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The Everton view
Everton fan here. I’m not sure if anyone has noticed but we are absolute sh*te at the moment. I was furious after the game last night (hello darkness, my old friend) and a broken night’s sleep thanks to a grumpy toddler hasn’t helped.
It’s not just that the result was disappointing; Evertonians have long since got used to that. It’s not even the fact that it was against relatively low quality opposition. It’s that the players look like they met for the first time in the tunnel before the game. Say what you like about David Moyes and his unflinching pragmatism or Roberto Martinez and his unwavering optimism but at least they had styles which they imposed on the team. What is Koeman’s ethos? I don’t actually know. We don’t appear to prioritise attack or defence. We don’t hit teams on the break. We aren’t always trying to play liquid football on the deck and nor do the players seem to be encouraged to go long. We are just awful. Not like the days when Walter Smith fashioned an entire XI out of budget centre halves but more like a Mike Walker-esque “what exactly are we supposed to be doing here, boss?” awful. And we’ve spent a freaking fortune for the privilege.
The individual selections are baffling too. Calvert-Lewin was played alone upfront one game and shone – he was benched for his troubles. Lookman had a decent game linking up with Martina on the right – he may as well have joined a witness protection scheme for all we’ve seen of him since. Rooney has reverted to his worst habit of going looking for the ball in every position other than the one he should be in – he plays every minute of every game (even when looking to the bench to replace him because his arm hurts – the poor lamb). Sandro is struggling for form – so he starts important games. It’s doesn’t make any sense.
If you go further back to the transfer window, the decisions on the personnel aren’t much more coherent either. Whilst Koeman was, at least, pleading with the board to buy another quality striker, we are very light on pace and trickery too and Barkley and Mirallas (as frustrating as they may be) have been frozen out completely. Sigurdsson, Klaassen and Rooney may all be able to pick a pass but to whom are they supposed to be passing? We have very little movement and virtually no width since Bolasie and Coleman suffered those horrific injuries – they have not been replaced and may not be the same when they return.
There’s a lot of talk amongst the fans of how there must be something wrong behind the scenes and I’m starting to wonder if there is something to that. Maybe it’s the fact that outrageous irresponsibility and a criminal conviction hasn’t stopped Rooney (the player supposedly brought in to show the young ‘uns how to behave like a pro) being the first name on the team sheet. Or maybe it’s the fact that Koeman hangs the players out to dry in press conferences (the brutal honesty which seemed refreshing after Martinez is certainly starting to grate with the fans so one can only wonder how it feels to be the subject of that). We may not know until after he leaves. Not that it is proof of anything but it is worth watching the footage of the reactions on the bench when Niasse scored the winner last weekend – Duncan Ferguson goes what I believe is known in the trade as “bat sh*t mental” whilst Koeman walks away with his head down. It’s intriguingly weird.
So far it seems that Koeman has escaped wider criticism due to the unbelievably difficult nature of our opening fixtures but if he continues to serve up the same dross in the games we really should be winning, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were gone by Christmas – and I wouldn’t cry myself to sleep about it either.
(Vlasic looks mint, though – good job we drew Hajduk Split in the early stages of the Europa or we wouldn’t even have him!)
“Afraid to play football”. This was Ronald Koeman’s damning indictment after Everton’s dismal 2-2 draw with Apollon Limassol. His players left the field to boos from the home fans as they looked sluggish and out-of-sorts. The boss lamented his side’s negativity, “We know the fans like us to go forward, not back, back, back”. It really ought to come as no surprise.
Over the summer, the squad has been disassembled and plastered back up. Despite that, Glenn Hoddle, among many others, was optimistic that Everton “might surprise a few people”. This wasn’t a suggestion that they would capitulate without their main man, he meant they would finish in the top six. Although after the teams above them last season have strengthened their squads to unprecedented levels, the Toffees have been left behind.
