A more varied Mailbox you will not find. Wonderful start to the week. Keep it up and email email@example.com
It’s a bit gauche splurging the better part of £100m on one player, and particularly galling given he left for almost nothing four years ago. But Pogba is an absurdly exciting signing.
Add Zlatan, Martial, Mkhitaryan and Rashford, and I haven’t been this animated about a United team since 2008.
Some United conclusions
A few conclusions on the Community Shield and the weekend mailboxes:
1. Contrary to what seems to be the general consensus, I thought Zlatan was pretty good yesterday. The difference in class between him and some of our other players – both past and present – was overwhelming. If he had a quiet-ish game yesterday, I would suggest that it was more because of the lack of support he received from two of the three attacking players (Martial and Rooney). He and Lingard linked up quite well at times, but Martial appeared to be weary and Rooney, well, that needs it’s own point. I think either Mata or Mkhitaryan behind him will invariably be more fruitful over the course of the season.
2. Everything stops with Rooney. That used to be a good thing because the stop was often because he’d scored, but now it’s because he is detrimental to almost every one of our attacks. It’s nothing new to criticise his first touch, but it’s his all round game that is so poor. He slows down attacks when they should keep moving, he tries to play it quick when his teammates aren’t ready for it; he’s just 5 yards off the pace both mentally and physically. One can only hope that Mourinho has the courage to replace him if (when) he doesn’t improve, but yesterday his contribution was nothing that couldn’t have been provided by any one of the players on the bench or in the squad.
3. I can’t believe that we still had to put up with that useless lump in the middle, even after van Gaal’s departure. With all the options in the squad, the fact that Fellaini still got the nod is infuriating in the extreme. I only hope that it was an enforced change because of Smalling’s absence, to try and nullify the aerial threat offered by Leicester.
4. Blind and Bailly were excellent together in the centre, though I would still love to see Blind pushed a little further forward (replacing either Fellaini or Carrick).
5. If we can keep pre-season Valencia then I’m alright with him getting the nod at right back. If he reverts back to van Gaal era Valencia then Galatasaray are welcome to him.
6. I know it was only the Community Shield but I saw enough in the overall performance yesterday to make me feel way better about the upcoming season. I don’t believe that we are going to win the league or anything like that, but the first steps on the road to recovery have been made and the whole atmosphere surrounding the clubs feels so much better compared to the last three seasons.
7. I made no secret of the fact that I didn’t want Pogba, but I’m glad the saga is finally nearing an end and that the player is coming to us. Like I said, I didn’t want us to sign him, but at this point we just had to; if we’d gone through all this nonsense and failed to land our man again, it would have been so damaging to the reputation of the club, with regard to our transfer dealings. Also, if it means that the site of Fellaini in a United midfield is only seen in my nightmares then how bad could it be?
8. Leicester will be fine this season. They lost the game on fine margins yesterday; Lingard was almost dispossessed twice and Schmeichel almost got enough on it to make the save, and Zlatan’s header almost hit the post and bounced out. They have recruited and retained well – Musa looks like an excellent acquisition, and Gray and Mahrez were very positive too – so I think they’ll definitely be up there challenging, even if they do fall short of last season’s exploits.
9. Spurs were my tip for the league title until I read that horrendous email in Friday’s mailbox. Now, I would rather any other team win it than Spurs. That mail made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
Yours, a former Manchester United fan
Ever since the sacking of LVG as manager of Man United I’ve had a real moral dilemma – Can I continue to support the club under the management of Jose Mourinho? I’ve never liked Mourinho, in fact I’ve despised him (as much as one human can despise another having never met them). But this is a club I’ve followed for almost 25 years, including being a season ticket holder in that time. I live and breathe football and most of my enjoyment from it has come directly from being a United fan. So all through the summer I’ve argued with myself on how to proceed – should I continue supporting the club? After all, it’s the club that matters, forget about who the manager is and concentrate on the team. Should I just lighten up? It’s only football, enjoy the ride, I told myself!
