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Mesut and tie
Today I clicked onto F365 as I do every lunchtime and nearly spat out my sandwich when I saw your Mailbox headline “Ozil only omitted because he’s Arsenal“. I know I’m a Spurs fan and I’m probably going to get ripped apart for saying this but maybe he’s not in the PFA Team of the Year because he’s not been very good? Horrah for the most assists! How about consistency, creativity, leadership, etc? I think the players who got into the team show all of these qualities whereas Ozil hasn’t necessarily throughout the course of the season.
Also, on a completely unrelated note, I noticed that your poll about the best Man United winger is showing 0% for all the players. No joke! Does that mean the answer is “none of them”? See attached – I promise I did not make it in Photoshop!
Theo (Come on Spurs let’s do this), Enfield
The reasons Ozil isn’t in the PFA team are as follows;
The formation picked was 4-4-2.
Best holding midfielder in the league (if not Europe) is Kante – no exceptions.
Ali has had a better season than Ozil – fact.
The other midfield places went to wingers – makes sense if you’re picking the best player for each position rather than the best 4 overall midfielders.
Hope this clears up your concerns/questions
Gary C (London)
It is probably true that if Ozil played for Leicester or Tottenham he would be in the, oh so important, PFA bestest team ever of this year. If this was the case he would have broken the records you mention already as he would be part of a good team that is challenging for the title. Like Payet he might be included if he was single-handedly dragging a mediocre team to great heights.
He’s not though. He’s playing well in a team that have “challenged” for 4th place again. Maybe next year will be his year?
Ruben (growing the wings of a sparrow) THFC
With the announcement of the PFA team of the year, the question has to be asked – “Is Mesut Ozil underrated?”
I’m not really sure what he has to do to get recognition in England. From what I can tell, there are three main criticisms aimed at Ozil.
Assist don’t matter/They can mean anything
The argument is that it could be a simple pass and the scorer did all the work. True. But then how come its always the same guy giving that final ball to create the chance?
He doesn’t dominate games enough
The above is simply not true. He’s got the highest assist rate in the league with 18, substantially higher than second place Eriksen on 12 and double that of PFA team of the year player, Payet. In fact, if we look at a comparison between Ozil, Ali, Payet and Mahrez for chances created, successful passes, key passes, assists and goals, the only category that he doesn’t come in first for is goals – which he makes up for in creating for everyone else. Nor does the argument that he’s dropped in form since New Years hold any water. He’s created 51 chances since then, Arsenal’s rubbish strikers have just got worse in that period.
If the above isn’t enough to convince you that he dominates opposition, as an example, ask a Bournemouth fan how they felt on Boxing Day.
He doesn’t turn up for big games
Again, just not true. This year he has scored or assisted in each of the matches against the current top 6 as well as Bayern Munich. It’s a lazy argument levelled at big name players by fans looking to to undermine the fee paid. Fact is, Ozil loves the big games.
All the above leads me to think that either people simply don’t watch Ozil play and jump on the bandwagon with lazy assessments or they just don’t like Ze Germans.
Aryeh (Hoping Ozil Doesn’t Leave Us), AFC, Tel Aviv
Arsenal tickets are too cheap
What I am about to say is not the case for all Arsenal fans, clearly, nor is it based on anything other than my own observations, but some Arsenal tickets are too cheap. Hear me out.
I’m a (long) exiled Mancunian living down South and I know lots of Arsenal fans. For some of them, not all by any stretch of the imagination but for a decent number, the tickets are cheap enough in comparison to what they earn so that missing a game is not really a problem. Spending money on a season ticket to only watch maybe 12 or so of the bigger games – West Brom on a Thursday not being one of them – isn’t an issue. I am sure if you speak with some Arsenal fans they will tell you that there are plenty of City types and wealthy fans for whom the tickets are not too expensive. In some ways, for these people, tickets are not expensive enough to make it feel painful to miss a game so they pick and choose.
I know Arsenal are one of the better clubs when it comes to trying to find ways of fans getting hold of season tickets that are not being used via their ticket exchange, but that is only applicable to games that are sold out – not sure it would have helped against West Brom. Anyway, I don’t know this for sure, it is not a particularly nice way of looking at things and I don’t really have an answer, but I am confident that for a fair few Arsenal fans I’m right. Be interesting to hear what Arsenal fans think?