Everton sold their top goalscorer for an initial £75m, and spent over £100m on reinforcements. New signings have added squad depth but not a radical improvement in first-team quality. Wayne Rooney has provided a home-grown winning mentality but he can no longer fully shoulder the requisite goal scoring responsibilities. Olivier Giroud was a key target, but they failed in their attempts to bring him to Goodison Park in a competitive summer market.
Davy Klaassen, although clearly a fine talent, has struggled to settle. Koeman complimented the Dutchman’s intelligence but crucially added, “He can improve physically in battles in midfield”. Sandro Ramirez, another summer signing, has had similar problems with the physicality of the English game.
A few weeks ago, I made the suggestion that if Michael Keane is worth £30m, a 24-year-old with only one Premier League season and two England caps under his belt, then £200m for Neymar sounds about right. At the time, it was not a popular view, but it was no insult to Keane himself. It emphasises that the whole market is awry, and not just for those skimming the cream off the top.
In fairness, Koeman has been active in the market, but it’s easy to become immune to the nature of such inflated prices. Because of the twisted logic of player values and their overall summer outlay, the expectations for Everton’s season have been equally skewed and overhyped.
It’s early into the season and an array of new players will take time to integrate. The manager continues to preach patience, but these problems should have been anticipated. As for Everton’s indifferent form so far, Koeman only has himself to blame.
End the Fellaini ‘nonsense’
Please stop it Mourinho!!!!
HERRERA MUST START TOMORROW AND MUST PLAY AHEAD OF THE BELGIAN TREE
If you have an issue with Ander say it. That was imperious from Ander on Wednesday. Matic was his usual self just like he plays alongside Pogba. Can someone explain what the bloke Fellaini adds to the team to justify his inclusion ahead of Carrick, Ander or even Blind in the CM berth? I stopped watching the Southampton game midway because the domination of Matic and Fellaini by Lemina and Romeu was depressing to watch. Why is Mou forcing stuff that won’t work? Fellaini can never be the protagonist in this Man U story. At best he is a supporting cast who should play against less opposition during the closing stages of a game.
This Fellaini nonsense needs to end.
It’s almost refreshing to defend Berbatov (again), if only for an excuse to waste time on Youtube watching videos of Berbarotica.
Berbatov didn’t flop at all. His biggest flaws were not being peak-United Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney (the obvious internal reference points, both of whom were exceptional for most of his United career), not being Samuel Eto’o or Fernando Torres (the mobile, direct, conventional 9s United probably needed in 2008 and didn’t buy), and not being Carlos Tevez (the player msot would have preferred the Berbatov money was spent on).
On the basis that even late-career Ferguson did some scouting (albeit not so much that United didn’t think Anderson was better than Rooney in 2007), United knew exactly what they were buying in 2008. Berbatov was an extraordinarily technically gifted, tall but not desperately quick or obviously hard working striker who averaged c. goal every 2.5 games, had fabulous hair and could be relied on for a few moments of absurd skill a game. And that’s what they got.
What he wasn’t, and what United needed, was a either more robust, direct, quick and powerful 9 (albeit Rooney did that for a few years), or a bona fide 10. Berbatov was something entirely different, and in a team that became more functional and focused on predatory 9s with high chance conversion rates as the squad quality declined, Berbatov looked out of place.
Berbatov wasn’t the key factor in United’s eclipse in Europe, and slow domestic decline, after 2008. They came up against an all-time great team in Pep’s Barca (but still reached 3 finals in four years), and were confronted with an ageing squad and reduced transfer budget thanks to the Glazer debt.
Still got it…
The two I caught in my net this AM proves that a) even after all these years I have still got it and b) people have short memories. To address the common theme that Dimiflop Berbaflop was anything other than an unmitigated disaster thanks to his hat-trick against us I would like to pop that particular bubble of delusion. If you recall we were at that time managed by Wetched Woy and, no hyperbole, plummeting to the point that relegation was not entirely out of the question. During the game United’s favoured 12th man Howard Webb refused to award a nailed on red to O’Shea which might likely have cemented an unlikely and famous comeback. The only other thing of note he did was put 5 past the ever acquiescent Fulham. And United fans would do well to recall he shared the Golden Boot with Tevez.
