Mails: Cantona is still dividing opinion

Date published: Tuesday 3rd November 2015 3:45

Advice for Remi Garde
Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carles Gil. Pick Carl…
Neil Raines


Spurs conclusions
Another solid win; another result that, with the late goal and the nervy period, previous Spurs sides may not have closed out. This Spurs is decidedly un-Spursy.

– Pochettino takes a lot of credit for that, but special mentions for Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld, both of whom have solidified us immeasurably.

– Pochettino also must take credit for leaving Kane on until the end instead of taking him off for a well-earned rest. Last night’s goal was arguably more important than the hat-trick, as he’ll now feel like he’s getting back into the habit of scoring.

– A final shout to Dele Alli, a phenomenally talented player for his age and experience. His seamless step up from League One to bossing a PL midfield is no mean feat.
Alex G, THFC


Award-winningly one-eyed on Cantona
The list of top ten French imports has motivated me to write in on a subject I have been meaning to for a while- Eric ‘King Eric’ Cantona. There seems to be universal acceptance that a) Cantona was brilliant and b) Alex Ferguson tamed the beast. I am not so sure.

Cantona rocked up at Utd in late 1992 and within just over 2 years he had been sent off 4 times and convicted of assault. He has sent off in successive Premier League games, which isn’t even possible now, both for stamps I seem to remember. For this he received a 5 game ban. That ban would be at least 7 games now (3 each for violent contact with an extra for the being sent off twice in a season) but probably more. Ferguson couldn’t control him enough to keep him on the pitch let alone playing. Our present pantomime villain is Diego Costa for a few kicks out and a slap or two, can you imagine the press reaction to Cantona now?

After being banned for 9 months and doing community service Cantona popped back to Utd for a season and a half and then retired at thirty. Utd did the treble 2 seasons after he went. He was famously terrible in European games and never performed for France. He arguably never performed in big games full stop.

Flashes of genius, of course. Great on a highlights reel, no doubt. The reason Utd were revitalised, not a hope- that was Ferguson, Beckham, Neville, Scholes, Giggs, Keane, Yorke, Cole etc etc etc.
Micki Attridge


On Joel Campbell
Sigh, sigh and sigh again.

I’m an Arsenal supporter. A seething, rabid one. But how blinkered most Arsenal supporters are is just unbelievable and why most other football fans can’t tolerate “us” at all…

“By this, look at recent matches and Wenger was not even contemplating using [Campbell], he was 4th choice right wing, possibly 5th choice.” Thanks for that Thom, Newport.

I’ve seen it phrased as “7th choice” elsewhere. Yet it’s somehow a credit to Wenger that he chose to deploy Ramsey, Wilshere and any other manner of folly on the right wing before Joel Campbell? Oxlade-Chamberlain? Really? How has he not managed to score at the close of the Bayern match two weeks ago? It’s almost as if he doesn’t score goals (oh wait…)

It’s almost as if Wenger intentionally marginalizes players better than what he currently has on the pitch so he can bring them back later and get credit for his “literal” (CRINGE SHOCK HORROR AT YOUR ENGLISH AND I’M A YANK) new signings. The only reason Campbell is even still at the club is due to Welbeck’s long-term injury and the circumstances pertaining to Walcott and Chamberlain right now- not due to Wenger’s genius.

No one speaks of Debuchy and Chambers and how we bought them both in the same transfer window while Bellerin was ready to go…in fact he played in the Arsenal pre-season fixture against New York Red Bull here stateside in July 2014. It boggles the mind.
Chase (Arsenal ’til I die) Jaycox, Brooklyn, NYC


Tournament players
MickT wrote in this morning about Karel Poborsky, El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao being prime examples of players who shone at an international tournament enough to earn a transfer to a top top Premier League club, only to not actually be particularly good. I’d argue John Jensen was probably a better example than Poborsky.

I’m fairly sure I won’t be the only one to point out this is one of the central themes of Soccernomics – international tournaments simply don’t offer enough time to give a full picture of a player. As such, there aren’t many successes. I did think about nominating Javier Hernandez, whose 13 goals in 27 appearances (Wikipedia) during his first Manchester United season would be a success, but then didn’t the Red Devils actually sign him before the World Cup? Have I remembered that right?

