WARNING: This is your typical Mailbox. A Manchester United-only Mailbox can be found here. Enjoy. And send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chelsea and United backed the wrong horses
It is clear to see that the premiership landscape has changed. Last year was a transition year which saw an unbelievable league win for Leicester.
Liverpool and Spurs had picked managers who encouraged all action all running high tempo football and were building their squads in that image. Sadly commitments to build stadia and a desire to balance the books meant that ‘netspend’ was a dirty phrase in L4 and N4 and the squads are missing a little gold dust.
City secured a manager who was also a proponent of that style of football but also had the funds to ensure that their manager could hit the ground running in his first season.
The running, passing, tackling and chance creation stats (you know the main things you are supposed to be doing as a professional footballer) are off the scale for these 3 clubs. City’s numbers are unbelieveable. Spurs should have racked up a cricket score against Sunderland.
It is futuristic football. I want to watch them play every time they are on because you know there will be chances, goals and intricate football. I never thought I would be excited by the term ‘speed of transition’!
Conte and Mou on the other hand are set up very defensively which it seems does not allow flexibility going forward. Playing Oscar instead of Fab or Felllani instead of well anyone shows a desire to not lose rather than try and win a game.
Chelsea were over run against Liverpool on Friday. Made to look pedestrian but this should not have been a surprise. The pre match stats had already shown this was likely to happen. Liverpool had run harder and longer then the Chelsea team in their first 4 matches
Same with United. They looked slow and cumbersome on the ball which allows the other team to regroup and stop any attacking play. There is no speed in their games.
Finally the new order are here and I expect City, Spurs and the mighty Reds to secure the top 3 spots while dishing up some of the sexiest football the premiership has ever seen.
I am lovin’ it.
H (is this mail worthy of a Klopp hug?)
Are City just flat-track bullies?
City are going to cruise it, right? The title? Five out of five, playing some lovely stuff, Pep is the Messiah, everyone else is playing for second?
Just have a look at the table. City have played Stoke, Sunderland, West Ham and Bournemouth, who currently sit 20th, 19th, 18th and, yes, 17th. They’ve also played a clearly out of sorts and currently less than the sum of the parts Man United side. Could you get an easier start to the season? Five out of five against that lot is good, but it’s not that good. Flat track bullies? Let’s see how they go against some teams with some quality and in some form – Spurs, Everton, Liverpool –before we prematurely crown them. I can’t see this season being a procession for any side, there is more depth, more genuine contenders for both the title and the top four than there has probably ever been.
Colin (Pep is pretty damn good though and De Bruyne is class) NZ
Xhaka can’t when Mustafi does
The simple reason why Xhaka isn’t starting is that Mustafi is currently forced to start because of the injuries to Mert and Gabriel. Clearly Wenger doesn’t want to risk uncertainty in the spine with both a new centre half pairing and a new centre mid pairing. Xhaka is a fine player and will replace Cazorla soon I reckon, but until the CB pairing becomes more solid (Mustafi and Kosc still look shaky), Wenger will prefer familiarity.
Andre E (bet he starts next game)
Bilic and attack and defence managers
I was going write a short one calling out F365 for fawning over Slaven Bilic last season. I remember all those cheeky “be careful what you wish for” references after every West Ham game. How is that working now that West Ham have forgotten how to defend?
But that got me thinking about something. Some managers only know one aspect of the game, don’t they? Remember when Everton fans thought they had struck gold when Martinez was benefitting from the defensive organization that boring Moyes left behind? Are we seeing the same trend with Bilic after he has had a year to ruin Big Sam’s defensive work?
So here’s my big idea: Clubs should employ two managers – a defensive specialist and an attacking one! The two managers will take training and prepare the team for matches with each one focusing on what he is good at.
For example, Moyes would have molded Everton into an immovable rock while Martinez makes them a phenomenal irresistible force. And probably, instead of letting Big Sam go, West Ham could have had a Big Sam/Bilic alliance. What could go wrong?
And West Brom, with their impending Chinese money, can look forward to an attack-minded manager teaming up with Pulis. Did you say Tim Sherwood is out of a job?
And for a high profile example, what will beat a Mourinho/Guardiola combo? Let’s call it a park-the-bus-tiki-taka special.
Franklin, CFC (You did say you will publish our silly opinions), Lagos
A Milner question
I want to ask my fellow Liverpool supporters a question. Klopp refusal to buy a left back this summer puzzled most, but let’s try and see it from his point of view, maybe.
