Big question: Where has the elephant on the tree vanished to?
Poor old Van Gaal
Dare (long time reader, first time contributor) Lagos
What a Caulker
Yep, that will almost certainly improve the Liverpool defence
Smuggler McSmugglerson. (Tongue is firmly in cheek)
Blame Fergie? F**k off
Killian, I think you give SAF way too much credit for some of the issues at United. I am sure he was part of the selection process for Moyes, however going by SAFs book, he wasn’t even told that Moyes was being fired and he states that he has very little to no power at United, he is just a figurehead. Add to that they picked Moyes after Guardiola, Klopp, Ancelotti etc said no for one reason or another (doubt many wanted to follow the greatest football manager of all time).
Yes the squad left behind wasn’t the greatest, but on the flip side SAF hadn’t emptied the United coffers on dross before leaving. If anything all the money was around for his successors to invest and both Moyes and LVG have invested a lot. We all knew it would take a season or two of rebuilding and most United fans have been patient. We have just demanded attacking football and some progress.
Its just a shame that Moyes was just not upto the job and LVGs passing game seems dated and doesn’t seem to work anymore. However the quality players are already in place with cash still available to fill any holes and if the right man is selected next, United should be back. Its a shame Klopp went to Pool as his style would suit the players we currently have.
JB , MUFC
In response in particular to Killian, but others like him, asking why SAF doesn’t get more stick for ‘this mess’ – as he puts it.
It probably has something to do with the Gazillion trophies the man won over a consecutive 20 year period after lifting a huge, but massively under achieving team, from 25 years of mediocrity and turning them into Premier League giants and one of Europe’s best. The sort of thing tends to cut you some slack. With a track record like that, it would actually completely irresponsible of Manchester United NOT to seek his advice and guidance on such matters. I am pretty certain that had the club allowed him to walk away completely in retirement and have no involvement whatsoever, Killian would no doubt be writing in to protest his outrage at how Fergie hasn’t being consulted and should never have been allowed just walk away.
Instead of this ridiculous chastising of our clubs greatest ever manager and looking for someone to ‘blame’. It might be time to reflect and realise how lucky United (and their fans) were, be grateful that you were part of it and continue to support the club as they try to adapt to a new era. Anything else tends to make you look like a spoiled child!
Less United/Woodward/Fergie/Van Gaal please
I really like your site and am a big fan of the recent revamp of the site. I’m especially a big fan of your Icon series and Mediawatch (especially the ‘recommended reading’ section). The best regular feature on your site is by far the Mailbox which I see as the perfect forum for fans to share their thoughts in a more articulate manner than can be seen in the comments sections of most football sites.
I understand that the readership of your site largely consists of fans of the ‘big’ sides’ and therefore the mails that come in are also largely about those sides. However, the ongoing and seemingly never ending debate about the managerial situation at Manchester United is wearisome. To a point, the goings on there are quite interesting. Beyond that point however, it feels like we’re collectively flogging a dead horse. It’s pretty clear that the current manager will hold the position till the end of the season before an attempt is made to lure Pep. So to keep reading about this is incredibly tiresome. In fact I have stopped reading my favourite feature on the site, feeling like there is little point in re-reading the same old arguments and opinions appearing in newer and newer avatars.
Although I can’t speak for your entire readership I am sure I am not the only one who feels a little overwhelmed by this utterly pointless debate. Also, please do not get me wrong: my grouse is with those contributions that seek to determine who is to blame/not to blame for the managerial situation. Reading mails about United from United fans is just as enjoyable as anything else on the site but surely it is time that you, in your wisdom, make a conscious editorial decision not to publish mails (or at least not as many) about the most tedious debate ever.
I wish you every success with the site and salute your take on football coverage free from all the stereotypes and clichés that we are inundated with on sites elsewhere. Hopefully the Mailbox can recapture its charm of being the home of unique and quirky fan participation. I hope you can take my suggestion on board for the coming Mailboxes.
Your loyal reader,
(MC – Unfortunately, we can only publish what we receive. If you want different stuff, send it in. Please.)
English struggles at Arsenal
Aside from the current run of success, Wenger and arsenal fans can feel pretty good about how so many players have progressed from within the club. Coquelin and Bellerin are the stand out examples from last season, Ramsey the season before that, and then there’s Campbell this season.