Away from the Premier League, James Rodriguez probably merits a mention, as someone who played well for his country and then played just as well for Real Madrid.

The literary Ed Quoththeraven

…Mick T in Liverpool asks whether any player has been bought after a great performance at an international tournament and been a success.

Not sure if this strictly qualifies (as he was already fairly well established before the tournament) but James “Hamez” Rodriguez had a blinder of a 2014 World Cup (including the goal that won the 2014 Puskas award), signed for Real Madrid for an obscene sum, took the fabled number 10 shirt (following not only Zidane and Figo but Puskas himself), and since then has quietly gone about notching 15 goals in 31 games (thanks Wikipedia), as well as winning the World Club Cup and European Super Cup. All this despite being crocked for 2 months of the 2014/15 with England’s favourite injury, a broken metatarsal.

He seems to have recovered alright though, have a look at this –

I’m sure there are other examples.
Terry Hall, Switzerland

…James ‘Ham-ez’ Rodriguez hasn’t been too bad, has he? He might be the exception to the rule. I can’t remember too many people raving about him before the WC.

As for the worst, I have to mention John Jensen. Bought as a goal-scoring midfielder after he pinged one in in the Euro 92 final. Did. Not. Go. Well.
Mills, Arsenal, N7.

…Wiltord did alright at Arsenal off the back of Euro 2000.

Granted we were linked with him prior to it, but his main ‘thing’ seemed to be that tournament.
Thom, Newport

…MickT, Liverpool, asks who has been a success after judgement based mainly on a single tournament.

Well, Winston Reid played very impressively for New Zealand in the 2010 World Cup and earned a move from FC Midtjylland to West Ham on the back of it. He has been nothing short of superb since.

I’m not convinced that his name would have been on West Ham’s radar before that World Cup. He probably wished he hadn’t played so well in South Africa once he started playing underneath Avram Grant however.
Thom (Essex)

…Sadly, I think the “unknown but obviously great footballer from an international tournament signing” becomes more unlikely every two years. I came up with two good ones from tournaments past – real unknowns before the event and integral to great sides after:

Gilberto Silva – World Cup 2002
Pavel Nedved – Euro ’96

There are loads before ’96 (full of Eastern Europeans mainly), some in 1998 (Chileans, African teams), but from 2002 onwards? European football hoovers up everyone these days, before they’re likely to have a stunning tournament. And more is the shame.
Jim, London


There’s a reason you can’t think of many recent ones
To answer MikeT, every great player is going to have a breakthrough moment when the world sits up and takes notice, and since most football is played outside of big international tournaments it’s statistically unlikely that a great player will have their breakthrough moment during such a tournament. Also, an 18-year old tearing it up in England, Spain, Brazil etc will quickly get noticed before they are part of the national squad, firstly because the league is more high-profile and secondly because the national team has a deeper talent pool. So it’s much more likely that they will have had their breakthrough moment before they ever play for their national team.

For any player not hailing from one of the big traditional football countries, an international tournament is more likely to be their big breakthrough especially if they have only ever played in their local league. Nowadays this is probably a lot rarer because of big scouting networks and the most talented players moving to the big leagues at a very early age. So any ‘unknown’ having a great tournament is these days much more likely to be a limited player going through 3-4 games of splendid form rather than a potential star who hasn’t had the chance to shine yet.

Since MickT mentions Poborsky, one example that does come to mind of “has there been any successes after buying based solely on a tournament performance” is his Czech team-mate Nedved who was also a relative unknown and was bought by Lazio on the back of a great Euro ’96, and he turned out to be pretty handy. The signing also follows the similar pattern I mentioned above, he was from a relatively minor footballing country, was still playing in the local league, and it was 20 years ago when I doubt many international observers were tuned in to the Czech league. I might also nominate Keylor Navas although it’s a bit of a borderline case.
James, Geneva


The (long) final word on Van Gaal
Its been a while since I have written in but I felt considering the backlash LVG has been receiving recently I should to make a few points. Apologies in advance for the long email.

I can understand the frustration of a number of fans based on the performances we have seen from United this year – however, the lack of patience is beyond ridiculous. After Ferguson left the team was a complete mess, and Moyes coming in made things worse. Yes Ferguson won the league, but the age of the squad, the lack of quality in depth and the lack of genuine world class players meant that a big rebuilding job was needed to compete again.

