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Further to Al, Hull City’s email about crowd chants this morning, Arsenal fans will be absolute idiots if they don’t sing this one at some point during the season (to the tune of Queen’s Radio Gaga):
“All we hear is, Radio Xhaka, Radio Giroud, Radio Xhaka…”
As a Chelsea fan I’m disappointed we never managed to get ‘Bababa baba Rahman’ (to the tune of Barbara Ann – Beach Boys) going. Maybe it was because he wasn’t very good.
Furthering the point made by Al, Hull do player’s sing the adapted lyrics to their songs when they hear them?
Can Rafa Benítez ever listen to La Bamba like a normal person anymore?
Roll on the weekend,
Looking at the fixtures
As the season finally kicks off, a debate we often have (especially while selecting fantasy football teams) is whether a team can have ‘kind’ or ‘harsh’ fixture lists and whether there is such a thing as a perfect fixture list?
Liverpool start their season with a horrible run and could conceivably have no wins in their first several games. Chelsea by contrast have a relatively kind schedule. So you could see a situation by mid-September of Chelsea top and Liverpool bottom of the league. However, after Man City on March 18th, Liverpool have a relatively easy run to the end of the season playing no-one who I expect to be challenging for the champions league. I wouldn’t put it past them going on a dramatic run to clinch a European position at the death.
On a smaller scale, playing teams after European action is surely an advantage and I’m certain (with no stats to back me up) that playing relegation teams in April / May is a much harder prospect than other times in the year and in fact newly promoted teams often struggle in the first month or two while settling in.
Likewise, playing mid-table teams with nothing to play for is easier in the last month or two than in October / November / December when these mid table teams start to gel and often have a run of form.
So while other’s may disagree, I’d quite like a tough opening game to get it out of the way and hope to catch the opposition cold. A gentle run to September to build some form and bank the points. An average run through to December with some tough home fixtures that correspond with European games. A big Christmas schedule (as playing West Brom on boxing day is pretty dull) followed by a tough New Year to get rid of some hard fixtures and prompt an exciting buy in January. Survive through to March and then go on a glorious run clinching European football on the last day of the season.
Saints just about managed that last year and Chelsea have a very kind schedule this year with zero distractions. So my prediction is Chelsea for the title (boo hiss), Liverpool 4th and Saints a respectable 8th with a cup final thrown in.
Tom Saints (I hope Koeman is enjoying spending that £100m war chest at Everton… oh wait.)
Liverpool only need one or two more
So as we’re only 48hrs away from the big KO, this leads me to share a few thoughts on the Liverpool squad and where are.
Keeper: With Karius (who really looks to have something) hopefully recovering quick, this will mean Mignolet and Manninger are ok back up options for the cups. I’m happy with that 3.
Centre Backs: So with a few additions, we look to have decent balance here for a change. Lovren and Matip on the right side with Sakho and Klavan on the left. Backing them up are youngsters Illori and Wisdom so no real issues with this position (injuries permitting).
Full Backs: My biggest worry! Clyne and Gomez (when he returns from his ACL) are very strong options. However with Flanno on loan and Smith sold we are basically left with Moreno and Milner (not good enough to put it mildly). I cannot for the life of me believe we cannot find a good LB out there and will someone please tell me what is wrong with Hector? Backing them up are youngsters Alex-Arnold and Randell but both are either too raw or not good enough.
Centre Mid: Ok so we have Can, Wijnaldum, Hendo, Milner, Grujic, Lucas and Stewart here. Lucas will probably go and Milner seems to be covering everything including the tea lady. If Hendo can get back to his form from before last season and EC keeps progressing then I’m relatively happy here. Wij adds a lot of power and pace to that midfield. Also Grujic and in particular Stewart have really impressed in pre-season.
Attacking Mids: This is where we are strongest with probably the best options in the league. Pick any 3 from Coutinho, Firmino, Mane, Lallana, Ojo, Markovic to play across the front line just behind the striker and we look a threat. Goals, pace, trickery, assists in abundance.
