Mails: Barca? Arsenal for the title then…

Date published: Monday 14th December 2015 4:00

Hector Bellerin Olivier Giroud

This is another great mailbox. Keep them coming. Mail us at theeditor@football365.com

 

This will be fun…
They have Neymar, Messi and Suarez. We have Giroud.

Bring it!
Rob A (the ‘minnows’ must be ecstatic with this draw) AFC

 

…Sh*t.
Dan, Afc

 

And then…
I think Arsenal will win the tie.

There, I said it.
Cliff Mallinder, AFC

 

…As you probably know already, Arsenal have drawn Barcelona in the Champions League 16s. Initially, this looks like an absolutely awful draw, but in fact, it is the best.

If Arsenal lose, which we probably will, it will free up the schedule for the team to focus on the League and the FA Cup. We’re facing Barcelona and no one expects us to win, so there’s nothing to lose.

If Arsenal win, we will have defeated the best team in Europe, and will take an incredible amount of confidence into the fight for three trophies. Having beaten Barcelona, the team will no doubt believe that there’s a real chance of getting to the final. That confidence will also flow into our League and FA Cup matches, and if the entire squad doesn’t get injured, which is always a possibility, a special season could be on the cards.

So, don’t fret fellow Gooners. This draw is all we could have wished for.
Ahsan, AFC (Aaron Ramsey to dominate the midfield, leading to a £40m bid from Barca in the summer).

 

Brave, brave Arsenal
Can I just say how brave Arsenal will be in their two legs against Barca next year.

#brave

But on a serious note, the gooner in this office just shrugged it off and said “probably best we go out so we can concentrate on the league”.

Arsenal fans, even when they’re being realistic they come across as dreamers.
Stu, London

 

Let’s all enjoy this…
I have a soft spot for Arsenal. They play great football, and there’s a combined exhilaration and hopelessness about them that makes them seem so very human. That’s why I’m glad they’ve drawn Barcelona. It’s like pitting yourself against the Grim Reaper: you know you’re going to lose, but there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a grand go while you’re still on your feet. Come on guys, give us a ride worth taking.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA

 

Man United did not need more players….
Regardless of what people think of Van Gaal (Mine being that he is building a team that the next manager will have the benefit of – it’s just with Pep and Ancelotti possibly available, a decision needs to be made as we can’t miss out on those two if they were interested). One thing I don’t get is the criticism of the team losing to a wel- organised Bournemouth. United had two full-backs who had only just made their debuts the past week and a centre-back with a handful of appearances under his belt. There were young attacking players who may have been expected to be eased into the team. Now, some would argue having spent a fortune we shouldn’t be down to untested academy players, but a look below shows the players Van Gaal had to choose from when we had no injuries after the transfer window had slammed shut.

Goalkeepers – De Gea, Romero, Johnstone
Right-Backs – Damian, Valencia
Left-Backs – Luke Shaw, Rojo
Centre-Backs – Smalling, Jones, Blind, McNair
Holding Midfielders – Carrick, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Fellaini
Attacking Midfielders/Wide Attackers – Mata, Herrera, Young, Memphis, Lingard, Pereira
Striker – Rooney, Martial, Wilson (sent out on loan)

That is two players for every position in his preferred 4-2-3-1 system. Only three are non-internationals. You can argue over the quality, but you can’t have 22 world-class players all wanting first-team football. You need good solid, reliable replacements, which we have.

The only issue I would have is Van Gaal expecting 20-30 goals from Rooney, but I did believe he would do that this season. That was the gamble he lost on, meaning we are now reliant on a 19-year-old who looks very promising, but can’t be expected to perform like Henry or Aguero.

The injuries have seemingly come all at once. Rotten luck or issues in training?

