It’s been a strong start to the week. Let’s keep it up: Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t judge Klopp next season either
I fully agree with a lot of what Sarah Winterburn said in her article 7/10 leaders. Solid players, solid mentality, solid work rate, solid fitness levels. But seriously lacking that spark. Coutinho, Firmino and Sturridge are excellent. They have a great creative eye, and more, they also have the touch to accompany that eye. But you need more than just a solid base behind that. For all his flaws, Steven Gerrard was capable of playing in any position on a football pitch. That also meant he had an incredible understanding of each, and an ability to link it together. Our current crop don’t have that. Emre Can is the closest we’ve got. But he really needs to stop trying to do a Steven Gerrard impersonation, and start making the right decisions. He is young and so gets a free pass at the minute, but watching him for any length of time is getting increasingly frustrating. He repeatedly misplaces ‘Hollywood’ passes, when the simple pass was the correct ball (more doing an Adam Lallana impersonation perhaps?).
However, Sarah has fallen into the standard trap. We all know Liverpool need a new keeper. He did not make amends. He made maybe one top save, the others were routine. After getting out of the way of the ball for the first goal. As the article implies of a captain’s performance, par is not enough in a cup final.
Our defence needs patching. Though, I am hopeful that a partnership of Sakho and Joel Matip could look after this. Then as you have mentioned a rebuilding of midfield is needed. But to quote Sarah ‘next season he will be judged on his own team’s recovery from extensive summer surgery’. Remember when we ‘did a Spurs’ with the Suarez money? Remember when Spurs ‘did a Spurs’ with the Bale money? Seven or so players brought in, who took time to gel and develop. Look at Spurs now for God’s sake.
So if Liverpool require the same levels of upgrade, how can next season be judgement day? This is standard overreaction. Jurgen Klopp will not have become a bad coach in a year and a half. If anything three or four solid signings this summer and allowing them to settle, to learn their way and to hopefully improve the team. The following summer maybe two or three players to do the same. That is how you build a team. You will absolutely not make a team who on par are a 7th/8th place finisher, into a team who are a par top-four finisher in one transfer window. It isn’t possible.
So to all the journalists, including, it appears, the usually excellent 365 journalists, let’s not set Klopp up for a fall in his first full season. Let us all enjoy the fact that next year some of the top coaches in world football are managing the clubs that we support. Let them do their job. And don’t tell us that if Klopp doesn’t get top four next season he is a failure. Frankly that is utter nonsense.
Adam, LFC, Belfast
…As sure as night follows day, calls for a squad overhaul follow a Liverpool defeat. Yes, we lost yesterday and yes, our penalties were a bit pants (With the obvious exception of a cheeky opener from Can) – but can we stop pretending like replacing half of the players would have anything other than a detrimental impact on the team? Chemistry, team spirit and togetherness are just as important as individual player ability – just look at Danny Rose’s comments today.
Whilst we’re on Spurs is it worth considering that given another year or two, Klopp, like Pochettino, can make his mark on the team, developing fitness & mentality whilst adding the odd signing here and there?
Throwing £20-30m at players left right and centre hasn’t worked for Liverpool in the past, it isn’t going to work now.
Paul M, LFC
Coutinho is basically Luis Garcia
Liverpool currently look like a bit of a mess, don’t they? What I find interesting is that it’s such a mess that no-one can seemingly agree on what the issues are. Some will tell you that our defence is useless, others think it’s the midfield. Wait, no, it’s the attack. At least most people appear to be in agreement that the goalkeeper department is an issue. Of course, my initial statement should be taken with a pinch of salt. It could be worse; but it could also be a damned sight better.
Sarah Winterburn’s piece highlighted part of the problem, but only a minor part, in my opinion. Quite frankly, a midfielder who touches the ball a lot but doesn’t do or try anything memorable is the least of Liverpool’s worries. Where I thought Sarah went too far is when she stated the opinion that playing Henderson and Milner in the same team would represent failure on Klopp’s behalf. It probably needed the qualification of ‘as a central midfield pairing’.