But mostly it’s a bit of gentle WUMing. He was awful, for the most part. I mean Bruno ‘The New Zidane’ scored a winner against Chelsea once. Doesn’t mean we view his time at Anfield as a hit. But the sentiment remains that United do seem to generally buy well… Dimiflop Berbaflop aside; natch!
Gregory Whitehead, LFC
ALL English clubs are feeder clubs
Love the Spurs fan taking every single transfer listed by that guy and telling him specifically why each one was/wasn’t a “feeder transfer”. It’s all a bit of a wind up, but I think the point has been missed:
Primarily, the English clubs ARE the feeder clubs.
Real Madrid and Barca sit atop the football tree, it’s fact. It doesn’t matter who is manager, what their current situations are, these are the big dogs, and the clubs that genuinely great players want to play for. These two are fed by practically all the big English sides. Henry, Modric, Ronaldo, Suarez and Robben are just five examples (one from each big English club) of players who’ve moved to one of them. I couldn’t think of a City example but who would rule out Jesus or De Bruyne or Sane ending up at one of them one day?
In England, United are the biggest club. Rooney, Carrick, Van Persie, Berbatov, Matic and Lukaku are all examples of players who’ve moved from teams in the tier below them to join them. There are very few City or Liverpool examples, such is the rivalry.
In that next tier are Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, City, Liverpool and probably Everton. Lampard, Walcott, Alli, Stones, Mane and Sigurdsson are all examples of players moving up the food chain within English football and being successful.
The point is, we’re all feeding the beasts at the end of the day.
You can probably count on two hands players that turned up on English soil as genuinely world class. Not to say tens haven’t become such players when they started playing here, but English clubs feed each other until they’re good enough to go to Spain.
Oh and also, don’t worry about it. Unless Kane keeps scoring because then he’ll go to Real Madrid. Oh, and Eriksen should be who Barca are looking at, not Coutinho.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex
That’s gotta be Kane
Ask most fans, pundits, journalists or ex-players etc to name the best striker in the history of the Premier League. What % are saying Alan Shearer?
So why oh why do many of those same people insist Harry Kane simply HAS to leave Spurs to be considered ‘world class’?
Kane often draws comparisons with Shearer for his on field play, but its off the pitch i see the most striking resemblance. Two seemingly decent guys, who just seem to prioritise playing football and scoring goals over winning trophies and making a sh*t ton of money.
Yesterday this website posted a wonderful piece on Totti and his love affair with Roma. I read (almost) every word thinking people could be writing a similar article about Kane 10 or 15 years from now. If we can win a trophy or two, and carry on qualifying for the Champions League, i have a feeling i might just be able to.
I’ve been following “The Totally Football Show” podcast (highly recommended, by the way) and have enjoyed their occasional references to F365 content with a knowing smile. Their most recent episode featured yet another such reference, with F365 name-dropped over the assertion that its not just Liverpool’s defence that’s to blame, complete with the stat about Liverpool converting 5.5% of chances while allowing opponents to convert 24%.
However, the moment of surprise was hearing AC Jimbo, Michael Cox, James Horncastle and Julien Laurens discuss Aravind’s recent comment in the mailbox about Chelsea’s win over Atletico being the best away CL win this decade. AC Jimbo disguised the source, saying ‘someone on F365 said…” but we all know where he got it.
So I suppose the point of this email is (a) to share my glee that seekers of quality football analysis all seem to end up on F365, and (b) to exhort everyone to maintain and even try to improve the quality of discussion on this platform (including the mailbox), because serious people are paying attention to what’s being said here.