Andreas Hunter, St Albans
Happenings at Watford
Interesting mail from Steve Paget, Cork in this morning’s mailbox. Somewhere in there is a valid point but I feel like he’s gone a bit over the top with it, especially with his views on Watford. I’m reasonably confident that Steve isn’t a Watford fan and hasn’t seen too much of them this season, so he’s seen the headlines – 7 changes, no Deeney or Ighalo – and assumed Watford fielded 10 amateurs and Heurelho Gomes.
I’m a Watford fan, and this email has prompted me not only to reply in relation to Wednesday’s game but also to try and sum up the last few months. Firstly, the line-up on Wednesday wasn’t as weak as some would have you believe, and was actually quite close to what many Watford fans have been wanting to see recently. It’s difficult to pick Watford’s first choice XI at the moment because Flores has chopped and changed so much since Christmas, but obviously Gomes is first choice, and the same goes for Cathcart, while Prodl and Holebas at least started the season as first choice too. Holebas is almost certainly second choice behind Ake now but he’s still a Greek international and former Roma player. He’s no mug. Meanwhile most Watford fans would still rather see Prodl than Britos alongside Cathcart. Midfield is especially difficult to name the first choice from the reserves, but Abdi, Jurado, Guedioura, Behrami and Suarez have 28, 23, 15, 21 and 11 league appearances respectively this season. Suarez was only signed in January and has featured in every game since.
I guess up front is where the headline news was, with Deeney and Ighalo both being left out. Deeney was clearly being rested, and was brought on when we were chasing the game. Ighalo, on the other hand, just hasn’t been very good since the turn of the year, and it was about time he was taken out of the squad. Maybe he’s fatigued and needed the day off, but it’s been quite the drop in form for a player who was the highest scorer in England’s top four divisions for the calendar year in 2015. He’s only scored one league goal in 2016.
I have already alluded to Watford’s startling drop in form since the start of 2016 and some of the factors that have contributed to it, but I’d like to go into a little more detail. Many observers from the outside will look to the form of Ighalo and Deeney as the main reason, but I think their drop in form is a direct result of some of the tactical decisions Flores has been making. In the first half of the season we had a very settled team, a clear first choice XI and well-defined tactics. We played a narrow 4-4-2 with the strikers taking it in turns to drop into midfield in order to press the ball, and hard-working but talented wide men – Abdi, Jurado or Anya. Then we hit the busy Christmas schedule and Flores tried to make use of his large squad to keep everyone fit and sharp. Unfortunately, the second string players hadn’t played enough football and weren’t sharp enough, so we had a poor run. Nothing to worry about though; we’re still ahead of expectations and once the busy schedule was over we could revert to our previous line-up and tactics. Except we didn’t. The signing of Mario Suarez was a little strange. He’s obviously a good player but he plays in a position where we weren’t short of options. It seems like he became available and we signed him because we could, rather than because we needed to. That gave Flores a headache because he wanted to play Suarez but not drop Capoue or Watson, so he ended up playing three defensive midfielders. That, in turn, has led to situations where we’re either playing someone out of position, or playing a formation which doesn’t suit our players. Unsurprisingly, the creativity has dried up and the strikers simply aren’t getting as many chances.
It’s a strange situation to be in as a Watford fan, because when you look at the season as a whole we’ve achieved our targets, but after doing so well in the first half of the season it’s frustrating to have dropped off so badly. The FA Cup semi-final this Sunday provides a break from the league campaign and gives us some tangible glory to go after. Hopefully we’ll put in the kind of performance we did against Arsenal in the quarter final and progress all the way to the final. If we don’t, though, no Watford fan will be disappointed when reflecting on the season as a whole, and the rumours of Flores’ job being on the line are hopefully nonsense. He has struggled to turn around our run of poor form, but he showed in the first half of the season what he can achieve and he should be given the summer to trim some of the fringe players from the squad, add a couple of more creative/attacking players, and start fresh next season.