This may be controversial, but I think that if a first-choice Liverpool team contains Coutinho and Firmino next season, that would represent failure. I should point out that I don’t believe those two are the only guilty parties, only that they are the prime exponents of a problem that runs deep throughout the team. They think they’re better than they really are. You can lump Sakho, Moreno and Can in there as well, and maybe Sturridge.
Top-level football in this country has long been an exercise in risk management – he who makes the fewest mistakes, wins, generally speaking. It then follows that football is a game dictated by rules, rather than exceptions. When over half of your team plays to the rule of trying the exceptional, the result is yesterday’s performance. Never has a penalty shoot-out typified a team so well. Half trying to be too clever, and one getting found out. The other half trying hard but lacking the quality. All against the backdrop of the suspicion that the best men for the job were conspicuous by their absence.
The collection of players on the field for Liverpool yesterday didn’t even have a semblance of being a team. The full-backs were isolated every time they received the ball, and the players tasked with providing quality and penetration were too busy attempting self-indulgent tricks and flicks, ignoring the basic requirement of moving the ball from A to B. It was noticeable that Liverpool were better when they brought Origi on. Limited, but willing to do the basics.
Prime case in point is Coutinho. Why is Sergio Aguero a better player than him? Is it because he’s simply more naturally talented? It’s arguable, but it’s not immediately obvious that he is. The main distinction is that while Coutinho is d**king around with the ball and trying something that probably won’t work, Aguero is busy moving the ball to a team-mate and moving into space. His final product is something with a high probability of success. Don’t get me wrong, Coutinho is wonderful footballer, and when it comes off, it gets us off our seats. It’s this that leads us to believe he’s a special talent that is beyond reproach, happily ignoring the rest. The reality is that he’s just Luis Garcia. Occasionally brilliant, but predominantly infuriatingly wasteful.
On top of that, we have Emre Can strutting around like he’s Steven Gerrard (he’s not, and he never will be), Moreno thinking he’s Roberto Carlos (he’s not), and Sakho… well I’m at the point that I just don’t know what Sakho is thinking. I have to assume that Klopp is aware of this, and is therefore trying to remedy the situation. If it continues, then there comes a time where he has to get ruthless. Fans will tune in to watch truly special players as individuals. Liverpool don’t have one of those players. It’s about time someone told them.
Just wanted to drop a line about something I noticed from this weekend’s football that hasn’t been mentioned in the inevitable outpourings of grief from Arsenal and Liverpool fans, joy from United fans and a Spurs fan showing the kind of arrogance they’ve always criticised Arsenal fans for having.
When Toure scored the decisive spot kick in the cup final yesterday, the TV coverage showed the reactions of the players at halfway. As per usual (and understandably) the majority of City fans jumped for joy and ran off to celebrate with Yaya and Caballero. Not Vincent Kompany. He immediately went to start shaking hands with the Liverpool players.
Kompany is one of the reasons it’s hard to really dislike City.
Wenger and his infuriating loyalty
Wenger’s loyalty to mediocre players is the single reason why Arsenal capitulate year after year. Don’t ever think that he doesn’t know that Walcott, Ramsey, Chamberlain etc don’t cut the mustard, even Wenger can’t pretend not to see that When Fabregas and Van Persie left Arsenal they had a huge impact on Wenger, he now values loyalty over actual results on the football pitch. Diaby and Rosicky are the extreme examples, we had them on our books for years with absolutely no benefit to Arsenal.
Wenger didn’t buy Higuain because he thought Giroud was better. He didn’t buy him because he knew he couldn’t keep both of them happy, invariably one would become starter and the other wouldn’t be happy keeping the bench warm. Now, this might sound very sensible but from Arsenal and an Arsenal fan’s point of view – why should we care? Whoever became the starter would have done so on merit and it would have been to the benefit of Arsenal. Right now every single mediocre player on our books is more important than Arsenal Football Club. Chamberlain’s England prospects are more important. Walcott’s delusion that he can England’s striker is more important. Ramsey fulfilling his potential is more important. You can be guaranteed that Wenger passed on several very capable right-wingers because he already had loyal bodies to fill the spot.