But yesterday’s match told me everything I needed to know. And feared – I wanted United to fail. I didn’t go to the extreme of cheering on Leicester, but I didn’t celebrate when United scored either goals. Instead it was a feeling of disappointment. I turned the game off as soon as the final whistle went and watched none of the presentation ceremony. One moment in particular in the game highlighted exactly why I will forever want Mourinho to fail – his substitution of Mata. This was a thought out, preconceived plan with the sole purpose of humiliating Juan Mata and it was pathetic. It’s symptomatic of Mourinho’s management style throughout his career – the bullying of fellow colleagues for one-upmanship. I cannot and will not support it (like he would give a f*ck anyway). Most fellow fans I’ve talked to have told me to wise up, get over it, he’s going to win us trophies and bring the glory days back. But for me, football is not about winning the trophies and the end result. It’s all about the journey. Being able to remove yourself from your reality and teleport yourself into that moment, as if you are with the players and part of the team, whether it be celebrating wildly when you get that last gasp winner or feeling like you got kicked in the groin when you let in that last minute goal. That one feeling – we’re in it together. It’s also about having respect, not just for the opposition but your own team too. There’s a way I believe everyone should conduct themselves no matter who you are and Mourinho is the near antithesis of this.
Many I’m just getting old and grumpy and all the money within the game is destroying my rose-tinted glasses which replay the good ol’ days over and over. Or maybe it’s because I just can’t stand his smug face. To which I will say thanks Jose, thanks for ruining my future enjoyment of supporting Manchester United. I only hope your inevitable collapse comes quicker than the 2.5 years it normally takes.
CM (Ex-Man United fan)
More positive Gunners
Christymoro wrote almost the exact email I was about to pen (type) this very morning. I know we need a new centre half (for obvious reasons) but I don’t think we have much else to worry about. Giroud will be coming back full of confidence and Akpom is fighting hard to be a competing striker and so even if we don’t sign Lacazette we will be in contention.
Our biggest problem is actually the Emirates stadium itself. If we have several bad passes in a row then the dicks (that always seem to be sitting behind me) start moaning and saying that so and so (normally Giroud – what the hell do they know!) is rubbish etc. until the entire stadium seems to be filled with jeering and negativity. Low and behold the team (personified by my beloved Giroud) collectively slump and we miss opportunities and let in goals at the back. It is so damn negative there that only the biggest, most arrogant (confident) players could possibly thrive. The crowd seems to be filled by the same people who write comments on the official Facebook page such as “Mr Wenger, you need go. You style don’t suit no more. Stronger mentality and Walcott striker”. Whatever the hell any of that means. I hear it every single time I go. I love seeing (my) Arsenal play and I get behind the team at every opportunity. If our supporters could ‘do a Dortmund’ and create a wall of sound then we could stand a good chance. The way it is now, I don’t see it.
Anyway, back to the players. Iwobi seems to be the forgotten player already. Him and Campbell are very exciting wingers/forwards to challenge the top of the team. With players like Crowley and Zelalem coming through as well, we have the base for a super exciting team. Xhaka looks like he could be the next Xabi Alonso (sorry Liverpool fans, I’m not trying to troll you).
Finally, why is it that whenever a team buys a player it is described as ‘strengthening’. How can you possibly know whether or not that player will strengthen the team? They may be a flop or make the wider team actually worse. We may well need a top (top) striker, but if we don’t get the right one then who knows, maybe Akpom could become our Kane this season? Not the crap England version though. If Arsenal don’t sign anyone else then let’s all just get behind the team. Please.
The ‘write Arsenal off at your own peril’ email got me thinking – I agree with everything mentioned and also believe Arsenal are going to win it this year….. in spite of the CB crisis we will start the season with.
However, I think Crystimoro misses own key point…. ALEX IWOBI. After a great breakout season last year I am very confident he will be tearing up premiership defences this season and is, in part, responsible for Arsene’s hesitation to buy another forward that might stunt Alex’s development.