Jimbles (this has ended up being a much longer mail than I expected), WFC
Just read Roy Hodgson’s comments on the current Jamie Vardy debacle. I take no issue with him arguing whether or not it was a dive – I happen to think it was but it’s hardly black and white. What I do take serious issue with is his outlook on Vardy’s disgusting response:
“He has reacted like human beings sometimes react,” added Hodgson. “He hasn’t just said to the ref, ‘that is all right, I understand’ and shake hands and have a good game. He has called him a few names. But he is a human being and that can happen.”
First and foremost, yes he has called him a few names… Have we not been here before? Didn’t we make the same excuses last time? Let’s just focus on that first line though:
“He has reacted like human beings sometimes react,”
Ahhh ok so it’s not his fault, it’s because he is human you see. So over in Russia when some fans react to seeing a black player by throwing a banana, it’s fine, humans eh?! When El-Hadji Diouf spat at players and fans or numerous occasions? Meh, he is human, not his fault. What about outside of football, someone reacts to a road rage incident by pulling a gun and killing the other person? Just reacting like some humans react, whatcha gonna do.
Yes Roy, he is a human. Yes, it can happen. But two questions: why does it keep happening with this particular human? And, at some stage, would it not be responsible to make this human take responsibility for his own mouth?
Let’s face it, it’s a cop-out. The message is very clear: you can do or say what you like if you are a good football player. Glad we cleared that up.
Wubblepig, (If I ever meet Roy, gonna jab my finger in his face and call him a fu**ing c**t. I am only human, after all), Twickenham.
Without getting carried away with the progress made under Klopp I think next year (I know) will be very interesting. I still think that Liverpool need a couple more players and I list below my first (with hopeful transfers) and second choice for the positions along with people I would sell and why.
GK – 1st Marwin Hitz the Ausburg Keeper, 28 years old, voted best keeper in 1st half of German season – 2nd D Ward
RB – 1st Clyne – 2nd Flannagan
CB – 1st Sakho and Lovren – 2nd Matip (the free transfer) and Gomez
LB – 1st Morano 2nd Flannagan/Gomez
CM – 1st Can and Xabi Alonso (need a quality ball playing midfielder with experience) – 2nd Lucas and Allen
Attacking Mid – 1st any 3 of the flowing depending on game – Firminio, Coutinho, Gotze (a world class player up for sale who loves Klopp – why not) , Millner (was gunna write him off but he’s stepped up) – 2nd Lallana (needs to work on shooting and final ball), Marko Grujic (young transfer) and Markovic (needs another chance)
CF – 1st Sturridge 2nd Origi 3rd Ings
Henderson – its strange that our best form and play has come when he’s been out – could be coincidence but its bad timing on his part. Just cant play that great ball when needed
Skrtel – 2-0 up – 3-2 down with a saved penalty – enough said
Benteke – wrong player for a wrong time
Balloteli – worth a shot but let himself down
Mignolet – good idea to give him a 5 year deal for physiological and financial reasons but not good enough
Kolo – as Klopp said “he’s entering his 280th Spring”. Possible 1 more year for experience.
Sakho to be captain for next season
Now’s your time, Christian
The news that Divock Origi is out for the season provides Christian Benteke with a huge opportunity work himself into Belgium’s plans for the Euro’s. Having already been warned by Marc Wilmots that his spot is in jeopardy, Christian needs to take this opportunity with both hands. Fortunately, Origi has laid out a perfect blue print for Benteke to follow.
Liverpool have a maximum of 8 games left in the season. Which is probably 5 more than Daniel Sturridge’s body can handle if he is tasked with starting every game. While I don’t think anyone sees a Liverpool future for the big Belgian, including the player himself, this opportunity offers the chance for Benteke to earn a piece of silverware while also avoiding a place on the mantle of flops which boasts illustrious names such as Carroll, Downing, and Morientes.
I can only hope that Benteke has been watching film of Origi while on the treatment table to help him understand what is expected of a striker under Klopp. Benteke may be Liverpool’s best hope of winning Europa League and at 32.5 million it’s time that he proved he was worth that transfer fee.
Brian (It’s helpful that Liverpool final figured out how to cross a ball) LFC
A physical review of the season
It’s Friday, I’m bored, so I’ve wasted some time doing an early review of the season for some clubs, using theoretical physics. This may not stand up to the quality of mail that you get from luminaries such as Name Withheld and Minty, but it amuses me to be so geeky. So…
Villa. String theory.