KN, Chelsea FC
PS: AC Jimbo, I know you’re reading this, so here’s a resounding round of applause for the new show. Keep up the great work
Pandora’s box of Barcelona-shaped problems
Interesting stuff this talk of Barcelona joining either the English or French leagues should the Catalunya decide to separate from Spain. Such a move could have a profound effect on European football.
Firstly, there’s going to be a fight between the EPL and Ligue Un as to who wants Barca to join. Let’s not pretend that we’d all be really upset for our League not to be 100% English anymore. I mean a lot of people will, but not really people who’s opinion actually matters. Besides, it’s not 100% English anyway, there’s Swansea and all the foreign players and managers we already have. If we’re happy to have Swansea, surely we’d be quite happy to have another of the biggest clubs in the world joining us? Richard Scudamore will be rubbing his hands with glee at the thought of an increased commercial market and even more of the world’s best players playing in the Premier League. With Barcelona in the league there would be no more talk about who has the best league. So a fight between Ligue Un and the Premier League but I expect the Premier League to win due to having the wonga, despite France being a geographically better fit.
But then what of Celtic? Outstanding Brendan has already mooted the idea of them coming South (once they find a way of breaking down the wall) and even if we stuck them in the Championship they’d be in the top ten clubs in the country before long. Bringing Barca to the Premier League makes letting Celtic join much more likely.
This is now starting to look like an embryonic European League and Real Madrid are going to be missing playing Classicos and other Spanish teams are losing players to the even richer English (and Welsh, Scottish and Catalonian) clubs making the Spanish league even more lopsided. This is the point that the big clubs of Europe, breakaway properly from their leagues and make a proper European Super League, which the big English clubs will be initially reluctant to join (except Barcelona because they have no real affiliation to the league and United because they’ve caught a whiff of some additional commercial revenues) but will eventually relent when they realise they’ve lost the Champions League revenues.
I realise that this is going to be terrible for smaller clubs but do you think the boards of the top clubs really care? They’ve been trying their hardest to find ways of stitching up the little clubs since forever.
This is all very hastily thought through and will never happen but it’s brightened my Friday up.
Ashley (what racist chants will the fans think up when Barca come calling?) Metcalfe
Championship Big Weekend
Back in the days we used to have a fellow Bristolian (I want to say Mike?) do a League One version of ‘Big Weekend’ – I hail from the south/red side of the city, so thought I’d make a Championship version:
Game to watch: Ipswich Vs Bristol City
Both teams started the season amongst the favourites for relegation, both with managers that had survived strong calls to be sacked by sections of their fan base the previous season, but nine and ten games in respectively lie in 6th and 7th positions.
Ipswich have transformed from a negative, direct outfit to this season’s early entertainers, leading the way in terms of goals scored (19), despite having played a game less than many of their peers. A forward line containing Ireland international David McGoldrick and former Rangers pair Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner account for 15 goals in all competitions, with Bersant Celina (on loan from Manchester City) next on the list with 3 of his own. Former Bristol City players Cole Skuse, Jordan Spence and goalkeeper Dean Gerken add another area of intrigue, whilst youngster Tristan Nydam is earning rave reviews after being introduced to the first team. Questions remain about how many goals are being conceded at the other end (13 – the highest in the top half), but the fans that were disillusioned at the end of the last campaign are thrilled by the change of approach.
Bristol City have been finding the net regularly themselves with 17. Academy graduate Bobby Reid has been a revelation since being moved further forward from his previous midfield role and is level top goalscorer in the league on 6. Record summer signing Famara Diedhiou has also hit the ground running as the club’s newest centre forward, with Jamie Paterson softening the blow of losing mercurial midfielder Lee Tomlin to rivals Cardiff and defender Aden Flint also contributing at both ends of the pitch, following a summer of speculation.
With confidence high on both sides, this promises to be an exciting encounter with goals aplenty. Outsiders will still expect both sides to fall down the table over the coming months, but a win for either side would maintain their excellent start and keep the dream of an unlikely promotion challenge alive that much longer.