Finally, can we stop with the ‘Attack, attack’ stuff? Has it ever crossed the minds of those fans chanting it, that to a continental manager, attacking as a team may be different to the English mentality of direct play with shot after shot? Maybe, keeping the ball from the opposition and trying to work our way through the defence, whilst having to pass the ball backwards once in a while, is attacking to some continental managers? As the saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
John ‘Is Nick Powell the new Daron Gibson/Tom Cleverley/Djemba-Djemba/Kleberson?’ Morgan, Kingsbury

 

Well, maybe a striker…
I was one of those happy to see Van Gaal replace Moyes and I still hope he will turn things around but I’m worried that he doesn’t know how. He is now applying his philosophy but it just isn’t working. The squad is strong in all but one department up front where it matters most if you want to win and for that he has to take the blame. Getting rid of Falcao was a given over paid waste of space, RVP was a spent force but Wilson on loan and selling Hernandez when we had nothing else coming in made no sense at all. Hernandez has now scored something like 17 goals in the ‘really tough’ German league Van Gaal should have made him welcome and used him as Rooney’s understudy maybe the pressure would have improved Rooney too. The problem with United is that we are toothless and everyone knows it so they feel free to attack us, no fear factor left. If we slip out of the top four Van Gaal will have to go; it’s sad but in the end if you don’t deliver you don’t keep your job.

And I’m not one of those ‘spoilt’ United fans, I supported them through relegation to the old second division and all those Liverpool years. So we have had great times but don’t have a right to win a trophy every year, but this could be the third year in a row where we don’t even compete for the big trophies and that is unforgivable.
Adrian Harris

 

…I feel a response to The Prince’s mail this morning is needed as it relates directly to the point I made yesterday.

The defence has been shored up because we have had to adopt a style of play that protects them. This is simply because the defence is not good enough and required strengthening. He has addressed the central midfield area, granted. However, it appears he doesn’t fully trust Herrera, hasn’t worked out how best to utilise Schweinsteiger and dropped Schneiderlin for the Arsenal game, the type of game he is tailor made for.

Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Shaw and Darmian. Those are our five (not six) senior defenders. Five defenders to fill four positions, and two of those have a history of injury problems. Even assuming van Gaal intended to bring youngsters through this season, that is insufficient. I don’t think many people would have called it ‘bloating the squad’ if we had signed a first class centre back, an experienced full back to act as back up and a striker. Speaking of strikers, we only have two. One of which is being played out wide. This is not a problem caused by injuries, only poor management.

Three points off the top, in fourth, and out of the Champions League. He’s right, you can’t expect success overnight. But given van Gaal’s ‘three year plan’ to win the league, improvement on last season is the bare minimum.
Rob MUF

 

And they really could still win the title…
After this weekend, odds for the title are:

Manchester City – 11/10
Arsenal – 15/8
Manchester United – 15/2
Liverpool – 16/1
Tottenham – 25/1
Leicester – 25/1

Man Utd are four points off the top after 16 games that have been rightly described as functional, boring, inspid, lacklustre, dogsh*te etc.

They’ve not scored goals or looked fluid and as a result they have rarely looked dangerous.

Yet despite that – and their rancid injury list – they’re four points off the top. Imagine if they started to be even a bit good.

Bearing in mind their recent spend-happy approach isn’t it likely that current form and the bubbling pressure will mean more spending in January?

Go on, have a wee festive flutter and hope they go balls-deep in the New Year. F**k it, stick some on Leicester while you’re there.
Doug (very bad at gambling) Glasgow, so could probably use advice found on bettingexpert

 

Hand in hand in hand
Surprised only Ben, EFC brought it up in the mailbox this morn, as I expected several mentions of Klopp and the Liverpool team’s hand-in-hand homage to the fans at the end of the match.

However, be that as it may, this is actually the norm in the Bundesliga, win, lose, or draw, and I suspect Klopp has decided to bring it with him. Yes, it has been mocked on social media by many, but it is a mark of respect to the fans by the team as a whole. Agreed winning would be better but that isn’t always possible, is it? And how often are players singled out for storming off down the tunnel without acknowledging the fans? At least this way it becomes mandatory.
Mike (conflicted, as I love Klopp but hate Liverpool) D

 

Let’s wait to judge Klopp
I have a slight issue with Paul in Brussels (whether a Liverpool fan or, as I suspect, not).

Klopp’s record in the league this season might statistically look the same as Rodgers, however, how about we make a judgement on ‘improvements/disappointments’ at the end of next season rather than after two months, eh?

If you want to compare a manager with a previous, I suggest van Gaal as a good candidate. You’d probably find quite a few things to talk about there.

Why do people want instant gratification now? Did I miss the memo that said we all have to be impatient?
Rob, London

 

…There’s criticism of Klopp’s record at LFC already – why do people demand such instant success these days? He’s not even had a transfer window yet. Give people time to build something.

