Mails: Change the narrative, Liverpool are golden

Date published: Tuesday 3rd January 2017 6:51

Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com.

 

New Year grumpiness
I was following the festive football with as much interest as any other football fan. It is either a blessing or a curse depending on how well your team perform in the quickfire round of games; if you win them all, Christmas bonus, if you lose them all, you hate football. I am indifferent, as Villa won, drew and lost, and as such, in a microcosm came to represent the entirety of our, so-far, distinctly average season.

But that isn’t the point of my mail, it’s largely to do with the discussion of managers, and their various interviews that seem to have reached a peak with yesterday’s action. A lot will be said of Guardiola’s awkward “I clearly don’t want to talk to you right now” interview, and Klopp’s assertion that he “wasn’t sure what he’d just seen.” Could it not be, as with a lot of us after the Christmas period, that they were just a bit tired, jaded and slightly grumpy. Factor in that both managers come from leagues with break periods factored into their seasons, and acclimatising to the hectic scheduling, in particular Liverpool’s slightly ridiculous two games in 44 hours, and perhaps their reactions can be recognised as two coaches unfamiliar with the set-up and continued intensity of games that is the hallmark of British football. The obligatory post-match interviews in the immediate aftermath with little time to have truly analysed their own feelings towards the events of the preceding game also makes for admittedly sometimes entertaining interviews, but also understandably frustrated ones.

If I’m being honest, I know that in the 15 or 20 minutes straight after a match, that my opinions are not as fully formed or unbiased as they could be, and that very often, for catharsis alone, I need to vent a little steam to anyone willing to listen (a common problem in recent years as a Villa fan), only to realise, with a little hindsight, that I’ve perhaps just taken things a little personally and that my points were perhaps just a little biased by my club coloured spectacles. It’s not an uncommon problem, just listen to any given phone-in, and you’ll get a cacophony of often ill thought out, impassioned opinions based on frustration and annoyance, that seem just a tad over the top when perhaps just taking 5 would be better therapy (although we’d be denied the hilarity of some of the calls so perhaps not). I think every team thinks referees are biased against them, or that they were poorly treated, or they were cost a game by officials, but there can’t be a conspiracy against everyone, maybe it’s actually fairly even for all, but we’re just all a little biased? Maybe, just maybe, a similar tetchiness affects the managers too, who are a little more personally affected by the outcomes of the matches.
Jamie (2017’s going to be better, right?) AVFC

 

On Steady and Sunderland
I don’t have a problem with Stead writing about Klopp as an Early Loser, that is after all what this particular column is about and there is little to argue the Klopp is anything but after the result. I don’t however like the rational he used.

I feel that we have all agreed that bringing in 6-7 players during a summer is a lot. When the window closed the only thing LFC fans were complaining about was the lack of cover at LB. Bringing in another LB would not have yesterdays result.

If Klopp was at fault for anything is was not trusting his depth. I don’t think it would have been appropriate throw Woodburn, Alexander-arnold, or Ejaria into that game given the small amount of preparation time.

The only change I would have made was to either start or bring on Stewart. The lad is 23 years old and that’s a make or break age really. If Liverpool aren’t going to sell him then why not play him. It really was a perfect moment and it would have allowed Can at least 60-70 mins rest.

Which brings me to Lucas. I hate Lucas. I lay our second place finish in 08/09 squarely at his feet because of ludicrous challenges in dangerous areas. Has there ever been a player in football that has been directly responsible for more points dropped then Lucas? Yesterday he was back on top form by giving away the free kick which lead to the second penalty, classic Lucas.

All in all the result is disappointing, but we are averaging 2.2 points a game for the season and still in second place. If Spurs don’t sh*t the bed Liverpool may only be 5 points behind leaders Chelsea and Liverpool have proved this season that stumbles like points dropped against Sunderland are just that. I’m not sure anything is going to derail this red machine. The time Liverpool play the Manc scum Coutinho and Matip should both be back in contention and the Reds will be flying again.
Brian (I’ll piggyback Lucas to Inter myself) LFC

 

I wanted to agree and defend Klopp for his early loser award. I agree with awarding him the early loser award because this is what Liverpool have been doing this season in winning the big games and then throwing away points where they should be walking away with it.

He really infuriated me with the comment about asking the players if they were tired or not. Of course they were all going to say ok boss I’m good to play when they were too tired to get up. It’s his job to keep them fresh and I can’t believe that Origi, Moreno and Lucas didn’t come into the side along with Sturridge (in place of Firmino or Lallana, Milner and Can or Wijnaldum). Yes on paper they would weaken the team, but they would bring fresh legs to the team.