Player to Watch: Kenneth Zohore
Cardiff sit atop the league table after a number of blistering displays to dispose of a number of their promotion rivals, as well as a number of points salvaged in the later stages of matches, in a manner typical of a side managed by Neil Warnock.
Striker Kenneth Zohore was hot property in the summer following a good season and it is rumoured that Cardiff turned down a bid in the region of £15m for his services in order to maximise their chances of a return to the Premiership. So far it seems to be a shrewd move as the Danish international has picked up where he left off. Next up is a visit from a stuttering Derby County, who must fear that they’ll suffer a similar fate. We’ll likely see him in the top flight by the start of next season, whether it be with Cardiff or not remains to be seen.
Team to watch: Sheffield United
The Championship has thrown up a number of surprises in these early stages and no more so than newly promoted Sheffield United, narrowly edging out Preston to ‘surprise package of the season’. Whilst some might have predicted the League One champions to maintain some momentum, few would surely have expected them to sit in second at this stage. A triumphant 4-2 win away at city rivals Wednesday (themselves tipped to finally secure promotion) has surely been the highlight, but a 2-0 win away at Wolves on Wednesday was equally impressive. A trip to Nottingham Forest is an interesting test of their ability to maintain their blistering form. Finally sold by the unpopular Al-Hasawi family, there is a sense of the dawning of a new era, though the sale of striker Britt Assombalonga to Middlesbrough was a blow to their ambitions. A side genuinely seeking promotion would likely fancy their chances of taking a point away from the County Ground, which is a statement Sheffield United fans would love to send out – they’ll be hoping that the single day less rest isn’t the difference.
Manager to Watch: Steve Cotterill
Harry Redknapp’s short-lived reign as Birmingham City manager came to an end following a return of points akin to Juande Ramos at Spurs (you see what I did there). Following high profile appointments in Gianfranco Zola and the aforementioned Redknapp, Birmingham have opted for his former assistant Steve Cotterill.
Cotterill has a patchy record in The Championship and will be eager to show that it’s a level at which he belongs, following his sacking by Bristol City back in January 2016. Birmingham have signed a host of new players in an effort to avoid another relegation battle, and will be buoyed by their midweek win over Sheffield Wednesday, their first since August.
They next visit Hull, who have struggled themselves under Russian manager Leonid Slutsky. There is a real opportunity to grab the win that would take them out of the relegation zone and begin a possible redemption for both club and manager alike.
Nick Hamblin (Bristol)
While I keep half an eye on the progress of Notts County, largely because a friend of mine supports them, I hadn’t seen the news about the Matt Salmon Trophy, as highlighted in Big Weekend. This is a remarkable gesture and all parties involved in deserve some credit.
Alan Hardy’s tenure at Meadow Lane has seen him try to run the club in the right way. This isn’t a glib statement, like when managers talk about “playing the right way”, but about improving the experience, or making people want to go to Notts County games. Last season, when the Magpies and Stags met in January, Hardy offered a free pie to the first 2,000 fans through the gates. That game had over 11,000 supporters – even accounting for being a game between two local rivals, this seems an impressive crowd for a Fourth Division game (perhaps Jeremy Aves can advise on typical crowd sizes).
Shortly before this, Hardy had terminated the contract of manager John Sheridan, for gross misconduct. Sheridan had been given a touchline ban following a red card for abusive language and threatening violence towards the officials (incidentally, if you read the transcript, some of the most spectacular swearing for a long time). Hardy justified his decision in quotes run by the Guardian, explaining that he was involved in running youth football at County, and felt he had a duty of care to his young charges. He described Sheridan’s conduct as “nothing short of scandalous”, and that he was “not prepared to tolerate any member of [his] staff abusing referees and officials in this manner”. Hardy went on to say that he had taken a stand on principle, in keeping with the FA’s Respect initiatives, and pointed out that Sheridan’s five game ban was one of the strongest punishments issued to a manager during the season. An honourable stance, but I can’t see it catching on at, for example, Cardiff City or Manchester United.