I think the decision of who to leave out of the team played a major role in us not getting a left back. Sure, Moreno is easier to drop than hot potatoes, but it’s more of who to drop between Milner and Henderson. One could argue Henderson would be the easiest to drop from the midfield right now, but would Milner be any better? I think we saw last season that a midefield combination of Hendo and Milner can be a bit too predictable and ordinary. But Milner had the most assists last season and Henderson is the captain, so who do you drop?
Which leads me to my question. Liverpool cannot win the league this season but challenging for the title and top 4 is realisic. I’m not sure why I have a soft spot for Milner but seeing him unhappy on the bench this season would be tough to watch. So would you rather we got a new left back and had to deal with such a devastating sight of seeing poor Milner on the bench despite his last season heroics ? Or give Milner at least one more season of constant football and still finish in the same position anyway?
I appreciate your article on Jordan Henderson, he genuinely was one of the best players on the pitch and his goal was quite good.
However, in an infinite period of time, an infinite number of monkeys can write the works of shakespeare.
Fat Man Scouse, EFC (what are Hendersons shooting stats? 1 in how many?)
Chelsea deserved a draw
I was at Stamford Bridge for Friday night football, which is excellent for fans as most do not have to worry about work the next day.
I wanted to put forward a few observations, Kante is incredible and what a good signing he is.
Liverpool looked great early on, they moved the ball quickly, pressed all of the Chelsea players quickly and looked to win every second ball. Why can’t we get this Liverpool Lallana playing like this for England?
However let’s not kid ourselves, bar a couple of defensive relapses(David Luiz was not at Fault) the match deserved to be a draw. Liverpool are fragile, but play well in spells.
The Chelsea players lack movement off the ball and therefore rarely stretch opposition defences. Oscar and Willian are excellent footballers but they do not move enough when not in possession.
What a pleasure it was to see David Luiz back, we loved him when he joined, we loved him when he left and we love him even more now that he has returned. You have to remember, we only sold because we were offered ridiculous money for him. He was excellent at the back, he hoofed it away when he needed to, he moved the ball quickly, he moved into space and told players where to be. The problem is, with JT out Gary Cahill and Ivanovic should be the senior defenders and should definitely not be commanded by a player on debut. (It still counts as a debut)
I like Gary Cahill but he is too slow now, he doesn’t have the leadership qualities to be the main CB and oh my word, the way he picked out Henderson for that screamer, I think he should be given an assist.
Have a good weekend guys
Here’s hoping there’s space for this after the important Wayne Rooney debate.
*How was everyone else’s Sunday? Mine was my wedding anniversary, so we had a trip to the cinema, tea in the pub, and in between, Crystal Palace tore Stoke a new bumhole.
Palace were magnificent, and Stoke barely got a sniff. They couldn’t cope with the pace and trickery of Wilf Zaha and Andros Townsend, so resorted to fouling them, and then couldn’t defend at set pieces. Palace’s first and third goals came via the same route – Zaha fouled on the right, Townsend takes a free kick, poor defending is capitalised on.
Palace are generally good for one of these every year – two seasons ago Yannick Bolasie scored a hat-trick as they beat Sunderland 4-1, and last year the Eagles gave Steve McClaren’s Newcastle a 5-1 shoeing. It’s come earlier this time, so everyone can rest easy until next season.
*I’m writing this ahead of seeing what F365 have published, but I’d be surprised if the Early Loser was neither Wayne Rooney nor Mark Hughes. Hughes is in serious trouble. His comments after the game talked about breakdowns in man-marking at set pieces, but the ease with which, for example, Scott Dann was able to free himself to score his goal, is worrying. Looking at the replay, there was little in the way of subterfuge, he just ran in an arc and his marker didn’t go with him. It’s not even as if Stoke were robbed by a harsh decision, they were regularly undone by a team whose style of play is blatantly signposted, and the sort of play the Potters used to deal with routinely. Hughes has some massive problems to solve, many of which lay at his door, but whether or not he will see them as his responsibility remains to be seen. One of the best comments anyone has ever made on F365 was describing Hughes as the sort of person who would soil himself and blame you for the smell.
*If Hughes might be an Early Loser, then Andros Townsend could easily be the Early Winner. While less high profile than other teams and players to take the field this weekend, he was absolutely tremendous yesterday and Stoke couldn’t handle him. As much as his style used to be “run down the right, drop his shoulder, cut in and shoot”, well, he still does that, but he does it from the left as well. Townsend, Zaha and Jason Puncheon (with his 96% pass completion rate) were a constant, buzzing menace to Stoke, interchanging positions in the space the City defence afforded them behind Christian Benteke.