Now it does annoy me that some people say we have good depth to the squad which I don’t think we truly have. We have a strong first 11 with good backups, but even a couple of injuries and our bench is looking very raw. I do think we need to remember this is Klopp’s first full season in charge in England and this crazy Christmas set of fixtures (I do know it is his 2nd Christmas here). Also I think we are outperforming several teams that should be ahead of us (man city and arsenal) and only behind a team who I think on paper would expect to be ahead of us and we are on course (not nailed on, just where we need to be at the mid point of the season) for a top 4 finish which should be our aim for the season.

Finally onto the squad. It’s a hard problem and I’m frustrated when people say we should just go out and buy (or should have last summer) more players. Up front I feel we are already on a tightrope with Sturridge feeling he should have more game time and that is with Ings out long term again and the mid term injury to Coutinho. In midfield in someways I feel lucky that there have been minor injuries to Can, Lallana, Wijnaldum and Henderson to allow them all a decent amount of playing time. I feel if all had been fit then at least one of them would be feeling left out. So to go and buy another 2 or 3 players just to cover the Christmas period at the risk of destabilizing the squad for the season was not worth it. If we make the CL then go buy those extra players next summer when we’ll have the extra games to justify them.

In summary, yes Klopp was a loser this week, but is a winner so far this season. So heads up and let’s have a great second half to the season.
Dave, LFC fan

 

We’re golden
Happy New Year to the mailbox. I must confess that I didn’t read much over the holidays – but it’s my first day back of work and I’ve firmly slipped straight back in to my routine of reading the F365 morning gospel.

I am a little disappointed to find all the Klopp bashing going on though in the media (F365 included, I’m looking at you Stead). Now seems like a fairly good time to reflect on the season so far, and in short I’m bloody chuffed. If you had offered me this position in August I’d have ripped your arm clean from your shoulder.

Perhaps Klopp only made one change simply because he didn’t have any other choice. Matip and Coutinho (arguably our two thirds of our ‘spine’) are still injured. Who could have predicted Ings’ knee would crumble again, and that Sakho would be a Wakho (sorry) on tour. I think Miguel Sanchez is spot on, we invested rather shrewdly in the summer, we’ve just been fairly unlucky with injuries. I certainly think the addition of one, or two players max in January would help, but let’s not all get the lifeboats out yet.

To help give a little perspective: After the first half of the season’s games (before the Sunderland game) we had 43 points (W13, D4, L2). If we continue that exact same form in the second half, we’ll finish the season with 86 points.

Here’s how many points won the title in the last 5 years:

2015/16: Leicester, 81 points

2014/15: Chelsea, 87 points

2013/14: Man. City, 86 points

2012/13: Man. United, 89 points

2011/12: Man. City, 89 points.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting that we will win the title, if Chelsea win tomorrow night it will be extremely difficult to catch them. But based on current form we should be aiming for a comfortable fourth-placed finish at least, which I would be delighted with. Back in Europe, a financial injection with the added bonus of being able to offer top-level football.

To paraphrase another mailboxer: ‘Let’s change the narrative. We’re golden’
Lee, LFC (A Chelsea meltdown makes for a mouth-watering end to the season)

 

Give Pep a break
I have to take point against Brad Smith’s analysis of Pep’s interview. He called it the rudest interview ever. Hardly. It was cringeworty but that’s not the same thing.

Pep is clearly trying desperately not to say anything he will regret. Over the years we have seen a great many interviews conducted in this manner. The curt answers, deadpan face, clearly just wanting to go and punch a wall or two. José has done it numerous times. Wenger too. Fergie has downright refused to speak at all. Has no-one ever been there themselves? So angry that you know that if you don’t hold your tongue you will regret it. Yet someone insists on poking you with a stick for a reaction.

And that’s the real issue here. The forcing of managers to face the press when they haven’t even had a chance to calm down, let alone reflect on the game enough to draw any rational conclusions. It’s a ridiculous thing contrived with the media’s best interests (getting a headline) the only consideration. Trick question after question, each with a back-page headline in mind. It’s not an issue for all managers to be sure. Some take events going against them better than others, but for the rest? An hour to get their heads sorted out is not unseasonable. Yet the media know that this dish is best served hot.

Now you might be thinking ‘What’s he moaning at? Fernandinho did deserve to be sent off etc… ‘ I agree and we were lucky to keep Sagna on the pitch too. (I was shocked to see him hounding the referee even after he got away with a yellow).