You can see the same ludicrous demands of instant success with other managers such as McClaren (who was subject to sacking calls after only 8-9 games) and players such as Depay.

It seems that people prefer the instant hit of a sugary snack to a good meal but I know which is healthiest in the long term.
Colin (it’s ludicrous), Hampshire

 

Newcastle v Spurs: A first live PL experience
Growing up in the 1990s, Euro 96 was a formative football experience for me. At 10 years old I was swept up in the national euphoria of the event and sure enough, it cemented a lifelong passion of the sport. The goal-scoring exploits and all-round brilliance of Alan Shearer made him my favourite player; his subsequent move to Newcastle meant I became a fully-fledged member of the Toon Army. However, as a Newcastle supporter living in Devon, my relationship with the club has been a long-distance one.

Getting to matches when living on the edge of Dartmoor is understandably tricky. It’s a hell of a long way to go and the expense has meant that up until now, I have refrained from making the pilgrimage from Tavistock in West Devon all the way up to Geordie Mecca. (I mean St James’ Park, not the well-known bingo franchise, it’s just a clumsy metaphor.)

When my girlfriend (who knows little about football) bought me a membership for the club a couple of months ago, I now regularly trawl the NUFC website looking at what tickets are available. And yesterday, I attended my first ever Newcastle United Premier League match at White Hart Lane.

It wasn’t my first live football experience. I’ve seen Plymouth Argyle play loads of times, I went to the Emirates for the Emirates Cup a few years ago (the one with Henry and the Red Bulls), plus I’ve been to Wembley to watch the Olympic final between Mexico and Brazil and England vs San Marino in the Euro qualifiers. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the club play live either, as I attended a Carling Cup match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in 2010 (which Newcastle won 4-3, for the record) but that night I sat in the Shed End among Chelsea fans. So I had to contain my joy at that result.

Last night was completely different to any of those experiences. It was also the first Premier League match attended by my girlfriend, who I dragged along for the ride. After cramming ourselves onto an extremely busy train at Seven Sisters, we made the short journey to White Hart Lane and followed the thousands of people making their way to the stadium.

We initially walked among Spurs fans, who were quietly chatting among themselves for the most part. When we reached the south end of the stadium where visiting supporters enter the ground, it was completely different. Strangers were singing Newcastle songs in the street, having fun with the security staff and generally creating an amazing buzz.

You walk through the turnstile, up a few flights of stairs and into a fairly small concourse selling pies and booze. The atmosphere in here before kick-off was incredible. I listened intently, trying to learn chants before kick-off while my missus laughed her head off at the die-hards banging the bins and singing maniacally about the mighty Toon.

We shared a beer before finding our seats in the upper heavens of the away section. Before kick-off and until we filtered our way back to the rail station after the game finished, the fans were just immense. The chanting never stopped. After conceding the goal from Eric Dier just before half-time, the immediate response was one of defiance, with the fans chanting the club’s name to let them know they were still behind the club.

After sketchy periods in the first half, I felt we improved immensely in the second half. Sissoko looked a genuine threat down the right wing, and made a fantastic bursting run through the centre to play in Papiss Cisse. Characteristically, he skewed his shot wide. When we brought on Mitrovic and Perez, their quality was immediately obvious. They should be starting ahead of Cisse and De Jong.

When we equalised, our section went mental. When Perez scored a deserved winner I think the term ‘bat-sh*t bananas’ is probably the most appropriate.

You can never fully trust the media’s assessment of supporters. Newcastle United fans have long been vaunted as among the most passionate in the country and I’ve often thought that maybe it was an exaggeration. Now I completely believe it. The Tottenham home support was deathly quiet by comparison and the travelling Toon were majestic.

For most people, Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United on December 13, 2015 will probably be a match forgotten in a matter of days. For me, it’s a fond memory that will last a lifetime. I’m already looking at flights from Exeter to Newcastle.
Tom, NUFC, Devon (‘Perez, Perez, Ayoze Perez, he gets the ball, scores a goal, Ayoze Perez’)

 

Not everybody loves Pards
Erm, for all those questioning why Pards gets stick and ‘not enough credit’.

Maybe it’s because he’s a smug, totally blameless, excuse-spewing, player-headbutting, linesman-pushing, old man-abusing, arrogant, self-loving…

Also before claiming he is a top (top) manager….