Even some of the more experienced players have shown considerable improvement, with the likes of Monreal, Giroud and Kolscielny much better than when they first arrived. Cazorla was already very good when he first arrived, but has reinvented himself brilliantly as a deep lying midfielder.
Clearly Arsenal are doing something right, and I was basking in this warm glow when I turned my attention to the players who haven’t really progressed much over the same timeframe. These would be the Ox, wilshere, Gibbs, Chambers, Welbeck and possibly Theo (although theo may yet be significantly better come the end if the season). And then I realised – holy shit! They’re all english!
Anyone else find this a little strange?
Uday (spurs seem to be managing fine on that front) AFC, Delhi
Substance over style
In response to Stephen, Dublin:
I’m a United fan and while I accept that United are terrible at the moment results wise and style wise, I’m not as vocal as many other people about the style.
See sports entertainment is more than just attacking football or flair, it’s about winning. Why? Because winning is the main goal that we strive for because regardless of which teams you support. If we’re all there to just play “beautiful” football then what’s the point? Why not instead of goals we just have a panel of five judges each and every play and award points to the team’s. And while this isn’t the majority opinion, defending well can be technically really nice to see as well – and comes with its own risks.
Whenever I watch a match as a neutral, yes things like high scoring games are usually a good thing because I want to see good football and the fate of the teams usually doesn’t concern me. But it’s different when you’re actually supporting a team that’s playing and consider them to be a part of you. It’s like tribalism and warfare. You have a goal you want, the enemy in front of you wants to stop you from getting it and maybe even steal it themselves, you reach that goal however you wish (within the rules anyways). Whatever it takes. When you’re team is leading by 1 goal in the 93rd minute for an important six pointer over a title/relegation rival, you don’t say “attack and expose yourselves”, you say “time wasting and corner flags”.
Would I want to see my team play as good as Barcelona? Yes. Does it come before winning? No. Football games are actually pretty hard to win and this season is pretty much the epitome of this as NO team is completely safe. Playing beautiful football should be something all teams aspire to, and I do want to my team do it. But that’s AFTER we won the league a few times in a row comfortably playing well with no other teams in sight. It’s a priority sure, but much lower than winning. When Man City nicked the title over United for the first time in forty years by goal difference, I don’t think their fans would split hairs over how it was done.
I’m not even saying winning and success is the sole reason people should support teams but as a goal it is something we fans are happy when it does happen, regardless of whether you support a top four BPL team, a low table team, a Championship team or even a League Two team. The cheers of fans do not lie when a goal is scored or an important result is achieved.
World XI of the year alternatives
Despite being a United fan, I have found the last three mailboxes incredibly tedious and one-dimensional because of all the LVG mails. There’s been some other good mails mixed in along with it but I find myself scrolling half way down the page to get to those said mails. Obviously many people have a genuine interest in endlessly discussing United, but I’m sure many readers like myself don’t.
So here is an alternative topic, the FifPro World XI of the year and who you think should have made it. The selection was an absolute joke this year just as it has been for many other years.
Here’s my XI from 2015.
GK- Manuel Neuer
While it was tempting to plump for De Gea, Bayern have only conceded 8 goals this season and Neuer has been wonderful once again. Remember his save against Arsenal?
RB- Dani Alves
He is still the best right-back in the world and consistently proves it with his performances in Spain and in Europe. English media will always say there are questions about his defensive aptitude but he’s actually quite good on that front.
CB- Giorgio Chiellini
I’ve always felt that Chiellini is somewhat under-rated outside of Italy, but the man is class. He was pivotal in Juve getting to the Champions League final and although Juve had a poor start to the current campaign, he has performed at a level above Sergio Ramos and Thiago Silva in 2015.
CB- Jerome Boateng
By my reckoning he is the best central defender in the world and it was an embarrassment to leave him out of the picked XI despite his solid performances all year. Has been immense in the past two years for club and country.
LB- David Alaba
Without doubt the best left-back in the world and how he has been left out of the team for the past two years is beyond me. Not much else needs to be said.
CM- Paul Pogba
Everyone knows how good he is but what I find mesmerizing about him is the little change in pace from a jog to a three or four yard sprint when he wants to breeze by a player with the ball. He really has everything in his locker.