But anger clouds the judgement and in the heat of the moment, we see ourselves as purely victims more often than not and we behave embarrassingly. It’s human nature. Surely more reason to give managers slack when we read their interviews that are too easy to criticise dispassionately over our morning coffee the next day.
Nic, MCFC

 

Sorry, Tone
I wrote to you in the early weeks of this season raising my concerns about Tony Pulis and suggesting that his tenure at WBA should come to an end. I therefore can only apologise to Mr Pulis and say it’s a good job us fans aren’t always listened to!

Since mid September there has been a complete reversal of the style of play that we’d been used to over the last 18 months. We’ve actually shown plenty of attacking intent in games and at times been a real joy to watch. Its not all been great, the 4-0 home defeat against Man City in October was a low point of the season. However, in games where we have played a more defensive game (the recent defeat against Arsenal for example), I can’t really fault Pulis’s game plan against such opposition. The real difference this season compared to last is that in games against teams outside of the top 6 we were happy to just sit back and invite teams on to us. This resulted in a number of home defeats against lower opposition and a high number of games where we didn’t even register a shot on target. I know a lot of fans got to the point that they just didn’t enjoy going anymore and many people sat near me at the Albion didn’t renew their season tickets and attendance levels have been down.

Its been a whole different story this year. Aside from the 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth we’ve looked far more dangerous going forward against teams below us in the table and more often than not I’ve come away from The Hawthorns having thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve seen. The additions of the likes of Matt Phillips and Nacer Chadli have made a big difference and give Rondon the support he needs to be effective. The more attack focused tactics have brought the best out of what is a good set of experienced top flight players. Brunt and Morrison, both in their tenth seasons at the club, have been as good as ever. Overall, I feel we’re finally moving forward as a club for the first time since our 8th place finish under Steve Clarke in 2013. Long may it continue in 2017.

Kind Regards,
George, Birmingham

 

I’ve stopped fighting it now, Tony Pulis truly is a wizard, and that is indeed a magic hat upon his head.

He probably won’t get the praise he deserves, but yesterday he made tactical changes that really did swing the game.

I won’t bore you with the all the intricate details, but after an injury to Evan at CB, Pulis changed the formation to 3 at the back, which hasn’t been attempted in as long as I can remember at the Hawthorns. This ended up revitalising the team who recovered from a losing position against a very spirited Hull team.

You have to give credit where it is due, Tony has done a great job of adding to the defence with good attacking wingers who supply the frankly too good for us, Rondon. It would be easy to say that it’s not always pretty with Pulis, but at times this season it really is interesting and even entertaining to watch.

Just imagine where we’d be if we could sing “we’ve got the ball” for 51% of the game!
Rusty (Man Vs Fat cup winner) Gray, WBA  

 

Baggies, Baggies, Boing, Boing
Happy New Year to all at F365 and its readers.

During the Christmas festivities I went down the Arsenal for the West Brom game. The atmosphere was terrible – I mean really, really bad – even for Arsenal. Sad to see as I was in the Clock as I was the day Wrighty broke the record at Highbury – the environment was poles apart. Back then the Clock was where all the nutters sat – these days it doesn’t matter where you sit – the atmosphere is still rubbish. There was a better atmos and more noise I hasten to add at the darts at Ally Pally with a tiny fraction of the number that attend the Emirates.

But my mail actually relates to the West Brom fans – first class by the way – I’m not sure I would be in such fine voice if I had to sit through Pulisball – and is to do with the Baggies, Baggies Boing Boing chant.

This was one of my favourite away chants back in the day but it seems WBA fans no longer chant it – does anyone know why?

And on the wider point – is there anything that can be done to improve the atmos at football in general? It may seem contrived but you’re not allowed to turn up at church and belt out whatever hymn you like so maybe the jumbotrons could be used to suggest the next chant with the words to said chant supplied on a sheet of paper welcoming fans to the ground.

I’ll admit it’s a terrible idea but I’m supposed to wake up the day after a game with a sore throat through singing myself hoarse – that just doesn’t happen anymore.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

 

The wonderful Rondon?
As Baggies season ticket holder and a huge fan of Pulis and being 32 years old these are truly golden times to be supporting Albion. Our centre half right back Dawson is proof of the real quality of Pulis’s decision making and vision and he has even improved in his time with Albion. Previously going a goal down was game over for us. In the last two matches we have come from behind to win with his tactical changes making the difference. Yesterday the switch to 3 at the back turned the game. And this is clearly something he and his team have worked on if you watch closely the performance of the brilliant Yacob. When in position Yacob would drop into the back 3 and Nyom playing left centre half would become an auxiliary fullback. Wonderful stuff.