Striker: Weird position this. Basically between Sturridge (if fit) and Origi with Ings as back up if we continue with 1 up top. Benteke and Balo look to be off pretty soon so I’d like to see 1 proper striker come in to replace them both (preferably one who fits our style and stays fit).
All in all – while they are a few areas of concern and some injuries in key areas could really cause problems, I feel we are one of the best equipped teams in the league. If we can add the 1 or 2 players we need before the month is out, then watch us go.
Premier League experience
For anyone lucky enough to watch the Luton-Villa League cup match last night the side led out by a Champions League winning manager (and comprised of Premier League regulars and £14m strikers) were fundamentally outplayed. Luton, as all League 2 sides are, were made up of journeymen, released academy players (from the top clubs) and loanees. Plenty of running and no little skill did for a number of high reputation individuals.
On Friday the most expensively ever produced Championship side (again with a Champions League winning manager) had no response to last season’s strugglers Fulham – themselves shorn of their two best attackers! Coupled with Leicester’s outstanding success (built on smallish transfers and great scouting) why is so much stock put in fabled Premier League experience?
Villa’’s reaction to defeat to League 2 players is to offer £8m for James Chester! You could buy the best four defenders in League’s 1 and 2 for that (and probably pay them a combined wage less that Chester will get) and Newcastle have recruited a host of Premier League not quite’s (Clark, Gayle, Ritchie) for a combined £27m (of their near £50m expenditure). Is a £10m Dwight Gayle a better option than an in-form lower league striker – of the last 6 top scorers in the Championship only one had previous Premier League experience (the previously unprolific Daryl Murphy for those that care).
Every year at least one of the relegated Premier League teams (with bags of Premier League experience) look useless in the second tier (QPR being last year’s prime example) and a promoted team show that the gulf is not actually that large – hat tip to Southampton and Leicester for grossly exceeding expectations in recent years!
Would be genuinely interested if Villa/Newcastle/Norwich (£8m for Pritchard!) fans are happier spending big money on ‘marquee’ signings of Premier League players or would rather gamble on their own academy prospects and lower league up and comers?
Dan (hoping Leeds don’t improve ahead of next round), LTFC
The Colchester view
Excellent mail from Charlie H this morning, on what is also my most memorable opening day match.
Having watched Colchester return from our glory years in the Championship in 2008, we had initially struggled back in League One despite our shiny new stadium. Eventually we sacked the manager and Paul Lambert was appointed in October. A fantastic run around December and January bought us close to the play off spots, before we tailed off at the end of the season and finished 12th.
At the start of the 2009/2010 season I was feeling fairly optimistic. We had (as always) sold our best player (Mark Yeates to Middlesbrough), but recruited well and had an excellent manager in charge of the team. Then the Norwich game happened. We were as good as Norwich were bad (and they really were bad). I don’t believe I’ve ever seen 2 sets of supporters so united in disbelief at what they were watching. I drove home genuinely convinced we were going up in the automatic promotion spots.
Then, as Charlie states, Gunn was sacked and replaced with great haste by Paul Lambert. Too much haste, really, since Norwich forgot about small details like agreeing compensation with Colchester first, which got them a telling off from the football league disciplinary panel and got us £425k.
Norwich probably got the better deal though. They went on to promotion to the Championship, and then the Premier League, the title and a half decade of European domination (I assume, I was too bitter to pay attention after the Premier League promotion). We eventually appointed Aidy Boothroyd and finished 8th. We’ve not been that high since and Boothroyd jumped ship for Coventry after less than a year in charge. The chairman now refuses to appoint good managers on the basis that they’ll only leave*.
Norwich 1, Colchester 7 wasn’t my best moment as a Colchester fan, but it marks the last time I felt that the club could genuinely raise its level and become a sustainable top League 1/lower Championship club.
Jeremy (I think goal 7 was mostly laughter from both sets of fans) Aves
*I assume that’s the explaination for the last 5 managers.
In a similar approach to Sissoko’s attempts at getting a dream move to Real Madrid could you please post this to the mailbox which could then end up on a NASA 365 website and may result in a job offer and dream move to NASA.