This is still the man that recorded a record breaking six losses in a row at a club like Newcastle. First manager in their history.

In the 2013-14 season, Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United lost four home games in a row without scoring a goal – the first time in the club’s entire history that this has happened.

He broke records in terms of massive home defeats. 0-6 home to Liverpool

He broke records in Tyne/Wear derby failings. One win in Eight!

He has been knocked out of the FA Cup in the 3rd round three times out of his last five attempts by the likes of Stevenage and Brighton. The other two attempts were 4th round and 5th round knockouts.

In every full season as Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew has gone on a run of games that lasted at least one third of the season where his win ratio was between 14% and 29%:

10/11 – 14 games/2 wins (14%)

11/12 – 17 games/5 wins (29%)

12/13 – 14 games/2 wins (14%)

13/14 – 20 games/4 wins (20%)
I will also say he walked into a very capable squad in Crystal Palace with the likes of Bolasie, Zaha and Puncheon capable of ripping apart many defences along with some stability at the back. It wasn’t like he took over a team in disarray after being sacked from his own previous job.

He walked away from one job he didn’t deserve, into another that wasnt in need of a total overhaul, just a bot of polishing with the addition of a Yohan Cabaye for £100k a week.

Lets not have a short memory with old Chunky shall we…?
Bano

 

…Evan (asking the big questions) AFC wonders why F365 seem to display an ‘anti-Pardew’ rhetoric. As a Newcastle fan, I’d like to congratulate 365 on what I believe to be a fair and balanced view of an at-best bang-average manager, in stark contrast to the sycophantic bias of the press, who erroneously believe we ‘forced him out’ because he was a cockney – we didn’t; he left for a higher-paying job, and we wanted him sacked because he was crap, not because of the aforementioned imaginary anti-London agenda. The problem I have with this is that he largely escaped criticism for his awful record at Newcastle, instead it was defended with meaningless platitudes like ‘he’s doing the best he can with the players he has’ and ‘it’s all Mike Ashley’s fault’.

To claim he’s the most successful English manager of the last few years, I’d have to take issue with. Even were it true, it’d hardly be an accolade when your competition is Sam Allardyce, Tim Sherwood and Uncle ‘Arry, would it? Like boasting you have the biggest d**k in your house. He is no doubt doing well this season, but then he finished fifth here once too, and also took West Ham to an FA. Cup Final, so he has previous for it – but he cannot sustain it. The season after West Ham’s FA Cup final, they were almost relegated despite having Tevez and Mascherano at their disposal. Likewise Newcastle, escaped relegation on the penultimate day of the next season, which Pardew then proceeded to play up as an achievement, proudly proclaiming “I don’t care if we lose 4-0 to Arsenal next week now” and “thank God we aren’t in Europe next season”. What type of ‘top’ manager would even THINK such drivel, never mind express it publicly? That’s before he uttered dross like ‘if it wasn’t for sections of the crowd urging us on to score again, we could have won today’ and ‘it was windy today, which put us off our rhythm’ (after a 3-0 home defeat to a team placed 19th in the league, then managed by Paolo Di Canio), amongst many, many more example of blame-dodging, buck-passing and outright lying.

But those are just quotes, you say, they’re out of context you say…OK, how about these hard facts?

Just FIVE FA Cup games played at Newcastle. Four lost. Three of which were against lower-league opposition. First Newcastle manager to lose six consecutive top-flight games. First NUFC manager to lose four home games in a row without a goal scored. 22 league games lost by Pardew’s Newcastle by three or more goals, compared to just 35 in total since the formation of the Premier League. A losing ratio of 54% of his final 38 games at Newcastle before leaving. Biggest home defeat (6-0, Liverpool) since 1925. Only TEN points from a possible 141 recovered when losing at half-time throughout his NUFC tenure. As many games lost against Sunderland as the previous TWENTY TWO managers combined. 127 league goals conceded in his final two seasons. The lowest scoring team in all of the top four English divisions in 2014, bar one team – Blackpool, who didn’t even have a full-time playing squad when the season kicked off. Culminating in a record of just 1.18 points per game over his stint at the club – only Souness and Gullit can ‘boast’ a worse record at the club.
Steven Mole