However the wonderful Rondon. This is a bloke with only 7 goals this season. Remove the Swansea hat trick when he was allowed to score the same goal 3 times and you have 4 goals across half a season. He is a coward and not the strong target man he looks like. It also appears he is a weak character.

Let me explain… although he runs about a bit it is the text book token effort followed with a little jump when the player he is closing down plays the ball. He wins very few headers when the ball is played long. He rarely gets to the hall first in 50:50 situations. This is because he pulls out. He can only be strong when he knows exactly where the defender is and knows he won’t get hurt. He never puts his body on the line. He has missed so many chances this season with his feet. This is when he has to think about what he does. He even ducked and covered his head when there was a loose ball in the box in our game against West Ham earlier this season. He has been on the pitch for 3 penalty shoot outs and only participated in one of them. This suggests a massive bottler. A record signing centre forward should surely be in your first five?? Finally he has only just begun to learn the language. According to Pulis he doesn’t speak and just follows Yacob around.

So there you have it. He is not wonderful but I would argue one of our weakest links. He could not have done what Robson Kanu did against Southampton. All that said however I think he will get 14 goals this season which is ok. He may be as good as we can get. This Is why we the best we can hope for 7th although probably 8th.

Ultimately i am happy with that. I just feel this site is giving credit to the wrong people. The real reason for our surprising form is Pulis, Foster, Evans, Macauley, Nyom, Yacob, Dawson and Phillips. Furthermore Brunt and Morrison are playing the best football of their career and this is down to Pulis.
Ben the Baggie

 

Was the Giroud goal that good?
I found the Giroud goal a joy to watch but I’m not sure it’s a certainty for Goal of the Season, as some pundits have stated, since there was an element of luck involved. As an Engineer by profession and having German heritage, I’ve decided to create an objective rating system for comparing goals. I hope this doesn’t put any my favourite pundits out of work – just the 2ndrate “run more” analysts.

The rating system is a form of multivariate analysis in which the variant, in this case a goal, is measured against several criterion. I have decided to implement a 1-4 rating system (1 low, 4 high) as 1-10 can be inherently biased as it’s hard to distinguish between a 6/7 or 2/3. It is also common to apply a weighting factor towards the criteria but in the aim of simplicity, and since all goals carry the same value this has been excluded.

The criteria I have selected can be categorised under Saveability, which is determined by the flight path of the ball and is directly related to goal aesthetics. The next category is technique which includes the type of shot, build up play, control, dribbling, etc. I have also added a bonus category for importance.

Below is a list of the 9 criterion with up to 4 pts available for each with a maximum of 36 pts available in total. I have included examples for guidance however they are not absolute and I’ve tried to keep the descriptions as objective as possible:

Shot Power: 1 side foot effort, 2 standard shot, 3 laces shot, 4 Thunderbast*rd

Accuracy: 1 near keeper, 2 bottom corner, 3 top corner, 4 in off post/bar

Curve/Lob: 1 straight, 2 curled, 3 Essien, 4 Cisse

Distance/Angle: 1 inside 6 yard box, 2 outside 6 yard box, 3 outside box/tight angle, 4 way out/impossible angle

Shot Difficulty: 1 dead ball, 2 open play, 3 volley, 4 overhead kick

Individual Skill: 1 first time shot (no skill just technique), 2 good control or dribble, 3 great control and/or dribble, 4 Bergkamp

Improvisation : 1 normal shot or headed goal, 2 score with bum, 3 back heel/flick, 4 scorpion

Team Play: 1 direct, 2 neat build up, 3 counter attack, 4 Wilshire

Importance: 1 consolation/increase lead, 2 match winner, 3 big match winner, 4 AGUEROOOOO!

Based on this system I score Giroud’s goal as 2,4,2,2,3,1,4,3,1

total: 22/36 – a respectable effort but by no means spectacular.

I’d be pleased to hear any feedback or suggestions for the system. I’d also encourage mailboxers to select their favourite goals and calculate the score in order to determine the ‘Greatest Ever MVA Goal’ which I must say, has a certain ring to it.
Nik (not fun at parties) NUFC 

 

Puel’s fine
Without wanting to draw the mailbox into a Saints civil war, Tom really needs to take a step back.