I think the PFA Young Player of the Year will be one of Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho or Gerard Deulofeu.
It it’s Alex I reckon we win the league.
Bring on Liverpool!
But remember, it’s Arsenal
I cocked an eyebrow at Christymoro’s entry in this morning’s mailbox and his unbridled optimism for Arsenal’s season. He said he can’t understand why people are writing them off, so I’d like to explain, as I expect them to be this season’s “crisis” club.
Arsenal’s opening game is against Liverpool; what are the odds on the following occurring… Holding and Chambers starting at centre-half, no Sanchez in the XI and Theo “No actually I’m a winger” Walcott starting up front AND as captain? It’s really not hard to envisage you getting smashed, and the vitriol of the fans raining down as Chuba Akpom and Yaya Sanogo are summoned from the bench to try and rescue the game. Then you travel to the champions the following week. It’s very conceivable that Arsenal will have 0 points from the first 2 games, and with the simmering undercurrent of discontent running through the club, it’s not hard to see that boiling up and spilling over into outright mutiny (they may hire a plane!). Would Wenger then panic buy like he did last time? Land you another Santos?
For many years I’ve been in the “…and Arsenal will finish fourth” camp, but the league is moving on and it won’t happen forever. Pep, Jose, Klopp, Poch, Conte, Koeman… That’s six managers off the top of my head that I’d rather have at my club than Wenger. The list has never been that long before. Then you look at the squad and the deadwood is piling up; Gibbs, The Ox, Walcott, Sanogo, Campbell, arguably Mertesacker, Gabriel and Wilshere. I know as a United fan that eventually that catches up with you (see Nani, Anderson, Cleverley and co for evidence). Throw on top of that the fact that neither of your world class players seem especially happy; both are refusing to sign new contracts and you know they’d jump at the chance for a move if given the opportunity, Sanchez in particular. Get on a rotten run, they might well down tools because their heart isn’t in it (again, more Sanchez than Ozil).
Honestly, I think the jig is up for Wenger, he’s long since past his best. I reckon you’ll finish 6th or 7th and he’ll leave the club next summer in ignominy, which will be a massive shame because he once was an asbolute genius and an all-time great of the modern game, but time waits for no man.
Lewis, Busby Way
Arsenal aren’t the Germans you know – people are writing off us off because a) we’re not good enough and b) the manager doesn’t seem that bothered about doing anything about it.
Seeing as we’re not going to spend any money, does anyone else think Wenger should just bite the bullet and play Iwobi as the central striker.
I concede that it would be an almighty promotion to go from one of those names at the bottom of your match programme that you don’t really pay attention to the club’s main frontman in the space of a year but we may well have to.
The other thing I really like about Iwobi is the way he celebrated his goals against Viking. Walcott looked blasé about his strike, while Iwobi looked genuinely excited. That is the sort of trait Wrighty had. He’d celebrate if he scored against a nursery class.
I also think Momo Elneny needs to be made vice captain. In the absence of the BFG, we’ve quite a few months without our captain and I don’t see anyone better than Momo to deputise.
Mo mo, mo mo mo mo, mo mo mo mo, mo mo, Momo Elneny – to the tune of No Limit by 2 Unlimited.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
The reasons we are fairly certain Arsenal isn’t going to win (or surpass 4th, for that matter) the Premier League are:
(1) Arsene Wenger is your coach
(2) Read (1) again
With all the world class players in the world, as long as Wenger is your coach, the poor mental strength and acceptance of mediocrity, that makes you see continuous participation in Champions League with just one final appearance as evidence of your being a big club, will remain.
We are sure AFC will start strong and take a break off the campaign in February.
We are sure key players will continue their rendezvous with the treatment table
We are sure AFC will come back from said break in April and finish fairly strong giving you the hope that will make you copy-and-paste this mail next year.