Whether or not this approach works out for either Hardy or his club in the long run remains to be seen. However, there is a lot to admire about someone attempting to make football, well, a bit less unnecessarily aggressive all round. The main difference between football and just about any other sport is that there, you are a fan of the sport first and your team second, which is why for the overwhelming majority of fans, even the most intense rivalries on the field can be civil off the field before and after the game. Football can often be the other way round, where even the mildest comment becomes the spark that sets off the powder keg.
Hardy’s quote about the Matt Salmon Trophy, as used in Big Weekend, are words we should all take to heart: “We’re … rivals at heart but ultimately we’re all football people within our region and in that sense we’re on the same side.”
Enjoy your weekend.
Mounie or Prunier
Long time reader, first time writer etc…
More rhyme than pun related but following on from Ben’s letter about headlines, I was dearly hoping that Steve Mounie became an unheralded success Michu style (minus the sharp decline and early retirement), purely so that F365 could run a feature called ‘Mounie or Prunier’ where the fortunes of little known French players signing for Premier League clubs were discussed. I was therefore heartbroken when some commentators started pronouncing Steve’s surname as ‘Mooney’ like Rooney. Does anyone know what the actual pronunciation is, and by extension whether my dream is destined for the scrapheap?
Simon (‘Working from Home’), MUFC, Reading (naturally).
When Saturday Comes
An excellent tribute to the magazine that continues to be the gold standard. No aspect of football culture is too small for its consideration. In a world where so many are obsessed with the bright lights and the mainstream media seem to forever chase the Panini shiny to the exclusion of all else, this is refreshing.
The Lovejoy evisceration is beyond compare and by rights he should be made to read it out on air at the start of every single TV appearance he makes, before assuming his presenting duties.
Finally, as international week looms, I would like to thank WSC for, amongst so many other things, introducing me to the writings of the Wing Commander (aka David Stubbs) – the bellicose sheen of his dissections of England performances is unmatched and something to look forward to as the team lives down to expectations in major tournaments. For those unencumbered by work, the Italy and Iceland analyses are an excellent way to pass a little time on a Friday afternoon.
Keira, ITFC (half decent season so far)
If I’m not too late to the football nerd party, can I ask am I the only one that will sub players in and out of their team in fantasy football so that fullbacks and centre halves are in the correct position? Poor Rob Holding was in and out of the side there four times – I’d have to question what that’s done to his mental strength going forward
No, it’s just me isn’t it?
Brian Belfast Gooner (Brian Munich)
Wait, Ben of London, Delph doesn’t rhyme with health?
How the shuddering fuck (you had a cunt in today’s mailbox so that should pass) have I been mis-pronouncing Delph wrong then?
I’m pretty sure I know how health is pronounced. It’s a vaguely popular word in certain circles.
Delph. Wealth. Health. The Oracle of Delphi. Shelf. Delph. Gelf. Self. Delph.
Or maybe he’s missing a fancy symbol above one of the letters? Bloody non- foreigners.
In what world does Delph not rhyme with Health?
And Wilfred Bony is pronounced Bo-Knee not Bon-E, as in Bonnie Prince Charlie.
And Walcott scored twice not three times.
Radical Islam I will give you, but you can’t get away from those first three misdemeanours, they are as dodgy as defending on Merseyside at the moment.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
On the theme of headlines…I can’t remember if it was f365 – but rather hope it was- but my all-time favourite headline was when City were buying Edin Dezeko and some genius came up with ‘Dzeko and the Moneymen’.
There simply aren’t enough esoteric indie band / football references in the world. There’s surely gotta be some United/City Smiths ones doing the rounds!
Seb , N.Wales