At time of writing Saints have more games than anyone else this season in all competitions, and whilst the Europa exit was frustrating we were 7th just before Christmas and do have a League Cup semi to look forward too (insert hackneyed line about being in League One six seasons ago too…)

Yes three defeats on the bounce are disappointing, but playing 3 times in 6 days would effect most team’s performances. The recent rumours around Fonte and now Van Dijk can’t have helped much either.

Puel’s fine, but we do need to strengthen in the transfer window, most notably up front. We still create lots of chances, but we can’t rely on two predominately crocked strikers and a profligate Shane Long for goals.

Saints signed 3 young players in the summer who have shown flashes of what they can do, as well as McQueen and Sims who have looked decent, so let’s give them a bit of time to settle. Puel was hired due to his record of coaching young players after all.

I’ll be honest, since the Europa league exit the season has felt like a bit of a write-off. But if Yoshida’s header at the death against Hapoel was the other side of post, I’m sure Tom would have a very different opinion of Puel. Plus I seem to remember a lot of ‘Koeman out’ noise last Christmas, and we finished 6th.

Let’s see how this season plays out,
Tyler M, Saints

 

How far can one fall?
While Tom Saints will be the subject of much ire following his mail about Claude Puel, it got me thinking about how successful clubs can so quickly go downhill. This season, an example of a club in decline compared to last season is West Ham. At the beginning of last season, WHU seemed to be an example for all to follow: they astutely recruited good players to bolster an already talented squad, and they got themselves a cult hero manager. Now, to most observers it’s pretty clear that this season, they’ve experienced something of a malaise on the pitch. And the obvious difference that many will point to is the flying saucer they now play their home games in. But can this truly be the single cause of their struggle this season? Or did the problems start when they tailed off a bit last year? Is there any way they could have foreseen or stopped this? They kept their best player, right?

For me, it raises the question of how far this downward trajectory can spiral. They won’t get relegated this season, but future seasons in the Championship will not be easy due to the spending power of an increasingly growing number of parachute payment-laden clubs. I suppose what I’m getting at is that in the modern era, it is much easier to be in decline than on the up. This is where Southampton come in. They are very widely respected due to their achievements since being promoted from League 1 in second place (#bhafc #jokes). They’ve got a clear and consistent long-term strategy whereby they accept players and managers will leave and they have to focus on replacing them even before this happens. However, what if the current run actually turned out to be the start of something much more long-term? Will their strategy see them right, and, if not, do they have a plan B?

For what it’s worth, I think that despite the statistical and logical thinking that dominates football, it’s still a game where intangible variables can affect the state of things on the pitch. Success is such a hard thing to sustain, and the only other alternative is decline. I hope Saints keep up the good work, but if things starts to go south, it will show that even the most meticulous planning cannot guarantee success in this truly mental game.
Ed, Bhafc, Oxford (Constantly dreading the start of BHAFC’s decline, but still waiting…!)

 

Winter break
Hey there, ho there, happy new year there everyone.

I have had a little think, given the increased bleating from top flight managers about the exertions of the Xmas schedule and from all and sundry about the demise of the fabled FA Cup in recent years, and I have a suggestion. Not sure it will work but that’s what this whole mailbox is bout isn’t it, ideas and quibbles to distract us from our poxy-ass jobs.

Ok, so we retain the Xmas fixtures, they are a godsend for distracting from hangovers and providing excuses to avoid another visit from relatives. One caveat is that all teams should have 3 days between games and maybe home/away fixtures between the same teams would silence any excuses between mangers. Delay the 1st round proper of the FA cup until first or second weekend in January, thus giving the early rounds more exposure while the Premier League takes a break. 2 weekends off for the big boys and a 3rd round game of the FA cup to tune up for the return of their top priority, the league. January becomes FA Cup month and the competition gets a little momentum, all the internationals get a wee sunshine holiday so that’s one less excuse for England’s cock-ups and the lower league teams get much needed exposure. We might even have some old-fashioned mud-bath type pitches thrown in for good measure.

The drawbacks I can think of are the hurried organization of fixtures and resistance from SKY but can these be overcome?

Fire back at will.
John, THFC

 

Obscure players
I have a dog named Bear.

She can be a bit mischievous, so my wife can often be hear shouting ‘No Bear!’. Every time she does, I am reminded of Julien Faubert (another of those obscure players that somehow got loaned from West Ham to Real Madrid), who I would otherwise never ever think about.

I also have a mate with a dog named Igor, which makes me think of the (totally unrelated) Igor Biscan.

Does anyone else get reminded of obscure players through their everyday activities? (Doesn’t have to be dog related).
Dom (Is the Mirror’s James Nursey’s real name Bernard?) Littleford

 

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