 

Not even our favourite Palace fan likes him…
I think Rob, Guangzhou, China and Evan AFC have missed the point on coverage of Alan Pardew. Rob has also missed the point of the PFM. He is, in many respects, an utterly ridiculous man, from the origins of his nickname ‘Chunky’, to his general air of smugness via his ultra-sleek glasses. He has, in recent seasons, been in trouble with the FA for headbutting a player and shoving an assistant referee, both of which he fronted up to on television by apologising in an incredibly insincere way. He also used the phrase “absolutely raped him” to describe a tackle on MotD2. Any dislike of Pardew, or discomfort at the idea of him being England manager, tends to be based on any combination of the above, not because ‘a white working-class Englishman can’t successfully manage a football club at the minute’.

He is also a very streaky manager. He finishes in mid-table a lot because his teams put a string of wins together, and then suffer a few consecutive losses. As yet, he has shown little in the way of arresting these slides before they get to three or four games long.

He isn’t excluded from top (top) manager status because of ‘certain very middle class yet faux left wing media outlets and their view that a white working class Englishman can’t successfully manage a football club’. It’s because to date in top-flight football he has made one FA Cup final and one qualification for the Europa League. He is basically the next David Moyes, and that’s why people will tout him for high-profile jobs, but won’t actually get them. That said, Moyes was great at Everton, and if we get half as much out of Pardew at Palace, then I’ll be happy.

Other points to address:

* Remi Garde has been at Villa a few weeks and has spent the whole time trying to polish a turd. Tim Sherwood’s turd. That’s why he hasn’t been criticised.

* The PFM is not a class-based model.

* Jamie Vardy used racist words; Joey Barton put a cigar out in someone’s eye; John Terry used racist words; Ashley Cole sent texts of himself in his pants to a woman. Are all of these simply ‘mistakes’ made by ‘those from a lesser privileged and educated background’? Or are they actually things that should be worthy of punishment either by football or judicial authorities.

Regards,
The literary Ed Quoththeraven

 

See above
I have to take issue with this morning’s mailbox claim that F365 don’t publish any features about Palace, they publish two articles a day by Ed Quoththeraven!
Martin (Warrington)

 

Tottenham’s never-ending story…
Is it time? Have we reached the point of the season where we, as supporters of Spurs, start grumbling and moaning and building the negativity? Are we ready to start filling the ground with that increasingly poisonous atmosphere, smothering the team and achieving our standard self-fulfilling prophecy? Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet. That’s my favourite time of year. And it’s been far too long.

Yes, we have drawn a lot of games. A fair few of those were against good sides, in-form sides, or teams revelling in the arrival of their latest messiah (who will ultimately be crucified like all those that came before). Losing a lead is frustrating and leads to people saying silly things. Losing a lead, and then the match against f**king Newcastle? Yeah, it’s going to upset people. But let’s not talk bo**ocks Andrew, Woodford Green. All this ‘adventure’ talk – not sure if you remember how it panned out? Think back. Was it a lot less disappointing to throw away the end of our season because we ‘went for it’? Did every single time we watched a confused collection of individuals conspire to lose feel a little more positive because of the lack of tactical discipline that surrounded it? As with a lot of teams, it was fun when it worked and sh**e when it didn’t. Blaming Poch for stilted performances is one thing, but it becomes a tad unfair when you cite the same old wistful list of former players. If you added Bale to this team, we would probably have turned some of those draws into wins. Because he is one of the best players in the world. They tend to make an impact.

This tattle tends to do the rounds after any result that isn’t a comprehensive win. Poch is too defensive, we are too stagnant, Kane needs a rest. Then the good-ol-days talk about Redknapp, Bale, Modric, van der Vaart, et al. It’s almost like people choose to ignore the absolute stomach-flipping misery that came with all of those wasted games watching an old man pretend to manage a football team.

‘But we should be top of the league!’, they cry, sounding for all the world like f**king scousers. ‘If you take into account the games we should have won then we would be a million points clear’. Just as, if Man U were to tally up all of those games they should have won, they would be top. Teams lose games. They draw games. Sometimes those results appear unfair. That doesn’t mean we should just f**king throw it all out and start again. We have a young squad and a young first team. As a result, consistency is going to be lacking somewhat. Making a massive f**king deal out of it is not conducive to a good future.

