Europe and to a lesser extent La Liga. Don’t get me wrong, Atletico are no longer paupers but still let’s have a glance at their squad shall we?
Koke (24), Saul (21), Lucas Hernandez (20), Thomas Partey (21) and Oliver (21) are all recent products of their academy, while Gabi and Torres are products of the academy but spent some time away before returning (Gabi for 3 million euros and El nino on loan from Milan). One would assume that neighbour Real Madrid’s academy is better funded so to have such a bountiful production line is mightily impressive.
Godin, in my opinion the best central defender in the world, was signed for 7 million from Villareal whereas his normal partner and compatriot, Jose Gimenez, was snatched up for a paltry 1 million but is now probably worth 40x that figure. Of course they have splashed cash on certain individuals with varying success. Griezmann (24 million), Oblak (13 million) and Carrasco (20 million) have all been successful whereas Vietto (20 million) has yet to fulfill his potential.
Most of their funds are generated from player sales with Jackson Martinez the latest departure to fill their coffers to the tune of a cool 42 million euros. The cash they do splash goes on young
players with even higher re-sale values and it is strategy that is working well.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Atletico – a combination of their working class, underdog status and the emergence of one mohicaned young striker with an elvish tattoo on his forearm at Euro 2004 when I was at an impressionable aim. Under Simeone they have evolved into one of the most formidable teams in Europe so here’s hoping they emerge with the La Liga and Champions League double to rub in the faces of the vastly richer Real and Barca.
Osric the Brave, Cape Town
Responses on the George Best conundrum
The more you read about John Lennon, the more you realise he was not a great guy. Does it separate him from genius? Nope.
Our demons make us interesting, skilled, legendary even. Does it stop us being the occasional tw*t? I hear Schwarzenegger likes the ladies don’t you know. He’s still the f**king terminator.
Jon, Yido, Boston
…In response to Cian M.
The whole point of the ‘Portrait’ articles is to find human interest. It is the reason why I find Ronaldo and to a lesser degree Messi so totally and utterly boring. You need a life story to provide balance to the football ‘genius’. Otherwise it may as well be a computer game.
Incidentally, I don’t remember Cian M having an email published after the Garrincha article? Presumably Cian M was happy to read about their struggles? Just not Best?
…I feel I have to response to Cian M and his review of your George Best Portrait of an Icon piece.
Cian writes “Yes he made some terrible decisions and hurt people along the way, but who on this page cares?”. Cian certainly isn’t alone in believing that his view is somehow fact (rafa style). If you want to state your opinion then that’s surely what the mailbox is for but don’t mistakenly suggest you are speaking for everyone else. It shouldn’t be a newsflash to anyone that just about any belief you hold isn’t held by everyone (even in the narrow confines of these football focused pages).
In reference to “who cares” then let me say I do. It’s long been established that sporting (or any other) ability and moral character are mutually exclusive. You can be a wonderful footballer and an odious person and when we view someone solely for their footballing ability then their character or off-field activities should be completely excluded. That however isn’t the point of the Portrait of an Icon series – the piece on Garrincha being an excellent example – the article isn’t a dry list of their sporting achievements. Garrincha’s achievements are all the more remarkably for the obstacles he overcame which ultimately didn’t stop his tragic demise.
As someone who supports Man United and is from Belfast I feel absolutely no conflict in believing the following:
(1) George Best is one of (if not the) best footballers ever to have graced the field for Man United. He would be one of my top 5 footballers ever.
(2) I’m embarrassed that the city I was born (and live in) have named one of their airports after a self-destructive wife abuser who repeated spurned the second chances that were afforded to him (second chances in large part available solely due to his fame).
The Portrait of an Icon series is one of my favourite parts of F365 and it’s largely due to the fact they delve beneath the surface of the achievements and detail what made the person rather than the player.
John Walsh, Belfast
A few weeks ago I wrote in regarding the most managerial changes in one season, talking about Palermo who were at the time on their 8th manager of the season.
On Tuesday chairman Maurizio Zamparini fired that 8th coach, Walter Novellino, replacing him with previous incumbent Davide Ballardini, bringing them up to 9 for the season. Just one more to go for the nice round number.