*A word for James McArthur, too, this week playing in defensive midfield rather than at number ten. He fully deserved his goal, and while it took a huge deflection off Geoff Cameron, the turn that sold two defenders down the river and created space for a shot, was worthy of far more heralded players.
*A couple of weeks ago I suggested that after the Bournemouth game would have been the ideal time to get rid of Alan Pardew, should the club have wanted to, given the run of fixtures following the international break. As it was, he stayed, and we have taken six points from the last two games, catapulting us to 13th-from-bottom in the Premier League. Up next for the Eagles is Southampton away in the EFL Cup, and then Sunderland away in the league. Two more games against teams not yet in their best form, in which we have to think we can get a result.
*Garth Crooks has put Scott Dann in his team of the week. Sadly for Mediawatch, it’s at centre-back rather than on the wing.
And more weekend thoughts
*Based on the first five games, it’s almost impossible to imagine Burnley surviving with this squad. By putting an extra man in midfield, they held a Champions-League-hungover Leicester for 45 minutes, then got torn apart much the way it happened at Chelsea. As for the Foxes, nice brace for Islam Slimani, but don’t expect him to be a target man: he won only one of nine aerial duels against the Burnley back line.
*Plenty of good criticisms of Antonio Conte in the mailbox, and hopefully here’s another. Last year at Leicester, N’Golo Kante took only 18 shots outside the box all season. This year he’s already taken six, which would put him on pace for 45 for the year. Conte appears to have given him license to shoot – which is madness. None of last year’s 18 went in, and only four even hit the target. This year he hasn’t hit the target yet. He’s just not useful in that role, and one hopes Conte will realize it soon.
*Clear man-of-the-match performance at The Hawthorns from Nacer Chadli, including a classic Lung-Busting Run™ for his second goal. My apologies to Matt Stead for saying he overrated the former Spurs man.
*Liverpool may have won at Stamford Bridge, but the real heavy metal game was played back on Merseyside. Middlesbrough turned the volume up to eleven, pressing Everton all over the pitch. The home side answered in kind, and it was Iron Maiden and Judas Priest all over again. Really a brilliant gig from the men in blue, too. With Gana on drums, Bolasie on bass, and Lukaku doing lead guitar and vocals, they might tour Europe next year.
*Don’t be fooled by the 1:0 scoreline: Southampton absolutely battered Swansea at St. Mary’s. Dusan Tadic was different class all afternoon, and fits perfectly into Claude Puel’s system, either on the right or at the point of a diamond. Charlie Austin’s play over the last week should be enough to get him a starting role.
*All I want for Christmas is for DC United to sign Kevin DeBruyne.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
And even more
*Sunderland are absolutely abject. I mean hilariously bad. That defensive partnership of Djilobodji and Kone just makes former defenders such as myself feel like crying. Moyes keeps going into every game with a “must not lose” mindset but the problem is that the squad is full of players who are simply not good enough (Hi Cattermole!), or players who aren’t half-arsed about the final result.
*Mourinho really needs to take a sabbatical like Pep and Ancelotti did to rediscover his mojo. You might say this is a kneejerk reaction to three losses on the spin but even when they beat the likes of Bournemouth and Hull, it was evident that Jose has not raised the level of this star-studded (plus Fellaini) team to where it should be. For those who might say he needs time to raise their level, look how long it has taken Guardiola and Koeman to improve their new players’ performances.
*Someone please rescue Pickford in January.
*I’ve been reading recently that Rooney is not to blame for the below average performances of the entire team in recent games. I agree with that but it is also important to realise that the team will be better off without him shoehorned into the starting XI. He does not really do anything of note in or around the opposition box. Considering this is his actual job as a striker, what is the use playing him?
*More attention will be focused on Stoke and their latest 4 goal gift to their opponents but I think Slaven Bilic has even more reason to worry. Stoke have conceded to Tottenham and Palace but West Ham have conceded 4 goals in consecutive weeks to the free-scoring attacking juggernauts that are West Brom and Watford.
*Chelsea need to gain more control of midfield as their attack is too reliant on their wide players. If only they had a creative central midfielder (preferably Spanish) who holds an extensive range of passing and is excellent at retaining possession.