Kester (World class players? Pff), Nigeria
The only surprise about Arsenal suffering an injury crisis once again is that anyone can still be surprised by it.
It has happened so regularly over the last 10 or so seasons that surely not planning for it could be classed as gross negligence.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
Liverpool won’t be great, either
I’ve heard a lot of noise in recent days about Liverpool’s resurgence following that 4-0 anomaly against Barcelona. I really can’t see them making an impression this season and this is why:
They still have Mignolet. A keeper that seemingly coats his gloves in Clover before taking to the field, and is more frightened of crosses than the big JC himself. Regularly chucks 10 points a season in his own net.
Lumbering centre halves – Sakho and Lovren are not centre halves you want if you’re going to aim for a title tilt or generally challenge for top honours. One has the turning circle of a lorry and the acceleration of a Lada on an uphill 20% gradient, the other emits brain farts so often you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d had a lobotomy and the docs slipped in a whoopie cushion for the LOL’s. Their fullbacks are also bog average.
In midfield, they have added some depth, but without European competition, depth isn’t what they needed. They need quality, and they just simply don’t have enough of it. Arguably their biggest creator last season was an ageing James Milner who has just been retired by international football. Henderson is a trier but nothing special. Can Emre Can step up if played in his correct position or will Klopp need to play him out of position in a back three again? As a team I just don’t think they can defend, and don’t seem to have improved from the side that conceded 50 goals a season year on year under Brenda.
Attacking wise, they have made a good signing in the shape of Sadio Mane, but this is arguably a position they are stocked in already, the front 4 in the 4-2-3-1. Where does he fit in? Where does he improve them? I don’t see him improving on Coutinho, Sturridge, Firmino, Benteke/Origi so what is the point spending £30+ million on him? You’re better off vastly improving the weaker parts of the squad.
Their biggest player will be Klopp. Will he be able to get his tactics to work in a football world that looks to have figured him out? Pochettino has adopted a far more successful attacking press which doesn’t compromise the defensive shape of the team, culminating in Tottenham’s highest goals scored and fewest goals conceded stats in the Premier League era, with a squad that many tipped to finish 6th or 7th last season. Klopp’s recent managerial record seems to suggest he’s a busted flush. Where once there was a charismatic ground breaking manager appears now to be a little more than a gurning oddball. I just can’t see how he is going to improve the squad he has sufficiently to challenge.
If you look at their opponents, Antonio Conte has proved to be a master tactician and takes over a Chelsea side that simply needed a reboot. They will go well. Pep takes over a City side that has been playing on empty since their board chucked Pellegrini under the bus mid season, and still managed to sleep walk into the CL semi’s, despite long term injuries to key players such as Silva, Kompany and Aguero. Utd are strengthening in key areas and have a new manager with a real point to prove. Arsenal have a knack of just wandering into top 4 no matter how good or turd they are. Spurs themselves have stability for the first time in aeons and have strengthened their key areas. For me, Liverpool have none of the above. They have an unbalanced squad, a manager who’s reputation probably outshines his talent, a leaky defence and an average midfield, by the PL’s standard. Sorry to say but the best I can see for them is 7th.
Wilshere: The new Diaby
I had an idea recently, and it was about whether Wilshere was any more reliable than Diaby. So I crunched some numbers and came up with the following:
Jack Wilshere appearances:
Abou Diaby appearances:
Those numbers look pretty similar. If you calculate the average number of games, they come out as approx. 12.5 games a season. No Arsenal fan I know wants Jack to be another Diaby aka Mr Glass, but let’s be honest, it looks like that’s the path he’s going down. We are told his current injury would put him out for 1 week. But then again, last season we were told he was a few weeks away, and he didn’t play until the very end of the season. You cannot plan for a future with him being part of it, as he is about as reliable as a chocolate teapot. Wenger has stood by many players, admirably in most cases, but we can’t carry Wilshere. We have better players than him in the side, more consistent players. I struggle to see him getting into the side, and rightly so. For every beautiful pass or goal, there are countless more reckless challenges, giving away possession and injuring of himself. I think Wenger, if he was being ruthless, would have culled Wilshere and Walcott a long time ago if it wasn’t for the fact that they are English. I wonder who the players are in other squads who ‘get away with it’ by being home grown.