CM- Arturo Vidal
Left out of the side at the expense Luca Modric, which I find bizarre, but he has picked up for Bayern where he left off at Juve. Almost a throwback to the old style box to box midfielder who breaks up the play and also gets on the end of goalscoring moves. He’s absolute quality.
CM- Ivan Rakitic
Iniesta was picked ahead of his Barca team-mate but that just shows the bias in the voting. Rakitic’s excellence means Xavi has hardly been missed and the Croatian adds defensive solidity to the side that Xavi never could. Ozil could have easily been picked here too.
RW- Lionel Messi
Just nicks the spot in the forwards ahead of Jamie Vardy.
ST- Luis Suarez
I can’t believe I’m leaving Ronaldo out, who is undoubtedly one of my favourite ever players, but Suarez has been excellent in 2015. His stats are not that far behind Ronaldo’s and his style of play has made Barcelona a more cohesive attacking unit. He’s scored 51 goals in 14 months for them and many of those have been hugely important ones.
No arguments about this one, he has elevated himself into the Messi-Ronaldo bracket now and will probably only get better. I find it great to have such a talented Brazilian playing right now because they are different to other footballers in the way they put on a show and excite the crowd.
I think that’s a pretty rounded team and there couldn’t be a huge amount of arguments against it.
Paddy(Martin O’Neill picked Hazard for World POTY! HAHA) Ireland
Four-year transfer rule
Having followed Liverpool for the last 22 years it’s fair to say I’m borderline bipolar when it comes to a Saturday. Couple seasons ago I would count down the days to see Suarez rip defenders new holes left right and centre. Now, however, not so much. Sitting through this ridiculous season every Saturday has had me thinking about new ways I would improve football as a whole. Ladies and gentlemen please be upstanding for: The 4 Year Transfer Rule.
I’ll keep this sweet. Every 4 years, every professional player over the age of 23 should HAVE to move clubs. They would be put up for sale for their standard market price, however nothing over £50million. This means Ronaldo, Messi et al would be no more than £50m. This gets rid of that annoying FIFA Financial Fair Play rule that is broken more times than Michael Owen’s metatarsal. This would also mean players such as Messi who “couldn’t do it in a sh*tstorm in Stoke midweek” could actually move teams and give it a go. I’m kinda sick of seeing Messi/Ronaldo do the same thing, with the same players every week. It is entertaining, but after a while gets pretty tedious. This rule would mean after 4 years they have to move on to pastures new and try new leagues. I’m pretty sure a lot of the best players in the world would give England a go, after all its only 4 years.
I’ll admit, it would mean the end of club legends like Gerrard and Carragher. But I would rather see the greatest players in the history of football in my own country than the same, boring, pasty scousers every week.
Probably wouldn’t work for 427 reasons, but this has been a great way to spend my lunch break.
Joel (Never missed anyone more than I have Luis Suarez) LFC.
Best and worst signings so far
As we reach the halfway point of the season, and the re-opening of the transfer window, I would like to raise a question to the mailbox. What has been the best and worst signings made so far? There seems to be a lot to choose from, but personally I would go with:
Best – Cech, Kante & Cabaye
Worst – Benteke, Memphis & Gestede
Ryan K, Dundalk FC (Rudy Gestede gets paid to play football. Bloody hell)
Paul Scholes and the modern No 10
Scholes then. He was good in his time but was the reason for him being underrated in his hey day (by non ManUTD fans) down to the fact that he pioneered a position just behind the strikers that no one else played how he did? In the Premier League we now have Ozil, Silva, Coutinho and then at a lower level, Erikson all doing the same role, would he look better than them? From what I remember he wasn’t as technically gifted as those players but he did have extraordinary vision in making assists and distributing the ball.
I guess it’s been a hard position to show that you are actually contributing (until WhoScored/OPTA etc). Because scoring goals doesn’t happen as often it’s less sexy than being a winger or striker. Lampard was another player like Scholes who played in ‘the hole’ but was praised more because he scored a lot. I personally never saw much difference between Lampard and Tim Cahill but hey ho.
As an aside Scholes is an absolute winner for BT Sport as he generates so much publicity every time he’s on the telly box. Van Gaal is a joke. But then we surely all knew that anyway?