Bullsh*t, but lots of people believe very strongly about it.
The universe’s inevitable slow decline into chaos and heat death. #beliveinRafa though.
West Ham. Mass deficit.
Somehow greater than the sum of their parts. Could apply this to a lot of teams this year.
Liverpool. Wave/particle duality.
Great/sh*t in equal measure and indeed, simultaneously.
Chelsea. Newtons 1st law.
Remained in a uniform state of motion (down) until external forces (Abramovich/Hiddink) acted upon it. Steadily climbing back up and will challenge next year.
Arsenal. Special relativity.
Like the speed of light, the universe’s one true constant. Arsenal will, and have well and truly, Arsenaled.
Leicester : Dark matter.
We don’t fully understand why or how. But they are there at the top. Where they’ll be next year is anyone’s guess.
Steadily annihilating everything they touch this season. Excellent.
Man city. Supermassive black holes.
You get the feeling they could have destroyed everyone if they decided to turn up.
Man Utd. Newtons 3rd law.
‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’ usually “what the f***?” And “how is he still here?”
I’m sure there are more. We haven’t delved into quantum mechanics or chaos theory yet!
Will (campaigning for Prince’s symbol to gain a mathematical meaning) LFC.
Love for Nando
Also, Matt Stead’s article on Torres was brilliant. We sold him at the right time, as he was already declining in his last days at Liverpool, but I have such fond memories of his time with us that I sometimes forget to laugh at how much money Chelsea paid!
Then I remember Carroll and I die inside.
Would you take him back?
On reading Matt Stead’s piece on Fernando Torres my heart had a little flutter at the thought of “a returning legend” and I ran 1000 situations through my head at once to work out if my wishes could come true.
Could Torres become a success at Liverpool all over again? There are some things in my head which stop this happening – mainly Atletico permanently signing Torres, a certain amount of fans deciding that one of our greatest goal scorers in the Premier League era wouldn’t be welcome back due to his means of leaving, and the fact that he’s a bit older than everyone else we sign nowadays (and on a lot more money).
But in the style of the tabloids, I decided to overlook all this in favour of reasons it would happen.
He is a legend here after all, and despite the fact there was a bit of fallout over his departure, as far as the deal goes we did really well. Got all the money, didn’t actually strengthen a rival, Torres got to win some medals and we got a bucketload of cash in a record Premier League sale at the time.
Now onto the current day, we know Atletico aren’t financially blessed, despite occasionally shelling out big money on transfers, this is usually just reinvestment from other sales. He is owned by AC Milan at the moment, and so paves way for a double “returning legend(ish)” swap by swapping Balotelli, who is probably on not far from similar wages at the moment.
Lastly, it looks like there might be a bit of a turnover of strikers with Benteke going out as well, plus the uncertainty surrounding Sturridge, and Torres seems perfect to come in and play 20-30 games a season as he is doing right now.
It could be perfect, it could go all Chelsea, but he clearly holds affinity for Liverpool, is back to his best with a couple of years left in him, and if Atletico don’t fancy making it permanent, where else would he be happiest?
What do you think Liverpool fans?
Would you welcome him back?
KC (reminiscing over that goal against Blackburn)
C’est la vie
Alex Stoke’s mail this morning reminded do me of when something similar very nearly happened to my own team, Tranmere Rovers, which I thought I’d share with you.
It was 2004 and we were playing Hull City away in what was a top of the table League One clash. Our starting keeper, John Achterberg (now Liverpool’s goalkeeper coach) went off injured after 20 minutes, to be replaced by our sub keeper, Russell Howarth (now a paramedic, apparently – we know how to spot a player at Prenton Park). We went one down before Howarth himself took a blow to the head. I seem to recall that he struggled on groggily to half time but never re-emerged.
We thus had to select one of the outfield players to take over for a full half. I always think that the perfect candidate in this situation is an all action type player, the sort who always wants to be be involved, who will gladly throw himself around and do a reasonably ok job. Someone in the mould of Wayne Rooney or Alexis Sanchez.
We chose Theo Whitmore. Theo was languid, Jamaican, creative midfielder. In my minds eye I picture him strolling round the pitch with his socks around his ankles, looking like he’d just got out of bed. This was not Wayne Rooney – this was roughly the equivalent of Dimitar Berbatov.