But we have our ready-made scapegoat in wee Tommy Carroll. Tidy Tom. It’s all Tom’s fault. Tom didn’t track his man. Tom made an absolute hash of a routine save. Tom did a terrible job of marking Coloccini from the corner.

S**t happens, teams lose. We are still in a good position. And 20-30% of supporters will moan regardless. Particularly those who live in the West Country. They are an extra-gripey breed.

Nik has a bee in his bonnet about how casual Spurs were in attack. So much so he says it twice. Casual would suggest a lack of effort, and does a disservice to what was a surprisingly good defensive performance by Newcastle. We tried, they repelled effectively. This leads onto what I feel to be our biggest issue in attack: Eriksen. He’s been f**king awful for a very long time, and a few goals from free-kicks doesn’t change that. His passing has been blunt, he doesn’t have a great deal of pace, and he is the softest player in the league. Even tiny tidy Tom, with his toddler face and locust build, is more willing to fight for the ball. If there is even a hint of a 50:50, Eriksen doesn’t want to know. In a high-pressing system, this is particularly problematic, leading to him being easily played around. He has been a shadow of himself all season, and should no longer be an automatic pick. Alli, Son, and Lamela’s energy highlights his lack of drive. He was never a physical player, reliant on strength nor speed, but the guile and accuracy has disappeared from his game. He has become a luxury without quality. Given that he is not an overly robust player, who was incapable of completing 90 minutes when he arrived, I can’t help but feel that he needs a long rest. Our Christian is a lovely, lovely player. Just not at the moment.
thayden

 

A few thoughts on Villa
Where to begin with the malaise that has become Villa’s Premier League existence – which appears to be rapidly descending into humiliating disappearance. I have supported them for over twenty years, and with no particular reason for choosing them other than my mother’s advice one night as I was perched in front of the TV watching a VHS recording of the previous night’s Match of the Day, that picking a team to support makes football ‘more enjoyable’. Oh how at intermittent times since that fateful day when I chose to support Villa (I believe they won a game pretty comprehensively the previous day, which would make me a glory hunter, but an especially poor one) I have rued that particular piece of advice.

And none more so than the entirety of this season. The term embarrassing is a pretty safe word to use when describing yourself as a Villa fan at this time in history, there have been ups and downs in my time supporting them, a few cup wins and cup finals, a sprinkling of top-four finishes, before that was an achievement to celebrate, and some generally pretty entertaining seasons, with the odd relegation scrap thrown in just to keep it interesting…and then there’s the last five seasons, each worse in some form or another to the one previous culminating in today’s sorry state of affairs.

As I sat through yet another largely insipid display, whereby a team came to Villa Park, and without having to do very much at all (not to take away from Arsenal’s performance), came away with all three points, and barely a drop of sweat to show for it. Strangely enough, and crazy as it may sound when looking at our woeful points tally, there are good elements to this squad, individually there have been performances where I’ve thought, well he’s pretty decent, what’s lacking, however, is a real star quality player, or the team cohesion and belief that so many other teams in and around us currently possess.

Now I may be shot down for this, but I don’t believe that as a squad, the likes of Sunderland, Norwich or Bournemouth have more out-and-out quality than us, but what they do have is something more invaluable; a team spirit, a cohesion, a more focused organisation. Bournemouth undoubtedly have a belief and togetherness that through hard graft and teamwork they will get results, and their recent performances and results over the past week in particular, attest to this; under Sam Allardyce, as was to be expected, Sunderland have reverted to a team who drill themselves in being organised, or at least a team to whom the message is getting through. With more limited players, particularly defensively, a coach needs to make the game very simple tactically whilst working on a more basic discipline, with that as a foundation, the football may not always be the most exciting to watch, but the results will come, just ask Tony Pulis, it is basically the basis for his success first at Stoke, briefly at Palace and now with West Brom. Simpler players playing simpler football, the purists may bemoan it, but it is effective. That isn’t intended as a back-handed compliment, but as an acknowledgement of a pragmatic approach to coaching. Norwich, who may struggle to score the goals at the moment, still show a real togetherness as a squad, and although still very much in the relegation battle, there is a hopefulness that eminates from a determined young manager and a team that works hard that they can escape their situation.