H (I have no discernible skills NASA would find useful much like Sissoko in fact)
Memorable opening days
Growing up in Africa, a football mad continent, I could never claim to support my local team. My dad, having grown up in the UK was a keen Liverpool fan, and he stopped at nothing to ensure I followed in his footsteps. Much to his dismay, halfway through the 95 season I decided to disobey him and instead pledge allegiance to the King, my decision fully vindicated by THAT volley in the FA Cup final. King Eric left, Becks stepped up, and the treble followed. It was a great time to be a United fan.
However, in the years that followed, and especially after Beckham was sold, I started losing interest in football. I would still watch plenty of games, but as a teenager, there were way more important things in life, like studying hard and getting into a great uni (or girls…Yeah, mostly girls). The events of the summer of 2006 changed that, but even then, it was more about the drama than it was the actual game. We all knew Rooney had been a silly boy, Ronaldo had been a naughty boy, and the papers wanted blood for their poster boy. Months of vitriol aimed at Ronaldo followed, and I was just intrigued how it would play out, especially since he was pushing for a move away, but had looked an incredible player in the World Cup and I really didn’t want him to leave. Thinking about it now is strange, because at that time Rooney was the bigger name, and a lot of people would have chosen him ahead of Ronaldo for their teams.
Ronaldo stayed, he made up with Rooney, and I knew I had to watch the first game of the new season. I hadn’t felt this kind of excitement in years, but there was a problem. I was moving to London for my A levels, my flight would land an hour before United played Fulham at Old Trafford, and we had to travel all the way back to East London which was an hour’s drive at the very least. I literally ran through the airport, but even then there wasn’t long to kick off. I didn’t think I would be able to get into a pub either, being 16 and all, but my cousin and the legendary cab driver had other ideas. They snuck me into a pub around the corner from Heathrow and I watch Rooney and Ronnie combine to tear Fulham apart. That finish by Ronaldo, where he smashes the ball over the keeper and into the top of the net is still one of my favourite moments in football because it’s when I fell in love with the game again.
A few months later, with my newfound enthusiasm in tow I went to Old Trafford for my first ever live game. As a youth fan I had managed to get a ticket for only 17 quid in the Stretford End for a Champions League quarter final against Roma. We won 7-1.
I’ve never looked back. Even Moyes couldn’t break my spirit that had rekindled in 2006.
Pats (Ooh Aah)
It’s nearly that time again, and I’m so excited I can barely work. Thought I’d throw some predictions out there.
Champions: Manchester United
As disappointing as this would be, I feel Mourinho has the side he needs to do the job. Power and drive in Pogba, finesse and creativity in Mkhitaryan, pace and directness in Martial and the potential talisman in Ibra. Needs to work out the way to get them all at their most effective, but if he does they will take some stopping. No Europe will be key.
Top Four: Citeh, Spurs, Liverpool
I feel Citeh might take a while to adjust to Guardiola’s fairly unique ideology of fullbacks playing as auxiliary central midfielders etc, and could easily suffer from key injuries to Aguero, Gundogan or Kompany, so will fall short. Spurs and Liverpool are the most settled of the top six, both have strengthened where needed and neither has lost any key players, so they will benefit from the most stability. Expect Arsenal, West Ham and possibly Leicester to be up there.
Surprise package: None stand out, so I’ll go with Liverpool
Settled squad with a good manager, and no Europe will give them a boost. Title challenge, but will “do a Tottenham” again and fall short. Which will naturally further their bitterness towards us and generally be hilarious.
Surprise disappointment: Chelsea and Arsenal
Conte may struggle to get to grips with the culture (ha) and feel of the English game, still lacks quality centre backs, and just may not fit. Which would also be hilarious. Perhaps more so. Arsene will believe that Chambers is a future captain, Xhaka looking after some keys once provides a substantial set of cojones for the whole team, and Giroud will score forty goals, and not buy anyone else. Arsenal Fan TV fights itself and implodes.
Player of the season: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Scores, creates, works hard as you like. Has a player in Ibra who will finish a lot of what he creates.