*Finally, I am very impressed with recent Arsenal performances. Fans have been criticizing their below standard performances in every other game other than the Watford and Hull matches. However, as someone pointed out recently, Ferguson used to win titles with the likes of O’Shea, Fletcher and Nani. This may sound stupid but those 7/10 performances from Arsenal will eventually amount to more total points than Man City/Chelsea/Liverpool/Man Utd providing 9/10 performances mixed with 3/10 performances. Besides, Arsenal have finished fourth, third and second respectively in the last three seasons so it only logically follows that Wenger will win the title this season.
Greg Tric, Nairobi, Kenya.
Top, top punditry
Steve McManaman: “I’ve got absolutely no problem with it”.
Glenn Hoddle: “The keeper’s gotta be stronger there”
Is it ok to charge head first into a goalkeeper as he collects the ball mid-air and force him to knock it into his own net? I’m pretty sure it’s not. I was mid-writing this (sad I know) when Ashley Williams charged at Valdes with his studs at head-height and forced an almost identical error.
Both clear fouls, especially when watched back at 237 different angles. Natural for a ref to make a mistake (though two in quick succession is pretty poor form). What is really disappointing here though, and someone wrote in about this just this week, is the diabolical standard of punditry in this country, notably the ex-pro fraternity (or the ‘PFMs’ as John Nicholson would say). Ultimately it’s a relatively minor complaint, but it does highlight a lack of intelligence in our ex-players, which invariably leads to a lack of intelligence in the average watching fan. The trickle down effect is pretty severe; just listen to the drivel spouted down your local for evidence, or indeed stand on the sidelines at any amateur youth match. Watching articulate players from foreign shores explain the game in intricate detail really does put our home-growns to shame. It feels like until our ‘lads lads lads’ culture is up heaved and a more intelligent approach adopted, we are doomed to produce generations of dumb footballers, then dumb pundits, then dumb footballers… ad infinitum.
Whilst on the subject; John N criticised Howard Webb this week for being a tad cowardly when amongst ‘the boys’. Not only did he agree with their nonsense on the first goal, he also remarked that Lee Mason was never going to disallow the second goal as “Goodison is the toughest ground to referee” and “He was always going to even it out”. Laws of the game and all that eh?
Wubblepig (Whinge whinge fu*king whinge), Thailand.
Trailing 0-1. Decides to make substitution. Game changing?
Nope McNair on for denayer in the 90th minute. What the actual f**k was that about.
Sood CFC (funnier than Chelsea losing, that’s for sure)
Obviously the big talking point of the weekend would be Gareth Barry’s 600th appearance? And to cap it off with a goal was well! A true gent, and one of those players who you don’t appreciate until he’s actually playing for your team. Good to see him still kicking on. What a legend, who’s impact and contribution to helping us break our trophy drought, tearing down that banner in the process, won’t be forgotten anytime soon by City fans!
– Martin Todoroski MCFC
More mature or less passionate?
Becoming more mature or less passionate?
I am 27 now and I have been watching football for over 13 years. My weekends are not complete without watching a couple of games of Premier League football. Weekend plans always revolve around the PL schedule.
Every victory of the club i support (Chelsea) led to a great mood and every loss made me grumpy and irritable. Every Chelsea loss made my dread meeting people the next day. Correspondingly, every time other teams such as Man Utd, Arsenal, etc. lost, I would rile up their fans.
Of late, the results of football games do not impact my life that much. I still watch games eagerly every weekend and still try to plan my weekends around the games. However, the happiness at every victory is only momentary and every loss is met by a meh and i move on quickly.
I am confused. Does this make me more mature or less passionate
Does anyone else feel this way
Chelsea fan, India
I would like to thank you all. A few years ago I sent my first admission into the mailbox. Then another, another and another.
This ignited in me what I’ve always wanted to become; a sports writer.
I have always loved football and the English language and sites yours have allowed me to merge those two loves together.
I have been writing for 2 fan based sports websites for the last 2 years and have decided to take the plunge.
Today I am attending my 1st class in what will be a 4 year journalism course.
I’m 27, my wife and I had our 1st child 5 months ago, and I just got a promotion in a very high stress job ( I must be f*cking mental!!).
Wish me luck! Who’s to say that in 4 years time I may be sitting in F365 towers making jokes about 1% saying Frank Lampard and #50 being Phil Neville. A man can dream.
Thank you F365.
Joe Dublin LFC (Thank you to John Nicholson also for his kind words and great advice to me.)