I know statistics can be used to prove anything (for example I know Jack was 16 and 17 in his first few seasons, and as such was never going to play loads of games), but for me, likelihood to actually play should be enough of an indicator to someone’s robustness. Diaby was young when he started too.
John Matrix AFC
Sissoko wants to leave Newcastle for a team playing in the Champions League. He is a player who loves a counter attack in a physical team. He wants to stay in England. Leicester have lost Kante and play in the Champions League. Leicester are a physical side who love a counter attack.
Gentlemen, Sissoko to Leicester? What’s not to love?
Throw a dog a Bony
How is no-one targeting Bony?
Guardiola made it quite clear that Bony is 3rd/4rth choice as a striker when he left him out of the squad ahead of the clash with Arsenal. So Bony is not even a 2nd choice striker for a team that almost always operates in a system with a lone striker. Now, I completely agree with Guardiola that Aguero and Iheanacho should be the in charge of leading the line with Aguero being the proven goalscorer that he is and Iheanacho being one of the most exciting young forwards in the league but what I can’t understand is why no premier league team has snatched Bony yet. When you read news that Swansea are ready to spend a record £15 million on Borja Baston you can’t help but wonder if spending around £13 million on Bony wouldn’t be a better investment. Borja Baston is not used to the premier league and would probably take some time to adapt but Bony is already a proven goalscorer in the league. Bony is not wanted at the Etihad and that has seen his price drop significantly. He developed a great understanding with Sigurdsson when he was at Swansea and he should walk into the first team there with Llorente acting as a backup-up. I am a huge fan of Sigurdsson so I want to see Swansea buy a nr. 9 that can actually finish the chances that Sigurdsson creates. Swansea haven’t really been able to fill the gap created when Bony left for greener pastures so I think this would be an ideal signing for both parties. Granted, Bony could actually go to a better team than Swansea with West Ham, Everton, Southampton and Stoke all on the hunt for a striker but I think he and Swansea are the best fit. Am I the only one who remembers how lethal Bony was for Swansea?
Sibbi (the Iceland-based) Spur
BT are saving football
Since the arrival of BT sport in premiership & UEFA broadcast rights, people are less likely to watch every broadcast game, the price didn’t go down for Sky, meaning their offering has weakened, yet they aren’t bringing down their prices. At the moment BT’s package doesn’t match what Sky Sports can offer, so Sky remains the market leader due to other sports/more channels/more availability in packages. In terms of the casual fan this is bad, your must watch game might be unavailable or you’ll be paying more for the same product.
However, long term it’s good. BT have destroyed Sky’s monopoly, and whilst the competition has seen television rights costs go up, the increased cost to the consumer has seen market equilibrium reached. The price increase for every game was too large for many and now a lot fewer can see every game whenever they want, how they want (without resorting to streams, the pub, etc).
I think this might signal the end to football inflation, or at least slowing down of it.
The premier league is the most watched and most lucrative league in the world, and television rights for domestic broadcast games are still significant, and now unlikely to rise significantly without seeing a backlash akin to gate price protests seen recently.
There is no doubt much more to come from the foreign market, it won’t be long before China and the rest of the developing leagues are paying similar prices, but after that there’s very little more that can be squeezed. Football is the biggest game in the world, and has been growing and growing for its inception, but I feel the exponential growth of the past 20 years had to come to an end, and we’re getting very close now.
KC (World record fee is 5x 20 years ago, it’ll be 100 years before that happens again)
League One winners and losers
Football is back. Praise almighty Pazuzu. Here is your round up of this weekends League 1 action.