And then there’s Villa, where once under O’Neill, the very same tenets of playing simpler more direct football, whilst being solid and organised were applied to good effect, now there appears to me to be a much more disparate existence on the pitch. There are good individuals, and most weeks you can point to one player who has stood out as a decent performer, but one, two or three performances in an eleven man team does not a team performance make. It is that which is perhaps most frustrating to watch from the stands.

Seeing another team move break down because of a seeming lack of creative ideas or movement or just general lack of team understanding has gone beyond frustrating, and years of movement in a downward direction, without any real clear leadership from an owner who’s publically been trying to get out for two years, has led to a tiring fanbase following a team who feel increasingly like they don’t belong: a once proud club now left feeling unwanted and drifting into insignificance. Instead, the fans amuse themselves with a gallows humour. I was struck by hearing the Arsenal fans chanting “you’re f***ing s**t” at us on Sunday, as the ground descended into another disappointed slumber, and found myself thinking that I had last heard that particular tune sang by our own fans whilst losing at Spurs last month, only we sang it about ourselves. Such is the state of our increasingly despondent support right now, that any rallying cries of support seem to fall on deaf ears, as if trying to be hopeful will only ultimately hurt more with what is becoming the inevitable defeat or capitualtion of a lead. The growing fatigue of our now annually awful season, coupled with unwanted club records tumbling week in, week out has lead to the worst state for supporters to find themselves in, one of apathy and indifference. There’s no longer any reaction when a player overhits another pass to nobody in particular, a defensive howler leads to an embarrassingly easy goal for the opposition, or just general panicky “kick the ball anywhere” play makes us look a little like the local under-7s.

I’m not sure what the point of my mail is, I guess I needed to get this off my chest, and to just acknowledge that there are still Villa fans out there really. I’m sure you don’t get too many mails from us these days. It might be bleak for us, but we keep going along to the games, with that peculiar sense of duty football fans have. I guess we’re like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead when they head to the mall because “they remember that they want to be in here”. It’s getting harder to remember why, but still we find ourselves there. Here’s hoping for some Christmas cheer on Tyneside.
The Literary (That’s how you get published right?) Jamie, AVFC

 

And some Southampton
This morning ‘Will’ asked how us Saints fans are feeling and that’s a surprisingly hard thing to answer.

The gut reaction is crushing disappointment. After two excellent seasons, we crashed out of Europe at the first hurdle, results are rapidly disintegrating and we got hammered by Liverpool (couldn’t Rodgers have held on for a few more weeks??) in our best chance of a trip to Wembley.

Sure we beat Chelsea 3-1 in what, at the time, I assumed would be our performance of the season. But to spite us, Chelsea have gone on to lose to everyone else as well…

However at the same time it’s been a great season and that’s because of the success of the other so called ‘mid-table sides’. In the same way I’d always cheer for whoever is playing the traditional top four (and Liverpool), it’s always great to see clubs of a similar size and style to Southampton do well. There is almost a sense of being in the same ‘club’ where each member has their time in the sun and no-one else begrudges them that.

Crystal Palace and Stoke are two clubs in particular that I’m loving this season in terms of their style of play, support from fans and movement up the table. That’s before we even get to Leicester who have only gone and skipped the whole ‘mid-table team club’ altogether…

So I hope the Saints get a few recruits in January, go on a run in the FA Cup and have a strong second half of the season. But even if we don’t, I’m still happy to see the success of other likeminded clubs. Though on the downside, it’s going to be a hell of lot harder next year to be a top 10 side if this rate of improvement carries on!
Tom Saints (Oh Arsenal are against the year’s CL favourites again? in a random draw? Why is this news?)

 

Everbody is compelling to Elvis Mussolini…
I’ve noticed something about the mailbox. A reader will write in and make some interesting and at times excellent points regarding a footballing matter. I will read and think ‘yes, that person’s correct in what they are saying and has improved my understanding of the beautiful game’.

Then in the next mailbox, another reader will write a rebuttal email which almost always sound as adroit and on the money as the previous one.

This cycle can basically go on indefinitely and as a result I’m constantly like that bloke in the pub in The Fast Show.

Can we please introduce a first come, first served policy where whoever mails in on a subject first gets considered as the absolute truth-bearer on the subject because it’s doing my head.

Yours befuddledly
Elvis Mussolini

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