Moyes came in, brought with him Fellaini and tried to sign every world class player in Europe rather then looking at the long term planning. He made many mistakes and simply had to go. Enter Van Gaal – He was tasked with revitalizing a squad, clearing out the deadwood and getting United back into the Champions league. He made a number of signings to help with the latter and also let 20 players go in his first year. 20!! That’s a huge number!! But it was all part of the process….he got United back into the Champions league and decided at this point that now after a season he understood which players he wanted long term and what he needed to bring in.

Now fast forward to this year – He also let 9 players leave this season, many on really high wages – RVP, Nani, Falcao, Di Maria – brought in a number of players he wanted to work with and is left with a squad he is happy with and he has built – and one that contains many young players, (Martial, Smalling, Jones, Blind, Darmian, Shaw, De Gea, Schneirdelain, Depay, Herrera, Rojo , McNair, Pereira, Lingard, are all players who can play for another 5-10 years and who haven’t reached their full potential yet) . He has brought in 14 players, promoted a number from the youth team and now let 29 go in his two seasons…that’s a massive change around but also necessary in terms of wages, and long term planning….he was trusted to do this due to his experience and record in doing similar at other top clubs.

After now putting together the squad he needs to now implement his playing style, which is possession based and built on patience rather then going full throttle . You need to start at the base, and even the most blind of fans can see he has sorted the defense. Compare this to last year where De Gea was making 10-15 saves a match to now where he is making 1 or 2. We are keeping clean sheets and keeping the ball….however, the one missing element is our attacking play and he has been called out on this, and rightly so.

However, even Ferguson knew you cant win anything without a defense, and it is a process…you start at the base and then work further up the pitch. This will happen over the season, but in Van Gaals mind and the reason he is relatively happy is everything is going towards his long term plan. His past teams did eventually play attractive and effective football and the same will happen at United. He keeps saying ‘process’ because it is process. Replacing him now would completely undermine all positive (yes positive) work he has done behind the scenes.

If you look at Ferguson’s United between 2003 and 2006 it was a similar process. Losing key players like RVN, Keane, Butt, Beckham and Stam and accommodating an older and different Scholes and Giggs he had to rebuild and was also looking to implement a different playing style and formation to help with the changing styles in Europe and domestically – this was built around the likes of Ferdinand, Rooney and Ronaldo. I remember a number of fans becoming frustrated during this spell, but he needed time to make these changes.

I also a remember a huge amount of 0-0’s during this period. If Social media was around I imagine there would be a number of ridiculous ‘SAF out’ Tweets and posts. However it was a process and the club allowed him the time to do this – and they were rewarded with one of the best periods in the clubs history between 2006-2009.

The bottom line is Van Gaal has done what was asked, he has built a new squad, trimmed off most of the deadwood and high wages (bar Rooney of course) and got United competing again. This season we have already played Spurs, Arsenal, City, Everton, Southampton and Liverpool and have a good run of games now while only being 4 points off top. This is not bad going, and I fully expect us to start gelling and finding more attacking fluency in the months to come.

The final word is I believe this Van Gaal out’ stuff is ridiculous and we need to let him finish the process he has started. Ask yourself this, come next season when he steps down will United be in a better or worse position then when Ferguson retired? Would Van Gaal have achieved his aim of reestablishing and setting up United for years to come and leaving the new manager in a place where everything is in place for him to succeed? United fans please look at the bigger picture and stop acting like a bunch of spoiled brats. As a club we have always prided ourselves on long term planning and patience and the stuff i am reading recently makes a mockery of this.
Aaron Collins


Football myth-busting
Liverpool’s signing of El Hadji Diouf was announced was announced the day after Senegal’s victory over France in their first match in the 2002 World Cup and had been lined up for a fair bit longer than 24 hours, the deal for Salif Daio was agreed before the tournament even started.

Neither player joined up with the Liverpool squad until after their exciting Word Cup but they were not signed because of it despite popular opinion, Diouf was even quoted saying back in 2002 “I agreed the deal with Liverpool before the France match”.

So my response to MickT’s question is a question of my own: how many other bemusing persistent myths are there in football?
Alec, London


Top 10 feedback
Eric in fourth? F-off
Rob, Guangzhou, indignant

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