People said that Ozil was lazy and uninterested. I always disagreed, he’s just a realist. He deserves much better than this group of over-inflated wastrels and he’s well aware of it. Same with Sanchez. Arsenal need cleared out from top to bottom. I’m not a Wenger Out man but it’s time to close the chapter on the Wenger era, roll the dice and hope to be in a better place in five years.
SC, Belfast (at least our defenders got pulled off for the goals) AFC
Arsenal will win the double
Why? Because life’s like that, that’s why. And because money always wins in the end and the three big money boys have already left it too late. This is the time of year when one of them simply stops dropping points. Chelski are doing that already but have left it too late to mount a serious challenge. However awful Arse looked on Sunday, once Barcelona have handed them their arses again, they will toughen up and win all their remaining games.
Tottenham and Leicester look good right now, I grant you, and both have shown extraordinary resilience but Tottenham’s season would collapse like a house of cards if Alderweireld and/or Eriksen and/or Alli got injured. We don’t have the squad depth. For them, read Kante and/or Morgan and/or Mahrez at Leicester, who in any other situation I would be cheering for like crazy.
Even I now believe that Tottenham will qualify for the CL, but it will be soured by Arsenal limping over the line. Life is meaningless and everything dies.
Andrew Warmington, THFC
Just loving this season
Having read this morning’s mailbox it really made me hope that I never end up as jaded and angry as Arsenal fans. They’re challenging for a title with a very realistic chance of winning it yet they’re tearing their hair out, berating the manager, along with some of the players. It’s astonishing. Contrast that to the Spurs fans who are loving every moment of this title race. I know Leicester get all the fairytale talk and rightly so but I’m 41 years old and have never known Spurs challenge for the title. It’s wonderful. I remember a Leicester fan earlier in the season saying he couldn’t believe what was happening and how he just sat there with a huge grin watching the games. It’s exactly the same at Spurs.
I’m devouring every article, listening to every radio discussion, even watching the pundits on MOTD to see what they’re saying about this wonderful Spurs team. If we’d lost yesterday there’d have been no criticism of the team, no recriminations, the same as if we lose on Wednesday or even Saturday to Arsenal. It’s an amazing ride and I’m living every minute of it. Whatever happens from now to the end of the season, the players and the manager have given us a wonderful time.
I’m guessing our rivals fans don’t particularly want advice from a Spurs fan but I’m going to give it anyway. You have no more right than us or Leicester to win the league and on evidence you’re no better than us so be thankful for the fact you seem to have a shot at it still. Basically, try and enjoy it you idiots otherwise what’s the point?
David (Loving it, loving it, loving it)
Some questions from a Spurs fan
– After a month and a half with no goals, and suffering the ignominy of being dropped for Theo Still-No-Idea-What-He-Actually-Does Walcott in perhaps the biggest game of their season to date, do all the Arsenal fans still believe Giroud is good enough to win them the title?
– Liverpool have a good chance of beating City on Wednesday. If they do, and Man Utd win, suddenly Utd are level on points. With the manager on the way out, will they have the stomach for a dogfight?
– £50m for Sterling has always been ridiculous: his penchant for missing simply one-on-ones alone mean he should never have been worth anywhere close to that. What exactly did Citeh see in him to suggest otherwise?
– The past few weeks for Spurs have seen two winners hit by full-backs, substitutes making significant contributions to late goals, and the loss of Vertonghen not even felt a little bit due to the form of his replacement. When one player drops off, there is always another ready to step up. Is there another team in the league who can say the same?
– Leicester obviously come close, and although they seem to rely on fewer match-winners, they also have the habit of finding something from somewhere. Kirit’s mail could equally have been describing Leicester, but I feel Spurs have a little bit of extra quality to make impacts all over the pitch, and I’m starting to bel…actually, never mind that. But who would have guessed that the two teams with the best mental fortitude in the league would be nearly relegated Leicester and conceded 53 goals in a season Spurs?
Alex G, THFC
City, Chelsea and United have all faltered beyond comparison, yet the fact that Arsenal may still end up third or worse even with those teams having such a poor season by their standards, is probably the funniest yet saddest thing about this season.