Millwall – last seasons defeated playoff finalists set the pace with a 3-0 dismantling of Oldham. Neil Harris has managed to keep the core of last year’s side together and will be aiming to go one better this year and secure automatic promotion.
Jay Spearing – scored a corker of a goal from outside the box to give Bolton a 1-0 home win against Sheffield United in the clash of the big beasts from the division
718 travelling posh fans – if you had to picture a perfect away victory, watching your team come from behind twice before scoring a last minute winner seems a fairly good call. Peterborough’s 3-2 win away to Rochdale was the most entertaining fixture of the weekend – although manager Grant McCann will be hoping for something a bit more routine next time out.
Ched Evans – the controversial (to say the least) summer signing opened his Chesterfield account with the equaliser against Oxford United in his first game in 4 years. His every touch of the ball was booed by the Us fans. One suspects Mr Evans may be the subject for most of Mediawatch’s attention on League 1.
The promoted sides – 1-1 draws for Northampton with Fleetwood and Oxford with Chesterfield. 3-1 defeats for Bristol Rovers and Wimbledon away at Scunthorpe and Walsall respectively. Welcome to League 1 boys.
Coventry City – wasted their chances in the first half, before a lacklustre second half saw Swindon Town take a deserved 1-0 win with Iraq international Yaser Kasim scoring the decisive goal at the County Ground.
Charlton Athletic – the 2nd favourites for the league travelled to face Bury, who hadn’t won their opening game of the season in 8 years. They returned to London chastened by a 2-0 defeat with only a solitary shot on target to show for their efforts. Russell Slades accused his players of not ‘valueing the basics’ after the match.
Mike, League 1, BRFC
The real predictions
As a great man once said, “I don’t make predictions, and I never will”. Here’s what will happen this season:
*John Terry’s widely discussed “new role” at Chelsea will be to celebrate goals in the face of the opposition manager.
*Crystal Palace start the season atrociously. Kayla the Eagle does a dirty protest on Alan Pardew’s suit.
*Charlton Athletic draw Blackpool in the FA Cup. The match is halted after 10 seconds due to excessive (and impressive) protesting.
*Dwight Gayle and Glenn Murray will both score more goals than any Crystal Palace striker.
*People will include “and he’s got a sh!t haircut” in criticism of a player, as though this has any bearing on his ability to play football. These people inevitably have a style-free short back and sides.
*Hull City start the season so short of players that a draw is held among season ticket holders for a place in their matchday squad. One lucky winner becomes the first ever female player in the Premier League.
*A mascot decides it would be top top oi oi lads will be lads banter bantz to celebrate a goal against Derby County by acting out burying its head in the sand. Nigel Pearson stamps on his neck, and is sent off. Instead of going to the stand, he decides to wait in the car park for the mascot.
*Realising nothing is happening on Transfer Deadline Day, Jim White does a runner during one of the advert breaks. When it becomes apparent he isn’t coming back, the female co-hosts hold a debate about modern football so informed and articulate that it makes BT’s European Football Show look like Soccer AM.
*Following his appearance on BBC Look North, Daniel Storey appears on Sunday Supplement. Shaun Custis gives him a dead arm.
*Joey Barton builds on the success of his 5 Live commentary partnership with Conor McNamara by following him onto the CBeebies show Swashbuckle, as Squawk the Parrot’s sidekick.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Love for Johnny Nic
Absolutely loved the piece by John Nicholson this morning with the advice on how to stay well with football. Really great piece and the first time I have ever seen anything of it’s kind printed in relation to football. Nick Hornby would be proud of John’s commentary on our dysfunctional relationship with the beautiful game.
John (this photo is my Joe Allen with a chicken – http://gagnamite.com/the-unexplainable-picture-too-much-to-fit-in-one-frame/ ) Cork
A very important thing
The “back of the net” is actually the front.
It totally is.
When is football?
Stu (“inside of the net” would make more sense), London