Top scorer: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Aguero is the correct answer, but no way he stays injury free. I was going to say Kane, but he may feature less in PL with CL responsibilities. Zlatan plays every game and scores 30+.
Relegated: Hull, Swansea, Burnley
Burnley because they spend about £25 when they get promoted, Hull because they have Mike Phelan in charge, and Swansea because they’ll finally pay for their instability.
First sacking: Mike Phelan or whomever Hull appoint in his place
Hull are irreversibly rubbish: even the reincarnation of Bob Paisley wouldn’t keep them up. They’ll get someone like Neil Warnock, who won’t last three months.
Mailbox prediction of the year: Brian, LFC comes out the closet as a repressed Spurs fan. That or Guy will finally see what literally everyone else is talking about re: Rooney.
Alex G, THFC (fewer not less, Carlo the apparent pedant)
I thought like many mail-boxistas I might join you for mine own predictions.
Man Utd – Past is key to the present here, Mourinho has created something of a post-van Gaal-Eden. I fear a terrible beauty has been born.
Top 4 in order:
Arsenal – Unless they sign….. bleh, unreliably reliably unreliable.
Man City – Pep’s doesn’t have the same opportunity to be experimental with the competitiveness of the sides in contention for the title. But
Tottenham Hotspur – The rest of the league has strengthened from external sources, but the age of the spud side leads me to conclude that they will strengthen sufficiently internally with experience.
Hull City – The supporters will receive an awful lot of reasonable but unwanted pity this season.
Watford – Because karma will catch up with their seedy Chairman.
Sunderland – Moyes eating the United crumbs is a little bit pathetic.
If Alexis is to be a striker, perhaps, but hard to look past the Kun and his tempermental hamstrings.
I think that will do, I don’t want to bore anybody.
Reggie, Ireland (Written from atop the Dundalk bandwagon).
The waiting game
Mark in Manchester raises a valid point. And to answer his question – SSN isn’t a news channel. It’s a free to air promotional channel for other SS (see what I did there?) channels. It serves no other purpose. It would appear that they are trying to turn the EPL (just made myself sick) into WWF. And as a commercial venture, they’d like you to believe that nothing happens unless it’s on Sky. ITV are just as bad: totally insular and exclusive.
The question you should be asking is: why you dedicate one hour per day to watch a promo channel? All you have to do is look at the latest news on Telegraph, BBC or Guardian to see actual sports news (or F365 if it’s football you want). You even get to choose what “news” is of interest to you. Do you also watch those infommercials claiming to solve all the world’s problems?
To be honest, after cancelling my Sky subscription last year, thus forgoing (roughly) 10 football matches per year, a few international rugby matches and all the cricket from the comfort of my home. Since then I’ve rediscovered non-commercial radio and the desire to leave my house to watch sport I really care about, and I’m much, much happier. Whether these are connected occurrences, I don’t know. I miss watching the cricket… speaking of which… time to turn on TMS.
I enjoyed the feature on Daniel Storey’s bets, and thought I’d share one of my own. Back in April, a few weeks before they won the league, I put €20 on Leicester to go down this season at 25-1. It was just a hunch, nothing more.
Is it unlikely? Yes. But then again, Leicester winning the league was unlikely in the extreme. They’ve to play Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United within the first 6 games, and there will be a very tough CL group given their lack of European pedigree – I think a bad start might see a slide down the table. Kante is gone, Vardy and Mahrez could well suffer from 2nd season syndrome, and Dilly-ding dilly-dong Ranieri might revert to the man whose Greece team were beaten at home by the Faroe Islands.
Stranger things have happened . . .
You may scoff at Trev’s mental City line up for the weekend, but what you missed is that he has put up a perfect formation and type of players for a fantasy football team. I wonder if he has mixed things up on his agenda…
He has followed some of fantasy football’s golden rules. Namely pick the minimum number of players in defence and make sure they are all players who get forward and might grab an assist/goal. Pack the midfield with play makers and goal scorers (has anyone in the history of FF ever picked Mikel?) Try and get 3 week in week out strikers up front…
Well done Trevor, just a misunderstood genius.