Here’s to endless laughs at the Arsenal’s expense.
Sari Samman (Cheers boys)
I think the biggest injury miss for Arsenal this season has been Cazorla. He is the one player (apart from if Ozil was missing) that we just don’t have a suitable replacement for.
Ignoring the fact that he is a magnificent player and just a joy to watch (the most two-footed player to ever play in the Premier League?) he does a job in the centre that nobody else on our team can do.
The rise of Coquelin was a fantastic thing, but he was able to do what he did because he was playing with Cazorla. They were a perfect partnership and it’s no coincidence that Coquelin has not look anywhere near as good since he returned. Ramsay just can’t do the same job. Even though he does have good feet and a great engine, he doesn’t have the vision or the quick burst of pace of Cazorla.
So many of our attacks break down when Ramsay gets the ball because he can’t see the right early pass and ends up holding onto it too long. I’m not sure where Ramsay fits in our team but I’m not sure it’s in deep central midfield. If anything Wilshere at his best (like he was at end of last season) is probably the best replacement for Cazorla but it just happens that they are our two long-term injured players. Apart from Rosicky who would probably be the next best replacement!
So until we get Cazorla back, I don’t see our form improving much, which I’m afraid will mean a title for Leicester, City or Spurs. And if had to put any money on it, I’m sad to say it would be Spurs.
Adonis (Leaving Walcott out of the team would also help quite a bit) Stevenson, AFC
Time for change at Arsenal…but who?
Tony Blair learned from previous Prime Ministers who’d outstayed their welcome by stepping down as his powers were diminishing and letting Gordon Brown take over. I now hope that Wenger will do the same (although not with someone like Gordon Brown), although I really can’t see it happen. At the start of the season, when Jurgen Klopp became available I really hoped he’d be coming in to take over from Wenger as his capacity to instil belief and strength into attacking teams would have made him ideal to take us to the next level. Unfortunately he went to Liverpool. Then, Pep Guardiola said he was coming to the Premier League. He’d always had a shine for us as a club and so I’d hoped he might be lining himself for a move our way. Alas, let down again.
So what now? I think it is clear he has to go but if it’s at the end of the season then how will that leave us? Ozil is a magnificent player but he’ll be off if Wenger stays. The key will be finding the right man to come in. I wonder therefore whether there is anyone who other Gooners think should come in to replace Wenger? Now my personal favourite would be Diego Simeone but I can’t see it happening. We ought to have acquired Pochetino two years ago but that train has also sailed.
JazGooner (once the manager is in then let’s go all out for Pogba)
…Nothing sums up my feelings today better than this on Arsenal fans. I realise it’s just another season for Arsenal, and just another loss against United, and just another failed title bid, but this time it feels different. I genuinely feel like giving up on them entirely and supporting my local team (Wrexham…)
We may still seize this (unbelievably) good opportunity to win the league, and if that’s the case then this mail (and many others) will seem silly. But it just doesnt feel like we are going to.
We will get mullered against spurs if we play twice as well as we did yesterday.
I’m almost hoping for a replay loss and a fourth place. I love Wenger but please. Its like my mum keeping that stupid cat alive five years longer than everyone said to.
Wenger out – Pellegrini (or Simeone/Poch/Mourinho/Bilic/me) in.
Stu (the cat would have got more out of the team yesterday than Wenger) AFC
Where will this summer leave Arsenal?
Let’s just imagine the summer for a moment.
City get Pep. Chelsea get Conte. Both teams invest.
Man U get Jose or LvG decides to be decent. Spurs invest in some depth, keep up that fighting spirit and professionalism. Liverpool have a summer of Klopp transfers. Leicester do…well, whatever it this they’ll do. But rest assured they’ll go into next season eager to not be one hit wonders.
If Ozil and Sanchez decide they’ve had enough of Arsenal and move on, and Bellerin has his head turned by Barca…can anybody see Arsenal finishing top four next season? Can anybody see it even if those three players are still there?
Witness the fitness
I see Poch has referred to some of our buys as ‘a little bit tired’ and, working in Highbury, this has resulted in much comment from the many Gooners in my office that the wheels are just about to come off our title race by being too reliant on the likes of Kane, Lloris, Alderweireld and Alli.