The second half panned out with predictable results. We quickly went 2-0 down, only to hit straight back to make it 2-1. This briefly lead to me believe that we were about to pull off one of the most miraculous comebacks in football history. It wasn’t to be. Theo ended up waving 4 more goals past him and we lost 6-1. He left the field without getting his shorts, shirt or I suspect gloves, dirty. Stephen Elliott of Hull did in fact score a hat trick that day although all his goals came in the second half past poor old Theo. Presumably that makes him a flat track bully.
Hull ended up finishing 2nd and were promoted. We were 3rd and lost in the play off semis on penalties to Hartlepool. In the intervening 12 years they’ve spent several years in the Premier League, been to the Cup Final and had a (brief) European campaign. We’re currently in the conference hoping Braintree slip up this weekend.
C’est la vie.
A few scattered thoughts
I really do have a massive soft spot for Torres and it has been lovely seeing him recapture his form with Atleti. I would love to see them win the title/champions league this season. When he was sat with big ears in a Chelsea shirt it really jarred (not least because his performances probably weren’t particularly deserving of the trophy) but I’d probably hum a little “his armband proved he was a red…” if I saw him lifting it later this season.
Someone in the mailbox mentioned the idea of longer retrospective punishments for players that cause injury. In most cases I’d say this could be harsh as there is often not intention. That said, given Funes Mori left the pitch seemingly celebrating his actions, I don’t see why a much longer ban wouldn’t be perfectly reasonable. It can easily be argued he had intent, and on this basis he should be banned for apparently being a thug as well as an idiot.
People always write in talking about money, Carroll cost £35m, Rooney earns £300k a week, I think Ross THFC wrote in bragging about how cheap the Spurs side was compared to Man City etc. I get that these figures can be used to point and laugh at rival teams; clearly you’re club is too stupid to understand value. But frankly, I don’t give a sh*t. I’m sure it Leicester fans are enjoying this title pursuit because it’s so unexpected, I doubt they spend hours on end calculating how cheap this premier league title has been for the club. Liverpool spent £32.5m on Benteke. It’s a waste of money that could’ve been better allocated, but otherwise who cares that he cost a lot? If the club don’t go bankrupt because of it and can afford to spend it, then I say great. Do these numbers even mean anything to any of us? I can’t imagine spending £32.5m on any single asset ever…so how is talk of money relevant to so many fans when the numbers are on a scale that simply make no sense.
Dion Dublin’s nut
There has been so much said recently about violence and aggression in the game, and I am a strong believer that such behaviour has no place in the modern game.
That being said, seeing the video of Dion Dublin planting one on Robbie Savage in the Football People on TV piece just made my day. Let’s get Dion a knighthood!
But yeah, violence bad.
Just informing you that Crusaders will be receiving the Gibson Cup tomorrow (Saturday) after retaining the Northern Ireland Premiership title – the first time in the club’s history that they have won back-to-back titles. The title was clinched with a 3-1 win away at Cliftonville, their local North Belfast rivals on Tuesday. The Crues showed all the trademark “signs of champions” to resist David Healy’s Linfield (the Bayern Munich of the Irish League). They only lost 3 league games, won when not playing well, kept 18 clean sheets (and counting), rescued around a dozen points with late goals – including a classic “Macheda moment” away to Ballinamallard – and there was classic”bouncebackibility”. The Crues suffered a defeat away to Carrick Rangers on 22nd March (think Chelsea losing to 5-3 to Spurs last season) and saw their lead cut to 2 points but after that, they knuckled down and won five straight games to seal the title. All hail Stephen Baxter’s boys. Champions Again!
Ending on a sad note
Quick Colchester United update for all the fans of non-premier league mails. We’re almost certainly getting relegated tomorrow and half the squad is out of contract in the summer. Fun stat – goals after 85 mins have cost us 13 points this season. We’ve conceded more goals than any other team in the country, and are only 8 away from the magic 100 goals against, which is something to aim for I suppose.
I expect there’s honour in supporting a small team, or it’s character building or something, but it’s mostly just relentless misery.
Have a nice weekend folks, I won’t.