JazGooner (What I’m basically saying is thanks to Scholes, Ozil is finally getting the credit he deserves for a crucial position)
Berahino to Liverpool? Yeah, maybe not
In response to Kris, LFC Manchester, comments on Berahino to Liverpool. A couple of things. First Berahino is not fast or even quick.He does however have decent acceleration over 5 yards. His first touch is pretty is appalling. He has a little bit of skill, that can often leave enough space to shoot, however not leave the man trailing behind him. He is a world class finisher with his feet, though he does not like to head the ball. Since Pulis took over, his overall work rate has improved and he will track back. He is also a seriously unpleasant young man. Who flopped when at loan at Peterborough and was sent back to the Albion in disgrace. There was also a drink driving offence just as he got called into the England team.
Whilst the Albion have brought him through the youth ranks (he does not owe us his soul) however from making the first team and scoring a few goals, he was looking for a move away and up. I would suggest that the moment he scores a couple for his next side if it is indeed Liverpool or Spurs he will be agitating for a move to a bigger club. He does not have the patience or common sense to let his football do the talking. He does owe the Albion his full commitment and this is something he has never given. He has no understanding of what is to be a football supporter, which tragically means he will never really appreciate the gift he has been given with his talents. Never mind the opportunity.
That said when he scores he looks like a world beater and could be worth a punt. But the point ambitous charimen miss about dealing with Albion is that Jeremy Peace is tough so and so. We lost Izzy Brown to Chelsea and another promising youth talent to Liverpool a couple of years ago. At this point Peace considered closing the academy as he had invested to gain category 1 status only to see the best prospects still poached. Therefore with Berahino he has to sell him for value otherwise as a club we will never get the market value again. With the goals Berahino has scored he has already ‘paid back’ the investment the club has made in him in terms of wages and coaching. Therefore we can ‘afford’ to let him rot on the bench. In term of preserving value this was important as if someone now wishes to buy one of academy products they will have to pay the asking price.
Berahino has behaved badly all along. But then he may not be the sharpest tool in the box. Jeremy Peace has protected the interests of the Albion (that is his job) Pulis has worked hard with Berahino and the respect is clear to see. And generally on matchdays the fans still cheer Berahino when he is involved. But lets be clear the reason he is struggling to get in the team is because he had not been playing well and was not fit. As a side note Anichebe is a great striker for the way the Albion play. Far more suited to our style than Berahino. Anichebe destroyed Newcastle and when fit is the best striker at our club.
Boing Boing (Come on Wycombe) Ben
A shower of record transfer sh*te
It was interesting to read the article on the embarrassing club record signings. Thought Darren Bent and Michael Owen would have been worthy of an honourable mention but it’s hard to argue with any of the choices. It got me thinking about the history of Tottenham’s transfer record, an honour that is currently held, arguably in the shape of an albatross around the neck, by Erik Lamela. I’ve taken a bit of a bashing in this very mailbox for stating my views about Lamela, but by looking at previous holders of this record, we shouldn’t be surprised if his time at Tottenham is eventually viewed as a massive failure. Our previous Premier League era record transfer were:
Roberto Soldado – £26.2m, 16 goals in 76 games, sold at a £16m loss.
Paulinho – £17m, said Spurs was “the worst moment of my career”, played 45 games but I don’t think anyone really figured what he did. Sold for £7m loss
Darren Bent – £16.5m, signed to be fourth choice striker, worse than Sandra. Sold for £6m loss.
Sergei Rebrov – £11m, scored 10 goals in 60 games. Released on a free transfer and went on to give some ill-advised advice to Roman Pavlyuchenko
Les Ferdinand – £7m – probably the least sh*t name on this list so far, but things didn’t exactly go swimmingly. After scoring 41 in 68 for Newcastle in 2 years, went on to score 33 in 118 in 6 injury ravaged years at WHL. Released on a free.
Chris Armstrong – £4.5m, signed as a replacement for Jurgen Klinsmann. Surprisingly was not quite as good.
Gheorge Popescu – £2.9m, as a defender he was never going to fit into Ossie Ardiles’ famous 0-0-11 formation. Lasted less than a year, although according to Wikipedia was sold at a 100k profit!
Ilie Dumitrescu – £2.6m, played 18 games.
Teddy Sheringham – £2.1m, finally the exception that proves the rule
I’d be shocked if any other Premier League teams can match that for a shower of record transfer sh*te.