The assumption from many about the inability to play in multiple competitions over a season without succumbing to fatigue is one that puzzles me however.
I play five-a-side once a week. We play for about an hour and a half (until they turn the floodlights off) and so it’s a pretty intense work-out. Sure I feel knackered afterwards, and (occasional petty knocks aside) sometimes I feel a bit sore the next day but within a few days I can honestly say I would not be able to tell if I played or not.
Now before anyone jumps down my throat and assumes I’m trying to liken myself to a professional top-level footballer let me state a few facts:
1) I am 42.
2) I have an office job where I sit down for at least 90% of my working day and when I get home, apart from once a week, I vegetate on the sofa for the night.
3) I pay little attention to my diet (I regularly eat McDonalds for lunch, regularly have restaurant/ takeaway dinners, pub Sunday roasts etc. I also drink well over my recommended weekly intake of alcohol.
4) Apart from the football I rarely do any other exercise apart from running for the occasional train/bus.
1) They are on average almost (or in the case of Spurs at least) half my age.
2) They spend all day, almost every non-match day, being trained by an extensive team of doctors, physios and other professionals whose job it is to condition them to peak fitness for the season.
3) They are fed and watered, at least while present with the rest of the squad, with a diet that is professionally prepared to take into account their physical demands.
I guess the only thing I personally have in common with a professional top-level footballer therefore is that we’re human but is it really that crazy for them to be able to play, on average over a season, 50-75 odd games over a successful ten-month season?
We’re talking (doing the math off the top of my head) maybe an average of one game every five-ish days…and that is assuming the club they’re signed to is relatively successful in every cup competition and that the player in question plays all of every available game.
I’m not suggesting that our players are not fit enough, or that Poch is wrong, but are we really asking too much (physically) of our modern footballers?
Tarren, THFC, Hackney
The joy of Rashford
Amidst the gloriously groundhog-dayish lamentations of Arsenal fans as another season collapses into mediocrity in early Spring, and the continued over-analysis of everything that happens and doesn’t happen at Old Trafford, it’s worth celebrating the basic and uncomplicated joy that Marcus Rashford has brought in a fairly depressing season.
For entirely valid reasons, most United fans of a certain vintage and background feel that the club’s identity has been subsumed by two decades of commercialisation, brand development, and commoditisation, and the Glazer ownership. A genuine Mancunian, from the same youth club as Wesley and Danny Welbeck, at the club since primary school, called unexpectedly onto the bench, and then into the first team after a warm-up injury, who then scores crucial goals in an Old Trafford European comeback, and a couple of days later scores another brace against Arsenal. Who is clearly loving every minute of playing and scoring at Old Trafford, and who gave a brilliantly dry and Mancunian interview after the Arsenal match.
We probably won’t finish fourth or win the Europa League, we probably won’t be rid of the Glazers for a few years, and the club will still be run as a cash cow with the academy neglected. But for once, it really is nice to remember why we fell in love with football, enjoy a moment for its own pleasure, and take pleasure in a local teenager living out a dream. Old Trafford actually felt like Old Trafford on Sunday, for the first time in far too long.
…After years of being spoilt by success, the last 2-3 years as a Manchester United fan have taught me to really appreciate any positive moments in football, no matter how small or ultimately inconsequential – Evra’s blast against Munich, Mata’s scissor-kick against Liverpool, the 4-2 against City last season, for example.
I’ve just had one of those very small, but very enjoyable moments – taking Aguero out of my fantasy team and replacing him with Marcus Rashford. Go on lad.
Dan, (and yes I am aware that I’ve now ruined his entire career with the inevitable Fantasy Football jinx) Brighton
One of many on Real Socidead
James, I’ll take your bet against history repeating itself. Mainly because it didn’t happen. The Galacticos of Madrid won the league, Sociedad finished second. And their best player then went to Liverpool the year after. Apart from that, cool story very romantic, maybe you can get Tom Hardy to play the role of Xabi Alonso in your remake? Be a La Liga version of Inglourius Basterds.