The loan system
The answer to Doctor What’s question regarding the Loan System is the same as most questions in football – it’s all business. Although we can all point to loan success stories, the principle aim of the system is to put academy products in the shop window of lower league clubs.
The majority of the players playing in premier league Under 21 squads this season will never make a senior apearance for their clubs. The better ones however, will start to filter through the league structure as they get transfered off. Sending these players out on loan lets them get some match experience whilst letting them audition to other clubs throughout the league system.
These players don’t go for small amounts of money either (after all, they are coming from Premier League academies) and they form an important source of revenue for clubs in the top two divisions. Some years ago I was part of a team that was looking into the prospect of buying a football club on behalf of an individual and this was a prominent factor in the clubs finances. Academy players are cheap to produce, no-one bats an eye when they are sold off or released and they can command very attractive fees with a few seasons of loan football under their boots.
Perhaps it is different for Premier to Premier loan transfers and of course, some players are loaned out as they genuinley highly regarded by the management. When you start having 17, 20, 25 players out on loan from the academy though, most of those fellas are being prepped for a transfer.
The way youth players are handled in the Barclay’s is hardly optimal. The U21 PL is not competitive enough (could there also be more games overall at this level?) and the enormous pressure not to drop out of the league/to get into the top 4 or win the title means that seasoned pros will always be given chances before youth players. The way Pochettino has managed his youngsters, both at Southampton and at Spurs, in my opinion hints at the way to go: have a core of 15-20 senior players and fill out the rest of the squad with the best young players available within the organisation. This also seems to be what Klopp is trying to do this window, having recalled a fistful of players from loans in the lower leagues.
However, I also definitely think that players like Kane, Alli, Carroll, Mason etc. have benefitted hugely from playing in the Football League before taking on starting roles for a PL side. Where else could you make the mistakes from which you can learn? A temporary stint at a lower league club provides the perfect environment to progress as a player: the stakes are high, but not cripplingly so, responsibility is handed out much more easily, mistakes aren’t punished as often, etc. – and if the loan doesn’t work out, the player can try again somewhere else without having to go through the hassle of an actual transfer. It must also be said that not all youth prospects come good, whether they go out on loan or not – a return of Mason, Carroll, Kane, Rose and Pritchard (even Townsend) for Spurs is probably as high as a club at the top end can expect to get from their youth system.
Also, a ‘bad’ loan stint might be as good for the development of the player as a ‘good’ one – Harry Kane wasn’t exactly pulling up trees in the Championship in 13/14, was he? A loan also offers the manager an opportunity to see whether a young player has what it takes to confront different situations, with different people and different cultures. As an example, look at Serge Gnabry, on loan at West Brom (admittedly not a Football League club) from Arsenal at the moment. He has barely featured all season for different reasons (injuries, fitness problems etc.), and every time Wenger has been asked about his situation his response has been that Gnabry needs to work hard to impress Pulis in order to get a look in. The information that Wenger is getting from this situation could be valuable in evaluating Gnabry’s character, determination and motivation. Progressing through the ranks at the Arsenal academy only requires (massive amounts of) talent, if he really wants to become an important player for Arsenal he needs to show that he’s willing to and capable of working hard to achieve it. If he succeeds, he’ll be much better for it – if he doesn’t, Wenger might have to think twice about including him in his plans for the future.
So in conclusion, if I were Klopp, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the loan system. If he is truly dedicated to using his young players in real matches (not the U21 PL), then yes, by all means, have them around – but they are going to need to play in those matches and they are going to need to be allowed to make mistakes in those matches to develop. For a team fighting for the top 4 those mistakes might be the difference between finishing 4th and 5th, and you need to accept that that might be the cost of being dedicated to player development.
Axel (AFC), Helsinki, Finland
Justice for Townsend
Having laid into Andy Townsend’s tv punditry in the past, I’d just like to say how pleasantly surprised I am at his contribution to the Monday night club on 5live. Genuinely interesting insight and views on the state of football. Worlds away from the “he’s hit that almost too well” guff he was spouting on ITV on a regular basis. Worth a renewed Johnny Nic review of his work if you ask me (Clive).
Also, apropos of nothing, Jonjo Shelvey is only 23?? crivens.
Andy Smith (Scunthorpe)